Except for batch #1, all of the raw honey used for these batches came from Heavenly Honey Farm.
When I mix honey, either for mead or cyser, I try to combine it with the liquid (water or cider) as gently as possible, and with as little heat as possible. I pour the honey into a stainless steel cooking pot, and then I add at least half the quantity of liquid to it. In other words, for a gallon of honey, I will add at least a half gallon of water or cider. Then I place it on the stove at medium heat and I stir it constantly and gently with a large slotted spoon. I continue to stir until all of the honey has mixed into the liquid, and most of the honey has dissolved off the spoon. This typically takes three to five minutes. When I’m done, the liquid may be barely warm to the touch. I don’t want it to hit more than 80 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I tried it without any heat but I found that I could never quite get the last of it to dissolve off the bottom and sides of the pan, and it took a lot longer which meant more mixing and more oxygenation.
Batch #1 (2011): Arlean’s mixed honey Mead
Prior to this year, I had used Arlean’s raw honey. Arlean’s was located in Milwaukie, in Clackamas County, Oregon. My understanding is that Clackamas County shut them down because they are not allowed to have beehives that close to the city. I should point out that this is second hand information. Assuming this is true, I must admit that I don’t understand the reasoning behind this decision. It sounds to me like an irrational fear of honey bees rather than any real concern.
In any case, this was a three gallon batch of mead made with one quart of OC Neighborhood honey and one quart of Mixed Berry honey, both from Arlean’s. (I assumed that OC stands for Oregon City, but I could be wrong.) I did not record the SG, but the alcohol potential was 9%. Pitched Lalvin K1-V1116 yeast. The mead was allowed to ferment completely dry and was then bottled in wine bottles. This was my first batch of straight mead, and I am definitely hooked. It is very tasty, very easy to make and very easy to drink.
Batch #1: Wild Fermentation Test
I did one previous wild fermentation test with mead, which started to grow mold instead. That was with raw honey that was more than a year old. That batch ultimately ended up being mixed in with another batch after removal of the mold.
I decided to try again with raw honey that I know was collected this year. I used 12 liquid oz. of wildflower honey combined with water to make one gallon. That should result in approximately 4% alcohol. Once again, a small amount of mold started after a week or so, but no fermentation. I racked it into another jar, carefully leaving the mold behind, and pitched some Lalvin K1-V1116 yeast. The fermentation took off, and after a few weeks I had a very tasty, dry mead. It tasted slightly sweet even though the hydrometer indicates that it is completely dry.
I may try another natural fermentation, eventually, but for now I have given it up. Next year I may cheat a bit by adding a few ounces of fermenting cider to a batch of mead as a starter. It won’t be yeast that came with the honey, but at least it will be natural, local yeast.
Batch #2: Heavenly Honey Wildflower Mead
October 17th, 2012
This is my first large batch of mead. I mixed 1 gallon of wildflower honey with 5 gallons of water. The SG was 1.088 or 11% alcohol potential. Pitched Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast.
March 7th, 2013
The mead is still very, very slowly fermenting. We tasted it today and it has a really delightful flavor. SG testing shows about 3% residual sugar (Brix) remaining. That puts it at about SG 1.012 or about 9.5% alcohol. It is sweeter than I would prefer. I’m going to let it ferment a little more and then bottle it. It should continue fermenting in the bottle to create natural effervescence.
March 15th, 2013
March 29th, 2013
Specific Gravity is 1.010 or 2.5% residual sugar. I had intended to bottle it at this point but I didn’t follow through.
May 10th, 2013
Bottled the mead today as a still mead. I’m short on bottles so the last of it ended up in two one-gallon jugs. The SG is now 1.000. It is probably not completely dry as a finished SG is usually more like 0.0960. It is probably off-dry with about .25% residual sugar.