View Full Version : Gravity for semi sweet mead and how much honey??

06-14-2013, 08:05 PM
So I have like 16 lbs of honey at my disposal and will be making a 5 gallon batch of mead. I would like it to be semi sweet. The yeast I am using is 71b so it has a lvl of about 14%. What sort of gravity do I need to get a semi sweet mead? I will be racking onto raspberries after my primary fermentation is complete. Cheers guys. Also anyone wanna give me cliffs on how to exactly utilize my hydrometer? :)

06-14-2013, 08:15 PM
If you use all 16lbs in 5 gal with no other sugars you will hit 1.115 SG and would hit 14% ABV at SG 1.008 which is semi sweet/dry how ever you look at it.

06-14-2013, 09:59 PM
Adding fruit at the end might restart fermentation though. I would suggest either stabilizing the mead before adding the fruit, thus keeping the fruit sugars as well as any left over honey sweetness, or reserving 0.5-1 lb of honey to backsweeten at the end.

06-15-2013, 05:24 AM
ive heard there are downsides to the chemicals used to help stabilize though?

06-15-2013, 07:52 PM
Too many people (stupidly IMO) seem to think that meads can be made as easily as beers, just by using beer type methods i.e. they think they want an 18% mead, so they pick a yeast that will do that, then work out that 18% equates to 133 points of gravity drop, then they think that they want a sweet-ish (but not too sweet batch) so they allow say 17 points which mean that they start with something like 1.150 gravity.

Which, as I alluded to above is stupid, stupid, stupid......

They either get problems starting the batch that high, or they get stuck ferments, etc etc.......

Yet I, and others find that it's not actually that difficult to make a strong batch, or a sweet(ish) batch etc.

So you have the choice. Either make a batch with a sensible starting gravity, then pick a yeast that will achieve an alcohol level you like the idea of, then ferment dry to that level, 14% is an easily attainable level using straight forward fermentation methods (many yeasts will do more - but if you focused on the starting gravity for 14% as a good example and you'd need a start gravity of 1.103 and that's presuming that dry would be 1.000. Ferment that dry.

Now if the yeast you've used will do 14% then that's great, you may not necessarily need to stabilise, but as you've mentioned some sweetness, a.k.a. residual sugars, there is a possibility that it could restart fermenting if you added a bit more honey for sweetness. If the yeast has a tolerance of above 14% you'd definitely need to stabilise as there'd be an increased chance of refermentation.

Now if, for example you just wanted semi-sweet, dunno say about the 1.015 sort of area, if you don't want to follow the above suggestion, you can still use pretty much any yeast, just that the stronger the batch is, the longer the likely ageing it may need.

So, again, you start with a gravity for 14%, you can just make it as above, but rather than using stabilising chems, you can just step feed and keep adding small increments of honey when the ferment gets down to a certain level. The smaller the amount of sugar you want as residual the smaller the increments and more care with measuring.

With the step feeding technique, you just keep adding honey until the yeast poops out. There's some nutrition stuff that'd need to be considered, because there's got to be enough to help the yeast along while it's being step fed. So if you used a yeast that will do 16 to 18 % you might start the batch with a gravity for maybe 12 or 14 % but you'd need to allow enough nutrients for 18%.

You can just total up the amounts of the gravity drop to work out where you are i.e. say you started with 1.100, fermented down to 1.020, so 80 points, then added a step or increment of honey to bring it back up to 1.040, let it ferment back down to 1.020 - so that's the original 80 points plus the 20 from the first step, then you added another step/increment back to 1.040 and fermented that down to 1.020 again, that would give you the 80 + 20 +20 so the theory (and presumption that the yeast can manage 18 %) would suggest that you'd only need to add a further 13 points of honey for it to drop to 1.015 and give you the sweetness and 18%. The issue there, is that it's yeast, a natural substance and therefore, unpredictable. It might stop early giving you too much sweetness, or it might go a bit further increasing the dryness.

You could also follow that basic principal and just step feed until the ferment stops. You don't actually need to follow a regime for precise numbers, just a reasonable start gravity so that there's not likely, or at least a reduced chance of, fermentation issues. Then just step feed until the fermentation ceases. That still needs careful and small increments so you have enough scope to achieve the alcohol tolerance but still add a little honey to achieve the level of sweetness you're looking for.

It can all be managed one way or another, but it's an imprecise thing that you're trying to do i.e. manage a natural phenomenon with man made/artificial methods.

Personally I just routinely start my batches at 1.100 to 1.110, then ferment dry, then stabilise, then back sweeten. I do that to my preferred level of sweetness i.e. 1.010 to 1.015 and I've not had any problems or issues with stabilising chems.........

Just make sure that you use sulphite first, then sorbate, both at the prescribed doses, then you shouldn't have any problems. I do that all before I clear the batch so I don't have to clear a batch twice.......honey can cause protein hazes........

06-15-2013, 08:39 PM
ive heard there are downsides to the chemicals used to help stabilize though?

There are a small minority of folks who are allergic to sulfites. If you happen to be one of them, then yes that would preclude using sulfite as part of the stabilizing mix of chemicals. [and generally it's good to advertise that you added sulfites anyway, in case anyone you serve your mead to is sensitive.] The only other downside is that sorbates can be metabolized by some critters into geraniols, which smell like geraniums. As long as you use sulfite in the correct dose, that shouldn't be a problem.

06-15-2013, 10:58 PM
how do you know if your sensitive to sulphites...ahahahahaha

06-16-2013, 02:36 AM
how do you know if your sensitive to sulphites...ahahahahaha
You will have likely already had a reaction, treatment and advice. They're in lots of stuff, both naturally and artificially added......

06-16-2013, 09:15 PM
Yeah, sulfites are in lots of things. I've you've ever had a dried apple ring that wasn't nasty brown colored, you just ate way more sulfite than you'd get in mead. Dried any fruit that still has color is loaded with sulfites. If you can survive those, you can safely add 50-100 ppm of sulfite to your mead.