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%

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