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Jmattioli
10-30-2004, 08:51 PM
I thought I would share some of my notes concerning the process of making mead. They are just my tips and observations from experience and experimenting. I wouldn't recommend you take them as gospel but I believe they are worthy of mention.

When adding spices to a Cyser, instead of introducing an unknown or tested combination of spices to the must or finished product:
Make up a cup of tea with a mixture of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and all spice. (or whatever) Taste it. If it has too much of one flavor such as clove, start over again and continue making a cup of tea til you get the percentage of each that you want. Add 1 cup per gallon to the finished mead. This saves from making a lot of undrinkable or just so so spiced mead.

Sweeting up Mead at the tail end of fermentation works well but there is always the taste of raw unfermented honey. A superior taste seems to be achieved by leaving residual sweetness rather than sweeting at the end.

Lower gravity meads tend to require less aging times. There is something about pushing the alcohol limits of a yeast that leave a harsher taste that requiires longer aging.

Dry meads require much more aging than sweet meads.

Though nutrients are needed with many of the yeasts in a straight mead. Using no more than the amount required seems to result in a better tasteing mead while young.

Unless you have a proven recipe that you know you like, it is wise to make a smaller batch til you get one you do.

Starting gravities of 1.100 or less make easy quick starting drinkable meads while young.

Adding 1/2t of Grape tannin at start to every straight mead will aid in clearing and add charcater to a mead without increasing aging time.

Adding acids before fermentation usually results in a slower fermentation than waiting til it is finished. However sometimes this is desireable as in my English mead. I made it both ways and the longer slower fermentation has a superior flavor.

A good way to stop a mead at the desired SG is to cold stabilize in a refrigerator a couple days. The yeast will fall asleep, go to the bottom, and the mead will clear quite a bit. Then you can rack without the lees and stabilize with Sorbate and sulfite without getting a lot of sediment. It saves an extra racking.

This is just a few of my notes. Feel free to add some of yours to this thread and I will do the same as I get a chance. There are no wrong comments, just your perceptions from your experience.

Cheers, Joe

Jmattioli
10-31-2004, 01:41 AM
Another useful tip that is also found in KEN'S BOOK but not always followed in the process of making mead is to use the best ingredients possible. Last year I made Cyser using the cheapest Apple juice I could find using K1V. It was good but this year I went to the orchard and got the tasteist blend of apple cider I could find and also used K1V. It done now and there is a world of difference. More complexity and apple nose and flavor. If you visit and just want to get drunk, I'll serve you my first year Cyser but if you want to really savor some special mead, I'll serve this years.
Joe

Oskaar
11-01-2004, 04:53 AM
Oskaarís "Process Observations, Ravings and Rants:

I always sweep and vacuum my mead-house the day before I am going to make mead, and lay down some indoor/outdoor carpeting after I do a cursory wet mopping of the area. I keep a 5 gallon bucket of sanitizer handy during brewing, and also a smaller one gallon bucket of sanitizer ready on the brew-bench.

I made some little rolling dollies out of plywood and screw on wheels with a lock, that will accommodate two carboys of mead each. Itís easier to roll them around than to carry them around. I have a old hospital bed table (the kind you get your food on) with wheels on it that I can raise or lower. This comes in handy when racking from one carboy to the next. I can slide my carboys over from the bench to the little table, then raise it above the table surface and racking is pretty easy.

I use my 18 volt Makita drill with a long plastic attachment that has an end like a propeller with a ring on the outside to blend my honey with the water. I donít bring my water up past 90 -100 degrees.

I watch my primary fermentation vessels and when the bubbling is down to less than a bubble a minute I move them to my racking area and rack them when I feel the fermentation is done. I use the attachment on the end of the racking cane that keeps the tip elevated above the trub, and I cover the receiving vessel with plastic wrap once it is sanitized so I can just poke the tubing through it to minimize aeration of the must.

I taste test the mead about once a week in secondary and check gravity if it seems out of whack. I go more by taste than by gravity because Iíve made mead enough to know what my end goal is, and where I am relative to it. When I get where I want taste-wise Iíll do a gravity check and figure out ABV from the other readings I took at the beginning.

If my mead doesnít take right off in primary Iíll hit it with the drill again. If that doesnít get it going Iíll check pH and SG. If it looks right, but the yeast is still not cooperating, Iíll re-pitch a more aggressive yeast and hit it with some food and energizer.

I use vodka in the airlocks, and keep a plastic cup full of vodka next to the vessels when I am drawing a mead sample to dress the inside and outside of the mouth of the carboy before I draw a sample to make sure I donít transfer in any contaminants. I dress the stopper once Iím done drawing the sample to ensure that I donít introduce any contaminants.

When topping off I make the appropriate mixture of honey and water and add that to the carboy, then I rack the batch to be topped off-on top of that.

Dry meads are a labor of love and take time to mellow so I aim at a medium sweet mead and will feed it to dryness sometimes. It seems that by feeding it just a little, then diluting with H20 as fermentation restarts it helps to smooth out that harshness that can arise from additional fermentation when feeding. It can be hit or miss, but it works for me. Oak is great in dry meads.

I find dry meads more appealing when there is more to them in the area of complexity so I will add spice or other flavors in a VERY small amount until I get a hint of a flavor, but not a distinct and easily identifiable or overwhelming flavor. It drives people nuts because they really get hooked trying to figure out what the flavors are. It makes them notice your mead, and I think they appreciate it a bit more. Besides, itís fun to watch people trying to figure out what that mystery flavor is. Dried chilies and peppers in small amounts are terrific flavor enhancers. Not the hot kind, but the types that impart more of a caramel, apple, smoke or apricot sweet kind of flavor.

Sweet meads are fun to make and a challenge to finish in balance. I like them sweet, but they can turn into a horror story if theyíre too sweet. Again, balancing complexity is called for in my opinion. I generally used grape tannin at the end, but after Joe related his success with some on the front of the brewing process Iím trying both. I use oak in my sweet meads and dry meads, and I layer the oak using French, Hungarian and American Oak cubes. I use each one of the oaks for a certain period of time depending on the type of mead, and the toast level of the oak. Each toast level gives off a characteristic flavor that add to the oak character in the mead.

Enough for now. I hope that wasnít too long or windy!

Cheers,

Oskaar

Jmattioli
11-01-2004, 05:40 AM
That's some great info Oskaar! Thanks. Not windy at all. Other comments by othersl concerning things learned and useful tips in the processs of making mead are welcome and encouraged.
Thanks,
Joe

jab
11-01-2004, 08:38 AM
Here is an observation from my very first mead.

Cats and Carboys from a 3.5 foot height: Cat's land on their feet and carboy's don't, but even if they did it wouldn't matter because your labor of love is gently weaving it's way past the shards of broken glass towards the floor drain. :'(

Talon
11-01-2004, 05:46 PM
After hearing about Oskaar's use of oak, I'm planning an experiment with the 6 gallons of orangeblossom sweet I've currently got going. I'm going to bulk age it, but I think now I will split it into 2 3gallon carboys so that I can add oak to one and keep the other pristine.

Any recommendations Oaskaar as to when I should add the oak? The batch is currently in primary.

Thanks,
Talon.

Oskaar
11-01-2004, 09:38 PM
I start the oak after the batch has cleared and the mead is beginning to mellow and develop it's own inherent complexity.

I've tried everything from three ounces of oak to a half an ounce of oak. I like using between three quarters of an ounce to one ounce of oak. The lighter the flavor the lower you go on the weight.

Once you rack onto it, save some small samples (a couple of oz each) to compare as the oaking goes on. I check about every 15 days with a wine theif to see what stage the oak is at. If I have a rough time discerning any difference from the unoaked version, I taste one of the samples to see how far it has come. Once I like where it is I rack off the cubes and let it go for a month and taste again. If it's great, I'll bottle it. If I think it can go with more Oak I go with a second oak stage.

Starting out I would suggest French Oak at a medium plus toast at a rate of 0.75 - 1.0 ounce of oak for 6 - 8 weeks.

Make sure to rinse off the oak cubes with some distilled water so you don't add any mineral or chemical (my water out here is hard with chlorine) off-tastes to the cubes. I use a 1000 ml beaker with a sterilized steeping bag stretched across the top, and pour the water right over it. Then I huck the cubes into the carboy, rack on top of it, slap an airlock on it and start twiddling my thumbs.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

Talon
11-01-2004, 11:26 PM
Just to clarify, are your weights per carboy or per gallon?

Thanks,
Talon.

Oskaar
11-01-2004, 11:42 PM
Sorry, I fogot to quantify. Weight is per five gallon carboy.

Oskaar

Talon
11-02-2004, 05:34 PM
Cool deal. Thanks.