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View Full Version : Hopped Mead Experiment -- need some pointers..



Sadcheese
04-01-2016, 01:28 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm new to this. I've made ~5 one gallon batches of mead and 3 six gallon batches. Still in the first year so only some
of it is drinkable (read: not bochets). I started with cheapo bulk stuff from Save-a-Mart and made a drinkable JAOM.
I followed that up with some high priced but excellent quality local raspberry honey that has an excellent bite to it and
made a great BOMM, only two months old but I've already had most of it. I initially laid out a test for myself that would
be the deciding factor in paying for a bigass bucket of quality honey (Dutch Gold OB): Will my wife like it?
Last night I offered her a drink and of all the various options--I make a ruthless gin gimlet and great Hot Toddy--she
said, "Can I have some more of that mead?" So now I get to order a ton of good honey.

I'd like to make something hopped that my brother-in-law will like. Living in Seattle, right now is high season for
super-hoppy IPAs and I think that doing a hopped mead could be awesome for the crowd that prefers a different set of
aromatics.

So far I've done two test runs. The first was a one gallon Short Fidnemed BOMM using hops as a replacement for the tea (Bray
suggested that as an option). To say that it came out bad would be an understatement--it was truly foul. After drinking
three bottles, stubbornly, I read a post about light exposure.. I had left it uncovered outside for a day to cold crash (dark
as hell in the winter here and the perfect temp) and I skunked the damn stuff. Clearly my bad newbieness.

My second attempt was much better. Instead of using a full 2oz hops, I cut way back to just 5g in primary and 10g
secondary, both no-boil, to get a sense of what a basic taste is. I also took the OG up to 1.080 since I'm aiming for
something to match a strong IPA (8-10% ish). This came out spectacular, if just a little bit hot at 2 weeks (not quite
as "short").

I did two years of bench research in a Cell Biology lab in college and have a basic understanding of the scientific method. I'd like
to do my next round of 1-gallon jugs to test some basic principles of using hops in Mead. But I've only made two batches of beer
before and have a basic knowledge of their use. I would also like to try to simply make meads instead of adding malt to make
a braggot.

I was thinking of varying the amounts, having one be simply primary and one simply secondary, and steeped vs. non-steeped.
I'm wondering what those who have some knowledge of this would do in terms of categories (I have 8 one gallon jugs).

Thanks for any tips or recommendations. Sorry for the lack of brevity.

bernardsmith
04-01-2016, 02:40 PM
Hi Sadcheese, I do not pretend to be an expert. I don't even play one on TV.. but here is my 2 cents. Hops have three characteristics - bitterness, flavor and aroma. There is a fourth which is not relevant here and that is the anti bacterial activity of the hop (so used in beer in an analogous way to the way that K-meta is used in wines - including mead). Mead ain't beer and so the bitterness (alpha acidity) of the hops is perhaps far less important in a mead - unless you are planning on using hops to balance an excessively sweet mead (finishing gravity of beers is .. what? about 1.010 - 1.015? The need of bitterness to "balance" the sweetness of a mead is going to be very different in my opinion when your meads may finish brut dry or semi sweet at around 1.005...).

If the acidity of the hops comes through after 60 - 90 minutes of boiling, their flavor is perhaps best developed when hops are boiled for 10 to 30 minutes -and if you have brewed beer you know that some hops are very citrusy, others are piney, still others are suggestive of tropical fruit. The aroma of hops is perhaps best captured when the hop is boiled for a minute or five and /or dry hopped... but in mead making the challenge will be to prevent any really active fermentation expelling all the aromatics from the hops if they are added to the primary. Dry hopping for more than about 7 days brings out the vegetative quality of a hop so you don't want to dry hop for more than about 3 or 4 days (in my opinion).

My own preference is to treat a gallon of mead as if it were a gallon of wort and so I might boil .25 oz of hop pellets for 15 minutes,*** and the same weight again for 1 minute. then remove the hops (I use a hop bag ie tie the hops in a butter muslin cloth which makes extraction very simple) and allow the tea to cool and then blend in the honey. If I am hopping my mead I won't look for an expensive flavored honey... the hops will cover the flavor, but I might look for really interestingly flavored hops - Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy and the like. There is a recipe for hopped mead that treats the mead as if it is a US IPA (using varieties of hops that all begin with the letter C - Centennial, Citra, and Cascade... but the author claims that you need to add honey to the water to utilize the alpha acids (I am not a chemist but I think you may need to lower the pH of the water and that is not the same thing - again, mead ain't beer. I use spring water and have never found that I needed to modify the water to bring out the hoppiness of hops)...


*** But as a scientist you understand the value of experimentation. You could make several batches using the same varietal of honey, the same yeast, the same hops but increase the boiling time in increments of say 10 minutes or increase the amount of hops by .10 of an ounce using the same boiling time.. There would be little waste here as worse case scenario you blend the extremes... and that would give you a really good handle on the quantity of hops you prefer and the amount of boiling time this needs..

Hope that this gives you some food for thought..

Sadcheese
04-02-2016, 12:06 AM
Thanks very helpful! I'll let you know how it goes.

MrRogers
04-02-2016, 07:34 AM
Although I'm quite interested in using hops in meads, I have only tried it a few times so far.

Personally I don't like the idea of boiling the must, so only once I did that (and with just half of the honey). In the end I didn't get the expected bitterness at all. Either the alpha acid extraction works differently in mead musts or the fact that I used Lalvin EC-1118 played a part in that. In any case, this particular mead ended up quite pleasant, mostly because of the aroma, and this was mainly because of dry hopping (using Citra hops).

As far as I know from beer brewing, the extraction of alpha acids during the boil depends on the concentration of sugars in the wort. For higher gravity worts, the utilisation decreases and therefore a longer boil is needed, or more hops. Since mead musts tends to have a higher gravity than most beer worts, a lower utilisation would be expected. Supposedly boiling hops just in water will result in the extraction of some unwanted compounds as well, so I guess that having a certain sugar concentration is preferable in any case. If you search a bit in google you should find some better explanations for this and find your sweet spot, depending on the mead you're thinking of.

For the hop aroma in meads I mostly relied on dry hopping so far, and it worked well. From everything I read regarding beer practices, I'm usually not leaving the hops for more than 4 or 5 days (as bernardsmith pointed out). Some time ago I divided a batch of orange blossom dry traditional into two 5L carboys, one with 25g of Nelson Sauvin and the other one with the same amount of Mandarina Bavaria and left them for 5 days. The honey aroma is mostly gone, but these hops worked very well.
In the batch I mentioned before, with Citra, I boiled the 20L of water with 2kg of honey (the remaining 2kg were added after the boil, raising the OG to 1.062) with 15g of Citra for 45 minutes and 15g more in the last 5 minutes. In secondary it was dry hopped with 28g of Citra for 4 days.

These are just a few examples that worked for me. I plan to try different hops and different honeys at some point, but at the moment I'm more inclined to go for dry hopping rather than boiling the must.

bernardsmith
04-02-2016, 10:09 PM
so if utilization is inhibited with a higher gravity wort then boiling in water (no gravity) should result in maximum utilization (sugar INHIBITS the utilization of the acids) unless utilization requires some sugar... But I have seen no scientific evidence that sugar is required .. I have seen evidence that a lower pH helps with utilization ...But perhaps someone with biochemical knowledge can enlighten me..

Squatchy
04-03-2016, 12:48 AM
By the way sadcheese: welcome to the forum :)

MrRogers
04-03-2016, 11:00 AM
so if utilization is inhibited with a higher gravity wort then boiling in water (no gravity) should result in maximum utilization (sugar INHIBITS the utilization of the acids) unless utilization requires some sugar... But I have seen no scientific evidence that sugar is required .. I have seen evidence that a lower pH helps with utilization ...But perhaps someone with biochemical knowledge can enlighten me..

I don't think that sugar is required. At least I have found no information on that. All the values I see relate to a range of usual wort gravities, never to plain water. I've seen some references to harsh flavours being extracted when the hops are boiled in plain water, although I've never tried that myself. I suppose this could be indeed related to a probably higher pH of the water as opposed to wort.

From "Designing Great Beers", by Ray Daniels, page 78:

Although wort pH doesn't appear to dramatically affect production of iso-alpha acids, a high pH can affect the perception of bitterness in the beer. High-pH worts produce a harsh bitterness that increases perceived bitterness and that most people find objectionable. If your water has a high pH (>7.5) or significant carbonate levels (above 50 parts per million), you may see this effect.

But once again this only refers to beer worts. I have found nothing so far about using plain water.


In any case, after looking around a bit for information on this topic, I'm not sure anymore how much of this hop utilisation variability in beer wort is true for meads.

http://beersmith.com/blog/2012/02/26/brewing-high-gravity-beers-with-john-palmer-beersmith-podcast-33/

In this podcast, around minute 18, John Palmer confirms that hop utilisation in high gravity worts indeed is lower. But it turns out this is not because of the sugar concentration, but because more alpha acids stick to particles in the wort (more protein content) and end up not being present in the final beer.
My not so great chemistry knowledge doesn't allow me to comment much on that at the moment, but if this is one of the reasons for that lower utilisation, then a mead must will have much less protein content than a beer wort, and therefore the utilisation wouldn't suffer much from it. So the information I was passing doesn't seem to apply to mead at all if this is true.

I guess I need to keep looking for more information. And some experiments would be useful too, of course.

Always learning... :)

bernardsmith
04-04-2016, 11:44 AM
But my thinking is that while it is necessary to boil wort to concentrate the sugars and to kill off lactobacter and other bacteria in the grains so there is efficiency in using that boil time to utilize the hops. With mead , boiling honey is dis-preferred as it boils off volatile flavor and aromatic molecules, has no benefit in pasteurizing the must since honey in and of itself does not support bacterial life, then the idea would be to boil only the water we are going to use to dilute the honey... In other words, the hops we utilize are not going to be competing with proteins or sugars for space in the water...

MrRogers
04-05-2016, 04:17 AM
But my thinking is that while it is necessary to boil wort to concentrate the sugars and to kill off lactobacter and other bacteria in the grains so there is efficiency in using that boil time to utilize the hops. With mead , boiling honey is dis-preferred as it boils off volatile flavor and aromatic molecules, has no benefit in pasteurizing the must since honey in and of itself does not support bacterial life, then the idea would be to boil only the water we are going to use to dilute the honey... In other words, the hops we utilize are not going to be competing with proteins or sugars for space in the water...

That makes sense to me. I was just trying also to make sense of what I heard several times regarding the extraction of supposedly unwanted compounds.
Since I don't really have a conclusion, I feel like doing some experiments as well, like Sadcheese.
At least trying to do exactly that - boil the hops in water and add it to the must and check if I can detect any off-flavour. Maybe even compare different boil times with different amounts of hops. It might give a better indication of the hop character we can achieve that way.

Sadcheese
04-23-2016, 08:58 PM
Thanks for the interesting discussion! And the warm welcome.

I have a big bucket of OB coming in the next couple weeks and I'll post my preliminary plan and let yall know how it goes. Hopefully my technique is adequate to make something reliable enough to warrant some scientific rigor.

Also, not to be picky, but (I'm a physician) bacteria actually do grow in honey ala clostridium botulinum-- the bug responsible for both Botox and infant botulism. Which is why they say don't give honey to babies and probably why they pasteurize it.

loveofrose
04-24-2016, 10:29 AM
Actually, clostridium botulinum does not "grow" in honey. The spores simply survive in honey and begin to grow once in the infants digestive tract. Sorry, I am a stickler for detail.

Welcome to the forums! I look forward to your experiments!


Better brewing through science!

See my brewing site at www.denardbrewing.com

See my Current Mead Making Techniques article here:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/current-mead-making-techniques.html

Sadcheese
04-24-2016, 07:36 PM
I think you are right. It is in canned foods that it can potentially grow (anaerobic).

The only time I have seen it in clinical practice is in injection drug users using black tar Mexican heroin. My medical recommendation is to not add black tar heroin to your must.

MrRogers
04-26-2016, 08:29 AM
I think you are right. It is in canned foods that it can potentially grow (anaerobic).

The only time I have seen it in clinical practice is in injection drug users using black tar Mexican heroin. My medical recommendation is to not add black tar heroin to your must.

That sounds like good advice. :)

Going back to the discussion about boiling hops in water. I was reading a short interview with Maine Mead Works and they do exactly that. Here it is (https://craftbeercellar.com/blog/2013/04/11-questions-for-maine-mead-works/).
Not to mention their continuous fermentation system. It all sounds pretty awesome. :)

Shelley
04-27-2016, 06:43 AM
For my latest hopped mead experiment, I boiled my hops in plain water, then used that to make the must. I've got no problem with the hops bitters and aromas, though the must was more bitter than I wanted, so I might try a shorter boil next time for the proper balance.

I did 0.8oz of German Magnum for 60 min, and .4oz of Citra in the last 15. (Selected mostly because I'm experimenting, and these were leftover from our beer brewing.) This is for a one gallon batch.

Jessiegaddy
04-27-2016, 03:42 PM
Hi all, I'm new to got mead but not brewing and was just wondering what type of hops everyone has been using. In my hoped meads I tend to use whole leaf or wet hops as the dried pellet hops can be quite different in aroma and flavor. I try to use wet hops when available as the fresher hops seem to me to add more of the aroma and flavor profile I prefer. BTW you guys are awesome on here so much knowledge in one place is a dream come true. Thanks everyone.

bernardsmith
04-28-2016, 10:16 AM
For my latest hopped mead experiment, I boiled my hops in plain water, then used that to make the must. I've got no problem with the hops bitters and aromas, though the must was more bitter than I wanted, so I might try a shorter boil next time for the proper balance.

I did 0.8oz of German Magnum for 60 min, and .4oz of Citra in the last 15. (Selected mostly because I'm experimenting, and these were leftover from our beer brewing.) This is for a one gallon batch.

Hi Shelley, Most bitterness is extracted at 60 minutes but all the charts I have seen suggest that maximum flavor is available with a 20 minute boil.
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=526977

Sadcheese
04-28-2016, 02:12 PM
So after some great thoughts I went ahead and did a very basic experiment to get an idea of the difference between general techniques. As a base I used LORs Fidnemed Short Metheglin because it is quick, well reviewed and presents hops well.

Rather than than doing 8 subtypes I just went for three general styles:
#1: boiled.5 oz US geldings for 1 hr, added .5 oz during last minute.
#2: added 1 once citra hops to primary, no boil.
#3: will add 1 oz cascade to secondary.

Also did a baked weed one ill let yall know about. :)

Each was 1.5# OB honey, 1 tbs Fermaid O upfront, bicarb and delicious PNW tap water.

Shelley
04-29-2016, 07:01 AM
Hi Shelley, Most bitterness is extracted at 60 minutes but all the charts I have seen suggest that maximum flavor is available with a 20 minute boil.
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=526977

Nice charts in that thread, for a visual person like me. :-) I really need to bottle this puppy today and see what it tastes like.

zpeckler
04-29-2016, 11:01 AM
Planning a second batch of saison-style hydromel in the near-future. One of the questions I had from my first batch is whenever or not the meadmaking best practice of oxygenating until the 1/3 can affect hop flavor? I don't have a lot of experience brewing beer myself, but I know my brewer friends worry pretty obsessively about their beers being exposed to air. I think this is due to the hop oils oxidizing, but I'm really not sure.

When hopping a mead, is it ok to continue to aerate until the 1/3 sugar break as usual, or would it be better for the hop flavors to aerate just once in the beginning and then keep the fermentor sealed like the brewers do?

Sadcheese
04-29-2016, 11:52 AM
Huh, great question. I wondered about this as my second mead with hops added started out with a great hoppy flavor but I drank it straight out of the fermenter and the second drink was not nearly as good, started tasting sort of skunky. I made sure to keep it in the dark but I wondered if the headspace/opening from pouring it out would have let it oxidize more this way... I'll fill up the airlocks tonight as the gravity will be low and they are all very active, doubt I need a massive yeast colony to finish it...


Planning a second batch of saison-style hydromel in the near-future. One of the questions I had from my first batch is whenever or not the meadmaking best practice of oxygenating until the 1/3 can affect hop flavor? I don't have a lot of experience brewing beer myself, but I know my brewer friends worry pretty obsessively about their beers being exposed to air. I think this is due to the hop oils oxidizing, but I'm really not sure.

When hopping a mead, is it ok to continue to aerate until the 1/3 sugar break as usual, or would it be better for the hop flavors to aerate just once in the beginning and then keep the fermentor sealed like the brewers do?

zpeckler
04-29-2016, 12:32 PM
Yeah I had a similar result with a prior hopped mead. In the absence of someone with much more hop experience than I have saying they aerate with impunity to no ill effect, I'm going to avoid as much air exposure as possible.