PDA

View Full Version : Making a good traditional mead



caduseus
10-07-2016, 11:32 AM
I am about to attempt to make a traditional mead but my research has been disheartening.
In my research I see a number of comments on difficulty with making one.
In addition upon listening to the gotmead podcast from 8/30 did not help. The 1st and 3rd place winnner as well as successful meadery had comments that are concerning. From their discussion I could only find 2 common factors that are of concern:
1) both were of significant northern latitude (N. Cal and Michigan) and more north than myself.
2) both had ABV of 6-8% thus this is a traditional HYDROMEL and not a traditional mead.

Thus can one make a successful traditional mead (not hydromel) especially if not in a northern latitude?

bernardsmith
10-07-2016, 01:37 PM
A traditional mead is made with honey water and yeast, yes? Why would the latitude have any significant impact on the success or failure of the fermentation? Honey is notorious for its lack of nutrients for yeast so the fermentation may not proceed as smoothly as you might hope especially if the amount of honey in the must is large. Assuming that you are aiming for a potential ABV of about 10 - 12 % (a starting gravity of around 1.090 - 1.000) you want to use a yeast that does not need a large amount of nutrients - (sorry cannot offer any advice on that) . You might want to look for a varietal of honey rather than a blend - something like Tupelo or Orange Blossom or Meadowfoam. Each has a distinctive and delicious flavor. Lastly, you may want to aerate the must before you add the yeast (I dissolve the honey in water using a blender) and aerate a couple of times a day after pitching the yeast to remove the CO2. This will help ensure that the pH will not be knocked a loop by the presence of CO2 combining with other elements to form acids in the mead - and so perhaps increasing the expected instability of the pH , honey having few or no chemical buffers that prevent the pH from dropping precipitously as fermentation progresses.
Given the fact that your must will be nutrient poor you can expect that the fermentation will not be complete as quickly as it would be if you were prepared to add Fermaid O or K or even DAP... and you may find that the yeast will indicate that it is under stress with the production of hydrogen sulfide (or even mercaptans) but I would think that if you ferment the honey at the lowest temperatures preferred by your yeast - rather than at higher temperatures you should end up with a delightful traditional mead...

Squatchy
10-07-2016, 03:00 PM
I wanted to ask to clarify a question. Are you wanting to make a traditional mead? Or show mead? Bernard is speaking of a show me which means there are no other added ingredients. We're as a traditional mead is nothing more than the straight traditional witch you in fact you can use nutrients with. Also, you can feed a show mead yeast hulls because that is in fact nothing more than yeast and doesn't violate the laws of the competition guidelines. Let us know what you want to make it we can help you it's not nearly as difficult as it might first seem to be. In fact I would like to challenge everybody to start making traditional mead. You have nowhere to hide when you make a traditional mead and it will, right off the bat give you a good idea of your fermentation practices.

caduseus
10-07-2016, 03:29 PM
Not for competitive purposes. Ingredients being yeast, fermaid-o, honey and water only. Something that comes out good and dry. But the questions remains can you NOT make a good traditional mead and only make a good traditional hydromel?

Sadcheese
10-07-2016, 04:08 PM
But the questions remains can you NOT make a good traditional mead and only make a good traditional hydromel?

Yes, you can.

Sí se puede.

I've only made a few meads that the general public at large as really enjoyed, and a traditional orange blossom mead is one of them at 14% ABV.

I made a few traditional BOMMs that I liked but you need someone who enjoys dry drinks and the phenolics of a Belgian beer. Namely, not my wife, sadly.

Camryn64
10-07-2016, 07:21 PM
I'm beginner.. lets try something

pdh
10-07-2016, 07:39 PM
In fact I would like to challenge everybody to start making traditional mead. You have nowhere to hide when you make a traditional mead and it will, right off the bat give you a good idea of your fermentation practices.

I second the motion, and I accept the challenge :-)

I've been making exclusively hard cider and cyser for a number of years now, after some early attempts to make traditional mead which didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. After about 3 years of aging it was OK, but still not great; before then it was definitely sub-par (harsh and hot and... you know...)

I know now that I did a bunch of things wrong in those initial batches, so I'm planning to try again later this fall with a one-gallon batch of traditional mead (not show mead, I'm not that brave -- I'll use nutrients). I intend to use orange blossom honey, since I've heard that variety recommended by a number of knowledgeable sources including bernardsmith's comment in this thread.

I think I read somewhere that if you do it right, the mead should be drinkable within 8 - 12 months. For my own self-evaluation purposes, I'd like to ask: is that a reasonable timeframe? I mean, if the mead doesn't taste good after that period of time, is that a sign that I'm still screwing up? I'm planning to use 3 pounds of honey plus enough water to make a gallon, and K1V-1116 yeast; I'm still working on a plan for the nutrient-addition schedule.

Squatchy
10-07-2016, 09:43 PM
I second the motion, and I accept the challenge :-)

I've been making exclusively hard cider and cyser for a number of years now, after some early attempts to make traditional mead which didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. After about 3 years of aging it was OK, but still not great; before then it was definitely sub-par (harsh and hot and... you know...)

I know now that I did a bunch of things wrong in those initial batches, so I'm planning to try again later this fall with a one-gallon batch of traditional mead (not show mead, I'm not that brave -- I'll use nutrients). I intend to use orange blossom honey, since I've heard that variety recommended by a number of knowledgeable sources including bernardsmith's comment in this thread.

I think I read somewhere that if you do it right, the mead should be drinkable within 8 - 12 months. For my own self-evaluation purposes, I'd like to ask: is that a reasonable timeframe? I mean, if the mead doesn't taste good after that period of time, is that a sign that I'm still screwing up? I'm planning to use 3 pounds of honey plus enough water to make a gallon, and K1V-1116 yeast; I'm still working on a plan for the nutrient-addition schedule.

So if you were planning on a different yeast with a bit lower ABV% you could expect to have drinkable meads in 3 months. A stronger mead takes a bit more time to smooth out, but you can do things to smooth out the alcohol's edge as well. Any mead will taste better as it get older. At some point you will go too far and it will go downhill some. In my opinion, there are other yeast that are better suited for a traditional. But of course, to each his own.

pdh
10-08-2016, 08:10 AM
So if you were planning on a different yeast with a bit lower ABV% you could expect to have drinkable meads in 3 months. A stronger mead takes a bit more time to smooth out, but you can do things to smooth out the alcohol's edge as well. Any mead will taste better as it get older. At some point you will go too far and it will go downhill some. In my opinion, there are other yeast that are better suited for a traditional. But of course, to each his own.

So what yeast(s) would you recommend? One of the errors I made last time is that I used champagne yeast (Red Star Pasteur), which of course ate up every last molecule of sugar and that contributed to the hot taste and the need for long aging. Now I'm more interested in getting a good traditional mead within a reasonable period of time, as opposed to brewing something with the highest possible ABV.

And when you say there are things that can be done to smooth out the edge -- what specifically would you recommend?

I'm pretty happy with the way my ciders and cysers are turning out (and my beers as well), but I don't consider myself at all competent when it comes to a plain traditional mead, so any advice would be appreciated.

Squatchy
10-08-2016, 09:25 AM
Oaking helps to smooth off the high alcohol edge. Of course higher levels of of residual sugar (honey or fruit juice) helps as well.

For traditionals, my favorites are D47 and 71-B and DV10. D47 has a pretty narrow temperature spectrum, so I would not use it unless you can keep the temps controlled. You can also sur lie D47 with good results. If you like dry trads I would suggest RC212 and K1V.

I use open top vessels until things slow down so the mead can off gas. Cover you bucket with a clean dish towel or similar and you'll be fine.

Go-ferm and Fermaid -O are the only thing I use any more. I would also stay away from Camden Tabs. Instead, buy potasium metabisulfite. Camden tabs are made of Sodium Meta and will leave behind salt flavors.

Too many people are in a hurry to do the first rack. Keep the yeast in suspension until the fermentation is finished for a few weeks before you leave it alone to drop out. You can cut down your racking losses by adding stabilizing ingredients before you cold crash. This way, once things drop out and you rack it, if you rack it well you only have to rack it once more. With just the very fine lees left it won't hurt to leave it alone until it drops out clear and then do the final racking. You could also fine it at this point. You can also add bentonite in your primary and this will help it to clear much faster when things slow down.

Unless you have a really special varietal honey I would suggest blending light and dark honeys together. Get used to tasting your must before you pitch. Eventually, you will have a better idea of what your finished product will taste like.

Almost as soon as I started making mead I determined I didn't want to wait for so long to only have a few bottles to drink. A gallon's worth of mead could disappear in one or two sittings max. I started making 3 gallon batches right off the bat. You can go in so many directions if you make 3 gallons. You can have your trad. You can add fruit on the back side to some and have a nice mel. You can add spices or herbs to some of your trad to make a meth. As you can see you can learn more and have a wider spectrum of things to enjoy if you start making more than one gallon at a time. Lastly,,,, if you make a really dry trad and a really sweet one. You can now have mead to top off your vessels as you make more to close up head space. Or, you can add a dry to something that turned out too sweet or vice versa.

Hope that helps.

pdh
10-08-2016, 09:56 AM
Oaking helps to smooth off the high alcohol edge. Of course higher levels of of residual sugar (honey or fruit juice) helps as well.

For traditionals, my favorites are D47 and 71-B and DV10. D47 has a pretty narrow temperature spectrum, so I would not use it unless you can keep the temps controlled. You can also sur lie D47 with good results. If you like dry trads I would suggest RC212 and K1V.

I use open top vessels until things slow down so the mead can off gas. Cover you bucket with a clean dish towel or similar and you'll be fine.

Go-ferm and Fermaid -O are the only thing I use any more. I would also stay away from Camden Tabs. Instead, buy potasium metabisulfite. Camden tabs are made of Sodium Meta and will leave behind salt flavors.

Too many people are in a hurry to do the first rack. Keep the yeast in suspension until the fermentation is finished for a few weeks before you leave it alone to drop out. You can cut down your racking losses by adding stabilizing ingredients before you cold crash. This way, once things drop out and you rack it, if you rack it well you only have to rack it once more. With just the very fine lees left it won't hurt to leave it alone until it drops out clear and then do the final racking. You could also fine it at this point. You can also add bentonite in your primary and this will help it to clear much faster when things slow down.

Unless you have a really special varietal honey I would suggest blending light and dark honeys together. Get used to tasting your must before you pitch. Eventually, you will have a better idea of what your finished product will taste like.

Almost as soon as I started making mead I determined I didn't want to wait for so long to only have a few bottles to drink. A gallon's worth of mead could disappear in one or two sittings max. I started making 3 gallon batches right off the bat. You can go in so many directions if you make 3 gallons. You can have your trad. You can add fruit on the back side to some and have a nice mel. You can add spices or herbs to some of your trad to make a meth. As you can see you can learn more and have a wider spectrum of things to enjoy if you start making more than one gallon at a time. Lastly,,,, if you make a really dry trad and a really sweet one. You can now have mead to top off your vessels as you make more to close up head space. Or, you can add a dry to something that turned out too sweet or vice versa.

Hope that helps.

Thanks, squatchy!

- I'll consider a different yeast; my temps are in the very high 60's so maybe I'll go with 71B.

- I generally use a stainless steel stockpot for primary fermentation, with the lid on. It's easy to sanitize (I scrub it out and then boil clean water in it before using it), and the open top makes it easy to degas and take S.G. readings. The top keeps crud out but it's not an airtight seal so I believe gases can move back and forth.

- I don't use Campden tablets at all anymore with my ciders and cysers; in fact I don't use any sulfites or anything. I just mix everything up and then pitch the yeast, being very careful to sanitize anything that will touch the must, and I've never had a contamination problem that I know of. Sometimes I end up with a small amount of carbonation when I open the bottles, but that can be kind of pleasant and it's never gotten anywhere near the bottle-bomb stage. Is there a reason to use sulfites with a traditional mead (other than when backsweetening, or when you want a bona fide still mead with absolutely zero carbonation)?

- I know that in the past I've done the first racking too soon sometimes (from the steel pot into a glass jug with a fermentation trap). I like to get it into the glass jugs sooner rather than later so I can see more of what's going on inside the must, to judge clarity and etc. I'll try to be a bit more patient :-)

Squatchy
10-08-2016, 12:03 PM
Correct. I was assuming you would want to back sweeten with honey.