View Full Version : sweet meads and spoilage?

12-07-2008, 04:29 PM
OK so I did a few forum searches, although I didn't know quite what to search for, so I searched for stuff like (sweet meads aging, aging spoilage, spoilage), but I didn't find quite what I was looking for.

I have a few questions concerning sweet meads, aging, and spoilage.

On one previous thread where I wanted to make a sweet low abv drink, I was told that if I did produce such a drink it would be at danger for spoilage. Now, is that because of the low abv, or because of the high sugar, or both?

Also, does that mean that a high abv sweet mead is also at risk for spoilage?

Other than cleaning everything really well, and swirling the primary (after 1/3 sugar break and before transfer to secondary), are there any other precautions that can be taken to avoid spoilage?

Also, can sweet meads be aged, just like dry meads or is the high residual sugar a problem somehow?

12-07-2008, 05:27 PM
The major problem is usually sweet, low ABV meads. The higher alcohol content reduces the chance of spoilage organisms getting a foothold.

There are several high ABV sweet meads that age quite well. I'm not sure of the exact spelling but dwonjiaks (sic) fit this category. See some of Sandman's posts for details on this style. Others on the site have made them too but for some reason, Sandman's sticks in my mind. I wish I could remember the spelling better.

There is a Polish meadery (Adigwa?) that makes dwonjiak (?) that is aged for 25 years before selling so it definitely can be done!

Medsen Fey
12-07-2008, 05:28 PM
There are several questions here, but I'll try to take a few of them.

You can age sweet meads. They will do nicely. My oldest is only 2 years old but has become really good and I think it will last for years to come (if I can keep my hands off it).

High alcohol level are protective. If your yeast have reached their alcohol tolerance they won't ferment any further sugar and your mead is stable. Keep in mind that even if you think the yeast are dead, if they get stored in a nice warm place, they can sometimes wake up and start again weeks (or months) later if you have not used some means to insure they are stable. So it is wise to age batches that you don't stabilize for plenty of time to make sure they are truly done.

High alcohol levels are also protective against wild yeast and bacteria. Most truly wild yeast (as opposed to feral strains floating around your brewing area) will have an alcohol tolerance less than 10%. Lactic acid bacteria usually cannot tolerate more than about 15%, and while some acetic acid bacteria have been found in wines containing 20+% alcohol, it is rare for them to be able to survive more than 17%. Fortified wines or meads (with alcohol between 18-20%) are generally microbiologically stable even if they have residual sugar.

Sugar can also be protective. This is why honey is stable despite being full of sugar. It is very hygroscopic and will generally suck the water out of any organisms that land in it. While spoilage organism can attack meads/wines with residual sugar, the higher the sugar concentration, the less likely they are to be attacked. Very rich, super sweet dessert wines such as Tokay or Trokenbeerenauslese are generally stable even though their alcohol levels may be 10% or less. This is one reason why super-high gravity fermentation often fail, and accounts for why musts with a gravity of 1.190 or so won't even start fermenting - the yeast get choked.

There is a formula that says if [ABV*4.5]+[sugar % (w/v]>78 the mead should be stable. This is not a hard and fast rule as many factor can alter that relationship, but the bottom line is that the more sugar and more alcohol you have together, the more stable will be the result.

For meads with a little residual sugar and low alcohol, it is wise to use sulfites/sorbate to protect the mead from spoilage organisms.

I hope that helps clarify it a bit.


Clarification of the above formula - w/v refers to weight divided by volume. So a 30% solution would be 30 grams in 100cc liquid (which is not quite the same as 30 Brix which is 30 grams in 100 grams of solution as that works out to be about 34% w/v).

12-07-2008, 06:53 PM
I just got a couple of PM's from a new member in Poland regarding these meads. I think he is shy so here they are:

Originally Posted by wildaho
Originally Posted by male
Dwójniaki and półtoraki
Wildaho, in Poland we have very sweet meads,dwójniaki i półtoraki, some of them are made by Apis or Pasieka Jaros.Dwójniak means use of 1:1, półtorak 1:0,5 in volume of honey and water.

That is great information Marek, thank you! Do you mind if I quote these PM's in the original thread? Or maybe you would like to post this information there? It's good information for everyone.

And welcome to the site!


no problem, you can use it as you want.I know a lot about sack meads, because I make them myself.
25 years aged
in our history there were even meads aged for 100 years, but now I don't belive in 25 years,it would be to expensive.There is a polish law, that dwójniak should be aged at least 2 years (or 18 months), I don't remember now.So in my opinion they sell younger meads.

12-08-2008, 12:07 AM
Medsen, you are a god.
your reply/equation has answered about 12 questions that i've been playing with (i try to not use any additional sulfites-i have several allergic friends).
but, more importantly, thanks everyone.

12-08-2008, 12:15 AM
hm interesting, thx for the info gents!

Medsen Fey
12-08-2008, 11:15 AM
Medsen, you are a god.

Not even close!

But I do take like to imbibe the drink of the god's-