Newb to mead and brewing - melomel question
I finally got around to a goal in life (maybe not a huge one, but something I've always wanted to do) - trying some mead. I found a bottle of Chaucer's locally on Saturday, but didn't like it much. Sunday, I visited a meadery - the Rohan Meadery in La Grange, Texas, and tried some of their product.
I'm not a wine connoisseur, and in fact, I don't like wine very much at all, so I don't have a lot of experience to compare. I know that I dislike dry wines more than sweeter wines, so that's a start.
Rohan had several varieties to try - a traditional that was semi sweet, an apple cyser, a raspberry melomel and a wassail they made with their orange spice mead. All were good, with the wassail being awesome and the raspberry being my next favorite. I left with a bottle of the raspberry melomel and a bottle of the orange spice.
Well, I have decided that I'm going to jump into brewing. Being in Austin, TX has an advantage - Austin Homebrew supply is right here in town! I'm going to go in a week or so and get a few 1gal bottles, and all the bits and stuff. My plan is to make a few gallons individually of different types, so I can experiment a bit, and find recipes I like. Then I'll get the 5 gal buckets and carboys for larger batches.
I have in mind to brew a semi-sweet to sweet traditional, a raspberry melomel, and something with vanilla, brown sugar and probably cinnamon.
I've read a bit about the brewing process, and think I have a pretty good grasp on it, but I have one question about it.
Considering I like the semi-sweet to sweet range, and I think I'd like a medium fruit character, when and what proportion of the raspberry would I add? All into the starting must, or part of it in the starting must, and the rest after the primary ferment is done?
As I understand it, anything and everything in the original must will ferment, and I've read different procedures as to when to add fruits to melomels.
There are differing opinions on when to add the fruit. However, regardless of when you add the fruit, unless you kill of the yeast or they are at their tolerance level for alcohol, they will ferment the added sugars.
Currently I am working on a Raspberry Mead. Here's what I did: Fermented the Primary with 18 pounds of honey and 5 gal of water. 2 packets of D47 and a tablespoon of both yeast energizer and Yeast Nutrient. Once the Primary was done, I pureed 11 pounds of raspberries and ran that through a strainer to remove seeds. I then pureed again and hit it up with some Pectic Enzyme. The resulting puree and juice I added to the secondary when the fermentation had slowed down to about 1 bubble a minute. Racking off of the lees and onto the puree.
It didn't look like it was fermenting that much but the yeasties loved the puree. It fermented completly dry and tart after that. Oh, also expect to lose about 1/3 of your volume in pulp. Also rack the red pulp to another container, preferabally tall and thin. Reason is that it will settle out some more and you will be able to save about 1/4 to 1/2 the puree that you were going to throw away. It does settle out some more but all in all a huge loss of volume. That is ok as it does ferment dry and tart.
I then hit up the volume with some Potasium Sorbate to stop the yeasts in their tracks, very important. Let sit for a week to make sure all the yeasties are dead, then Back sweeten.
I Back Sweetened with 1 gal of water and 6 more pounds of honey because I am going to oak it and oaking will take a little sweetness out but leave it very smooth and remove some of the harshness.
I racked onto the sweet galon of water, adding back the lost volume as that is 1 1/2 gal of liquid. This is for a 6 gal batch. Also, I will be waiting for this to settle clear again as backsweetening will require some clearing time from the Honey Addition. But prior to that it was looking like a clear red wine and beautiful. Just dry and tart, would taste great carbonated. But after the sweetening, It tasted lovely. Just needs to age. I plan on oaking it and adding some Thyme to balance and create a more complex flavor. Waiting for Spring for fresh Thyme.
So that is my tale of my Red Raspberry.
To answer your question: I would use about 10 pounds for a 5 gal batch. You might be able to get away with 8 pounds but you may need to sweeten it up a bit more. Stabalizing (the potasium Sorbate) and Backsweeting (addtion of honey water) will be neccessary as the Yeasty Beasties LOVE the juice and in retrospect I probably didn't need as much yeast energizer. Just add a little puree like a cup in primary. Overall, this is my suggestions.
Hope it turns out well
Well to the club, Fray! And thanks for the info on Rohan's Meadery. I have driven through La Grange so many times and never knew that they had a meadery. I am definitely putting in down on my list of to do's for summer vacation.
Living so close to AHB has it ups and downs. Up side is that they are right there when you need them. Down side is they are right there when you don't have the money to spend and want to anyways! They do have a starter kit with everything you need to start making mead but it is expensive (because it has alot of stuff and it is good quality). Or you could buy as you go along, just don't purchase any bottles. There are places all around Austin you can get free bottles and they are good bottles for mead(375 ml).
Thanks for the feedback, guys. MeadWitch, Rohan is good stuff and good people. Definite check 'em out. I was happy to find a meadery so close to where I live.
As for the melomel question, I figured that adding more fruit in after the primary ferment and first racking might result in more fermentation, but maybe getting the batch almost to the alcohol content the yeast can tolerate, then adding some fruit? But then... that would just be back sweetening, right?
Maybe a good thing if I want a semi-sweet fruit bodied taste, I should do pretty much a traditional and back sweeten with fruit?
Two things occur to me when you make additions:
1. When you add volume, this thins out the alcohol content. It is a matter of percentages. When you add you are giving more volume for the yeast to work and more sugar and lowering the alcohol content. This can factor into it. Don't worry about exactness as it probably isn't much but it will take away sugar.
2. Fermenting more volume will get the yeast active again. You are thining out the ABV% and thus as I said giving more room for the yeast to work. This can mess with the alcohol tolerance therory. So, YES it will add more sweetness and some of the sugar in that sweetness will go away unless you stabalize the Mead by using Potasium Sorbate.
Here's what Potasium Sorbate does: It stops the yeast from replicating. Yeast has an actual lifespan of a few days, so when it's ability to reproduce has stopped the colony of yeas will die and then settle out in the must. Now this is not a guarntee that ALL the yeast is dead, they are hearty buggers but when you "Stabalize", that is add Potasium Sorbate to it, this minimizes the amount of sugar the yeast takes away from your sweetness..
Backsweetning is kinda an art. You kill the yeast first. Then take a volume and add honey water, in a proportion that you know, to the sample volume and taste it until you are happy with the sweetness. Then you take a proportional volume of Honey Water (same ratio of honey to water) and add it to all of you mead. Mix well, then wait for the cloudyness of the new honey to settle and for it to clear again before bottling. Tasting it prior to bottling should prove to have about the same sweetness as you tasted earlier.
In a Nutshell that is backsweetening. Now most of us don't measure and just add the honey water and just aproximate things as we are not profesional breweries and don't have to account for the exact recipie to make it exactly the same again in a new batch and keep track of exactly what the ABV% is. Happy accidents happen. We play to our tastes.
Oh, One more thing: You may want to boil your honey water a bit so that you kill the yeast in it, or dose it with potasium sorbate and wait a day or so before adding it. This is to make sure you are not re-introducing wild yeasts back in with the addition of the honey.
That's all I got.
You can add fruit fruit at the end of primary and get a result similar to having it in secondary. The advantage is that it is easy to add fruit to a bucket, and then rack out of it. Putting fruit in a carboy is a PITA.
When you do add the fruit it will dilute your alcohol level a little bit in most cases because the fruit juice/puree usually has a sugar level much lower than the starting gravity of your mead (except with fully ripe grapes). The fermentation of the fruit gives a more complex taste in the same way that wine tastes different from grape juice, and I happen to like it, but if you stabilize the mead before adding the fruit, you'll keep more of the "raw fruit" character, and you'll definitely dilute the the alcohol (so you may want a slightly higher amount to start with).
One point to remember - use of sorbate alone is not adequate to reliably prevent renewed fermentation. I'm not saying that it will always fail, just that the chances of failure are much higher using sorbate alone (even at doses as high as 500 ppm) than using the combination of sorbate with sulfite.
Diluting the alcohol content and giving the yeast more room to grow makes a ton of sense.
So if I wanted to end up with a particular alcohol content, I'd want to proportion everything so it's going to end up at a higher ABV before backsweetening. Backsweetening would water it down a bit. Using Potassium Sorbate before backsweetening should stop the yeasties from reproducing, but sometimes they still grow.
See, I'm learning so much before I even start. The internet is awesome for this! You guys are the reason it's such an awesome resource.
It'll probably still be a couple weeks before I go buy some gear, so I'm going to keep reading around, soaking up info and planning. Hopefully my first batches will be successful!
I went ahead and ordered the Compleat Mead Maker offa Amazon, and will give it a read when I get it. Then probably next weekend, I'll get some stuff to start my first couple small batches.
+1. That is a great book. Lots of good info in there.
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