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Old 04-02-2011, 05:21 PM   #1
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Default OG for Sweet mead

What is a good OG for a sweet mead? I am about to start a sweet mead, using 3 quarts of honey and 7 quarts of water using White Labs sweet mead yeast. If I am correct the OG should be around 1.125.

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Old 04-02-2011, 05:29 PM   #2
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Thats a pretty high OG. Even if you stop it fermenting at 1.030, which is pretty heavy and sweet, it will still be about 12.5%abv. If you tone down the sweetness you can ferment to a lighter FG and your yeast will have a little less trouble starting as heavy as 1.125. If you start at say 1.08 and go to 1.015 you wont have the same abv but it will ferment faster.

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Old 04-02-2011, 05:32 PM   #3
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How many POUNDS of honey are you talking about?? That's how you typically enter honey amounts in, since volume is next to useless with honey...

Trying to figure it out for you, since 1 gallon of honey is 12# (normally), that would be about 9# of honey with 2.25 gallons of water... Are you looking to make a 3 gallon batch size here? Looks like it... Your OG should be about 1.108 with that concentration level. Only way to know, for certain, is to take an SG reading once it's mixed up...

Personally, I've never used yeast specifically claiming to be for mead... I've had excellent results using Lalvin strains (wine yeast, since mead IS honey WINE)... If you're looking for something in the ~14% ABV range, D47 and 71B-1122 are both solid choices.

I would suggest having an extra pound, or two, on hand for once fermentation is finished. You might need to add a touch more honey when it's finished. It's also far better to ferment drier and need to add some honey to it, than to try and go to a desired FG... I've tried it, it's not easy at all...

I would start with 8-9# of honey, for a 3 gallon total volume batch. If you want, mix it up, check the OG, if it's above 1.110 (or at 1.110) I would add a bit more water to get it just under 1.110 (1.104 would be better). You can pull off the extra inside the fermenter once it's diluted (if you need the space). You can use that to top off the batch as it ferments and you pull samples.

Keep in mind, the WL yeast lists it's tolerance at 15%, which means you'll need closer to 10# of honey in order to get it to ferment fully and not be dry...

Personally, I'd rather spend <$2 for a packet of Lalvin yeast, than at least $6 for the WL yeast... Gives you more money to spend on honey.

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Old 04-02-2011, 05:42 PM   #4
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Yes its about 9 lbs of honey, sorry I buy the honey by the quart locally. I was going to do about 2.5 gallons, that why I was using 7 quarts of water. But if 1.110 is better OG then I will reduce the honey some.

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Old 04-02-2011, 05:53 PM   #5
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I misread the water volume then... For some reason it interpreted it as being 9qts/2.25 gallons...

For a 2.5 gallon batch I would start with about 7# of honey... That should get the OG to 1.100. You might need to mix up more honey and waster to get the OG where it will work out well.

Personally, for my next batch of mead, I'll be making a ~3 gallon batch starting in my 5 gallon glass carboy. That will give me the head space I need, and also allow it to go as needed. I'll have a way to extract samples by then, that will be able to reach in that far. Or I'll just give it enough DAP at the start for the entire run and set it and forget it for a few months. Then start racking into 3 gallon carboys to get it to clear up before aging it for several months.

If this is your first mead rodeo, I would recommend reading up on the Got Mead? site for info... I would not heat the honey up (or the must) when making it. Read the forums there, to get even more info... Post up if you have questions there (that have not already been asked, and answered) and you'll get solid help... It's where I went before starting my initial batches.

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Old 04-02-2011, 06:26 PM   #6
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I think 9 lbs of honey in a 2.5 gallon batch is fine. Honey varies, but the OG will be around 1.129. Wine yeast should be fine with that. A wine yeast, such as D47, should get you in the the ballpark and leave some residual sweetness.

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Old 04-02-2011, 06:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GinKings View Post
I think 9 lbs of honey in a 2.5 gallon batch is fine. Honey varies, but the OG will be around 1.129. Wine yeast should be fine with that. A wine yeast, such as D47, should get you in the the ballpark and leave some residual sweetness.
I see 9# in 2.5 gallons total volume as being too high as a starting point. Better to get the OG to under 1.100 for a ~14% ABV batch target, and be able to let it be sweet. Trying to get a batch to ferment to a FG goal is NOT an easy thing to do with mead. Especially if you just dump a bunch of honey in, thinking you'll hit a specific OG. For all you know, there could be more sugar in that batch of honey, and you'll be far over your OG goal. Meaning you'll have MUCH sweeter mead than you wanted.

IMO, starting off with a lower OG gives you more flexibility. For one thing, you can let it ferment to dry, then add honey until it stops fermenting, then add a little more at a time until you're close to your target. I would also let it be drier than you want it for drinking. When it ages (best to do this in bulk, so don't bottle too soon) you'll get more sweetness in the batch. Tasting it will reveal all.

I would also plan on having it in bulk form for at least 6-9 months before looking to bottle it up. This also allows you to make adjustments as you wish... Once it's in bottles, you're not going to be able to tweak the batch. At least not nearly as easily as when it's in bulk.

BTW, I would also plan on giving it a solid month, or two, fermentation time. You could need more time than that before it's actually hit the FG. If you go with the full 9# of honey, it might end up having a FG of ~1.025... That's above the 'sweet' range and into 'desert' range... IF that's your goal, fine... I just think it's smarter to go drier and add honey to get to where you want, than pray the yeast ferments fully, from a HIGH OG... You might not even get to 1.025, you could bottom out at 1.030. At that point, you're in a rough place.

Oh, and an OG of 1.129 could go to over 18% ABV since mead can very often finish in the .990-.998 range...
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Old 04-02-2011, 07:05 PM   #8
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I can see starting low and then going high making more sense, as the yeast tends to get 'shocked' if you start high. thus you get a loweer ABV because it quits sooner.

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Old 04-05-2011, 08:06 PM   #9
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jfulton, you are already on the right track because you are using the gravity as a target and not a specific volume OR weight of honey. For predictability and repeatability, using the hydrometer to guide your amounts is the best approach - so you are already ahead of the game. For the record, many recipes call for honey by volume, and 12 pounds per gallon is a useful estimate for weight that works quite well for making conversions so don't feel bad.

Most wine yeast are perfectly happy starting at a gravity of 1.125 - that isn't too high. I don't start worrying about extra measures for high-gravity fermentations unless the gravity is above 1.130. So there is no need to start a lot lower for the sake of the yeast.

Now the choice of yeast is open. I'm not a big fan of the white labs sweet mead yeast though it is better than the Wyeast version. You definitely don't need a "Mead Yeast." The wine yeast work better in my opinion. One of the easiest and best for a mead is 71B with an ABV tolerance of 14%. ICV-D47 (14%) is another good choice. I'm quite partial to K1V which has an ABV tolerance of 18%.

It usually is not too difficult to get most yeast to their ABV tolerance, though it can be unpredictable, and they can sometimes even go higher than expected. For this reason, picking a starting gravity, and choosing a yeast still leaves you with a lot of room for variability in the result. So if you start with a gravity of 1.125 and use a yeast that has 14% ABV tolerance you'd expect it to ferment around 105 point and it should leave you with a gravity of 1.020. However, it could be 1.015 or 1.025 quite easily and the difference would be quite dramatic.

If you know exactly where you want it, aiming for a target may be okay, but since each honey has a different balance that means you may find you like the sweetness at different levels. What's more, what tastes semi-sweet to me, may taste syrupy and cloying to you, so picking a number based on what someone else said tastes sweet may not work. The numbers also don't take into account the acid/tannins in a recipe, so while 1.020 might be dessert sweet for some things - I've had other recipes that didn't begin taste sweet until a gravity close to 1.045. The bottom line is you may not be able to tell in advance where it will taste best to you (I know I can't do it with a new recipe). That's where back-sweetening comes in.

I would strongly discourage you from following the suggestion above to keep adding honey a little at a time until the yeast poop-out. That is a process known as "step-feeding." It can push the yeast beyond their normal ABV tolerance, but in doing so, may create some harsh, fusel, and "off" odors/tastes. While honey will cover a multitude of fermentation sins, I find this approach less than satisfactory.

Instead, I like to stabilize and backsweeten. This means I will pick an ABV level that I want - for traditional meads, I prefer them around 12% which is a level that I find easier to balance. I find they tend to be too "hot" at 14%. So I will pick a starting gravity that will produce about 12% (say around 1.095) and I will allow it to ferment bone dry. Then I let it clear, and I'll add the combination of Sorbate and Sulfite to inhibit the yeast. After that I can add honey a little at at time while tasting it to get the level of sweetness to the exact point where I think it tastes best (though it is usually best to go a little below that point as meads tend to taste a little sweeter with aging). This approach really allows you to get it where it has the most balanced taste according to your taste buds, and your taste buds do know best. A lot of great, award-winning meads get made this way.

Good luck with yours.

Medsen

Edit - one other tidbit. A healthy, well-managed mead fermentation should be complete in 14-21 days in all but extreme cases.

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Old 09-08-2011, 09:47 PM   #10
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we should compile a book of quotes, as a "how to" guide... I think we'd have enough material with medsen's posts alone... hoping my head doesn't pop before my first batch of mead is ready.

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