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Old 01-06-2013, 07:18 AM   #1
huntingohio
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Default Its time to dispell the myths, through testing

I have read for years that mead has to be aged 1 year to be drinkable, tastes like solvent when you and blah blah blah. I've always thought it was a bunch of hooey and through recent tests have disproved this.
Before you go flaming and saying "BUT THIS FAMOUS AUTHOR SAYS IT SO IT MUST BE!!" OR "DONT ROCK THE BOAT, CHANGE MAKES ME NERVOUS", test it, test it again, then test it a third time. It's science people not mythos


In beer making yeast heath and temperature control are considered essential. I have found in mead making, this is generally not the case. When beer is fermented to high of a temp or the yeast are improperly stressed its said to have esters and solvent alcohol....... well that sounds familiar.

So I proposed the theory to myself, improper temperature control and poor yeast health may be why mead needs aged for so so long.

I set about researching this, as it turns out honey is very nutrient poor for yeast, as anyone knows if you eat improperly, your not very productive and have general poor health. This is fixed through staggered nutrient addition.

I also thought that as with beer [it is yeast working in both], the esters and harsh alcohol could be a result of poor temp. control. Well this could be simply fixed by fermenting in a temperature stable environment the mid to low temp. range of the yeast.

So the experiment is set:
3 different meads, all made with wally world brand clover honey [very poor honey], all the same standard gravity of 1.100, all the same cheap yeast [red star, cote de blanc]

batch 001 [control]- mixed honey and water to 1.100, sprinkled dry yeast on top, left to ferment in kitchen cupboard temperature range of 75-60 degrees f. let it go don’t touch it or open it.

batch 002 [yeast health] mixed honey and water to 1.100. Made yeast starter 2 days prior by first re hydrating yeast then pitching into a low to medium gravity solution[1.030]of honey, water, and first addition of yeast nutrient. By brew day they yeast where happy and i had approximately 24 oz of starter slurry to pitch. This batch was left to ferment in the cupboard next to batch001

batch 002 [yeast health and temp control] same exact thing as batch 002 but it was fermented in my home made fermentation cooler {temp range of 59-62, during primary fermentation]

For the experiment batches 002 and 003 were feed a staggered nutrient addition on standard schedule. They were also stirred as suggested by Kurt stock until 1/3 sugar break. Batch 001 was left to do its thing naturally.

24 hour report- batches one and two took off and airlock activity was seen in less than 24 hours. Batch 001 as expected did not’t show up too much
72 hour report- batches 002 and 003 are going like a freight train, 001 has shown up to the party but notedly much more sluggish than its sibling batches,

14 day report [forgot to write down the 7 day report, and as this is a science experiment I refuse to speculate] batches 002 and 003 are done with primary fermentation 001 seems to be nearing fermentation end as airlock activity has sown considerably[ confirmed by gravity reading of1.025]

30 day report all batches have finished and are within a 5 point margin of error of 1.010., racking to secondary and adding of bentonite in 7 days.

37 day report all batches are stabilized and fined with the same amount of ingredients within a 1 gram margin of error.
day 40 all batches are racked and tasted
001- solvent heavy alcohol, burns like jet fuel. Taste of the honey is nearly un noticeable over the burn.
002-alcohol burn is less pronounced but still quite could choke down the whole 4 oz sample. honey flavor is there, not hugely pronounced bet there.
003- very very little alcoholic bite, nearly un-remarkably so. Honey taste is prevalent, very straight forward on the tongue. sweetness is even noticeable. Finished my 4 oz sample easily.

These same notes were confirmed by 2 other tasters on that same day.
All batches could have used some acid blend, something else to boost there flavor as the honey was poor in quality.
Over all the experiment was a success going to recreate the experiment soon and re verify the results for scientific purposes.

If one wants to know what became of batches 001 and 002 they are currently aging.. in the sewage treatment plant. Bottles are to expensive at my local shop to tie up with poor quality mead.

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Old 01-06-2013, 07:35 AM   #2
snuesen
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While it may not be accurate that all mead needs to be aged 1+ years, I think there is a consensus that most, if not all, mead tastes better with age.

And you're right about temperature. The problem is that most hobbyists don't have temp control capabilities, due to cost, no space, etc.

So, it may not be necessary, but it isn't bad advice to age mead a while. Perhaps it's better to say, "age it for as long as you're willing to wait."

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Old 01-06-2013, 08:45 AM   #3
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Cool experiment.
I've never made mead, but want to.
Now I have additional information to work with.

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Old 01-06-2013, 09:04 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snuesen View Post
While it may not be accurate that all mead needs to be aged 1+ years, I think there is a consensus that most, if not all, mead tastes better with age.

And you're right about temperature. The problem is that most hobbyists don't have temp control capabilities, due to cost, no space, etc.

So, it may not be necessary, but it isn't bad advice to age mead a while. Perhaps it's better to say, "age it for as long as you're willing to wait."
I absolutely agree
Most meads will improve with age, a certain sweetness seems to come back to them after a longer aging period and flavors seem to get stronger.

This is more or less a kind of mannifesto to people curious about mead but keep getting turned off by "masters of the craft" saying you need to age it before its drinkable.

My goal though was to make a table mead that was completely drinkable right after clearing and bottling. I feel i have succeded as i have already shared a bottle with a few friends who enjoyed it {although i found it to be lacking due to the low quality honey].

Notes that I should add
fermentation chamber is simply a yeti cooler and frozen water bottles cooling it down.... it isnt the most stable way to do it but it works suprisingly well. only have to change ice bottles every 16 hours.
My nutrients were yeast husks, and dap, simple easy and cheap
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:52 AM   #5
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Now see, from my POV, while its not a bad attempt at experimentation at all, you would have been better served using yeast with more data available about it......which pretty much counts out any except that Lallemand ranges (Lalvin, Uvaferm etc) as the publish better data than any other maker. Likewise the same with nutrients i.e. Fermaidk or FermaidO, rehydrating the yeast with GoFerm etc.

This would have allowed you to work out YAN requirements and dose accordingly.

Plus the results would have been more comparable.

Additionally any aging is more consistent if done in bulk.

Its wrong to compare mead making to beer making as the methods and techniques are so different despite the parallels. Making wine is a much closer comparison.

A waste to have dumped some of the batches as you now dont have any comparison.

You also didn't identify whether the rocket fuel attributes were more like just an alcohol hot sort of after taste or more like fusels. Alcohol hot mellows relatively quickly fusels can take a long time, if ever to mellow.

As for ageing, thats down to personal preference, some mead types can be ready to drink reasonably quickly like melomels, cysers and pyments. Whereas traditionals can take longer depending on the honey, nutrition and other fermentation management, residual sugars, resulting % ABV and any acid, tannin or back sweetening carried out....

A minimum aging of 6 months from the end of fermenting, which can include the clearing time if you're not gonna hit the batch with finings. ..

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Old 01-06-2013, 10:19 AM   #6
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There was a BTV episode about mead where the guy dispelled the aging requirement thing (at least to a degree). I think the ABV has a lot to do with aging recommendations. My first batch of JAOM has just over two years on it and I've been meaning to uncork it. I'm kind of scared of the stuff though since the first bottle I drank had me stumbling in front of the house babbling to the neighbors :-)

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Old 01-06-2013, 10:46 AM   #7
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in repsonse to fat bloke [love the name btw]
I intentionally didn't use some of my favorite yeasts like d47 or ec-1118, I wanted to use a cheap yeast, that I didnt have information on. This made me solely focus on the basics of yeast heath [proper nutrition and good cell health before being put into a super high gravity must], as opposed to what i know it reccomended.
I equate it to beer, more specifically big beers. When you brew a big beer you want super healthy yeast. The high gravity of big beers can harm the cell walls stressing the yeast. When we do that we make large starters, and usually step feed to prepare the yeast.
Mead and beer may be different things but yeast are yeast and do have alot of the same reqirements regaurdless of what they are making into a drink for us.

The tastes where more than just alcohol hot, they are fussels. It had that solventy taste on top of being hot. The loss of these 2 gallons is no big loss, I have to pay a stupid amount of money for wine bottles so it was worth more to dump them and start new batches.

Should also add that these are only one gallon batches... theres no way id dump 10 gallons of mead

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Old 01-06-2013, 01:50 PM   #8
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I've made what is basically called mead. Although it seems I'm very much a novice when it comes to making mead.

I boil water and honey then let it cool to about 110-105*f. Add yeast (I've been using regular redstar bread yeast) after a fermentation period of two weeks I drink it after one day of chilling in my fridge.

The taste of my mead comes out as sweet with a mild honey flavor that finishes dry.

The only prob with my mead, is that it can only be served cold having it warm and it will taste very solvent like.

So try your solvent like mead cold. Let it chill down in your fridge and taste it then. I havnt tried aging it yet. That was going to be my next batch.

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Old 01-06-2013, 01:53 PM   #9
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I forgot to add onto the end. I have been making my mead for a few years now and every one I've given it to has liked it as un-aged and chilled.

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Old 01-06-2013, 04:24 PM   #10
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@ huntingohio - fair enough, that makes sense.

My last experiment with yeast was about 5 or 6 years ago. I just used all the same ingredients and method, but one gallon had EC-1118, one had K1-V1116 and the other had 71B-1122.

Once they were all clear, yet still young, my favourite was the 71B batch which wasn't bad at all. The EC-1118 was the most bland, but I didn't know about it's habit of blowing so much of the aromatics and more subtle flavouring elements straight out the airlock. The K1V batch was just, well, rough tasting when still fresh off the lees. 3 or 4 months later, the 71B and EC-1118 hadn't changed very much, but the K1V had changed out of all recognition. It was marvellous.

My efforts at "testing" were very, very basic and unscientific. But I learned which yeast was likely to be my favourite, at least for traditionals - until I discovered D21, which is my number 1 for trads followed by K1V.

@ ocaiwa - there's nothing basically wrong in your method, other than you should try a batch but just boil the water not the honey, or get the water in a bucket that you can cover with a fine weave cloth, then put a campden tablet or two into it and leave it for 24 or even 48 hours - as it helps too shift any chlorine that's often added by utility companies - or try reverse osmosis or distilled water.

Even if the honey is crystalised, you can just weigh it out and mix it with the water and leave it covered for a day or so, the honey basically melts into it so you might have to stir it a bit, but not much. Then nuke some of the bread yeast in the microwave, say a teaspoon of yeast in 2 or 3 ounces of water. The microwave will kill it off and when it's cooled down, it can be added to honey and water mix, before you pitch the yeast.

It's feasible that the slight off flavour you allude to, is from stressed yeast as just fermentable sugars isn't really enough for them. They like some nitrogen, folic acid, B1 vitamin etc, all of which can be found in boiled bread yeast (the active yeast, are cannibals). Then just continue as you are.

Yes, some would say that you're making it with very poor technique, but I say that if you enjoy the results, then go with it. My idea might help, it certainly would help the yeast some. As it would be a bit less hassle if the batch was able to be drunk at room temp etc, because you're just masking some of the taste by chilling (and in the earliest days of mead, they wouldn't have had refrigeration so it would have likely been drunk at ambient temps).....

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