Sunday, August 23, 2009


Ok, so what the hell is the picture and title all about ?

Some while ago, when I was both reading and contributing to some wine making forums, I was getting excellent answers to my questions and enjoying generally good "chit chat" with another forum member. All of a sudden, he wasn't there and when I did a bit of digging, found that he'd been banned. Now I'm not privy to the exact "why's and wherefores" of what led to his ban, but after a while, I emailed him and since then we've got on very well.

When the facilities are available, we either do "messenger based" video conferencing, or as is currently the case, send voice clips (again via messenger) and chat that way. It's brilliant for me, as this fella does seem to know his stuff....... like having a remote mentor for guidance and advice.

This chap is in the US (lots of mead makers there) and had mentioned an enjoyment of "english tea", so I got his address and sent him some (actually it was rather specific tea, but that's another story). Not so long ago, he mentioned that he was nearly out of tea so I sent another box (the tea we have at home is in 1.5kg boxes). Now as with anything sent internationally it's usually not the cost of the item(s) but the cost of the shipping that's an issue. If you use a commercial parcel carrier, like UPS, or maybe DHL then they seem to want to charge astronomical prices. I've found that it's often cheapest for something like 1kg + to sent it "small package airmail parcel post", via the Royal mail. The last box of teabags, put in a plastic posting envelope, cost me about £18.50 (plus the cost of the teabags of course).

So I was quite amazed when a parcel turned up last week, containing the items in the picture.........

That parcel weighed in at about 13lb. My friend had tried to find a reasonable quote to send it, but the likes of UPS etc where quoting figures like 170$US + for it. He actually managed to send it for 69.90$US, courtesy of the United States Postal Service...... excellent. That's what I'd call a reasonable charge for posting.

So why have I titled this post/picture as "Treasure etc" ? Well as you can see from the picture, there is 1 gallon of his local wild flower honey (and very good honey it seems to be), plus you can see 4 different packs of RedStar yeast, the RedStar brand not being available in the UK (apparently), there's the 2 white sachets of Potassium Metabisulphite as well as the small bottle of it - again, it's hard to track down the Potassium Met' here, as it seems for reasons I don't follow, the UK home brewing industry pushes Sodium Metabisulphite for adding sulphites to wines/meads and for cleaning/sanitising (it seems that if you can find it, then it's about 4 times the price of the Uk available Sodium equivalent).

Then there's the "Yeast Energiser", which is pure Diammonium Phosphate. A good source of nitrogen for yeast, which is not readily available here in the UK, except as "combined nutrients" like Tronozymol. Which can be a bit of a PITA if you only want to add a little extra DAP and not the other stuff in the combined nutrients.

Finally, there's the last bit of treasure, part of a commercial pack of Lalvins D21 yeast. This strain of yeast is a "Maury" yeast isolate. It's as close as I can locate to being the "Maury yeast" that is mentioned by the late Brother Adam of "BuckFast Abbey" fame (in the Bee keeping world - but also a noted mead maker). It seems that it's not normally available as the small 5 to 8 gramme home brewing sachets (except from a couple of locations in the US and Canada). So to have obtained enough to try a couple of different meads is wonderful. I'm intending to break the package down into small quantities as I want it to last as long as possible (I'll be making it up as "yeast starters" to ensure it's working OK).

I'm very grateful to my friend in the States. He's said that if I want to order any small items like yeast packets etc that aren't usually available here, then it's fine for me to have them posted directly to him so he can forward them on...... which is handy for small stuff like sachets of yeast as they only weigh a few grammes each and he can just put them in an envelope and stick airmail stamps on them...... Brilliant.

So Keith? thank you very much for your efforts mate, they very much appreciated. As is the offer of being able to use your address to have stuff sent/forwarded.

I can't wait to get a batch of mead on the go now.... Brilliant.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

more Mixed Fruit Melomel

So, yesterday I decided it was time to rack the mixed fruit melomel. It syphoned off the lees nicely as the yeast had flocculated nicely (I poured the bit that was in the 1 pint milk bottle in). This all went into a 2 gallon bucket and the last of the mixed fruit juice was mixed in. Then it was a case of adding sulphite (1 campden tablet in dissolved in a little water), sorbate to stop any re-fermentation and a couple of teaspoons of pectolase (pectic enzyme) to remove any pectin haze that might have been caused by the extra juice.

Once done, this was split into the 2 jars in the picture (a 1 gallon one and a half gallon one). I did a gravity check, as the mixed fruit steamed juice would have increased the gravity - and despite it being nearly half a gallon of juice added to just under 1 gallon of the melomel (1 gallon minus the bit lost during racking and left in the lees) I still had 1 and 3/8th's of a gallon. The gravity only showed as 1005 on the hydrometer. I didn't check the melomel before racking/blending with juice as it was below 1000 last time I checked it.

I then adjusted the levels in both jars so that they were proportionally the same (not so fussed about the actual measurements), and then topped them both up with 75% alcohol (Polish Vodka) that I had so it's fortified a little bit and won't suffer any drop in % ABV caused by mixing in the extra bit of mixed fruit juice.

I'm actually quite pleased how it's looking. As you can see from the photo, it's looking reasonably clear, and the extra juice will have given it a more fruity flavour.

I won't know until I taste it whether it's more of a "summer wine cooler" type drink or something a bit more "fruity" wine-like. I'll have to wait and see won't I......