New brewer contemplating attempting first mead...

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imp81318

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Hi all, As the title suggests, I am a new homebrewer and considering trying my hand at a mead for my wife. We've only had mead once before, and while I didn't particularly care for it, she absolutely loved it. If I decided to brew a mead, I am figuring on making a 1-gallon batch to start off, but I have a couple of questions and I'm sure I'll have more as I delve more deeply into the process:

  1. I know that making mead requires racking back and forth multiple times. How big of a primary fermenter will I need for a 1-gallon batch, and can I rack back into that during the clarifying stage(s) later in fermentation or would there be too much head pace?
  2. Knowing my wife's wine tastes, I'm pretty sure she'd like a sweet mead more than a dry one. Do the recipes for basic mead make a dry mead? If so, how would I best modify it to make a sweeter mead?
 
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imp81318

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Thanks, great article! A link to that should be stickied in this section IMO.

I assume that since you ferment in the gallon jug that mead fermentation is not as aggressive/explosive as beer fermentation?

Also, are there any pro's/cons to bulk aging in a gallon water jug vs bottling after clarification is complete?
 

bernardsmith

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There are people who prefer to age in the bottle and others who prefer "bulk aging" although one gallon is not really bulk (I say that as someone who typically makes one gallon batches) ... but I wonder if you really intend to bottle very soon after racking from your primary fermenter into the secondary. I ask because - and this IMO has nothing to do with what I think of as "aging" - during the first few months your mead is going to drop sediment - wine makers refer to this as lees. The longer you allow your mead to "age" in the carboy, the less risk you have of sediment dropping out in the bottles. Now, while the lees won't typically cause any problems of off flavors (at least typically and depending on the yeast you use) and while most wine makers like to allow their wines to age sur lee (on these fine lees) gross lees can cause off flavors and even fine lees are viewed as a sign of poor wine making technique when they coat the sides of a bottle (assuming you store your bottles on their sides)... So my recommendation would be to keep your mead in the secondary for a few months and every 60 -90 days to rack it off the lees that form if they form a layer of about 1/8 - 1/4 inch.... ( I would rack onto some K-meta (suitably dissolved) each time I rack - this to further inhibit oxidation (others on this forum argue that unlike other fruit wine and beer mead does not oxidize as readily... I don't know. I have never seen the reason for that claim or that hypothesis tested so I assume that my mead is just as likely to oxidize as , for example, my elderberry or elderflower wines)
 

BlkWater_brewer

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Thanks, great article! A link to that should be stickied in this section IMO.

I assume that since you ferment in the gallon jug that mead fermentation is not as aggressive/explosive as beer fermentation?

Also, are there any pro's/cons to bulk aging in a gallon water jug vs bottling after clarification is complete?
Mead fermentation may not be as aggressive as beers, but as far as explosive, bottling too soon can be an experience. My first ever mead made many many moons ago was an utter disaster. I bottled it too soon in standard beer bottles. I ended up with about 40 12oz grenades. Took me years to get every last shred of glass cleaned up. (180 year old colonial with dirt basement)

I would recommend a couple of wine bottles at least. Polishing off a gallon fast, may be too much.
 

cwfoster

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Expect to use 2 carboys. People do longer or shorter cycles depending on a lot. But if I sum mead making up into a few lines.
Mix, pitch into carboy with yeast. Wait a month to 6 weeks. Move into secondary carboy, wait another 6-8 weeks. Move into carboy again. Leave for 6 more weeks to a year or so if you decide to bulk age. If not bulk aging, just bottle (at this point it is roughly 3+ months old). Age in bottles a couple months for a decent flavor. A year or even multiple years depending on your patience.

Lots of details behind it of course but your starting equipment is yeast, nutrient, Campden tabs (1 per gal per racking), potassium sorbate if you want to stop fermentation or none if you want fermentation to continue for carbonation. 2 carboys, 1 set of plugs /airlock. Pump / hose to move mead between carboys. That's all you really need. You can go all out with wine thief, hydrometer, back sweetening, etc. but for your first 1gal batch start easy.
 
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imp81318

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Bernardsmith, I understand that it is going to take quite a while - on the order of several months - for the sediment to drop out of the mead, and I have no intentions of bottling until after that point. My question regarding aging in the 1-gallon jug/carboy vs. in bottles was referring to after the sediment has dropped out.
 
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imp81318

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Thanks BlkWater_Brewer, I figured that it could be just as dangerous as with beer, but I was specifically referring to the amount of head space needed during early/active fermentation. I recently brewed a 5-gallon batch of stout (5% ABV so not a big beer at all) in a 5-gallon carboy and had krausen pushing out of the blowoff tube for over 3 days... I assume that mead does not have that kind of 'expansive' (perhaps that's a better word) active fermentation stage?
 

cwfoster

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Mead is not like beer at all during early fermentation. I leave 2-3 inches of headspace for the primary fermentation. Its more like a bubbling soda than a beer spewing off bubbles and foam.
 
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