View Full Version : 1st mead recipe - any feedback before I mess it up?

06-17-2008, 03:55 PM
Hey everyone,

I have a version of JAO mead that removes the orange peel in order to reduce some of the apparent bitterness that I have read about.

The recipe is as follows:

5 Gallons JAOM - modded

10 tsp orange zest
Juice from 2.5 oranges
12.5 lbs clover honey (dutch gold from costco)
5 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cloves
Yeast nutrient and energizer
Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead

Top up to 5 gallons with store purchased spring water.

I plan on using Fermaid K as yeast nutrient, don't know about the energizer yet, and plan on using the honey cold/unheated.
Will ferment in a 7.5 gallon plastic primary and use a 5 gallon carboy for secondary.

Any suggestions? Coments? What should I use as yeast energizer?

Many thanks!

06-17-2008, 04:38 PM
Hi, Cugel! Welcome to "GotMead?"!! You'll find a lot of good advice from some very experienced meadmakers here!

Regarding your recipe, I do have some concerns. First, the Sweet Mead yeasts available from Wyeast and White Labs are notoriously finicky -- sometimes producing a sweet mead, sometimes producing a dry mead, and often sticking well before fermentation has progressed to where you want it to finish, resulting in a cloyingly sweet, syrupy concoction that has only a hint of alcohol in it. So, if you want to use a true wine yeast strain in this one I might suggest picking a different yeast for this batch. You can use the forum search tool (above the thread summaries on the main forum index page) to find out all about the various wine yeast strains from all the manufacturers and the characteristics that each of them impart to mead musts. We have pretty much found that active dry yeasts from Lallemand or Red Star tend to be more predictable in their behavior in meads than the liquid colonies from Wyeast or White Labs. BTW - Once you go away from using whole, unpeeled orange segments, bread yeast, etc., this isn't any longer a JAO. The terminology is no biggie, but it does mean you shouldn't expect your mead to resemble the results that other folks have reported from following Joe's original recipe.

If you only use 12.5 lbs of honey in a 5 gallon batch, you'll end up with a must that has a starting specific gravity of around 1.090. That is typical of grape wine must gravities and if it ferments to dryness you'll end up with about 12% ABV, but you should be aware that wines have a lot of other constituents contributed from the grapes that will enhance the overall flavor and mouthfeel of the finished wine. With honey as the principal ingredient and the juice from only 2.5 oranges as the principal adjunct you may find that you end up with a dry, thin mead that has a lot of bite from the cinnamon and cloves, and not much else in the flavor profile. A little backsweetening after stabilizing the mead might do the trick for that. You can find out all about backsweetening using the search tool, too.

Good luck! I assume that this is one of your first batches of mead - am I right? Have you brewed beer or made any other alcoholic beverages? Tell us a little bit about your experience level, and your desires for this batch, and we can provide you with more specific feedback!

06-18-2008, 08:04 AM
Thanks Wayne for your comments.

I have been brewing beer for the last decade or so, with a hiatus for 4-5 years in the middle period due to the arrival of the kiddies and sleepless nights. I have made a few batches (3-4) of red wine. Currently I have 5 5 gallon batches of beer and 2 batches of (red) wine plus 5 gallons of apfelwein conditioning in the basement.

Never made mead before, had a bottle a few years ago and thought it was quite tasty. I know that the mods to Joe's original recipe voids the warranty and that it is no longer a JAOM but something different. I just wanted to move away from bread yeast (which scares me), and only use the orange zest and juice; keeping the orange pith out of the mead.

Thanks for your comments on the probable outcome of the above recipe. Much appreciated. What I am looking for in a mead: a medium dry finish, medium body and some flavors from the cloves, cinnamon and orange. Oh, alcohol too! :) I bought 15 lbs of "dutch gold" clover honey from costco and am looking for a recipe that will hide/disguise the inexpensive nature of the honey.

Have done some reading concerning the yeast and it appears that Lalvin 71b-1122 would probably do the trick if resurrected with some Go Ferm and then fed with Fermaid K.

How much honey do I need to get a medium body medium-dry mead? How do I need in the way of oranges 5 to 6 I presume? Will the 5 cloves and 5 sticks of cinnamon be too much?

Many thanks!!!!

06-18-2008, 11:04 AM
Well, you can determine how much honey to use based on the advertised ethanol tolerance of your yeast. Let's say you do use 71B; its tolerance is 14% ABV per Lallemand's reference chart. All you need to do is to shoot for a starting gravity that will allow the yeast to produce 14% before it poops out, that leaves you with the amount of residual sugar that you desire. If you want medium dry, then you're probably looking at a finishing gravity of around 1.002 to 1.000. Keep in mind that honey sugars are 100% fermentable and there's not much else in honey that will appreciably affect the gravity in a mead must, so a typical bone-dry finishing gravity is on the order of 0.998 to 0.996. Even 1.000 implies that a little residual sugar has been left. So, you can be very analytical about it and use the Mead calculator (or any other handy tool that relates gravity to potential ethanol content, including reading it directly off of your hydrometer scale) to see that you need a starting gravity of 1.107 to achieve 14% ethanol production by the time the final gravity falls to 1.000. For a 5 gallon batch (that is, to mix to almost exactly 5 gallons) you'll need slightly more than 15 lbs of honey to get to that starting gravity. I like to point out here that I am always very analytical, but a good friend of mine keeps reminding me that analytical and anal come from the same Latin root! ;D

Or, you can use Wrathwilde's handy rule of thumb to get approximately to where you need to be. Wrathwilde's figured out that for the range of gravities that mead musts usually start at, 1 lb of honey (mixed in a total volume 5 gallon batch) yields approximately 1% ABV when fermented completely out. So, for a bone-dry finish in your 5 gallon batch, using 71B as your yeast, you'll need 14 lbs of honey according to his method. For a slightly more residual sugar, you'd use a little more honey.

So, you''ll need somewhere between 14 and 15 lbs of honey to achieve a starting gravity of 1.107. I'd start by mixing up the 14 lbs, then slowly adding additional honey until I got the must up to my target starting gravity.

It is harder for me to comment on how much fruit or spice additions to use in a recipe, because that is going to be highly dependent on your personal taste. That said, I think that one orange per gallon will be enough to make its presence known, so yeah, 5 oranges should be enough to establish "orange" as one of the flavor components in your result and it is consistent with Joe's original recipe. With the spices, I tend to go easy on spice additions in primary, and then taste when racking to secondary to see if I'm happy with the result keeping in mind that the spice presence will fade some as the mead ages. If I'd like a little more spice in the mix I'll then add more in secondary, but I'll put them in a steeping bag to allow me to pull out the spices when I've determined that enough flavor has been imparted to the mead. To be consistent with Joe's original fruit to spice ratio, one stick and one clove per gallon is sufficient, but keep in mind that if you're going for medium dry, then you'll finish drier than most JAOs do, and the spices will be more prominent in the flavor profile.

One final suggestion. 71B is a great yeast, and a good choice for this recipe, but it does not do well for sur-lie aging. So be sure to rack carefully out of primary as soon as fermentation is over, and leave all those lees behind. Rack again as soon as the mead fully clears, leaving the fine lees behind. Don't let your mead sit on 71B lees for more than a month or so.

06-18-2008, 12:14 PM
Thanks again Wayne! Much appreciated.

I'll perhaps sweeten the wine a tad and drop in maybe close to 15 lbs to leave a little but noticeable residual sweetness. I'll also go easy on the cloves/spices. I plan on bulk aging the mead for 9 months or so; and hope that the spices will have mellowed out nicely by then.

I do have 2 questions... sorry ...

First, would this work well as a sparking mead? I could prime with 3/4 cup sugar... would priming with honey work too, and if so how much should I use?
Finally (for now :) ) are there other yeast energizers and nutients other than Go Ferm and Fermaid K that would work as well, or nearly as well? I know that Oskaar recommends their use, but my LHBS does not carry them. I can always have them shipped, but this kinda irks me as my cost almost doubles from $8 to $15.

Thanks again!!!

06-18-2008, 12:53 PM
You're welcome!

And regarding your two remaining questions --

1) It certainly would work as a sparkling mead; I'd use even less spice since the carbonic acid "bite" from dissolved CO2 will add some edge. Also, if you expect it to sparkle, then you'll have to either force carbonate it via CO2 injection, or if you're bottle conditioning you'll need to accept the fact that it will finish bone dry. There is no reliable way to bottle condition and leave behind any sugars from the honey. You can alternatively sweeten with some lactose or an artificial sweetener, but I never like the results I get from either of those options.

2) Fermaid-K and Go-Ferm are recommended by Oskaar (and by me, and most other experienced meadmakers that I know) because we have used them extensively enough to verify that the ingredients are the same from batch to batch. Other generic yeast nutrients can actually vary by quite a bit from lot to lot. I know that this is true for at least one other brand-name nutrient, Fermax, so I never use that one any more. One other nutrient mix that Hightest (another experienced meadmaker) uses and has certified is consistent, is SuperFood. I would use SuperFood in lieu of Fermaid-K if I could get one but not the other. In a pinch, you can use a generic, but then obviously YMMV.

NOTE: Most often you'll see our mead recipes calling for both Fermaid-K and DAP. Fermaid-K has been formulated by Lallemand to work well in grape wine musts, and it has a little DAP in it. Grapes provide some amino nitrogen naturally, so less nitrogen from other sources is required for yeast health in a grape wine must. We make up the difference in meads with additional Di-Ammonium Phosphate. One caveat -- yeast are only able to uptake those non-organic sources of nitrogen (such as DAP) during the first 1/3 of fermentation, while they are still actively reproducing. After that their cell wall chemistry changes and the only nitrogen sources that they can assimilate are amino-based (i.e. organic). So, only add DAP during the first 1/3 of fermentation.

06-18-2008, 01:27 PM
Dziekuje Wayne! (That's a Polish emblem as your avatar, right?)

06-18-2008, 02:27 PM
Tak! (Yes!)