Saturday, May 26, 2012

Traditional (weirdomel) part 2

Ok, hands up, who's perfect ?..........

Not me.

After I mixed the batch up, I rehydrated a sachet of D21 (with hindsight, I should have used K1V-1116). Now as is my habit (being a little lazy), I sort of follow the instructions, but not always with total accuracy.

I didn't test the water temperature when rehydrating the yeast, I just made it hand hot and added about 100mls of the must and about 8 grammes of GoFerm. Once it had been sitting for about a half hour, there wasn't much, if any, foam or bubbling yeast on the top of the rehydration liquid, but I figured I'd left it too long for that - I now believe not (note too self, read up on making starters).

The yeast got pitched. The next day, there was no activity that I could see when I opened the bucket to see if I could work out what was going on. I just sanitised the electric balloon whisk and aerated the must. Having had a wank day at work the following day, I forgot to aerate the must. The day after that, I did my check i.e. I was only waiting to see some sign of fermentation commencing so I could add the FermaidK/DAP (1tsp/half tsp) mix..... nothing, so again, I figured just blitz the must again with the whisk as above.

On the fourth day, I did my check and still nada. "Bugger" thinks me, it looks like I've got a duff batch of yeast, either that or the high starting gravity has affected the yeast (I think it's called osmotic shock, I don't recall the exact phrase), so I'll have to probably pitch again at the weekend if it's not going tomorrow, but as an ill-thought out idea, given the high SG, I added a further teaspoon of GoFerm when I was whisking.

Tomorrow came (yesterday), and work fucked me over, I ran out of hours to get back and got stuck out, in a layby just of "the 25". So no check, nothing.

This morning, I got to have a look to see if anything has happened only to find, that not only has the bugger started fermenting, but that it's also dropped about 25 points i.e. on checking, the must gave me a gravity of 1.115! Ah well, I decided, not to worry. The delay in the batch starting was just a prolonged "lag phase". Though whether it was the wrong temperature at rehydration, or the high SG, or whatever, it's now underway.

I've just given it a good whisking, and added 1tsp of FermaidK and half tsp of DAP. I intend trying to remember to whisk daily, maybe to the 1/3rd or the 1/2 sugar break, I haven't decided yet. Probably the 1/2 break, because of the high gravity and that a 140 drop in gravity (presuming dry at 1.000) represents about 19% ABV - D21, from memory, is good for 16% - which is why I thought of the hindsight of using K1V-1116, it's tolerance is 18% and I saved half a jar of the tropical honey, which might turn out to have been unnecessary. We'll have to wait and see. If I can overdrive the yeast some, to achieve greater than 16%, then that'd be good. After all, I don't intend this being ready for drinking any time soon. Just to get it finished fermenting, back sweetened (after the ferment has finished as I'm gonna use more of the tropical honey if I need too), then cleared and ageing.

I suppose I didn't make sure about the temperature of the rehydration liquid, as I was being impatient! Can't say for certain, just that as with anything mead related, patience is a virtue.......

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Traditional (weirdomel) batch.....

Ok, so I'm thinking of this as a traditional batch, but also as a "weirdomel" (a batch made with weird ingredients).

Now, I'm thinking both, because it's being made as a traditional, but what you can't see from the picture, is the other "blurb" on the label, including the honeys origin.

The jar details explain that it's honey collected from wild bees in the Miombo forests of north western Zambia. There's other marketing bollocks on the label as well, but if you want to know anything else, you can look it up at "Tropical Forest's" website.

Suffice to say that it's unusual enough for me to think of it as a "weirdomel". Despite the fact that I bought it in a local branch of Waitrose.

I bought 4 x 1lb jars a good few months ago, but have only just got round to starting it as a brew. Last night, I put the 4 jars into a sink of hot water, because it had crystalised some and I wanted it to run easily so it mixed up completely when I added the water.

Now I know that honey will vary in it's sugar content, but I was surprised to see a reading of about 1.060 once I'd mixed in about 3.5lb of the honey - though the relatively low reading may have been because I mixed it with a stick blender (sanitised) and hadn't waited long enough for it to settle. Seeing the low number I filled one of the jars with about another 1lb of the Blossom honey I got from Paynes last weekend. I mixed that and it still didn't seem to be reading much over about 1.080 - so I said bollocks to it and just scooped a pint jug out of the Blossom honey bucket and poured that in as well, mixing it with an electric whisk. I then just left the bucket fermenter sealed up over lunch.

When we got back, I took a reading and it's at about 1.140, which is rather high for my liking, but if I hadn't been so impatient, I would have done a better job of measuring both the honey and taking a gravity so it was a bit lower i.e. about the 1.120 mark. Never mind.

A gravity of 1.140, if it gets down to 1.000 would be about 19% ABV - I want a bit of residual sugar anyway, so I'm not fussed. I'm intending to manage this using the usual 2 part, staggered nutrient addition method, and while I'll try and aerate it twice a day, if it just gets aerated once a day, it should get somewhere near where I want it. I'm going to use D21 for the yeast.

The honey itself, isn't as sweet as some (too taste, that is) and has a sort of malty hint, plus a spiciness that I can't pinpoint, though it's not unpleasant.

Right, I'll close for now, as the yeast will have had long enough rehydrating in the GoFerm, must and water mix, so I'll report back how it's doing later on. Even if it does go pear shaped with the ferment and the starting gravity being that high, I can just run a restart, but using K1V-1116, which is also a good yeast for traditionals.......

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Banana Mead Part 7

Ok, so here it is as it looks now.

I've just racked it off the lees into another 3 gallon (US) water cooler bottle, to which I added 4lb of banana (approximately 3lb when skinned), which was sliced - the object of which, is to make this brew more "bananery" tasting.

I took a gravity measurement before starting and it was sitting at 1.002, now as well as the banana that was added for flavour, I also added 4 vanilla pods - taken from my home made vanilla essence jar (the vanilla pods in the essence jar are just about 100 vanilla pods in high strength alcohol), so while they might not be as strong flavoured as "fresh" vanilla pods, they should be fine. I then added 5 ladles of "Blossom" (a.k.a. wild flower) honey, which has brought the gravity up to 1.022 - of course, that doesn't include the sugars in the banana, but I'm not fussed if it does carry on fermenting some, though I do suspect it might take a bit of time for that too occur.

The intention is to keep swirling the batch until the banana sinks and hopefully the batch will have cleared some as well.

So far, I haven't treated it with any sulphite or sorbate (as above to my current thoughts on any further fermentation), and I haven't treated it with any pectolase or even amylase (don't know whether banana has much, if any, pectin, but I'll keep amylase in mind as I understand that banana does have some starch - so if it doesn't clear, then I'll think about hitting it with one or both.....

Now I'm also hoping that taking the batch off the gross lees, will reduce any problems that can be caused by keeping a brew on 71B lees (I think I used 71B, I'll have to read back to check!). As I'm well aware that 71B isn't good for ageing on the lees and is known to impart some off flavours (from autolysis ?), so if it drops too much I'll have to rack it again, which would mean that I'd have to take it off the fruit etc and into glass.

Hence it's a bit "watch this space" for the next development.

Oh, and before I forget, when I washed out the original fermenter, I noticed that the lees wasn't very well compacted, and it was mainly of a granular appearance, and not just the usual "yeast coloured slime" that I'm familiar with. Why that might be I don't know, but I thought I'd better note it - I don't know whether it's of any import or not, or whether it's just something that occurs when banana is used in a primary ferment........

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Banana Mead Part 6

When I got in after work on friday, I think it was, I took a gravity reading and it was about 1.000 and on a whim, decided to add the malt extract (runny brown stuff from the local health food store).

It only pushed the gravity back up to about 1.005 and it wasn't a 1lb jar either, it was 340 g - hopefully it'll still ferment out ok.

I'm thinking that when it's got a decent layer of sediment I'll just rack it and then put some more banana in there - probably just the fruit sliced up and leave it as I'd like to get a more bananery taste going, so when I eventually do back sweeten it, it'll have a hint of malt, a hint of vanilla and a reasonable amount of banana taste....

I'll have to wait and see won't I !