Saturday, August 24, 2019

Elderflower Mead 1.0

Way back when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married, I read that their wedding cake was going to be a lemon and elderflower flavored one.  Having not tasted elderflower infused foods before, I wondered how that flavor might work in a beer or mead.  A good friend picked up two containers of Ikea's elderflower drink concentrate for me, so I would be able to try the flavor in both a mead and a beer.  With the Brewie+ still down for repair (almost 6 weeks now), I decided to create an elderflower mead first.
Ingredients

6 pounds of Wildflower honey
1 bottle of Ikea Elderflower drink concentrate
1 gallon bottled spring water (see note below)
1 packet Lalvin K1V 1116 wine yeast
(plus yeast nutrient mix, described next)

Note: Enough bottled spring water was added so that after the honey was dissolved and the drink concentrate added, the total volume of liquid was 1.5 gallons in the fermenter.  When this resulted in too high a starting gravity, additional water was added to hit the target.  In this case, it ended up being the entire gallon.

The following nutrient mix will be used, and split across two additions, one when the mead first enters the fermenter and another 2-3 days later:
  • Go-ferm: 6 grams
  • Fermaid O:  6 grams
  • Fermaid K:  3 grams
  • DAP: 5 grams
According to MeadMakr.com's Batch Builder tool, the batch should have these characteristics:
  • Batch Volume:  1.5 gallons (actual was approximately 1.6 gallons)
  • Yeast ABV: 18%
  • Sweetness:  Semi-sweet (FG=1.015)
  • Nitrogen Requirement: High
  • Target OG: 1.148 SG, 33.9 Brix (actual was 1.150 SG)
  • Target FG: 1.015 SG (approx. 89% apparent attenuation)
  • Honey needed: 6.34 pounds
  • Dry yeast minimum weight: 3g (one packet is 5g)
The must will be created as described below:
  • Approximately a half gallon of water, yeast nutrients, and the drink concentrate are added to the sanitized fermenter.
  • The honey is added and a degassing wand used with a cordless drill to dissolve the honey and other ingredients into the water.
  • Additional water is added until the 1.5 gallon volume is reached, and the degassing wand is used to stir and aerate the must.
  • A sanitized Tilt Hydrometer is added to measure the original gravity.  If it's below the target, additional honey is added until the target gravity is reached.  The degassing wand is used to blend the honey addition into the must.
  • Dry yeast is sprinkled atop the must.
  • The fermenter is sealed, an airlock added, and a label indicating the batch name and date created is affixed to the fermenter.
The fermentation plan is to keep the fermenter in the basement, where ambient temperatures at this time are approximately 70F.  This is in about the middle of the yeast's tolerance range, so no off flavors or harsh fusels should be created (or at least they should be minimized).

Once final gravity is reached (per the Tilt Hydrometer readings), the mead will be transferred to a clean fermenter for degassing and secondary fermentation. When the mead has cleared, it will be bottled and allowed to age for a few weeks/months until the flavor matures.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

08/24/2019:  Created the must and pitched the dry yeast atop it.  I ended up with a higher gravity than intended, probably because I did not attempt to calculate the sugar inherent in the Elderflower drink mix.  I ended up adding the entire gallon of water and a little bit of distilled water to get within a couple of points of my gravity target.  The amounts of yeast nutrient were pretty small to measure, so I ended up adding all of it at the start. There's plenty of headspace in the 2-gallon fermenter so I'm not too worried about blow-off.

08/25/2019:  Fermentation started about 9 hours after yeast pitch.  It's moving pretty slowly since then, currently well below 1% attenuation.  Temperature is reading 70, which is the ambient basement temperature where the fermenter is located.  Gravity has dropped from the initial 1.150 SG down to 1.148 SG in about 22 hours since yeast pitch.

08/27/2019:  Gravity has dropped from 1.150 SG down to 1.124 SG in the last 3 days.  If this was a beer, I'd be worrying about the fermentation having stalled.  Since it's a wine yeast we're dealing with, I'm going to assume it's just moving slowly.  If it's not much below 1.124 tomorrow night, I will likely pop open the fermenter, feed it some nutrients, and aerate it with some pure oxygen.

08/28/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.113 SG today.  That's about 24.7% attenuation and 6.3% ABV.

08/29/2019:  Gravity is 1.105 SG today. That's roughly 30% attenuation and a 7.5% ABV.

08/30/2019:  Gravity is now 1.095 SG, which represents 36% attenuation and 9.1% ABV.

08/31/2019:  Gravity is now 1.090 SG, 40% attenuation, 10% ABV.  I added some Fermaid O to the fermenter and swirled it to help fermentation keep moving forward.

09/01/2019:  Gravity is now 1.083 SG, 44% attenuation, 10.97% ABV.  In the Tilt Hydrometer's Chart page, the SG plot is almost exactly following a straight line downward, so I imagine it may be weeks before this particular mead reaches its final gravity.

09/02/2019:  Gravity 1.078 SG, attenuation 48%, ABV 11.74%.

09/03/2019:  Gravity 1.073 SG.

09/04/2019:  Gravity 1.068 SG, attenuation 54.7%, ABV 13.27%.

09/05/2019:  Gravity 1.062 SG, attenuation 58.7%, ABV 14.33%.

09/06/2019:  Gravity 1.059 SG, attenuation 60.7%, ABV 14.8%.

09/07/2019:  Gravity 1.055 SG, attenuation 63.3%, ABV 15.4%.  At about 7:30, I added some yeast nutrients to the must to help it finish fermentation.

09/09/2019:  Gravity 1.052 SG, attenuation 65.3%, ABV 15.7%.

09/10/2019:  Gravity 1.050 SG, attenuation 66.7%, ABV 15.95%.

09/11/2019:  Gravity 1.049 SG.

09/12/2019:  Gravity 1.047 SG, attenuation 68.7%, ABV 16.53%.

09/13/2019:  Gravity 1.044 SG.

09/14/2019:  Gravity 1.043 SG, attenuation 71.3%, ABV 17.1%

09/15/2019:  Gravity 1.042 SG.

09/16/2019:  Gravity 1.041 SG.

09/17/2019:  Gravity 1.040 SG.

09/18/2019:  Gravity 1.039 SG, attenuation 74%, ABV 17.7%.

09/19/2019:  Gravity 1.039 SG.

09/20/2019:  Gravity 1.038 SG, attenuation 74.7%, ABV 17.8%.

09/21/2019:  Gravity 1.038 SG.

10/02/2019 and 10/03/2019:  Gravity 1.036 SG, attenuation 75.3%, ABV 18.1%.

10/04/2019:  Bottled with no priming sugar or backsweetening. Yield was 16 12-ounce bottles.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Lingonberry Melomel 1.0

You'll notice that I'm doing meads this summer, though it might not be for the reason you'd expect.  It's not because the warm weather impacts my fermentations or that I'm trying to avoid raising the temperature and humidity in the house.  Bottom line... my Brewie+ stopped working in July and I am (still) waiting for a repair part to arrive from... somewhere.

The inspiration for this mead was a trip to Ikea some months ago. I saw Lingonberry drink mix for sale and thought this might be interesting in a beer or mead, so I bought a bottle.  With the Brewie+ down for the count, I decided to try it in a mead.

Ingredients

40 ounces of Wildflower honey, plus enough more to raise gravity to 1.127 SG
1 bottle of Ikea Lingonberry Juice Concentrate (16.9 ounces)
4 grams Fermaid O
3 grams DAP
1 packet of Lalvin 71B yeast
Bottled spring water

Original Gravity: 1.127 SG actual
Final Gravity:  TBD (expected around 1.020 SG)
Batch Size:  Approx 1.6 gallons
ABV: 14% expected

I chose the 71B yeast because it's reported to work well with darker-colored fruits, and is said to produce a smoother mead.  It's also rated at up to 14% ABV, which means it should leave some residual sugar behind. That will help offset some of the tartness of the Lingonberry concentrate.  For those not familiar with Lingonberries, they're similar to a more-tart cranberry.

Instructions
  1. Put 40 ounces of honey in a sanitized fermenter
  2. Add enough water to reach the 3/4 gallon mark (approx.)
  3. Using a sanitized degasser and cordless drill, stir until the honey is incorporated
  4. Add the Lingonberry juice drink concentrate
  5. Add Fermaid O and DAP
  6. Stir with the degasser until well mixed
  7. Add water to the 1.5 gallon mark
  8. Take a gravity reading (I used a Tilt Hydrometer for this)
  9. If gravity is too low, add honey and stir again.  Take another gravity reading.
  10. Repeat step 9 until desired gravity (1.124 or higher) is reached
  11. Gently sprinkle the yeast on top of the must
  12. Seal the fermenter and add an airlock
Fermentation plan:
  • Fri. Aug 23:  Extract a bit of must into a container.  Add another 4g Fermaid O and 3g DAP to this and stir with a sanitized spoon until dissolved.  Add to fermenter.  If time permits, clean and sanitize the degasser and degas the must.
  • Sun. Aug. 25:  If gravity seems to be dropping as expected, do nothing.  If fermentation seems to have slowed, add 2g Fermaid O and 1g DAP to the must, the degas, and reseal the fermenter.
  • From here, wait until the yeast seems to have stopped fermenting the must.  This might take 6-8 weeks to complete.  If necessary, rouse the yeast or move the fermenter to a warmer location to get fermentation to finish, adding yeast energizer if necessary.
  • Once primary fermentation has finished, transfer the must into a clean fermenter for aging.  Leave here until any harsh flavors and aromas are gone, and the must appears to have clarified.
After secondary fermentation is finished, bottle the mead in flip-top bottles for extended aging.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

08/21/2019:  Marked a new 2-gallon bucket fermenter with quart-level markings up to 2 gallons.  Sanitized the fermenter, the degasser, and a pitcher.  Put 80 ounces of honey, the bottle of Lingonberry concentrate, and yeast nutrients in the fermenter and stirred. Dropped in a Tilt Hydrometer once the volume was up to 1.5 gallons. Gravity read low, around 1.075 SG.  Added more honey until finally reaching the 1.127 SG gravity.  There was still maybe 10-20% of the honey left in the 5 pound container, so I'd estimate this ended up being about 4 pounds of honey.  Sprinkled on the yeast, buttoned up the fermenter, and added an airlock.

08/22/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.123 SG.  That's a little over 2% attenuation.  I've read that the 71B yeast strain ferments with moderate speed, results in a smoother flavor with darker-colored fruits, and can attenuate up to 14% ABV in a temperature range of 59-86F.  Temperature in the fermenter has been holding between 70-71F so far.

08/23/2019:  Gravity is now 1.098 SG and temperature has increased to 73F.  That's 22.8% attenuation and 3.8% ABV.

08/24/2019:  Added some DAP and Fermaid O to the must.  Swirled the fermenter a bit to get the nutrients distributed, which caused some degassing.  Gravity currently reads 1.081 SG and temperature is at 72F.  Attenuation is approximately 36% and ABV is 6%.

08/25/2019:  Gravity is reading 1.057 SG today, which represents approximately 55% attenuation and an ABV of 9.2%.  I'm expecting the final gravity to be 1.025 SG or less, which would be attenuation in the ballpark of 79%.  That means fermentation is probably 70% complete at this point (about four days from yeast pitch).

08/27/2019:  Gravity has dropped to 1.023 SG today, which represents a hair under 82% attenuation and an ABV of about 15.6%.  A sample taken from the fermenter was mildly sweet with a nice Lingonberry flavor, though very cloudy at this early stage.  Gravity still seems to be dropping.

08/28/2019:  Gravity is down to 1.014 SG, which represents about 89% attenuation and 16.8% ABV.

08/29/2019:  Gravity has dropped to 1.009 SG today, which represents about 93% attenuation and an ABV of over 17.6%.

08/30/2019:  Gravity is now 1.003 SG, which represents 98.4% attenuation and 18.4% ABV.

08/31/2019:  Gravity is now 1.000 SG, which represents 100% attenuation and 18.71% ABV.

09/01/2019:  Gravity is now 0.998 SG, which represents over 100% attenuation (which technically isn't possible so let's just call it 100%) and 18.91% ABV.  Despite, there are indications that fermentation is not completely finished yet.

09/02/2019:  Gravity 0.997 SG. ABV 19.16%, Attenuation over 102% (theoretically). Fermentation at last seems to be slowing down, but hasn't stopped.

09/03/2019:  Gravity 0.996 SG. ABV 19.29%.  Fermentation is definitely slowing down.

09/04/2019:  Gravity at 0.996 SG since about 9:45am yesterday.

09/05/2019:  Gravity has held at 0.996 SG since yesterday.

09/06/2019:  Gravity continues to hold at 0.996.