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Old 03-21-2008, 03:39 PM   #1
yaeyama
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Default My first mead. Help me make it perfect!

Hello:

I'm preparing to start on a mead, and want it to be fairly simple, with a taste as close to honey as possible. I have tried a couple of commercial meads, and my favorite so far has to be Lurgashall's English Mead. It tastes, looks, and smells like honey but has a nice alcohol kick and is sweet but not cloyingly so.

For my own mead, I would like to make something in the range of 14% - 16% ABV. I plan on aging it for at least 4 years before drinking. I have a 6 gallon carboy and 1 gallon demijohn, so I would like to make about 7 gallons to give me a little extra for topping up. Before getting started, I am wondering about the following:

- Due to the incredibly high cost of honey in my area, I am planning on the majority of my honey to be wildflower. I will then blend this with progressively smaller quantities of clover, orange blossom, manuka, and finally beechwood honey dew (a rather dark honey) until I reach the desired SG. Okay so far?

- Does about 3 lb (1.5 kg) per gallon sound about right? I think I should be shooting for a SG of about 1.100 (which is the SG I aimed for when making my wines); should this be higher?

- As I have already stated, I am aiming for as pure a honey mead as possible. However, I of course want to balance acidity and other factors. What kind of quantity of yeast nutrients and tannins should I use? Should I use raisins to add body? If so, how many grams per gallon?

- I plan on fermenting to dryness, and then topping up with a honey water mixture between rackings (once I have used up my topping up material, anyway). I would like to continue doing this until the yeast is eventually overpowered and dies out. I do not care how long or how many rackings this takes.

- What kind of yeast should I use? I have used Lalvin EC-1118 for a peach wine in the past, but I have the feeling this will push up the ABV a bit too much. I have also used Cote de Blancs for a mixed berry red but the fermentation seemed to go rather slowly (mind you, I haven't tasted the red yet). What would give me the desired ABV while allowing me to continue honey feeding until the yeast is overpowered and I can obtain the desired sweetness?

- I plan to ferment at carefully controlled temperatures (about 18 C for 2 to 3 months). However, for bulk aging followed by bottled aging, can I expect any taste degradation by temperature swings? I obviously cannot maintain air conditioned conditions for 4 years! The temperature swing would likely range from about 12 C to 28 C depending on the season. Is this likely to affect the quality of the finished product?

- For my wine making experiences, I have done fermentation in a brewer's bucket for 7 to 10 days, and then racked to a carboy. Should I do the same thing with mead, or is this step unnecessary? Skipping this first step and starting with the carboy would be a welcome time saver. However, I do worry about foaming overflows.

Based on your advice, I will try to come up with a decent recipe which hopefully we can fine-tune to perfection together.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

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Old 03-21-2008, 03:59 PM   #2
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I have only made a few meads myself but here are some suggestions I have read here and at gotmead.com.

For a sweet mead add all the honey to the must up front. You should target to exceed the alcohol tolerance of the chosen yeast by the desired gravity. Feeding the yeast as it finishes will push the yeast to higher alcohol levels resulting in harsher flavors that take longer to mellow out.

EC1118 is a high alcohol tolerant yeast that will push the mead past 18%. Not usually recommended for sweet meads. Lalvin D-47 seems to be pretty popular on gotmead.com. It has a 14% tolerance which produces a mead without excessive alcohol.

It is usually NOT recommended to add acid to the must before fermenting. Acid can be added before bottling to taste. Early acid additions can cause the must to drop too low in pH for the yeast.
You should add yeast nutrient to help the yeast. Honey does not have some important nutrients need by the yeast, most notably nitrogen. Lalvin makes some nutrients that is recommends to use with their yeast.

I think I would keep you honey varieties a little simplier and use a base honey that is fairly light and then add some stronger flavored honey if desired. If your wild flower honey is interesting you could just use that for the mead.

There are some real experienced mead makers on gotmead.com that can help you in addition to people on this forum.

Craig

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Old 03-21-2008, 11:26 PM   #3
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You'll get a LOT of different answers to your question.

for example, I rarely use any acid blends, and I never use any tannin or rasins.

I highly recommend Ken Schramm's book in mead making. Its a great resouce and covers everythign you've mentioned.

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Old 03-22-2008, 01:56 AM   #4
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I'm confused too.

How can you expect to get a honey flavored dry mead?

Sweet Mead yeast will keep it sweet because it doesn't ferment out all the way, but Champagne yeast will ferment out all the honey and make it dry...

Why don't you just make 2 batches? One dry, one sweet?

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Old 03-22-2008, 02:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewer_99

Why don't you just make 2 batches? One dry, one sweet?
Pretty ambitious to make a first batch that you are planning on waiting 4 years to drink.
Why not make a few smaller batches...find out what you like. Give a JAOM a try, and DEFINITELY try Malkores version. Make a few somethings that you can be drinking...or at least sampeling bt Halloween or Christmas.

Make your 4 year version in a 3 gallon glass or something.

That book that Malkore is talking about is called "The Complete Mead Maker" and is the second best thing (Other than joining and reading here) you will ever do for your mead making hobby. It took Amazon like...3 days to get my copy to me, and it's like $20.
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