Sunday, June 30, 2019

Strawberry Mead (Melomel) 1.0

While shopping in a Wal-Mart a couple of months ago, I decided it might be fun to try making a strawberry mead.  I picked two items off the shelf to combine with water, yeast nutrient, and yeast to produce the mead. It'll be a while before I know if this worked (and I know there are reasons it might not - such as preservatives in the strawberry recipe).

Ingredients

1.5 gallons of tap water
5 pounds of Generic Honey
27 ounce jar of Welch's All-Natural Strawberry Preserves
2 tsp. DAP
2 tsp. Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
2 packages Crossmyloof Mead Yeast

Just these, water, yeast, and nutrients...

Characteristics of this batch:
  • Batch Volume:  2.1 gallons
  • BJCP Criteria:  M2C.  Berry Mead
  • Original Gravity: 1.111 SG (per Tilt Hydrometer)
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 SG estimated
  • Fermenter Used: O'Reilly
  • Bottling Wand Used: not yet bottled
  • ABV:  13% estimated
The water was brought to a boil. The honey and strawberry preserves dissolved into it, and left with a lid on it to cool to room temperature in a swamp cooler.

The strawberry preserves most likely contained some form of preservatives that would inhibit yeast growth, so I plan to overpitch the yeast and loaded it down with nutrients to help it out. I also planned to hit it with pure oxygen before pitching, to nudge it even further along.

Fermentation Plan

In Steve Platz's The Complete Guide to Making Mead, the author suggests fermenting at 62-75F, which fits in with my ambient basement temperature.  The planned schedule, per the book is:
  • Day 1 (6/30):  Brew, oxygenate, and pitch yeast.  
  • Day 2 (7/1):  Stir twice during the day, about 8-12 hours apart.
  • Day 3 (7/2):  Stir once, and add 3/4 tsp. yeast nutrient. Stir again 8-12 hours later.
  • Day 4 (7/3):  Stir twice during the day.
  • Day 5 (7/4):  Stir once, add 3/4 tsp. yeast nutrient. Stir again 8-12 hours later.
  • Day 6 (7/5):  Stir twice during the day.
  • Day 7 (7/6):  Stir once, add 3/4 tsp. yeast nutrient. Stir again 8-12 hours later.
  • Day 8 (7/7):  Stir twice during the day.
  • Days 9+:  No stirring or adding nutrients. 
  • Day 21:  Transfer to secondary fermenter and add finings, or bottle. 


Post-Brew Notes and Observations

06/30/2019:  Finished prepping at 2:15pm.  At 4pm temp was down to 134F.  At 5pm, 108F.  At 8:30pm, the temp was down to 79F and the gravity read 1.111 SG.  The must was aerated with pure oxygen for 60 seconds and two packages of yeast pitched to ensure success,

07/01/2019:  This morning I swirled the fermenter to stir up the contents.  Tonight, I sanitized a stainless steel spoon and stirred the must vigorously as indicated in the Platz book, before re-sealing the fermenter.  Gravity is down to 1.103 SG (about 7% attenuation) in about 23 hours since pitching the yeast.  The mead has a decidedly strawberry aroma, though it's an unappetizing brown color, probably because I should have waited to add the berries until it had cooled down. Lesson learned for next time.

07/02/2019:  I swirled the fermenter before leaving for work, after adding yeast nutrient, and again when I returned home.  Gravity is down to 1.096 SG now.  This represents about 14% attenuation in approximately 46 hours since the yeast was pitched, so you wouldn't exactly say this yeast is a very fast fermenter.

07/03/2019:  It's now over 72 hours since the yeast was pitched.  Gravity has dropped to 1.060 SG, which represents approximately 46% attenuation and 7.5% ABV.  Temperature crept as high as 73F but has been decreasing during the last hour.  With tomorrow being the July 4 holiday, I decided to give the yeast a dose of energizer and a good swirl before going to bed.

07/04/2019:  It's over 4 days.  Gravity is down to 1.039 SG, which represents approximately 66% attenuation and an ABV around 10.8%.  There doesn't seem to be any indication of it slowing down at this point, so it will be interesting to see where this ends up.

07/05/2019:  The mead was dosed with nutrients one final time and stirred very well with a sanitized spoon.  It's currently reading a gravity of 1.030 SG, which represents 70.3% attenuation and an ABV of 12.09%.  Temperature is 72F and the mead has held an average of 73F throughout fermentation. A sample removed using a sanitized turkey baster showed a light color, a little bit of a boozy aroma, and a flavor that is still sweet - with strawberry and honey notes, while still tasting "young" (as it should).

07/06/2019: Gravity is down to 1.012 SG today, and there is still regular airlock activity.  The temperature has dropped to 71F.  The current gravity represents 88.3% attenuation and 14.46% ABV.  I swirled the fermenter this morning and added a teaspoon of the pectic enzyme I received today to help clarify the melomel by breaking down the pectin. It should have been added earlier but I didn't have any, or really know about it at the time.

07/07/2019:  Gravity is now being reported as 1.000 SG (identical to water) by the Tilt Hydrometer and the temperature has dropped from 71F yesterday to 69F today, which is roughly the ambient basement temperature surrounding the fermenter.  I think it's safe to say that fermentation is probably complete at this point, though as always I'll adopt a "wait and see" approach.  I'll give the melomel a few more days to ensure that fermentation is indeed finished, then transfer it off the yeast cake so that it can clear up before bottling. The 1.000 SG gravity puts the mead's ABV at 16.02%.  Strong stuff...

07/11/2019:  Gravity now reads 0.995 SG, which represents an ABV of 16.66%.

07/18/2019:  The gravity held for three straight days, so I transferred the liquid off the yeast cake to ensure that it didn't pick up any autolysis flavors or aromas, and am going to let it continue resting until it gets clear, then we'll get it bottled and allow it to age.

07/20/2019:  The mead is looking clearer in the fermenter, but I suspect it will need a lot more time to get really bright and clear.

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