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bob.pond
03-20-2016, 07:00 PM
I set out to make a slightly sweet blackberry melomel using 15# pasteurized honey, 4 gallons water, 71b yeast with nutrient and energizer. After 6 months of patient, secondary fermentation in my 60o F basement, the airlock was passing a bubble each several minutes. So I tested and tasted the product and found it to be too dry and astringent with an estimated 10% alcohol content (O.G. = 1.105; F.G. = 1.002).

I racked it over 5 pounds of thawed frozen blackberries in my plastic fermenter. I sampled after a week and was happy with the taste :) (just enough sweetness and robust flavor; S.G. = 1.007; pH = 3.5) so I racked the mead back into my carboy. There was slight fermentation (a bubble each minute) so I moved the carboy to a refrigerator where it now sits.

Id like to preserve the fruity flavor and slight sweetness while bulk aging the mead in my 60o F basement for 6 months or more. I am prepared to add sulfite and sorbate. Since this is a cloudy melomel I suppose that it might be a bit tricky to assure an adequate free sulphite level.

Question 1: Would it really be worth my while to learn how to use a sulphite test kit, or should I simply treat with one Campden tablet per gallon and tsp of K-sorbate per gallon?

Question 2: There is now almost a gallon of air at the top of my glass carboy. Should I purge this air by pumping in some C02 from my SodaStream?

pwizard
03-20-2016, 07:25 PM
Be advised that sulfites have a cumulative effect on your mead. The part that does any good is the free SO2 gas, which eventually dissipates. The rest of the sulfite chemically binds to the mead, where it affects flavor but offers no protection against oxidation. Either campden tablet or K-Meta are enough-- you don't need to add both at once of you will over-sulfite your mead. Mead doesn't need to be as sulfited as heavily as wine because it is not as susceptible to oxidation.

Instead of adding CO2, I would rack into a smaller container, or if you don't have that, split the batch up into smaller 1 or 2-gallon jugs. You want as little exposed surface as possible during bulk aging to prevent oxidation.


6 months is an awfully long time for a secondary fermentation (most of the time, it lasts for 1 month or until the mead clears). How long did the primary take?

Medsen Fey
03-21-2016, 01:01 PM
If you cold crash it to insure that fermentation has stopped and drop as much yeast and sediment out as possible, you improve the odds that there will be no more fermentation. This yeast should be pretty close to its tolerance of 14%, but it may still be sensible to stabilize.

It can be helpful to utilize test kits for sulfite because honey can have widely variable binding of SO2 and sometimes it can take a lot more than you would expect. It can be difficult to test in a berry batch because of the darker color.

I'd recommend 1.5 Campden tablets per gallon if you aren't measuring. The Sorbate level is OK (you need at least 1 gram per gal).

Then let it warm up to room temp to make sure it doesn't go farther over a couple of weeks before bottling if you want to be safe.

And most definitely do something about the excessive headspace.

bob.pond
03-21-2016, 01:59 PM
Instead of adding CO2, I would rack into a smaller container, or if you don't have that, split the batch up into smaller 1 or 2-gallon jugs. You want as little exposed surface as possible during bulk aging to prevent oxidation.

6 months is an awfully long time for a secondary fermentation (most of the time, it lasts for 1 month or until the mead clears). How long did the primary take?

I racked from the plastic fermenter to the glass carboy after a couple of weeks when the airlock showed (if I recall correctly) only a bubble a minute.

The secondary ferment was never vigorous. I should have racked it again sooner (i.e. to minimize autolysis of the cm thick layer of yeast on the bottom) but I just left it in the carboy and forgot about it for 6 months.

bob.pond
03-21-2016, 02:25 PM
Thanks to both of you. I am struck by the diversity of approaches recommended by experienced mead makers. In addition to your two recommendations regarding (modest) use of sulfite and sorbate, I've received a third recommendation to focus only on clarity (perhaps using a fining agent but foregoing use of stabilizing chemicals). I'm going out of town for several weeks and will leave my carboy in the refrigerator. After I get back I think I will rack it into a combination of bottles and gallon jugs for various combinations of drinking it now, further clarification and use of sulfite & sorbate. Cheers

bob.pond
03-21-2016, 10:59 PM
I took pwizard's suggestion and transferred the mead into 4 one gallon glass jugs filled within mm's of the airlock. The hooch can now sit in those jugs for as long as I please. For the next several weeks I will leave them in the refrigerator.

I transferred the last 750 ml from my carboy to a large flip top bottle and treated it with hot Sparkolloid. It is amazing to see how the fining agent, combined with chilling, transforms the mead from opaque to totally clear (but still with a beautiful color) within an hour. I will sample for taste tomorrow.

A clear advantage of splitting up the batch is that I can now experiment. For example, assuming that I like the taste of the fully clarified stuff, I could take one gallon, treat it with sparkolloid, then let it sit at cellar temperature for a couple of weeks to see if any fermentation resumes. If not, I could let it age for some months without further stabilization.

Thanks