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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Mead Forum > Blueberry Melomel Question
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Old 05-07-2013, 04:56 PM   #1
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Default Blueberry Melomel Question

I have a 5G carboy sitting around not doing much and I wanted to make a blueberry melomel when blueberry season hits NJ (usually in July)

So my idea is to make a 4 gallon batch but I have several questions.

First when it comes to racking to secondary, say I primary it in a normal bucket (don't really want to do primary in glass for something new) rack it to secondary in a 5 gallon carboy would there be enough headspace? I figure with all the blueberries I'd be adding to secondary it may not be enough

Second question is the best way to handle the blueberries, should they be pureed or crushed or just left whole?

This is basically my plan of attack.

Recipe

1 Gallon of Honey - Not sure of the type or weight, my first shot I want to work in volume measurements to get that but I've seen a 3-1 water to honey ratio used before and I'm hoping it's not too crazy. I want a really strong honey and I don't care too much about the type because I intend to make this very blueberry forward with heavy secondary additions. Unless you can still get the flavor then.

10-12 pounds of blueberries - haven't decided on this year. 10 pounds is what I read gets a strong flavor on one site, they say 2.2 per gallon but I'm thinking about pushing that even further cause I want this to scream Jersey blueberries. Thoughts are appreciated

2 oz of vanilla extract. Adding to honey in primary for a tiny bit of vanilla taste.

White Labs Sweet Mead/Wine Yeast (WLP720)

I assume I'll need to make a starter with the yeast but my basic goal is to make a ton of mead enough to last years even so I can see how it grows.

I plan on following the general rules of making mead so I'd just follow someone elses recipe for that but basically I'd make the simple mead ferment for a month in primary then rack onto blueberries

Other questions, what is the difference between using fresh or frozen blueberries? Do you thaw the frozen ones? Also as far as the racking goes. If I rack from my carboy to a bucket for an hour or 2 while I clean my carboy, then rack back to the carboy is that ok?

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Old 05-07-2013, 10:47 PM   #2
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I would split your berries in half between primary and secondary. Freeze them before use if they fresh. This will help to break cells down for most flavor extraction. Then crush berries to help release juices. My suggestion not to use WLP720, you might regret it down a road. This yeast known to be finicky to use. It is one of the worst yeast to use in mead. I would go for dry yeast K1V-1116 or 71B-1122 makes particulary good melomels from dark berries with high content in malic acid. 1 pack for up to 5 gal and no need for starter.
No problems with additional racking, meads are more resistant to oxidation than beer or wine, just bee careful and don't splash it around, I see no harm. Just make sure you don't leave too much headspace in carboy when bulk aging. I usually formulate my recipe a galon more or so this way I can top it up from 1/2 or 1 gal carboy.
And don't afraid of using class carboy as primary. They are very handy for when you degas like mad with a drill atachement and will not overflow as easy as bucket will. Pour crushed fruit in and rack off the lees and yeast when primary completed. Easy.

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Old 05-08-2013, 02:28 AM   #3
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Thanks for the advice!

How would I avoid too much space in the carboy for bulk aging? Should I make a 5 gallon in my primary (6.5 gallong bucket) then rack it over to the secondary (Five Gallon Carboy)?

Or will like a gallon of headspace or so be ok?

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Old 05-09-2013, 11:06 PM   #4
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I would not leave 1 gal headspace, mead will oxidize given enough time and lots of headspace. I make 5 gal recipe then usually 4 gal goes to secondary due to racking losses, trub. I split 4 gal between 3 gal + 1 gal carboys and use 1 gal to top up later so I always have full to the neck carboy

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Old 05-10-2013, 03:46 PM   #5
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I wouldn't really worry about the head space that much.

My only suggestion is to add 1 cup of lemon juice. This oddly enough makes blueberries taste more blueberry. 1 cup wont affect it that much and you may not even be able to taste the lemon but trust me it will punch up the blueberry flavor.

Also, I would oak it with lightly toasted oak chips or cubes for about 3 weeks when it's almost clear. This will help blend the flavors and smooth out harshness young mead sometimes has.

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Old 05-12-2013, 09:24 PM   #6
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I've had good experiences with WLP720. It isn't a very fast yeast. But it ran to just over 14% ABV in my ginger metheglin. That was with no nutrient and without aerating the must after pitching.

For my blackberry bochet I ran the berries in a blender with some water for just a few seconds. I know others recommend freezing and thawing them a couple times to break up the cell walls. I also recently learned that pectic enzyme should be given a solid 24 hours to work on the fruit before adding the fruit to the must. Whichever method you choose, I would definitely break up the berries before adding them if you want to get the most flavor from them. And then keep a close eye on the primary after you add the berries. I still have blackberry spots on my kitchen ceiling because the berries plugged the airlock and blew it out the top. Next time I use berries I'm going to try breaking them down in my pressure cooker.

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Old 05-15-2013, 04:16 AM   #7
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Thanks for the suggestions!

Would it be worth it to get blueberry honey? I can get the gallon I need for 56 bucks locally, maybe a touch cheaper if I ask for a bulk deal but it seems hard to find raw honey for much cheaper than that anyway so is it worth it to do blueberry or save another 6 bucks and just get regular honey?

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Old 05-15-2013, 07:18 AM   #8
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Are you wanting to make a 100% fruit mead, or one incorporating some water too?

If you can get blueberry flower honey at same pricepoint go for it. But, it is hard to make sure the bees only visit blueberry flowers.
And if you forsee more meadmaking in your future, and if you can afford it, just buy a 5-gal bucket of raw honey...if you like the honey. By the time you buy three 1-gal jugs you have paid for a 5-gal bucket, or pretty close to it.

Do not add vanilla extract in primary, you will lose the majority of its essence in the fermentative action. Add once you have reached F.G., but if you plan to oak this hold off on the vanilla because some oaks will impart vanilla undertones.

Do NOT crush your blueberries before hand. A simple single freeze/thaw is all that will be necessary to rupture those cell walls once the ferment starts. Plus the freeze/thaw will increase your juice yield, on top of being sure to use pectic enzyme. You can put the fruit in the legs of nylon stockings, mesh straining bags, paint straining bag, etc, for easier containment resulting in less volume loss when it is time to rack. But I would recommend working with a bucket until all solids are removed, it makes it so much easier to manipulate the fruit, stir the must, take samples, gently squeeze the fruit. In primary just keep lid resting on the bucket, then when you remove the initial fruit via handy bag/nylons (5-8 days is likely) you can apply airlock. Rack once hits target SG, add remainder of fruit via handy bag, and secure lid/airlock. If you really want it under glass you can go there. And there is no harm if you have to rack must to clean/sanitized bucket while you quickly clean the glass carboy & then transfer back to carboy. I did that many times when I owned just one carboy (now I have too many to count unless you loan me your fingers & toes).

Frozen vs Fresh Fruit? Commercially available frozen fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness & promptly frozen, typically prime quality. And you always thaw the fruit because yeast go dormant when too cold. The same cannot be said for fresh fruit. If you are sourcing from the grower, they should have a refractometer in their toolbox. Ask then the Brix of the fruit, they should provide an average, also ask for the high, the low, and ask when they took the reading. Ask if they can take a reading in your presence.

I also think you will like your melomel if you use 50% of the berries in primary & the remainder later in secondary container. Consider starting a gallon of traditional mead at the same target ACV as your melomel, that way you have a topping up liquid on hand. Do you have tools to check pH and TA?

Blueberries have been known to cause stalls with even the killer yeast strains like EC-1118 or K1V, has to do with something in the vaccinium species..so make sure you have a backup plan if you do use WLP720--you will want to use two vials of the sweet mead yeast for a 5-6 gallon batch, and be aware that the yeast will ferment to dry depending upon your OG. An be prepared for it to take forever, my one use took 6 months to ferment out at 12% ACV, a same batch just different yeast was dry in 23 days. D47 has always yielded nice results with my blueberry meads, no stalls.

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Old 05-16-2013, 05:13 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the tips!

I'm getting fresh because there's a time every year when fresh blueberries will be really on sale.

Now about the vanilla, would you recommend throwing some oak chips in? would there be a benefit to that?

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Old 05-16-2013, 07:32 AM   #10
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An easily made mistake is that someone has mis-identified the yeast.

The White Labs Sweet Mead is ok as far as I've read - its unavailable here.

Its the Wyeast Sweet Mead thats the PITA. Finicky to use with my 3 attempts either sticking mid ferment or not starting at all.

If using fruit in a batch like this there is nothing gained usually in obtaining a fine varietal honey as the actual honey taste is washed out by the fruit.

For a traditional its different as you'd be aiming to showcase the honey....

Equally, there is nothing gained in processing the fruit any further than freeze/defrost (hell just freeze it in a flat tray then bag it, you can just pour it into the batch still frozen, where it defrosts but also does like a mini cold crash encouraging the yeast to drop out quicker). The chance of damaging the fruit seeds and introducing bitterness is too great for anything else.

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