Adding Sugar to honey for Additional Sweetness?

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DawgofMead

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Hello there fellow brewers and brewettes! I had a question/idea that I wanted some feed back on for an experiment one of a few brewing experiments I want to try. While I am most likely still going to try this idea regardless of feedback, I believe feedback is always good, and the thoughts/knowledge of those more experienced can be usefull. Also forgive me if I ramble, in the middle of an insomnia and A.D.D. driven mania currently.

My friend and I have been making mead/alcohol for about 7 months now, with four batches of alcohol total, 3 of mead, 1 of rice wine. Now I will say as to my own personal tastes, I prefer something a bit sweeter. My dream brew to make is a very sweet/ high ABV brew flavored with vanilla and raspberry, of which I have named ' Warrior's Respite '(forgive me, I am a MASSIVE nerd haha).

Now, all of our brews have come out fine, very much drinkable golden goodness. But they have gone dry/tart. I had an idea to maybe aid us. We went of the recipe from the book of recipes I picked up at our local winemaker shop. It called for 4 pounds of honey to a gallon. Now I preface this that with my interpretation of this, that means add the honey, then fill with water to a gallon.

Now in this, my idea was for every pound of honey, add 1/2 a cup to 1 cup of granulated sugar. All this would be added together before pitching yeast. My friend also added that maybe trying to add some homemade simple syrup instead of just raw sugar.

I thought that would increase the sweetness of the mead, while not affecting the flavor much, as it isn't the primary fermentation media.

Maybe this is all a bust, and not worthwhile, but hell , I'd kick myself if I didn't try. I look forward to your feedback, Thanks!!!
 

VikeMan

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Increasing sugar content will make your mead sweet if you reach the yeast's ABV tolerance level, where it will stop fermenting before all of the sugars have been used. So, you can easily make a sweet mead, by increasing the amount of honey and (if necessary) selecting a yeast strain that will quit sooner.

If you add table sugar, but the totals sugars are not enough to reach the strain's ABV tolerance, the yeast will eat all the fermentable sugars.

But, I think your 4 gallons of honey per gallon would be enough to reach the ABV tolerance of most yeast strains without adding anything else.
 

Kyzaboy89

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You could also try a step fed Sack mead. Add 2# honey with enough water to make your abv about 1.07/1.08 and leave some extra head space. When your yeast are going strong and gravity starts getting close to the 1.01 area add another pound, gravity will go back up to the 1.04 range, let it keep going. Once it's chewed through 3# honey I'd say go half pound at a time and check it every few days. Once you reach tolerance I would leave it a month or so the transfer and backsweeten or add your vanilla/raspberry. Fruit might start a new ferment depending on how much you add, fruit juice can water it down enough but it's been minimal in my experience when yeast has passed out drunk. Pull fruit after your flavor is where you want it, usually within a week and remember as it ages the fruit and sweetness come back stronger as the alcohol harshness blends and mellows so maybe pull it just a little early if you think you can age it a while. Higher alcohol content takes longer to taste "good" but some like everclear in water so whenever you are happy with it is all that matters.
Good luck and nerd on :bigmug:
 

Kyzaboy89

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Also if you simply want to sweeten your brew you could add sugar if you choose. Sugar is fermentable so if you don't take your yeast to tolerance or stabilize then most likely it will ferment and dry out again. You can also add honey for sweetness since it's a mead after all but experiment and see which you prefer. Nothing wrong with sugar or honey or non fermentable sugars, figure out what tastes best to you and if you can try splitting a batch to try different sweeteners side by side.
Cheers
 

karamonde

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I'm in a similar situation, haven't had to backsweeten so far because my meads finish sweet since I've only used bread yeast, however now I used a high alcohol tolerance yeast (Mangrove Jack M05), it took the SG from 1.13 to 1.040 in a week, but that was 3 weeks ago, and is still bubbling every minute or so, so I expect it to finish bone dry. I was thinking of sweetening with sugar as I am not sure if I want raw honey taste in the mead (it's a sour cherry melomel). Will be racking next weekend and measuring.
 

bernardsmith

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Here's the thing: you spend a great deal of money on buying honey and honey has lots of interesting flavors. You ferment dry and then you add table sugar which will basically mask the flavors offered by the honey. In my opinion, you might as well ferment with sugar and back sweeten with honey or more radically, you could forgo the expense of making a mead and simply ferment sugar... (I am being ironic). If you want to make a sweeter mead, ferment to dryness, stabilize and back sweeten with more honey. I would argue, to use a varietal honey, such as tupelo or raspberry or heather honey to back sweeten and perhaps clover or wild flower as your base.
 

karamonde

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Thank you @bernardsmith, I have actually fermented plain sugar plus nutrients plus spices, for science, it's not drinkable really but it cost pennies and time to make.

You're right to assume (if you are) that I'm being a bit cheap here, having already spent quite a bit of money on my last two batches which required 12kg of honey at about 8 euros per kg. Maybe also a bit lazy, as dissolving 2-3 kg of honey won't be so easy even if I warm up the honey before mixing it in. I'll do it properly, with honey.
 

madscientist451

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We went of the recipe from the book of recipes I picked up at our local winemaker shop. It called for 4 pounds of honey to a gallon. Now I preface this that with my interpretation of this, that means add the honey, then fill with water to a gallon.

Now in this, my idea was for every pound of honey, add 1/2 a cup to 1 cup of granulated sugar. All this would be added together before pitching yeast. My friend also added that maybe trying to add some homemade simple syrup instead of just raw sugar.

I thought that would increase the sweetness of the mead, while not affecting the flavor much, as it isn't the primary fermentation media.
It sounds like you're not taking hydrometer readings?
Also if a recipe is calling for 4/lbs of honey to a gallon, I'm thinking the gallon INCLUDES the volume of the honey.
When I make mead with 4 lbs honey to the gallon, it comes out pretty sweet.
If you want to make better mead, get a small scale, some fermaid O and follow the TONSA 3.O method.
 

bernardsmith

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Thank you @bernardsmith, I have actually fermented plain sugar plus nutrients plus spices, for science, it's not drinkable really but it cost pennies and time to make.

You're right to assume (if you are) that I'm being a bit cheap here, having already spent quite a bit of money on my last two batches which required 12kg of honey at about 8 euros per kg. Maybe also a bit lazy, as dissolving 2-3 kg of honey won't be so easy even if I warm up the honey before mixing it in. I'll do it properly, with honey.
Here's an "easy" way to mix honey and water and at the same time aerate the must: use a blender. Add water first, then honey and blend for a 10 or 15 seconds, pour out the mixture and repeat. You need to only minimally heat the honey to make it more viscous so that it pours more easily , but the blender does all the heavy lifting. Of course, if you go this route you will need to use a bucket as your primary as there will be a great deal of froth and foam that can take hours to subside...
 
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DawgofMead- Here's something I haven't seen addressed in the comments (unless it's implied in Kyzaboy89's post): 4 lbs of honey plus maybe another lb of sucrose in a 1 gallon batch would probably give you a OG of around 1.200, which is wicked high. There are many, many posts where high starting gravities never even started and the poster is asking what they can do to resurrect the dead. Kyzaboy's step-feeding is one way of getting around the problem. Bernardsmith's stabilizing and then backsweetening is how most would achieve what you're looking for- a sweet mead with a decent alcoholic punch.
 

Ty520

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First off, i would not recommend backsweetening with sugar for the primary reason that it will require some vigorous stirring to dissolve, which would possibly cause unpleasant oxidization of your fermented mead.

Many people do backsweeten, but in competitive judging, it is a dockable offense.

If you ever plan to backsweeten (with any fermentable sugar), you should always stabilize to prevent fermentation from restarting

I would suggest to take time to just learn how to calculate the OG properly up front and choose your yeast strain accordingly - use something like BatchBuildr:

for example, we could build a batch using 1118 yeast in order to get your high abv (in this case, 18% nominal...but possibly higher with a strong nutrient regimen).

if you want "sweet," let's assume a dessert wine for this hypothetical scenario: say, a 1050 final gravity. That'll put you at a starting gravity of 1.181, which would need 5.16 pounds of honey to achieve.

as mentioned above, anything above 1150 can make the fermentation process struggle, so a good, strong nutrient regimen will be essential.

Now, all that being said --- sometimes, sugar in primary can be good - for example, I like to replace 10% of my honey with brown sugar when i make my rootbeer mead to improve the taste and color.
 
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DawgofMead

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Hello, everyone, back again in another insomnia fit so I thought I'd come back to give my thanks to you all for advice, as well as an update to my latest batch!

This past Wednesday, I racked mine and my friend's most recent batch, to which I can say was a resounding success!!! SO sweat, almost candy like taste, with a definite alcohol kick. This was a 6 gallon batch, made with Monarch's Choice Baker's Special Honey, and the yeast used was Lalvin-v1116. Unfortunately I can recall how many pounds of honey used off the top of my head, but I'm pretty sure we went with around 4-4.5 pounds per gallon if I remember right.

Tl;Dr: Latest batch came out great, though there were some issues and I am hoping that the fermentation wasn't stuck.

It had some hiccups in the beginning as after we pitched the yeast it didn't seem to be doing much. My first thought was that it was cold, as we had moved it into the office of my buddy's house, from our typical spot which was the basement,( We live in West Virginia, but my friend prefers the colder climates. To add some perspective, His active choice of legwear is shorts, and this was even true when he lived in the northern tip of Maine, 15 minutes from Canada) so I thought it was a temperature solution. So simple solution was wrapping it in a heated blanket. Well there was too much thermal mass over a spread area was my guess, as that didn't really help. So Plan B was to fold the blanket into quarters, and set it under the carboy. This proved better, but only slightly because the bottom of the carboy and mead was warm, but the rest was still cool.

Plan C!!!! So when my buddy bought this carboy, it came in a kit with some other tools, which included a large plastic spoon. Now, the actual spoon bit was W A Y too big to fit through the neck of that carboy. But the little rectangular piece on the opposite end? Now wouldn't you believe it fit just perfect? So I gave the blanket another cycle, sanitized the spoon, and gave that bad boy a rigorous stirring!

Not so much as to cause bubbles and extra aeration, but to mix the warm liquid throughout, and hopefully waking up the sleepy yeast.

Well it worked! Next morning, a ton of foam and bubblage! So I let her set for 42 days. At the end of it, there was still tiny bubbles coming through, but our airlock had slowed to about 1 glug every 20-25 seconds, which was around when our other brew were done as well. The sweetness was what made me love it, but also gave me pause. While racking the majority into a 5 gallon brewing bucket, there were still some tiny bubbles coming up, but nothing with any uniformity so I am hoping it's just off gassing.I filled up 2 fliptop bottles, one for me to take home, and one to stay in the fridge at his house, the rest went into the brew bucket, and a new wide mouth one gallon jug we had just gotten. I slapped airlocks on both of them just incase, and will report back next week
 

Redeemer

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I'm in a similar situation, haven't had to backsweeten so far because my meads finish sweet since I've only used bread yeast, however now I used a high alcohol tolerance yeast (Mangrove Jack M05), it took the SG from 1.13 to 1.040 in a week, but that was 3 weeks ago, and is still bubbling every minute or so, so I expect it to finish bone dry. I was thinking of sweetening with sugar as I am not sure if I want raw honey taste in the mead (it's a sour cherry melomel). Will be racking next weekend and measuring.
I've made sour cherry melomels before with this exact same yeast. I really like the M05, and use it in the winter in TX when I can get my brew area down into the high 60's. You DEFINITELY want to use honey to back sweeten this one because it will give better flavor and body. If for some reason you decide to use sugar, don't make a simply syrup as you will likely dilute the mead. If you have swing top bottles you can use about 1 cup for a gallon batch and you may even get some bubbles. If you've cleared it in secondary, I find the cell count of viable yeast is so low, even with a robust yeast like M05, that you won't see any significant carbonation for about 4 weeks. Also if you use no more than 1 cup of honey or sugar for a 5 gallon batch, you won't run the risk of bottle bombs, in case your yeast is more lively and hungry than you think it is.
 

karamonde

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I've made sour cherry melomels before with this exact same yeast. I really like the M05, and use it in the winter in TX when I can get my brew area down into the high 60's. You DEFINITELY want to use honey to back sweeten this one because it will give better flavor and body. If for some reason you decide to use sugar, don't make a simply syrup as you will likely dilute the mead. If you have swing top bottles you can use about 1 cup for a gallon batch and you may even get some bubbles. If you've cleared it in secondary, I find the cell count of viable yeast is so low, even with a robust yeast like M05, that you won't see any significant carbonation for about 4 weeks. Also if you use no more than 1 cup of honey or sugar for a 5 gallon batch, you won't run the risk of bottle bombs, in case your yeast is more lively and hungry than you think it is.
Thank you, I will be racking later today and checking taste and gravity before deciding what to do in terms of sweetening. I got stabilisers at hand but figure if the mead is clear I may not use them at all - I'd rather not in fact. If fermentation restarts so be it, I'll just call it a staggered honey addition ;) I'm curious to see how this yeast worked, I'm glad to hear you like it, I did some research before buying it that made me think it should work well for sour cherry melomels.
 

karamonde

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So I racked it now and measured, it had gone to dead 1.000, from 1.13, that's 17% ABV gosh!

Of course bone dry, and the first taste was pretty awful and medicinal, no hint of sour cherry, or any cherry flavour but I'm not worried. Lovely ruby colour. I added 1.5kg of honey (10L starting) which brought it to 1.060. If it bubbles I'll let it sit for ages in secondary. If it doesn't bubble I'll let it sit for ages in secondary ;)
 

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I doubt it will restart seeing it is at 17% already. But 1.060 is way too sweet for my tastes, I would be hoping for a restart!

Age it in the secondary is the right plan.
 

karamonde

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I doubt it will restart seeing it is at 17% already. But 1.060 is way too sweet for my tastes, I would be hoping for a restart!

Age it in the secondary is the right plan.
I hope it doesn't, I like to drink mead the same way I'd drink port wine: very very slowly, and like it sweet!

I actually noticed a detail of my hydrometer I never paid attention earlier: it indicates beer, wine etc according to the SG (I assume - that's the only thing that makes sense), so yeah 1.060 is approaching grape juice sweetness :)
IMG_20210418_202103.jpg
 
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karamonde

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I doubt it will restart seeing it is at 17% already. But 1.060 is way too sweet for my tastes, I would be hoping for a restart!

Age it in the secondary is the right plan.
Double reply but...12 days later and it's restarted. Very very sluggishly, it bubbled a bit after a few days from racking and adding honey, I thought it was just off gassing, but no, now it bubbles about once per hour, quite consistently...
 

Steveruch

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So I racked it now and measured, it had gone to dead 1.000, from 1.13, that's 17% ABV gosh!

Of course bone dry, and the first taste was pretty awful and medicinal, no hint of sour cherry, or any cherry flavour but I'm not worried. Lovely ruby colour.
A 17% mead is going to take a long time to mellow.
I had an 18% batch of cherry mead that didn't start to get good for several years. I had the last bottle of that batch last year at 18 years old. It was wonderful.
 

Dan O

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A 17% mead is going to take a long time to mellow.
I had an 18% batch of cherry mead that didn't start to get good for several years. I had the last bottle of that batch last year at 18 years old. It was wonderful.
Wow!!😲 An 18 yr old mead. You have WAAAAY more self control than I, my friend 🤣 ;)
 
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