Orange Blossom Mead Update

Yesterday, I decided to check on the progress of my Orange Blossom Mead that’s in primary. So far, I am about three weeks into primary fermentation.  I was not disappointed in what I found.  I took a hydrometer reading and it came out to 1.004, down from 1.103.  I would say that primary fermentation is about done! I will take a couple more readings next week just to be sure.

Hydrometer Reading of 1.004

I also decided to take a little taste of the sample (the best part of the process).  I was expecting to get pure rocket fuel.  I was very pleasantly surprised with the taste! I didn’t get any of that rocket fuel that can happen with meads after primary fermentation.  I think that the staggered nutrient additions helped with that.  It was dry, but not too dry, and very flavorful! I’m very happy with the progress so far!  Next weekend it should be ready to rack over to secondary.

Until next time, happy brewing/mead making!

Joe’s Quick Grape Mead

Time for another batch of mead.  This time, I decided to do a one gallon batch of Joe’s Quick Grape Mead.  If the recipe holds true, this  mead should be ready in about five weeks!  The mead itself will ferment out dry since I’m using the Lalvin EC-1118, which is a champagne yeast.  Once primary fermentation is complete, I am going to stabilize and backsweeten.   I do plan on cutting the amount for sweetening to 3 oz of honey and 3 oz of grape juice.  I want to add just a little bit of sweetness.

2 pounds clover honey, 64 oz Welch’s Grape Juice with Vitamin C added


Here’s the recipe that I used.  The recipe called for an ounce of buckwheat honey, but I did not have any on hand.  So I just added an extra ounce of clover honey.

2 pounds Clover Honey

2 ounces Buckwheat Honey (I just put an extra ounce of clover in since that is what I have on hand.

1/8 tsp of pectic enzyme (I did not use as the juice is already clear, and the author added a comment saying probably not necessary)

64 oz Welch’s Grape Juice with Vitamin C added

Balance water needed to make total volume 1 gallon

Lalvin EC-1118 Yeast


3 oz clover honey, 3 oz Welch’s Grape Juice, 1/2 tsp sorbate, crushed campden tablet

The Starting Gravity came out to about 1.10.  Now to wait two weeks before I check on it. I can’t wait to see how it comes out!

SG about 1.10

Until next time, Happy Brewing/Mead Making!


Orange Blossom Traditional Mead

Last Saturday, I got my first ever batch of mead under way.  I’ve always been intrigued by mead.  In the marketplace, it’s not really all that common.  There’s a local meadery where I live called Misty Mountain Meadworks.  The proprietor is also a member of our homebrew club, Shenandoah Valley Homebrewers Guild (yes, he also home brews beer!). He did a presentation at one of our meetings and brought samples for all of us to try.   After my first sip, I was hooked.  I have to try to make this!

Mead is a very simplistic beverage.  After all, it’s just honey, water and yeast.  When you start to do some reading on the subject, it can get pretty intimidating.  Mead fermentations can seem to take forever with honey’s complex sugars.  As long as you give the yeast the tools that it needs (nutrients), they will do their job.  I’m in no rush whatsoever, as I am viewing this as my long term project.

15 pounds of Orange Blossom Honey

I purchased my honey from Dutch Gold Honey in Lancaster, PA.  The price wasn’t bad ($60 shipping included), and I got my shipment pretty quick since I’m only a couple states away in Virginia.  For this traditional mead, I used 15 pounds of Orange Blossom Honey, and 4 gallons of filtered water. For the yeast nutrients, I used 2 tsp of yeast nutrient and 1 tsp of yeast energizer. The yeast that I used was Lalvin 71b-1122.  The whole process of getting it into the bucket was simple, it just involved a lot of stirring! I used the no-heat method, as I wanted to preserve as much of the aroma of the honey as possible.  I did have the help of a cordless drill and a wine degassing wand to make the job a little easier. 🙂  For the nutrient and energizer, I measured them out and weighed it on a scale.  I divided the combo into four additions.  I added the first addition to the must before pitching the yeast, and then another addition each day after stirring for the other three additions.

Rehydrated Lalvin 71b-1122 yeast

After all this stirring in the bucket I took a gravity reading with the hydrometer, and it came out to 1.103.  This is officially the highest gravity thing that I have ever made! It should come out to about 13% alcohol by volume. I’m going to let it sit in the bucket for about a month before I start to take gravity readings to see how it is progressing.

Gravity reading of the must

Until next time, happy brewing and mead making!

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that I am reading my hydrometer incorrectly.  The SG is actually 1.112. I don’t usually brew/make anything that has this high of a starting gravity!

11th Hour Coffee Stout

On New Year’s Eve, I had a new experience in brewing.  I brewed outside by lantern light! My four day weekend mainly involved watching our daughter Zoe, while my wife slaved away working at her job. After my wife got home in the late afternoon, it was go time for my last brew session of 2012! Near the end of my mash I had to break out the Coleman lantern, because it got dark! I was a little nervous about how the brew day would go once it got dark.  Well, I have to say that it was fun! The whole process went pretty smoothly, and I was done and cleaned up by 8:30pm. I thought a fitting name for this brew would be “11th Hour Coffee Stout”.


11th Hour Coffee Stout


5.25 Gallons into Fermenter

Boil Time: 60 minutes

SG: 1.052

IBUs: 27.7

Color: 29 SRM


8.5 lbs Pale Malt (2 row)

1.0 lbs Crystal 80L

0.5 lbs Chocolate Malt

0.25 lbs Black Patent Malt

0.25 lbs Roasted Barley

0.75 oz Northern Brewer

WLP004 Irish Ale Yeast made with a 1 liter starter

1.00 qt cold steeped coffee added at bottling


Mash In with 16.13 qt of water at 163.7F and Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes

Batch Sparged with 5.4 gallons of water at 175F

Starting Gravity into fermenter: 1.052 for a brewhouse efficiency of 67.7%


The tough part for me will be deciding what kind of coffee to use! Right now, I’m thinking of going with a Sumatra, or an Espresso blend. What do you think?


Until next time, Happy Brewing!

Looking Ahead To 2013

Oh, what a year this has been! My wife and I welcomed our daughter Zoe into the world in September. With all the preparation leading up to her birth and being busy since she was born, I’ve managed to fit in a few brew days. What a feeling it is being a Father! My wife and I couldn’t be any happier being new parents. Well, now it’s time to start looking forward to 2013, and I’m brainstorming on what I would like to brew.

I would like to make more lagers. My next lager, I want to make a Helles Bock. I also want to make an Oktoberfest and a Schwarzbier. Lagers do take longer and seem a little more complicated, but they are fun to make. I’ve had two successful lagers already (Bohemian Pilsner and Vienna Lager), so I feel pretty confident in the whole process.

Next year, I want to make a couple holiday beers. I was thinking of doing a Pumpkin Porter for Fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving, and a Gingerbread Brown Ale for Christmas. At least I have plenty of time to find recipes for these brews!

I also want to try my hand at doing some winemaking. I want to make a couple small one gallon batches of fruit wine (raspberry, strawberry, peach), and I want to make my first mead.

Off the top of my head, these are some of the things I want to try through the course of 2013. I’m sure I will come up with more!

Until next time, happy brewing and Merry Christmas!

First Brew of 2012

Weather wise, this weekend was absolutely wonderful and I had to take advantage of the milder temperatures by brewing a batch of beer.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Stout recipe, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Flan's Standard Stout
Brewer: John Darsie
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Dry Stout
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.63 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 4.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.047 SG
Estimated Color: 32.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.8 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 83.3 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
9.63 gal              Stephens City, VA                        Water         1        -             
6.00 g                Calcium Chloride (Mash 60.0 mins)        Water Agent   2        -             
2.50 ml               Lactic Acid (Mash 60.0 mins)             Water Agent   3        -             
1.00 g                Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 mins Water Agent   4        -             
7 lbs                 Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           Grain         5        68.3 %        
1 lbs                 Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM)                 Grain         6        9.8 %         
1 lbs                 Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM)             Grain         7        9.8 %         
12.0 oz               Roasted Barley (500.0 SRM)               Grain         8        7.3 %         
8.0 oz                Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)               Grain         9        4.9 %         
1.00 oz               Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 60.0 Hop           10       16.8 IBUs     
1.0 pkg               Irish Ale Yeast (White Labs #WLP004)     Yeast         11       -             

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs 4.0 oz
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 16.83 qt of water at 163.1 F        154.0 F       60 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 5.45gal) of 168.0 F water

Created with BeerSmith 2 -




I hit all my numbers, and I got my best efficiency yet, which was almost 75%! I’m really excited to see how this beer turns out! 😀

Starter Wort

I’ve really been slacking off with the brewing/blogging for the past few months. Oh well, that’s what happens when life/work gets in the way.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading about making/canning starter wort.  It seems like a no brainer to me! After all, it would take no time at all to get a yeast starter going during the week.

From some research online, I read that you want the gravity of the starter wort to be between 1.030-1.040.  Using Beersmith, I came up with a basic recipe of 5 pounds of pilsner mashed at 148F for about 3.5 gallons of starter wort. Beersmith predicted a starting gravity of 1.037 which was spot on!

I gave each quart jar over an inch and a half of headspace, to compensate for the hot break when it boils inside the jar while pressure canning.  In total, I filled 14 quart jars, which should last me a long time!



I processed the jars at 15psi for 15 minutes. Lots and lots of break material. Only 2 of the 14 jars did not seal, and I put those jars straight into the beer fridge to use up for my starter on my next brew.  I’m kinda proud of myself for not making a huge mess! 🙂

Until next time, Happy Brewing!