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jflanigan244
07-11-2016, 11:25 PM
So, I recently decided to look into what makes my favorite brewery 's beer, taste so distinct. It seems for the majority of their beers, they leave a portion of their lees in the bottle, while adding fresh yeast and sugar! Do you think something like this would be possible for mead? Here is an excerpt of how they describe their methods onn their website:

"All Unibroue products are made using a combination of the same basic ingredients: water, malted barley, malted wheat, wheat, yeast, hops, sugar, fruit, and spices. Our products are brewed using a traditional bottle fermentation method in which fresh yeast and pure sugar are added just before bottling. They are only partially filtered, which is what gives them their distinct appearance and natural cloudiness. This brewing method results in strong, intensely flavored and highly effervescent beers. It is almost exactly the same process used to make champagne. The only difference is that while the lees is extracted from champagne using a local cooling process, it is left to settle at the bottom of our bottles once the natural fermentation and saturation (carbonation) process is complete. This process requires strict quality controls because the addition of chemical additives or preservatives would kill the yeast. It is this method that produces the distinctive Unibroue flavor"

Wouldn't this result in ridiculous bottle bombs?! Is it just the lower abv that stops them from exploding like hand grenades?

Stasis
07-11-2016, 11:47 PM
No. You have to be careful what type of bottle you use. If you take a lightly carbonated beer bottle and try to create a heavily carbonated beer style in it, you might have problems because of the thinner glass wall. Similarly, only use champagne, prosecco, or sparkling wine bottles for carbonated mead.
The trick is that you first ferment TOTALLY dry. Any residual sweetness and all bets are off. You then add a very precise amount of sugar to each bottleand ensure there still are viable yeast in the bottle. The yeast should eat the sugar and create a corresponding amount of CO2, then become dormant again as all sugars are eaten.
I'd also take that description with a grain of salt. It is debatable wether this method is better. Personally, I dislike having yeast in the bottle. This method also forces you to have a dry mead in the end unless you add (and like the taste of) some unfermentable sugar/sweetener

jflanigan244
07-12-2016, 12:33 AM
That is really interesting about the bottle selection, never though about how thick the glass should be, before! Wouldn't screw tops generally be a safe route for heavy carbonation, though?

I wasn't referring to simply a powerful carbonation, however. I meant an actual "refermentation", beyond just carbonating. Because from their description, that's what seems is going on here. The question is, when they add the "fresh yeast", do they mean just dry, unhydrated yeast? Or do they actually make a viable yeast slurry and add it to the beer prior to bottling?

I'm sure the mechanics of the whatever chemistry is at play here would obviously be a bit different for beer. But I don't see why it couldn't be replicated with a braggot, containing enough malt and grain?

Farmboyc
07-12-2016, 12:42 AM
Sugar carbonation is a refermentation. You are basically re-starting fermentation with the addition of sugar. I think that is exactly what they are referring to just trying to fancy it up for the description. Sent
The only reason to add fresh yeast is if you are nearing the top of you alc tolerance or if you product is exceptionally clear. I would expect that you would rehydrate your dry yeast to get a more consistent dispersion of yeast throughout the carboy.

PitBull
07-12-2016, 07:26 AM
That is really interesting about the bottle selection, never though about how thick the glass should be, before! Wouldn't screw tops generally be a safe route for heavy carbonation, though?

Have you tried beer bottles? I often put wine or mead in them. They are convenient in that they hold two 6-ounce glasses of wine. They are a nice size to give away a sample or two. They also hold pressure really well. Larger sizes, 16 oz., 22 oz. and 750 ml crown top bottles are also available.

Beer is generally bottled carbonated at 1oz. of sugar per gallon, but I prefer a bit more. That translates to 0.83 ounces (by volume) or 1.25 ounces (by weight) per gallon for honey.

zpeckler
07-12-2016, 10:25 AM
This is a practice called "bottle conditioning," and it's relatively common throughout the brewing world to carbonate both commercial beer and homebrew.

One your mead has fermented COMPLETELY dry, a measured amount of "priming" sugar is added to the must, and then it is immediately bottled. The yeast wake up, eat the sugar, make CO2, and carbonate the mead in the bottle. Like Stasis said, any residual sugar in the mead becomes food for the yeast to make CO2. If to try to bottle condition with residual sugar + priming sugar you'll over-carbonate and the bottle can explode.

What you're shooting for is a certain "volume of CO2." Typically this ranges from 1-2.5 depending of beer style. Obviously, the more sugar the more CO2. To figure out precisely how much priming sugar you need for a given volume of CO2 there are tons of brewing websites with automatic calculators you plug some numbers in. Just Google "priming calculator."

Generally I've found you don't need to add additional yeast when bottle conditioning unless your mead finished fermenting over 8-12 months prior.

When bottle conditioning your mead bottle selection is CRUCIAL. Wine bottles cannot stand up to pressure, and if you bottle condition in them the likelihood of bottle bombs is extremely high. A standard 12oz beer bottle will be safe up to 2.5 volumes. A Belgian bottle can take up to 3.5. A Champagne bottle can do up to 6. If you're bottle conditioning with Belgian or Champagne bottles, you'll need specialty corks and wire cages to ensure an adequate seal.

One you've primed and bottled your mead, store it at room temp for at least a month.

jflanigan244
07-12-2016, 10:41 AM
Huh, thanks for the responses, everyone!

They had me thinking something mysterious was going on here but I guess it's just heavy bottle carbonation lol!

I suppose it is rather uncommon to leave lees in a BEER but other than that, their practices are pretty standard, it seems.

They did win a world beer award for best Belgian tripel, so maybe I will look into a tripel adapted braggot recipe in the future!!

In the mean time, I think I will try some heavy carbonation with my dry hopped blueberry Mel :)

adriana
07-26-2016, 08:36 PM
Hi there, I've waited close to a year to bottle a very dry mead and now I'm hoping to get some carbonation in a few bottles. I read many times that I may need to add yeast at bottling given how long it's been aging in the carboy, but how much yeast exactly? Is it measurable per bottle ? So, If I just add honey and no yeast at this point, will I end up with a back-sweetened still mead with a higher alcohol content ( assuming all the yeast is spent after one year aging)? Thanks!

pwizard
07-26-2016, 08:59 PM
If it's been a year and your mead is cleared and completely dry, it's likely all remaining yeast cells have been starved to death by now. Even if some of them manage to wake up, they will be so stunted/damaged they will not be able to pull of a decent carbonation. If the mead is as dry as you say and has a high ABV, chances are any new yeast may die of alcohol poisoning before it even gets started. (under 16% you should be ok with most strains).

If you have a keg setup, you could always force-carbonate. Just a thought.

jwaldo
07-29-2016, 08:10 AM
When I brew beer, the amount of sugar in the starting wort is much less than in mead. The yeast do their work but run out of food (sugar) before the environment gets too toxic (alcohol) for them to live. Then when I add some additional sugar at bottling time, the yeast (still alive in the wort) happily eat the new sugar producing the CO2 that carbonates the bottle (and a tiny bit of additional alcohol). Most beer I make is at 7% alcohol, strong (sort of) for beer, but pretty weak compared to mead.

Because the yeast are making the CO2 essentially 1 molecule at a time, the CO2 gets very finely dissolved in the beer. This very even and uniform distribution of very small CO2 molecules is what (IMHO) contributes to that very fine foamy head - also aided by proteins, starches (and probably lots of other stuff) in beer - that we (or at least I) find so creamy and delicious. It adds to that umami and mouth feel.

An unavoidable by product of this 'in bottle' fermentation, is some yeast reproduction, and eventual settling out of those yeast on the bottom of the bottle. (For champagne, they gradually turn the bottle upside down, freeze the neck, open the bottle, remove the yeast sediment, and re-cork. At least in the traditional method (I think there were special craftsmen used before they had the tech to freeze the neck) - most champagne we probably get was made in a commercial method and pressure carbonized. You can tell by looking for the words 'fermented in bottle' and 'fermented in -this- bottle' on the champagne label. Apologies if you already know this.)

Commercial carbonation by putting the fluid under CO2 pressure can also carbonate a beverage, but the carbonation (again IMHO) tends to be a lot more course. Compare a creamy beer head to those big bubbles rising from your glass of coke.

Tiny bubbles in champagne are related, but I don't think champagne has the necessary body to form and retain a thick head.

I've had a very few bottles of mead go slightly fizzy after bottling. Just a very very light carbonation. It too was of the very small bubble variety. (Fortunately not enough pressure to pop a cork or crack a bottle.)

If you are intentionally trying to make a sparkling mead, please heed the advice here about using bottles that can withstand the pressure (like champagne bottles). I would not expect a thick creamy head, but the fine carbonation would probably be delightful.

YMMV

Thanks,
Jim.

mannye
07-30-2016, 12:45 AM
You can force carb and get fine bubbles but you have to have a keg setup and be able to put that whole keg in the fridge for at least a week. Be aware that carbonation will also alter the flavor. Generally a dry starting point will not be favorable for carbonation (generally...that means it CAN be good too!) so I would probably start with a mead that's a little sweet in order to balance the acidity of the carbonation. Just taste flat champagne and you'll see what I mean.

Foothiller
07-30-2016, 09:12 AM
Earlier in this thread, there was a question whether screw tops could be good for handling higher carbonation. If you mean screw top beer bottles, it's actually the opposite. The tops on screw top beer bottles are thinner than standard bottles, and thus more prone to breaking under pressure. If you are using bottle caps, they would not seal as well. Reusing the screw-on caps would not get a good seal. The screw top bottles go in recycling.

mannye
07-30-2016, 03:51 PM
Earlier in this thread, there was a question whether screw tops could be good for handling higher carbonation. If you mean screw top beer bottles, it's actually the opposite. The tops on screw top beer bottles are thinner than standard bottles, and thus more prone to breaking under pressure. If you are using bottle caps, they would not seal as well. Reusing the screw-on caps would not get a good seal. The screw top bottles go in recycling.

Yup. And just in case (probably not but just to cover all the bases) the same goes for wine bottles and large beer bottles with screw caps.

To get you better informed on bottle conditioning, used in beer and champagne, here's a guide that should get you most of the way there. It's for beer, so there will be some variation with mead, but that's half the fun... as long as you stay safe.

https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/mastering-the-art-of-bottle-conditioning/