Temperature control concerns in mead fermentations

From:    Dansher209@aol.com
Subject: Re: First timer

Dansher209@aol.com wrote:
> I have been threatening my wife with starting my own homebrew of mead and it
> is quickly approaching that time.  My primary concern is that I have no place
> to store a batch that I can guarantee a constant temperature either high or
> low.  We live in Florida and do not have a basement and the temperature
> fluctuates greatly.  Will this cause a problem with the fermentation other
> than varying the length of fermentation?  If so, is there a recipe you could
> recommend that would not be as affected by this variance or would have a
> short fermentation time?  My personal preferences lean toward a higher
> alcohol content (dryer) drink. Any comments would be appreciated.
> Thank You!
> Daniel Watson
> Dansher209@aol.com

I'm so glad that the "opportunity" that I had to move to Florida didn't pan out. For one, it would mean a great change in my brewing habits. For another, I see that the panhandle is getting the snot kicked out of it once again by a (relatively mild) hurricane this week. I'm glad I live where it only rains 366 days out of the year...

Regarding your mead making. I think that the higher temperature fermentation might be good in the short run, as the fermentation will happen much quicker. However, with this time savings might come the penalty. I think that higher fermentation temperatures will lead to the production of higher molecular weight alcohols. Not pleasant alcohols by any measure...

If you can find a (relatively) cool, shady place for your fermenter, such as a closet floor, then at least you can get a fairly stable temperature, if not a cooler temperature than what you might achieve in a garage. I don't know how big your living space is, but maybe if you can arrange a spot in a quiet place with your signifigant other, you could make a lamp stand or something! Put a nice cover on it, and a plant or something, then forget about it for a while.

Another alternative would be to wait for cooler weather. I know that, based on my one trip to Florida (in May) that "cooler" is a truly relative term. However, if you were to start your fermentation in, say January, then the fermentation should be over by the time the truly uncomfortableness sets in, say mid March!

As far as a recipe goes, my recommendations are as follows. Use one gallon of honey in about 4.5 gallons of water, with the batch prepared and treated according to my mead guide instructions. Insure that you have a VERY healthy and high population yeast culture to start with, and oxygenate as best you can. (Some homebrew supply stores now sell what's called an "oxygenator", essentially a bottle of oxygen used to gas up the post kettle must.) Any good ale yeast will do, but maybe a neutral one to start with, like Wyeast 1056 will be a good start. Need I mention that you should probably stay away from Lager yeasts?

The key to a good, fast fermentation is the yeast population and health. Get these going real hard in a good starter first, and pour the slurry into your fermenter with lots of aeration. I'm not kidding when I say a half gallon of slurry isn't too much! If you've got this kind of population, you may need to cut back on your initial water addition, which will lead to a sweeter mead. But probably not by much. Happy yeast will ferment whatever they can get their little yeasty teeth into. And rouse the yeast off the bottom of the fermenter if things start to go slow. Give the early flocculators a second chance at the sugars.

If you time this all right, then you can ferment, rack, ferment some more, and bottle in 6-8 weeks. Plenty of time to allow you the rest of the year in an uncomfortably hot (for yeast anyway!) house!

When I mentioned your concerns to a couple of brewing friends of mine, they reminded me of one of the local favorite ways of temperature control. It seems that the true symbol of the high-tech brewer around here is the possession and use of a temperature controlled room, perhaps the size of a coffin. These are usually old refrigerators or chest freezers, and serve double purpose as lagering rooms for the chillier fermentations that take place with lager yeasted beers. I don't know what your personal space environment is like, but if you have room for a chest freezer (best option) or an old fridge (next best option, as they are more likely to be found at a reasonable price), then set yourself up with a temperature control unit and mead away to your hearts content!

I hope this helps. If you need some more ramblings of a demented mind, feel free to write back. I enjoy babbling! Really, I do!

Copyright 1997 by Rich Webb, aka The Outsider.


This page is authored and maintained by Rich Webb.You can send E-mail to me by following this link to the contact page. And feel free to contact me if you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions. I remain, however, perfectly capable of ignoring your useless opinion...

This document was placed here on July 25, 1997, and has been viewed countless times.