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Mead with Dehydrated Fruit/Herbs?

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The Experimenter

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I've made mead a couple of times before, and while I love it I've always thought it wouldn't hurt to give it a little something extra. Then, just a few days ago, I bought a bag of Tealyra loose tea and was impressed by the flavor and immediately thought of putting it in a mead (I actually bought it with the intent of using it in brewing, but didn't know what kind of brew I should do... mead was the first thing to come to mind upon tasting it).

The type of "tea" I am talking about is not actually tea in the sense that it does not contain tea (camellia sinensis) leaves. Instead, it is a bunch of dehydrated fruits and herbs (no actual tea and no preservatives as far as I can tell). The specific one that I tried that made me want to put it in a mead is Tealyra's "Strawberry Orange Sunrise", which actually contains (in the order found on the ingredients list) Apple bits, hibiscus blossom, lemongrass, orange wedges, natural flavorings, strawberry bits, and tartaric acid. An image of the bag and what the loose mixture looks like can be found below. Also, here's the link to the product on their website: Strawberry Orange Sunrise - Fruity - Loose Tea - Tea Store The flavor is awesome and I feel like it would be really nice with the honey flavors, but the tea also gives a very vibrant reddish/magenta hue to the water when I make tea with it, which I think would also look really cool in the brew.

I've considered making a melomel and/or metheglin for a while now, but I don't really live in an area with a lot of good natural options near me (no apple orchards to go and pick your own at, no farmer's markets for fresh fruit right off the stand, etc.) and very little selection of good fruits and herbs in my local grocery store. So when I saw this "tea" composed of dehydrated fruit and herbs already mixed in proportions meant to produce pleasurable flavors, I couldn't help but wonder if it would work...

Anyway, these are my questions:

  1. Good idea or bad idea?
    • Will this work as well as I am imagining it will or will it taste weird (or possibly just not work at all)? CAN this work at all or should I just use fresh fruit, even if I have to drive a ways to find quality stuff?
  2. How much should I use?
    • The bag of loose tea says 1 to 1-1/2 Tsp per 8oz of hot water. It's actually a pretty powerful flavor and I'm more so thinking that I want this tea to be more of a subdued background flavor, so... 1/2 tsp per 8oz of must (8 tsp per gallon)? Or 1/4 tsp (4 tsp per gallon)? Or should I go with even less... or maybe more? I really don't know how much to do.
  3. How should I use it?
    • Again, I've never made a melomel/metheglin, so I'm not sure how this works. Do I just add the dehydrated fruit/herbs to the fermenter during primary and/or secondary and let them mingle with the must directly during fermentation?
    • Or should I make an infusion with it prior to brewing and then add the infusion to the must (no pieces of fruit/herbs in the fermenter)?
  4. Melomel or Metheglin?
    • If it has fruit (apples, orange, and strawberry) AND traditional medicinal herbs (lemongrass and hibiscus), what do you call it? "Meloglin"? "Methemel"?

Thanks for any help. I really don't know what I'm doing, but I really wanna try to make a mead with this fruit/herb tea.
 

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AkTom

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Sounds like you need to do 2 simultaneously. One with tea in primary. Second with tea after primary. I’d think... adding in secondary would give better flavor.
Keep us updated please. And send me a bottle of each.
Cheers
 

CKuhns

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Sounds interesting... Great idea!!!

Option 1.
I would consider steaping the tea in some water (make a strong tea.) let it cool and mix a small amount with a small amount of honey and if needed a small amount of water.

In esssence do a small batch volumetric experiment. Taste along the way until you hit the profile you like record or remember the volumes and use those for your batch.

The challenge / unknown is what will the ferment do to the flavors?

Option 2 (my personal preference)
At secondary drop the tea right in using a fine mesh bag and "cold brew" it until you hit the flavor you like.

With tea i have added as much as double what you would if you were to steep it in hot water. ( i cant speak to this particular tea, no experience with it.)

Call it Delicious if it turns out well or an Experiment if not. :cool: (No opinon on what to name it...)
 

wildmazer

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my usual process for tea-like things in meads is to make a strong tea ( hot water, the normal deal) and use that as the ‘water’ to make the initial must. then at racking time a little taste to see if it seems strong enough or if i need more for secondary. this works great for true teas and various herbs/spices/twigs etc.

i assume if you enjoy the tea, the amount of tartaric acid isn’t going to be high enough to impede fermentation.

(strong tea will lose a lot of its oomph as it turns into mead - i wouldn’t start too low)
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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Thanks for all the responses. I guess I'll just have to experiment (as my username suggests, I like to do so anyway) and try different things.

As CKuhns suggested, I'll probably do small volumetric experiments rather than jumping the gun and going straight to my big fermenters. Based on all the different suggestions you guys made, I'll probably do 4 half gallon experimental batches. I'll do one of regular mead (as a control), one in which the must was made by steeping the tea from the start, one in which the dry tea pieces are added to primary, and finally one in which the dry tea pieces are added to secondary.
 

wasully

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i assume if you enjoy the tea, the amount of tartaric acid isn’t going to be high enough to impede fermentation.
Given the amount some grapes have(and ferment just fine), I'd be super impressed at a tea with enough acid to impede fermentation.
 

bernardsmith

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This sounds like a great project. Whatever amount of tea you decide to use does not mean that you are locked in. If when push comes to shove you think that the flavor is not sufficiently intense you can simply add more tea to the secondary and allow the alcohol to extract the flavor. Frequent tasting will enable you to rack the mead off the fruit at the optimal time.
On the other hand if you taste the mead and determine that the flavor is too intense you can simply add more must (honey and water to dilute the flavor by increasing the volume. There should be sufficient yeast in the mead to continue fermenting the added sugars.
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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...Whatever amount of tea you decide to use does not mean that you are locked in. If when push comes to shove you think that the flavor is not sufficiently intense you can simply add more tea to the secondary...
I have a question about this comment that you made. I'm fairly new to brewing and so there are still some things I haven't figured out yet... for example, I have heard comments like the one you just made in which people talk about adding more liquid during the brew (you mentioned adding it during secondary, but I've heard people talk about adding things only a few days in); but doesn't this mess with the gravity of the must and make it more difficult to get an accurate hydrometer reading? I mean, if I have a mead and it measures at a specific starting gravity but then halfway through the brew I add additional tea (which would probably read close to 1.000 because aside from some very minute fruit particles, there's not much dissolved in), then doesn't that dilute the must and lower its gravity more than just the fermenting process would have by that point in the brew?

Is there some sort of equation or something to make sure my hydrometer readings are accurate if I'm adding more liquid to the must after my initial reading has already been taken but before fermentation is completely finished?
 
OP
The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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Please keep us posted on your results. I have a few herbal teas that may make interesting meads as well.
I'll try my best. I have to get all my resources and materials together first. Still need to find the right honey for this (which is a little tricky at this time of the year where I am). I might just go to the grocery store and grab a bunch of the biggest bottles they got of all natural store bought honey since the point of this experiment would be to see the differences between the 4 different methods, rather than trying to get a good honey flavor. I also need the fermenters (I have two half-gallon bottles I can use, but I need to find two more). All things considered, I probably won't be starting this little experiment for another week or two. But I will keep you guys posted once I do get it going.
 

bernardsmith

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I am sure that a mathematician might create an equation but the basis for calculating the "Starting Gravity" is simply to know the TOTAL volume and the total amount of sugar. Use 1 lb of sugar to make 1 US gallon = 1.040 , so 3 lbs in that same volume is 3x .040 and so, 1.120. If you increase the volume without adding more sugar then use simple arithmetic to calculate the calculated gravity (1 lb of sugar to make 2 US gallons gives you a gravity of 1.020. So, all you need to know is the total volume and the total amount of sugar. Honey has some water and so is less dense per lb than sugar when dissolved to make 1 US gallon. I think the rule of thumb is that 1 lb of honey raises the gravity of that 1 gallon to 1.035.
 
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The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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I am sure that a mathematician might create an equation but the basis for calculating the "Starting Gravity" is simply to know the TOTAL volume and the total amount of sugar. Use 1 lb of sugar to make 1 US gallon = 1.040 , so 3 lbs in that same volume is 3x .040 and so, 1.120. If you increase the volume without adding more sugar then use simple arithmetic to calculate the calculated gravity (1 lb of sugar to make 2 US gallons gives you a gravity of 1.020. So, all you need to know is the total volume and the total amount of sugar. Honey has some water and so is less dense per lb than sugar when dissolved to make 1 US gallon. I think the rule of thumb is that 1 lb of honey raises the gravity of that 1 gallon to 1.035.
Yeah, I get the math for calculating Starting Gravity and understand how changes in volume can affect the gravity at the start of the brew. What I was asking is how to adjust my readings if adding liquid after a brew has already started but before it has finished. Let's say I start 1 gallon of mead with tea that has a Starting Gravity of 1.110 but after two weeks I test it and it reads 1.072 and while testing it I taste it and realize the tea flavor isn't strong enough. Let's say I add more tea to it at this point, DURING fermentation after it has already dropped a couple dozen points but hasn't finished fermenting and still has a way to go. So it started at 1.110, dropped to 1.072 (but is still fermenting), and then I add more liquid at that point (which in theory immediately drops the gravity further, but not from fermentation, from dilution). How does adding volume at this point change how I should do my readings going forward?

So far, adding volume DURING fermentation is something I have avoided because I'm afraid I wouldn't adjust my readings correctly, but it is something I've heard people talk about and I am curious to know how people do it.

If you don't understand what I'm asking it's fine, I apologize. I know I'm probably not explaining it in the right language and terminology.
 

bernardsmith

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Your concern is reasonable but in fact the problem does not exist. Basically, in the first instance, you ignore where you are in the process and simply determine the TOTAL amount of sugar in the TOTAL amount of liquid. Ultimately, you want the FINAL gravity to be around 1.000 even if you started with 1 gallon and ended with 6 gallons and you started with 1 lbs of sugar and ended with 12 lbs. Nominally, that new "starting gravity" would have been raised from 1.040 to 1.080 the ABV would be calculated by subtracting the final gravity from the starting gravity and multiplying that number by 131.25. The IMPORTANT figure is knowing the nominal starting gravity (Total weight of sugar or honey) divided by the total volume (of honey or sugar and water), multiplied by the gravity of the fermnetable: sugar .040 ; or honey .035.

Does that help?
 
OP
The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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Your concern is reasonable but in fact the problem does not exist. Basically, in the first instance, you ignore where you are in the process and simply determine the TOTAL amount of sugar in the TOTAL amount of liquid. Ultimately, you want the FINAL gravity to be around 1.000 even if you started with 1 gallon and ended with 6 gallons and you started with 1 lbs of sugar and ended with 12 lbs. Nominally, that new "starting gravity" would have been raised from 1.040 to 1.080 the ABV would be calculated by subtracting the final gravity from the starting gravity and multiplying that number by 131.25. The IMPORTANT figure is knowing the nominal starting gravity (Total weight of sugar or honey) divided by the total volume (of honey or sugar and water), multiplied by the gravity of the fermnetable: sugar .040 ; or honey .035.

Does that help?
Sort of... As I read your reply I felt like I was understanding it at some parts and then in the very next sentence I was like "What?" and then moments later I felt like I understood again. It's like some parts made sense and others didn't. I don't think I fully understand though.

In your second sentence you said "you ignore where you are at in the process". What did you mean by this? You mean ignore my Starting Gravity from from before I added extra volume?

You also said the problem I was describing "does not exist"... I'm just struggling to understand how adding volume wouldn't cause issues with reading the hydrometer. I know you said it's about TOTAL sugars in suspension and while the total sugars do not change by adding more liquid volume, the liquid's density does change... In and of itself, this change in density wouldn't matter, except in the scenario I laid out an initial reading had already been taken at a different volume and therefore a change in density has occurred that was not the result of fermentation. I mean, ultimately, a hydrometer is just a buoyancy meter that measures the must's density based on how much it floats. Add more liquid while keeping the sugar the same and you will wind up diluting the solution and lowering the liquid's density and therefore causing the hydrometer to sink deeper than it otherwise would have from fermentation alone... I'm just struggling to see how artificially altering the must's density with additional volume while trying to use a hydrometer to track the change just from fermentation is a problem that doesn't really matter.

Anyway, I didn't mean to turn this Mead/Fruit Tea forum into a lesson on Hydrometers for Newbies... Do you know of any good videos on any of this stuff so you don't have to waste your time trying to explain it to me... I am very much an audio/visual learner anyway.
 
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bernardsmith

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Do I know any good videos about using an hydrometer? Sorry, I don't. You can google this.

My point was that when you are talking about changing either the liquid volume or the sugar content of your solution (it's already a wine or mead if you have added the yeast then you ignore the hydrometer as a measure of the starting gravity - because you cannot go back in time: You added yeast and the yeast began to consume the sugar. What you do is calculate and not measure the starting gravity. That calculation will also give you the potential ABV when all the sugar has been fermented. The reading of your hydrometer you can use because that ALWAYS tells you the CURRENT gravity. But when you change the volume or the amount of sugar in solution it can not do any calculations to account for that. It always only gives you CURRENT gravity. And current gravity simply informs you (in your case) only how much sugar is left to ferment (as measured by the gravity or density of the wine or mead) and once active fermentation has ended then it can help you determine how much alcohol is in solution if you know the TRUE starting gravity (by calculation) and that you can calculate by subtracting the finished gravity from the true starting gravity and multiplying that number by 131.25
 
OP
The Experimenter

The Experimenter

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Do I know any good videos about using an hydrometer? Sorry, I don't. You can google this.

My point was that when you are talking about changing either the liquid volume or the sugar content of your solution (it's already a wine or mead if you have added the yeast then you ignore the hydrometer as a measure of the starting gravity - because you cannot go back in time: You added yeast and the yeast began to consume the sugar. What you do is calculate and not measure the starting gravity. That calculation will also give you the potential ABV when all the sugar has been fermented. The reading of your hydrometer you can use because that ALWAYS tells you the CURRENT gravity. But when you change the volume or the amount of sugar in solution it can not do any calculations to account for that. It always only gives you CURRENT gravity. And current gravity simply informs you (in your case) only how much sugar is left to ferment (as measured by the gravity or density of the wine or mead) and once active fermentation has ended then it can help you determine how much alcohol is in solution if you know the TRUE starting gravity (by calculation) and that you can calculate by subtracting the finished gravity from the true starting gravity and multiplying that number by 131.25
OK, that made more sense. Calculating it absolutely makes sense… In my mind I was thinking you would keep using a hydrometer, but why would you when you can just easily calculate it. Got it!
 

bernardsmith

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and just like the idea of estimating in math that you likely learned - having a sense of what the starting gravity should be helps you see whether you may have done something wrong when you measure the gravity at the start under normal conditions (has all the sugar been dissolved? have you added too much water? Did you forget that fruit juice is not just water but water and fermentable sugars etc).
 

Raptor99

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The way I think about it is to calculate what the original gravity would have been if I had put everything in at the beginning. Since I already know the original volume and the OG I measured at the start, I can take the volume and SG of whatever I am adding, I can use a calculator such as this http://fermcalc.com/FermCalcJS.html to figure out the SG of the blend as though I had added everything at the beginning. To use the calculator, click on Blending, then Advanced. That gives me an estimated "original gravity" that I can use to calculate ABV when I am finished.

In practice I use a refractometer to measure Brix rather than a hydrometer, but the principle is the same.
 
OP
The Experimenter

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I just wanted to post a quick update. A couple of people in this thread asked me to keep them posted on what I decide to do and how it goes.

As I suggested back on the 10th, I'm going to do 4 volumetrically scaled batches (likely half gallon):
  1. One of regular mead (as a control)
  2. One in which the must was made by steeping the tea in the same water the honey is added to (and then removing the solid chunks before fermenting)
  3. One in which the dry tea pieces are added to primary and left in primary the whole time (but removed when transferring to secondary)
  4. One in which the dry tea pieces are added to secondary and left in there until bottling
I have procured the half gallon fermenters (just store bought juice bottles with mouths that are wide enough/small enough for bungs to fit snuggly) as well as the honey (to try to make the experiment as consistent as possible across the four batches I went with store bought Aunt Sue's Raw & Unfiltered Clover Honey which comes in 1.5lbs bottles, the perfect amount for a half gallon batch so I won't even need to measure... but probably still will just to be sure everything is the same). I already had the Tealyra fruit tea and the yeast (I plan on using D47). Anyway, I think I'm all good to go...

I just need to figure out a good brew day. I already have 1 brew going that needs to be transferred soon and 2 other planned brews I need to start soon before their fermentables and other ingredients go bad... So I just gotta figure out a day I can start this. It will hopefully be sometime this coming weekend. When I do start it, I will post a detailed Recipe & Process post to give you guys all the details and will of course post periodic updates and eventually final results.
 
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