Sunday, May 09, 2010

update 9/5/10

So yesterday I went to Paynes for honey to feed and hopefully back sweeten. Damn place! They've done a lovely job of increasing their sales floor area and there's a few changes as to the honeys they stock. It's the first time I've seen this one so I got 4lb to try. It's darker than it looks in the photo......

Anyway, I got an extra couple of jars of Mexican Clear and had to get a 3lb pot of Italian Chestnut as the chap said it was the last of it, something about poor harvest and the lousy summer last year. Shame as it's very nutty/malty and not as "sweet" as a lot of their honey, quite dark in colour. I also had to go to the local Lidl to get another bottle of the Marlene Summer Blossom blended stuff.

The plan was to add an extra measure of honey to the 3 batches from last week. I did screw up a little, as I managed to put the Mexican in the Marlene and vice versa. Perhaps I should have turned the light on and double checked the labels on the DJ's! Anyway, it should still come out ok, as they'll be finished off with the correct honeys when back sweetening.

All I've done is to add the honey, but also a 1/4 teaspoon of FermaidK and 1/4 teaspoon of DAP (Di-Ammonium Phosphate). Which has been added to some must taken out to check the gravities and stirred in with the milk aerator, poured back into the respective DJ, which is then topped up with water (gently as there was still a little foaming, just nowhere near as much as last week).

The changes in gravity were approximately 40 points i.e. one measured about 1080 and the lowest was about 1060 so all on target. Apart from aerating yesterday, I'm not intending any further aeration hence them being topped up with water to the neck of the DJ and being airlocked for the duration.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mead update 3/5/10

Ok, so I've already posted about how I progressed on these. Well now I've taken them to the next stage.

I'd already pitched the yeasts if you recall, the Italian Chestnut Honey and Mexican Clear Honey batches with D21 and the Marlene Summer Blossom honey with K1V-1116.

The batch on the right is the Marlene Summer Blossom honey. Now you might be wondering what it is that I've done, and equally, why 2 different batches/yeasts etc are showing foam on the top and one not.

Well, to start with, I've taken a pint glass, a meat baster, measuring spoons and a milk aerator (for making the milk frothy before pouring it on the coffee), sanitised them. Then one batch at a time, I've withdrawn about half a pint of the must, put it in the pint glass, then added 1/2 a teaspoon of FermaidK yeast nutrient and with the milk aerator, it's been agitated. This is for 3 reasons, firstly it will remove any extra CO2 that is starting to build up, second, it will aerate the must with some additional oxygen from the air and thirdly it will also dissolve the yeast nutrient, which is just as important because when the must is gently poured back into the rest, you don't want to disturb it so much that it causes the must to foam out over the top of the fermenter.

That has been done for all 3 batches. The middle one shows that some batches of must won't always foam like hell, whereas you can probably make out the difference in the amounts of foam that have been produced by the other two, the Italian Chestnut batch having foamed the most.

It's for reasons like that, that some makers will initially make a batch in a bucket that is larger than the actual batch. Because when you're adding adjuncts like nutrient, or acid, or whatever, once a ferment has started it will foam like hell when the additions are put in or sometimes if you are aerating it in the early stages of fermentation.

You don't want to lose any of the mead do you! That was why I mixed the nutrient in with the frother, it enabled me to pour it back into the batches without agitating it too much. None of them foamed out over the top.

Now they'll probably get aerated gently once a day, until the gravity drops to about 1020 or so. One thing I haven't mentioned is that I might add a small amount more nutrient, at the 1/2 sugar break i.e. when the gravity has dropped to about 1055 or there abouts, I'll add something like 1/8th teaspoon of FermaidK and 1/8th teaspoon of DAP (Di-Ammonium Phosphate). Then at 1020 I'll top them up and then leave them to ferment dry, and too start clearing/dropping sediment naturally.

That might seem like a lot of faffing about, but it's about how you're caring for the yeast. If it's well nutured, then it's less likely to cause "off flavours" in the mead, at the same time it should normally allow the ferment to finish reasonably quickly. After all, if you're putting in the effort to try and produce a quality tasting mead you don't want to do anything that might damage or otherwise mess up the taste.

Well that's the idea behind it anyway.........

Oh, and before I forget, the reason that I've added the yeast nutrient now, rather than before pitching the yeast, is that it's the Lallemand/Lalvin recommendation that you use GoFerm when rehydrating the yeast as it contains all the goodies that the yeast needs when it's being woken up from the dried state, whereas the yeast nutrient contains different levels of different stuff, that the yeast needs when it's actually fermenting. I don't know the exact differences - there's probably more info about it if you search the web.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

update 2/5/10

Ok, so all of the 3 batches of must prep'd yesterday have cooled to room temperature.

I've just checked the starting gravities and all 3 are showing about the 1.100 mark i.e. the Marlene Summer Blossom being the same as the Italian Chestnut and the Mexican Clear, which suggests that it's got a higher percentage water than the other two - whether thats extra water added during blending or not, I can't say.

I'm currently in the middle of rehydrating the yeasts. That's with about 100mls of water, 1 teaspoon of GoFerm and the yeast. The pack of the K1V says (as usual) that it's supposed to be 50mls of water at 40 to 43 degrees C. I've made it a bit cooler, about 35 degree's C before mixing in the GoFerm, then adding the yeasts to the glasses. It's also supposed to be like that for no longer than 15 minutes but I'm not so fussed about that. It's always worked Ok for me in the past if I've left it for longer, especially when rehydrating with GoFerm as well as just water.

Hell, I could have made yeast starters, but I haven't found that necessary.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Update #2 1/5/10

So, despite my incredibly bad photography, I've taken pictures of all 3 different types of honey twice, the first pictures are with the honey mixed with water and it's teaspoon of "mead acid" stirred in. The first pictures are all taken with the DJ standing on a torch.
This is the "Mexican Clear" honey.

This is the "Italian Chestnut" honey.
 This is the "Marlene Summer Blossom with Wild Blossom" honey (from Lidl's).

The idea of standing the DJ's on the torch isn't so that you can see 3 badly taken pictures but as they've been mixed up identically, you can see by the different amounts of light that's getting through the batches and the different colouration of the honeys.

This is the"Marlene Summer Blossom with Wild Blossom" honey taken with the camera flash switched on.

This is the "Italian Chestnut" honey - camera flash on.

Finally, this is the "Mexican Clear" honey as above.

Now, I hope that you can see that they are all quite dark, but still different shades of colour. Their aroma was very different as well. The strongest smelling was the Italian Chestnut, the lightest smelling was the "Marlene".

The intention is to use Lalvin D21 yeast in the Chestnut and the Mexican - and because I've now run out of D21, the Marlene honey will have to have K1V-1116 yeast.

Oh and before I forget, the "Mead Acid" I mentioned before, well that's from Ashton and Duncans book "Making Mead". It's nothing special really, just a mix of 2 parts Malic acid to 1 part Tartaric acid. I know I should have measured the pH before starting but I can't be arsed.......

So apart from the different yeasts, the only other difference will be that once they've cooled down so I can measure the starting gravity, I expect the Marlene honey batch to be higher than the other two, because they came in 1.36kg buckets while the Marlene honey came in 3 x .5kg retail packs (it seems that while most UK "brands" of honey will supply in either 1lb/454gm or 12oz/340gm packs, all the ones from Lidl's that I've tried have come in 500gm retail packs - hence the expected higher gravity - I'll know once the measurements have been taken).

I'll also be hydrating the yeasts with Go-Ferm yeast hydration nutrient, not because it's necessary, but I've got some so I'll use it. This just means that I won't be putting any yeast nutrient in too start with, because the recommendations for Lalvin FermaidK yeast nutrient are too add it when the "lag phase" of the yeast has finished i.e. when there's visible signs of the fermentation having started. It's also why I haven't topped them all the way up yet - there's room for some foaming, which I suspect will occur when I add the FermaidK though I'll remove a little of the must and mix it with water and mix the nutrient into that so that it can be added carefully but slowly - I hope that will negate any excess foaming of the batch and then they can be topped up with water later on.

I'm not worried about oxidisation, because while there's a small(ish) air space in the DJ's at the moment, it will have expelled just about all the oxygen in the air with the CO2 that will be coming off it once the ferment has kicked off.

I'm posting the progression like this, so any reader will hopefully, be able to follow the progress of these 3 batches and not just try to understand how I'm doing this from text alone - pictures make it easier to follow (well I think so anyway).


Update 1/5/10

I dug out some honeys that I bought a while back this morning, too make a couple (well 3 really) batches. Hopefully by the time I've finished typing this, the pictures will have arrived via my email account as I can't work out how to get them directly off my phone/PDA.

So, 3 different honeys.

2 of them were bought from the local honey wholesaler/distributor who keeps a good range, just not quite as wide a selection as I'd like but then again, he doesn't keep different honey specifically for mead making. The 2 I got from there, was "Italian Chestnut" honey and "Clear Mexican" honey. Both of these are supposed  to be quite dark coloured and strongly flavoured. The third one came from the local branch of Lidl and is supposed to be "Aromatic". The label says stuff like "Summer Blossom Honey with added Wild Blossom" - WTF that's supposed to mean is anyones guess. All I do know at the moment, is that like the Italian Chestnut honey, it's crystalised and is currently sitting in a sink full of hot water to gently dissolve the crystaline sugars back into liquid so it'll come out of the packing OK.

 This is what the label from the "Lidl" honey looks like, as you can see (despite the shitty picture) there's not a great deal of info on it. So in truth it could be from anywhere.

Personally I like a little more provenance than that, but they only put the basic stuff, I'll have to go and see if there's anything better on the reverse label - blended honey often just says "produce of EU and non-EU countries". And one of the honeys that I like to stay away from is Eucalyptus honey as it does seem to retain some of the smell/taste properties of the original plants. I don't mind Eucalyptus but not in honey. The Italian Chestnut honey as also crystalised (I can feel it through the sides of the small bucket (it's in small 1.36kg buckets as that's about what I like to use per gallon, though I've recently taken to using a little more, but 1.36kg/3lb as the base amount, and usually end up having to get more to use for back sweetening so that at least it has the taste/flavour of the original honey - as long as it doesn't end up as cloyingly sweet as the commercial ones I tried the other year.......

Well I must have fucked up somewhere as I can't make the picture of the Italian Chestnut and Clear Mexican honeys appear and I'm too lazy to go and take another picture so if you're that interested (or sad ???) then you'll have to follow the link to paynes......

As soon as I've got the honey back to being "runny" again, I'll post about what I've done with it.....