You Get Lazy, You Don’t Document, You Make Something Incredible


A few months ago, I started a single gallon batch of something similar to “Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead” also know by it’s acronym: JOAM. I say similar, because I know I substituted something, was short on honey…something. I remember when I racked to secondary, I added more honey that I had dissolved into some more water. I don’t know those details or when exactly I started this batch, because I got lazy and didn’t document it here. Probably December sometime is the best I can do.

JOAM is basically a very popular homebrew recipe for a fruit mead. Oranges, plus honey, plus water, plus yeast, plus time, equals JOAM. It’s very simple—even uses bread yeast. Yes, other yeasts have been tried. No, they did not taste better. (That’s the story, anyway. I haven’t compared, but plenty of people have, I guarantee. Here’s the recipe, if you want to give it a try:

Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead

1 gallon batch
* 3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
* 1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
* 1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
* 1 stick of cinnamon
* 1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like – these are potent critters)
* optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
* 1 teaspoon of bread yeast ( now don’t get holy on me— after all this is an ancient mead and that’s all we had back then)
* Balance water to one gallon

Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights –add orange (you can push ‘em through opening big boy — rinds included — its ok for this mead — take my word for it — ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. (Need room for some foam — you can top off with more water after the first few day frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen. Put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don’t have to rehydrate it first– the ancients didn’t even have that word in their vocabulary– just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not) (The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don’t use grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90’s)

(Wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don’t shake it! Don’t mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except it’s okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking — Don’t you dare
additional feeding — NO NO
More stirring or shaking – You’re not listening, don’t touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that) (You are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don’t need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet) likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn’t work out… you screwed up and didn’t read my instructions (or used grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away). If it didn’t work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.

If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make a different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey— This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don’t knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make a good ancient mead.

Enjoy, Joe


So, my little gallon has been sitting on the counter in the kitchen for months and it is nice and clear. There’s a little sediment on the bottom. I tried moving it once and the sediment started getting agitated very easily, so when I bottle it, I’m going to need to be careful not to disturb it or siphon any of it.

I carefully took a sample tonight…probably an ounce. I could smell the citrus (and maybe the honey?), but it wasn’t like juice. It was more like the zest. The flavor was the same way. Zest. Citrus oil. Then warmth. Since I didn’t document anything, I have no clue what the ABV is…probably around 13-15%? But it didn’t burn. It was just warming. I think a rest for several months in bottles and, by Thanksgiving and Christmas, this will be a real treat! I’m usually good about documenting everything, I can’t believe I didn’t this time. Lesson learned. Like the title says: “You Get Lazy, You Don’t Document, You Make Something Incredible”. Then you have no way to exactly duplicate it again. Ugh. I will definitely follow the JOAM recipe again!


Jackfruit Cider?…We’ll See!

Fresh Jackfruit

Fresh Jackfruit

I recently aquired a free, big, fresh jackfruit. It involved a weird box of birthday prank presents from some teenage boys to my nephew. Yeah. Okay. Anyway, he wasn’t going to actually DO anything with it and offered it to me. I accepted it, not having any idea what to do with it…but I’m always up for a challenge.  You can read all about the challenges of preparing a ripe jackfruit here: https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/jackfruit-what-you-need-to-know-before-you-buy-a-fresh-one/

So, after comtemplating for a day, I decided to use some of it for a cider experiment. The fruit isn’t juicy, so I decided to cook it in syrup first to break down the cells a little to start the process. I used 2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water, brought it to a boil, added 2 pounds of fruit, and covered to return to the boil.

Making syrup...and prepared jackfruit

Making syrup…and prepared jackfruit

Stirred a couple of times as it cooked for five minutes.When the fruit was raw, it had an odd aroma and a flavor like banana plus pineapple/mango/peach? No acidity at all. I believe the cooking helped it all the way around.

Adding jackfruit to the syrup

Adding jackfruit to the syrup

While the fruit cooked, I prepared a 2 gallon fermentation bucket and added 2 crushed campden tablets and a teaspoon of pectic enzyme. Then I added a gallon of cold water and the fruit/syrup.

Stirring the fruit and other ingredients together in the fermentation bucket.

Stirring the fruit and other ingredients together in the fermentation bucket.

I checked the SG (Specific Gravity, an idicator of the potential alcohol) with my refractometer and got 1.02-ish. I added 3 more cups of sugar and a cup of honey (11 ounces), stirred to dissolve and checked again. This time, I got 1.083. As the fruit ferments, it may give up more sugar, so I’m good with an OG(Original Gravity…the starting point) of 1.083. I now have 24 hours to see what yeast I have on hand, and decide if I have something appropriate or if I need to go buy something different…and what. I was thinking of doing a mead, by the way, but I didn’t want to experiment with 6 pounds of honey, which would have cost at least $36 + tax. But I think it would be good. I believe that the relatively small amount of honey that I did include will enhance this recipe nicely.

Update: 6/3/15: I had a 1/2 envelope of a CY17  wine yeast from Vintner’s Harvest in the refrigerator…sounds appropriate, should be a good amount, and saved me a trip to the LHBS. It is supposed to work for meads and sweeter wines, so it should be okay for this project.

Pitching yeast in Jackfruit Cider

Pitching yeast in Jackfruit Cider

Update 6/5/15: I noticed the airlock had activity yesterday. Not aggressive, but regular. That continues today, so we will have something alcoholic eventually. Don’t know how it will taste…but there will be alcohol!


Finally Bottled Bulk Aged Cider

Sample of cider...finally bottled!

Sample of cider…finally bottled!

I needed to free up some room in our refrigerator, so I finally bottled the cider that I made last Fall…September? October? Anyway, it bulk aged in 1/2 gallon carboys for months and I moved them into refrigeration when they started getting some carb/pressure in the carboys. I drank a few glasses, but it was kind of dry and boozie. It was made from a mix of crab apples, pears, Ginger Gold apples and Pink Cripps apples. I would have to go back and look in my notes to see what additional fermentables I added, but I do know that I bumped the OG up to 1.097 initially. The SG at bulk aging was 0.993, so the ABV was 13.65% at that point.

Once I combined all the 1/2 gallon jugs into a bottling bucket, I added a 1/2 cup of honey, dissolved in 1 cup of hot water. The OG is 1.000 and I’m not sure if that means the ABV went down and/or whether it will go up again as it carbs. Either way, it WILL be strong! I had enough left in the bottling bucket to taste and it is much nicer with a little sweetness. I hope that stays.

After bottling, I had 18 bottles and 1 tester that basically was the hydrometer sample, topped off with cider from the bottling bucket. In a couple days, I’ll check to see if I need to pasteurize. Glad to finally have this batch bottled!


Tropical Fruit Cider/Mead?

I had some fruit that I needed to use before it was no longer suitable for anything but compost. I bought a couple of star fruits (carombola) and a mango on markdown at the grocery store and I had a couple of pears that were getting overripe. Also on hand were 3 large apples…Gala, I think. Might have been Fuji. I ran all the fruit through my juicer and added the juice of about 1/2 a lime and a dribble of bottled lemon juice, just to keep it all from turning brown. This all equalled about a half gallon of pretty thick juice. So, I added enough water to bring the volume up to a little over a gallon and the SG reading on the refractometer was about 1.022. To bump that up, I added about 12 oz honey mixed with hot water to dissolve. That brought the SG up to about 1.052. I finally settled for an OG of 1.073 after adding 2 cups of white sugar.

I’m in kind of a gray area between cider and melomel (fruit mead). The mix of honey and sugar, plus the relatively low alcohol potential, probably pushes it more toward cider. I also added 1/2 tsp  of pectic enzyme, 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient, and 1 crushed campden tablet. This will sit for 24 hours and then I’ll have to decide what yeast to pitch. Need to think about that one.  The final starting volume looks like approximately 1-1/3 gallons. I’m assuming that I’ll wind up bottling a little under a gallon when finished. I didn’t take any pictures yet…just jumped into it. I’ll snap some tomorrow when I pitch the yeast.

24 hours after adding nutrient, pectic enzyme and Campden tablet.

24 hours after adding nutrient, pectic enzyme and Campden tablet.

Update: Looked over the available yeast at the local home brew shop and decided to try a yeast made by Vintner’s Harvest, simply called Premium Wine Yeast CY17.

C17 Premium Wine Yeast

CY17 Premium Wine Yeast

It says “For full bodied, rich fruity aromatic white/blush and dessert wines. Excellent strain for white country fruit & flower wines.” It does say that it is a slow fermenter, but I’m in no rush. Pitched the yeast early this afternoon…no sign of airlock activity as of 7:45 pm.

6:40 pm  Earlier today, I noticed a slow bubble action in the airlock. This yeast is said to be a slow fermentor…I guess so. It’s definitely not taking off with a rhino fart aggressiveness…but it’s going!

2/10/15 Airlock action seems to have stopped after about 7 days…in fact, may have ceased a day or two ago. There’s no rush, but when I get around to it, I’m going to do the first racking.



Merry Christmas and Starting a Half Gallon of Cider

Some yeast and some cider.

Some yeast and some cider.

It’s been some time since I have brewed or fermented anything…holidays and vacation have taken so much of my time! I was grocery shopping today, however, and I bought a gallon of White House brand “Fresh Pressed” Apple Cider (not from concentrate, “all natural”, from whole apples, pasteurized, etc., etc.). My daughter likes unfermented apple cider, some I’m splitting this gallon and fermenting the other half. It cost $5 for the gallon, so I’m not too worried about this not working out. Here’s what I’m doing:

In one 1/2 gallon growler, I’m putting a 1/4 teaspoon each of pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient and a little under 1/2 gallon of the cider. In the other 1/2 gallon clear carboy, I had stored  in the refrigerator, some recovered East Coast Ale yeast. I had never gotten around to draining the wort off of it…but I don’t think it’s worth trying to ferment into beer. What I have done is removed it from the refrigerator and added a couple tablespoons of honey.

Tomorrow night, I’ll see what’s going on. If all goes well, the yeast will activate, I’ll pour off the wort, and add the yeast slurry to the cider. Another 24 hours will show me if it’s going to ferment. I’m not sure how the East Coast Ale yeast will do with cider…I hope it works and I find out!

As for other project updates, the East Coast Cascade American Amber is interesting. The initial taste was a little dank and had a slight astringency in the finish. The carb has come up nicely and the astringency is almost completely gone. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, but it’s very drinkable and tasty. The Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale IS amazing and has been well received by all who have tried it. Finally, the robust porter and it’s coffee version were not promising at first. Passable, but not really what I was hoping for. Another couple of weeks in the bottle and I was pleasantly surprized that it had turned out to be pretty darn good, after all. Cheers!



Day 133 Brew Day! Citra Saison with Harvested Yeast Starter

Setting up for brewing

Setting up for brewing

This was an uncharacteristic brew day for me. I usually don’t brew on weekdays. Certainly not Mondays. But the starter I had hoped to pitch in a Citra Saison pushed me back a day. I have never harvested yeast and never made a starter before now and I was afraid that the starter was going to be too weak. I worked out a boost for the starter (see previous post) and moved the brew back a day.

After I got everything all set up and ready to go, I got my BIAB (Brew In A Bag) in place and heated my strike water, 6 gallons.  The goal was 150F…water went to 154F and I mashed in. The water only dropped 1/2 degree though. I turned off the heat and made a run for ice. When I returned, the temp was 150.2F. Over the next 45 minutes, I tried my best to maintain the target temperature of 150F; however, it was probably more consistently in the 153F range.

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and "sparge"

After the BIAB (Boil In A Bag) steep and “sparge”

Here is where I will talk about my changes to the original recipe that I found online. First of all, I decided to do Pale Malt 2 row, instead of Pilsner. Two reasons: sale on Pale and 60 minute boil instead of 90 minute. (Some recommend Pilsner boil for 90 to reduce chance of off flavors.) Next, I added 1 teaspoon of Irish Moss at 15 minutes left in the boil to aid clarity. I also realized that I had forgotten to buy 1 pound of Belgian Clear Candi Syrup…made a run to the closest brew shop, only to find that they are closed on Mondays. Aaaargh! So, I substituted a pound of raw North Carolina honey, instead (at 10 minutes left in the boil). I am also planning on adding a dry hop step to secondary. The recipe calls for Citra hops to be added 1/2 oz at 30 minutes and 1/2 oz at 10 minutes left in the boil. I am a big Citra fan, so I am going to add an ounce in secondary.

Okay, back to the procedures: After the 1 hour mash in, I did my usual “tea bag” style dunking and draining of the bag, using a large pizza screen over the pot for support. I then set up a bottling bucket with 2 gallons of sparge water at about 150F and used the spigot with some hose on it to do an improvised sparge. I’ve used this method that, as far as I know, I made up, a few times and I think it helps a little. This left me with a rather full kettle, so the boil was a challenge and had to be monitored pretty carefully.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

The pizza screen was helpful in the tea bag style sparging and in helping keep bugs and debris out.

I set timers for my additions and all of that went well. Did my usual ice bath chill and managed to get the temperature of the wort down to about 90F, pretty quickly…good temperature for Belle Saison yeast.

Now, I wanted to use my glass carboy for primary fermentation, so I could have a visual on activity. The problem is getting 7 gallons of wort from a stock pot into a heavy glass 6 gallon carboy using a funnel. I struggled and spilled a bit, trying to figure out a grip and pouring into a small target that filled quickly. I could see that wasn’t going to cut it, so I poured about 3/4 of the wort into the bottling bucket I had used for the sparging, and then went through the spigot and hose into the carboy. Obviously, I was going to have too much wort, so, rather than toss it, I grabbed and sanitized a one gallon carboy and put the rest of the wort into it.

I used my oxygen tank to oxygenate the big carboy for two minutes and the little one for one minute. Between the refractometer reading of 1.048 and the hydrometer reading, corrected for temperature to 1.044, I’m  going to estimate 1.046 OG.* Rather than try to decant my yeast starter, I decided to swirl the flask to mix it well and pitch the whole thing…guesstimating some for the smaller batch. The starter wort used pale DME (Dry Malt Extract), so it shouldn’t hurt the flavor of the beer. The recipe doesn’t give a projected FG, but Belle Saison is pretty aggressive, so I’m betting on around 1.002 for the big batch. So, maybe a 5.78% ABV? I would be happy with that.

Here's the volume of wort I wound up with.

Here’s the volume of wort I wound up with and my flask of starter yeast.

I have no clue what to expect for the one gallon batch, because I’m going to add one pound of fresh cherries to secondary fermentation, rather than dry hopping it, and the sugar in the cherries will surely kick fermentation back into gear. I currently have the whole cherries in the freezer with some vodka. When it comes time to rack the small batch, I’ll crush the cherries into the vodka a little to release some juice and add it all. I’ll probably use a 2 gallon bucket that I use for ciders to do the small batch secondary, so I have a wide opening with which to work.

The recipe calls for a week each for both primary and secondary; however, my Hi-Nelson Saison needed a little over two weeks for primary and then a week for secondary. And the small batch may go longer in secondary. I’ll probably even rack the small batch to a tertiary stage to clarify once it’s off the fruit. Probably back into a glass carboy again so I can judge the clarity.

The big question mark is whether my yeast starter was going to work. The yeast was pitched at 3:15 p.m. and the carboys were set on a heating pad, on the lowest setting. At 6:30, there was no activity evident and the glass felt pretty cool.

Carboys on the heating pad.

Carboys on the heating pad. (Beside some Hi-Nelson Saison with Hibiscus and some Diet Root Beer (Truvia)

I upped the heating pad to medium and wrapped the carboys in a “Space Blanket”. By 9:30 p.m., they were both chugging along in the airlocks…not violently, but good, frequent bubbles every second or two. Success!!! Woo hoo!!!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket...now we're chugging!

Heating pad AND Space Blanket…now we’re chugging!

I cold crashed the hydrometer sample just to see what it looks like and how it tastes at this stage. Obviously malty and sweet at this point, but it seems like it will be nice and clean, light bitterness and the hops should shine through on the main batch and the Belle Saison should add a little spice and funk. The little cherry batch should be really interesting!

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

Hydrometer sample, cold crashed and easier to get a read. And a taste for evaluation.

*I also let this sample come to room temperature and took another hydrometer reading. at 74.2F and 1.046, adjusted to 1.047, so that will be my new OG to go with. I read the hydrometer with no contacts or glasses and it was much easier to get a good read, so I feel confident with that figure. (An additional refractometer reading, of course, calls it 1.048, so…whatever!) Could be around 6% ABV…anywhere in that  5.75 to 6.05% range is close enough.

For the original version of the recipe, go to this link or cut and paste into your browser:


Always give credit where due!

Update: Okay…the following morning, the airlocks were fouled. I quickly set up blow offs and the yeast is going at it, big time! Definitely had enough yeast!



Day 123 Finally Bottling Pineapple-Mango Melomel

Setting up to bottle the Pineapple-Mango Melomel. Nice color!

Setting up to bottle the Pineapple-Mango Melomel. Nice color!

I decided it was time to go ahead and bottle the Pineapple-Mango Melomel. It was started on April 3rd, so about 2-1/2 months to this point. I love the color of it, like a golden late harvest Riesling or an ice wine. The ABV is at 15.09%. The flavor is hot with alcohol, but the pineapple is very evident. Hopefully, it will mellow over time and the mango will come out too. I got ten 12 oz bottles to put away for a year and a half or so…maybe November, 2015?

I like the Boulevard Brewery bottle in the foreground.

I like the Boulevard Brewery bottle in the foreground.

I may hold some until Nov./Dec. 2016. I also had enough to fill probably about  9 oz in another bottle, so I added a little bottled water and capped it with my fingers crossed. I used oxygen absorbing crown caps and I marked that last one with a black X. I’ll open that one sometime next Spring just for fun…and hope it isn’t bad!