Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A quick rant !

I like to try and be helpful around the mead making forums. Often in respect of stuff that newer mead makers ask, and especially when it comes to getting ingredients that might have local equivalents.

Equally, we (as in us lot this side of the pond) have to often "make do" as the stuff you see mentioned on the mead forums where there's a high proportion of American mead makers, just isn't easily available.

There's a lot of info out there. It may be that it's been posted by one of us UK based mead makers, so it's easier to ask the "why's and wherefore's". Even if it's been posted by one of the US based mead makers, it might just need a bit of a pointer to set someone in the right direction.

They just need to have a bit of a search, and read the fucking guidance. Hell ask a few questions, there's plenty of people who will explain why if they do X, they won't get Y, they'll go straight past Z and end up back at D.

High gravity/strength is fine, just don't put all the fucking honey in a batch at once. It will cause problems stressing the yeast and possibly resulting in off flavours that may either take years to mellow, or even not at all. It's easy to make a batch that needs to meet certain criteria, but it's likely that if it's suggested that it's made in a certain way, then there's a fucking reason for it.

Don't try and re-invent the wheel, you'll just end up looking like a cunt who can't even make basic recipes. Plus you'll stress yourself out trying to work out "what went wrong"......

Ok, I'll get off my soap box.........

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bochet part 2......

Ok, so I had left the caramelised honey alone as I was sulphiting to make sure that I didn't screw up in any way.

Now the intention was to use some of the D21 I had for the yeast - on a completely different issue, I'd given some of the packs to another mazer from one of the forums I go to (he's local to me). He was trying to use it and it just wasn't starting to ferment, after he'd tried making a starter with it too and had no luck, I rehydrated some with some GoFerm, then topped it up with a little of the bochet must, only to find that it wasn't gonna play.....bugger!

So I just left it on the stirring plate and put a pack of 71B in to rehydrate and start doing it's thing.

By last Tuesday, it looked fine, producing some gas etc, so it went straight into the must and is fermenting fine.

I wanted it to be a stir plate batch, but the little spinner (not a proper stirrer, but one that was made for 1 gallon wine batches originally) doesn't want to keep the stir bar spinning, it just throws it off.

A little bit of experimentation with a jar of water, and it seems that I've got to raise the flask up about 1cm above the stirrer. I don't know if the issue is the strength of the magnets in the stirrer, the weight of the stir bar (it's 36mm long) or what. So I've cut little pieces of wood this morning to stand the flask on and I should be able to get the stirrer below the flask and get it spinning correctly.

It's my first go at using a stirrer etc, as I just want to try it out at this stage.

Apart from that, the ferment seems to be going great guns and is chucking out the CO2 and bubbling away just nicely.......

I'll see if I can get any pictures etc......

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Ok, so "Bochet" ?

Well Bochet is a mead made from burned or caramelised honey. It's sort of been on my "todo" list for some time.

The problem is, well was, that when it comes to caramelising the honey, you have to have a large pan and be very careful. It's thought that the honey expands when boiling like 3 possibly 4 times and it's hotter than hell. If it gets on the skin, it's like being burned with molten plastic apparently. Well after all, it's molten sugar so it'd just be boiling wouldn't it.

Anyway, one of the members over at Gotmead or was it at Homebrewtalk (doesn't matter as it's the same person i.e. WVMJ/WVMJack) said about caramelising honey, but instead of an open pan, to use a pressure cooker. He likened it to boiling cans of "Condensed Milk" to make the toffee flavoured stuff like you see on "Banoffee" pie. The same thread (at whichever forums it was at) someone else also suggested using a "slow cooker" type crock pot pan/device. Now I didn't want to fuck up the slow cooker as I'd still have to make sure about adding water periodically, because apparently if you use an open pan, after a while it starts to thicken up and then needs to be watered down so that the boiling honey doesn't end up like very hard toffee when it's cooled down.
The picture is of the 4lb of honey I had to put in jars to I could see what happened with it when it went into the pressure cooker. The honey isn't varietal or anything, it's from one of the buckets that I bought from the chap in Oxford after he scored 400lb of honey on ebay. He sold me about 100lb or so in weight and this is just from one of the buckets.

This is what it looks like after its been in the pressure cooker for an hour. The jars were still hot when I took the picture, but you can see that it's become a lot darker.

The suggestion of using a pressure cooker was to do with, when using an open pan and direct heat, you can caramelise the sugars too much and the honey, well the sugars in the honey can become too dark/burned and it may cause problems when trying to ferment it. I can't say what the pressure etc was for the pressure cooker, as I just put the jars in, filled it half way up the level of the jars with water (the trivet was in the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom of the base of the pan). I understand it's possible to use it to cook with a reduced pressure but from memory, it would have had about 15lb pressure of steam.

I didn't do a perfect job either. The remaining water showed signs that at least one of the jars must have leaked a bit. Yet the jars all still seemed full, so maybe it was just that the heat increased the pressure inside the jar(s) a bit and forced a bit of the honey out into the water. I'll have to see how it measures up when I mix it with water and measure the gravity before pitching yeast into it.

My limited knowledge of this means that I'll have to wait and see what it's like once it's cooled, whether it sets/goes hard or not, and whether I need to mix it hot or with hot water to dissolve it or not. This is very much, a voyage of discovery for me. I haven't completely made my mind up yet, but it may be my first attempt at a stir plate recipe. I'm only going to make it like a traditional anyway. It's a good excuse to try out the nutrient bit's I swapped with another person from the forums who's local(ish) to me. I sent him 50 grammes of GoFerm and 50 grammes of FermaidK and he reciprocated by sending me 50 grammes of Dynastart and 50 grammes of Nutrivit. GoFerm seems to be the same as the Dynastart and FermaidK the same, well similar at least as the FermaidK - I say the same, the products are designed to be used at the same time in the same way.

I'll have to have a think, because I'm intending to use the 5000ml erlenmeyer flask as the fermenter, but haven't yet ordered the bung for it (it's not the same size as a 1 gallon demi-john fermenter, it's neck seems to measure 40mm), but I can just use a bit of cling film and an elastic band as it shouldn't be an issue as the yeast will produce enough CO2 to protect the surface until it's finished and then I can just rack it to a DJ. I'll have to have a bit of a read to work out how much of the nutrient to use as I'll probably be doing it as a staggered nutrient (probably only in 2 parts though).

Here's a picture of Charles the cat, who was perched on the newel post of the stairs being nosey. No particular reason for posting the picture, just that I hadn't seen him sitting there before.......