Today’s Mead Adventure was about the batch I’m making for a party of local high school alumni. It’s made with honey from my high school friend Mary Melchior, who has a hive atop the Georgetown Quaker meetinghouse, plus some blackberries from beside my house (and many more from the store, because this season’s yield was poor).
Last time, the gravity had gotten down to 0.997, and was pretty much stable. So, I had racked it into secondary (in a three-gallon Fermonster), stabilized it (with potassium metbisulfite and potassium sorbate), and added another couple pounds of blackberries, for it to “sit on” for a couple weeks or so, after which I planned to backsweeten.
That was a couple weeks ago. So today, I first tried racking it into my brand-new Homebrew Ohio two-gallon bucket. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to make sure that the tip of the bottling wand was pressed against something, so the autosiphon wasn’t drawing properly, and spewed some of the mead out the bottom, disturbing the lees, so I couldn’t exclude them very well, so I wound up transferring the whole darn thing, lees and all.
To actually do the backsweetening, I took four ounces (by volume, therefore almost six by weight) from the other 28-oz jar of honey she had given me. (By my calculations, that should bring the gravity up to about 1.011, at the low end of the semi-sweet range.) It had crystallized a good bit, so I couldn’t just pour it into my half-cup measure, but spooned it in, scraping it off the tablespoon with the edge of the measuring cup. Then I extracted a cup of the mead, put it in a large glass, microwaved it for about thirty seconds, spooned the honey into that, and stirred it in as best I could. Even that wasn’t very successful, so I wound up stirring several samples of the mead in the glass to try to get more honey off it, and reaching into the mead with my (sanitized) rubber gloves on to rub the honey off of the spoon and measuring cup.
While I had the batch open, I also opened the bag of berries, removed all but one of the glass food-fermenting weights, squeezed out all the juice/mead that I could, and tied it shut again. Since it was now much lower volume, and the bucket is skinnier than the Fermonster, it is now fully submerged, so I don’t have to worry about swirling it or punching it down. That’s a relief, since the bucket is opaque and difficult to open.
The squeezing was rather difficult, despite my having punched many skewer-holes in it two weeks ago. So, I think I will not be using cold-brew coffee bags again, but switch to the usual recommendation of muslin or cheesecloth. There are probably good reasons those are the usual recommendation, and not just because the usuals haven’t been updated since the invention of cold-brew coffee bags.
After all that, I transferred the bag of berries, and sealed the bucket. Contrary to the general reputation of brewing buckets, and many of the Amazon reviews of the one I bought, it sealed excellently. I could tell because there was steadily growing pressure visible in the airlock.
(That was a bit of a relief, as it means that the mead will have a protective blanket of CO2 over it, rather than being subject to more oxidation. I’m sure there was plenty oxidation going on in the Fermonster. :-( No slam on that fine product, just that I had left hella headspace, and didn’t see any airlock activity while the mead was in it.)
Now the question is, why the pressure? It shouldn’t be fermenting much if any, because the mead had been stabilized. Maybe the effectiveness of the chemicals fades with time, so that introduction of new yeast could continue fermentation? I’ll try to make sure the honey is all dissolved and take a gravity reading Real Soon Now, then see what the gravity does over the course of a week or so. Or maybe it was just off-gassing? It probably wasn’t just a change of temperature, as the air in the bucket was the same temperature where I had filled it versus where I had placed it.
(Eventually I’ll install a commenting system here. Meanwhile, you can chime in on the Facebook Mead group.)