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Old 03-06-2012, 03:37 PM   #1
MasterJeem
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Default Carbonating from a scientific perspective

So I have three batches of mead going right now and have never made it before. I've tried it at the renaissance festival about 6 years ago and i absolutely loved it! The only think i can think of that I, as a new mead maker can't really wrap my head around is the way to carbonate. If you are to add a type of sugar before bottling, does that mean that your honey and other sugars are completely depleted, leaving you with a very dry mead? from what i can remember the two that i had sampled they were very sweet. So technically, would it be true that if you want a sweeter mead (I do) does that mean you cant carbonate it because the yeast is gone, or the alcohol percentage is too high for the yeast to handle? I've done so much reading on this subject and just can't seem to figure this one out. unless the mead is still able to have a sweet taste with the sugars broken down into something else that the yeast simply doesn't want. I'm sure i'll find out after a few tries, but i don't want to end up with 15 gallons of sparkling dry mead.

tl;dr - is it possible to carbonate a sweeter mead considering the fact that sweetness is what carbonates it at bottling?

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Old 03-06-2012, 03:47 PM   #2
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The yeast stop doing their thing (producing alcohol and CO2) mostly for these reasons:

They run out of food (sugar).
They can't handle the alcohol level.
They die for some external reason (heat, infection).

If you want to carbonate a sweet mead, you just need to make sure they have enough sugar to crank out EtOH and CO2 before going dry.

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Old 03-06-2012, 04:17 PM   #3
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Right, but come bottling time, shouldn't the process of fermenting be over? Meaning that either the sugar or the yeast is done for? If you have 2/2 of them left then the fermentation process is still happening, am i correct? And if the alcohol content is too high for the yeast to handle, then adding sugar at bottling time would do nothing. At least that's what i'm assuming.

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Old 03-06-2012, 04:35 PM   #4
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Normally, you carbonate by fully fermenting your mead, cider, beer, or whatever, then adding a small amount of sugar at bottling time. This added sugar restarts a small fermentation in the bottle and carbonates the beverage.

A sweet, sparkling beverage is sought after by many a new meadmaker and cidermaker. Unfortunately, given the options of sweet vs dry and still vs sparkling, a sweet AND sparkling drink is the hardest to make. You (usually) need yeast and sugar to carbonate and additional sugar to create sweetness. Problem is, you can't train yeast to eat just enough sugar to carbonate. The yeast want to eat all the sugar. Your sweet mead becomes dry and your bottles will become overcarbonated and possibly explode.

There are a few options, such as carbonating with pressure in a keg, pasteurizing the bottles once they are carbonated properly, and sweetening with a non-fermentable sweetener.

For a new meadmaker, I wouldn't suggest any of these. I would suggest trying my hand at either sweet OR sparkling first. Then, you can try for both.

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Old 03-06-2012, 05:33 PM   #5
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thanks for the great responses! i have considered using dry ice to carbonate, as well. anyone have any experiences with this? i figure if i put in some dry ice in a partially air tight bucket, it will carbonate it enough and should turn out fine without effecting flavor or making bottle bombs an issue.

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Old 03-06-2012, 05:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GinKings View Post
For a new meadmaker, I wouldn't suggest any of these. I would suggest trying my hand at either sweet OR sparkling first. Then, you can try for both.
Learn to walk before you run.
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:04 PM   #7
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I would stick to using the sugar and yeast for the following reasons, The first is the high chance that you might make a mead bomb in the house. once the dry ice vaporizes back into it's gas state it's could easily raise the prussure over what the bottle can handle (giving you the Sticky honey bomb). But even if we figured out just the right amount of CO2 you still have the issue that the industrial process to make dry ice might involve steps you probably wouldn't want to put in your drink. However, if you do use the dry ice methode keep us informed, I would like to know how it worked out.

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Old 03-06-2012, 06:09 PM   #8
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You could add complex sugars that the yeast cannot consume hence giving you the sweet taste

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Old 03-06-2012, 08:40 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zbay View Post
I would stick to using the sugar and yeast for the following reasons, The first is the high chance that you might make a mead bomb in the house. once the dry ice vaporizes back into it's gas state it's could easily raise the prussure over what the bottle can handle (giving you the Sticky honey bomb). But even if we figured out just the right amount of CO2 you still have the issue that the industrial process to make dry ice might involve steps you probably wouldn't want to put in your drink. However, if you do use the dry ice methode keep us informed, I would like to know how it worked out.
my plan is to carbonate it with the dry ice prior to bottling, therefore giving it no opportunity to over-pressurize. the dry ice will be long gone before the mead touches the bottles.

i do like the idea of a complex sweetener, but i don't want to add any kind of unnatural or off-flavors. what would you recommend?
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Old 03-07-2012, 01:18 AM   #10
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I have had success using lactose in mead. It adds a nice creamy sweetness to the brew and is typically not fermentable by brewing yeast. I have gone as far as 4# in 5 gals without issue. Not for the lactose intolerant of course.

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