Making mead like a Winemaker vs Beer Brewer
I have been reading through some of the threads here and there seems to be two ways of looking at how to make mead, as a winemaker or a beer brewer. I just learned about Boche on here this week and started one today, thanks for the info. As a winemaker we use winemaking methods for our meads such as:
Acid blend at the begining - I see most recipes dont add acid.
Tannin - we use wine tannin or if making a melomel my favorite tannin source is elderberries. They make tannins now for both white and red wines or meads.
Oak - Meads do go really well with oak, oak sawdust in the primary, cubes, chips or staves in carboys.
Topping off - leaving very little space under the airlock.
Nutrients - I usually add half up front and half before midway.
Degassing - for a still mead a vacum pump reallly makes degassing easy.
Initial Gravity - I see a lot of recipies start with a very high gravity hoping the yeast will give up somewhere before all the honey is eaten up, its so much easier to start around 1.1 - 1.2 and let it go low, feeding in steps if you want more alcohol and later backsweetening.
Backsweetening - If the mead fermented dry its much easier to put the sweetness exactly where you want it rather than hoping it will get to where you want it if the yeast gives up on a high gravity must.
Fining - Especially after backsweetening some protein comes in with the honey, SuperKleer or Bentonite do a good job in degassed mead of removing protein hazes and making the mead stable.
Sulphites - Used in wine all the time, helps keep meads stable, slows oxidation, kills bad bugs in the mead, but I dont see much mention of such a basic step that will help you keep your meads fresh for years.
Sorbate - I dont see this mentioned much, but if you add sorbate to your mead before bottling it shouldnt start to ferment again if you want a still mead.
Melomels - They taste so much better with more fruit (even 4 gallons of fruit juice and starting at 15 pounds of honey).
Heating Honey - Dont do it, you might as well just use HFCS if you are going to boil up your honey, finings can remove and protein before bottling.
We just got our own bees this year and I am looking forward to having lots more honey to experiment with. Our best meads for the last couple of years have been black raspberry mels, blackberry mels, fresh elderberry and really interesting dried elderberry mels. I havent made a carbonated mead yet on purpose, have made some early on accidentally and need to learn a little about doing it the right way.
I've never added acid blend or tannin to my batches of mead (or any fermentations that are not beer). I've been making mostly traditional meads, although I do have a blackberry melomel that I made in 2010 that I'm looking to try out.
I've been using CO2 to take up the headspace in my vessels (for aging, or post fermentation). Works really well when you're using a vessel that can be sealed 100% (not a carboy or bucket).
I've not back sweetened a single batch to date. I've had them all finish above 1.000 (anove 1.006 actually) so I'm good.
Which also means I don't need to stabilize my meads. I have a family member that has bad reactions to the sulphites that can be used to stabilize wine (and such). So, I don't use it so that she can enjoy my batches without reservation.
At this point, I'll say there's 0% chance you'll find me boiling my honey. About the same chance of finiding me heating it up above 110F actually.
When making a melomel, plan to add a significant amount of fruit once fermentation is over. Otherwise the majority of the flavor and aroma from the fruit will go right out the airlock.
Just what I've learned from making mead over the past 2 years. Plus communicating with people that have been doing it for MUCH longer.
Nice posts both.....
I view it slightly differently. Meads are basically country wines, but made with honey, rather than sugar.
Because there's no real standards, other than the difference between a "show" mead and everything else, I just take it that if it's made like a wine with the usual sort of alcohol levels associated with wines, then it's mead of one sort or another (irrespective of what the more anally retentive want to call them in the break down of ingredients).
Whereas if it's made like a beer, with beer-like alcohol levels, it might be considered a braggot, but I'd more likely consider it a "honey beer".
I've made mostly traditionals, but this year has been a bit different. It's been fruit meads i.e. banana melomels (having been given some cases of banana from free) and fresh grape pyments. Bob, who runs WaH over here, has an annual "grapefest". The grapes are generally a small range of French and Italian varieties, that depend on what's available at the time/date set for the grapefest (rather than trying to guess the exact date of the harvest, so people can arrange the time to travel up to his place to collect the grapes after they've been through his de-stemmer/crusher machine, and if necessary a press). The grapes tend to be Italian grown, as it seems very hard to get hold of French grown French varieties.
So this year, I've done Merlot, Tempranillo and Shiraz pyments. I've basically made then in a more "red wine" sort of way i.e. twice daily punch down of caps, then once the ferment stops (and yes, I added honey at the start to up the gravity, then step fed a couple of times) I was hoping for the skins to drop, but I just got impatient, and was worrying about oxidation from the skins/flesh etc, so managed to cover the kitchen in fermented must while trying to press the grape skins etc.
So I've got about 15 gallons between the three grape types, that are now waiting to be racked off the sediment and have some oak staves added to age, until the middle of next year at least.
The taste at pressing time, was rather like a medium sweet red wine with distinct honey notes (the honey used was just a wild flower).
Oh, and before I forget, the first batch of the banana melomel I made, I just used a banana wine recipe as guidance and sliced up and boiled the hell out of the fruit, then strained it off and used the liquor for the batch. Once it was done, I wanted to back sweeten before ageing and chucked a 1lb jar of malt extract in (which wasn't enough to really sweeten), and then added a little honey. Damn, the malt brings out the banana flavour......:rockin:
I should have titled it "Making mead like a Winemaker OR Beer Brewer". My mead mentor introduced us to the beer brewer style first as he was a beer brewer. We turned to making wines and made still meads. We do a lot like FatBloke, adapting country wine recipes and using honey as the carb source for the yeast plus whatever is in the fruit. Since we also grow most of our own fruit putting enough in at the begining so its not lost during the fermentation is easy, put in as much as you can, even 4 gallons of 100% berry juice and honey to raise the SG, and then feed back some honey during fermentation to get it a little stronger to balance out the acid levels.
Acid isnt important for beer based recipes for making mead as the CO2 protects the mead, but as more people make more wine style still meads some of the winemaking based methods lend themselves to making better meads.
FB, we are making a banana mead, to bad we cant swap a bottle.
You can fortify your ice cream if you want to:) Of course you can fortify it. I think its important to have a balance of acidity, sweetness and alcohol that would accept fortification rather than just dumping some in to boost the alcohol levels.
Our banana mead is an unproven recipe but here it is. We added more acid to bring it to the right level.
Wine Type Banana Mead 12
Start Date: 11/23/12
Yeast Premier Cuvee
Fruit Source Dole Bananas
Fruit Quantity 17.8 lb
Maceration Slice w/peels, simmer 30 min
W/5 Tbsp Acid Blend
Zymoclear 10 drops after cool
Amylase Hazyme C P.I. 10 drops after cool
Honey-Herb Everhart 1 gal Raw Locust
Superferment 1 tsp/gal P.I. 5
Fermocel P AEB 15 at start, 15 halfway
Opti-Red 1 gm/gal MoreWine 5 gm
Macerate bananans with enzymes overnight, then squeeze in strainer bag, ferment with just this juice, discard pulp.
I didn't actually follow a recipe, I just asked at some other forums about how to handle the fruit, plus I just googled for recipes and ideas. The first batch was a boil the sliced fruit one and then it was strained and the liquor was fermented etc, the second batch was a boil the fruit and then ferment on the pulp.
The third batch was the same but then also once fermented, it was racked and more fresh sliced fruit added to secondary.
As for fortifying, yes of course you can. Just remember that you may also have to do something to add body i.e. back sweeten to not only sweeten it up but the sweetener would also help with body/viscosity. Think sherry or port - both fortified.
Plus it would depend on the batch ingredients as to what you'd actually fortify with. Something like rum would probably go well with a banana mead, etc etc.......
Thank you guys very helpful!
as far as making mead like wine or beer, i would say mead is nothing like beer brewing.
granted there is the style of mead that is low in alcohol like beer, but other than that i can't think of anything that is beer like in mead making.
Some beer brewers have adapter their beer brewing techniques to mead. You could also consider besides its low alcohol level in that style that is also carbonated and bottled in little beer bottles, often with a beer cap, served cold etc.
A mead maker in NZ, what kinds of honey do you guys use, eucolyptus? I bet your wildflower honey is extrodiare.
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