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Cristos
07-05-2017, 11:17 AM
Hello again all-

I'm getting ready to start backsweetening my batch, as it is currently quite dry with a fg of 0.996. From the searches I've done, I understand that backsweetening is not really an exact science, and that people do it different ways. Some just go by taste, while others go till they've reached a specific gravity reading. Some use honey as a sweetener, while others use corn syrup, maple syrup, all kinds of things. So after giving it some thought, I decided to run this by the community and get an opinion before I go tinkering anymore with my batch.

I'm looking at using more of the local honey for my sweetener, and blending it into some locally produced apple cider, then adding that mixture slowly until I reach a gravity of around 1.035. Would this be ok? If so, how much of each should I be adding each time? I know you should be going slow with it so as to avoid making the must too sweet, but am i looking at using a quarter cup of honey? Half a cup? Half a cup of cider?

Secondly, I see that it is generally recommended you let the must sit a day or two between sweetenings to give it time to acclimate and mix. Currently my must is sitting in a 5 gallon carboy with about an inch of headspace. How am I to add more to this must without causing overflow? Am I just going to have to suck it up and do another racking to one of my 6.5 gal fermenters? And if so, what am I to do about the extra headspace I'll have while I'm doing the sweetening?

I should also point out that I am aware that none of this should be done until I have stabilized my must. Just forgot to mention that first.

Dadux
07-05-2017, 12:28 PM
Well some stuff to point out, Cristos.

1- yes you need to stabilize and be careful here because if you dont do it well your ferment might restart
2- because of 1- i usually stabilize, wait a couple days/one week and add some honey. Then i wait a bit (another week) so you see if the ferment restarts. If it does it wont get out of control and you'll know you added too little sulphites
3-backsweetening depends om what you go for. Some people hate sweet meads so they add only a little. Others hate dry, etc. You usually want to go by taste the first time because you wont have any experience. Once you have tasted different gravities you can do a more "by the numbers" approach.
4- different sugar sources = different sugars and different final taste. Same goes for honeys. Some wont add much sweetness, some will add a lot of sweetness, some will be cloying and some wont. This is worth keeping in mind. You can make a 1.030 mead that does not taste dry or one that is absolutely cloying. Fructose does not taste as glucose, and same applies to the other sugars. Dont want to complicate it too much but so you get an idea its not the same.usually we use honey because table sugar is quite flavourless but other stuff can be used indeed as maple syrup, agave, molasses... And how sweet a honey si you can determine by tasting the raw honey. Some will tend to cloying sweet others will even go to bitter. So taste your blend. It will probably be rather cloying and sweet if its wildflower.
5- 1.035 is considered a very sweet mead. I wouldnt aim that high to start off. Try adding until 1.005. and taste. If you think its not nearly enough, add to 1.015 and taste. When you feel you are close to the target add more slowly. To figure out how much you need you can use the calculator of gotmead. With 5 gals, you'll need about 1/3-1/2 gal to get it to 1.035 of my mental calcs are correct (so you better check with the calculator).
6- you will.need to rack to the 6.5 gal carboy. You can just pour it all. The remainong headspace should not be a concern for now. Mead resists oxidation rather well and you can leave it like that (with 1/6th of free space) for at least 3 or 4 months i guess.
7- also when you backsweeten you'll get cloudy mead. This is because honey has proteins thar will give the mead a protein haze. This takes a lot to sediment so dont worry about it being cloudy (wont change the taste), and if you want it clear prepare to wait a long time (usually ,6-12 months), cold crash for a while, or use fining agents. Just a warning so you dont freak out afterwards. Again, nothing bad with cloudy mead.

Cristos
07-05-2017, 04:43 PM
Thanks Dadux. Answers a lot of questions. What about the idea of mixing the honey into the cider for an easier pour? In my head it makes sense because cider is a naturally sugary drink, and also since my original concept for this mead was that of a fall/harvest taste, the addition of some cider after fermentation seems to me like it would add a bit more of a fall flavor, but I could be wrong.

bernardsmith
07-05-2017, 06:35 PM
Cristos - A couple of very quick thoughts.
1. I don't know that anyone can say whether a mead sweetened to 1.035 will be cloyingly sweet or not. How much sweetness a wine or mead can tolerate really depends on numerous factors including the TA and the pH of the mead, the ABV of the mead, and the flavor richness of the mead. My thinking is that it may also depend on the choice of yeast you used as that can affect the viscosity of the mead and added sugar can make you think that you are drinking syrup rather than a wine.

What I would do then is bench test your mead. Take three or four samples of say, 25 or 50 mil and add known quantities of sugar (or honey or honey and apple juice or some other sweetener) and taste. A gravity of 1.035 is equivalent to 1 lb of honey dissolved in water to make 1 gallon of must, so you might start with the equivalent of half that strength ie 1.017, 1.025, 1.035 and see which you prefer. If 1.025 is not sweet enough but 1.035 is too sweet then you bench test with a new batch but aiming for sweetness that falls between 1.025 and 1.035.
2. While you could certainly dilute the honey with apple juice that flavor may affect the overall flavor of your mead in a way that you disprefer. What you might do is use the mead itself to dissolve the honey...

Dadux
07-05-2017, 07:51 PM
Thanks Dadux. Answers a lot of questions. What about the idea of mixing the honey into the cider for an easier pour? In my head it makes sense because cider is a naturally sugary drink, and also since my original concept for this mead was that of a fall/harvest taste, the addition of some cider after fermentation seems to me like it would add a bit more of a fall flavor, but I could be wrong.

Bernard is quite right. You definitely can use apple juice or hard cider to add to the mead, but that you should definitely bench test (take 100 ml of mead, and add 10-20 of cider) because you may or may not like it (as he says you can also bench test the sweetness you like most). You can just dump the honey it into the mead and stir or take some mead out to dissolve the honey then add again.

About sweetness and cloying, depends on each one (And a lot!) and the honey you use. Honey that is high on glucose tends to be more cloying (clover, OB) than honeys high on fructose (acacia). Fructose is sweeter than glucose. High glucose honeys (which is the usual) cristalize more easily, while high fructose like acacia can even never cristalize at room temp. That being said, as Bernard says, acidity, ABV, body, tannins, and many other factors contribute to define a mead as more sweet or less sweet. You can have 1.005 meads that are described as "sweet" and 1.030 meads that are not sweet. But there is an obvious trend. Higher SG TENDS to mean more sweetness. As a rule of thumb i tend to aim to not make meads that are defined by the word "sweet". That is, if the most prominent thing you note is the sweetness, and that eclipses the other honey flavour or nuances, well, it tends to be syrupy. But you can make sweet and dessert meads with incredible depth and taste. But this is my personal opinion of course.

Also when adding anything after stabilizing in big ammounts, you need to account for its volume. So if you add another half gallon of honey/cider+honey, you will want to add more sulphites accordingly, to keep the levels stable.

Squatchy
07-06-2017, 08:48 AM
Keep in mind, over time the perceived sweetness will increase. And never just pick a gravity and mix to that. One mead you may at at a certain OG and make another one with that number and it can be way off.

Cristos
07-08-2017, 09:15 PM
Ok guys and gals, I need some help here:

So day before yesterday I went to the LHBS and bought all the stuff I would need for stabilizing and backsweetening. I stabilized as per the instrustions on my K-meta and Sulfite bottles and let it sit for a day. Yesterday I did my first tentative sweetening session. Following the advice of others here, I only used half of my required quantity of honey, just in case fermentation started back up. I took at gravity reading after sweetening and racking. Went from 0.996 to 1.004 using approx a pound and a half of honey.

So I wake up this morning and lo and behold, my airlock is bubbling. So great, I say, my stabilizing didn't take. Well I just got home from work, popped the lid on my fermenter; no CO2 bubbles. I took another grav. reading and I'm still sitting at 1.004. So what gives? Has my fermentation started back up, or is my must just degassing and causing bubbles in my airlock? I'm anxious to finish my sweetening, but I'm not wasting my honey if I can help it.

Squatchy
07-08-2017, 09:43 PM
Bubbles don't really tell you anything definitive. It will burp for weeks after it's bone dry or stabilized either way. Your hydrometer is the only truth when it comes to making mead.

Cristos
07-08-2017, 10:17 PM
So if my hydrometer is stable then I'm ok to continue backsweetening?

Dadux
07-09-2017, 05:27 AM
So if my hydrometer is stable then I'm ok to continue backsweetening?

"Stabilized as per insteuctions"
Whose instructions?
Did you get a phmeter or ph strips?
Did you add the chemicals then wait a day or two at least until you added the honey?

If your airlockis bubbling some time after adding the chemicals and honey the fermentation likely restarted.
If there was already no CO2 release and now is, it can be for 3 reasons.
A) you opened a lid of the bucket or the caeboy stopper. When you do this with a must that contains CO2 its like when you open a bottle of beer. Gas will go from the liquid to the air and bubbles will rise.
B)big temp changes can result on CO2 being liberated too.
C) fermentation restarted.

If you didnt open or move the carboy or had a big temp change, the fermentation probably restarted, and most likely because you did it wrong. Or in fact i should said, because you probably followed the wrong instructions. tell us what you did and how much you added of each thing

Cristos
07-09-2017, 01:59 PM
As per instructions on the labels:

K-meta: to kill wild yeast: add 1/4 tsp per 6 gallons of must

K-sorbate: 1/2 tsp/gal to prevent renewed fermentation when sweetening.

So to answer your question, I added 1/4 tsp of k-meta and 2 1/2 tsp of sorbate, plus a tiny bit extra to cover the bases. I mixed it into a sample bit of must, maybe a quarter cup, then added the sample back into the carboy. Let it sit for 24 hours before sweetening.

As I said, when I sweetened I mixed the honey with a bit of distilled water in a clean fermenter to dissolve, then racked my must out of the carboy onto the fresh honey, so perhaps the racking and exposure to oxygen caused the bubbles?

No I did not buy ph strips or a meter.

bernardsmith
07-09-2017, 04:24 PM
My guess is that when adding the K-sorbate and K-meta not every particle was completely dissolved in the must (K-sorbate dissolves in water and not alcohol) so you may have nucleated the mead. When you add fine particles to a solution saturated with gas (in this case CO2) the CO2 gathers around those particles and can form bubbles that will be ejected from the must. (The classic example is adding Mentos candies to bottles of Coke and watching a volcano of gas erupt inside the bottle pushing all the liquid out and forcing it to rifle through the neck...

Dadux
07-09-2017, 06:12 PM
As per instructions on the labels:

K-meta: to kill wild yeast: add 1/4 tsp per 6 gallons of must

K-sorbate: 1/2 tsp/gal to prevent renewed fermentation when sweetening.

So to answer your question, I added 1/4 tsp of k-meta and 2 1/2 tsp of sorbate, plus a tiny bit extra to cover the bases. I mixed it into a sample bit of must, maybe a quarter cup, then added the sample back into the carboy. Let it sit for 24 hours before sweetening.

As I said, when I sweetened I mixed the honey with a bit of distilled water in a clean fermenter to dissolve, then racked my must out of the carboy onto the fresh honey, so perhaps the racking and exposure to oxygen caused the bubbles?

No I did not buy ph strips or a meter.

Read what you wrote. What you added of.kmeta was for protective reasons, but you did not add wild yeast but comercial one, made to resist low levels of sulphites. You need to add more or less sulphites depending on the pH. I am writing this on the phone but i'll give you a more in depth chart later. Or check this thread's last posts (link below). It is a complocated matter but you'll get there. My advice would be to add at leasr 0.8-1 gram per gal to make sure if you dont check ph but get some strips soon

http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php/26761-Tannin-Additive-Taste-Test

Squatchy
07-09-2017, 08:10 PM
You can always add more than what the instructions will tell you if it's your first add because a ton of it binds and becomes inactive.

You can only really know what's going on with an analyzer