View Full Version : Will oaking a mead always improve it?

10-22-2006, 11:34 AM
Good Day All,

I'm considering oaking for the first time. The question is in general and not specifically related to my receipe.

Have any of you wished you did not oak a mead? I always seem to read how it has improved upon the finsihed product and not hurt it.


Dan McFeeley
10-22-2006, 01:47 PM
There were a couple of times for me, both attributable to poor technique. First time I used an oak extract (I can hear/feel Osaar's seismic shudder all the way from California), second time was the oak sawdust (aftershocks!).

10-22-2006, 02:36 PM
I would also add that even if you do use quality oak (chips, cubes, spirals, etc.), it's easy to overdo it if you have a heavy hand...or to use a darker toasting to excess. Too much oak -- even the good stuff -- can leave a mead overly astringent and/or woody in character, which may or may not age out over time.

I find it better to use moderate amounts, which you can then monitor. When the oak gets the mead to where you want it, you can pull it out or rack off of it; and if it's not where you want it, you can simply add more.


10-22-2006, 06:57 PM
Hey Yarmur,

There's no universal maxim when it comes to oaking just as there's no standard recipe for making mead. It's just something that the meadmaker has to decide upon when they get to that decision tree during the lifecycle of the mead. Certain meads are appropriate for oaking and others aren't in my opinion. That's an entirely subjective decision I make after I have a good sense of where the mead will be going as it ages. In some cases I will and in others I won't. It's really all about having enough batches under your belt, and having used oak enough to know where it's going to go with the oak treatment.

Try some tests with a basic traditional mead and use different types and amounts of oak in each, and leave one un-oaked as a control batch. That way you have a basic standard to compare your test batches against. Again, I strongly recommend blind tasting of the different treatment levels at a time you have determined as a test point. That way you don't get to infuse your decision with any preconceived notions as to what will taste better, and you'll get an unbiased decision you can feel confident will bring you a mead you will continue to enjoy...even if it is the un-oaked version.



10-22-2006, 07:14 PM
Thanks for the answers guys.......

As some of you may know, I'm looking to start a muscadine tupelo next week. This is the one I'm considering oaking. I have had muscadine wine that was oaked and enjoyed it quite well. I dind't post my receipe because I believe nobody has used this combination before, or if they have, not in a great extent. I think when time comes to bottle, I'll take 2 gallons and oak it with American medium toast. This batch is intended to be my first entry into a competition, Meadfest `08.


10-29-2006, 01:11 PM
Something I have done is to go with the Oak strips (less end grain to limit bitter taste).

In addition I put them in boiled water and steep for 2-3 min and dispose of the 'tea' that is produced. For my taste, this tea is way too powerful.

Once done the Oak is kicked down a couple notches so you have less of a 'blast off' effect and a more subtle safe infusion level.

I also go with the lower end of the suggested amount of oak which allows a bit longer contact time without as much risk of over Oak.

I started off using chips, but these (to me) where too fast to impart flavor and were not as forgiving as strips or cubes.

10-30-2006, 04:28 AM
According to Stavin there are some issues with boiling which are twofold:

1. By boiling you alter the surface of the oak and allow for more rapid infusion which carries the risk of over astringency and woodiness.

2. You leech off some very desirable flavors imparted from the surface of the wood and much of the effect of the toast level which is what you're looking for based on the toast level you order.

Stavin recommends just rinsing the cubes, staves, domminos, etc. with some clean fresh bottled water and then racking your mead on top of them. This is what I do and it works very well. I've not had a problem with over-oaking. I'll also combine types and toast-levels of oak in various mead recipes I make if I'm looking for something that is not offered by one type of oak and toast level. I'll generally start with 2 ounce of oak and layer if necessary with additional treatments.

Hope that helps,


10-30-2006, 08:33 AM
Very good feedback,

I use Vintners Alternative Oak Sticks:

The directions for Vinters Alternative say to "Boil water. Remove from heat, add oak, drain...which is the process I follow and it works very well.

I find Oak Strips to be smoother than the 'cubes' as it is closer to barrrel exposure.

For my taste that initial 'blast' that comes off the Oak is dramatic if not used in this way.

10-31-2006, 08:23 AM
Hey RS,

I like the staves as well (staves, sticks pretty much the same things 'cept sticks fit into the demijons easier), I also really like the dominos...actually I prefer the dominos to all of them because you get better and wider surface area from the top and bottom, and they infuse very nicely. In blind tests that I've done our results usually put the dominos a close second to barrels as far as the overall structure and flavor components from the oak.

Look for an article in the upcoming IMA Home Mead Maker Newsletter about Oak and using Oak. This will be a two parter, and the first article will deal with the technical aspects of oak (types of oak, toasting, aroma and flavor compounds, and more). I'm still considering a couple of slight revisions to that article, and then I'll start in on the second article which covers practical usage for the home mead maker, along with techniques, and various different approaches to oaking mead.