Friday, November 16, 2012

Put the lime in the coconut...

Or, adventures in HomeBrewing!
Non miniatures related, mead brewing project details below the break...

Cody's best WTH look.
     So, what do you get when you mix 4 guys and a gal with a lot of spare time, 15 pounds of honey and 6-9 months? Of course, MEAD! As our first batch of mead was very 'not bad' and didn't end up killing anyone or making anyone sick, we decided it was time to brew a second batch. Who knows, this could become a thing.
     Using a recipe loosely based on one found in the Compleat Meadmaker, we combined our honey (15 pounds this time as opposed to the 12 we used in the first batch) with water, hear and yeast to provide a bucketfull of future-yum.

     Making mead is really a simple process that's all about time and patience. And having too many cooks in the kitchen a the same time. Honestly, if you brew, the more the merrier up to a point. Then it's just 1 person doing something and 4 people standing around watching.
     But, if you have a cool-ish, dry place to leave a large bucket for a while, you can make your own fermentables. We plan to try our hands at beer brewing soon as it's not fundamentally different from mead brewing and we've got 2 batches of that under our belts already.

     Step 1 was getting everything set up and sanitized. After that, we brought a gallon of water to a boil and added our honey. As our honey had been sitting for a while (Oh, about a year we think) it had crystalized some, but a hot water bath loosened it up from the container and a good bit of heat ended up dissolving it all, yes, even the lumps in the picture. It eventually came out to a very even, very pretty, amber color as seen here:

     Kept it at a boil for around 10 minutes and finally poured it into the primary fermentation vessel (our bucket) where 3 - 4 gallons of cold water waited to help get the temp down to a safe level for adding the yeast without killing it.
     Then, we waited.
     And waited.
     And waited some more.
     All the while, checking the temperature with our floating thermometer to see if the must had cooled to yeast pitching temperature.
     What we learned: invest in a wort chiller. Used in beer brewing, a wort chiller is a coil of copper tubing that you run cold water through while it sits in your freshly boiled brew to bring it down to yeast pitching temperatures without having to take your bucket outside where it's around 60f, or wait for the 2 hours plus that we did.
     No, hobbit-foot there didn't get his toes any closer to the bucket than pictured. We did however, the four of us, have a nice chat outside and I smoked my pipe. Great weather for evenings outside in Texas.

     Brought the bucket back inside to pitch the yeast in and move it to its 'cool, dry place' for storage and fermentation. That's the wife there, lending her hands to the stirring phase. Once the yeast is added, you agitate the mix for a good 5 minutes or so to ensure there's plenty of oxygen in there for the little buggers to survive, breed and turn sugar into tasty tasty alcohol. We agitated it, checked our specific gravity (1.112 I think it was, which is what we were aiming for) and moved it into my side of the closet where I could keep an eye on it for the 2 weeks of primary fermentation.
     We fitted it with a fermentation lock and when I woke the next morning and checked, it was happily bubbling away, indicating that much carbon dioxide was being produced, as it should be.

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