The Art of Fermentation had me all excited to try fermenting, and wild fermentation, at that. But honestly, I have no idea how mead should act. Or country wine. So experimenting with wild fermentation, by its very nature less “orderly” and more inconsistent, has been a bit frustrating. I wouldn’t say a single experiment has been wildly successful so far. The oddly tasting fig wine may come out okay in time, but I’m not so sure.
So, I decided to try yeast. We’ll play with wild fermentation when I have a better idea what wisdom and experience has been gleaned by others. Sort of backwards from how people figured things out over history. But no one said I had to reproduce that!
I had a whole bunch of cherries in the refrigerator, and not enough time to run to the city for the proper yeast. I had plenty of bread yeast, though. Yes, I know it won’t be great. But it will be something to compare against for the future. I wanted to do a mini-comparative analysis (limited by my access to fermentation vessels). I had no idea how much yeast to use, and was curious if volume would affect things. So I put together this little grid:
|Vol\Yeast||1/2 tsp||1 tsp||1 1/2 tsp|
In retrospect, all of those are way too much yeast, probably.
Preparation went something like this: Cut all (dark sweet) cherries in half. Distribute into all jars (about a third of the jar’s volume). Pour sugar over cherries per grid, then shake to coat. You will notice that sugar to water ratio is not varying here. In the mean time, I boiled distilled water. Once the distilled water was boiling, I poured over the cherry sugar concoction and stirred vigorously. I covered each vessel with a tight lid, but loosely tightened. Then, I let this sit for 12 hours cooling down and pulling color and what-not from the cherries.
The next morning, the 12 hours having elapsed, I proceeded to add the yeast. The jars were still warm, but definitely not hot. That’s about as refined as I can make it; I didn’t use a thermometer. I added the yeast and stirred. Within minutes, all were foaming a bright pink mass. 5C produced truly excessive foam, which had to be stirred every couple minutes to keep from overflowing the vessel. 5A, B and E were also excessively foaming, though not anywhere near to the extent of 5C. 5D had minimal foaming while 5F foamed, but the foam stayed below the level of the solution. I stirred as necessary to reincorporate the foam.
After about three hours, 5B,C and E were were no longer frothing, but were producing gas bubbles. 5A and 5D were doing a mix of frothing and producing gas, while 5F was mostly just frothing still. Another two hours and all were no longer foaming, but producing gas visibly and with gusto.
I started this process on Aug 8th, so the yeast was added on the morning of the 9th. It is now the 11th, and all are still actively bubbling, though it is definitely slowing down across the board.
Because the yeast was so over the top, I’m not sure if I will see a noticeably different time for fermentation to “end”. While early on there was a stark difference in color, e.g. 5C was a pink milkshake while 5D and 5F were thin reds, all are a deep, opaque red now, with 5C only slightly softer in hue. A couple more days, I expect fermentation will be over for this phase, and it will be time to rack into some other vessel. Whether I continue them in separation, or combine, I am not certain.
The whole time I have kept them covered, based on input from the web. I have since learned from browsing at the bookstore that bright light can significantly lighten the color, so probably for the best.
Overall, a much better experience. You can definitely see that something is happening. I don’t expect to get a dry wine out of this. The bread yeast are just not up to the task. So it likely won’t keep long.
For now, I’ll end with some pictures: