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-   -   The Great Mead Experiment (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f30/great-mead-experiment-51111/)

Sir Humpsalot 01-13-2008 12:45 PM

The Great Mead Experiment
New issue, old thread:

Ok, so I now have 5.5 gallons of clover mead. OG of 1.077.

I'm using Wyeast Dry Mead yeast.

So how much Fermaid K should I add to my recipe? Any opinions?

The old, original, topic is below...
I've been slowly acquiring small bottles (1/2 gallon or 1 gallon) for use in experimental mini batches. Yup. That's right. I want to create a sort of beer college for myself where I can taste 10-30 nearly identical recipes with slight variation. And then rinse and repeat in another direction.

One thing I want to do, first I suppose, is play with meads. Now, maybe it's just me, but it seems like mead makers are far less sure of their craft than brewers. I suppose part of that is the natural variation found in honey from location to location and year to year. That's reasonable, I suppose, but I want to start off with a good education. So I'm thinking about 20+ meads to start.

Four 2-gallon batches. Same OG. Orange Blossom, Clover, Wildflower, and Goldenrod (with an additional side batch of buckwheat to use for mixing).

Once they are done with primary, split them into 4 half-gallon batches and oak them in secondary, half american oak, half french oak, half medium toast, half heavy toast, all soaked in bourbon.

Pull one 12oz bottle off from each at 2 months, another 12oz'er at 4 months, another 12oz'er at 6 months, Then, two months later, drain whatever's left in the secondaries.

Now you can taste the following 20+ meads:

Clover no oak
Clover 2 months oak
Clover 4 months oak
Clover 6 months oak,
Clover 8 months oak

Orange Blossom no oak
" 2 months oak
" 4 months oak
" 6 months oak
" 8 months oak


ditto ditto ditto ditto ditto

And some reasonably well-aged buckwheat

Find a nice blend that works well, and then brew up 10 gallons and let it age for a year. While it's aging, get to work on another year-long round of experiments, perhaps with yeasts... Allowing me to fine-tune my craft as time goes on...

Any thoughts?

malkore 01-13-2008 03:03 PM

Interesting experiment. i know many say buckwheat honey is too strong for 100% of the honey...best to blend it with some clover or wildflower honey to 'mellow it down' a little.

also its not that mead makers aren't 'sure of their craft' so much as mead making is less rigid than beer making, and thus has an even wider variety of acceptable ways to produce the beverage.
Its also because mead is an older, more simplistic process than beer making, which leaves it open to some wide interpretations.

I think you'll discover this if you do more reading on mead making from some experienced authors like Ken Schramm.

Hell, if you compare Palmer to Papazian, you'll find some noticable differences in their recommendations and techniques.

sorry to rant in a defensive way....mead was the first thing I ever brewed and I hold that liquid ambrosia near to my heart ;)

I'm mostly interested in the oaking...I've had an oaked porter that I didn't like at all...i felt the oak ruined it, so I've never found a reason in my meads to oak them. *shrugs*

MikeRLynch 01-13-2008 04:50 PM

I oaked a small batch of my mead, and all I can say is BOURBON. I guess if you like that stuff, then go for it, but for me, I like a dryer, more wine-like mead. I have to say I'm not very impressed with oaking in general, I've had the same bad luck with the commercial beers that have been oaked, just tasted like whiskey.

The other experiment you might want to try out is different yeasts. Make a large batch of uniform mead, and ferment them with different kinds of yeasts. I think Basic Brewing Radio did this, and I learned about using american ale yeast 1056 on a mead. I have to say its only a few months old and it's the best I've ever made.


ALPS 01-14-2008 04:28 AM


Originally Posted by Sir Humpsalot

Any thoughts?

Yes, a few.

If you have never made mead before why so many varieties and so much oak? Seems like a lot of trouble to go through for someone with no experience and a sure way to disappoint yourself.

What are you going to do about the increasing headspace when you remove 12 oz of mead from the jugs every two months? After 10 months of being exposed to an increasing amount of O2 will most likely result in something less than great.

You mention nothing about yeast selection, starting or finishing gravities. Also, where is your honey coming from and will you heat it? These are things that you should consider.

If you want to "educate" yourself, why not just start with a basic, tried-and-true recipe and method? See how that one batch turns out and adjust it from there.

Sir Humpsalot 01-14-2008 06:12 AM

Good questions. As for why oak? It's because I fell in love with a couple of bourbon barrel meads. :o

Why so many varieties? Because variety is the spice of life. :-) And because I want to drink less and experiment more.

What to do about expanding headspace? I figure I'll use my CO2 tank to purge the oxygen.

The OG's I want to be around 1.1 or so. Using a dry mead yeast I'm thinking that will be adequate to ensure some degree of sweetness. As for the yeast, I'll start with just the liquid dry mead yeast. I'll do a yeast experiment after the oak experiment is done. :)

Heating will be done in a large pot, held at 150-something degrees for some period of time. I know I have a chart for that somewhere...

As for using a tried and true recipe? I don't know what that's going to show me. I've had meads before, I know what they taste like. And I am far more interested in coming up with a systematic approach rather than going all willy-nilly in every direction. That's what I did with beer and the end result is that I have made 20 middling batches of different ales, with none that really hone in on the essence of the style. Don't get me wrong, they taste fine for every day drinking, but that approach doesn't really much appeal to me.

But now you have me thinking. Maybe I should do the yeast experiment alongside the oak experiment. So... how many different yeasts can you come up with? I know White labs has two- a dry and a sweet. Then folks use American Ale yeast, right? What other yeasts are worth trying? And can you recommend me a neutral flavored honey to assess the yeast with?

Sir Humpsalot 01-14-2008 06:32 AM


Originally Posted by ALPS
Yes, a few.

After 10 months of being exposed to an increasing amount of O2 will most likely result in something less than great.

Your point here gave me a better idea. Thanks.

I guess I can just rack a gallon of each mead into five 22oz bottles, fit an airlock, and simply add the oak at different intervals...

MikeRLynch 01-14-2008 11:14 AM

Use a LITTLE amount of oak with smaller batches than a gallon, like three or four chips, TOPS. Even if you like bourbon, the flavor can get really overpowering, really fast. You can always add more oak, but you can't take it away.

As far as yeasts go, its really up for grabs. I know a few of the beer yeasts that were tried on that Basic Brewing podcast didn't produce very good meads. They had off flavors galore, most likely from the lack of nutrients in honey. (beer yeasts are used to having plenty of stuff in solution, wort is very rich in nutrients). So no matter what you do, have some yeast nutrient on hand, and look up scheduled additions of it. Properly using nutrients will keep off flavors at bay, even when using mead yeasts.

Try a couple different wine yeasts, use one for darker reds and ones for lighter sweeter fruit wines. Then definately try the 1056 yeast, my god that stuff is nice. It ferments pretty normally, leaving a sweet mead behind, but it also has a nice fruity ester to it, not to overpowering, but it compliments the sweetness of the honey very nicely. Like I said, mines still in primary at 2 months, it's been done for about three weeks or more, and it already tastes amazing. I already had a whole bottle :P

Other beers yeasts are the hefe strains, with the clove and bananna esters, and possibly some of the commercial types, like the pacman from Rogue. The fun is in the experimenting!


Sir Humpsalot 01-15-2008 07:20 AM

Thanks for the tips. I ordered stuff for the first batch. I'm backing off my variables a bit. I'm using 100% clover honey, 12 lbs, for a 6 gallon batch. I've already ordered the honey.

The variables will be the oak: Medium toast and Heavy toast; French, American, and Hungarian; 0 months, 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.

Once I am halfway or so through this experiment, I will begin another, using different flavors of honey.

Then my next (final?) mead experiment will be a yeast experiment creating meads from a variety of yeasts at different OG's. Yes the aging issue will make for a challenging comparison, but that's why I'm saving this one for last.

Once these are done (yes, I know this may very well be about a 2 year long project!!!), I think I should have a good feel for my tastes in mead and have some interesting insights into what I like and don't like.

As for education, I intend to take copious notes. I may post them for all to see. I may also charge $5 for all the data compiled in a nice high school science-type-report with all the money going to a charity of my choosing. I dunno. We will see how my experiments go...

sirsloop 01-15-2008 12:28 PM

I'm with ya... I think i'm gonna grab some apple juice for another batch of apfelwein, save the gallon containers, get some stoppers and airlocks, mix up 6 batches of mead and let them chug away in my closet for the next 6 months. I dont know if I want to get as technical as you, but I'd probably do a sweet mead, dry mead, sweet rasberry mead, orange mead, oak mead, and maybe a carbed up cyser or quick mead

shunoshi 01-15-2008 04:57 PM


Originally Posted by Sir Humpsalot
But now you have me thinking. Maybe I should do the yeast experiment alongside the oak experiment. So... how many different yeasts can you come up with? I know White labs has two- a dry and a sweet. Then folks use American Ale yeast, right? What other yeasts are worth trying? And can you recommend me a neutral flavored honey to assess the yeast with?

Don't forget about all of the dry wine yeasts by Lalvin and Red Star. :D

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