I may not have yet mentioned that I am a London beekeeper.
Inspired by recently having been treated to a 45 year old bottle of London Mead, and also by how divinely zesty, rambunctious and aromatically floral my 2011 honey crop has been I decided to make some mead.
I was recommended Hop & Grape as a good supplier of home fermentation kit, and they were extremely efficient and helpful in providing everything I needed. I went for 3 demi-johns.
I found it surprisingly hard to find mead recipes online which I felt comfortable trusting. Many mention adding all sorts of fruit to add flavour, but my feeling was to go simple and also try to ferment something which was fresh in style and respected the wonder of the honey. I also did not trust the advice of many of the recipes to boil the honey with water first – leave my aromatics alone! And honey is sterile so I saw no microbiological reason to boil the flavour from it. I did, however, dissolve the honey in 50C water to speed up this process, which is slow even at this temperature. I reasoned that this was a good compromise. I treated each of the 3 demi-johns slightly differently. It’s clear from the discrepancies of ingredients to hydrometer measurements that I was somewhat imprecise somewhere, but in my kitchen with my kids helping, and with having to cook supper for my 4 kids and one of their friends at the same time I guess something might have slipped. Initial setup as below. In all cases the adjusted Oechsle uses a 0.2 adjustment per 1C with a stated 20C calibration on the hydrometer.
DJ1 (chicks ribbon): 4.5l water, 1.0kg honey, yeast V1116, hydrometer 1.06 at 46C => 65 Oe
DJ2 (pink ribbon): 4.3l water, 1.3kg honey, yeast V1116, hydrometer 1.075 at 43C => 80 Oe
DJ1 (red ribbon): 4.0l water, 1.3kg honey, yeast GV1, hydrometer 1.065 at 45C => 70 Oe
The fermentations all started quite quickly and were bubbling briskly after 2 hours. This start was much quicker than my winemaking trial earlier in the summer and I suspect was due to the elevated temperature. Also, when I had made the yeast starter culture (from dried yeast) I kept the glass I used in a water-bath to maintain the 40C+ heat to give the culture the best possible start. Oh, it’s also worth pointing out that I added some yeast nutrient (DAP) to each ferment. Anyway that was all back last week on Wednesday 17th. All 3 demi-johns are still bubbling well, though perhaps a little slower than initially, and the liquid tastes fresh and complex as I hoped. I’m not diligently monitoring the progress via thermometer and hydrometer every day since I want to minimise the opportunities for oxidation and spoilage, but with the next batches I do I intend to get more rigorous.