Mead gone wrong?

Written by Zac on November 13th, 2009

Perhaps it is a direct result of my neglect to keep posting, but things have turned foul! A little over a week after my last post I did a tasting and found the mead to be well on its way. The flavour was smoothing out and fermentation had stopped; hydrometer read 0.990- the density of water. A friend came over and we sampled it, great feedback- we could have polished off a pint for sure.

The level of the mead has been dropping, and ut needed topping up to avoid oxidization. Esther than dilute the mead, I chose to mix in some sugar to kick off another fermentation to keep it at about 10%. Even during that fermentation, the mead was nice. I’d been watching sediment build up for some weeks, and knew that a racking was in order.. I put it off as long as I could bear, but last week I could take it no longer. I used boiling water to sterilize.the initial fermentation bucket and the siphon, then started racking. That’s when the problems began. The bucket couldn’t hold all of the carboys contents, so I scrambled to get another smaller bucket for the rest. I also realized that I hadn’t sterilized the lid of the main bucket, the mead sat there. In open air!! I gave the lid and the mini bucket a rinse and finished racking the mead. After a rinse of the carboy, I racked the mead back into it, using a funnel to pour the contents of the mini bucket. I had also pouired the sediment into a couple of jars to let it settle again and recover as much mead as I could. These sat in the fridge for an hour or so, at which point I also poured them in by funnel. Now I had to top up again, and mixed in some more honey-water with a couple table spoons of honey (pasturized it). Fermentation kicked off and all seemed well, until I tasted it this past Saturday; things had done awry. It was tart! SOUR! Unpleasent, harsh.

What happened? The main possibilities were that the additional fermentation had left some unpleasentness that would settle out, though the astringent element seemed somewhat excessive considering for this possibility considering the nominal amount of honey I had used. Another possibility was oxidization: exposure to oxygen that results in a tart, cardboardy flavour.. Now I didn’t taste cardboard, though oxidation is a distinct possibility, and one that doesn’t she out – this is what makes sherry taste like sherry. Finally, there is bacterial contamination. At 9% alcohol this risk is reduced, but risk exists until about 12%, and I had just added a bunch of oxygen to the mix before diluting it.. Danger ville. Bacterial contamination is perhaps the worst one could imagine- those little fuckers take my previous and supple mead, the use oxygen to convert ethyl alcohol into acedic acid, leaving me with sour wine, which translates to french as vin aigre- better known as vinegar.

At this point I’m still not sure whether my mead is suffering from fermentation, oxidation, or contamination, and desperately hope that a second fermentation (which would likley be rather intense considering the extra oxygen in the mead resulting from a double racking). Perhaps my yeast is just stressed, producing more unfavorable waste than usual. Now that I think of it, the added oxygen would result in some aerobic energy production in the yeast, which converts sugar not to alcohol and CO2, but H2O and CO2, meaning the added sugar will probably result in a slightly more watered down end product (especially considering the water I added).. I suppose that this is no surprise, as when I tasted it last night, the real flavor of the mead seemed somewhat muted, though the tartness does seem to be subsiding somewhat.

A few notes for next time:
- need ph testing strips.
- get a proper santitzing solution.
- get some campden tablets so that I can fight contamination If it happens.
- consider avoiding bee pollen in the must (though it works as a yeast nutrient, it leaves the mead cloudy from what ive read.)
- consider adding Irish moss to the must (a kind of seaweed, natural clearing agent)
- have more patience! Rack less frequently and never twice in a row.


the holy babble

Written by Zac on November 3rd, 2009

I sincerely hope that the bible thumbers are wrong; the Ultimatum of Catholicism or Hell seems like the kind of lose-lose scenario that only a Catholic would willfully entertain.


Weak Sex… Err – Week Six!

Written by Zac on October 21st, 2009

Mead Week #6

When taking this weeks sample, I noticed that there’s quite a bit of lees at the bottom of the carboy, leading me to wonder whether I racked it too early, and if I should be racking it again soon.. The sample read an SG of 1000, with a temperature of 22 degrees.. It’s notable that I added 1L of water to the mead earlier this week to top up the carboy, minimizing exposure to oxygen.

Quite drinkable now, smoothing out even more – tastes much like the last time, but with the negative edges taken off. The smell is no prize winner, but the flavor is growing on me. Slightly tart tasting, though the taste of spice is actually intensifying somewhat. Given a few months, it should be quite delicious.

It continues to clear, but it still very cloudy..

Other recent initiatives:

- fermentation of bread yeast, brown sugar and raisins (waiting to see)

- Infusion of vodka with raisins, pecans and walnuts (dry tasting, unpleasent.. Raisin flavor was nice though)

- Infusion of vodka with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, cardamom (Astringent, implantable. Lovely smell)

My battle to quench sobriety continues.


Mead Week 5 – Coming into its own

Written by Zac on October 13th, 2009

S.G. is 1009 at 20 degrees, meaning that fermentation is crawling (which is probably not helped by the cool nights and our absence over the long weekend – meaning little heat). A little yeasty foam has popped up in a few spots on the top of the mead and a dark yellow ring shows the ‘high water mark’.

The mead still has a cloudy appearance, though the colour has paled and it seems to be starting to clear a little. The smell is unmistakably yeasty, though has not for the most part changed.. it seems to be getting more ‘buttery’, or smoother in its odor. It smells something like flowery champagne, or a strong while ale (blanche) with very light scents of honey and spices. There doesn’t seem to be much carbonation in it now, and the flavor is slightly tart at first, much less sweet than before. It tastes slightly like a sweet white beer minus the hops. It certainly has some citrus notes as well as a bit of caramel, it has a sweet aftertaste like a flowery honey. It’s smooth, fairly well rounded, and .. It’s something between a sweet, yeasty, flowery, young white wine and a sweet hop-less white beer.

Eva’s scenting notes: “It doesn’t smell too good…….. Honey…. Apples maybe…… Cinnamon? Some kind of spices…. there’s a bit of a rancid smell to it.” – the bad smell would simply be the yeast.

actually getting to be quite nice.


Mead, Week 4 – The Vikings draw near.

Written by Zac on October 6th, 2009

The Mead progresses, but slowly – like a pack of vikings in the winter months.

Hydrometer reads 1.010, meaning that fermentation has slowed to a crawl.. I’ve noticed the airlock bubbling between every 8-10 seconds, though considering that this is a much better seal (since the racking), that is probably a more significant reduction than it seems. The temperatures has seriously cooled, though it was warm when I checked the mead, and it read 22 degrees C. 

The colour has paled, and the mead seems to be clearing though it’s still pretty cloudy. Taste has improved – it’s drier now, though still rather sweet. The bitterness previously noted seems to have subsided, and the primary flavours are honey and yeast, and something like plum. The texture is smooth; slightly buttery. I think that it would probably be much better chilled, perhaps next week! 

Hopefully the mead will develop more fully over the next month or two so as to warm me on cold winter nights of screaming babies! Cheers to that!



Mead Week 3, Sept 29

Written by Zac on September 29th, 2009

IMG_0667The results of my weekly sampling:

SG 1015

Temp 24 Deg

Alcohol Content: approx. 9%

Fermentation continues but has certainly slowed.

Tasting: Sweet, slight sparkle, off yeasty tastes, slightly fruity.. Almost almondy.. Certainly some honey tones, the bitterness still exists, but has mellowed. slight notes of spices (clove, cinnamon).. Drinkable, but not great.. Certainly better than last tasting!

Color: slightly lighter than before, still quite cloudy.

I Racked the mead into a glass carboy to get rid of the lees (all the dead yeast that falls to the bottom and taints the flavour), then topped up the carboy by adding 14 cups water (wow!).. Could this be a 7.9 Gallon / 30 L carboy? I also added another .5 kg of honey (heated to sterilize as before).

Gravity after transfer – 1012 at 23 deg.. With all that added water, I figure the mead was diluted by about 10-12%, or about 1% alcohol by volume. With the added honey, I figure I offset it by about half meaning that it’s about 5-6% diluted, or about .5% alcohol by volume. The end result should still fall somewhere between 9-11%.

This is a somewhat rushed post, as the whole racking and cleaning fiasco took a couple of hours and now I’m pressed for time… Ramble ramble!

- Z


Preporting 101

Written by Zac on September 26th, 2009

The word ‘report’ is comprised of two root elements: re- which essentially means ‘again’ (ie repeat: to peat again), and port- a place of traffic or transaction (a port of entry or exit, airport, deport, import, export, USB port, portal).

So what is a reporter? Someone who ports again. What does that mean? It is a sort or re-entry into something either physical or conceptual, taking something which has occurred or exists and conceptually ‘reentering’ it (verbally or in writing ).

The problem with reporting is that its limited to things which exist or have occurred. The beauty of Hunter S Thompson’s Gonzo journalism was that it mingled fact and fiction, resulting in a verbal re-entry paired with reimagining.

I propose the Preport. What is a preport? It can be likened to a report on something which either has not yet happened or does not yet exist. Hypothetical circumstances, situations, or subjects verbally explored (though somehow more valid than fiction). The. Preport is not constrained by the realism of the report, and as such may discuss, prospects and possibility in greater depth than a report.


Mead – Week 2

Written by Zac on September 22nd, 2009

Updated Mead Readings:
Temperature: 24 degrees (though I’m sure it’s fluctuated between 14-26 deg.. Getting cold at nights, below 10 at times)
SG: 1040
Color: post-night of drinking urinIMG_0639e (cloudy yellow).
Estimated alcohol per volume: 5%
Estimated final alcohol per volume: 11+/-%
Initial SG… Hard to say.. I started the batch without measuring the SG.. After 24 hours I looked and saw a lot of foam, got worried about the peaches and figured out there was too little honey.. I added a bunch more honey and took my first SG reading at 1070, though I’m going to guestimate that the SG dropped about .010 in that initial batch of fermentation (could be anywhere between 5-30). That plus the further added honey (about 1/2 cup) puts me at an estimated initial SG of 1083, which also happens to be the figure calculated by The mead calculator

Tastes fairly sweet, certainly a taste of honey, yeasty undertones and bitter notes, the cinnamon and cloves certainly play a part, though may have contributed to the bitterness. It has a slight sparkle to it from the carbonation. Wouldn’t want to drink too much of it- it’s still kind of ‘sharp’ tasting and certainly needs some time to blend flavors and mellow.

Seems the reason for seemingly slow activity is an incomplete seal around the cork that the airlock is plugged into.. When properly sealed, it’s bubbling about every 4-6 seconds (the dates certainly seem to have helped). Thinking of racking it something in the next few days to avoid intensifying the taste of yeast. The dates have lost their brown color (now yellow) are all floating on the top, while cloves and cinnamon have sunk to the bottom.


Mead Update

Written by Zac on September 15th, 2009

One week in: fermentation has slowed a little; I came home to find the airlock not bubbling at all! This has happened about 2 other times and a very brief shake to stir things up has tended to get it rolling again. When opened I do see that the concoction is bubbling like a carbonated drink, and I suspect that there’s an incomplete seal on the bucket.

I checked the gravity and found it to be 1055, which is way too high; fermentation really does seem to be sluggish- probably due to the lack of nutrients. The mead tasted delicous, though is much too sweet and only about 2% alcohol at this point. I figured this was a good time to reheat the sampled mead and add some more nutriets- 20 dates (I read that easins were good), 2 tsp of tea leaves, about 1/2 cup of honey, 1 tbsp of bee pollen, and a splash of water brought it to about 85 deg for a few minutes, let it cool. I noticed that the mead was now bubbling every 6 seconds, likley due to the agitation involved in taking a sample (pulling the bucket forward about a foot.) The surface has a bunch of little clumps of bright yellow yeast pockets, and some tea leaves are rolling around in the bucket while others float at the top. I’m planning on racking it into a glass carboy by next week.

UPDATE- Next day: still bubbling about every 6 seconds. It seems like the dates might have provided much needed nitrogen. the nights are getting cooler and I suspect that this won’t help fermentation, though hopefully it won’t get cold enough to stop!



Written by Zac on September 13th, 2009

Mead: Liquid gold, supple Ambrosia, Viking punch, an easy sipping wine with a touch of the old blarney..

I recently came into possession of a few carboys, airlocks, a hydrometer, and a foodsafe bucket, the combination of which inspired me to get brewing. This comes as something of a throwback to my just-out-of-highschool job as a brewers assistant at the Queensway Brewery in Peterborough (which has almost certainly folded since). I’ll never forget the first batch that I made for myself; I recall stocking my near-empty fridge with 50 liters of mediocre micro-brew (made at a cost of $40- Employee discounts rock), and replacing water with lager for the following weeks.. But enough nostalgia: let’s get back on track!

Mead is an age-old and easy to brew delicacy that had largely fallen to the wayside in these days of beer, wine, and spirits. Though most would not be so ambitious, you can brew it in your laundry room for a modest sum if you’ve got the patience and some basic equipment! The basic ingredients are simple: water, honey, and a container. You should have an airlock to prevent contamination, and some other useful things include a brew-safe sanitizer (not bleach), a tube for siphoning, a thermometer, and a hydrometer . You can always put together some sort of Macgyvered airlock made out of a film canister, a straw, a drill, a thimble, and some sort of sealant, though a balloon with a couple of pinholes would also work.

I picked up 3 kilos of unadulterated Ontario White (honey you bimbo!) and another kilo of buckwheat at the Ivanhoe cheese outlet (mmm, local cheese!), which cost me about $40. Upon my return, I heated a couple liters of water to about 80 degrees (Celsius) and added the honey. I stirred this constantly while bringing it to about 85 degrees, added the peach and 1 tsp of tea leaves, and a cup and a half of sugar, stirred and maintained heat for about 8 minutes then turned off the stove. I poured all of this into a 28L foodsafe bucket (with a hole drilled in the top to accommodate a drilled cork with an airlock wedged in it), and filled the bucket the rest of the way with the finest Toronto tap water, leaving a bit of space inches at the top for foam and to avoid direct contact with my airlock (this brought the temperature down to about 20 deg). I let this sit for a few minutes before pitching the yeast, along with a splash of debittered brewers yeast (Brewers yeast which happened to be for eating, not brewing. This worked out, as it provides the active yeast with some nutrients, which honey-water is poor in; this is also why I used tea leaves). At this point I put the lit on the bucket, dragged it to the laundry room, and inserted the airlock.

That night mead was on my mind… Did I use enough honey? Would it be contaminated? Was there any issue with using two kinds of yeast? The next morning began with some further research, after which I learned that the additional Brewers yeast was dead, more honey would be a good idea, and the peach might cause contamination. That night I picked up another 3kg of honey – this time at a much better price ($22 at the Carrot Common). I opened the bucket of must (unfermented mead) and scooped out the peach chunks, pulled about a cup of must and heated it before adding 2.5kg of this honey. I noted a strong smell of yeast when I opened the bucket. I threw in a teaspoon of tea leaves, 2 tbsp’s of cloves, 5 cinnamon sticks, and some lemon juice, then heated it to about 85 deg and kept it at that temp for a few minutes to pasteurize it (to kill any potential contaminants). I put the pot into a sink of cold water and let it cool to 40 degrees before adding it to the rest of my must and stirred in the foam that had formed at the top of the bucket (this is mostly yeast). At this point I measured the specific gravity of the mead using my hydrometer (to get an idea of the sugar content and potential alcohol levels), and found it to be about 1070. I noticed that the mead bubbled a fair bit when I dumped this, meaning that fermentation had begun!

On day 3 the mead finally started fermenting enough to cause the airlock to bubble.. It makes a ‘glug’ sound about every 5 seconds as the CO2 build-up causes enough pressure to push out excess gas through the water in the airlock. The smell of yeast had dissipated, and now it simply smells fragrant, like honey and spice- Yum!

I plan to rack (siphon) it into a glass carboy after about 3 weeks, leaving the dead yeast at the bottom of the bucket so that it doesn’t taint the flavor. From what I’ve read, another few months of light fermentation and it’ll be ready to bottle.

Zead Ingredients:
6 kilos of Ontario White Honey
1 Kilo Ontario Buckwheat Honey
1.5 cups white sugar (this one could be skipped)
22 L(+/-) Toronto tap water
5 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp cloves
1 peach
5 g Lalvin 1118 champagne yeast
2 tbsp “debittered Brewers Yeast” (a mistake, though not problematic)
2-3 tbsp darjeeling black tea.
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Bee Pollen
Approximate cost of batch: $70, or about $2.25/L (not incl. equipment)
Estimated alcohol content: 12%

Some interesting sites:


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