View Full Version : aging after back-sweetening?

07-08-2008, 09:48 AM
Here goes. My yeast attenuated like crazy and I was down to a SG of about 1.00 after 2.5 weeks. The must has been in the primary vessel for almost 4 weeks now. It tastes drier than I'd like, so I was thinking of racking to a secondary, hitting it with some K-sorbate, and backsweetening with some fruit puree. I want this to be somewhat sweet and fruity, as it is partly for my wife, who hates my hop bomb beers. I am also cool with this being a still mead, so carbonation isn't an issue for me.

Two questions:
#1 Will the mead (melomel, actually, I guess) age properly if the yeast is toast, or should I rack to secondary and leave it a while before slaying the yeast?

#2 My final volume is ~ 4 gallons, while my fermentation vessels are 6.5 gallons. So there is going to be some significant head space in the secondary, and very little c02 to push out the oxygen (since this thing has already attenuated so low). How do I deal with this? Is just letting it clear and age in the bottle an option?

This was my first mead attempt, though I've got some beer under my belt already, including high-gravity (>1.1) brews. Here's my recipe:

12 lb orange blossom honey
10 lb fresh cherries
1 Vial White Labs Sweet Mead Yeast (pitched from a 1L starter)

I boiled 2 gallons of water, dissolved the honey, then added that to my fermenter and topped off until the SG was about 1.09, and cooled. Then pitched the yeast and added the cherries.

In retrospect I should have used more honey, since I was going for a sweeter mead. Live and learn. FWIW the beverage at 3 weeks actually smelled and tasted not too awful, jet fuel alcohol aside. Just a little drier than I intended.

Appreciate any help you folks can offer!

07-08-2008, 10:12 AM
Welcome to "GotMead?"!!!

I would suggest racking off the gross lees and allowing most of the fine lees to settle out before you do any backsweetening. If you're sure that you want to backsweeten then use some sorbate and sulfite now, as you rack over to a secondary carboy, to hasten the demise of any yeast still hanging on and to prevent activity by any malolactic bacteria that may be present. If you use only sorbate, that will inhibit yeast reproduction but it will do nothing to stop MLF. In fact malolactic bacteria will consume your sorbate and will excrete a nasty smelling (think "rotting geraniums") byproduct that will ruin the mead. So the one-two punch of sulfite and sorbate is always a good idea when you want to use sorbate in any wine or mead.

The other reason for allowing some clarification/aging time is that many of the honey flavors that fade into the background when yeast are present, start to come back to prominence once all the yeast are gone and the mead has had some time to integrate and mellow. You may find that after 6 mos of bulk aging that you don't need to backsweeten as much as you think you do now.

That lack of liquid volume in your big carboys is an issue, since that much headspace in a carboy is bound to allow some oxidation, but you can minimize the effect by pre-charging your carboys with CO2 gas before you start racking, and by again purging the carboy's remaining air volume with additional CO2 just before airlocking it. Alternately you could consider getting 4 one-gallon glass jugs (they're relatively cheap and available), and aging/clarifying in 4 different full-up vessels. Since you're a beer brewer, you might already have everything that you need for this. But also since you're a beer brewer, remember that meads take months (sometimes a year or longer) before they are truly ready to drink. Don't judge your ultimate results by what you are tasting in the mead now.

Medsen Fey
07-08-2008, 10:23 AM
Welcome giganticmantis!

In addition to using smaller containers for aging, there are some other strategies for dealing with headspace outlined Here. (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=412&topic=6488.msg53298#msg53298) Usually at the first racking, there is still enough CO2 dissolved in the mead to provide effective protection.

Good meading!

07-08-2008, 10:40 AM
Thanks for the welcome and the advice. I think I'll just pick up a smaller vessel (or multiple ones, per your suggestion) and give this thing some time. I like to brew big beers a la barleywines that also age well, so I respect the value of patience ;)

I've enjoyed commercial meads for a while, and I love the idea of being able to brew some styles that are difficult/impossible for me to buy. It's great to find a cool community like this to help along the way. Thanks again.