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jimmydatwin
07-06-2012, 03:35 PM
Hi all, just finished my first batch and got 2 more on the go. I've been using EC1118 yeast and got a few extra packets still that I would like to use up, but would like to make a sweeter mead as opposed to a dry mead. Also I would like to avoid going up to 18% alcohol as a 5g batch of sweet mead gets expensive(still working on finding a good honey connection as I live about 4 hours from the nearest city) and knocks my wife on her butt after 1 glass(she's a lightweight drinker).

My solution is to adjust my recipe to end at about 10-14% alcohol and back sweeten my next batch after using a stabilizer to kill yeast once fermentation is complete. My question is should I back sweeten with the same ratio of honey/fruit as I used in the original recipe or should I use less honey or fruit? Should I only use fruit? I realize that this question is pretty generic and some fruits will work differently that others, but I am still working out what I want to make for my next batch, just curious as to if there is any general rules to back sweetening.

On a side note would I just be better off getting a different yeast in the future or is back sweetening after stabilizing an effective method to use?


Thanks in advance,
Jim

Deacon Aegis
07-07-2012, 12:28 AM
Hi all, just finished my first batch and got 2 more on the go. I've been using EC1118 yeast and got a few extra packets still that I would like to use up, but would like to make a sweeter mead as opposed to a dry mead. Also I would like to avoid going up to 18% alcohol as a 5g batch of sweet mead gets expensive(still working on finding a good honey connection as I live about 4 hours from the nearest city) and knocks my wife on her butt after 1 glass(she's a lightweight drinker).

My solution is to adjust my recipe to end at about 10-14% alcohol and back sweeten my next batch after using a stabilizer to kill yeast once fermentation is complete. My question is should I back sweeten with the same ratio of honey/fruit as I used in the original recipe or should I use less honey or fruit? Should I only use fruit? I realize that this question is pretty generic and some fruits will work differently that others, but I am still working out what I want to make for my next batch, just curious as to if there is any general rules to back sweetening.

On a side note would I just be better off getting a different yeast in the future or is back sweetening after stabilizing an effective method to use?


Thanks in advance,
Jim

Howdy Jim,

There are a couple of things to think about here when it comes to back-sweetening. Personally, I kind of subscribe to what many have found to be true and that is to let their mead run dry and then back-sweeten to flavor. I like that method personally and on the one batch that I've been playing with so far that has become drinkable, I like the way the backsweetening added some characteristics to the mead. As you pointed out, stabilizing the mead with sulfate and sorbate is neccessary before back-sweetening. You'll use nowhere near the original amount of honey or fruit to backsweeten as you did to brew and a little can go a long way. On many of my meads, I hit a final gravity around 1.002 to 1.012. I tend to back sweeten my meads to 1.015 as I prefer a medium-sweet mead.

As for yeast, I prefer K1-V1116, which doesn't run quite as dry as EC-1118, but can get pretty durn close. My usual starting gravities for my meads tend to be around the 1.140 to 1.142 region.

The choice between backsweetening with fruit or back-sweetening with honey depends on several factors in my book. If you are wanting more pronounced fruit flavors, you may want to go with the fruit as your sweetening source. If you like the fruit characteristics of your melomels, then go with the honey. Some folks use other things as well to back-sweeten with, such as using sugar directly or one of several types of syrups. I've found for the mead that I used honey to backsweeten on, the longer I let that one age, the more of the honey characteristic comes through and the more mellow the heat of the alcohol smooths out.

I'm sure there will be some others that chime in with their experiences. (My experience is currently extremely limited). Hope this helps though. :)

fatbloke
07-07-2012, 05:16 AM
Howdy Jim,

There are a couple of things to think about here when it comes to back-sweetening. Personally, I kind of subscribe to what many have found to be true and that is to let their mead run dry and then back-sweeten to flavor. I like that method personally and on the one batch that I've been playing with so far that has become drinkable, I like the way the backsweetening added some characteristics to the mead. As you pointed out, stabilizing the mead with sulfate and sorbate is neccessary before back-sweetening. You'll use nowhere near the original amount of honey or fruit to backsweeten as you did to brew and a little can go a long way. On many of my meads, I hit a final gravity around 1.002 to 1.012. I tend to back sweeten my meads to 1.015 as I prefer a medium-sweet mead.

As for yeast, I prefer K1-V1116, which doesn't run quite as dry as EC-1118, but can get pretty durn close. My usual starting gravities for my meads tend to be around the 1.140 to 1.142 region.

The choice between backsweetening with fruit or back-sweetening with honey depends on several factors in my book. If you are wanting more pronounced fruit flavors, you may want to go with the fruit as your sweetening source. If you like the fruit characteristics of your melomels, then go with the honey. Some folks use other things as well to back-sweeten with, such as using sugar directly or one of several types of syrups. I've found for the mead that I used honey to backsweeten on, the longer I let that one age, the more of the honey characteristic comes through and the more mellow the heat of the alcohol smooths out.

I'm sure there will be some others that chime in with their experiences. (My experience is currently extremely limited). Hope this helps though. :)
Some good commentary there DA.

When I'm intending to make a batch to a set strength, I calculate the gravity required to get about 1% above the stated tolerance, then make the must to that level e.g. 14% ABV is a drop of about 103 to 104 points, so I make the batch to about 1.110 SG, then if my method doesn't get me that (I'm usually happy if it gets the 103 to 104 point drop in gravity and if it slows or stalls at that, then I'm happy to hit the batch with sulphite/sorbate to stabilise).

Then I'll rack it off the lees, and after a confirmation test of gravity, back sweeten it with a 50/50 honey and water syrup, to the required level. Then concentrate on getting it cleared etc.

I do the back sweetening with honey at that point (rather than just before bottling), because honey can cause a protein haze, and if I've already got the batch cleared, it annoys the hell out of me to have to do the clearing thing, with it's knock on of more racking losses etc a second time.

Oh and by making the batch that way, you can use a yeast with better properties than EC-1118, and/or better quality/varietal honey and other yeasts (non-champagne yeast) won't blow so much of the aromatics and more subtle flavours straight out the airlock. K1V is good, as is D21, D47 (provided you have some form of temp control to keep the ferment below 70F), not forgetting 71B (make sure it's racked off the lees within a month or two of the ferment finishing).

huesmann
07-07-2012, 09:04 AM
If you don't want rocket fuel, why not use a yeast with a lower alcohol tolerance, as the fatbloke suggests?