By John Sather
- Measure the specific gravity with your hydrometer, At this point, your must should have fallen to 1.030 or less. If you had a very vigorous fermentation, it may be as low as 1.010 to 0.990, if at 0.990 or under1.000. If so add Potassium Sorbate to your carboy at a rate of ½ tsp per gallon to sterilize yeast from producing or to stop fermentation. Wait a minimum of (24) hour’s. Then add (a high end honey i.e. Orange Blossom or Tupelo) at a rate of one pound per five gallon batch, repeat as needed until sweetened to your liking. Do not go over 1.030. or your mead will be too cloying if you do. If it is above that range, though, there is no real need for concern, Patience, yes, Concern, no.
- Heating will, in fact, kill off the organisms that might compromise your mead. The amount of heat exposure needed to kill off the wild yeast in honey is as little as five minutes at 150 degrees F or about 20 minutes at 140 F. I recommend the lower and slower approach. These aromatic compounds in honey become more volatile at higher temperatures. Those aromatics will account for much of the appeal of your mead, and you want to preserve them as much as possible. If you chill the must in an ice bath or emersion chiller you can pitch yeast slurry at 80 thru 65 degrees immediately and get the fermentation under way, yeast can take from eight up to 48 hours. Don’t worry your yeast slurry is very happy. Meads that have been heated or boiled will generally require a minimum of three months to become drinkable, and will become more rounded between 12 and 24 months. Patience is a virtue.
- No-heat method, one and one half hours to prepare this way. Sanitize your equipment, Mix (stir in) your 12 to 15 lb.’s of honey into one gallon of filtered water in a large pan. Oxygenate the must with an o2 tank and stone (if you have one). Rehydrate your yeast by adding two packets of yeast to half a cup of filtered water at 104-109 and let stand for 15 minutes (no longer). Then gently stir (with a straw) the rest of the dry yeast into solution and pitch the yeast. Oxygenate the must. Put about three gallons of room temperature filtered tap water onto the fermenter (carboy). Add yeast nutrient at one and one half tsp and energizer at one tsp to five gallons into the water. Add your previously mixed water and honey to the water, and mix and splash oxygenate roll your carboy with now what is called must (if no tank and stone set up) on its side (use a towel on the counter). Add hot or cold water to make sure your mixture (must) is at the correct temp, 65 to 80 degrees. No-heat meads are frequently very drinkable in 3 to six months, and should be free of any harsh or unpleasant characteristics in a year. They may continue to improve for another one to six years, and longer if good attention is paid to no oxygen/light exposure. You can prevent oxidation by the use of at least 25ppm of potassium metabisulfite (one-half Camden tablet per gallon). At the last racking. I don’t because I prefer a sherry / port flavor.
- Sparkling wines: Just add (1/2 cup corn sugar) or honey at 1/4 cup. Boil water first then cool to under 100 degrees. Your bottled mead will take at least a week at room temp of 68 to 78 and generally more like a month to become carbonated. If you aged your mead for more than six months it is a good idea to rouse the bottle to stir the bottom of the bottle to ensure that you will have completed carbonation process.
- Clarifying agents can be Gelatin, Egg whites, Isinglass, Sparkolloid, Irish moss, and Petic enzyme this last one to be added with the yeast in a melomel.
- Citric, Tartaric, Malic acid, Acid Blend, My preference is a tartaric and malic acid blend- employed at the end of fermentation or before bottling, Pour mead into three very small wine glasses add a different acid into each mead glass, what tastes best (less puckering or mouthwatering) is added to the four or five gallon carboy at a rate of: dissolve ½ teaspoon of the blend in ¼ cup of water, stir with a wine thief into the carboy of mead and taste. Repeat the process until the tartness and sweetness balance into a flavor/mouthfeel you enjoy.
- Depending on the strain of yeast you use and the nutrient content of your must, the fermentation phase may begin as early as 12 to 24 hours after pitching, or as long as 72 hours. 24 are about right. Unless you fortify your must with nutrients and inject oxygen a prolonged and troublesome fermentation will result.
- In Fruit and Melomel’s it is a practice to freeze the fruit before using it to help break down much of the cellulose between the cells in the flesh of the fruit. This liberates the juice more readily and makes the job of the yeast much easier. Also the use of a hop bag to contain the fruit can yield very good results and reduce your cleanup dramatically. Add fruit to the secondary and rack off when fruit has changed color of fermentation has slowed dramatically or stopped.
- The method of pH adjustment I prefer is to add calcium carbonate (baking soda) at ½ teaspoon at a time, stir, test, and repeat as necessary to bring the pH up to about 5.3 before pitching the yeast.
- Back sweeten with a good quality honey when the normal fermentation has ceased or slowed dramatically. Just add potassium sorbrate at the rate of ½ teaspoon per gallon. Stir it in and allow to work for at least a day (24 hours). At that point, additional sugar (honey) can be added without the risk of the fermentation resuming. I prefer to add honey 1 cup or lb at a time, stirring thoroughly and tasting after each addition (you should add then wait a day if the mead needs more then add again) until the desired sweetness level is attained.
- Your young meads can posses a strongly astringent element, sometimes described as Listerine or dry cleaning fluid. This detractor falls off markedly in the first year of aging. Oak ageing will help a lot; Oak and mead is a match. Oak cubes steamed in one pint of water to about 20 small cubes is right, boil them for 15 minutes in a pint of filtered water with the lid on for all the flavors to fall back into the oak cubes to make a tea. American medium toasted of French oak cubes work the best. Aging away from bright or direct light and at cellar temps between 50 F and 60 F are highly recommended.
- Spices and Methiegilin’s, I would recommend that you utilize small amounts of fresh spice or spice blend in a fiber” tea bag” boil the bag for five minutes first. Place the spices in the hop bag and push the bag into your secondary fermenter with a racking cane. Some people like to add a marble or two or a clean stainless steel nut or bolt to persuade the bag to sink. Sample the mead regularly. Always use at least 12 to 15 lb.’s of honey in a five gallon batch.
- One or two cloves in a five gallon batch, remember small amounts first. One ounce of ginger at a time, cinnamon can be cracked onto chips for use in a muslin bag, Nutmeg and Mace added at 1 to 4 ounces per 5 gallons start small, a gram or two of black pepper is all that is necessary-use with darker honeys like buckwheat or tulip popular. Anise less than one ounce in 5 gallons, Coriander is added after the mead is sufficiently aged to near its peak, Lavender leaves are dried first and is added 2 to 3 ounces at a time during the secondary, Rose pedals-two ounces at a time and adjusted upward-make sure no pesticides were used, Vanilla especially with raspberry and cherry melomels and in metheglins, add beans to the secondary. Also to fruit meads during the primary and secondary1/2 to 2 beans.
About the Author:
John is a highly accomplished home brewer and mead maker. John has been involved with Central Florida Homebrewers for over a decade and has recently started collaborating with Brewers Anonymous. John has won over 60 medals in his time as a home brewer for his beers and meads and he is a highly ranked BJCP judge. Whenever he offers you something to sample, it is highly recommended that you try it.