View Full Version : First time mead maker needs help!

09-10-2014, 10:25 AM
Hi everyone, thanks for being part of such a killer forum that I'm sure I'll be making the most of over the coming months!
I'm just about to embark on my first ever mead making experiment and was hoping I could get some advice from the more experienced among you before I get truly stuck in.

I have purchased the following supplies to start my first adventure:
- 5 gallon fermenting bucket for primary & airlock
- 3 gallon glass carboy for secondary & airlock
- 9lbs raw organic wildflower honey
- Lalvin K1-1116 yeast
- VinClasse yeast nutrient

The goal of this brew is to make a nice dry mead. This is why I chose the Lalvin K1 yeast. However, having read through the forums a little bit I fear I may have made a mistake as many people recommend back-sweetening and then adding more chemicals like sulfites in order to prevent further fermentation - a process that I really didn't want to do. My first question is: can I use the K1, get a reasonably dry tasty mead without having to back-sweeten and add more chemicals? Maybe I need to buy a different yeast like D47? (on a budget so preferably not)

My Second question: If the answer to the first question is yes, is 3lbs honey/gallon water a suitable ratio to work with?

Finally (and only if you can be bothered to type any more newbie answers), I thought about doing a plain mead but I feel it would be a shame not to add any extra flavours at all. Could anyone recommend the best time to add some spices - maybe some ginger, cinnamon or clove - to my recipe.

Thanks in advance for your help guys, this is a daunting endeavour but one i want to nail first time round!

09-10-2014, 11:24 AM
Welcome to GotMead!

You're on the right track already, congratulations! 3lbs/gallon is a great ratio to use, and K1V-1116 will take that dry for you. I don't know anything about that yeast nutrient, but your yeast selection is good enough to make up for a lot of failings in the nutrient department.

A lot of folks choose to stabilize using chemicals, and backsweeten. It's a completely optional process though! You get to decide if your mead is sweet or dry. If you leave it dry, you get to decide if you want to add those chemicals or not. Potassium metabisulfite will increase the shelf life of your mead, and reduce risk of oxygenation as well, but for a dry mead it's optional. In a sweet mead, you can get around using it, but, it's much harder, as the yeast will want to ferment the new honey addition.

Spices are best added in secondary. Wait until you've racked to your 3-gallon carboy, then add them. Be careful though, a little goes a long way!

09-10-2014, 12:06 PM
Everything metal said.

Since you want a dry mead, JAOM is pretty much out. You should be aware that you are in it for the long haul however. The plan you have won't really be ready to drink for a year or so. If you're ok with that, then go for it.

If you are going to do a traditional straight mead then you may be able to get away without stabilizing chems. I can tell you that I don't use them at all. Mostly because I'm lazy and I don't want the extra step. I am 100% certain that they don't cause any flavor issues because the best mead I have tasted ever had sulfites.

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now.

09-10-2014, 01:22 PM
Thanks for the words of encouragement guys. I was really tempted to give JAOM a go but I don't like really sweet meads and I think I've heard that his is? I thought about doing his but using the K1 instead of bread yeast but I was told that that would ruin the recipe (something about not enough sweetness to cover up the bitter pith of orange). A year does seem like an awful long time to wait though... Is there a way to make the JAOM variant a little bit less sweet?

I guess i could always make a batch of JAOM alongside my current batch :) - just to keep the family happy of course...

09-17-2014, 04:05 PM
You got it exactly right that the bitter orange pith would come out. Not that I have tried anything like that :rolleyes:. But I can tell you this, when you expect your yeast to make it dry it will be sweet, and if you want residual sugars it will dry out like a lake in the Sahara. If you want it somewhere in the middle, fuggedaboudit!!! Yeast will do as they will, you can just make sure they have a nice home and lots of food.

For aging you can go by this general rule: 1% ABV = 1 month aging. So a 17% ABV mead would need about 17 months to age, integrate, and mellow. Higher temp ferments will also make for a longer aging time as well.

Chevette Girl
09-18-2014, 01:15 AM
What they said. If you want a dry mead, you won't want to backsweeten and don't strictly need to stabilize. Most of the reason most of us stabilize is because there's still some residual sugars left (becasuse we like our meads sweet) and there's always the danger that they'll start fermenting again in the bottle, which is at best messy when you open a bottle and find out it's carbonated as it hits the ceiling, at worst dangerous when an overpressurized glass bottle explodes.

K1 should be fine for a dry mead, it should be able to handle taking 3 lb honey per gallon right down to dry without even breaking a sweat.

The other reason to hit it with the chemicals even if it's dry or has reached the yeast's alcohol tolerance is for protection from oxidation and other organisms.

I'm lazy like Mannye, I only ever bother stabilizing if I want to backsweeten, or if it's still got residual sugar and I want to bottle it when it's been in the carboy for less than a year.

One cinnamon stick in a gallon gives a noticeable cinnamon flavour, it can be added in primary or secondary. Depending how old your cloves are, you will probably want between 1 and 5 per gallon (1 or 2 cloves per gallon if they're really fresh, 5 if they've been in the cupboard for a decade).

09-18-2014, 09:54 AM
Also keep in mind that what we call sweet isn't at all what the commercial world calls sweet. I've tried "mead" that really should be only used on top of pancakes.

When we say sweet we mean 1.010 or at most 1.020 (generally). I remember a post a while back where someone tested a sweet commercial mead that floated at 1.070 or something crazy like that. Basically syrup in a bottle. JAOM finishes at about 1.020 if I recall correctly.

It's hard to develop an educated palate for mead because there is so little out there to sample. I found it very difficult to even know what I liked until I actually made my own at the different sweetness levels. I thought I would prefer a dry traditional where I often like 1.010 for example.

So it's kind of a journey that takes a while. The best way to get better at mead is to try more mead!

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now.