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Ok, so as some of you know, I was debating on what to brew next, and I finally decided on an orange-ginger mead recipe I found online. Now, the original said to let it sit for about 6 weeks, however, the final alcohol content was only supposed to be 3-4% -that's just a waste of good yeast! So, to the original 2lbs of honey and enough water to make a gallon mixture, I added a cup of sugar (disolved well in water of course) and a teaspoon of yeast nutrient. We're hoping that that will beef the stuff up a bit. I left the airlock dry to let it bubble for the first week (the recipe called for it, and considering that my last batch of wine my airlock went dry for well over two weeks, I didn't think it'd be too much of a problem) and now have it still slowly bubbling away. It's almost at two weeks and starting to smell yummy, though there is alot of sediment at the bottom in addition to much foam around the top. Is this normal for mead? Should I rack it off and possibly strain out the pieces of orange zest and ginger that are still in it? About how long do you think the revised recipe should take? And do you let meads go until they stop bubbling, or do you stop them at some earlier point? Sorry, I know that's alot of questions, but it's info I haven't been able to find elsewhere and I'm hoping someone here has an answer.
Ok. You will want to go ahead an rack the mead. You have a nice thick layer of sediment and the bubbling has slowed down. This means your primary fermentation has come to a close and it is time for your secondary. Letting beverages sit on dead/dormant yeasts for overly long periods of time can cause off flavors. Though with the ginger in it I doubt you would be able to tell a difference. Ginger is great at hiding stuff...
OT: there will be people on these boards who will try to tell you that mead takes like 9 months to be drinkable or more. If you have spices or other strong flavoring additives, this is bullshit.
Yes the foaming and thick yeast deposit is fine. When you rack the mead you can steal a small sample off of it. If you are pleased with the amount of ginger and orange flavor then go ahead and strain them out. Remember you can always "dry-hop" more flavoring if you change your mind.
As far as how much longer it will take that depends on a couple of things like the type of yeast you used and the tempurature at which you ferment. But overall for one cup of sugar disolved into a gallon of water with only 2lbs of honey to start with it shouldnt add much time in the grand scheme of things. Past about 6% to 8% alcohol you start seeing a sharp increase in the fermentation times. 2lbs of honey per gallon is a dry mead unless you stop the fermentation early (which I'm getting to) so the yeast shouldnt slow down much by the time it munches the last of the sugars.
Also typically you will be letting your mead go until it has stopped bubbling for a while. Give your carboy a bit of a shake before you bottle it (to get some of the yeast back in suspension) and see if it starts bubbling again. You want your mead to be completely still before bottling. If you want a sparkling mead you still want it to be completely still and then add a carefully measured amount of sugar just prior to bottling to bottle condition it into a sparkling mead.
Some people choose to stop the fermentation of thier meads earlier than they naturally would. Some people pasturize thier mead before bottling and others use chemicals. I have never been a fan of either but to each thier own.
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