I brought my brew water up to 180 F, added my honey and 2 quarts of Apple Juice. ($1.99) Added the Lime and Lemon concentrate. (Something about
ascorbic acid, Vitamin C, for tartness.) Temperature re-established at 160 F.
I kept it at 160 for 30 minutes. From what I read online, there was now supposed to be a scum that forms, that you have to skim off. I waited, and
waited, and after 20 minutes I decided no scum was going to form. When we harvest our honey, it's raw, but we filter it out to 1000 mesh. I think
since I am using finely filtered honey, the scum that was supposed to appear is actually particulates that is in the other guy's raw honey, and that
they don't filter theirs as much. Just my theory, but something to note.
Now, onto the brewer's second best friend, the humble Hydrometer. Cost, $4.95. A must have, IMO, but I've read stories of brewers doing hundreds of
batches, and say, "I still haven't bought a hydrometer yet". They are fragile, as I broke mine once, borrowed a friend's and broke his five minutes
later. They need to be kept in the same tube that you do your readings from, their storage case.
Without getting into boring technical stuff, water has a hydrometer reading of 1. That is what they are calibrated with. When you make a wort or
must, you are adding sugars to water, and the specific gravity (henceforth known as SG) goes up. Feel free to google how they work. All I need to
know is the number that it tells me.
Hydrometers are calibrated to 60 F. Well, the 160 F must I have needs to cool. I added a couple trays of ice cubes, and added in a 1/2 pound more of
honey to compensate. That dropped the temp down another ten degrees. Usually, at this point, you add a chiller, and cool it quickly to 75 F, the
optimal temp for pitching yeast. I let it cool slowly, and waited.
My yeast culture by now had bubbled up into my fermentation lock, straining themselves to get into my must. I told them they needed to wait a bit
more. Finally, the optimal temp of 75 F was reached, and I drained a bit into my hydrometer.
Wondering what kind of reading I would get, I was pleasantly surprised. The hydrometer says 1.062. That is a very good starting number. That is my
original gravity (henceforth known as OG). It's also very magical.
The higher the OG, the better. It means you've had a good conversion rate if you are brewing beer (wort), and in this case, it means I have a lot of
fermentable sugars in my must (mead/wine). The more sugar, the more the yeast have to eat, and the more alcohol they will make. The formula for
calculating ABV is (OG-FG) * 131 = ABV %. Yeah, it's rough, and off sometimes by 10-15%, but it does give you a ballpark figure. There are other
formulas out there, and I used to use the complicated one, but that's the one I use to estimate with. I don't have a FG reading yet, but after a
week, I'll get another reading, re-rack (perhaps, there's nothing as far as sediments go, so I'm leaning no), and wait another week for another
reading. As time goes on, the number will go down, and down, until it levels out for three consecutive readings. It's two weeks for ales, a month
for lagers, and a month or more for meads. I'm trying to rush this batch, so I fed my yeast a steroid mix of sugar, and got them kickstarted. It
should be done in 3 weeks, as it's only a three gallon batch. I also added a bit "more" honey after the OG reading, then took another. I had 1.066,
a bit higher to start.
I'm estimating an FG of 1.015. Plugging in the formula, (1.066-1.015) * 131 = .051 * 131 = 6.681 ABV %
I won't know until it's done. 6.6 % ABV is a little low for a mead, but plenty good for me for a first try. My beers come out to around 4.5%, and
they are tasty, so a change of pace is welcome. It'll range from 5.9 % to 6.6 %, after estimating a few different figures.
So I got a gravity reading, added a bit more honey, and boosted my OG reading to 1.066, and since my thermometer read 75 F, I opened my spastic yeast
culture, and pitched it into my fermentation bucket, stirring it evenly. I added the lid, rinsed and re-sanitized the fermentation lock, and sealed
it up. Lack of outside contaminates is vital to homebrewing.
I woke up this morning, and after a few sips of coffee, remembered to check my fermentation pail. It was happily bubbling away. I smiled.
I'll be providing updates with gravity readings.
edit on 4/18/12 by Druid42 because: added to between vital and home