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Old 02-07-2011, 02:54 PM   #1
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Default Carbing mead

I'm about to start up a brochet mead and am doing some forward thinking. When possible, I always prefer a sparkling product to a still product (wine, cider, beer, etc). In reading on this forum, however I have read that many people are having difficulties carbonating a mead (either via force carbonation or natural carbing). The basic complaint is that carbonation will occur, but not stay in solution after the bottle is opened.

My question stems from this. Most mead recipes I've seen here have an abv well above 10%. I know that carbing beer above 10% tends to be more difficult as well. Does the difficulty in carbing mead have more to do with the alcohol content, or is there something inherently present (or missing) in a mead solution that resists carbing.

I'm planning on a somewhat "weak" mead (~7.5%) with an ale yeast. I'd rather not produce still mead, but I'd also not go through the motions of carbing if it's a fruitless endeavor. Thanks for the direction.

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Old 02-07-2011, 04:37 PM   #2
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I've never tried to intentionally carbonate a mead, although I did have one melomel that *just slightly* did something on it's own once bottled.

That being said, I wasn't aware that it was difficult to carbonate mead...perhaps it has something to do with the body...certainly you won't get a head on mead like you would in beer, as head retention has a lot to do with residual proteins and larger unfermentable sugars/dextrans left in the beer. I suppose you could intentionally introduce some dextrans by adding a small amount of maltodextran powder and see what effect this will have on carbing

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Old 02-07-2011, 05:19 PM   #3
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I'd like to keep an eye on this. I'm seeing if I can bottle carbonate a few meads right now. (Unfortunately for me, I infected it with Brett so I may have some bottle problems anyways. Had a cool pellicle though.)
Wouldn't it carbonate like any other sparkling wine or champagne so long as the yeast hasn't ceased activity due to alcohol content?
Haven't force carbed since I need to let it age for a few months.

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Old 02-07-2011, 05:44 PM   #4
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I didn't know it was hard to carbonate mead. I've never had any problem. I would guess that if you age it for 6-12 months then bottle carb it you would have to add fresh yeast. If you are using ale yeast and get to 10% alcohol, you might have to add champagne yeast to the bottling bucket. But, like I've said, I've never seen an issue. Bio is right, there is not a head. It is like a sparkling wine.

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Old 02-07-2011, 06:32 PM   #5
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My understanding (and as I am not very familiar with meads, it wouldn't surprise me to learn I was wrong) is that grape wine and mead both have a hard time keeping co2 in solution (ie you can carb it, but as soon as you open, a gush will spring forth and little co2 stays in solution). This is one reason that true champaign takes so long to make: the wine stays on the lees for an extended period of time. Something about the breakdown of the dead yeast fortifies the solution with a substance that helps keep co2 in solution.

If your collective experience says that carbing is no problem, I'll pursue the matter no more.

If I can ask another question... If I am planning on using an ale yeast to produce a mead with a OG ~1.060, is it safe to say that I'll take the must down to ~1.000, despite using an ale yeast? With a mead that is "realatively" light on the abv as I describe, do you think this would be better served still or carbed? My preference overall is sparkling, but as I have not made mead in a very long while (ages ago with a simple bucket, honey, and baker's yeast), I'm looking for some opinions.

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Old 02-07-2011, 07:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
This is one reason that true champaign takes so long to make: the wine stays on the lees for an extended period of time. Something about the breakdown of the dead yeast fortifies the solution with a substance that helps keep co2 in solution.
It is possible that the lack of protein makes for a more lackluster carb. But I think you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between cheap American sparkling wine (force carbonated) and Champagne. They will both bubble for a long time. Maybe the Champagne has smaller, prettier bubbles, but the difference between those two is nothing compared to a Guinness pour. Champagne also takes a long time simply because they want all the sediment out of the final bottle. Something, that I don't worry about.

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If I can ask another question... If I am planning on using an ale yeast to produce a mead with a OG ~1.060, is it safe to say that I'll take the must down to ~1.000, despite using an ale yeast? With a mead that is "realatively" light on the abv as I describe, do you think this would be better served still or carbed?
Beer wort has sugars that yeast can't ferment. There is nothing in mead must they can't eat. So, the yeast will take it to dry. I like to make lower ABV meads with ale yeasts at lower fermentation temps. They can be still or carbed; done both. Why not split your batch and make some of each? Then see what you like?
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Old 02-07-2011, 07:35 PM   #7
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Beer wort has sugars that yeast can't ferment. There is nothing in mead must they can't eat. So, the yeast will take it to dry. I like to make lower ABV meads with ale yeasts at lower fermentation temps. They can be still or carbed; done both. Why not split your batch and make some of each? Then see what you like?
Sage advice. I may just do this.
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Old 02-07-2011, 08:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
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But I think you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between cheap American sparkling wine (force carbonated) and Champagne. They will both bubble for a long time. Maybe the Champagne has smaller, prettier bubbles, but the difference between those two is nothing compared to a Guinness pour.
Uhh, sorry to disagree, but even though I'm no wine connoisseur, the difference between Champagne and force carbonated sparkling wine is usually pretty clear. The Champagne has that bready/toasty flavor that comes from the lees aging, and usually does have a finer bead (smaller bubbles) that stay in solution longer. I'm not a big fan of Champagne because I don't really like that yeasty character, but it does make a pretty obvious difference.

The lees again allows compounds from the cell wall (especially mannoproteins) to be released this helps keep the CO2 in solution better. The are products such as biolees that can add these components without the long aging. Also things like gum Arabic can improve the CO2 holding and make a finer bead in a mead.

You shouldn't have any trouble making a carbonated mead.
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:04 AM   #9
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I'd been thinking about this further after Medsen's last post...if things like proteins and larger dextrans can contribute to retention of CO2 in solution and/or head retention, I wonder if there would be a difference in the carbonation characteristics of mead made with boiling vs a no boil technique?

Postulate: the boil technique mead would tend to have less protein in solution (because of loss due to coagulation/"hot break" during the boil), and would likely have poorer CO2 retention if carbed, compared to a mead made with a no-boil technique.

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Old 02-08-2011, 05:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Postulate: the boil technique mead would tend to have less protein in solution (because of loss due to coagulation/"hot break" during the boil), and would likely have poorer CO2 retention if carbed, compared to a mead made with a no-boil technique.
Excellent Question!
I'd love to see someone try this.
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