View Full Version : A Blackberry Melomel

06-27-2009, 02:32 PM
OK heres the score. Im an experienced extract ale brewer but mead making is entirely new to me. I live in Washington state and the wild blackberries are in bloom everywhere you look up here. So blackberry supply is not a problem, only the time to pick them is. So Id like to try a 5 gallon batch of blackberry melomel but am hoping to top it out at 10-12% ABV rather than 15% ABV or above. I want to final melomel on the sweet side, not dry or alcohol tasting.

14 lbs. of clover or blackberry honey
20 lbs. of freshly picked but frozen blackberries for the primary
8-10 lbs. of frozen blackberries for the secondary
Water to 6 gallons for the primary
Fermaid K, 6 grams at the end of the lag phase
Lalvin 71B-1122 rehydrated with GoFerm

My plan would be to pasteurize the 20 pounds of blackberries in water at 145F for 15 minutes, cool and strain the berries/water into the primary (7.5 gallon plastic fermenter) through a sanitized (Iodophor) strainer or cheesecloth and add the honey and water to 6 gallons. Then after the primary drops to 1.020, Id rack onto the other 8-10 pounds of blackberries in the secondary (6.5 gallon glass carboy) until clear. I'm looking for an end result with a sweet finish with less than 15% ABV, more in the 10-12% alcohol range.

I'll do the aeration and punch down the cap in the primary twice a day with frequent monitoring of the specific gravity. So heres where I get into questions. How would you suggest I stop the fermentation when the gravity gets down to 1.015 - 1.020? I could sulfite it but I know Oskaar recommends going light on sulfites. I can cold crash it in a refrigerator and rack it to a 5 gallon glass carboy. But enough yeast remains. If I want the end result in the 10-12% ABV range I suspect fermentation would continue more slowly to above that range. Would I used sorbate here to stabilize? What else would I need to do to make sure the I get a sweet mead result in the 10-12% ABV range? Would the D47 yeast be a better choice for a lower final alcohol result? I'm open to backsweetening to taste if needed.

Your comments and suggestions are most welcome as I am still just formulating a recipe. Thanks for any advice you have.


06-27-2009, 02:56 PM
Hello and Welcome!

Fruit usually encourages the yeast to be extra happy, so you might have a hard time slowing them down. Your best bet would be to put less honey in up front and let the fermentation go to completion (1.000 or maybe less) at your desired %abv. Complete all your fruit additions in secondary and let the yeast drop out. Then you can backsweeten it to taste after chemically stabilizing it.

06-27-2009, 03:12 PM
Thanks Akueck. I've seen your many beer recipes on Beer Tools also. You're a pretty prolific guy! This one's kind of like your Darkberry Ale without the grains. (Next time try Old Ales for the Alameda County Fair - they tend to score better.) It's good to see you here too.

06-27-2009, 04:39 PM
That berry beer was pretty good. The exploding fruit might have gotten a little acetic character, but I thought it was refreshing. Nice to hear people actually read that stuff!

06-27-2009, 04:48 PM
If I'm not reading on GotMead, I'm looking at stuff on BeerTools. So maybe 12 lbs. of blackberry honey at the start would yield me closer to 12% ABV at the end? I know I'm getting sugar from the fruit also.


06-27-2009, 07:24 PM
Fruit will add sugar, but the sugar content is significantly lower than the rest of your must so in theory they will dilute your mead, not fortify it. Hard to measure with fruit floating around, but that is the way it is supposed to go. If you haven't found it already, you should check out the Mead Calculator (accessible from the main page). You can plug in the quantities of all your ingredients and the total volume, and it will give you an estimate of the SG.

According to the calculator, your 14lb of honey + 20 lb of berries in a total volume of 6 gallons will give you 12.5% abv. This will dilute some when you add more berries in secondary. Sounds about right based on what you want, in which case it should ferment dry and you can backsweeten it later after things have finished and cleared up a bit.

06-29-2009, 08:48 PM
Then 14 lbs. of honey it is. Thanks. I figured it wouldn't make a lot of difference if I used clover honey or blackberry honey being that I'm using a lot of blackberries in the primary and secondary fermentations. I think I read about taking caution to not leave the fermenting mead on the blackberries for much over 14 days. True? If so, then it's 14 days in the primary and 14 more in the secondary before racking once again to a 5 gallon carboy. Would that be the way to go?

What about preferences for the yeast? Is the Lalvin 71B-1122 rehydrated with GoFerm they way to go or might D47 be better?

I figured that any other yeast nutrient additions would be less of a concern being that I'd use Fermaid K after the lag phase and otherwise the blackberries should provide enough nutrients. Any concerns there?

Also are there any acid/tannin concerns with this recipe? I know blackberries have acids and tannins themselves. Any specific things I should do to mitigate acid or tannin issues?

All comments are helpful. Thanks.


06-29-2009, 11:05 PM
Be careful to not let the mead sit on blackberry seeds for any length of time. I know, that's easier said than done, but at least 75% of the tannins in the berries come from those tiny seeds. The acid balance of ripe berries is pretty good, IMO, but you need to take care to not let the tannins get out of control.

You can remove the seeds at the time you pull the cap from the primary by a combination of skimming the fruit off, and then racking off of the seeds that have settled in the lees layer. When you use blackberries in secondary, racking off of the fruit after a fairly short time, perhaps augmented by passing the liquid through a steeping bag, can keep the tannins from taking over.

For yeast, if you want a "fruity" nouveau style finish, 71B is a good choice. Otherwise I'd try ICV-D21 or D254 for a more complex result. Both of those strains need more nitrogen than many yeasts, so you'll need to pay more attention to nutrient management.

06-29-2009, 11:08 PM
Clover vs. blackberry might not come through, but I would still recommend good honey vs. low-quality stuff. The fruit might hide some flaws in the honey, but it's best to start out with good ingredients.

71B is usually paired with fresh fruit; it brings out the fruitiness. D47 will not give you the "fruit bomb" effect, but it is still a good yeast. Unless you have a particular personal preference, I would say go with the 71B for this batch. I think I used RC-212 for my berry mead and personally I liked that a lot, but it is also more "winey" than "fruity" and chews through a lot of nitrogen.

Your nutrient requirements will be lower than a plain honey must, but the berries won't remove them entirely. Use Go-Ferm for rehydrating if you have it. Use the Fermaid and/or DAP at end of lag. After that, you may or may not need more. Keep an eye on the fermentation and add more nutrients if necessary. 71B is a little less picky than D47, so you will have fewer issues with that yeast if you choose to use it.

14 days on the fruit seems longer than you probably really need to leave the fruit in there. Most of the good stuff will be pulled out over 3-5 days. Prolonged contact will leech more tannins. I have pulled my meads off the fruit in primary after several days to maybe a week. The fruit will bleach, and that will be your sign that it is toast. Give it a gentle stir to kick up any sleepy yeast and you can move it off the fruit. Let fermentation complete and you can put more fruit back in. The fruit in secondary will react more slowly, so you can leave it in there longer if you like.

pH may be a problem, or maybe not. Measure it periodically, or if you're feeling hands-off measure it if things seem to be slowing down prematurely. Potassium carbonate would be a good thing to have on hand in case of pH emergency. You can use baking soda if you're stuck on a desert island.

Don't forget to punch down the cap! ;D

07-05-2009, 02:56 PM
What pH range would I want to see? I expect the blackberries to drive the pH lower. Would I be looking at less than a pH of 3.7?

07-06-2009, 11:59 PM
If your pH is in the range of 3.3-4 you should be ok. It can be higher than 4 before fermentation starts and that is ok too, as the yeast will drive it down.