25 March 2014

Experiment: Boil v. No Boil (Part 2)

pH as a function of time (hrs). Nutrients added at
roughly 24, and 82hrs.
It's data and conclusion time! (or partial conclusions)

OG: 1.1080 --> FG: 1.0025
pH 5.60 --> pH 3.56

No Boil
OG: 1.1080 --> FG: 1.0015
pH 5.33 --> pH 3.56

Both fermentations were held within 1C of 20C (both had peaks of 21C @ 92hrs from pitch, right around the pH stabilizing). Nutrient additions and aeration were determined by gravity reading, not time after pitch.
Specific gravity as a function of time. Nutrients
added at roughly 24, and 82hrs; aerated at
roughly 24, 44, 58, 68, and 82hrs.
Unfortunately, the data points were not as close as I would have liked, but life gets in the way of things.

Nutrients were added at roughly 24 and 82 hours after pitch, showing a slight change in slope in the gravity graph, and a 'bump' in the pH graph (the other 'bump' in the pH graph at ~44hrs seems to correlate to aeration).

It is clear that the yeast are active well before a drop in gravity, this is shown by the drop in pH before ~24hrs (when a drop in gravity was first detected). This corresponds to the acclimation period which yeast go through commonly called the 'lag phase'; it would seem that instead of active sugar metabolism, they are more concerned with making an adequate environment for themselves at this point.

As to the differences, it would seem that the boiled must had a higher pH throughout the process until the end of fermentation. This is contrary to common belief that boiling (and skimming) reduces the buffering capacity of mead musts, however, this may be an outlier as the honeys chosen for the must composition do naturally have higher mineral and ash contents than other honeys (avocado and lychee are particularly rich in both, the brazilian pepper had a very high pollen content, and the beach plants have a higher mineral concentration than average (White Jr)).
Also the boiled mead fermented a little faster (about 2 days, though the data is not accurate to the hour, hence it's non-inclusion in the graphs).

Both have been cold crashed for 2 weeks at 5C, and have been treated with sulfites (an addition of 1 campden (Kmeta) was added to each gallon container, this method was chosen for its prevalence throughout the mead and winemaking community). They will age for another 9mos before being racked and bottled. Bottle aging will be in 12oz beer bottles with O2 absorbing caps, and evaluation will be held at several points in their lifetimes (hopefully ~1yr, 2yr, and 3yr, but we'll see).

16 March 2014

I'm going to start tweeting links to new posts; that way, instead of nobody checking to see if I have a new post up, no one can follow me on twitter to see if I have a new post up!  @BOB_1and_only is my twitter thing (I think it's a "handle"). If I sound like the robot from the hitchhikers guide than it's working; not that anyone cares. ;)

Mead: Etymology Part 1

I have a fascination with linguistics, particularly etymology. So instead of the standard "here is how to say mead in 20+ languages", I'd like to take you on a journey through the Indo-European language family via a single word: *medhu.
First a quick note on some linguistic things. The * means that the word is reconstructed, meaning "we don't really know, but this is a very, very, very good guess that a few dozen people, with a few dozen letters following each of their names, have come up with using historical linguistic techniques (like comparative analysis, and internal reconstruction)". A proto language" is a hypothesized language that would account for similarities between several other languages; strictly speaking it is the youngest language that contains traits of several members of a language family or subfamily.
Proto-Indo-Eutopean (PIE) is the hypothetical language that led to all Indo-European languages; it was probably highly inflected, and would have had a considerable number of crossover words that could have meant the same (or similar) thing(s). Over time, PIE broke apart (probably into dialects which would later represent individual proto languages) and formed different branches of the Indo-European language family, which in turn broke into further classifications or became extinct.

This diagram represents the Centum languages in the Indo European language family; what one might consider the "european" groups. The gray/grey areas are proto-languages for which we have reconstructed words. The yellow/gold indicate languages for which the word listed means mead (or honeyed, sweet, alcoholic drink). Note that the Mycenaean language is in teal due to the fact that the liner B script used to write their language was borrowed (probably from the minoans) and does not fully account for the sounds of their language (ma-tu-wo could have been spoken as matuw, matwo, matuwo, or any number of variations). 
*médhu vs *mélid 
All three of these words could have been used to describe what one harvested from a beehive (honey).
*mélid  survived to specifically mean honey in many branches of the language family (greek, celtic languages,  italic languages, anatolian languages, and even germanic languages usually evolving into the word mildew (I have no f**king clue why!)). 

It is interesting to see that the etymological root word *médhu came to mean a number of things. In it's original form from PIE, it may have meant any drink made with, or having a honey-like flavor, but also could have specifically meant mead (I could describe sauternes as *médhu, but I would not call it that as it's name (adjective vs noun sort of idea)).
In hellenic languages it came to mean wine by the time of Old Ionic, and by modern it means drunkenness, and stands in ablaut relation to the word that means drunkard. It also stands as the root for the words that come to mean methanol, methylene, methyl, and methane.
Of very interesting note is the complete disappearance of this word from the italic languages, only for them to re-invent a word for it. I could list theories and cite shady evidence, but it does no good to do so. It is more interesting to see the word that the italic languages use for mead: 'water' + 'honey'. Note that I do not say 'water-honey' as a single idea, if that were the case Spanish, French, Portuguese and Catalan would all have similar phonology (sounds), instead of the obvious translation of 'water' + 'honey'. 
The Germanic and Celtic languages preserve this word and the meaning almost in its entirety. Mjothr, mid, mead, met, meede and medd all descend (rather obviously) form the same historical root, *médhu, and all preserve the meaning of fermented honey, regardless of how rare the term is, or how niche the word in their respective cultures (with the older ones probably retaining it's use more than the surviving ones).

03 March 2014

Mead making rules

Here are some rules for the hobby of mead making. They're in no particular order, and don't take precedence over one another, with the exception of rules 1, 2, and 10 (with 10 being the most important).

1. You must talk about mead making. 
It is vital to spread the word about the hobby, and educate others about mead: the culture, art, taste, versatility, and general awesomeness. It is also very important to recruit other mead makers, not only to grow the hobby, but for your own education; by teaching others, we can learn more than by working in seclusion. A student can have a unique perspective that can induce our own creativity and break us from the binds of dogmatism.

2. You must talk about mead making! 

Just do it. Go to your homebrew club, join GotMead, or other forums. Go . . .  do!

3. Thoroughly clean and sanitize everything. 

Keep in mind that sanitizing is different than sterilizing; the goal of sanitizing is to reduce the cell concentration (CFU/mL) of potentially harmful microorganisms, not rid them entirely. There is a balancing act involved in this: if you don't pasteurize your must (boiling or lower temps), you have more CFU/mL than a must that was sanitized, and may want to be more diligent in your sanitation practices pre fermentation (longer contact times with sanitizer etc). Never think that your equipment is sterile, it's not, just think in terms of concentration of cells and you'll make the better judgements. Also, make sure everything is cleaned before sanitizing (and that the detergents used for cleaning are thoroughly rinsed or neutralized).

4. Patience is more than a virtue, it's a requirement! 
There are several ways to make a mead that is drinkable early in its life, but almost all mead benefits from some aging time. This is easy if you have a few cases in stock that are ready to drink, but to those who don't have that, utilize those quick mead recipes to quench your thirst while you wait for your other batches to age (or brew some beer, comparatively, it's much faster to drink). If you don't have patience mead making will teach it to you!

5. Mead making is not brewing, nor is it entirely wine making. 

There are principles that can be applied from both disciplines, but mead making is unique and breaks certain rules of brewing and winemaking.

6. Get in there, and be involved! 

Sensory analysis, that's what this rule is about. Taste and smell as often as possible: during fermentation, when your aerating, smell it; when you pull gravity samples, smell and taste; when you rack, smell and taste; during aging, every few months, smell and taste; when bottling, smell and taste; set some bottles aside (12oz work great) and preform a thorough tasting at 6, 12, 18, 24 months and longer.

7. Be creative. 

Try new things, and see how they work. Make a to-brew list, but be warned that you will never work your way through it (and if you do, you aren't being creative enough).
8. Avail yourself of local resources.
This is a hard one for me as I love berries and they don't grow well here in south florida; even though I have access to hundreds of varieties of mangos, and rare fruits that most have never heard of, I would love to have access to truly fresh blackberries and raspberries. Take advantage of unique honey varietals (avocado, saw palm, Brazilian pepper, mangrove, and mango in my case), that are local, or unique fruits (or herbs) that are grown in your region.

9. It's your mead, make what you like! 

If you like your mead to be full of mercaptan thiols and disulfides, who am I to argue. I won't have a glass, but it's not my mead. Once you have tasted other meads (via rules 1 and 2), you'll begin to understand what you like in a mead, and if it's something that others don't like, oh well; but do not think that your mead is the pinnacle of mead making if you have such strange tastes, be aware that others may not like what you do.

10. Have fun! 

Find what you enjoy most about the hobby, and guide yourself to doing that the most. If you really like experimenting, experiment; if it's the process of fermentation, get in there and enjoy it; if it's tasting, utilize rule 6 a lot. Just have fun and enjoy the hobby.