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Hi everyone,

I've just tasted my first ever batch of mead (brewed 20 litres using approx 6KG of honey and Lalvin D47 Champagne Yeast, tasted st 3 months ferment) and it rather disappointingly tastes like white wine... it seemed to be carbonated at first, but after settling it no longer is.

I was expecting something much sweeter, my favourite mead is Lindisfarne Dark from Holy Island and this is very sweet indeed. Can certainly taste the honey in there but mine simply tastes like store bought white wine. It's not bad flavour wise, just very sharp and not as sweet as I would like.

I'm considering backsweetening with honey to enhance the sweetness in post, but I'm wondering if this will really be worthwhile? Has anyone got any experience of this?

And lastly, I dont think it's really that strong either. I'm not sure if there is any way for me to make it any stronger at this point or not.

Would love some opinions!

Many thanks
 

Maylar

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You can absolutely back sweeten with more honey after you stabilize it first. Mead often tastes like that out of the fermentor. There are other things as well like aging it for a few months with oak cubes that would change the flavor profile. Oak adds complexity and a perceived sweetness.

From your volume, you should be at about 11.6% abv which is perfect for a traditional mead. Did you measure specific gravity before and after fermenting? And what kind of honey?
 
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Unfortunately I didn't measure specific gravity beforehand, didn't do my research correctly and thought I could just do so after the fact... I will have to invest in some gear for my next brew.

This is the honey I used;


But I would backsweeten with this honey as I discovered it afterwards and it is incredible;


I have bought some products to stabilise the mead, but I'm considering leaving it for another 3 months anyway as local lockdown rules mean I won't be able to share for some time... if I were to buy oak cubes, how would I add them to the mix? For how long, and at what quantity given the amount I have made?

Thanks for the advice! I'm relieved that I can still drive the mead in the direction I want it to go in at least a bit.
 
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In your experience, what amount of honey should I use to backsweeten the mead?

And this may be a silly question but, looking at guides online many people would advocate maybe 0.25 of an ounce of oak cubes per gallon (About 35g for 20 litres) for maybe a week or two. I'm using a large glass carboy so I'm sure I can get the cubes in but... how do I get them out? Is it better for me to age it a little longer, add in the cubes near what u perceive to be the end of the process, then taste every week or so until I'm happy? Is it worth also backsweetening on top of this, or is it really a one or the other kind of thing?
 

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Usually I back sweeten with the same honey used in the mead, but your plan is OK. Here's where a hydrometer can help you, you can measure it's effects. If you're looking for a sweet mead you'll want to finish at about 1.010 sg. I would add about 5 points of sugar (1/2 cup for 5 gallons) until you can just perceive the honey. Then oak 3 oz for 5 gallons. Use cubes - American medium toast - it takes 2 months to fully extract the wood character. Oak will add tanin and the mead will turn golden. It also binds with proteins and the mead will become clearer. After 2 months rack to another carboy and add more honey if it needs it. Slowly.
 
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Alright that's some great advice. When you say 5 points of sugar, how does that translate into raw honey? About a half cup? I should imagine they're maybe one in the same but I'm not 100 percent sure. It's about 5 gallons anyway so, I would hope that'll be okay.

Regarding the oak cubes, I've seen a lot of mixed feelings around how long to leave it in and for how long, a lot of people say two weeks but some have said 9 months gave them great results. I suppose best thing I can do is taste every couple of weeks maybe, I don't want to overpower the flavour but I'll take your word for it on the length and aim for that provided it's all coming together nicely.

I suppose for bottling it's gonna be up to me when I feel it's done to the best quality I can hope for. Will defo invest in a hydrometer
 
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I've checked pricing for oak cubes and it's all well and good for U.S citizens, about 7.99 for a 4oz bag! But if I were to buy the same in the U.K, imported from America, it will cost me £40 including postage 😅 will it be worth that price? I can get oak chips a bit cheaper I think but, not sure of the quality vs the cubes
 

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Honey is typically 35 gravity points per pound per gallon. So 5 points in 5 gallons would be 5/35 * 5 = .7 lb = 11.4 oz. A quart of honey is 3 lb, so 11 oz would be about a cup.
Chips are not as effective as cubes, they give up their flavors quickly but they're one-dimentional.
Can you get Xoaker spheres?
 
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So about a cup if I was to backsweeten with honey alone? I've looked for xoakers but, short of importing and spending a lot of money I'm again left high and dry... chips seem to be my only option. Maybe if I left them on for a week or so? However I'm also having an issue with weighing them down in a mesh bag... where the hell do I get unleaded marbles??? This whole process is a network of rabbit holes
 

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So about a cup if I was to backsweeten with honey alone? I've looked for xoakers but, short of importing and spending a lot of money I'm again left high and dry... chips seem to be my only option. Maybe if I left them on for a week or so? However I'm also having an issue with weighing them down in a mesh bag... where the hell do I get unleaded marbles??? This whole process is a network of rabbit holes
A cup would be a starting point. Easier to add more than take it out. As I said, sweeten until you can perceive the honey, then oak and sweeten again if needed. Unleaded marbles can be found as stone decorations in crafts stores for flower vase arrangements. You might also be able to buy a bag of assorted stainless ball bearings on eBay.
 

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This is the only other option I can find for cubes but no mention of toast gradient. Is toast gradient a phrase? I feel like it could be in this context.
Those are taken from old whiskey barrels, and I think they'd work for you. People use old barrels all the time.

Wine oak cubes are made to very exacting proceses that have a science to them - the type of oak and how long they are toasted etc makes a difference.
 
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Okay I'm gonna risk it and just go with those. There are various different types to go with, bourbon and sherry for instance but I drink neither of those so, just gonna go with those bourbon ones and hope for the best. I think that's all I need right now, your advice has been invaluable. Thank you so much!
 
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One last question, I bought 100g of potassium sorbate to stabilise the mead. Is this all I will need, or a combo of a few things?
 
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Okay great. I've added the potassium sorbate but, didn't realise I needed the metabisulfate too. I'll order that now. Or is it worth the risk?

I've also realised I have no NoRinze powder left... is it safe to put the honey I intend to use into a non sanitised jug for easy transferring?

And do I also need to sanitize all of the bottles before bottling? I'm just thinking that since it is stabilized, perhaps it won't be an issue.

Cheers
 

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The honey jar should be clean, but sanitized isn't necessary. Bottles, yes definitely. Sorbate stops yeast from growing, K-meta is an anti oxidant for shelf life, you should use both.
 
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Honestly we're all binge drinkers in the UK, I don't think shelf life will be an issue. Sad but true 😅 thanks for all that. Hopefully will be able to bottle a couple with just backsweetening by friday when I have friends around, then leave the rest in with some cubes.
 

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I would rather order the sulfites and store some mead for later as well. It develops incredibly well in the bottle if it stands for a year or more. It's hard, I know, but it really is worth it. Even a traditional dry mead seems to turn "sweeter" with age.
 
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I will definitely consider doing exactly that. I have sone smaller demijohn as well, 5 litres or so. Is it worth bulk aging vs bottling?

I may well bottle half (a friend invested in some so 5 bottles each approx) and then bulk age after adding cubes for 2 minths
 

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my favourite mead is Lindisfarne Dark from Holy Island
Just a note as I didnt see anyone address this but your "mead" that you are comparing too isnt a fermented beverage as you are doing. Just a quick google and it looks like that is just a blended drink consisting of " honey, fermented grape juice, neutral spirits and locally sourced water".
 
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Just a note as I didnt see anyone address this but your "mead" that you are comparing too isnt a fermented beverage as you are doing. Just a quick google and it looks like that is just a blended drink consisting of " honey, fermented grape juice, neutral spirits and locally sourced water".
My GOD. I've been living a LIE. I'm genuinely disheartened by this information. With that in mind I am trying to emulate a mesd that isnt really a mead at all, impossible standards... I'll consider that and enjoy my finished product for what it is
 

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I will definitely consider doing exactly that. I have sone smaller demijohn as well, 5 litres or so. Is it worth bulk aging vs bottling?

I may well bottle half (a friend invested in some so 5 bottles each approx) and then bulk age after adding cubes for 2 minths
I've found that bulk aging is very similar to bottle aging. I prefer bottle aging because:

K-Meta that you add to stop fermentation (along with the sorbates) also protects your mead against oxidation. K-Meta's purpose is to provide free SO2 in the solution, that keeps protecting from oxygen and other infections for as long as those numbers (PPM) stay up.

However, K-Meta is a volatile substance so eventually the SO2 breaks down, evaporates and "airs off" out of the mead. So, if you bulk age, by the time you want to bottle, chances are your SO2 levels are lower in number than where you pitched initially, so you're going to have to add more. And since I doubt you have a device to measure the free SO2, you're not going to know how much to add. Too little and you risk oxidizing your mead with the bottling process. Too much, and you risk having your mead taste of sulfur (rotten egg notes).

Now, if you bottle while your SO2 are at the correct levels (I usually add sulfites in two additions, one RIGHT at the start immediately after racking, and another right before backsweetening), you have less risk of this and you know you're bottling a stable product. Your mead can then rest in the bottle and develop without you worrying about bottling day.

I have found no difference in quality between meads that were aged in the bottle and meads that were aged in bulk.

Now the downside. Bottling has to be done properly and you have to fine the mead properly to ensure as little yeast sediment in the bottle as possible. Yeast in the bottle leads to autolysis of the yeast cells over time. Way back when I was just starting I didn't care for this much and didn't heed the warning. The result was a mead that smelled of rotten fish, purely due to a 1/4" layer of decaying yeast cells in the bottom of the bottle that stood there for over a year.

So what I do now is this:

1. After fermentation, I cold crash the mead. I leave it at near freezing for a few days, and then I add gelatin and bentonite to fine. I leave it on the gelatin and bentonite at near-freezing for at least another week. This is done to ensure first that most of the yeast drops out, and second to ensure the yeast cake (the lees) is nice and solid by the time I rack off it.
2. After the two weeks or so at near freezing, I'll sanitize a new container and measure out my K-meta and sorbates. There are calculators for this based on your mead's pH and ABV. Here I add the k-meta sparingly, bordering on the minimum addition. I add these to the new container, and rack the mead onto the chemicals. I leave it here (at room temp) for another week or so. This drops out a surprising amount of additional yeast and creates a new lees.
3. From here I prepare another container (usually my bottling bucket) - sterile again. I measure out another k-meta addition (to compensate for aeration and other stuff that might be there), add the backsweetening to the new container (be it honey or juice or Xylitol or whatever) and rack onto that. I leave it here for a day or so just to ensure everything is mixed properly and then I bottle. When I bottle here I know that the process is sterile, my SO2 levels are good and my mead can age in peace.

I tend to store a few bottles in random places around the house and then literally forget about them. I discovered a mead the other day I made 18 months before in a crate somewhere way in the back of a cupboard under the kitchen sink. I had forgotten what mead it was, and only remembered it was the one I backsweetened with apple and cranberry concentrate after tasting it. It was AMAZING. Crystal clear, full and rounded. It was amazing. Gotta do that again.
 
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