View Full Version : Adding Oak

04-25-2011, 06:22 PM
I have a mead going that I used earl grey tea water (10 bags steeped for an hour) to make.I used Côte des Blancs yeast and I was considering adding oak to the batch was interested in opinions. I have never used oak as of yet. Not sure if the tea water and oak would be a good bad or otherwise combination.

Thanks for any advice

Medsen Fey
04-25-2011, 06:26 PM
Oak can be good even in meads that have tannins from other sources, but why don't you provide the full recipe details and perhaps folks can give more specific suggestions.

04-25-2011, 06:38 PM
Sorry here is what i have as far as my notes hope it helps..

15 lbs sue bee clover honey

4 gallons water 2 of which were steeped with ten earl grey tead bags for an hour.

cotdesblancs yeast 2 packs reconstituted with 4tsp go ferm

added 2tsp DAP and 2tsp ferm-k to contents in 5 gallon brew bucket with heat belt.

never did take my S.G.

left in primary bucket from january 5th until 2/21 was then racked into glass carboy.

That is where it now sits until I rack it again.

04-25-2011, 06:59 PM
It would be a good idea to get an SG now, so that you can make sure this is safe to bottle whenever you do decide to do so. Plus, that will allow us to estimate the alcohol % for you, which is good to know.

Also, if it's sitting on sediment right now it might not be a bad idea to rack again soon, it's been quite a while and racking will help speed the clearing process.

BUT - on to the question you actually asked to be answered ;) ... I love oak. But, I love it playing a subtle roll, and it can be easy to over do, especially in a traditional mead (or in the case, a nearly-traditional, as I from personal experience that tea will be a pretty subtle influence in there, which could be totally great).

Until you know what you're getting with oak it can be difficult to work with in such delicate batches. If you go with oak then use cubes or spirals, not chips or powders/extracts.

I would start with 1/2 oz of oak cubes, the lower the toast the better in my opinion (but if you like smokeyness then ignore that opinion!), and start tasting it after 3 or 4 weeks, tasting every week. As soon as you're sure you can clearly detect the oak in the aroma and taste of the mead, I would rack off the cubes. At this point the oak is probably "too much" but after a good 10 months or longer it will fade into the background and become more integrated.

That's just my take on it though, others will have differing opinions of course. Another option would be to test out oaking on a smaller batch to learn about it before jumping into a big batch!

04-25-2011, 07:13 PM
sg 1.010

Thanks AToE

Great input!

04-25-2011, 07:22 PM
Ok, assuming my math is correct, you're sitting at aroun 13% ABV right now, which is 1% below that yeast's tolerance (note though that all the info I found on that yeast said 12-14% and I've never used it, so wait for someone else to chime in on whether it typical passes 13% ABV).

Which means it won't be truly safe to bottle until it's been stabilized with sulphite and sorbate, because this could start fermenting again. Even after a year of aging, or longer (way longer). Which could potentially lead to bottle bombs (and no bottle in existance is strong enough to hold those forces if that starts up again in the bottle and goes dry).

Wait for advice from those wiser than I am on that one.

04-25-2011, 07:29 PM
well I dont really want to sullfate and what not but I plan to bulk age for quite some time so hopefully it will work out. After im done reading replys and gathering info I will rack with some oak of some kind.

I also oxygenated the must with an oxy stone

I will edit my recipe with my current sg and the use of the aeration stone.

out of curiosity what yeast do you like to use?

04-26-2011, 12:01 AM
If you're bulk aging for a really long time (couple years) it's definitely safer - but another option is maybe renting some sterile filtration (has to be down to a really small size in microns to filter out the yeast) to try and stabilize it that way, if you're not wanting to add stabilizers.

People do manage to safely bottle meads without stabilizing them, but I don't want to be the one ever recommending this, because the risk of (very) serious injury is just too high and I don't want to be responsible for that!

I use a variety of yeasts, all from Lalvin/Lallemand (they just really give you great info to work with, and they make the goferm and fermaid K and such). I like RC212 in dark blueberry/other berry meads (difficult to work with this yeast though) and I'm really starting to enjoy D254 for traditionals, can't wait to try it in a berry mead (also finicky to work with). DV10 is pretty nice to work with from the few times I've tried it. And any time I want to be lazy with nutrient additions and aeration I'll use 71B (don't really love it for berry meads though) as it's a really hard yeast to make unhappy.

04-26-2011, 09:27 AM
Awesome thanks again! I greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your info.

I was looking at oak cubes as you had stated cubes would be the way to go.

I was looking for a light toast keeping in mind you thought a lower toast would be better.

I only was able to find light toast in chips and the lightest I was able to find in cubes was

I just did a google search via the shopping tab. That being said am I missing light cubes
somehow? Or would you recommend medium toast cubes or light chips?

Or maybe Iam way off in left field.

Thanks again for all your time and information.

04-26-2011, 10:45 AM
I can't seem to find any light toast oak cubes. Did find some chips and spirals. (http://www.northernbrewer.com/winemaking/oak-infusion-spiral-pack-of-2-american-light-toast.html)

The spirals (http://www.northernbrewer.com/winemaking/oak-infusion-spiral-pack-of-2-american-light-toast.html) could be cut into the lengths that you need.

04-26-2011, 01:39 PM
I can never find light toast cubes either - I should have been clearer though, by "lighter the better" I pretty much meant "medium" to be the bottom of that scale!

I'd go with those medium cubes. They'll give you a good balance of wood character and toasted character I think. Any lighter than that and you could potentially be missing out on the toasted element, which is really a huge (the biggest probably) part of what oaking brings to the table.

04-26-2011, 04:52 PM
Perfect thanks guys! Medium toast it is.

Medsen Fey
04-26-2011, 07:31 PM
With traditional meads, I'm developing an appreciation for the light toast oak.

There is a good Patron's thread entitled "Got Wood" which has some excellent discussion and links and can give you some good info on differences between American, French, and Hungarian Oak and the different toast levels. Only time and tasting will tell you what you truly prefer.

04-26-2011, 08:04 PM
I'm going to check it out and am more than happy to patron up with the quick and insightful responses I have received!

04-26-2011, 09:43 PM

Here's an excellent one page primer on oak. It will answer a lot of questions and, most likely, generate a few more.

GET OVER the BARREL (Or other easy ways to oak your mead). (http://www.cfhb.org/mead/oak.htm)

And congrats on becoming a patron. It's worth MANY times the cost.

04-27-2011, 12:36 AM
Here's (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showpost.php?p=96009&postcount=1) a direct link to the "Got Wood" article.



04-27-2011, 03:37 AM
With traditional meads, I'm developing an appreciation for the light toast oak.

I'm quite sure you don't use the chips. Do you have a souce for light toast oak cubes? Or are you using the spirals?

Medsen Fey
04-27-2011, 09:29 AM
Yes, I've been using spirals, and I think they work pretty well. Xtraoak (http://store.xtraoak.com/american-oak-xoakers-p43.aspx) may have some "bean equivalents" as well as staves and blocks with light toast.

However, I do still use oak chips sometimes. Even though I think cubes, spirals and especially staves are better (and a barrel would probably be the best), chips can still be useful. Yes, they may release their extracts too quickly, and may not give the same character you get with the larger chunks of wood, but they can still play a useful role. For example, when used in primary fermentation, it can actually be an advantage to use chips (or even powder) that allow the extract to be completed during primary. Also, when using a blend of oaks, using some in the form of chips, while other oak is going in as cubes/staves can be useful. I'll sometimes use a small amount of heavy toast chips with some mixtures which adds a little smokey/char character.

04-27-2011, 09:50 AM
Thanks for sharing your insights Medsen, that was quite helpful.

04-27-2011, 11:02 AM
Also, look at this thread


It may or may not be helpful.

04-27-2011, 01:44 PM
That's interesting Medsen, I'd actually been thinking for some time that when I'm using oak in primary in big mels (more to aid colour stability than for the actual oak influence) that chips might be more effective, as the cubes extract so slowly that I have to use a lot more, and essentially am wasting them when I toss them after primary!

I might try light toast chips, or medium, in my next big mel primary.

04-27-2011, 11:15 PM
Thanks for both the links Im still mulling over the info. Im thinking of trying the medium Hungarian oak in this batch.

05-04-2011, 08:00 PM
Thanks again for all the information guys! I racked the tea mead onto a half oz of Hungarian medium toast cubes. mixed up a 5gal batch of JAO as well. I almost feel ambitious.

At least that's ambitious for me........

05-12-2011, 07:32 PM
One week on the oak and I really like the taste this mead now has. I'm debating on how much longer to leave it on.

05-13-2011, 12:29 AM
Very often I pull the oak out after only 2 weeks. You want to go slightly beyond "perfect" as the oak character will diminish/integrate over time.

05-13-2011, 08:16 AM
Very often I pull the oak out after only 2 weeks. You want to go slightly beyond "perfect" as the oak character will diminish/integrate over time.

Thanks! I'm going to try just that then. I'm really pleased with the oak addition. I didn't know what to expect from it. It seems to have made the mead smoother. I definitely lack the proper words to describe it.