How To Make Mead

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Here at Home Brew Answers there are hundreds of articles about beer and wine, there are recipes for liqueurs and even soda but so far we have neglected the oldest of all alcoholic beverages which is Mead.

In this article, we are going to cover how to make Mead which is indeed one of the most ancient of all fermented alcoholic drinks. The ingredients are simple, the method is simple and the results can be truly phenomenal so let’s take a look at how to make mead.

How To Make Mead

What Is Mead?

Mead is essentially a honey wine and is sometimes referred to as such. The main thing we need to understand is that mead is an alcoholic beverage made with honey that is most often between 8 – 20% ABV.

The honey is what is providing the fermentable sugars to create alcohol and at its simplest mead is just honey, water and yeast, that really is all that goes into it. The honey is diluted with water and then yeast is added to ferment all the sugar, converting it to alcohol. What you end up with is called a mead.

There are certain variations of Mead that you may have heard of, here are a few of the most common variants:

Melomel: This is a type of mead made with fruit. The fruit adds another layer of flavour and some people prefer this to a plain honey mead.

Metheglin: This is a variant of mead with spices and herbs added.

Hydromel: This is a style of mead that is less than 8-9% ABV, most traditional meads are made to around the same alcoholic strength as a wine or sometimes slightly higher.

Cyser: This is a combination of cider and mead. To make cyser instead of diluting the honey with water you would use apple juice to create a hybrid of mead and cider.

Pyment: Pyment is similar to Cyser but rather than using apple juice you would use grapes or grape juice to create a hybrid of a wine and mead.

Braggot: Braggot is a hybrid of mead and beer, usually without the hops. Most often braggot is 40 – 50% honey with the rest of the fermentable’s coming from malted barley. Traditionally braggot is not hopped but if you choose to it can be worth experimenting with hops to add a further dimension to the drink.

Start By Making A Basic Mead

I think the best way to begin making mead is to start with a basic mead, get to grips with the process (and the result) and then begin experimenting with fruit, spices or other variations. This way you can get a true sense of exactly what a mead is.

What You Need To Make Mead

The equipment needed to make mead is fairly minimal. In comparison to brewing beer, mead making requires much less equipment so it is a great way to start brewing your own alcoholic drinks.

Here is a checklist of the basic equipment you will need to make your mead. This guide is for making 4.5 litres / 1 gallon of mead but the vessels can be scaled up for larger batches should you wish.

Fermenting Bucket: A simple plastic bucket is the best vessel to start the fermentation of your mead. A bucket with an airtight lid and airlock attached makes it easy to get the ingredients in and mixed thoroughly and then the initial burst of primary fermentation to get underway. These buckets are a great size for gallon batches.

Demijohn: A glass or plastic demijohn is a vessel perfectly suited for conditioning mead and leaves a small surface area to avoid any oxidation while the mead is aging. After fermenting in a bucket for a short time the mead is transferred to a demijohn for more extended aging.

Airlock & Bung: An airlock allows carbon dioxide created whilst the mead is fermenting out of the fermenter but allows no air in. You can attach the airlock to the fermenting bucket and then to the demijohn with a bung after the mead is transferred.

Syphon Hose & Racking Cane: To move mead from one vessel to another you will need a syphon and a racking cane. Using a syphon is simple, you can find a guide here which explains how to use a syphon efficiently and hygienically.

Bottles: When your mead is ready you will want to bottle it. I prefer to use wine bottles and cork them but you can also use beer bottles and secure them with caps should you wish.

Capper or Corker: Depending on what bottles you use you will need a device to secure the closures. A capper or corker will serve the purpose and will last a lifetime in my experience.

Thermometer: We occasionally will need to hit specific temperatures during the mead making process to having a thermometer is handy.

Hydrometer: This instrument measures the density of liquid and can be used to tell us how much sugar is in our mead. This can then tell us how much alcohol will be in the finished mead, this guide will explain a little more about hydrometers.

Large Pot: Should you wish to pasteurise the must before you ferment the mead you will need a large pot to heat the honey with water before you combine all the ingredients in the fermenter. The method for this will be detailed in the recipe below.

The Ingredients You Need To Make Mead

Once you have the equipment needed you can then begin to gather the ingredients to make your first mead. Let’s start with the star of the show.

Honey

Honey making mead

The main ingredient of mead, of course, is honey. In the case of a plain honey mead it is the only fermentable and with the exception of the yeast the only ingredient that will provide flavour. With this in mind, we need to consider what type of honey to use, we want to make sure the honey has a good flavour, to begin with as this is what is going to provide the vast majority of the meads flavour.

There are a few things to keep in mind when sourcing honey for your mead:

Liquid vs. Set: It doesn’t matter whether the honey you use to make mead is a liquid/runny clear honey or a set/creamed honey. Most liquid honey will crystallise if you give them enough time anyway. If you do choose to use a set honey to make a mead then you can sit the jar in some warm water and the honey will soften and liquidise enabling you to pour it out of the jar easily, ready for fermentation.

Varietal Honey: When bees predominantly visit certain blossoms the flavour and colour of the honey can change. When you come to make your mead if you have a varietal honey the flavour and colour will come through in the finished wine.

You do not need to use a varietal honey to make mead but it can help to create a more unique or slightly different mead suited to your taste.

Orange blossom honey is a varietal honey most people will be aware of, there are other varieties such as lavender, acacia and other blossoms but also by location. If the bees are visiting flowers in a mountainous area it will produce a different flavour of honey than bees whose hive is in a woodland because of the different plants.

Raw vs. Pasteurised Honey: The differences here are in the way the honey is processed. Raw honey has had less processing than pasturised honey. The differences between the two are that raw honey is likely to have a more flavour than pasturised honey, pasturisation is likely to remove some of the more delicate flavours of honey and of course we want as much flavour as possible.

The reason why honey is pasturised is that it increases the stability of honey whilst it is sitting on the shelf in your cupboard or supermarket. Raw honey contains wild yeast, enzymes and lots of particulates that are removed, filtered and heated up in pasturised honey.

Honey is naturally resistant to going bad, in an airtight container it will last indefinitely because honey is primarily sugar which means there is very little water, this in itself prevents spoiling. The pH of honey is another contributor to its shelf life, it is acidic with a pH of between 3 and 4.5.

When water is introduced to honey if there are any particulate or wild yeasts present these will eventually spoil the honey. This can be something to consider if using raw honey to make your mead, whilst there will be a broader range of delicate flavours there is also a need to carefully control fermentation so as to not let spoilage organisms, like wild yeasts, take hold.

We will cover ways to prevent spoilage of your mead in the methods section below, usually, it will be a case of heating the honey and water to pasteurisation temperature or using a chemical additive, we will cover this in a moment. These are optional precautions that aren’t totally necessary, many mead makers do not do this and produce fantastic quality meads they are only safeguards (a spoiled batch of any sort of home brew will not make you ill it will just taste bad).

There is a vast array of honey to choose from just at your local supermarket, each subtly different so try a few and see what you like. In this recipe I will use a wild flower honey as I like the flavour and it makes a wonderful mead.

Water: If your tap water tastes good then it is fine to use this, if you don’t drink your tap water or it is not to your taste for any reason then use bottled water to make your mead.

Yeast: Wine yeast is the most common choice for making mead. Dry wine yeasts are easy to keep around and will last a lot longer than liquid yeasts so I always have some of these laying around for when I want to make mead. For making sweeter meads you can also use ale yeasts which will not ferment out all the available sugars and leave a sweeter finished mead.

Lalvin D-47 is my choice for a mead recipe in most cases and is very versatile. Lalvin EC-1118 is also a popular choice for mead makers and is very robust, in this recipe I have used Lalvin 71B.

Yeast Nutrient: Most meads will call for yeast nutrients to provide enough nutrition for the yeast to ferment out the sugars fully. Yeast need an environment that supports their growth and reproduction, yeast nutrients enable this.

Campden Tablets (optional): Campden tablets of Sodium Metabisulphate can be used to pasturise the must before fermentation. This will kill any organisms or wild yeasts in the honey to ensure the mead ferments as intended. Campden tablets can also be used at the end of fermentation to stabilise the mead. Used in conjunction with another additive, potassium sorbate this will enable you to backsweeten a mead. We won’t be doing that in this recipe but it is a useful technique to know.

How To Make Your Mead

It is now time to bring everything together and finally make your mead.

In this recipe, I am going to make a wild flower honey mead with honey from the supermarket. Most honey will say if they have been pasteurised or not and will almost always tell you if they are raw honey. It is up to the mead maker whether you want to pasteurise the honey yourself before you make mead. I most often do not and have never had a problem with the mead spoiling, that is not to say it could not happen.

If you wish to pasteurise the must before you ferment the mead then it is a simple case of two options

Heating the honey with water to pasturisation temperature.

Or

Chemical pasturisation with Campden tablets.

In this recipe I will go through the steps to pasteurise the mead via heat so you can see the process, if you decide not to do this then you can skip those steps.

Mead Ingredients – Makes 4.5 litres / 1 gallon

Method

  1. Gather together all your equipment and make sure everything is clean and sanitised, for more on this take a look at this guide on how to sanitise your equipment.
  2. We now need to heat the must and pasteurise the honey. To do this you will need to place a large pan on the hob and add 3 litres of water. Begin to heat gently and add the honey, stir thoroughly and do not allow the honey to sit at the bottom of the pan and scorch. We need to reach a temperature of 71°C. Once you get the honey solution to 71°C turn down the heat and keep the must at this temperature for around 10 minutes.
  3. After the 10 minutes at 71°C the honey will be sanitised and we can add everything to the sanitised fermenter. Add the remaining 1.5 litres of cool water to the fermenter and then carefully pour the hot honey solution into the fermenter as well. This pouring will help to aerate the must which is beneficial for yeast health.
  4. Add the yeast nutrient and mix thoroughly through the must. It may still be fairly warm we want to let the must cool to at lead 24°C before adding the yeast. Check the temperature with a thermometer, if the yeast is added when it is too warm the yeast could fail to ferment at all.
  5. It is recommended to rehydrate the yeast, almost all yeast packages will have rehydration instructions on them. It is a usually a case of adding the yeast to a small amount of warm water between 30°C – 35°C in a sanitised container for 15 minutes. Check the packet instructions, if there are none check this guide on rehydrating yeast here.
  6. When the must is cool enough pitch the yeast there is no need to stir, place the lid on the fermenting bucket and fit an airlock.
  7. The yeast will now begin reproducing, fermenting the sugars from the honey and producing alcohol for your mead. The fermenter can be left at room temperature (18 – 22°C) alone whilst the yeast do the work, after a week or so the airlock will begin to slow it’s bubbling and stop. After 2 weeks almost all of the sugar will be fermented out this can be checked with a hydrometer. It is now time to rack the mead to a demijohn.
  8. Sanitise your demijohn and rubber bung and now you can transfer the mead from the fermenting bucket to the demijohn with the syphon and racking cane. If you have never syphoned before read this first. The mead can now age for a few months, it will clear in this time and after it has completely cleared it is ready to bottle.
  9. To bottle your mead is simple enough, syphon into your bottles and either cap or cork depending on what bottle you chose to use.

Mead recipe

That is it, set the bottles aside for a few months, within 6 months the mead will start to come into it’s own and will last for years, slowly maturing and most often getting better. This recipe will make a medium sweet mead up to around 14% ABV. Making a mead is a really simple process when you get the hang of it and this guide really is just the tip of the iceberg. There are 1000’s of possibilities to experiment with from here so why not give it a go, make your own mead.

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Damson Wine Recipe – Rich & Perfect For Aging

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Damson Wine recipe

Damsons or the Damson plum as the name suggests are a close relative to the plum and a member of the Rose family. They are a common tree to find in many gardens and wild throughout the UK which means many people have a glut of them in early autumn and don’t know what to do with them.

If you do have a glut or you have found a few trees growing wild then one of the best things to do with them is to make wine, this Damson wine recipe is a really nice wine and one that will get better and better over the space of a year or two.

Damsons a similar in shape and colour to plums but the flavour is definitely a bit different. Damsons are rarely eaten raw or straight from the tree and if you have tried you will know why. There is a level of acidity and tannin that makes eating them raw a challenge rather than a pleasure.

The high levels of tannin and the tartness provided by the acidity, however, is what makes Damsons so good for making wine. Rich full bodied red wines are the result of the naturally high tannin content. Many fruit wines require the addition of tannin to boost levels but with Damsons, there is enough already present in the skin of the fruit to not need to make any additions.

The high tannin level is also what makes the resulting Damson wine age so well. Astringency in wine needs a little time to balance itself out. At first sample, a Damson wine can seem too bitter and this can be a time when people are tempted to back sweeten the wine. If you hold off on this temptation however and bottle the wine and set it aside for a year, the results can be truly remarkable.

Preparing Damsons For Making Wine

Damsons, like plums, have a stone. This will need to be removed before making wine as the stone will introduce far too much bitterness. The best way to prepare the damsons is to wash, destem and remove any bad fruit, cut them in halves and remove the stone.

The prepared damsons can then either be used straight away or what I prefer to do is freeze them. Leave them in the freezer for a few days or as long as you like. When you come to make the wine take them out to defrost and you will find all the juices will release themselves. This is perfect for winemaking, freezing the damsons breaks down their structure meaning we can extract a lot more juice, sugar and flavour a lot quicker. Be sure to save all the juices as the damsons thaw and add them to the wine.

What You’ll Need To Make Damson Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres

You will only need a small amount of equipment to make this wine. We can supply winemaking equipment if you don’t already have it, check the online shop here.

Damson Wine Ingredients

Damson Wine Method

  1. If you have frozen your damsons then get them out of the freezer ahead of time so they have thawed before you start.
  2. Place the damsons in a wine straining bag in a sanitised fermenting bucket. Take a sanitised potato masher and begin to mash the damson to release the juices and break down their structure.
  3. Put the sugar and half the water into a pan and begin to heat to a boil. Be sure all the sugar dissolves and doesn’t catch on the pan. Once boiling remove from the heat and pour over the damsons in straining bag. Give the must a good stir and then add the remaining half of cool water which will help bring the temperature down. All to cool to room temperature.
  4. Once the must has cooled to around room temperature add the Campden tablet, stir and leave for 12 hours.
  5. After 12 hours add the acid blend, pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient and mix thoroughly, leave for another 12 hours.
  6. After this time has elapsed add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must. Leave to ferment for 7 – 10 days stirring each day.
  7. After at least a week lift out the straining bag and what is left of the damsons. Allow all the liquid to thoroughly drain back into the fermenter. Leave the wine to settle for the next few days and you can take a hydrometer reading at this point if you wish to.
  8. Once signs of fermentation have slowed down or stopped, rack the wine into a demijohn and fit a bung and airlock. Leave the wine to condition and settle, you may need to rack the wine to a clean demijohn after a month as the sediment builds up. Rack the wine as necessary until it is completely clear.
  9. Once cleared it is advisable to let the wine bulk age for at least 3 – 6 months before bottling.
  10. The wine can be sampled and checked to see if you want to back sweeten it. Damson wine is a good candidate to have slightly sweet but do be cautious as when the wine is young it can seem slightly astringent. After aging, it becomes mellower. Use this method if you intend to back sweeten.
  11. Bottle the wine and set aside, the longer the better. This damson wine really comes into its own after a year and only gets better after this.

NEIPA A Perfect Beer To Experiment With – New England IPA Recipe

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NEIPA or New England IPA, a tropical fruit laden, murky and silky smooth beer style has captured the hearts and minds of craft beer devotees for quite a while now. It is now gaining attention outside of this niche with coverage in the national press. NEIPA, however, is still very much a beer style in its infancy and one that is still evolving. It is the perfect candidate for home brewers to brew in small batches exactly for this reason.

NEIPA New England IPA Recipe

If you like clarity in your beers then NEIPA is definitely a no go, producing a good NEIPA involves intentionally boosting the haze or murkiness of the beer. I have seen the term “it looks like orange juice” used to describe the clarity of a NEIPA in a good way.

I know some consumers, especially in the part of the UK where I live (Cornwall) who would absolutely refuse to drink a beer that was murky some who would return the beer to the bar even at the slightest hint of haze.

The IPA Haze Craze

I am not in the slightest bit concerned about the looks of a beer. I love that we are still seeing radically different beer styles emerging. I have always been of the opinion that taste is the first and foremost criteria when judging whether a beer is any good or not. As a home brewer it doesn’t really matter what is available locally because should I wish to try a new style of beer, all I have to do is find a recipe or find out what ingredients are typically used for a beer and then make it myself.

We like NEIPAs so much we have a small batch all grain beer kit in the shop that we have been working on for a little while.

The great thing about new beer styles like NEIPA’s is that even commercial breweries are still experimenting with ingredients, hop combinations and techniques so as a home brewer with no limits or commercial concerns you can really push the boat out.

New England IPA Essentials

The profile of NEIPA is hop driven, not just any hops though, typically hops with a heavy tropical fruit aroma. The beer is often described as juicy which unfortunately doesn’t really describe the flavour but I think it relates to the flavour of overly ripe tropical and stone fruit. The flavour is mango, pineapple, passionfruit heavy and the level of bitterness restrained to give the impression of a “juicy” beer.

Hops are predominately new varieties and even experimental varieties of hops that don’t even have names yet. Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic and Azacca are all likely candidates. These hop varieties all have the character we are looking for and new experimental varieties are emerging that are ripe for trying out.

Excessive dry hopping with these kinds of hops is necessary to get maximum aroma into the beer as is normal with most IPA but the differences to say a west coast IPA comes to the bittering additions. The bitterness in NEIPAs is lower sometimes dramatically lower. The idea behind this is to fill the beer with huge amounts of aroma with a smooth flavour and fuller body to enhance the “juicy” character of the beer.

The malt for a NEIPA fades into the background, it’s supposed to be neutral. Predominantly pale malts or extra pale malts are used. Caramel malts are used in a very restrained manner if at all, often light special malts like Carapils are used.

Unmalted Grains

The key part of the grain bill is the unmalted grains, these along with the huge amount of dry hops are what causes the turbidity in the beer. Flaked wheat and oats are added in the grist in fairly large percentages which introduce starches and protein that boost the haze and create a smooth and full body in the beer.

Yeast strains are varied for the style both English and US ale yeasts are used and can range from neutral to fruity strains that produce more esters. A couple of choices are Vermont Ale yeasts, White Labs WLP095 Burlington or Wyeast 1318 London III if you want something specific you could always just use Safale US-05 for a neutral yeast profile should you wish.

New England IPA Recipe

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
19 L 60 min 54.1 IBUs 17.2 EBC 1.061 1.011 6.5 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Pale Malt (2 Row) UK 4 kg 75.1
Oats, Malted 700 g 13.14
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L 350 g 6.57
Wheat, Torrified 276.2 g 5.19

Hops

Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Columbus (Tomahawk) 32 g 60 min Boil Pellet 14
Citra 65 g 0 min Boil Pellet 12
Chinook 40 g 0 min Boil Pellet 13
Mosaic (HBC 369) 65 g 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 12.3
Chinook 40 g 7 days Dry Hop Pellet 13

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Safale American (US-05) DCL/Fermentis 77% 15°C - 23.89°C

Mash

Step Temperature Time
Mash In 65°C 60 min
Final Batch Sparge 75.56°C 15 min

A version of this NEIPA is available in the shop as a small batch all grain beer kit. If that is your kind of thing then check it out.

Gooseberry Wine Recipe – Fantastic White Wine

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Gooseberries may not be one of the cool kids in the world of berries. Often overlooked for strawberries, blackberries or blueberries in terms of eating but for winemaking the gooseberry is a king amongst berries. This gooseberry wine recipe will tame the tartness of these little green berries to make a fantastic wine.

Gooseberry wine recipe

A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with gooseberries. I think this is due to the fact they can be extremely tart. The most common culinary use for gooseberries is to add lots of sugar to act as a buffer against the tartness. In a wine though the tartness can be welcome, many wine yeasts like Lalvin 71B-1122 metabolise the acid content in fruit and naturally mellow out the acid bite that gooseberries provide.

Acid is a key component in wine, that is why we add it to a lot of the fruit wine recipes you can see here on Home Brew Answers. Acidity in wine is important to balance the flavours, sweetness and acidity balance each other if present in the right quantities.

Most fruits with the exception of a few like wine grapes don’t have the required acidity to fully balance the wine and can leave the finished wine tasting thin, insipid and flabby. Fortunately, gooseberries, as we know, have a high acid content. This means no additional acid additions are required.

Preparing Gooseberries For Wine Making

Only choose good fruit for your gooseberry wine, any fruit with bad spots or damage should be discarded. If you source your fruit from a pick your own farm or your own garden you will, of course, be sorting the gooseberries as you pick, you just need to wash the fruit.

Make sure all stems are removed, there are occasionally little brown tails on gooseberries which are fine to leave on.

Gooseberries are occasionally available in the supermarket but seem pretty rare to find, also there are some that grow wild and in hedgerows. These are usually cultivated varieties that have escaped into the wild which are fine to use as long as you are 100% certain you have correctly identified them.

There is also the question of colour, most varieties of gooseberry are green and will produce a white wine but there are pink and red varieties that will produce a slightly blush wine.

What You’ll Need To Make Gooseberry Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres

The equipment needed for this gooseberry wine recipe is fairly straightforward. You will need the following items, you can pick up any equipment you may need in our shop here.

  • Fermenting Bucket
  • Demijohn
  • Large Pan
  • Syphon
  • Fine Straining Bag
  • Potato Masher
  • Airlock & Bung

Gooseberry Wine Ingredients

Gooseberry Wine Method

  1. In a pan heat 2 litres of water and add the sugar, bring to a boil for a few minutes then remove from the heat.
  2. Meanwhile take the washed and prepared gooseberries and place them in the straining bag, put the straining bag in a sanitised fermenting bucket and begin to crush all the berries to break them up.
  3. Pour the hot sugar solution over the gooseberries and mix thoroughly, add the remaining 2.2 litres of water which will bring the temperature down in the rest of the must, add the yeast nutrient and a 3-4 hours later when the must has cooled further add the campden tablet and mix thoroughly
  4. 12 hours after adding the campden tablet add the pectolase which will aid juice and flavour extraction. Mix and leave for a further 24 hours.
  5. After the 24 hours sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the must. Allow the wine to ferment for around a week and then lift out the bag with the remainder of the gooseberries. Allow fermentation to continue for a further week.
  6. After the two weeks rack the wine to a carboy, you can check the gravity at this point should you wish, fermetation should be pretty much complete at around 1.000 or lower. Once racked into a demijohn seal with a bung and airlock.
  7. You can wait for the gooseberry wine to completely clear before racking to a new vessel. Leave the wine for at least 4 months before bottling. If you wish to back-sweeten the wine stabilise and follow this advice here.

Mild Ale Recipe – Brewing The Perfect Dark Session Beer

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An English Mild may be one of those beers that are perfectly suited for home brewing. It’s one of those beers that isn’t readily available in most pubs, I wouldn’t know where to begin finding a Mild on draught in Cornwall where I live. It is also one of those beers that don’t do that well in bottles. It’s not that you can’t bottle it, it’s just a beer style that demands to be drunk fresh, something that is very easy for the home brewer like me to accomplish.

MILD Ale recipe

Modest Mild Ale

Mild Ale suffers as a beer style that is often overlooked. It’s not that it is unpopular it just it doesn’t make a bold statement like some other beer styles do. That is not to say Milds aren’t perfect for what they intend to accomplish.

The brewer needs to try to balance a mild recipe to have a low ABV at the same time as having plenty of flavours contributed from dark and roasted malts, the problem with a lot of low alcohol beers is they can tend to verge on feeling watery.

What Does Mild Mean?

There are plenty of accounts of where the name “Mild” comes from, however, I’m no beer historian so take what you read here with a healthy dose of scepticism. The most common theory is that it is the name given to young beer. Historically older beer or beer that had been aged a while may have a hint of sourness, whereas fresh or young beer wouldn’t hence the name Mild.

These mild beers would most likely have been brewed to be blended with other beers to balance out any overpowering qualities. Drinking Mild ale on its own would have naturally followed on from this.

Not Always Dark Beers?

Historically Mild Ales was the name given to any “young” beer so it wasn’t necessarily a ruby or dark beer. There were also pale Milds. The modern version, however, is usually thought of as a low ABV, ruby coloured session beer.

Mild Is The Malt Driven Session Beer

Mild really is the ultimate session beer. When most people think of session beers today they think low ABV pale and often hoppy beers. Mild usually falls into the region of around 2.5 – 3.8% ABV and can finish sweet or dry. The flavour is pretty much solely driven by special and roast malts in the grist. The flavours to look to incorporate in your recipe are caramel, biscuit, stone fruits, nuttiness, chocolate and roasted notes.

As well as this you want to still retain a bit of body by mashing at slightly higher temperatures.

Hops are minimal in a Mild ale and primarily used to provide a balance with the malt, there is a time to be prudent and let the malt bill lead the show. Traditional English varieties of hop are the way to go and hop bitterness is low. Having a low abv means that a smaller bittering addition is all that is required to balance the beer, somewhere around 10 – 30 IBU is a good range.

English Mild Ale Recipe

Mild Ale - Mild Recipe
================================================================================
Batch Size: 19 L
Boil Size: 21.700 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.033
FG: 1.008
ABV: 3.2%
Bitterness: 18.8 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 23 SRM (Morey)

Fermentables
================================================================================
                       Name  Type    Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
       Pale Malt (2 Row) UK Grain  2.600 kg    Yes   No   78%   3 L
        Chocolate Malt (UK) Grain 140.000 g    Yes   No   73% 450 L
        Black (Patent) Malt Grain  60.000 g    Yes   No   55% 500 L
 Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L Grain 180.000 g    Yes   No   74% 122 L
Total grain: 2.980 kg

Hops
================================================================================
    Name Alpha   Amount  Use       Time Form  IBU
Fuggles  4.5% 25.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 14.4 
Fuggles  4.5% 10.000 g Boil 30.000 min Leaf  4.4

Yeast
================================================================================
        Name Type Form   Amount   Stage
 Safale S-04  Ale  Dry 11.000 g Primary

Mash
================================================================================
               Name     Type   Amount     Temp   Target       Time
                    Infusion 10.000 L 73.088 C 67.500 C 60.000 min
 Final Batch Sparge Infusion 15.000 L 78.540 C 74.000 C 15.000 min

What Causes A Stuck Fermentation & How To Prevent It Happening

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STUCK Fermentation

One of the most common questions I see from new home brewers is about stuck fermentations. Basically, any beer that fails to completely finish fermenting or reach the desired final gravity, sometimes one that fails to even start fermenting.

The question basically goes something along these lines, “My beers stop fermenting and it’s still at 1.028, what is going on?”.

The gist of it is that you brew the beer, pitch the yeast and one of the following things happen:

The beer stops fermenting before the target final gravity.

Or

The beer starts fermenting sluggishly and stalls or doesn’t really start at all.

These are both technically stuck fermentations however they are not necessarily caused by the same things so there are some important distinctions to make. In this article, we are going to look at some of the possible causes for each type of stuck fermentation and ways to prevent them happening in the first place.

Fermentation That Never Properly Starts

A non starting fermentation is still a stuck fermentation but the reasons why it never starts properly in the first place may be different to a fermentation that stalls toward the end. As you might guess most of the reasons point to the yeast and the factors that affect yeast health so let’s start with the basics and work onward from there.

One thing to point out here is that just because the airlock isn’t bubbling it doesn’t mean the beer isn’t fermenting. The only real way to check the state of a fermentation is with a hydrometer reading.

The Viability and Quality of Yeast

This is the first thing to look at if the fermentation starts sluggishly and then gets stuck or fails to even start. Every package of yeast you buy will have either a production date or a use by date. This information is vital in telling you whether you are pitching healthy, viable yeast cells or simply poor quality and dead yeast cells. If you have had a package of yeast for a while it may be that the viability of cells has dropped too low so there aren’t enough healthy yeast when pitched into your wort to properly start fermentation.

You can read more about yeast viability over here, this can easily be prevented however by making a yeast starter before pitching the yeast. A starter a day before the brewday will tell you whether you have healthy and active yeast before you even make the beer. Check these instructions on making a yeast starter or these on rehydrating dry yeast.

If you have a packet of yeast that’s old or a dud, repitching a new package should start the fermentation as normal.

Temperature Of The Wort

This is the next thing on the checklist if you are having a painfully slow, non starting fermentation or stuck fermentation. If the temperature inside the fermenter is too low it can inhibit the yeast activity. Different strains of yeast work best at differing temperature ranges. If you leave the fermenter in a cold garage it may be too cold for the yeast to become active.

Ideal temperature ranges for most ale yeasts are around 18°C – 21°C, lagers are lower at around 7°C – 14°C. If your beer is sitting in too cold of a spot then it is likely the yeast will be struggling to get going.

Similarly, higher temperatures will have potential to cause problems. If you pitch the yeast whilst the temperature of the wort is still too hot there is the possibility that these higher temperatures will actually kill the yeast, in this case, fermentation will have no chance of even beginning.

If the fermenter is in a spot that is likely to fluctuate in temperature or fall out of the ideal range of the yeast move it to somewhere more suitable. If you think you may have pitched the yeast into too hot a wort you will need to repitch new, healthy yeast.

Lack of Oxygen in the Wort

Yeast cells need oxygen to reproduce. This is why you are advised to aerate the wort as it is going into the fermenter.

Most brewers rely on splashing or movement to aerate the wort as it is poured into the fermenter, this is the simplest way to introduce oxygen needed by the yeast. Other brewers use aeration devices on a drill for example, to whip air into the wort and some even use pure oxygen through an aeration stone.Most brewers can make do with aerating by pouring the wort from a height to get oxygen into solution but as the gravity of a beer rises the additional stresses put on the yeast can mean a lack of oxygen can cause a stuck fermentation as there is not sufficient resources for them to reproduce.

If you skip this simple step of introducing oxygen just prior to pitching yeast it can stall the yeast, increase the lag time before the beer starts fermenting and cause a stuck fermentation. The best practice, in this case, is to aerate the wort and pitch fresh, healthy yeast.

Stuck Fermentations Prior To Hitting Final Gravity

Instances, where the beer has been fermenting normally only for it to stop before you hit the desired target final gravity, can share some of the issues above. There may also be other reasons to consider.

If the beer has been fermenting away for a few days and then slows down to a halt, you check the gravity using a hydrometer and it is higher than you were expecting, what is going on here?

First of all you need to make sure it is actually a stuck fermentation, take hydrometer readings on consecutive days and see if there is actually no movement. If there is no movement you then can confirm it’s a stuck fermentation. Now we can troubleshoot what’s going on.

Is It Possible Fermentation Has Completely Finished?

When you look at a recipe and the target gravity reads 1.012 if it finishes somewhere above this we jump to the conclusion it’s a stuck fermentation when it is entirely possible that the beer just has a higher final gravity than expected. There are a couple of reasons to consider why it may finish higher, the first thing to look at is the yeast attenuation.

Low Attenuating Yeast Strain

The attenuation of a yeast strain is a measurement that tells us what percentage of sugar available to the yeast will be converted to alcohol. A high attenuation will mean more sugar is converted to alcohol than a low attenuating yeast strain.

Use this ABV calculator to work out the percentage attenuation of your beer, you can then compare it to this yeast reference table. It may just be the case that you are using a lower attenuation yeast strain.

Mash Temperatures

One more possible cause of fermentation stopping at a higher than expected gravity can be influenced by mash temperatures. If you mash at a higher temperature than a recipe indicates there will be more long chain sugars and dextrins left in the wort. Yeast will not be able to ferment these more complex sugars and so the fermentation finishes at a higher gravity than you expect.

There isn’t a lot that can be done about this with the exception of introducing enzymes post fermentation. In most cases you will have to settle with the beer how it is.

Overly Flocculant Yeast

This trait is a lot less common and more of an issue in larger scale batches but still can happen at a home brew level, particularly if the fermenter is too cool for example.

All yeast will naturally flocculate to some degree and different yeast strains do so at different levels. Highly flocculant yeast strains will sediment to the bottom of the fermenter quickly post fermentation. If this happens too quickly however before fermentation is complete the result is a stuck fermentation.

As I mentioned this is not common at home brew scales where there is much less pressure on the yeast in a small batch. The simple solution is to rouse the yeast to get it back into suspension by stirring up the wort or to re-pitch fresh yeast.

Stuck Fermentations Are Better Prevented Than Cured

The best way to avoid stuck fermentations of any sort is to concentrate on yeast health and providing the best possible environment for yeast to reproduce and flourish.

In practical terms this means; making a yeast starter, ensuring yeast viability and ensuring the wort has adequate aeration, nutrition and is held at the correct temperature for the yeast strain. If something does go wrong for some reason it will be due to one of the above factors so try to give you yeast no reason to stop halfway through the job.

Simple & Easy Plum Wine Recipe

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Plums come in many different forms, sharp, sweet, yellow, red or purples. You have plums suited for cooking whilst others are best eaten straight from the tree. The great thing about them though is if you have a tree nearby you can usually get quite an impressive glut of them, depending on the year and they make a fantastic wine. This Plum wine recipe is simple and easy and it doesn’t matter what variety of plums, whether they are Victoria, Goldens or Damsons.

Plum Wine Recipe

As there are so many different types of plums is makes the finishing wine a little variable, as an example you get some plums that are nearly black in colour, these are going to make a much darker wine than victoria plums for instance which are a more blushed pink colour.

There are some basic rules of thumb for getting the best wine whatever kind of plums you use, firstly, you want to get the ripest fruit possible. The riper the fruit the higher the concentrations of sugar and juice and this always makes for a better finished wine. Plum wine can have a tendency to be a tad thin bodied and mild flavoured so harvesting your plums at the point where they are most fully flavoured is key to your wines success.

Plum trees are pretty common in the UK and more often than not, if you have a plum tree in your garden, you will have a glut around the end of August or September. Plum trees can be really productive and you only really need around 1.5 – 2kg per gallon of plum wine so you will have more than enough.

If you want to make this plum wine but don’t have any trees nearby then you can buy plums in. I would recommend you still wait until the fruit is in season rather than buying imported fruit. British fruit when in season tends to have a slightly fuller flavour and because they aren’t travelling as far the plums will be riper and have higher sugar content.

Preparing Plums For Wine Making

To prepare the fruit for wine making you will need to pick through the plums and discard any bad or damaged fruit, give them a wash and then remove the stem and the stones. You should leave the skin on the fruit as this will provide colour and a small amount of tannin which is desirable. Cut the fruit into quarters over a bowl to save all the juices that come out of them.

What You’ll Need To Make Plum Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres

The equipment needed for this plum wine recipe is fairly straightforward. You will need the following items, you can pick up any equipment you do need here.

  • Fermenting Bucket
  • Demijohn
  • Medium Pan
  • Funnel
  • Syphon
  • Potato Masher
  • Fine Straining Bag
  • Airlock & Bung

Plum Wine Ingredients

Method

  1. Place the wine straining bag in the sanitised fermentation bucket into this add the prepared plums. Mash the plums with a sanitised potato masher to break them up and free the juices.
  2. In a medium pan combine the water and sugar and bring to the boil, ensure all the sugar is fully dissolved. Once boiling turn off the heat, pour the hot sugar solution over the plums secured in the straining bag.
  3. Allow to cool to room temperature and then add the Campden tablet, tannin, acid blend and yeast nutrient and mix thoroughly. 12 hours after this add the pectic enzyme to the must and mix again.
  4. After 24 hours has passed you can sprinkle the sachet of yeast onto the surface of the must. Allow to ferment for around a week stirring daily.
  5. After a week lift out the straining bag and allow to thoroughly drain. Let it settle for a few days and then rack the wine into a clean and sanitised demijohn, attach a bung and airlock and leave the wine to condition and settle for around a month.
  6. As the wine clears and the sediment builds up rack to a clean demijohn again. I like to leave this wine in the demijohn for around 4-5 months and then bottle. This plum wine is fairly dry but it is also particularly good if you like sweeter wines, to learn how to back sweeten this wine then see this guide.

Small Batch Extract Brewing Kit Giveaway – Worth £70

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Brewing Kit Giveaway

Today we have something a little different, we are really excited to be offering one of you guys the chance to win one of our small batch extract brewing kits.

The whole purpose of Home Brew Answers was to help people understand how to home brew. Creating beer recipe kits that made the process of home brewing as simple as possible was the next logical step. The response to this endeavour has been great and I hope we have gotten a few more people into the hobby.

Keeping this in mind we have decided that what better way to thank you, the people who come and read this site than to give away one of the extract brewing starter sets and a beer kit of your choice.

Complete Beer Kit Original

We designed these beer kits to use minimal amounts of equipment and to be able to brew a beer in the kitchen on the stove. The equipment consists of the following: fermenting bucket, bottling bucket and filler, capper, caps, hydrometer, thermometer, airlock and syphon tubing. You can view the setup here.

Each beer kit produces 8 litres of beer and the range is gradually expanding as we introduce new beer styles and try to keep things interesting.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning the brewing starter set all you need to do is go to this page and register your details to sign up to our newsletter. The competition will run until 19th June 2017 at which point we will randomly select an entry and get in touch with you to confirm that you’ve won.

Enter Here!

Get over to the entry page now and register!

 

 

What Is Wine Tannin & How To Use It

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Wine Tannin

Tannin also known as tannic acid is a compound found in wines, most notably red wines that give them a pleasing dryness. Wine tannin is also an additive for increasing the tannin present particularly in country wines that use fruit, vegetables or flowers. If you look at some of the wine recipes here you will see it is in most of the fruit wines even if it is only a tiny amount. What is wine tannin and why is it needed? That is what we are going to cover in this article.

What is Wine Tannin

Tannin is an astringent polyphenol that is naturally occurring in plants, wood, bark and leaves. You have probably heard people describe some red wines as having high tannin content. This is because of grape skins, seeds and stems contain tannins. Different varieties of grape contain more tannin than others and this is why certain varieties of wine are characterised by having an astringency.

Wood also contains tannin and it is notable that wine aged in barrels and wooden casks are more astringent than other wines. The word tannin refers to the use of wood used in tanning process of turning animal skins into leather.

Unripe fruit has a higher tannin content than ripe fruit and this trait stops animals from eating the fruit before the seeds are ready to be dispersed by these animals, tannin in the leaves also inhibits predation by herbivores.

In a similar fashion, grape growers can monitor the tannin content of grapes, when the tannin content drops low enough as the grapes ripen they can determine the best time to harvest the grapes produce a balanced wine. A wine that has the right amount of tannin and is not too astringent at the same time as having the correct dryness, balance and mouthfeel.

Tannin is produced by extraction using a solvent from organic matter such as grape skins. The liquid is called tannic acid and is then dried which produces a tannin powder.

Adding Tannin to Fruit Wines

Wine making grapes have a tannin content that makes wines that have a pleasing astringency. For the country wine maker however, there are not many fruits that have a similar level of tannin. This is a problem because the character that emerges in some fruit wines with low amounts of tannin is flat and dull. It can seem as if there is something missing.

Many older recipes call for tea to be added to a wine. Strong tea is astringent because it is full of tannins. Adding tea was a simple method to introduce tannin to a fruit wine that had low levels of tannin.

Elderberries contain a level of tannin close to wine making grapes, blueberries and blackberries have some but not quite at the level of grapes. In the case of most fruit red wines you make at home, the addition of wine tannin is beneficial to the quality of the wine. White wines will usually not require an addition of tannin or only very tiny amounts.

Wine tannin is a brown powdered additive which makes it extremely easy to adjust your wine. Just add tannin to the must and mix thoroughly.

What we really hope to achieve by adding tannin is to mimic the mouthfeel and dryness that we find pleasant in grape wines. Now, this is of course down to personal preference, some people find even the smallest amount of astringency unappealing, others like it. So how much tannin is needed?

Tannin

How Much Tannin To Add?

Most tannin comes in powdered form here in the UK and in most cases, the package recommends around 1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of wine. This is a rough guide, I would, however, suggest following a recipe rather than adding one teaspoon into every wine you make.

White wines, for example, will often need less tannin than red wines. Some fruits like elderberries and blueberries already have a modest amount of tannin in their skins so will require less. If a recipe states how much tannin to add then follow that advice.

The good thing about adding tannin is you can add it at any point before, during or after fermentation.

I will always add a small amount of tannin before fermentation, allow the wine to ferment and condition and when it comes time to rack the wine to a new vessel, test a sample. At this point, I can see if more tannin is required to balance the texture of the wine and dry it out further.

It is always best to add a little, then add more if necessary. It is more difficult to cover up excess tannin so err on the side of caution

If you are unsure of how much tannin to add then add a small amount, you can always add more if required after testing a sample. The next time you come to make the wine you will have a better idea of exactly how much tannin will be needed.

Brewing A Peanut Butter Porter – Mixing Beer & Peanuts

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Occasionally it becomes irresistible to try out something completely different to the ordinary home brew beer. As homebrewers we can pick and choose exactly what goes into a beer with no repercussions on whether anyone else will like it. I like Peanut Butter and I like dark beers and think the two will marry in perfect harmony, so, I have made a peanut butter porter to fulfil this desire.

Peanut Butter Porter

Using Unusual Ingredients

Ordinarily, I am not a massive fan of adding all sorts of ingredients to a beer just for the sake of it. I have talked about adding fruits before and spices and these additions work great in any beer. I do make an exception though when I think the addition of an ingredient will lift a beer and complement it. In this case, I think the peanut butter really will work well alongside the roasted, toffee and chocolate notes of a porter. That is not to say though I haven’t done a little bit of research on the best way to get the peanut butter into the beer.

Peanut Butter & Beer A Tricky Partnership

The problem with peanut butter as a beer ingredient is the fact that most peanut butters are around 50% fat, not only do peanuts contain a fair amount of fat content but peanut butters are made with oil. Oil and water (or beer in our case) don’t really mix all that well.

This desire to get peanut butter into a beer without the whole batch turning into a mess of beer, oil and peanuts has led home brewers to fairly laborious lengths of de-oiling peanut butter.

Deoiling peanut butter is a process that can take weeks or even months. You get yourself some organic peanut butter which seems to separate itself fairly easily, wait for oil to pool to the surface and tip it away, repeat this process a dozen times over several weeks until you get a dry and dry peanut butter. Still, however, it will have oil in it.

The only option in my view is to find some powdered peanut butter.

Powdered peanut butter contain just 13 grams of fat per 100 grams which is a much better starting point to regular peanut butter. Essentially powdered peanut butter is just roasted peanuts with the oil squeezed out of them. Using this powder we can add peanuts to the beer at any point we choose without introducing a lot of oil, the whole thing is much simpler and less messy. I found powdered peanut butter in ASDA so it must be gaining some popularity here in the UK.

When To Get The Peanut Butter Into The Beer?

Now the crucial decision is when to add it to the beer to get the best results. I have chosen the last minute of the boil, this was in the hope that it will retain as much of the nuttiness as possible and avoid any contamination by adding it into boiling wort. I did notice however the peanut powder settles out into a goop at the bottom of the brew pot fairly easily, I tried to get as much as I could into suspension and therefore into the fermenter to maximise the flavour of this addition.

Peanut Butter Beer Recipe

I added pretty much the whole jar at the end of the boil!. From what I’ve read using peanut butter provides a subtle flavour that fades with age. I will update the site with tasting notes when ready to see if the whole jar was a mistake.

The Porter Base For The Peanut Butter

The beer I have added this peanut butter to is a fairly strong Porter at 6.2%. I never imagined this was going to be a session beer or one I would want to drink pints of back to back, so, I decided to boost the ABV to really fill out the palate and give the nuttiness something to match it in terms of flavour.

The beer is fairly straightforward with a Maris Otter base, Munich, Chocolate and Wheat malts. I did think about adding oats but decided there was enough oils and lipids coming from the peanut butter so decided to leave them out, I can imagine this beer not having great head retention as it is. Hops are a single addition of Fuggles at the beginning of the boil.

Please note that this is a recipe for 9 litres, to scale the recipe check out this information

 

Peanut Butter Porter - Robust Porter
================================================================================
Batch Size: 9.103 L
Boil Size: 10.190 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Efficiency: 70%
OG: 1.061
FG: 1.014
ABV: 6.2%
Bitterness: 30.2 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 62 SRM (Morey)

Fermentables
================================================================================
                       Name  Type    Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
     Pale Malt, Maris Otter Grain  1.950 kg    Yes   No   82%   6 L
             Chocolate Malt Grain 230.000 g    Yes   No   73% 886 L
 Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L Grain 230.000 g    Yes   No   74% 118 L
                Munich Malt Grain 180.000 g    Yes   No   80%  18 L
Total grain: 2.590 kg

Hops
================================================================================
    Name Alpha   Amount  Use       Time   Form  IBU
 Fuggles  4.5% 25.000 g Boil 60.000 min  Leaf 30.2

Misc
================================================================================
                   Name   Type  Use    Amount      Time
 Powdered Peanut Butter Flavor Boil 400.000 g 1.000 min

Yeast
================================================================================
               Name Type Form    Amount   Stage
 SafAle English Ale  Ale  Dry     11 g   Primary

Mash
================================================================================
               Name     Type  Amount     Temp   Target       Time
            Mash In Infusion 6.500 L 72.000 C 65.556 C 75.000 min
 Final Batch Sparge Infusion 6.500 L 75.970 C 75.556 C 15.000 min