Questions from a Novice Mead Maker

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aBlankExpression

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Hi I've been making mead now for six months now and had some questions about the process.

Residual Sugars
I am looking to make a Hydromel, information online suggest there is success using s-04 yeast. People also recommend with that when using this yeast use a starting gravity of 1.040 but the yeast is rated for up to 10% ABV with 1.040 which would go to 1.000 for a 5.5% ABV apox. That's fine if you want something dryer but I want it to finish sweet. But if I add more sugar it will only raise the ABV until I push it's closer to the 10% mark. So how do I reliably stop a mead from fermenting to a desired ABV (5.5%) when the yeast is rated for a higher ABV(10%) but still have residual sugars?

Complex Sugars and Bochet
Why does caramelizing honey make it unfermentable. I know it makes it a "complex sugar" but I can't seem to find a more in depth explanation than that. What is that complex sugar called?
What are the different types of sugar and which are or aren't fermentable

Yield loss from whole fruit:
While making melomels I lose quite a bit of the mead when I rerack a mead using whole fruit. Is that just the carboy's price or is there a way to prevent that loss? If you were going to squeeze whole fruit would you squeeze it first only adding the juice you get from squeezing or do people remove fermented fruits from primary and squeeze that

When to use Plastic vs Glass
I see a lot of people using plastic 5 gallons and glass 5 gallons when is it appropriate to do one or the other?

Spices:
How do you remove Spices from a 5 gallon glass carboy? I was thinking of using teabags but Where would I attach a string or keep them floating close to the top for retrieval

Doughy taste
One of the few flops I've made in these few months was a strawberry mead. Really simple just strawberries water and honey. I blended the strawberries to better break them down before going into the carboy. When we sampled a few months in it was pretty doughy tasting. Is there a known reason why a mead might taste doughy? I am now just trying to wait out the flavor been racked for 5 months now.

Thanks for any feedback, I know some of these must be vague so feel free to ask me anything if it needs clarifying
 

Seamonkey84

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Very new myself, but I think I can answer some of your questions.
Residual sugars: the most reliable way to have a sweetened product is to add enough honey/sugar to reach your desired ABV and let it ferment dry. Once it’s done and cleared, stabilize with Sorbates and Sulfites, then sweeten it to taste about a week before bottling. Otherwise you’ll have to find the right sweet mead yeast, which my brew shop says only comes in liquid form.
Yield loss: par for the course. Even when using bags, you’ll have considerable about of lees built up on bottom. Some yeasts pack the material down tighter than others. You’ll always loose some at racking. Now, if you really wanted to, you can siphon that stuff into a tall and narrow vessel, then stick it in the fridge for longer and see what you can salvage off the top of that. Or go nuts and centrifuge it lol.

Plastic vs glass: as long as your using a food safe plastic, they are fine to use, at least for primary or secondary. When there’s fruits involved, I like using buckets for primary. For aging, I’d go with glass or make sure you use a thick PET type bottle like better bottles. Any carboy I get over 3 gallons will be plastic for sure. On that note, my next vessel will be the 2.5gal glass barrel shaped jar I found at Walmart for under $15. It has a wide mouth screw top. Will prob need to find a new top for it though.
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Anchor-Hocking-2-5-Gallon-Glass-Barrel-Jar/46887356
Spices: try in a bucket? Or thread the string for the teabag through the bunghole (still haven’t gotten tired of using that word :)) then squeeze your airlock in like you normally would. That way you won’t drop it in and the bung should make a nice seal around the string anyway. Of course sanitize the whole thing.

Doughy taste: what type of yeast did you use and what was the temp like? Did you use any nutrients and how much? Was it clear already when you tried it?
 

bernardsmith

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Hi Kyle - and welcome. Let me try to answer at least one or two of your questions.
How to make what I would call a session mead and make it sweet? First , ignore the fact that most yeast strains cultured in labs can ferment to 12-14% ABV. That is what most wines look for and what most wine makers want. But think: your car can probably get to 95 or 100 mph. Does that mean that you won't drive it through the center of a city or on sharp curves on a mountain road? Of course not. You drive at safe and legal speeds. In mead (or wine making) the equivalent of how much pressure you put on the gas pedal is the amount of fermentables you have in your must. You want a mead with a maximum potential of say 5% ABV ? You don't have more than 1 lb of honey in each gallon of must. The downside is that at that dilution of honey flavor can be thin. The solution to that is ferment at higher temperatures (to add complexity - sometimes called off-flavors, but only if you don't want/like them), or you can add herbs or spices and /or carbonate. But unless you are kegging and can force carbonate that is a real challenge if you also want to back sweeten. Seamonkey84 talked about backsweetening.

How to remove spices? I use whole spices rather than powder and I tend to ferment in buckets rather than carboys - using carboys as my secondary. If you get hold of muslin "socks" that brewers use for hops then there is no problem removing spices or herbs.

Plastic or glass? There is really no difference if the plastic is food grade and designed for wine making. That's not 100% true. There are differences - plastic is lighter to lift, and does not smash when dropped. Glass is (in my opinion) easier to clean and less likely to be scratched (scratches inside can be havens for bacteria and mold). Glass is impermeable to O2, plastic less so, but you are "sealing" the neck with rubber or silicone bungs and airlocks so "impermeability" is a lovely fiction.

Your wines sometimes have a doughy taste? Counter-intuitively this is often caused by under pitching the yeast. Although your yeast pack may indicate that 1 pack is good for up to 5 or 6 gallons and so you assume if that's the case and you are making 1 or 3 gallons you should use less than a pack. That ain't true. The higher your starting gravity the MORE yeast you need and 1 pack may be just sufficient for 1 gallon especially if your pitching protocol is not excellent. You can lose more than half the viable yeast cells without blinking if it's less than excellent. And a pack that has been opened and stored in the fridge is likely to be contaminated with all kinds of microbes that feast on the remaining yeast cells. But another reason might be that the mead/wine is still very green and the yeast cells have not yet all dropped to the bottom to be removed by racking.

Does making a bochet result in unfermentable sugars? Sure, if you burn the honey. Carbon is not fermentable. But I don't know that caramelizing sugars at 250F and 320F or 350F (different sugars caramelize at different temperatures) in fact results in a significant amount of unfermentable sugar. In my opinion, given the description of how many folk make bochet their bochets are bitter (because they scorch their honey) and scorched sugars are carbon and not fermentable. But to be accurate, there are some chemical changes that take place during this cooking that does create compounds that combine sugars with other organic elements that remove the sugars from the list of fermentables but I think the amount is quite small. My bochets tend to ferment brut dry.

Last point - Yield. To make 1 gallon (or 50 gallons) of mead you don't start with 1 gallon but with say 1.5 gallons. That's another reason to use food grade buckets as a your primary.
When you rack you may lose , say, 1 qt, so now you have 1.25 gallons and the question is not how to squeeze out more wine from the lees but where to store the excess (ans: in sanitized mason jars in the fridge). That said, if you pour the lees into a similarly sanitized mason jar and place that in the fridge after an hour or so liquid will separate from the lees and you will have another pint or so of mead/wine. Should you squeeze fruit to extract any last drops of mead/wine? I wouldn't. You are likely to extract compounds that are best not extracted in my opinion. The idea is to plan your process from the start so that you end up with the volume you want.
Hope this helps.
 
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