Thursday, 18 June 2015

Making DIY mead attempt #1

Mead is something that I've been meaning to try and make for a wile, and professional forager Mark Williams (Galloway Wild Foods) has given me the final push to try it because he's made it sound so easy and he has stated (in black and white) that he's never had a bottle fail, which is good because I don't really know what I'm doing.

He suggests initially trying a honey to water ratio of around 1:4 or 5 and as a quick internet search suggests that a litre of water is roughly equivalent to a kilo, then my 227g unpasteurised honey jar must be married to about 1.25 litres of water, give or take. I made it up to 1.5 litres and added some inert (pasteurised) honey to make up the sugary shortfall (should have got the larger jar in the first place). The unwanted half a litre was dispatched into the kettle and this leaves a convenient gap in the bottle for the natural yeast to start getting gassy...

In it all goes...

This is me pictured checking after about five and then seven minutes for action...I suspect I was a little too keen in the early stages so I eased off to a more hourly routine then sense prevailed!

Once the sediment gave in to gentle yet constant agitation the colour became a lovely golden colour all the way through. I gently squeezed in the bottle near the top of the neck and did the lid up to see if any gas built up, and  placed it in the near vicinity of a radiator  so that it gets a warm atmosphere but not direct heat. And for those that know who lives in a pineapple under the sea...

[anglisised French accent] A few days later... [/anglisised French accent]

...I noticed that the squeezed bits on the neck had gone, and the lid gave a gentle 'psst' as I undid it. I also noticed a tiny bit of froth on the top, and sediment at the base. This sent me diving into Mark's newsletter email for further advice. It  is going to work for me.

After a week I wondered if the sugar level may be a bit low because it seemed a bit lacklustre so I decided to chuck in a level dessert spoon of caster sugar to see if that tickles it's tickle gland. It didn't...

I'd come to the conclusion that the honey I'd purchased wasn't quite what I thought it would be, but couldn't understand why the gentle 'psst' occurred because if that was natural yeast action it should have built up shouldn't it?

I opted for a sachet of general wine making yeast and as it was pretty much guaranteed to work, an homemade airlock to let the copious gas out (well a shop purchased one meshed with the plastic bottle lid), and a hydrometer to measure the alcoholic content of whatever I made. It soon developed a very bubbly, cloudy character but cloudy and homemade bung.


The advantage in using a plastic bottle for this little project and  is that it is malleable when squeezed, this meant that I could draw the water level back a little I the airlock to see what was happening on the bubble front. once the mead cleared and the sediment had built up I decided to have a try. This was after several weeks and once the bubbles had all but ceased. 

The mead was pleasingly clear but as dry as...erm,..a dry thing. I decided to put a small amount of extra honey in and once the bung was back in, gently sloshed it around to see if there was any active yeast in the scum that developed around the shoulder of the bottle, There was, and it had a brief secondary bubble. 

I decided to decant it at this point regardless of how the extra honey had changed it. The hydrometer was still showing it as rather dry, and despite the fact that the honey had helped somewhat I warmed a two heaped teaspoons of honey and added one to each of the bottles....then another...then another.

It wasn't as simple as I thought it would be and I like to do a little 'Ta da' at the end of a blog page like this but it's still a learning curve and I'll definitely have to investigate wine making more. That said, it has reached a point of being drinkable, whether it actually is or I've just got used to the taste I can't say, but has started a secondary fermentation in the bottle. I look at this as a postive 'Méthode Champenoise' style sparkiling mead rather than a an annoying post script!

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