7.9 Gallon Fermenter with Drilled and Grommeted Lid
6 Gallon Glass Carboy
“Winemakers Recipe Handbook”
Easy Clean No-Rinse Cleanser
Double Lever Corker
30 – 8 x 1 ¾ Corks
24” Plastic Spoon
Triple Scale Hydrometer
Drilled Universal Carboy Bung
5 ft Siphon Tubing
Fermtech Auto Siphon
Ferrari Automatic Bottle Filler
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8/6/2006 -- Hi. Thanks for having a great website, lots of good info. I'm about to do my first batch of mead. I'm a wine maker, so I have all the equipment. My carboys are the 6 gallon variety, so I'd like to make 6 gallons of higher octane mead. Can you recommend a good recipe for 6 gallons? Finally getting to my question...should I use a different santizing solution for mead? Wine uses sulphite, should I use a bleach solution?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Last question first - for sanitizing the equipment, I recommend a no-rinse cleanser rather than bleach. Bleach is great for killing stuff, but it's difficult to rinse completely and can negatively affect the yeast viability and/or the flavor of the finished mead.
First question last - I recommend shorting the volume on your carboy by 2 to 3 quarts to allow for the foaming that comes during primary fermentation. You could start with a 5-gallon recipe, and plus up the honey by a pound to bring it to 5-1/2 gallons. Once you are past primary ferment, you can then rack it into a secondary fermenter, and top it up to 6-gallons with a quart of honey-water.
If you send a follow-up email directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the types of mead you are interested in, I can share a few recipes there.
8/1/2006 -- The melomels I am making are blueberry and raspberry. I just racked off fruit. Should I add the clarify after sweetening to taste? And what would be the best clarifier to use for a berry melomel? We plan on adding quite a bit more honey as well for taste, as it seems fermentation has ceased. And if we wanted to make one of these a sparkling mead, do we just wait until fermentation has ceased, cleared and all, then rack onto a small amount of honey just before bottling? Will we need special bottles for this? Thanks.
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: One of the better clarifiers for lighter wines and meads is isinglas. It works well for whites, and doesn't strip nearly as much body as others. For the raspberry, I would recommend gelatin, although you will lose some body with that. Clarifier should be added in the last rack prior to bottling. If you are planning to sweeten the mead, you will need to stabilize after clarifying or risk "exploding cork" syndrome.
This makes it difficult to do the sparkling mead. Both sweetening and clarifying are detrimental to the carbonation process. The "sparkle" depends on residual yeast cells in the mead reacting with fresh sugar to produce carbon dioxide. The mead must be bottled for pressure to force the CO2 back into solution. This requires champagne or beer bottles, and bottle caps or champagne corks/wires. The problem is that while stabilizer will allow you to sweeten your mead, it will prevent carbonation. If you allow your mead to ferment to alcohol tolerance prior to sweetening, your yeast will die and you will not get carbonation. It is a very very fine line between adding enough new sugar to carbonate AND sweeten without getting exploding bottles. This is why most champagnes are dry.
My recommendation for creating a sparkling mead is to bottle a few bottles for carbonation prior to clearing, stabilizing, and sweetening the remainder of the batch. Write me at email@example.com if you need more details, and I will be glad to help you out.
7/14/2006 -- I started a batch of mead for the first time today and I realized I have no idea how to bottle anything! Do I just need wine bottles, cork, and a corker?
I see you have a few different corkers. Do they all do the job the same, or do I need a particular one for this?
I wanted to add that I was very suprised when I got my kit from you today. I think that's the fastest I've ever recived something by mail! Many thanks!
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: First, thanks for the feedback. We like to hear when we do things right, and we love hearing that we've made a customer happy.
Bottling mead is actually a simple prospect. Since you specified that you want the mead to age, you will need to use corks. Both natural corks and Neocorks will allow the aging process to take place (Neocorks are nominally porous).
The cheapest option is to reuse commercial wine bottles with natural corks (I recommend #8 if the bottle is European and #9 if it's American) using the plastic plunger hand corker. As long as the commerical bottles have been washed and sanitized, you can continue to reuse them until they break. The only trouble with commercial bottles is that they hold nearly 26 ounces of liquid, so if you are a sipper rather than a drinker, and you aren't taking bottles to a party, they're a little inconvenient. If you can find the half-sized bottles (splits), they can also be used with the #7 natural cork.
Of course, new bottles are available through home brew shops like us, however they come in full cases and are expensive to ship; so if you are only brewing a gallon at a time, they're a little inconvenient.
As for other equipment, I would recommend the following:
1. Racking cane - this is a hard plastic tube that makes siphong from the fermenter a lot easier. It includes a hard plastic tip to limit the amount of sediment that gets sucked up
2. Siphon hose - about 4 feet
3. Bottle filler (also called a bottling wand) - this allows you to fill the bottles to exactly the right depth for proper aging and corking, and will also help hold the siphon when moving from one bottle to the other without having to use a clamp
If you start doing mead batches in larger amounts, you may also want to invest in a bottling bucket. You can bottle directly from the fermenter, but your last bottle will get more sediment that way. If you start working with 3-gallon or 5-gallon batches, a bottling bucket allows you to transfer the mead off the yeast sediment and allow it to settle again before transferring to the bottle.
7/3/2006 -- Are there any mead yeasts that can bring it up past 18 percent ABV? If so, are there any you would recommend?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Yeasts cultured specifically for mead generally have a tolerance between 12 and 16 percent. White Labs has both a sweet and a dry liquid mead yeast. Lalvin labs cultured their D-47 strain for meads.
For higher alcohol, I have used the Lalvin 1118 yeast, which is a champagne strain. The tolerance is about 18%. For higher alcohol, I would recommend the Red Star Flor Sherry dry yeast. When using sherry yeast, I recommend starting the primary fermentation with a lower tolerance yeast such as the D-47 or Red Star's Montrachet strain. After 10-15 days, rack the mead into a fresh carboy and pitch the sherry yeast. The sherry will do a much more efficient job this way. My partner and his wife claim to have gotten as high as 21% this way.
If you're planning to do some distilling, you can use the same two-step process, but finish with turbo yeast in the secondary. This will drive your alcohol up to 25%, but has some off-flavors. The off-flavors will distill out, but stay in if you're drinking the mead as brewed.
6/5/2006 -- I am interested in home brewing, but really don't know where to begin. I really enjoy dark beers such as Newcastle, Trois Pistoles, Guinness and several others. Occasionally I drink Heineken, Becks and Sam Adams. Any ideas and suggestions would be very helpful. Also what is "refermented on yeast base" referring to?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Beginning homebrewing is actually a fairly simple process. There are some basic equipment items that you would need to get started, and the actual brewing is much like cooking a soup or stew.
Basic equipment includes a stainless steel stockpot for boiling. I can sell you an expensive one, but perfectly acceptable cheaper ones are available at Big Lots, Walmart, and other stores. 16 to 20 quarts works for extract brewing.
Other items include a bucket or carboy (large glass jug) for fermenting in, a bucket with spigot to bottle from, siphoning tools, a bottle capper, and some sort of stopper with an airlock. Some other items that are nice to have are a hydrometer (for checking specific gravities at various times in the process), a thermometer, and cleaning equipment. The True Brew, Brewers Best, or Home Brew Select beginner equipment kits all have these items, and are a great investment. Most homebrewing kits are packaged with a 5-gallon batch size as the industry standard. You will find some 2-1/2 gallon kits (like Mr. Beer), but support for the smaller sized kits is limited.
For beginners, I recommend starting out with kit beers. These are boxed or canned extract recipes that are already formulated for a particular style of beer. By following the instructions, you can brew your first batch in about an hour and a half, and be drinking it within two to three weeks. I heartily recommend the Home Brew Select line, as these are recipes that my partner and I have developed over time with much trial and error, and are quite proud of the results. Other brands that produce good beers are True Brew, Brewers Best, Muntons, and Edme, although any of the kits we list are good. We have brewed at least one of every kit we sell, and don't carry them if they don't turn out well. In addition, I can recommend a couple very good books on the subject, and our info email and toll-free number are always available for assistance.
Some recommedations for the commercial beers you've listed are:
Newcastle Brown = HBS American Presidents Brown or Munton's Connoisseur Nut Brown
Trois Pistoles - I've never had it, so I can't say
Guinness = HBS Show Me Stout or True Brew Irish Stout
Heineken = HBS Mid-continental lager
Becks = Brewmart Czech Pilsner
Sam Adams = HBS Patron Saint of Vienna Lager
Refermented on yeast base is a term used when brewers reuse the yeast from one batch to start another, rather than starting with a fresh packet of yeast each time. With careful sanitation, yeast can be cultured from batch to batch over time, eventually resulting in a mutated strain that takes on the charactersitics of the beers it has been used for. Several breweries in Belgium and Holland use this method to produce Abbey dubbels and triples.
5/3/2006 -- The wording is vague - do I need the wine yeast and the citric acid or does it come with it?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: The citric acid and wine yeast are sold separately. However, as you are not the first person to raise the question of a bundled "starter set", we've put together a complete kit. Look under "Starter Kits".
3/19/2006 -- I have started a wine from a commercial concentrate, and I am in the secondary fermentation stage (8 days in out of 10). I've noticed that the water in the air lock is "disappearing" and I added a little more; but I don't see bubbles coming out like I did originally. Could I have done something wrong?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Actually, it's a very common concern, but normally nothing to worry about. The violent activity in the airlock is due to the yeast processing sugar at a very high rate, and reproducing to meet the demand. This violent period generally runs less than a week, even in wines and meads which have a longer fermentation cycle. Since you said that you were already in the secondary stage of fermentation, a much slower fermentation is normal.
The water in the airlock is simply evaporating, so refilling it is the right thing to do. I would suspect that if you watched the airlock closely for several minutes, you would see a bubble or two come through. If not, give the fermentor a quick swirl to stir up the yeast bed a little. If it settles out again with no activity in the airlock, you're simply done and can rack the wine to start the clearing process.
2/24/2006 -- I think I might have made a mistake and added the wrong yeast packet into a 5 gallon batch of prickly pear mead I am making that might result in a much higher alcohol content than what I intended (16-18% instead of 12-14%) and was wondering what I could do to stop fermentation early to get the desired alcohol level. I have potassium sorbate but am not sure how much to add or if it will stop the fermentation after I rack it, if you have any suggestions I would very much appreciate it.
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Unfortunately there is nothing on the market that will stop an active fermentation. Your best bet is in the lag period between primary and secondary fermentation. When the bubbling in the airlock slows to an almost imperceptible level (two to three weeks usually), immediately rack the mead into a clean and sterile fermenter and add the potassium sorbate. A good rule of thumb is to dissolve a half-teaspoon of crystals per gallon of mead in about a pint of boiling water and add it to the carboy before siphoning the mead in on top of it. Let it sit 24 hours. If it starts bubbling again, there's nothing to do except let it run its course.
If you cannot succeed in stopping the active ferment, the alternative is to blend. Allow the mead to finish completely - take it all the way to alcohol tolerance for the yeast so the yeast will die. Add the potassium sorbate as stated above. Then mix up a gallon of unfermented mead with the same ingredients, and blend it into the finished mead. This will dilute the alcohol without diluting the flavor.
2/20/2006 -- I got one of your Brewer's Best starter kits for Christmas and I'm currently browsing available beer kits for my first batch. I prefer lighter beers -- darker than amber = not interested. My commercial favorites include Carlsberg, Oranjeboom, Kronenburg, Heineken and most hefeweizen-style beers. Based on this, what kits would you recommend?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: You mentioned a wide variety of lager style beers, and I will try to match them with kits we have available. First, there are two levels of difficulty for beginning brewers - the "all malt" kits and the partial-grain kits.
For all-malt kits, my first recommendation would be the True Brew line. These are complete kits, requiring no additional sugar, malt, hops, etc. they are completely self contained. I would recommend the American Wheat (stock #K12), Continental Lager (stock #K20) or the pilsner (stock #K26) to start with. These are all fairly light beers with a short fermentation cycle, and good recipes to get started on.
In the partial grain arena, I would recommend the Home Brew Select line. These recipes are ones that my partners and I have developed over time, and "play tested" on our friends and relatives. Again, the Wagon Wheel Wheat (HBS010) would be a good one to start with, as would the Mid-continental Pilsner (HBS011) or the Missouri Steamboat (California common-HBS002). Each of these includes some grains that need to be steeped, and hops pellets that need to be infused/boiled. Full instructions come with each kit.
If you have any more detailed questions, feel free to use our toll-free number (800) 285-4695. You will be talking to Robin, who knows just about everything about every kit in the store. You can also email her directly at Robin@homebrewsupply.com
1/24/2006 -- How much of your yeast nutrient, by weight, should be added to 5 gallons of yeast and sugar solution to obtain optimum results?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: I measure it out by volume using 1/2-tsp per gallon for wines and 1-tsp per gallon for meads. Since basic sugar water is easier to digest than honey, I would go with the lower of the two. Figuring that 2-oz (about 55-gm) of nutrient makes up between 9 and 10 teaspoons, 2-1/2 teaspoons for a 5-gal batch would weigh out at about 14 grams, or about 6/10-oz.
1/20/2006 -- I need a recipe for making a 6 gal carboy of Blueberry Mead.
How much Honey to Blueberries & does that stay the same if we use Raspberries, Blackberries, or Pears?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: When using fresh berries, I usually use a ratio of three to one. In other words, I would use three pounds of fresh berries to one gallon of finished mead. The amount of honey would depend on whether you prefer a light, dry, or sweet mead. With berries, some of the fermentable comes from the natural sugars in the fruit. Therefore, I would start with 2 pounds of honey per gallon of mead, and add honey as needed in the secondary fermentation. If you prefer a sweet mead, you would want to start with 2-1/2 to 3 pounds honey per gallon. The same would be true with any berry.
With pears, your pectin content is high. I would start with about 10 pounds of pears, possibly as high as 12 if they are small or hard, since you will get less juice. Definitely start pears with 2-1/2 pounds of honey per gallon. Also, use pectic enzyme to keep haze from forming in the finished mead.
In any melomel, I prefer to chop/mash my fruit and let the pre-boiled water sit on it for 5 to 7 days. Then siphon the juice off of the dregs, and add the honey water to bring the volume up to your batch size. You will also get a better product if you freeze and thaw the fruit twice before mashing.
1/16/2006 -- The type of mead I would like to make is a "dessert mead" and I wanted to know after having put my mead into the carboy to start fermenting how/when I would go about sweetening it to taste.
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: It's easy to tell when the fermentation has stopped. You will have no more bubbles coming through the airlock, and the liquid inside the airlock will be level. This doesn't mean the yeast is dead. It could mean the yeast is just out of sugar.
For a dessert wine, the alcohol content would be slightly higher than for a dinner wine. So, one option is to continue to add liquefied honey until the yeast dies from alcohol poisoning. With most mead yeasts, this will occur between 15% and 18% alcohol. Any leftover honey will serve to sweeten the brew.
If you prefer a lower alcohol content, when the initial fermentation is done, you can siphon the mead into a clean and sterile carboy, then add some potassium sorbate to stabilize the mead. Let it sit for about 24 to 48 hours, then use liquefied honey or a sugar syrup to sweeten to taste.
1/12/2006 -- I am making mead and am considering a filtering device to give it a more finished look and wanted to know how fine the filter is on the Vinbrite Mk III filter and if it would remove all the sediment from the mead.
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: The Vinbrite filter pads are a mid-grade filter, equivalent to a #2 weave (between 1 and 2 microns).
With mead, alot of the success of filtering comes from the ingredients in the mead itself. For instance, cinnamon will not filter out very well at all, even with something as small as a half-micron. Also, I always recommend racking the mead every 3 to 4 weeks until it stops leaving a sediment on the bottom of the carboy. This ensures that the biggest sediment pieces are out of the liquid, and the filter pad doesn't clog as fast. Finally, if you prefer a sweet mead, I always recommend using a stabilizer such as potassium sorbate (I stay away from sulphites of any kind), and filtering the mead before sweetening it. Adding more honey or sugar makes the liquid denser, and it has trouble passing through the filter pad.
That being said, I've had good luck with the Mk III in both my wines and my meads. I had one mead that still carried sediment into the bottle, but I believe it was because it had started to referment after it was corked. Other than that, it has worked very well.
As a side note, I graduated to the motorized Buon Vino pump filter about 2 years ago. I still limit my meads to a #2 filter there - same size as the Mk III.
8/2/2005 -- Can I bottle my mead in flip-top Grolsch-style bottles? Will this have any negative effects?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Yes, you can. In fact, the partners are both historical brewers, and like using the flip-top bottles to enhance presentation. There is no negative effect, although we recommend using fresh rubber grommets to ensure a tight seal. Also, if you use the clear flip-tops, you will want to keep the mead out of direct sunlight.
7/12/2005 -- Does this kit include a boiling kettle or will I need to provide my own?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: No, the kit does not include a brew kettle, so you will have to provide your own or purchase one separately.
The best brewpots are stainless steel, although enameled pots (like a canning kettle) work nearly as well. I would use copper or aluminum only as a last resort. Although I sell stainless steel brewpots, you can find inexpensive ones that work well for beginners at stores such as Big Lots or K-Mart. I found a 4-pot set (1 each 2-gal, 3-gal, 4-gal, and 5-gal) at Big Lots for under $40 just a few months ago. As you advance in the brewing hobby, or if you try all-grain brewing, you will need a pot that will hold 8 to 12 gallons in order to consistently produce 5-gal batches, but the 4- and 5-gal pots work well for extract and partial grain recipes.
2/13/2005 -- I have been involved in home brewing beer for several months now and I would like to try making some mead as well. In your experience, what significant differences exist between the making of mead and the making of beer? Also, when first starting mead-making, do you recommend small batches or larger batches?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: There are several small differences between mead and beer, but the basics are very much the same. Some things that I have found in my experience:
- I prefer to heat my honey (pasteurize it) to 160-170 degrees and skim off the trub that rises to the surface. My business partner prefers not to. The advantages are that heating it helps rid the honey of impurities, wax residue, pollen, bee parts, etc, and helps kill off any wild yeasts that the honey may have. The disadvantages are that it reduces the body and eliminates some of the floral character of the honey. In the end, that comes down to personal choice.
- Honey is basically a complex of glucose and fructose (vs. malt which is dextrose and maltose), which must be broken down before it can be fermented, so yeast nutrient and yeast energizer are almost a necessity for a good start and a better overall ferment.
- Mead takes time... lots of time. Beer has a primary measured in days, and only some stronger beers really benefit from a secondary. Mead has a primary measured in weeks, and a secondary of a month or two is not out of line for some styles. Also, mead clears like wine, so racking it several times after the secondary helps quite a bit.
- With the exception of braggot (beer-mead), mead works better with a wine yeast or a liquid yeast made specifically for mead.
- If you use a plastic fermenter normally, do not use the same one for both beer and mead. It will transfer flavors. Also, limit the use of a plastic fermenter to the primary.
As for the batch size, I make my mead in either 5 or 15 gallon batches... but I know what I like. If you have never tried brewing mead, or would like to experiment with different types/flavors, I recommend using a one-gallon batch as your "experimental" size. When you find a recipe you like, redacting it up to 5 or 6 gallons is very easy.
1/20/2005 -- How long does mead stay drinkable after bottling? Is there a drink by time frame or does it behave like grape wines in this respect?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Meads tend to behave with similar characteristics to other beverages made with similar ingredients. In other words, braggots act like beers, melomels (including cyser and pyment) act like wines, etc. However, the length of time a mead is "good" is also dependent on other factors: was it stored in bottles or kegs? Corked or capped? What temperature? How varied were any temperature changes? Dark, light, or direct light? All these factors affect the aging process.
I can truthfully say that I have had a traditional mead 9 years after it was bottled, and it was as smooth and rich as old brandy. I've also tasted a strawberry melomel less than a year after it was bottled that had definitely turned. As a rule, though, any mead should hit its peak in a corked bottle after about 2 to 3 years. Braggots and other hopped meads will last just a little bit longer, fruit meads will last about twice that long, and traditional and spiced meads will last for years afterwards.
I recommend corked bottles over capped, since it allows for the exchange of gasses (the "aging" process). If you keep the mead in kegs, I recommend nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide. Keep the mead stored out of direct light, and somewhere where the temperature can be maintained at a constant level - the temperature range is not as important as the consistency.
12/1/2004 -- I've seen other beer brewing beginner's kits that make smaller amounts of beer in each batch (2.5 gal instead of 5 gal). They seem to require less time to brew and I would think they would be better for beginners who want to perfect their technique without wasting so much beer. Does brewing in smaller batches affect the quality? What are the advantages and disadvantages of brewing a smaller amount. Do you sell any beginners kits for smaller batches?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: I will answer the second concern first. No, there is no negative effect on the beer flavor or quality brewing in smaller batches. I have experiemented with batches as small as 1 gallon and as large as 15 gallons with no significant problems.
For customers who have the 2.5-gallon, there are ways to adapt the 5-gallon standard kits for 2.5 gallon fermenters. See the earlier questions below for a greater explanation.
However, that being said... the half-sized kits which you are probably seeing are either produced by a company called Mr. Beer or one called Real Beer. While the size of the batches are not in question, the quality of the beer produced by these kits is significantly lower than with other kits due to two factors: substandard equipment and incorrect instructions. Among some of the more common problems are air leaks in the fermenter (oxidized (skunky) beer), serving directly from the fermenter (no carbonation, and dead yeast causing off-flavors), incorrect instructions regarding sanitation (producing any number of bad tastes), incorrect amounts and types of additional sugars (cidery aftertaste), and excessive costs associated with additional ingredients (follow-on kits for 2.5-gal systems cost roughly the same as for 5-gal systems... essentially double the cost.)
One final thought - neither Mr. Beer nor Real Beer deals primarily with legitimate homebrew supply stores. Both companies prefer to market their product through supermarket stores such as Venture, Target, Cabellas, K-Mart, and AAFES. These outlets provide a huge market for the quick sale of a starter kit, but do not normally carry replacement ingredients or spare parts to support the product after the initial sale. In addition, none of them have the knowledgable staff available to provide assistance through the brewing process, answer questions regarding technique, procedure, ingredients, etc., or support in the form of books, handouts, and/or classes. These companies do not like to deal with mainstream brewshops partly because of the lack of mass marketing capability.
For an unpaid/unsolicited evaluation of the Mr. Beer system, see the article at http://www.thehomebrewstore.com/hbs4.htm
11/29/2004 -- I'm thinking of purchasing a kit for my father-in-law for Christmas. He is not a home brewer, but I think he'd enjoy it. I don't want to spend a lot of money, in case he doesn't find it fun and rewarding; however, I have no idea where to start.
Do I simply purchase a recipe and bottles or is there more to it than that?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: We have a basic starter kit that is very reasonably priced, and includes all of the basic equipment necessary to get started as a brewer. The True Brew equipment kit, includes a fermenter, bottling bucket, siphon tools, bottle capper, hydrometer and thermometer, and other items. With the exception of the included cleanser, all the equipment is reusable. I started with this kit in 1995, and still use the original bucket and fermenter.
In addition, we have found that many people who receive the equipment kit as a gift never open the box or try it out. After asking the question of a number of new brewers, we came to the conclusion that the additional step of finding their own ingredients actually was what held them back from trying it out. So, the "beginners break" includes an extract beer kit with additional corn sugar, and enough bottle caps to bottle a 5-gallon batch. The ingredients retail for around $25.00 when bought separately, but we reduce the price as part of a "combination discount". In short, the only thing missing is the bottles. (We don't include the bottles, partly because it significantly increases the price, and partly because many people have a source for recycled crown-cap bottles)
Essentially, you can get your father started with equipment and ingredients for his first batch for less than $90 (plus freight.) We also include complete instructions for brewing the first batch, and provide our email help-line and toll free phone number for technical support.
If you'd like to hear more details about getting started in brewing, I encourage you to call the shop between 10 and 4 Central Time on Tues, Thurs, Fri, or Saturday and talk with Robin or Doug about it. The number is (800) 285-4695. You can also email our information line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incidentally, we also have a beginners wine making kit for under $100, a 1-gallon beginners mead kit for around $25, and a beginners soda pop kit for under $30 - all of which make excellent gifts.
10/12/2004 -- How does light affect mead fermentation?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Light affects mead fermentation the same as any other beverage. When hops are present, ultra-violet light (sunlight, flourescent light, tanning bulbs, etc.) causes a chemical reaction to take place that results in an off-flavor referred to as "vegetable" or "skunky".
If hops are not present, the UV light may still affect the finished flavor, but not to the same extent. UV light will accelerate the effects of oxidation, so the problems are much more prevalent in the early stages of fermentation before the oxygen in the fermenter is replaced by carbon dioxide.
Depending on the type of mead, other ingredients (spices, etc.) might help to mask the off-flavor, but won't get rid of it completely. Your best bet is to keep the fermenter covered with a dark cloth (I use old military t-shirts) in a spot out of direct light.
5/24/2004 -- I just finished bottling a 1 gallon batch of mead. It took 6 weeks to finish bubbling and I shared a bottle after 1 week with a friend. It was carbonated like a half frozen beer. Is there a way to keep this from happening? Should I have waited longer to bottle?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Yes, if the bottle has carbonation, then it was not finished fermenting. There are two ways to prevent this. First, you could rack the mead into a clean/sterile fermenter and let it continue to ferment out to completion. This could take a while, as honey is slow to ferment. The alternative is, you could rack it into a clean/sterile fermenter and add a stabilizer (we recommend potassium sorbate, as it has the least effect on flavor), wait 24 hours, then bottle. If you rack it and add the sorbate, you will have a higher level of residual sweetness. Letting it ferment out to completion will take longer but make it a dryer product.
12/19/2003 -- How long do the meads take to make? How temperature tolerant during fermenting?
Response From The Home Brew Store Dot Com: Meads typically will ferment out in three to four weeks, and require an additional couple of weeks for the yeast sediment to settle out. The more honey used and/or the larger the volume of mead, the longer the ferment time. Typically, I will rack mead once a month until sediment stops settling out before stabilizing and bottling. Once bottled, they can be drunk right away, but taste better with age.
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Meads ferment best at a temperature range of between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They ferment out fine at temps as high as 90 or as low as 55 - faster at warmer temps, and slower at cooler temps. Much above 90 degrees, and the yeast will throw off some off-flavors.
As far as temperature tolerance, the key is this: whatever temperature you start your mead at, you want to deviate no more than 2 to 3 degrees either side during the ferment.
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