View Full Version : To back sweeten or not...

11-03-2014, 06:59 PM
I've read a few of the previous threads but haven't found the answers I am looking for so here goes...my first batch of mead (sitting for 6 months) is about ready to rack. I think. In my excitement, I forgot to take an initial gravity reading. Current reading is .996 and the batch is very clear. Taste was good but very dry. I'm interested in creating a carbonated mead but think it could do with just a bit more sweetness. Here are my questions...
- should I back sweeten with honey or an inert sweetener?
- if I sweeten with honey and drop tablets in each bottle, will it be too much and create bottle rockets?
- heard wine conditioner might be a good solution as it has potassium sorbate in it as well as an inert sweetener. Assuming this is the case, the tablets might have enough "food" for each bottle to carbonate.

Thoughts? What am I missing? Thanks!

Chevette Girl
11-03-2014, 10:34 PM
Hi Mrawat, welcome to the addiction, er, um, forum!

This is not a new question, it's been discussed a few times before but it's hard to find with the search engine.

The short answer: Backsweetening and bottle carbonating are pretty much mutually exclusive unless you've got a keg setup. Under normal bottle carbonating circumstances, the yeast will eat all the sugar, they won't understand that they're supposed to leave some of it for you, so yeah, bottle rockets unless you sweeten with an inert sweetener. If you have a keg setup, then you can stabilize the mead and backsweeten it then force-carbonate it with CO2.

I'm pretty sure the wine conditioner I have does not use an inert sweetener but just plain old sugar with stabilizing chemicals, the problem with that is if you use something with stabilizing chemicals like potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulphite, it depends on the concentration of the chemicals whether it'll be enough to deactivate the yeast so they won't be able to bottle carbonate and you end up with a too-sweet flat mead, or whether the yeast ignores it completely and merrily eats all the sugars available to it and makes bottle bombs.

So, unless you're willing to do a bit more work or use an inert sweetener, which one do you want more? Carbonated or sweetened, the simplest answer is to pick one.

Now, if you're willing to use an inert sweetener, THEN you can also bottle carbonate it. Providing that you didn't use so much honey that your yeast are right up at their tolerance already (did you record your recipe? let us know how much honey in how big a batch and with what yeast and we can let you know if it's worth even trying to bottle carb). I've tried a few things myself, including Splenda and two forms of Stevia extract (one in ethanol, one in glycerine). They all taste a little chemically, especially if you use too much, but I had the best tasting results using stevia extract in glycerine.

There's another possibility too, if you trust your math and your ability to measure accurately. Presuming your yeast isn't already at the end of its rope, you prime it according to safe levels (3/4 cup honey for a 5-gal batch is what I use) and bottle-carb it the way it is now, then bottle it in something you'll be opening again soon. I used screw-top pop bottles when I tried this. Then you leave it for a couple weeks until it's fully carbonated. Then you put the bottles in the freezer until the merest beginning of ice crystals forms in the neck (at my freezer's settings this took around an hour for beer bottles, you'll have to check yours every 5-10 min after the first 45 min), then you pull them out of the freezer, open them and pour them carefully into another set of prepared bottles which have a dose of sulphite and sorbate as well as your backsweetening honey and have also been frozen. When the liquid is that chilled, the carbonation stays in it even when you pour it into another chilled vessel, and as a bonus, you can leave any dregs from the bottle carbing behind as you decant it over the chilled backsweetening honey and the chemicals.

Good luck with your batch, and remember, safety first, you do NOT want bottle bombs.