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!

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!

Update: Vienna Lager

Hi Everyone,

I’m just posting a quick update on the progress of my Vienna Lager.  After a couple of weeks in primary, the final gravity got down to 1.014 which works out to about 5.08% ABV (not that I really care about the alcohol content of my beers).

I racked the beer to secondary, and now it is lagering away at 34 degrees.  After about a month it will be ready to keg and drink! Now the all important question remains..what shall I brew next? I’ve decided that I want to brew another Belgian-style beer (my first being a Wit Beer).  I’m going to try my hand at brewing a Dubbel.  Now all I have to do is find a recipe!  Until next time, happy brewing!

Vienna Lager

Another successful brew day is in the books! Yesterday, I brewed another lager and I decided on the recipe for a Vienna Lager from my copy of Brewing Classic Styles.  It was my second time doing a 90 minute boil, so I decided to up my total water by about a gallon since I was about a half to three quarters of a gallon short on my volume into the fermenting bucket on my last lager.

Yesterday was warm, but not too hot.  The weather forecast was calling for a chance of showers all afternoon, but I decided to press my luck and brew anyway! My friend Jim came over to hang out while I brewed and his good luck kept the rain away.  As soon as he left, it poured! 🙂

All in all, it was a very successful brew day.  I didn’t come up short in my final volume going into the fermenting bucket, and my brewhouse efficiency was 66%.  I used to be obsessed with my efficiency, but with my system I seem to be consistent in the mid 60’s.  After all, the most important part is that the final product tastes good right? 🙂

The wort is chilling in my fridge down to the pitching temp of 50 degrees.  I will be pitching the yeast tonight!

Here’s the Vienna Lager recipe that I brewed.  Happy brewing everyone!

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: North Of The Border Vienna
Brewer: Karmabrew
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Vienna Lager
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.25 gal 
Boil Size: 8.35 gal
Estimated OG: 1.053 SG
Estimated Color: 11.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66.80 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU 
5.00 lb Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 43.37 % 
3.40 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 29.49 % 
3.00 lb Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 26.02 % 
0.13 lb Carafa II (412.0 SRM) Grain 1.13 % 
1.50 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker [4.00 %] (60 min)Hops 21.6 IBU 
1.00 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker [4.00 %] (10 min)Hops 5.2 IBU 
1 Pkgs Southern German Lager (White Labs #WLP838)Yeast-Lager 

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 11.53 lb
Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Step Time Name Description Step Temp 
60 min Mash In Add 17.30 qt of water at 161.7 F 152.0 F 

Bottled: Hefeweizen

Two cases of Hefeweizen are bottled and ready to condition!  It’s been a while since I have bottled a batch of home brew.  To be honest, when I think of the bottling process, I think it to be a huge PITA and very time consuming (that’s one of the reasons that I got into kegging).  It actually isn’t that bad! Once you get into a groove, those bottles are all full before you know it. 🙂

My brewing assistant, Cooley, investigates and agrees that it’s a job well done!