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Tuck
09-01-2014, 09:56 AM
Hi, noob user and mead maker here.

I made a batch of mead 2 years ago. Did a lot of things wrong, but managed to turn out, what I thought to be a decent mead. Last week I discovered a bottle that I'd forgotten about which was about 2 years old. This stuff was AMAZING.

I'm getting ready to take another crack at it, but want to do a lot of things right this time. Starting with getting the the proportions right.

I've been called a lot of things in my life, smart isn't one of them. :)

The Gotmead Calculator confuses me. I want to make a REALLY high gravity sweet mead. Could someone give me a blow by blow on how to work this out on the calculator.

I've been brewing beer for about 3 years now, and I've got a decent grasp on how fermentation works, and the role that yeast plays in the process. So I'm semi technoliterate.

Thanks for your time

mannye
09-01-2014, 11:49 AM
I'm very much like you in the way I make mead. I tend to go more with a recipe than a formula (so I often "wing it")

Even winging it you need to have your hydrometer in order for this to work.

What you are going to go is make a BOMM... Look up the BOMM recipe and make that... it's easy as falling off a log. THEN

What you are going to do is "step feed" the BOMM to make it go high ABV... When you make your BOMM you going to watch it with the hydrometer until it gets to 1.010.. then you add honey. The amount you add depends on the amount you're making 1, 3 or 5 gallons. You can look up what people add but usually it's about half a pound to a pound of honey with each feed per gallon. What I do is I take the honey and dilute it with a tiny bit of water just make it easier to stir in to the main batch.

I take the gravity up to about 1.030 or 1.040 and let it go back down to 1.010. Then do it again... until it stops eating. When that happens, you will check with the hydrometer and the gravity will stay at 1.030 or maybe quit at 1.020. That's already pretty sweet. After a week or two of no change, you know you're at the highest booze level that yeast is going to give you. BOMM uses Wyeast 1388 which can go nice and high when step fed like this. This can get to as high as 18 -19% ABV.

Midnight Sun
09-01-2014, 12:45 PM
The other thing you might consider would be to fortify a strong sweet mead with vodka or Everclear. Will need more aging than the BOMM route, though.

Medsen Fey
09-01-2014, 01:49 PM
..I made a batch of mead 2 years ago. Did a lot of things wrong, but managed to turn out, what I thought to be a decent mead. Last week I discovered a bottle that I'd forgotten about which was about 2 years old. This stuff was AMAZING.

You might want to do the same thing you did last time, and let it age. :)


... I want to make a REALLY high gravity sweet mead.

Does this mean you want a high-ABV, sack-strength mead? A high gravity mead make take even more than 2 years to age properly, and early on it may be hot and unpleasant, but if you want to make this journey, you can certainly do it. For a high-ABV mead you don't want to use the BOMM protocol. The 1388 is a great yeast, but it is an ale yeast and typically is going to go to 13-14%. For a high ABV batch K1V, DV10 or EC-1118 are yeast that will produce an ABV of 17-18%.

You can start with a gravity of 1.140, use at least 2 packs of yeast (preferably rehydrated with GoFerm), and plan on giving it plenty of nutrients (500+ ppm YAN) and aeration. If it takes it dry, you can step feed it to the gravity level you want. for a 5-gallon batch, you're going to be looking at roughly 4 pounds of honey per gallon to start, and you may need another 1-1.5 pounds per gallon for step-feeding and sweetening, so it won't be cheap to make.

You will need good fermentation management and preferably the ability to manage pH, but you can create a mead that can easily age for decades.

Good luck!

Medsen

joemirando
09-01-2014, 02:40 PM
You might want to do the same thing you did last time, and let it age. :)



Does this mean you want a high-ABV, sack-strength mead? A high gravity mead make take even more than 2 years to age properly, and early on it may be hot and unpleasant, but if you want to make this journey, you can certainly do it. For a high-ABV mead you don't want to use the BOMM protocol. The 1388 is a great yeast, but it is an ale yeast and typically is going to go to 13-14%. For a high ABV batch K1V, DV10 or EC-1118 are yeast that will produce an ABV of 17-18%.

You can start with a gravity of 1.140, use at least 2 packs of yeast (preferably rehydrated with GoFerm), and plan on giving it plenty of nutrients (500+ ppm YAN) and aeration. If it takes it dry, you can step feed it to the gravity level you want. for a 5-gallon batch, you're going to be looking at roughly 4 pounds of honey per gallon to start, and you may need another 1-1.5 pounds per gallon for step-feeding and sweetening, so it won't be cheap to make.

You will need good fermentation management and preferably the ability to manage pH, but you can create a mead that can easily age for decades.

Good luck!

Medsen

2x on what Medsen said. I made a couple of batches of high ABV (18-20%) sweet (FG ~1.030) sack mead last year, and they tasted okay going into secondary. Surprisingly, they lacked the 'rocket fuel' quality of a high ABV mead. They were quiet sweet, but I could envision having a small glass after a meal and enjoying either of them.

6 months later, the sweetness seemed cloying and the rocket fuel quality as at 10. They are now aging, and I don't expect it to be drinkable for at least another year. I've got time.

Joe

Honeyhog
09-01-2014, 04:27 PM
I made one of these by accident. I made a one gallon pumpkin cyser and forgot about the sweetness of the apple juice. I had an O.G. of 1.155 and I pitched EC-1118. It ended up with a final gravity of 1.033 and was drinkable (to me at least) within a few months which I found surprising considering it had an ABV of about 18.5%. I have one bottle of it left and it is now about a year old. I was thinking of cracking it for thanksgiving.

Chevette Girl
09-01-2014, 09:48 PM
I've gone for high alcohol meads a few times and I prefer to give my yeasties a happier start in life by not going higher than about 1.110 to start with, and then step-feeding them till they just can't take no more...

Whether you go the BOMM route or the more patient route with one of the Lalvin yeasts like K1V-1116 or EC-1118, treat your fermentation nicely, make sure it gets nutrients, energizer and aeration as needed (maybe half again the recommended amount for the must since you want it vigorous) in the first third of the ferment, stir it daily, and keep an eye on the SG. Step feed like Mannye says. Every time mine drops below 1.000, I boost it back up to 1.020 (you can go sweeter if you want, 1.030 as Joe suggested is not unreasonable and for the first one, maybe two step-feeds you could go as high as 1.040 like Mannye suggests but I recommend you taste it at that point and make sure you'd be OK with that level of sweetness, just in case it happens to stall out right after a step feed, and if that's too sweet, aim lower for future step feeds) and let the yeast do their thing. Every time the SG drops below 1.000, add honey till it's back up to your maximum sweetness level. Eventually the yeast will tap out and this method can often push a yeast well past its published alcohol tolerance.

Starting out with a really high gravity can have the opposite effect (at least in my experience) and cause your yeast to poop out earlier than their posted tolerance because it's a really hard start on them as being in a concentrated sugar solution can start to pull moisture out of the yeast cells. I definitely wouldn't exceed Medsen's recommendation, and based on my earlier experiences with mistreated yeast crapping out early, I rarely ever start any must higher than 1.120 unless I make an acclimated starter for it.

Tuck
09-02-2014, 07:19 PM
Wow, thanks for the crazy amount of feedback. Maybe a super high gravity is a bit too much of an aspiration right now. I would like to drink some of it within the first year and not have my face peel off.

I'm also going to have to get to grips with the different yeasts you all use. When brewing beer, we tend to go to the yeasts by wyeat and whitelabs, largely because of their freshness.

I do have a different question. I read that some people say boil the must, others say heat to 100F, and still others say warm to 80F.

What are your thoughts on that?

Honeyhog
09-02-2014, 08:40 PM
You really don't have to heat it at all if you don't want to. I heat some of the water just to help dissolve the honey and then add the rest of the water at room temperature. But if you use the mead calculator to add your honey and aren't too concerned about the exact SG then you can pour your honey in, pour the water on top, give it a shake, pitch your yeast and those yeastie beasties will chew through that glob of honey no problemo.

mannye
09-02-2014, 09:50 PM
If you want to drink the first year, I suggest you take a look at the regular BOMM recipe. The ABV is pretty high and it will get you pretty high as well. It's ready to drink in about 6 weeks. At 4 weeks you're actually already able to drink it, but it's worth waiting just a few more weeks for it to get really good. I hear it keeps on getting better as it ages, but as of yet, I haven't made enough to have it stay around very long. While you are drinking your BOMM, you can get a more traditional batch going as well. They take longer (up to a year...sometimes more) to be ready, but they have "something" that makes them special that only comes with age.

Chevette Girl
09-03-2014, 02:35 AM
I do have a different question. I read that some people say boil the must, others say heat to 100F, and still others say warm to 80F.

What are your thoughts on that?

If you really want to find out the difference, run a test with a gallon of must that's been boiled and a gallon of must that hasn't, make them up to the same SG and use the same honey. There are subtle differences and I'm not sure which one I prefer, they both have their good points. Many people find that boiling or heating the honey causes a loss of some of the more delicate flavours and aromas, I just find that boiling honey's such a pain in the tush that I'd really rather not bother with it since I don't really have to.

I suspect that the reasons a lot of folks think they should heat or boil their honey are generally these: the store sells pasteurized honey so I'd better boil it too, or my honey is crystallized, I need to heat it to dissolve the honey.

In the first case, a lot of stores are now selling unpasteurized honey now (here, anyway) because it's just not needed. Honey will suck the moisture right out of anything that finds its way into the honey. A lot of older recipes suggest you boil the honey in the water but most of us figured that was more to sanitize the water than anything to do with the honey.

In the second case, I find diluting it and stirring works a whole lot faster than heating it to get crystallized honey to dissolve, as long as you can get it out of the container.

joemirando
09-03-2014, 08:45 PM
While we're on the subject....

I've never heated any of my musts other than to clean every last bit of honey out of the bottles with warm water.

I also routinely have problems with a cloudy end product.

Are the two related? Does heating the must have any effect on how fast it clears? Enquiring minds want to know! ;)

Joe

bernardsmith
09-03-2014, 09:16 PM
Hi Joe, I suspect that heating anything with pectin will create haze -because heating will tend to produce something jam like. If honey contains pectins - and I suspect that it doesn't - then heating will create a haze. If honey contains no pectins (and I have not ever added enzymes to my meads to help clarify them - never any need - then heating shouldn't really produce any haze although I agree that the heat might boil off volatile flavor molecules.

Midnight Sun
09-03-2014, 09:32 PM
Pure speculation, but perhaps boiling the honey might cause some proteins to coagulate and fall out of suspension easier? That is how it works with beer. Never boiled the honey myself, too lazy...

Medsen Fey
09-03-2014, 10:53 PM
No pectin in honey.
Heating honey does cause proteins to denature, allowing more binding and faster clearing. This is one reason boiling musts was the favored method for meadcrafters of the past.

The tradeoff is loss of delicate aromatics in some cases. You have to find the approach that makes you happiest.

joemirando
09-04-2014, 07:30 PM
Thanks to all, and sorry for (momentarily) hijacking the thread.

mannye
09-04-2014, 10:48 PM
Won't crystallized honey just dissolve anyway? The yeast will eat it up. I think it may have been fatbloke that has some experience with crystallized honey. He was saying just give it a day or two in the primary and the water will dissolve it. (I think....could have been hallucinating)


Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now.

Chevette Girl
09-05-2014, 12:44 AM
I don't bother heating it, I'm way too lazy. It'll dissolve eventually. I almost prefer it when my honey bucket's crystallized, it's easier to measure, doesn't drip everywhere on me!

kudapucat
09-05-2014, 01:15 AM
It depends on if I want a good SG reading.
I've seen honey sit for days on bigger mels as it's slowly eaten.