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matter
07-08-2009, 05:07 PM
Hi folks,

I am an experienced homebrewer and have made about five batches of sparkling mead all of which have come out very nicely. All were made with tap water in various locations I have lived.

A few months ago, I took the plunge into all grain brewing and have learned about water profiles and their effect on the mash (and of course, your resulting product). I have very alkaline water with high bicarbonate count, so I turned to using salts to adjust RO water to meet my needs. The results of my first batch of AG beer (now kegged) are outstanding. By tailoring the water for the mash, the beer came out very true to style!

I'm looking at making a very pricey marionberry melomel and I want it to be worth the price tag (about $4 per 12 oz serving).

My question is... What type of water profile is ideal for mead making? I know that the yeast needs these ions to do their job (in addition to yeast nutrient or energizer and some acid blend). Another consideration is the ionic properties of the fruit base I plan to use (2 x 96 oz cans), which is an unknown factor. However...

My plan is to ferment 15 pounds of honey in 3 gallons water for about a week with yeast energizer added at 0, 24, 48 and 72 hours. After the vigorous fermentation subsides, I will rack to secondary over the fruit base and add some pectic enzyme.

Since the honey fermentation is going to occur before introducing the fruit, I would think the water profile would be an important factor.

I'm thinking something lightly balanced should work out well. Something like:

3 gallons RO water treated with:
3 g calcium chloride
1.5 g epsom salt
.75 g baking soda

yields (in ppm) 72 Ca++, 12 Mg++, 48 HCO3-, 18 Na+, 127 Cl-, 52 SO4--

Can anyone please give any advice on this water profile intended for making a sparkling mead?

Thanks in advance!

akueck
07-08-2009, 07:51 PM
As far as I know, there is not much (or no) information out there on water ions and their effects on mead. If you have the time and inclination, it might be a good experiment to try making a gallon of simple mead with your tap water and then your "reconstructed" water to see if they come out differently. Water chemistry is very important in beer brewing since the ion concentrations effect pH, enzyme activity, starch extraction, etc etc etc. The bees have already done all that work for you, so mead is more like extract brewing insofar as concerns about water chemistry go. Yes, it will have an effect, but it will not be as dominant as with all-grain brewing. if your water tastes good, it should make good mead.

That said, your water profile looks fine. Nothing is wacky so I'm sure it will turn out great. Yeast like high Mg2+ concentrations, but you should get some of that in the yeast nutrients.

Are you kegging the mead to make it sparkling? If not, there are some recipe changes you might consider.

matter
07-09-2009, 03:27 PM
Are you kegging the mead to make it sparkling? If not, there are some recipe changes you might consider.


I will probably go to bottle with corn sugar... for batches that need extended aging, like mead, barleywine, heavy scottish ale, etc, I don't like to tie up my kegs. I try to keep them filled with quick batches. ;D

What would you want to change for bottling vs. kegging?

I am looking at this recipe:

http://tinyurl.com/nycvbj

Thanks for the reply!

akueck
07-09-2009, 07:12 PM
Sparkling wines are generally about 11-12% abv going into the bottle. The refermentation adds a little more alcohol. For wines this is less a deliberate thing than the way the grapes are (high acid, low sugar). With mead you can be more adventurous, but you still want to obey a couple guidelines. The base mead should be below the alcohol tolerance of your yeast (give it a few % abv of room) and completely dry. You want a very predictable bottle fermentation. The end result will be a dry sparkling mead. You can add a sugary dosage after disgorging the yeast if you wish. Sugary syrup in the glass is another option if you want a sweeter bubbly.

Medsen Fey
07-13-2009, 03:40 PM
Yes, akueck is right that you want to have controlled fermentation for sparkling meads. I'm a bit surprised at the instructions and using 71B for a sparkling mead as the 71B has an alcohol tolerance of about 14% and you get very close to that with 15 pounds of honey in a 5 gallon batch. I suppose it works because they are selling it, but it isn't the approach I would have taken.

As for the water ions, like a lot of things, there isn't much formal study done on this topic with mead musts. However, what we do know is that "hard" water with more carbonates is easier to ferment with honey musts. Such water tends not to have the pH drops that can stall the yeast in a traditional mead (which is what you have before racking onto the marionberries). If your water tastes good, I wouldn't make any additions to it that make it less alkaline - the yeast will take care of that.

akueck
07-13-2009, 06:25 PM
Oh, hmm I didn't notice the 71B before. I agree, that is not a route I would take. 71B is not known for good lees influence, in fact it is highly recommended to get it off the lees quickly. DV10 and EC-1118 are good choices for sparklers. I have never used DV10 before but I think it is supposed to be less "leesy" than the EC-1118, which produces the classic Champagne yeasty flavors. 71B is good for very fruit-forward flavors though, so maybe that is the logic.

matter
07-13-2009, 07:55 PM
Oh, hmm I didn't notice the 71B before. I agree, that is not a route I would take. 71B is not known for good lees influence, in fact it is highly recommended to get it off the lees quickly. DV10 and EC-1118 are good choices for sparklers. I have never used DV10 before but I think it is supposed to be less "leesy" than the EC-1118, which produces the classic Champagne yeasty flavors. 71B is good for very fruit-forward flavors though, so maybe that is the logic.

Everyone, thanks for all of the input!

I really appreciate the advice on the yeast. I was looking at the 14% alcohol tolerance for 71B and I was thinking I could start with that, rack and add champagne yeast as the 71B starts to slow. BUT... I think I'll just go with the EC-1118, it looks like a fast fermenting, competitive strain and a great match for this sparkling... and the less I rack and play with a batch the less likely it is to get some nasties in it!

Thanks again! ;D

matter
07-14-2009, 12:13 AM
Yes, akueck is right that you want to have controlled fermentation for sparkling meads. I'm a bit surprised at the instructions and using 71B for a sparkling mead as the 71B has an alcohol tolerance of about 14% and you get very close to that with 15 pounds of honey in a 5 gallon batch. I suppose it works because they are selling it, but it isn't the approach I would have taken.

As for the water ions, like a lot of things, there isn't much formal study done on this topic with mead musts. However, what we do know is that "hard" water with more carbonates is easier to ferment with honey musts. Such water tends not to have the pH drops that can stall the yeast in a traditional mead (which is what you have before racking onto the marionberries). If your water tastes good, I wouldn't make any additions to it that make it less alkaline - the yeast will take care of that.

I've been thinking about this a lot (think first, ferment later =)... oh and thanks again for the input... I want to head into this knowing that it will be great! :)

One thing... I think this recipe is for a still mead, because it kills the yeast with sulfite. So, I am trying to adjust it for a sparkling.

I can see why the 71B might be a bad choice for a sparkling mead... it's ability to absorb malic acid seems like a bad thing, when you are probably intentionally adding it, yet you are shooting for a finish as low gravity and dry as you can go... Right?

As far as water goes, I guess that my tap water which is pretty much only good for really dark beers, is ideal for mead making (about 8.4 ph and 225 ppm HCO3-).

So, I imagine a Dublin water profile would be good for mead making if you wanted to start with distilled / RO?

akueck
07-14-2009, 11:57 AM
Yes, you're looking for complete fermentation before you put the mead in bottles for refermentation. The yeast needs to have some vigor left so it can carbonate the mead.

Honestly I would try your tap water as-is, at least once. My water is pretty soft (~25 ppm bicarbonate), thus the prevalence of west coast pale ales. But it makes dark beer and mead just fine too. If you're up to it, I would also very much encourage an experiment on water hardness vs. mead results. We love to experiment here!

manwithbeers
09-19-2010, 02:41 PM
Having been a long time home brewer I am really interested in water profiles for beer for many reasons the mineral profiles or the water used in beer plays important roles. My water is very low in minerals so I am always adding minerals.

In mead (which I am a Newbee) I can only say is that all yeast does require some minerals to be efficient. The most important being Calcium. Low levels of Calcium will cause poor or slow flocculation. The next thing is Alkalinity. Low levels of HCO3 reduces the buffering capacity and pH will swing very easily.

That being said, the levels don't need to be high. I don't recall where I saw the numbers I use as minimums but Calcium should be at least 50 mg/L (ppm) and HCO3 needs to be around 50 ppm as well. I think the Lalvin website may have this info...

The tap water I use is very low in these levels. On my most recent 5 gallon (19L) batch I used 1/2 tsp of Chalk and 1/4 tsp of Calcium Chloride (About 1 g of each) added to the water I mixed the honey into.

See http://www.homebrew.com/mike_brew_corner/mike_03270101.shtml to find what ions are added from each gram of salt used.

Chalk needs to be preboiled in the water to be used for making mead as it does not dissolve easily. In fact my water was very cloudy but once the pH drops it will dissolve during fermentation.

The only mineral ion I think would be detrimental to mead is Sulphate which would cause dryness and harshness.

My 2 cents for what it's worth as my first post. Cheers

wayneb
09-20-2010, 03:58 PM
Welcome to "Gotmead," manwithbeers!! Great info, and kudos to the man who joins with ready to offer advice!!!

akueck
09-20-2010, 08:46 PM
This topic thoroughly intrigues me. For beer, you can get pretty significant shifts in flavors by altering, for example, the sulfate/chloride ratio and major changes in yeast health by closely monitoring both the calcium and magnesium concentrations. Now, for mead we use a healthy dose of yeast nutrients which will contain calcium, magnesium and potassium ions for good fermentation, but probably little to no sulfates or chlorides. It would be great to study how these affect flavors in mead--some are tied (in beer) to sensations of the hop bitterness, which mead doesn't (usually) have. Does this mean there is no effect?

Too many tests, not enough space! Anyone want to donate a basement to me? I'll mix the mead up. I've already got a DOE matrix in my head for this one!

Medsen Fey
09-20-2010, 09:09 PM
In winemaking, Ammonium Sulfate is commonly used as a nutrient in addition to or in place of DAP. It doesn't seem to cause them any problems.

manwithbeers
09-20-2010, 10:35 PM
Local water profiles have always and will always play some role in the flavors of meads as they do any other beverage of course. For example; Given the high content of Chlorides and Carbonates in Scottish Ale brewing water from Edinburg I would think the same water plays an important role in the traditional Heather varietal meads produced there. If I were to make my own Heather Mead you could bet I would try to reproduce the water profile as well. Not because I should or need to,o but because I can. :-) All part of the creativity of fermentalia, which is what I love about it.

Tannin Boy
09-21-2010, 06:24 AM
Having been a long time home brewer I am really interested in water profiles for beer for many reasons the mineral profiles or the water used in beer plays important roles. My water is very low in minerals so I am always adding minerals.

In mead (which I am a Newbee) I can only say is that all yeast does require some minerals to be efficient. The most important being Calcium. Low levels of Calcium will cause poor or slow flocculation. The next thing is Alkalinity. Low levels of HCO3 reduces the buffering capacity and pH will swing very easily.

That being said, the levels don't need to be high. I don't recall where I saw the numbers I use as minimums but Calcium should be at least 50 mg/L (ppm) and HCO3 needs to be around 50 ppm as well. I think the Lalvin website may have this info...

The tap water I use is very low in these levels. On my most recent 3 gallon (19L) batch I used 1/2 tsp of Chalk and 1/4 tsp of Calcium Chloride (About 1 g of each) added to the water I mixed the honey into.

See http://www.homebrew.com/mike_brew_corner/mike_03270101.shtml to find what ions are added from each gram of salt used.

Chalk needs to be preboiled in the water to be used for making mead as it does not dissolve easily. In fact my water was very cloudy but once the pH drops it will dissolve during fermentation.

The only mineral ion I think would be detrimental to mead is Sulphate which would cause dryness and harshness.

My 2 cents for what it's worth as my first post. Cheers

Manwithbeers....Fantastic Post, Thank You!

I have just started reading about beer brewing and this water composition is most interesting. Hoping that someone will take on the task of the testing issue with respect to mead. This board never ceases to amaze me as to the caliber of folks that post here. It is the best place to be a newbie for sure. Now if I can just get my head around the laboratory side of things:o

Regards,

TB