View Full Version : How Should I treat my mead in the secondary?

Allen Brown
03-01-2011, 02:05 PM
What I mean by that is, I am fermenting a straight mead:
about 4-1/2 gallons water,
about 12# clover honey (added honey to 1090),
No Boil/No Heat,
Energizer & Nutrient according to package instructions,
Aerated & mixed with power drill & paddle,
Wyeast #4632 "Dry Mead" liquid.
6 gallon yeild.

My plan is to ferment this straight, then split up and end up with:
1 gallon dry mead,
1 gallon sweet mead,
1 gallon chocolate...

Any suggestions on what to do with the other 3 gallons?

Is this a sound practice, to primary ferment straight, then add in secondary? If so, at what SG level should I split them up for blending/adding?



03-01-2011, 02:09 PM
Sure, that is a perfectly acceptable technique. I personally like to ferment most of my ingredients together in primary, but lots of folks do secondary additions.

You could try some fruit in part of the batch; delicately flavored fruits such as peaches/nectarines are more likely to preserve their unique fruit character if added in secondary. I'll let other folks chime in with other ideas - as I said, I don't usually do many secondary only additions.

Medsen Fey
03-01-2011, 07:41 PM
I'd keep one gallon in reserve for topping up all the other batches as you go.

03-01-2011, 08:26 PM
12# honey=1 gallon volume...

So, you'll start with 5.5 gallons of mead. Probably ending up with closer to 5 gallons once it's all said and done.

With 12# honey and 4.5 gallons of water (5.5 gallons initial yield) you're looking at about 10.5% ABV (OG 1.078 )... If you really wanted 6 gallons, that puts your OG at 1.072, for 9.74% ABV. With those gravities, it will be easy to ferment dry. Especially since the yeast you picked can go up to 18% ABV... Making the sweet mead will be tricky, if you don't stabilize the mead first.

Another option would be to make the base mead with a yeast like Lalvin (http://www.lalvinyeast.com/strains.asp#)D47 or 71B, which ferment down to ~14%... Change your total volume to 5 gallons (starting volume) and increase the honey to 15#. That will give you an OG of 1.108 (14.13% ABV) so it will be easier to let it run dry, and still be able to back-sweeten a gallon without carbonating it.

Once fermented, give the one you're back sweetening enough time (with each additional honey addition to get it sweeter) before you bottle it, to avoid bottle bombs. I would also let the part you pull to bottle dry bulk age for a while before bottling it up. It will also be easier to add the other flavor elements you want, like the chocolate and whatever else you end up using.

I would also advise using the mead calculator (link to the left) to figure out how much honey you'll need to add for the volume. As it stands, using 12# of hone, you'll need to have a total volume of 4.75 gallons in order to get close enough to 1.090 OG. That also means you're at 12% ABV... So, unless you stabilize the mead (as mentioned already) back sweetening will only make it go to a higher ABV... Until you hit closer to (or over) that 18% mark.

Chevette Girl
03-02-2011, 12:08 AM
...looking at about 10.5% ABV (OG 1.078)

Golddiggie, weren't you just recommending the use of the preview button on another thread? ;D


Sweet, dry, chocolate, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and one to top up with?

And I think I'm going to copy your idea for my next meadsperiment to figure out if I still dislike dry meads... a 5 gal batch fermented dry then separate it and backsweeten to different degrees and step-feed one...

03-06-2011, 01:52 PM
Thank you for asking this question. I was going to ask the same thing. I started a batch of mead on 07/03/10 with a gravity of 1.108 and it is now down to .998 using wildflower honey and D47 yeast. I am now down to about 4 3/8 gallons after 2 rackings. I added potassium metabisulfite 3 days ago and potassium sorbate yesterday. I was hoping to rack to 1 gallon containers and experiment with different spices or other ingredients in each and most likely backsweetening all to different extents. Can I:
1. Add spices or fruits/chocolates after the sorbate and sulfite at the same time as honey?
2. Add oak chips at the same time as honey this late in the game?
2. Should I have the gallon containers in a cold location after adding everything to help it clear or in a warm setting to make sure fermentation doesn't start back up later?


Chevette Girl
03-06-2011, 05:07 PM
The spices and oak and chocolate should be no problem after stabilizing, you'll get extraction and it'll probably taste about the same before or after stabilization anyway, but I don't know if I'd want to do fruit when there's no yeast left. Of course, that could be my own personal bias. And it's also possible there might be some yeast in the fruit that might do its thing very slowly unless you sulphite it too. And I wouldn't add honey at that time, the fruit might be enough sweetening.

And I'd keep 'em warm at first anyway, just so that if there ARE some yeasties left, you know about it.

03-06-2011, 09:59 PM
Some commercial meads add fruit after stabilization, so that is totally ok.

What is your consideration of "cold" and "warm"? I wouldn't go directly to 30 F after the additions, just to make sure everything is done. But 60 is probably ok.

03-11-2011, 12:36 AM
I don't mean to hijack the thread but it seems related. Once FG is 1.00 or less and transfered to secondary and fruit added - how important is it to maintain constant temperature? Are 45F-70F fluctuations acceptable or do extra efforts need to be made to be consistent (forgoing starting other brews for much longer)?

03-11-2011, 12:48 AM
That's actually a difficult question to answer without delving into a lot of organic chemistry. However, let me try the simple summary approach. ;) Different reactions take place in the wine at different rates, as a function of temperature, so in general storing warm will produce a slightly different smelling and tasting end product as that coming from cold storage. Widely fluctuating temperatures, for wines in corked bottles at least, actually damage them due to changes in Redox potential that occur with changing temperature. Additionally, rapid change in temperature of a bottle's contents will change the net pressure inside the bottle, which can act to alternately push on and pull at the cork, eventually causing the cork seal to be compromised. The net result is that the wine will appear to "age" faster. Although I don't think that anyone's done quantitative studies with mead, I suspect that similar thermal stresses on mead will also appear to cause it to age (and oxidize) more quickly, as well as mess with the extraction reactions that take place with fruit in secondary fermentation.