hist-brewing: Slow Ferment, what is fast, and nutrients

NATHAN T MOORE NTMOORE at SMTPGATE.DPHE.STATE.CO.US
Wed Jul 7 10:20:28 PDT 1999


It appears that Owen may have misunderstood my post, so I figure
others may have as well.  Based on Al's posts I began wondering about
the merits of intentionally slowing the fermentation rate.  When I say
slowing, I mean decreasing the rate at which the yeast "works" during
the fermentation.  This would be visibley noticable through the reduced
rate of CO2 production and bubbling of the airlock (or popping of the
stuffed rag :-) ).  The commonly held belief is that if you add a lot of yeast
and have as quick a ferment (highest bubble rate) as possible you will
produce better mead.  However, Al is saying that he makes great mead
(won the AHA Nationals with a 7 month old (young) mead, which is
VERY impressive, especially if you know the quality of meads that are
entered in the Nationals, must of which are very well aged) with only 1
packet of yeast per 4 gallons and yeast nutrients.  Al's philosophy is
"cool and slow", note the SLOW part.  So what my post is questioning, is
if the long held philosophy many of us have of more yeast and fast
fermentation rate equals better mead, is actually FALSE (gasp).  (notice
that I am questioning the common knowledge here, gasp-gasp!)  One
factor is definitely temperature since a vigourous ferment will raise the
temperature of the mead, but this is probably not the only one since you
can have a fast ferment AND a cool temperature by simply dropping the
ambient temperature as I do with my meads.  So what my post (included
at the bottom of the page) is questioning, is if we should be pitching
smaller quantities of yeast and not trying to promote the quick ferment
that we usually do with beer when we make mead.  An example of this
is, which mead would turn out better, one that you pitch a huge starter in
that has an explosive fermentation and bubbles once per second (my
usual method) or a mead with only 1 packet of rehydrated yeast per 4
gallons that bubbles once per 3 seconds?  Before I would jump up and
say, with out a doubt it would be #1, but what if I was wrong and I never
realized I could make better mead with #2.  That is what Al claims.  I am
sure  both methods make excellent meads, but I am interested in making
the best mead I can.  So, I hope that is more clear and again I ask, does
anyone else have information to support this?  And Al, let me know if I am
misunderstanding your process at all.

To answer one question, although, since this is Al's method he may be
better able to answer.  I personally would consider a slow ferment one
that produces about 1 bubble in the airlock every 2-3 seconds while a
fast ferment  produces 1-2 bubbles per second and a head.

I personally am planning an experiment to test some of these ideas as
soon as I get some empty 1 gallon fermenters and a couple of gallons of
honey.  One thing that I would like to do though is try this with a more
period kind of nutrient than Fermax.  What kind of yeast nutrients were
used pre 1600?  I feel reasonably period using malt as a nutrient
(although I use extract in my meads to save doing a mash, I feel
comfortable with this since it is the same ingredient, just using a modern
time saver), but what else can people suggest so I can add more
variables to my experement?

Nathi

Owen wrote,

>>> <Owenbrau at aol.com> 07/07/99 07:05am >>>
In a message dated 7/6/99 6:37:10 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
NTMOORE at SMTPGATE.DPHE.STATE.CO.US writes:

> This whole philosophy of slowing down the ferment seems very
>  counterintuitive to me, but there is evidence showing it may be a good
>  idea.  It seems like there should be more to it then temperature since I
>  ferment at about 60 degrees and even with a vigorous ferment the
mead
>  seems to stay below 65 or so.  What are others thoughts on this
>  subject?  Does anyone else have data points to add to this?  Has
anyone
>  seen any historic literature pointing to the idea of intentionally slowing 
> the
>  ferment?

temperature is not the only factor in the vigor of fermentation. the quantity

of yeast pitched, and wort/must aeration also affect it. a single package
of 
dry yeast, even rehydrated, is not really enough for 4 gallons; i generally 
use a package per gallon, when using dry yeasts. i prefer to use liquid 
cultures, especially for beer, but for wine and mead as well. with those,
a 
good starter culture, at least 1 pint for 5 gallons of product, is a good 
idea. aerating the wort/must will also improve the ferment, as the yeats
need 
O2 during the initial stages of fermentation, when the yeast is building up 
the cell count.

aeration and pitching quantity speed and invigorate the ferment because
the 
culture is healthier. higher temperatures affect the actual chemical
process, 
speeding it up, and producing far more in the way of off flavors; 
solvent-like and fruity ones especially. it also makes it much easier for
any 
residual bacteria to grow.

Owen


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