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View Full Version : A fast ferment and back-sweetening it for a beginner.



acloft887
08-31-2015, 05:06 AM
This might very well have been covered before and my apologies if it has.

I have just made my first batch of Mead. I started with a 1 gallon batch and used the ordinary blossom honey from Paynes as I did want to start with anything too expensive just in case.

My inlaws who do a lot of homebrew wine gave me Ritchies yeast to try but has no information on it, before I ask my question this is how the ferment went.

Start SG of 1.1 before yeast went in, I used nutrients after reading various posts.

Day 1 I paddled the mead to work some oxygen into it, again after hearing some advice, after the paddling the SG now stood at 1.07.

Day 2 I paddled it again and this time the SG was 1.032

Day 3 The airlock was still bubbling away so I made the decision to give it a final paddle, the SG now 1.015. However returning the fermenter back to where it was I noticed that the airlock never bubbled anymore, I gently pushed on the tub the following day and the airlock did bubble so i came to the conclusion that the mead had started to reduce it's activity.

Day 15 I decided to rack as no reaction on the airlock SG now at 0.995. Working out from a calculator I believe I have roughly 14% alcohol in there.

Now to my question, when I tasted it, it didn't taste like vinegar but noticeably a lot of the sweetness had been removed. I haven't drunk dry mead before only medium or medium/sweet. I see I have 2 options;

Option 1 - leave it, let it sit in the demijohn until it clears (it already has started to clear) and then bottle it and try to drink it in x months/years.

Option 2 - try to back sweeten it as lots of people have recommended on the web. My worry is I have no idea what the alcohol tolerance is of the yeast so if I chuck a load of honey in, it gets going again. If I back-sweeten should I drop inhibitors in at the same time to stop the yeast from trying to ferment it out?

Also what is the best way of back-sweetening, is it a case of adding honey straight into the demijohn and stirring or should it be added to a bit of water first and then added to the demijohn?

My next mead I have planned is with orange blossom and I am thinking about using KV-1116 which has a higher alcohol tolerance but gets good results, I am hesitant about using the Ritchies again.

Any advice would be appreciated, again my apologies if this has been covered but I thought since I had such a fast ferment to play it safe and ask.

bernardsmith
08-31-2015, 09:27 AM
Hi acloft887 - and welcome. before you add a drop of sugar to back sweeten I think you need to make the assumption that no matter the tolerance your yeast has for alcohol it WILL ferment any sugar you add. That means what you always need to do is "stabilize" the fermentation process and that means
1. You allow the mead to age until there are no viable yeast cells (you can assist this process by racking every two or three months and allowing the mead to age for 6 -9 months (or more)
2. You then chemically castrate the yeast by adding K-meta with K-sorbate. The K-sorbate prevents any straggling cells from reproducing and the K-meta inhibits those same stragglers from fermenting (if the colony of yeast is large enough the addition of those chemicals is not effective.

I would bench test the batch you have to determine how sweet you prefer the mead (this really does tend to be a "suck it and see" kind of process as - IMO - the level of sweetness you will prefer depends on the acidity of the mead and the alcohol level - and so different batches may call for different amounts of added honey (or sugar). Rule of thumb: 4 oz of honey added to one gallon of liquid (your mead) will increase the gravity by 10 points (1.010). You may find that raising the gravity by 2 points or 4 or 6 or ... 15 or even 20 is how you like this mead, so draw off small samples of the mead and to those samples stir in equivalent amounts of honey (to raise the gravity of the sample by 2, 4, 6 etc points). When you find the sweetness you prefer add that (scant) amount to the remainder.
I say add a scant amount because IMO, the mead will taste more sweet as it ages and so need less sweetening, I think because over time, acids mellow and are transformed...

acloft887
08-31-2015, 09:53 AM
Thanks bernardsmith

I had a feeling just adding sugar back in needed a bit more thought then I was giving it, lol.

I will leave it for a month and check up on it, that is a good point about making notes of the amount of sugar to go back, I have a spreadsheet going so I can make notes and compare.

Again thanks for the advice.

Foothiller
08-31-2015, 10:51 AM
Don't rule out enjoying it as a dry mead. In the traditional mead category (where the subcategory of entries shows their sweetness) at California State Fair home brew competition this year, all 3 placings were dry meads, so they do have some appeal.