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IXIboneheadIXI 08-22-2012 03:06 PM

aging?
 
so i was reading through here as im interesting in making a mead, so does it age in the bottle? as i know most liquors that are ages stop aging the second they go from barrel to bottle. and how does mead age? like what exactly does the aging do?

also can you make a mead like drink with just pure maple syrup? or what are some good maple syrup based drinks?

Zabuza 08-22-2012 10:54 PM

Yes, it does age in the bottle. The rate at which it ages depends on the kind of cork you use, but all bottle aging will be significantly slower than bulk aging (i.e. aging in secondary or tertiary). Most people bulk age for 3-12 months (depending on what kind of mead they are making), transfer into bottles, and then open a bottle once a year or so until it is perfect. Some people have aged meads 20, 30, or even 50+ years...there isn't really a shelf life. Honey is famously good at lasting over long periods of time (there is still honey you can eat being found in Pharaohs' tombs) and once you add 10-20% alcohol it helps bolster its ant-microbial properties even more.

Generally, though, bulk aging is faster than bottle aging, but either can go on indefinitely.

EDIT - just saw you asked what aging is. I don't know the exact science of it for mead, but basically it's twofold. One is oxidation, which happens slowly through the cork. A slow, gentle oxidation helps smooth out the mead and adds depth and complexity (this is why cork choice is important - they directly control oxidation rates). The second is a combination of yeast and biproducts from fermentation. Allowing it to bulk age on the yeast for those first few months/year allows the yeast to clean up after itself and consume some unfavorable compounds. In addition, a lot of these compounds break down over time (like fusel alcohols) so aging just allows them the opportunity to do so before they go down your gullet. Hope that helps.

IXIboneheadIXI 08-23-2012 01:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Zabuza (Post 4353240)
Yes, it does age in the bottle. The rate at which it ages depends on the kind of cork you use, but all bottle aging will be significantly slower than bulk aging (i.e. aging in secondary or tertiary). Most people bulk age for 3-12 months (depending on what kind of mead they are making), transfer into bottles, and then open a bottle once a year or so until it is perfect. Some people have aged meads 20, 30, or even 50+ years...there isn't really a shelf life. Honey is famously good at lasting over long periods of time (there is still honey you can eat being found in Pharaohs' tombs) and once you add 10-20% alcohol it helps bolster its ant-microbial properties even more.

Generally, though, bulk aging is faster than bottle aging, but either can go on indefinitely.

EDIT - just saw you asked what aging is. I don't know the exact science of it for mead, but basically it's twofold. One is oxidation, which happens slowly through the cork. A slow, gentle oxidation helps smooth out the mead and adds depth and complexity (this is why cork choice is important - they directly control oxidation rates). The second is a combination of yeast and biproducts from fermentation. Allowing it to bulk age on the yeast for those first few months/year allows the yeast to clean up after itself and consume some unfavorable compounds. In addition, a lot of these compounds break down over time (like fusel alcohols) so aging just allows them the opportunity to do so before they go down your gullet. Hope that helps.

thanks, that was a great answer! now, for the secondary/tertiary aging, what do you age in, and how do you tell when you should put it in a bottle?

also since commercial mead is insanely hard to find, what is the best kind of mead or is it preference?

Zabuza 08-23-2012 07:40 PM

For secondary/tertiary, people almost exclusively use carboys (usually glass because of the long term untested-ness of plastic carboys). They can be any size you want, though most people use 1, 3, or 5 gallon carboys. Primary's done in either a bucket or another carboy. When you reach secondary/tertiary, make sure you top up with water or somehow completely remove any head space above the level of the mead. Air exposure is bad at this point.

Mead is ready for bottling when fermentation has completely stopped (either stable SG readings for 2-3 weeks or campden tabs + potassium psorbate), the mead has been degassed (no CO2 in it), and it is clear. For degassing, you can buy an attachment that goes in a power drill and whips up the mead (releasing all the CO2), or you can just wait for ages (I think all of it is gone by month 6 or 8, but check to make sure). Clearing is achieved by racking and cold crashing. Rack every month or two to get it off the lees, and things should clear up fine. If you have trouble, cold crashing (i.e. sticking it in the fridge) will help more lees settle out. Not sure about chill haze in mead, you might wanna look into it. Fining agents can be added if you have a particularly stubborn mead that just won't clear. Once fermentation has stopped, the mead degassed, and it is clear as crystal it should be good for bottling. It will, of course, continue to improve if you let it age even after all these criteria are met, but that's up to you.

As for your last question, I'm not quite sure how to proceed in answering it. I'll agree that I don't much care for commercial mead (nor do most). About what "kind," though, I'm not quite sure what you're asking. I would recommend trying dry or semi-sweet meads, as they are more interesting and difficult to find. If you mean by "kind" a certain meadery, I find B. Nektar Meadery to produce some decent stuff.

IXIboneheadIXI 08-26-2012 09:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Zabuza (Post 4355628)
For secondary/tertiary, people almost exclusively use carboys (usually glass because of the long term untested-ness of plastic carboys). They can be any size you want, though most people use 1, 3, or 5 gallon carboys. Primary's done in either a bucket or another carboy. When you reach secondary/tertiary, make sure you top up with water or somehow completely remove any head space above the level of the mead. Air exposure is bad at this point.

Mead is ready for bottling when fermentation has completely stopped (either stable SG readings for 2-3 weeks or campden tabs + potassium psorbate), the mead has been degassed (no CO2 in it), and it is clear. For degassing, you can buy an attachment that goes in a power drill and whips up the mead (releasing all the CO2), or you can just wait for ages (I think all of it is gone by month 6 or 8, but check to make sure). Clearing is achieved by racking and cold crashing. Rack every month or two to get it off the lees, and things should clear up fine. If you have trouble, cold crashing (i.e. sticking it in the fridge) will help more lees settle out. Not sure about chill haze in mead, you might wanna look into it. Fining agents can be added if you have a particularly stubborn mead that just won't clear. Once fermentation has stopped, the mead degassed, and it is clear as crystal it should be good for bottling. It will, of course, continue to improve if you let it age even after all these criteria are met, but that's up to you.

As for your last question, I'm not quite sure how to proceed in answering it. I'll agree that I don't much care for commercial mead (nor do most). About what "kind," though, I'm not quite sure what you're asking. I would recommend trying dry or semi-sweet meads, as they are more interesting and difficult to find. If you mean by "kind" a certain meadery, I find B. Nektar Meadery to produce some decent stuff.

by kind i meant sweetness level, and what type, ive seen fruit meads, spiced meads, meads with maple, plain meads, etc. is there like a consensus on some good types and some not so good types or is it one of those hate it or love it type of things with each type

IXIboneheadIXI 08-26-2012 09:45 AM

also is mead carbonated? EDIT: i posted this before reading about the degassing part, so im guessing no, lol

derekc153 08-26-2012 09:59 PM

I've only done one mead so far (a blueberry melomel), but I have to say I didn't age it even close to a year (3 weeks primary, bottled after 2 months) and it tastes pretty good. The starting gravity was 1.132, final gravity 1.020 (14.7% abv), so it is fairly sweet, which does reduce the need for aging. It is definitely better chilled, and perhaps aging would smooth it out a little more, but honestly putting it away for a year sounds like overkill. Haha, I don't want to have to factor my life plans into my brews. If it's your first mead, like it was for me, taste it when you rack, and if it tastes promising, you may want to move up the schedule.

roadymi 08-26-2012 11:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by IXIboneheadIXI (Post 4353620)

also since commercial mead is insanely hard to find, what is the best kind of mead or is it preference?

We did a winery tour in the Finger Lakes region earlier this summer. One of our stops was at "Earle Estates". They had a wide assortment of meads. It was on Seneca Lake about 1/2 way down.

IXIboneheadIXI 08-27-2012 02:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by roadymi (Post 4363189)
We did a winery tour in the Finger Lakes region earlier this summer. One of our stops was at "Earle Estates". They had a wide assortment of meads. It was on Seneca Lake about 1/2 way down.

that sounds like it would be fun, what was the cost for the mead? ive personally never seen commercial mead so i have no clue on the cost

Zabuza 08-27-2012 09:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by derekc153 (Post 4363046)
I've only done one mead so far

I have to say I didn't age it even close to a year (3 weeks primary, bottled after 2 months) and it tastes pretty good.

honestly putting it away for a year sounds like overkill. Haha, I don't want to have to factor my life plans into my brews.

I would highly advise against reasoning that involves appeal to anecdotal evidence that happened one time. I would also advise against doing so when what you are saying conflicts with the overwhelming consensus of mead makers on this forum (and in general). If you read my post carefully, I said age for 3-12 months, bottle, then open a bottle every year or so. I also said that was a generality, not a set-in-stone rule. Regardless, I clearly indicate that 3 months is doable, and given that yours was 2.75 months, you're sort of just restating my original point (yet somehow claiming to disagree with what I said).

Not to overstep here, but you really shouldn't be giving that sort of advice to newbies. The potential for misinterpretation is too great - someone would think they could make a "simple" show mead in like a month or so.

You are correct, however, that some extraordinarily strong and sweet meads can be ready in 3 months. This is referred to as "sack mead." Unfortunately, this does not hold true for the vast amounts of other types of meads out there. In fact, sack meads are a very small proportion of the meads people make on this forum. Melomels are usually given far, far longer than what you gave yours.

To the end of your post - this is what leads mead makers to say "If you want to brew mead, you better have lots of time, patience, and self control." A year is hardly overkill; there are stories all over this forum about 30, 40, and 50 year old meads. Some guy made a batch a year before his wedding, then opened up a bottle each anniversary until the batch was gone. Another man made one when his daughter was born, and opened the first bottle when she turned 21. Although these are some pretty epic examples, I would still strongly advise 6 months to a year for most batches (unless you're making a sack mead). The aging schedule for sack meads most definitely should not be applied to all meads.


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