Category Archives: Winemaking

Cherry mead update

Plastic pail fermenter (actually taller than carboy)
Glass carboy (not to scale, actually smaller than pail)

This weekend, I racked (transferred) the cherry mead from the fermenting bucket into a glass carboy, to get it off the fruit and start clarifying.  I started with a bucket because it has more room top for bubbles while fermenting and it is easier to get all 12 pounds of cherries in and out.


With all brewing projects, it is important that everything be clean and sanitized.  I start by filling the carboy with sanitizer.  After the carboy was sanitized, I transfer the sanitizer to a 5 gallon bucket.  I’ve learned is that you don’t dump out the sanitizer until you are done, even if it means that you need an extra bucket.

Once everything was sanitized, I started with a standard siphon.  This is a great time to collect a sample for tasting, and I had a cup handy. While siphoning, it is possible to lift the racking cane up, off the bottom, allowing clear mead from the middle of the bucket to flow.  It was a very nice pink, nice aroma and tasted great.  It was just on the dry side, with some tartness and some fruit flavor.

When I had all I could siphon (and taste), I put the strainer in the really large metal bowl and began dumping from the bucket into the strainer.  The bowl was filling so I stopped and dumped the liquid into the carboy and then continued until the bucket was empty.

After emptying the really large metal bowl into the carboy, I used the smaller bowl to squeeze the cherries and collect any remaining juice.  This worked really well and netted about 1/2 gallon of liquid.

This process stirs up the mead quite a bit, which is not a good thing.  I didn’t want to stir in oxygen or bacteria, so I worked as gently as I could.  After everything was in the carboy I stopped it up with an airlock and moved it to the basement.  The yeast and sediment that was stirred up is already beginning to settle.

The next part is the hardest, even though it requires the least amount of work from me, waiting until it’s ready to bottle.

December 2008, Mead, Chicken & Repair update

The Cherry Mead stopped bubbling this week, so it took about 4 weeks to ferment completely. Any time now it can be transferred (racked) into a glass carboy and allowed to clarify. It smelled great while bubbling, so I have high hopes for it.

The chickens started laying the week before Christmas. I brought the chicks home on July 1st, so they are 5 months or about 25 weeks. Chickens need more than 12 hours of light a day to lay. I have two 250 WATT infrared lights on a timer to give them 13 hours of light and keep them warm. It appears to be working.

Sunday night I discovered that the sump pump had quit working. Actually, it was trying to work, but the pedestal that supports the motor had self destructed and the whole thing was turning. I was able to put together a splint using 1 1/2 PVC pipe and hose clamps. It should hold until I can replace the pump this weekend.

I would like to be able to pump out the sump without electricity. Lehmans has this hand powered transfer pump, which looks like it would do the trick. I may have to pick up one as a backup.

Home brewing day, cherry mead

This years cherries, after thawing
This year's cherries, after thawing

These are the cherries that we harvested back in July.   There are 12 1/2 pounds.  I wasn’t ready to use them at that time, so they were frozen.  To thaw them, I put the bags of cherries in a large metal bowl and kept them in our “cold room” for three days.

Our cold room is an area of our basement that is unfinished and unheated.  This fall we cleaned it out and built in a shelf.  This time of year, it stays about 40 degrees.  It’s great for storing root vegetables and other things that like it cold and dark.

I’ve made cherry mead before, but it seems like I learn something every time.

After reading this article on, I was quite convinced to continue making mead without heating.  Unfortunately, honey does not dissolve very well in cold water.  After emptying the honey, there was quite a bit of honey was left in the jars.

I added water to the honey jars and used a butter knife to stir the left over honey into the water, then shook the jars.

Even though I added another gallon of water to the fermenter and stirred vigorously, the honey was not dissolving.  I tried our hand held mixer (in the photo above) and that worked fabulously.  The honey / water mixture took on a milky appearance.

Once the honey was dissolved, the bags of cherries were emptied into the metal bowl.  I was amazed at the amount of juice.  Freezing and thawing had juiced the cherries for me!  There was so much juice that I only needed 3 gallons of water to make 5 1/2 gallons of must.

UPDATE 12-2-08:  I mixed this batch on Sunday and it took until Tuesday evening to start the airlock bubbling.  The yeast might have started faster had I warmed the water to 80 or 90 degrees.  It would have helped the honey dissolve.

UPDATE 12-10-08: It is still bubbling, although it does sound like it is slowing down.  It will be time to rack into a new carboy in about a week or two.

UPDATE 12-13-08:  No action in the airlock.  I think that primary fermentation is about complete.

Here is the complete recipe:

  • 3 gallons water
  • 12 1/2 pounds of cherries
  • 12 pounds honey
  • WLP720 Sweet Mead yeast from White Labs
1 gallon of water was added to the fermenter, then the honey.  The honey / water was stirred with a large spoon, then a hand held mixer.  The cherries, juice and yeast were added and gently stirred in with a large spoon.  The fermenter was sealed with a lid and airlock.
We also bottled a cyser that was brewed about this time last year.  It came out fantastic!  Tart with a great apple flavor.

Brewing day-Mead and Cyser

The Sunday before last was mead and cyser (cider with honey) day. I racked a mulberry mead, made a mead with this years grapes and made a cyser. I spent about 2 1/2 hours in the kitchen, most of it was washing or sanitizing equipment. Brewing is mostly about getting everything clean, making food for your yeast and letting it do it’s job.

The mulberry mead. This was started in July. The recipe:

  • 12 pounds honey, from the local Co-op.
  • 1 1/2 pints mulberries from the back yard
  • 1 cup left over cherries from the cherry tree.
  • WLP720 Sweat mead yeast, from Whitelabs.

I wanted to do something different with this mead, so I pressed the berries through a stainless steel colander to separate the juice from the berries. I took pictures, but my old camera memory quit working and I lost the photo.

I started by adding 1 gallon of water into a 6 gallon carboy, then the honey. I 1/2 filled the honey jars with water, caped them tightly and shook until the left over honey dissolved. The dissolved honey was then added to the carboy.

I capped the carboy and plugged the hole in the cap with my thumb and shook, shook, shook. It takes quite a bit of shaking to mix the honey and water. I then added another gallon of water and shook some more.

The juice and left over berry skins went in and more shaking. Finally, I brought the water up to the 5 gallon mark, added the yeast and give it one final shake, caped it and filled the airlock.

If you don’t know where the gallon marks on your carboy is, you can figure it out by filling it, one gallon at a time and marking the carboy with stickers or tape.

That was 2 months ago. Now, I racked the Mulberry mead into a sanitized 5 gallon carboy. This was done with a siphon hose and racking wand. Once in the 5 gallon carboy, it was given a newly sanitized airlock and cap. It is important to take the mead off of the dead yeast and spent berries, once the fermentation ceases, to avoid unpleasant flavors, but really I needed the 6 gallon carboy for my cyser.

The 6 gallon carboy was washed and sanitized.

Apple Cyser recipe:

  • 4 gallons Apple cider
  • 6 pounds honey.
  • Whitelabs WLP775 English Cider yeast.

I followed a similar procedure to the above mead. 1 gallon of apple cider was added to the carboy, then the honey. The honey jars were 1/2 filled with cider and shaken to dissolve any remaining honey, then added to the carboy. The carboy was capped and shaken to dissolve the honey into the cider. I continued to add cider and shake until all 4 gallons were in the carboy. Finally I added the yeast and gave it one last shake, capped it and filled the airlock with water.

I used to heat my meads, to kill off anything wild in the honey or fruit, but quit a few years ago. I was talking with a professional mead maker and he said that heating it changes the flavor and that honey is naturally anti-microbial. He was right! I haven’t had a batch go bad since.

This Frontenac mead was created as a way to use the grapes I grew over the summer. I only harvested about 1/2 pint of fruit, so I decided to make a small, two gallon mead.

  • 6 pounds honey
  • Frontenac grapes, 16 oz. jar.
  • LALVIN K1-V1116 yeast
  • 1 3/4 gallons of water.

Since this mead was smaller, I made it in a 3 gallon, carboy. I didn’t actually have one, but had been meaning to purchase one for smaller batches, so I took this as prefect opportunity.

I had wanted to press the grapes, as I did with the berries for the mulberry mead, but I hadn’t purchased the yeast or carboy when I harvested the grapes and since I was concerned that wild yeasts would start the fermenting process, so I froze the grapes.

I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to thaw the grapes and press them and in a comment on, Erroll indicated that the freezing process should be sufficient to “crush” the grapes. He was right. I started with about 1/2 gallon of water in the clean/sanitized carboy, added the honey and then rinsed the remaining honey out of the honey jars with water and added this to the carboy. I gave it quite a few shakes to throughly dissolve the honey into the water, added the grapes and yeast, and brought the water to 2 gallons. One final shake, then it was capped and airlocked.

In is interesting to note that the grapes have just about lost their color and the mead took on a very slight blush, especially compared to the cyser.

They have both been bubbling along quite nicely. Since their ferments are off to such a nice start, I moved both to the basement. At about 62 degrees, my basement is a bit cold for these yeasts, which prefer something around 70 degrees; however, I have found that fermenting at too cold a temp is better than a to warm a temp, as long as it keeps fermenting. The higher temps tend to yield to more medicinal tasting alcohol.

Netting for the grapes

Erroll, of stopped by and recommended I put bird netting over the grapes. I had thought about putting up something to keep the deer out, but forgot about the birds.

I attached some boards to the top of the posts, then attached 1 inch deer fencing. The fencing is 7 feet wide and comes on 100 foot rolls. It took two pieces to fully cover the grapes. One on each side.

This reminds me of picking cherries earlier this summer. The Blue Jays were screeching at us and trying to chase us off. Blue Jays are very territorial and apparently have no idea just how small they really are.

Now that the grapes are covered, I can sleep easier. Thanks for the reminder Erroll. Now if I could find netting to keep out Japanese beetles…


Erroll of stopped by some time ago. He has quite a bit of information on wine making and gardening, with a “Northern” grower perspective.

WashingtonWineMaker has only been on the web since April 2007, but already has posts on vinticulture, tomato wine, rhubarb wine, mead and maintenance & cleaning.

I’m interested in how his tomato wine turns out…

Cherry Mead

p5050116-cherry-mead.JPGCherry Mead was bottled last weekend. It’s always nice to have somethine special for all those summer get togethers.

The mead was made from about 13 pounds of honey and some frozen, pitted cherries (a few pounds), White Labs WLP715 Champagne Yeast and water to make 5 gallons. The batch was started on July 23 of 2006, so it was almost 10 months old when bottled.

I have a Juiceman Jr. veggie juicer that I used to juice the cherries. I added the juice and about 1/3 of the pulp to a clean and sanitized carboy. Then I added 1 gallon water and the honey. The mixture was shaken until the honey was dissolved. I added enough water to bring the mixture to 5 gallons and then added the yeast.

In October, when it was done fermenting, I transfered the mead to a new carboy. It had a medicinal taste. When I bottled it on May 5th, it was much better, dry and tart.

For some meads I have used the WLP720 yeast. I like it a bit better, it leaves a sweeter taste, but you have to be careful and not add too much honey/sugar as it can’t tolerate as much alcohol as the champagne yeast (12% vs. 14%).

I once made a Cyser (apple cider and honey) with the WLP720. It seemed to stop fermenting early and was too sweet. I didn’t want to bottle it that way, so I added a champagne yeast and waited a month. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere so I bottled it. It was good, but still too sweet. I forgot about a few bottles and when I discovered then, WOW! it was Apple Champagne, carbonated and sparkley.

The bottling process that works really well for me is to first clean the kitchen. I use both sinks and an a 6 gallon pail. One of the sinks gets hot soapy watter, the other is used for rinsing. The bucket is filled with sanitizer. I then place a clean towel on the kitchen counter.

I wash 6 bottles (that’s what will fit in my pail), rinse them and put them in the sanitizer. I then wash 6 more and rinse them. Then I take the first 6 out of the sanitizer and put them on the towel and the second 6 go in. I continue this process until I have enough bottles. The timing works out about right so the bottles have just enough time in the sanitizer (about 5 minutes). The whole bottling process can take a few hours, so I like to start right after a meal.

Since I didn’t use bottling sugar to carbonate this mead, it can be enjoyed right away, or saved for a special occasion.

Bottling the Dark Mead

I bottled the Dark Mead today. It’s almost a year old. The alcohol has broken down nicely. The spices contribute a very nice flavor. It is too sweet though. My wife suggested mixing it with sparkling water, and that works great.


The grapes are long enough to make it up to the trellis, so it’s time to install it.

I picked up some Aluminum wire are the hardward store and ran it between the posts.

The galvanized steel wire had a “caution: contains a chemical known in the state of California to cause cancer”. Yikes! That’s lead! Be careful what you buy.

I installed the lower wire at about waist height (about 40 inches) and the other 12 inches higher. I ran out of wire, so the job is not complete. Also, so I only went between poles with wire and didn’t try to join the wires. I didn’t want the plants to have to grow over wire joints.

I then loosely tied the plants that were tall enough to the wire. Later, I will tie the rest of the plants and finish installing the wire for the trellis.

Bottling the Cyser

Time to bottle the Cyser.

The honey and apple cider were first mixed on 10/30/05, so this has been fermenting for 7 1/2 months.

The bottles are sanitized then the cyser is siphoned into a bottling bucket. I decided to bottle it with out any bottling sugar so it will be flat, like wine, rather than with bubbles, like champagne. It is a little tart, with a strong apple flavor. Just right for fish, or after dinner.

You can look through archives for pictures of the Cyser. Look in October, December and January.