PDA

View Full Version : Why bother with yeast?



Frnic
05-07-2013, 04:48 PM
I am a newb and this is bound to be dumb, but here goes...

I have been reading various posts here that describe the method to recover from over sweet batches is to add vodka to raise the % ABV.

I have also read here in several posts that the way to recover from dry batches (if you want sweet) is to back sweeten. In fact, because of the "problem" with not being able to stop fermentation before the yeast is ready to stop, back sweeten seems to be a planned method of making sweet mead.

So, if I combine the two methods, it seems that I could just eliminate the yeast all together and by mixing the proper amounts of water, vodka (ethanol) and honey, I could make a "traditional" mead ...

I assume this is a BAD idea, and I assume the reason is that the yeast is in fact an active contributor to the final taste...

Comments or suggestions?

Frank

Marc F.
05-07-2013, 06:01 PM
So, if I combine the two methods, it seems that I could just eliminate the yeast all together and by mixing the proper amounts of water, vodka (ethanol) and honey, I could make a "traditional" mead ...

I assume this is a BAD idea, and I assume the reason is that the yeast is in fact an active contributor to the final taste...

Comments or suggestions?

Frank

First of all,
Mead is a fermentation of honey. The yeast is supposed to burn the sugars in the honey to alcohol.

second:
Vodka is distilled. You will never get that amount of alcohol in a mead.
meads can range from about 6% to 20% alcohol.

So, mixing vodka with honey doesn't make a traditional mead.
It's all about the fermentation of honey by a yeast.

Just my 2 cents......

Marc.

SilentJimbo
05-07-2013, 06:02 PM
This is a bit simplified, but:

Say you brewed a mead using 3lb per gallon of honey, and backsweetened with another 0.5lb. You'd have a mead that contained the sweetness from the half lb, and the other flavours from all 3.5lb of honey, since the sugar in the first 3lb has been turned to alcohol. By contrast if you mixed water, vodka and honey, for the same level of sweetness, you could only have the other flavours from half a lb of honey, so it'd be one seventh as tasty. Alternatively, you could use 3.5lb of honey, and have the same amount of flavour, but it'd be ridiculously sweet, because none of the sugar has been converted into alcohol. And yes, the yeast and the fermentation process does also have a great effect on the taste.

Marc F.
05-07-2013, 06:10 PM
This is a bit simplified, but:

Say you brewed a mead using 3lb per gallon of honey, and backsweetened with another 0.5lb. You'd have a mead that contained the sweetness from the half lb, and the other flavours from all 3.5lb of honey, since the sugar in the first 3lb has been turned to alcohol. By contrast if you mixed water, vodka and honey, for the same level of sweetness, you could only have the other flavours from half a lb of honey, so it'd be one seventh as tasty. Alternatively, you could use 3.5lb of honey, and have the same amount of flavour, but it'd be ridiculously sweet, because none of the sugar has been converted into alcohol. And yes, the yeast and the fermentation process does also have a great effect on the taste.

I also wanted to say that but i had a few beers :)

Frnic
05-07-2013, 06:43 PM
This is a bit simplified, but:

Say you brewed a mead using 3lb per gallon of honey, and backsweetened with another 0.5lb. You'd have a mead that contained the sweetness from the half lb, and the other flavours from all 3.5lb of honey, since the sugar in the first 3lb has been turned to alcohol. By contrast if you mixed water, vodka and honey, for the same level of sweetness, you could only have the other flavours from half a lb of honey, so it'd be one seventh as tasty. Alternatively, you could use 3.5lb of honey, and have the same amount of flavour, but it'd be ridiculously sweet, because none of the sugar has been converted into alcohol. And yes, the yeast and the fermentation process does also have a great effect on the taste.

Ah, that makes sense, so all the "stuff" in honey that is not sugar contributes to the taste of the final mead.

Thank you.

Frnic

Kansas Mead
05-08-2013, 09:53 AM
Yeast makes flavors that can not come from vodka. Yeast is the key to a good mead. Fermented honey will taste better than vodka and honey mix together.

Chevette Girl
05-10-2013, 10:06 AM
To put it differently, what do you think the difference in taste would be if you mixed vodka with white grape juice, and compared it to a nice white wine, where the grape juice has been fermented?

joemirando
05-10-2013, 09:23 PM
I am a newb and this is bound to be dumb, but here goes...

I have been reading various posts here that describe the method to recover from over sweet batches is to add vodka to raise the % ABV.

I have also read here in several posts that the way to recover from dry batches (if you want sweet) is to back sweeten. In fact, because of the "problem" with not being able to stop fermentation before the yeast is ready to stop, back sweeten seems to be a planned method of making sweet mead.

So, if I combine the two methods, it seems that I could just eliminate the yeast all together and by mixing the proper amounts of water, vodka (ethanol) and honey, I could make a "traditional" mead ...

I assume this is a BAD idea, and I assume the reason is that the yeast is in fact an active contributor to the final taste...

Comments or suggestions?

Frank
Frnic,

I apologize in advance for the somewhat voluminous response.

I am pretty much a newbie myself, but I will offer my thoughts/opinions.

Making mead is.... well, making mead. Its taking the raw materials and letting nature do its thing.

When I was a kid, my grandfather used to make "Cherry Vodka" by taking purchased vodka, some cherries (I don't remember if they were candied "Maraschino" cherries or fresh anymore) and sugar, putting it all in a gallon jug and waiting for two or three months. He enjoyed the hell out of it, and made a great show of bringing it out when he had company. That was what he wanted, and truth be told, the best way to do it, since distilling spirits is not only illegal, but dangerous.

But with mead, the taste of mead is what's important. There are several Polish "dessert wines" that are made the way you mention, and I have tried more than a few of them. None of them are really mead.

You are correct in that the yeast imparts its own (hopefully) subtle signature upon the finished product. So does the temperature you ferment it at, the kind and amount of honey and even, I would venture to say, the quality and trace elements of the water used. I really like the results with Red Star Cote Des Blancs yeast, but it takes forever to ferment. What I have been doing is to let it ferment to about 10-12% and then finish it off with the lees from a batch that has fermented with Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast. THAT stuff is yeast on steroids!

I ran across a recipe a while ago for a "fast fake mead" that involved buying a cheap bottle of white wine and heating it and adding honey, skimming the scum off the top until no more formed, letting it cool, bottling it and letting it sit for 2 weeks. I haven't tried it. For one thing, a single bottle of mead wouldn't be enough to justify the work. For another, I can't afford half a dozen bottles of even cheap wine right now. <grin>

If you want to go the distilled spirits route, I would probably recommend grain alcohol instead of vodka, since vodka does have its own taste.

I have made both dry and sweet meads, and am at the point now where I am looking into 'intelligently back-sweetening' some to attain the desired taste. My ideal would be a semi-dry mead with just a very slight aftertaste of honey, not the "smack you in the chops with a beehive" aroma and taste of some of the dessert wines I've mentioned.

You might want to consider trying both to see if the difference is worth it to you. You're the final judge. Not me, not anyone else. If you like the result, go for it! Don't get tangled up in the 'philosophy'... unless you want to. My grandfather taught me one thing about wine tasting: "If it tastes good to you, drink it. And to hell with anyone else". Ok, so he wasn't a Rhodes scholar, but damn if he wasn't right.

Rock on, dude,

Joe

YogiBearMead726
05-10-2013, 10:00 PM
Just to clarify, vodka is a fermented product. They start with a wort made by mashing grains (barley, rye, corn, wheat or what-have-you) or some other source of sugars and ferment that with yeast. It is only after this has happened that producers will distill and filter the wort. I like to think of vodka simply as unaged/filtered whiskey, since that's essentially what it is!

So yes, a lot is lost to the process as far as yeast flavors go, but the alcohol used for the distillation doesn't just come from thin air. If they didn't ferment anything, there'd be no point in distilling... ;)

WVMJack
05-11-2013, 05:55 AM
Why would you want to skip the lovely process of fermentation, its a majic transformation of natures basic delights into something so much more. Would you get the same taste if your sliced up some cucumbers and just added some vinegar and salt as you would if you pickeled them by fermentation, sure its good but its not a picke. If you dumped some hot sauce and garlic on some cabage would you have anything the resembles the mix of tastes of KimChi? I have seen people mix grape juice, vodka and a matchhead together and say thats just like white wine, it only hits the highlights, misses all the nuances that the art of fermentation adds, there is not life in that, just some chemicals.

What you have come up with is nothing more than a mixed drink and have seemed to miss the reasons for all these additions is to gain balance in the mead, as mentioned its a living creature that has to be nurtured, groomed and talked to to grow up right. Its an adventure with no sure outcome. Its creativity over time that constantly changes that you can not match just by mixing in a cup. Maybe you should make a batch of mead the real way, then your questions will have a purpose..

WVMJ

xopher425
05-12-2013, 12:07 AM
My sister liked my stuff so far, but commented that it was much faster to drive down the road to Benny's liquor and get a bottle of something. I responded that it's like when she made all of her kid's baby food and the dog's food from scratch. It's so much faster to drive down to the grocery store . . . .

It's so much more fun to create and craft something yourself. And nothing is quite like watching that air lock <blip> <blip> as your yeastie babies go to work. It really is magic.

Kelvin
05-12-2013, 06:40 AM
I will give you my 2 copper. I feel the same way you do and always have. I want it to be exact from the beginning to end and not have to do anything extra. That being said, you have to take the time to get everything as perfect as you can and then just wait and see. That's what I do. I match my yeast, honey, temps, extras, etc. as close as I can. If it is more sweet than I wanted, oh well, if it is drier than I wanted, oh well. I don't do anything extra and I do not add any "chemicals." I've never had a bottle bomb and I have had some really good meads. I've had beer drinkers tell me they love it and I happen to think I make better beer than mead so that might tell you something.

TheAlchemist
05-12-2013, 07:06 AM
Fermenting=Alchemy