Need advice!

Mead, wine, beer, and any other form of alcoholic beverages, as well as vinegar.

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Need advice!

Postby EJM on Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:32 am

I have jumped into the fermentation vat feet first and have started a one gallon batch of brew. The ingredients are at the end. So far the ferment is looking, smelling, and tasting quite wonderful as of 24 hours in.

If I am to understand how it usually goes: I should remove as much of the solids (not just the sediment/lees) when I rack it after the first ferment? Or should I leave them in to go through the secondary ferment? Or only leave them in for a day/days/week/weeks before straining (sparging?)? Is it OK to add additional solid flavoring items for the secondary fermentation like a vanilla bean, or some ginger root? If so how long can they stay in? All or part of the secondary ferment? What about additional natural sugar sources to boost the alcohol levels during the secondary ferment? Or adding natural sugar sources to (back?)sweeten if it's too dry? What kind of natural sugar sources would be recommended? Is cold crashing an option? What is the best way to do the krausening? Wire bail (Grolsch type)? Crimp top? What about bottle bombs? And I probably will/have a million more...

So my problem is: I am just not sure how long to leave all the fruity bits in for, or a rough timetable for the length of the ferment. I have read all kinds of conflicting information for dealing with all those lovely tasty bits, but no wild fermentation styles.

I have looked online at all kinds of home brew sites, but they really don't have much information other than to sterilize this, boil, boil, boil, gloves, mask, sulfites, bleach, additives, chemicals, bizarre sugars, splenda! BLEH!! and DOUBLE BLEH to splenda!!! I refuse to sanitize and sterilize like I'm going to do open heart surgery! Clean yes, sterile no!! I'm a Computer Tech, NOT a doctor!!!

The ingredients: Local feral apples (unwashed for the natural yeasty beasts & bacteria), banana, mango, pineapple, zante currants, 1 vanilla bean split, juice of one lemon, fresh grated ginger, evaporated cane juice, and a large blob of blackstrap molasses.

I do have an order in for a specialty yeast to do experiments in meads, cysers, metheglins, ciders and more another time, and a different forum...

Any and all comments, recommendations, real life experiences, discussions, criticisms, etc are welcome. Thank you for any and all help and/or information!!!

Ed Money
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Re: Need advice!

Postby Tim Hall on Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:18 am

"Sparging" is a term specific to grain brewing, and basically means rinsing the grains of all fermentables prior to fermentation in order to extract the maximum. So this is something you won't do.

There are any number of ways to proceed with this type of fermentation. The most common and straight forward is this: Leave all the ingredients in the fermenter ("primary" ferment) until signs of fermentation have come to a stop or very nearly so. This may take days to weeks depending on how vigorous the ferment is - there won't be any harm in letting it go for a few (3-4) weeks to be sure. Then rack (transfer by siphoning) the ferment to the "secondary," leaving behind the yeast that has settled to the bottom and most or all of the fruit solids. At this point you can let it sit for weeks, months to settle flavors/aromas, then bottle it and age it further, if you want.

You could also bottle or drink it right after the primary, but it will have some yeasty character and won't have developed much finesse.
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Re: Need advice!

Postby FermentingYeti on Fri Nov 15, 2013 11:09 am

From what you've described, it sounds like you're doing some sort of melomel / fruit mead. It seems like you're on track. There are a lot of things you can do at this point, depending on what you want the final outcome to be. Tim's response pretty much sums it up. The main question you'll want to ask is whether you want carbonation or not. It's sound like you do. If this is a mead, there are plenty of sugars in it to provide carbonation. You could add some plain white sugar if you want more, but I don't recommend it. I've had several of my meads turn out to be unintentionally carbonated. This can be dangerous if you're not using the right types of bottles. Champagne bottles are your best bet, although grolsch or Belgian-style bottles with wire-top corks will work as well. I've waited several months before bottling some of my wild-fermented meads and still had corks pop. No exploded bottles yet, but I've taken to leaving my meads in a secondary fermenter with an airlock for at least six months before bottling to keep this from happening. Feel free to expand on your plans for your intended final outcome. I'm in agreement that cleaning is important, but sanitation and chemicals aren't as necessary as some would have you believe.
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Re: Need advice!

Postby music on Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:44 pm

If secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, it's generally best to remove most solids as these can lead to excessive carbonation. I regularly have juniper berries, bits of ginger, wormwood, sage or yarrow, even caraway seeds turn up in my bottles. So far, the sage is the only one to give me real problems. If secondary fermentation is in a vat, judge whether you think the fruit will spoil in any way. I don't really use soft fruits, but my inclination would be to remove soft fruits for the secondary.

Chemical sterility is not only unnecessary, it is counter-productive to a good, natural product. If we want chemicals, we can always buy the massed-produced stuff. I am clean in my fermenting and brewing, but never, ever sterile, and I have never had anything spoil yet.
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Re: Need advice!

Postby FermentingYeti on Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:11 am

I know a few (wild-fermenting) mead makers who put a raisin in each bottle. I believe this primarily helps with providing additional nutrients and helping the mead mellow out while it ages. I just had a cyser one of them passed along to me that had a raisin in the bottle and it was excellent. You can never have enough raisins in any stage of wild fermentation.
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Re: Need advice!

Postby EJM on Sun Nov 17, 2013 8:13 pm

I would have used actual honey in this batch, but I am rather picky about the honey I eat, let alone want to ferment! Especially after this article: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/t ... snt-honey/

So, I am waiting until I get to our local market and can get some local wild raw honey. Until then this will suffice as my first experimental alcoholic ferment. I tried to include all the fruits, organic supplements and micro nutrients for a good ferment, and just a few things to really flavor things well.

And speaking of the devil... I have been stirring down the fruit pack every couple hours, and gently decarbonating it somewhat once every other stir down or so. I have a three piece airlock on it, and it sends a bubble up about every 2 seconds during the most rapid part of the ferment so far, and is currently settling in at about 4 seconds right now. It's like an open bottle of soda, that almost reaches the airlock, but not quite...

When it reaches about a bubble a minute I'll rack and VERY gently squeeze the pulp in a clean cotton cloth to extract the juice, filter it, and add it back to the secondary fermentation. But before I let the secondary ferment start up I will check to see where the sweetness level is at, and adjust it if needed. I want it to be somewhat sweet but nothing like that horrible syrupy drek called barenjager!

After racking to the secondary ferment I'll leave it to burble away with an "S" airlock for a few months (say until my B-Day in July?), decant, sample, and try to remember why I bought all those fancy bail top bottles! (The bottles are about $50 to $55 a dozen delivered to my door, or I can go to the liquor store in town and get a dozen bail tops with good German Hefeweizen for about $58) I plan to let them finish out their final bits of magic in the bottles for a few more months in the cool of our basement or other more accessible cool area (someplace that does not exceed 50°F would be ideal I think?) in plastic containers in case of Bottle Bombs. After that I would think they should be pretty well aged.

But while this one is quietly bubbling and gurgling away I'll be preparing for my next batch, probably a cider with only the natural yeast to kick off the ferment, ginger beer with and without alcohol. Then maybe I'll feel brave enough to invest in the raw honey to make a true mead. Just a plain old straight mead to start with (one wild ferment and one with Lalvin-D47 to test difference in tastes), then we'll see about true melomels, cysers, and whatever else tickles my liver >;}

Well as of last night my partner (who does not drink alcohol BTW), suddenly got interested in the flavors of my ferment. He suggested (and I added): Orange zest, a little orange juice and pulp from the same orange, a few golden raisins, a couple small pieces of cinnamon stick, fresh grated nutmeg, crushed coriander, and when we find them I'll add 1 or 2 cloves today as well.

I think I'll have to start hitting the brew forums a LOT more... Thanks for all the advice so far. I'm looking forward to fomenting future ferments...
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