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Jess
10-06-2009, 01:50 AM
As I was perusing the hundreds of mead websites this evening, I ran across an interesting article wherein a fellow described the differences between sweet and dry meads. He compared a sweet mead to the popular commercial "Chaucer's Mead". I've drank Chaucer's but I can honestly say that although I enjoyed the glass or two that I had, it was way too sweet for my tastes. Almost like a liqeur or a dessert wine. In fact, when I was drinking it I thought to myself, "This stuff would be even better if it weren't so damned sticky sweet."

My question is; Do you consider this gentleman's article a proper comparison? If so, I may be more of a dry mead fan. I'm just a few days away from my first batch of mead and now I'm debating 12lbs. of honey or 18lbs. of honey.

Maybe I should just go 15lbs. and split the difference. LOL!

Jess

AToE
10-06-2009, 02:02 AM
I personally am finding some of my "dry" meads (1.000 or lower) to still be pushing it for sweetness, and I'm no wine-snob type who looks down on sweet wines (I'm thinking of my old (french) drummer...), I'm just a young guy who finds that anything I've made so far ending at above 1.000 (and especially above 1.010) is likely begging to get restarted with EC1118 if possible (and if not fed to someone who likes sugar more than I do!).

I've never tried Chaucers, but I know that all the comercial meads I have tried have been scary sweet, and I get comments from people all the time when I say I make mead like, "oh, I've tried that, I don't like it it's too sweet" - I honestly don't know why commerical meaderies seem to insist on almost exclusively sweet meads, when a dry mead (the only ones I've tried are my own) is so bloody good!

I'm too new to give serious advice, but maybe make a batch of dry mead, with a relatively low ABV so that it's drinkable sooner so that you can evalutate it in a couple/few months. Then you can always stabilize and backsweeten if you don't like it sweet, and most of the experienced people around here seem to recommend that aproach anyways so that you can dial in exact sweetness levels (trying to do it by starting with more honey can just send you dry anyways with a higher ABV, those alc "limits" on the yeasts are really just averages).

Dan McFeeley
10-06-2009, 02:23 AM
Sweet meads can be a quick and easy way to get honey character into the finished product, but all too often it can be overkill. Not that there's anything wrong with a sweet desert style mead, but there's much to be said for a good dry mead.

Dry meads are also a test for good meadmaking. Sweetness can help to mask flaws, but in a dry mead everything hangs out. Aging can do a great deal to bring out the best in a dry mead.

Jess
10-06-2009, 02:47 AM
O.K.....I'm starting to catch on here. Remember, I'm new to this whole mead thing.

The dryness is based more on the yeast type than the amount of adjuncts in the must, right? Since I'm using a champagne yeast....of which has an alcohol tolerance of 17%....it's going to eat the hell out of whatever sugars are in the must. Right? Increased sugars in the must will just raise the ABV but ultimately the champagne yeast will yield a "dry" mead. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Thanks for your patience. I'm just trying to learn the science before I practice the art. LOL!

Medsen Fey
10-06-2009, 09:42 AM
Yes, Jess, the relationship between yeast alcohol tolerance and sugar determines whether you end sweet or dry. Since virtually all the sugars in a mead must are fermentable, the only limiting factor is the yeast's tolerance. If you start with enough sugar for a potential alcohol of 16% and use a Champagne yeast, you end of with high alcohol and dry. If you use a yeast like 71B (14% ABV) you end up with lower alcohol and sweet.

In a 5 gallon batch, 14 or 15 pounds of honey is not a bad number to choose. With a Champagne yeast it will go dry with about 14% ABV and end dry. Then you can stabilize it and backsweeten it get the level where you like it best.

As mentioned above, even dry meads can have perceived sweetness, especially if the alcohol level is high, and if there has been lees aging. The fact that traditional meads do not have high acidity and tannin levels commonly found in wines means that whatever sweetness is there will seem more pronounced as tannin/acidity tend to reduce the perception of sweetness.

Chaucers is a dessert mead, and really sweet. I prefer mine quite a bit less sweet than that.

Arcanum
10-06-2009, 12:02 PM
As mentioned above, even dry meads can have perceived sweetness, especially if the alcohol level is high, and if there has been lees aging. The fact that traditional meads do not have high acidity and tannin levels commonly found in wines means that whatever sweetness is there will seem more pronounced as tannin/acidity tend to reduce the perception of sweetness.

The converse, of course, is that if you have a mead with a lot of tannins (mouth-drying; think tea) and/or acid (sour, salivation-inducing, and mouth-puckering; think lemon), a touch of sweetness can help moderate those attributes. The use of sugar, acid, and tannin against each-other is where you get into the whole idea of "balancing" a mead or wine.

What the preferred balance actually is, that's a matter of personal preference and the circumstances in which the mead will be drunk.

Jess
10-06-2009, 10:10 PM
O.k., Medsen Fey and Arcanum, I think the bell in my head just went "ding". I now understand the correlation between yeast, sugar, ABV and sweet/dry.

I'm one of those weird people that likes to know some of the facts and absolutes behind something before I "pull the trigger". I did the same thing with beer brewing. Drove my online mentor nuts with question after question until I had a good grasp of beer-brewing-basics. LOL!

I want to thank everyone for their patience. I now know that I'm ready to get started. I'll keep you guys abreast of things.

Jess