My First Mead & Melomel – Brewing Time

Fermentors in the Pantry

The first half of this year holds a lot of free time for me, which means I get to pursue projects and hobbies that have been on the back burner for a while. One of these interests is home brewing. I decided to start off my adventures in brewing with mead for two reasons: 1) I want to brew small (1 gallon) batches that can be done in used wine jugs 2) It is supposed to age for up to a year.

The Joy of Home Brewing

The Joy of Home Brewing

I did a good amount of research on the internet for instructions and recipes for mead, but I decided to go back to the basics for the info and used The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing that my father-in-law picked up for me at a thrift store a few years back. I decided to go with Orange Honey instead of the standard Clover Honey because I really like its flavor. Also, I have a lemon tree in the back yard that is bursting with lemons, so for my second batch I decided to make a lemon melomel (a mead with fruit is a melomel).

I had to procure some new supplies and equipment for the endeavor. First I had to get some wine jugs. I’m not much of a wine drinker, so I put a message on Facebook and found out my sister-in-law had 5 empty 3 liter jugs at her house that I could have. Score! For most of the rest of my supplies I ordered from Northern Brewer (stoppers, yeast, ingredients, airlocks, stirring spoon, siphon and hose, caps). Shipping was reasonable, it came as quickly as predicted, and I found the reviews and descriptions on the site very useful. Next I needed to decide where I was going to get my honey. I heard good things about a local company (Jim’s Honey Farm), but they never called me back, so I decided to go with good ol’ Winco and I got about 6-7lbs of their Orange Honey. Last, but not least, I needed to decide what I was going to bottle my mead in when it is done fermenting. I decided on Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider, because the kids can help me drink it, the bottles are 750ml, and they can be recapped. (I don’t need these bottles right now, but I figured I needed to start collecting them.)

Once I had all my equipment and ingredients it was time to prepare for brewing. Step 1: SANITIZE! I washed and scrubbed everything thoroughly and then soaked my little carboys and equipment with 1 tbsp of bleach per gallon of war water.

Sanitizing Equipment

Sanitizing Equipment

Sanitizing the Wine Jug Carboys

Sanitizing the Wine Jug Carboys

Time to brew Batch #1, the mead! Here are my ingredients for a +/- 1 gallon batch:

  • 3-3.5 lbs Orange Honey
  • 3/4 tsp tbsp gypsum
  • just under 1 tsp of acid blend
  • 1/2 tsp yeast nutrients
  • a pinch of Irish moss powder
  • 7 ml of WLP715 Yeast (from 35ml vial)
The Orange Honey

The Orange Honey (all 6 lbs)

Ingredients and Yeast

Ingredients and Yeast

Crystal Geyser Water

Crystal Geyser Water

I warmed up my honey by placing the containers in warm water. Then it was time to get out the pot and pour the gallon of Crystal Geyser, honey, gypsum, acid blend, and Irish moss and bring it to a boil for 15 minutes. While it was warming to a boil I skimmed off any foam that collected on the top. This foam contains protein that can prevent the mead from clarifying later on.

The Must Warming Up

The Must Warming Up

Skimming the Foam

Skimming the Foam

The Skimmed Foam

The Skimmed Foam

The Foam and Bee Parts

The Foam and Bee Parts

Once our concoction (the “must”) has boiled for 15 min it is time to put the pot in a sink partially filled with cool water and ice to bring the must down to pitching (adding the yeast) temperature. This takes a long time and I had to empty the sink and refill with cool water and ice several times. The WLP715 had instructions to remove it from the fridge 3-6 hours before pitching, so that it can come up to room temp and the yeast will wake up. The WLP715 comes in a vial that is ready to pitch into 5-6 gallons, so I had to find and sanitize a little measuring cup for cough syrup that had a 7 ml line on the side. I warmed up the yeast vial in a glass of warm water to a little above room temp….BIG MISTAKE! The raised temperature got that yeast a-goin’ and the vial fizzed like a shaken bottle of Coke when I opened (in fact I probably lost about a quarter of the yeast). Once the must reached under 90 degrees Fahrenheit I put the yeast in and gave it a gentle stirring (with a sanitized spoon) to make the mixture homogeneous (since I am dividing the must between two separate carboys for fermenting). If the difference in temperature between the must and yeast is greater than 15 degrees Fahrenheit, the yeast can undergo a temperature shock that may damage it. That’s no good!

Cooling the Must

Cooling the Must

Next, it was time to gently pour the must, somewhat equally, into the wine jug carboys using a sterilized funnel. The must is supposed to be aerated. I assumed that pouring it would be good enough, but I rocked each carboy a few times for good measure. I grabbed two of my number 6 stoppers and inserted part of my 3-piece-airlocks and inserted it into the stoppers, crammed those stoppers into the opening of the carboys, inserted the internal piece of the airlock, poured in a little sanitized water, and capped the airlock. Now it is time to find a nice place for them to ferment. I chose my inside pantry because of the ideal +/- 70 degree Fahrenheit temperature. This temp lends to a faster fermentation process. We shall see if there is a smell emitted. If there is I am sure that my lovely wife, Lexi, will ask that they get transferred into the much cooler garage. They will still ferment outside, but it will be much slower, which just postpones when I can partake of the mead.

The Mead Ready to Ferment

The Mead Ready to Ferment

Time to brew Batch #2, the lemon melomel! Here are my ingredients for a +/- 1 gallon batch:

  • 3-3.5 lbs Orange Honey
  • the juice of 3 lemons
  • 3 lemons (cut up small enough to fit into the carboys)
  • 3/4 tsp gypsum
  • NO acid blend this time (because of the lemon acid)
  • 1/2 tsp yeast nutrients
  • a pinch of Irish moss powder
  • 7 ml of WLP715 Yeast (from 35ml vial)
Fresh Lemons

Fresh Lemons

Juicing

Juicing

Lemon Pieces

Lemon Pieces

The process for this batch was very similar, except after boiling the must for 15 I turned the heat off and then added the lemon juice and lemon parts and let it steep for 15 minutes (to pasteurize the fruit so that I don’t have to ad any additional chemicals to inhibit the growth of undesirables). Also, a lot more foam was produced and skimmed off during the heating/boiling phase, so I expect this batch to clarify much better (especially since this batch will be racked twice). I cooled down the must and poured it into my 2 carboys and gently put in the fruit. As before, I capped it with the airlock and stuck it in the pantry.

The Lemons Steeping

The Lemons Steeping

Ready to Pour

Ready to Pour

Pouring the Melomel Must

Pouring the Melomel Must

The Melomel Carboys

The Melomel Carboys

Now the difficult part…. waiting. I will post an update when the fermentation is well under way.

Fermentors in the Pantry

Fermentors in the Pantry

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About jasonleeperkins

I went to college for Architectural Engineering but worked as a Land Surveyor for years before leaving the profession. I currently work as a photographer and am developing a business devoted to beer.

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