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WikdWaze
08-26-2004, 03:17 AM
Grab a drink, this might take a minute.

I've designed a battery of tests to try and remove some of the cloudiness surrounding mead.

1: Brew a five-gallon batch then rack it to five one-gallon jugs. One jug will be empty, the other four will contain chunks of various woods. This will determine what, if any, effect different woods have on the taste of the mead.

2: Brew five gallons, rack to five jugs. One jug is the empty control jug, the other four contain a layer of various substances such as activated charcoal to see if there is any effect on the clearing or aging.

3: Five identical one-gallon batches. Maintain the pH of each fermentation at a different level to determine the effect of pH on fermentation and aging.

4: Same as #3 except the pH is controlled only after fermentation is completed to see if it has any efect on the aging.

5: Five identical batches stopped at different SG to quantify the effects of alcohol content on aging.

6: Five batches, identical except for yeast choice. Stop all batches at the same SG to see the differences produced by the yeast. This test can be run multiple times with different goups of yeast.

7: Five one-gallon batches. One control, one with yeast nutrient per label directions, one with half the recommended nutrient, one with bee pollen of equal amount as recommended yeast nutrient, one with several times as much pollen. There is speculation that the nutrients in pollen could provide all the yeast need. This test will determine how effective pollen is relative to commercial yeast nutrient.

8: Two identical batches. One control, one slowly and continuously stirred during fermentation. Basically, a barbecue rotisserie turned on end slowly rotates a stainless steel screen submerged in the must. This is to see if creating motion helps to speed up the fermentation process by allowing the yeast to contact more sugar.

9: Five one-gallon batches, identical except for amount of honey. To determine the effects of the initial SG on fermentation and aging. All batches would be stopped at the same % ABV.

10: Multiple batches, identical except for type of honey. This is a tricky one. I'm looking for honeys with an obvious spike in the amount of one type of sugar as compared to the other sugars. This way we can see if a higher level of dextrose has a different effect than a higher level of fructose, for example. The trick is to try and keep other variables, such as mineral content, to a minimum.

11: Two identical batches, one with yeast hulls, one without. Simply to determine if yeast hulls produce any differences.

12: Three identical batches, one unmolested, one boiled honey, one pasteurized honey. To determine whether excess heat has any effect on the properties of honey.

Why all this hassle? First of all, it's fun. I love using my brain to solve puzzles. Second of all, we need to eliminate all of the contradictory information out there by examining cold, hard facts. It's very aggravating when you find contradictions even within a single page by a single author. For example, I've read one account of how to make mead where the author recommends avoiding store-bought honey because the processing leaves it bland, then he proceeds to tell you to boil the honey to sterilize it. I guess there's a difference between heating honey at home and heating it in a factory. There's also a lot of anecdotal information without any control to compare it to. Unless you run batches side-by-side to eliminate environmental causes and control the other variables, you can't say for certain what the problem is. And just because so-and-so says you don't need to add nutrients doesn't make it so. Maybe he is using well-water with so many minerals in it you could sell it as a vitamin supplement. These tests are far from exhaustive, but I think they're a good start. Reality is that every honey/yeast combination will produce different results. It may at least be possible to narrow down the other variables so we can all focus on finding the honey/yeast combination we prefer.

Norskersword
08-26-2004, 03:58 AM
Uh huh. As of the time I read this, you have 161 posts and still no mead. :o You are going to hit 200 in no time! ;D

I don't know if there is a point to adding charcoal. There is already 1,001 ways to promote clearing.

Experiment to your hearts content! Testing different variables is what home brewing/winemaking/meadmaking is all about! ;)

WikdWaze
08-26-2004, 04:07 AM
Uh huh. As of the time I read this, you have 161 posts and still no mead. :o You are going to hit 200 in no time! ;D

I don't know if there is a point to adding charcoal. There is already 1,001 ways to promote clearing.

Experiment to your hearts content! Testing different variables is what home brewing/winemaking/meadmaking is all about! ;)
:-[ I'm trying to contain myself, but every so often I just have to post something.

The charcoal was just an example of the type of substance I was looking for. It's not so much about clearing as it is about removing various compounds that produce off flavors and other unwanted side-effects. I want to see if these can be removed by absorbtion or by catalyzing a reaction that neutralizes them.

Norskersword
08-26-2004, 04:12 AM
I know what you mean. I'm bored of my job too...

Oskaar
08-26-2004, 05:05 AM
Wickd,

Analysis paralysis!

I guarantee if you follow this procedure using five identical bottles you will answer many of your questions about off flavors:

1. Make mead
2. Age Mead
4. Drink Mead
5. Repeat

Oskaar

JamesP
08-26-2004, 08:23 AM
Some suggestions/feedback:

Test #2 - tannin assists in mead clearing quicker, so maybe one of the batches have tannin added (ignoring the affect on taste).

Test #3 - Hard to maintain a PH, due to gluconic acid balance(See Mead Lovers Digest post from Dan McFeeley http://www.gotmead.com/mead-research/mld/2003/987.html).
Just have to start with a different acid additions, and measure the resultant values when fermentation is finished.
Also need to decide how to adjust the PH (acid blend, or use a specific acid like tannic, citric, malic, ...)

Test #5 - To test the %Alc, I suggest each batch fermented identically, then add high proof Alc (everclear ?) to adjust the %Alc - this will eliminate sweetness flavour differences as well as fermentation differences due to amount of initial honey.
Maybe start with a low OG for each (same FG for each, hopefully), add Alc to each batch (including adding a small amount of Alc to the control), so that every batch has some Alc added and the only difference is how much was added.

Test #9 - this would be yeast dependent, so you may want to repeat this for a few of the main yeast strains.

An Extra test - fermentation temperature
Test #13 - For a particular honey, and a particular yeast strain, control batch is fermented at 70 F, one batch at 60 F, one batch at 80 F.
Repeat for different honey & yeast combinations.

Comparing meads with a different residual sweetness is difficult, because sweetness will mask/balance/enhance other flavours/acidity/tannin/etc.
So assumption is that all batches will have no residual sweetness, or all batches are stabilised and sweetened to the same level (a month) before taste testing.

WikdWaze
08-26-2004, 04:33 PM
Some suggestions/feedback:

Test #2 - tannin assists in mead clearing quicker, so maybe one of the batches have tannin added (ignoring the affect on taste).

Test #3 - Hard to maintain a PH, due to gluconic acid balance(See Mead Lovers Digest post from Dan McFeeley http://www.gotmead.com/mead-research/mld/2003/987.html).
Just have to start with a different acid additions, and measure the resultant values when fermentation is finished.
Also need to decide how to adjust the PH (acid blend, or use a specific acid like tannic, citric, malic, ...)

Test #5 - To test the %Alc, I suggest each batch fermented identically, then add high proof Alc (everclear ?) to adjust the %Alc - this will eliminate sweetness flavour differences as well as fermentation differences due to amount of initial honey.
Maybe start with a low OG for each (same FG for each, hopefully), add Alc to each batch (including adding a small amount of Alc to the control), so that every batch has some Alc added and the only difference is how much was added.

Test #9 - this would be yeast dependent, so you may want to repeat this for a few of the main yeast strains.

An Extra test - fermentation temperature
Test #13 - For a particular honey, and a particular yeast strain, control batch is fermented at 70 F, one batch at 60 F, one batch at 80 F.
Repeat for different honey & yeast combinations.

Comparing meads with a different residual sweetness is difficult, because sweetness will mask/balance/enhance other flavours/acidity/tannin/etc.
So assumption is that all batches will have no residual sweetness, or all batches are stabilised and sweetened to the same level (a month) before taste testing.Some very helpful suggestions.
A couple points of clarification.

Test #2 is designed primarily to find a way to catalyze compounds which are producing off-tastes, not so much for clearing.

Test #3. I know this one will be tricky, I've read a bit about that gluconic acid balance. I was primarily interested in raising the pH, honey is already acidic enough, lowering the pH further would make it like battery acid IMO.

Test #5, excellent suggestion. I was worried about the masking effect of the residual sweetness, it just never dawned on me to add a little 'shine to the finished product.

Test #9 There's probably more than one test in this group that is yeast dependent. I'm cerain I'd want to run a few of these tests several times before drawing any serious conclusions from them.

Test #13 I like this one, hadn't thought about it. Run one batch at the lower end of the yeasts comfort zone, one at the upper end, and one right in the middle.


Wickd,

Analysis paralysis!

I guarantee if you follow this procedure using five identical bottles you will answer many of your questions about off flavors:

1. Make mead
2. Age Mead
4. Drink Mead
5. Repeat

Oskaar
Hate to say it, but I have to disagree with you, Oskaar. Making five batches of mead won't tell me anything, except whether I enjoy it or not ;D I'm looking for basic information about what's going on inside the must. In order to do that I have to test as many variables as I can and test them independently of each other. Brewing a batch now and comparing it to a batch I brew six months from now is not a valid test.

ScottS
08-26-2004, 06:55 PM
Test #6 - different yeasts: This one is on my list for this winter.

Test #9 - varying amounts of honey: Did this one last year, three batches varying from nearly dry to quite sweet. They seem to take roughly the same amount of time to become pleasant, though the sweeter ones became drinkable sooner. Simply because the sweetness masks some of the funkiness. If you are looking for wide variation in aging times, this is not your culprit. I'd say that it makes a difference of a month or two at most, unless you are going super-ultra dry. Type of yeast and fermentation temps are probably a bigger factor.

Test #12 - boiled vs pasteurized vs raw: A friend of mine did a boiled vs raw test last year. HUGE difference. Sure, the boiled still tastes like honey, but put it side-by-side against the raw and you see exactly how much aroma and flavor has been lost. This test was enough to totally convince me on this issue, raw honey forever! As a side note, Ken Schramm recently did some testing on microbe levels in raw honey. He found that it is basically sterile, so that boiling or pasteurizing is a waste of time anyway. My conclusion: DON'T BOIL.

Jmattioli
08-26-2004, 07:54 PM
My Gosh! Whew .... What a series of posts. I thought I never would get finished reading and caught up.
Wikdwaze wrote
Hate to say it, but I have to disagree with you, Oskaar. Making five batches of mead won't tell me anything, except whether I enjoy it or not I'm looking for basic information about what's going on inside the must. In order to do that I have to test as many variables as I can and test them independently of each other. Brewing a batch now and comparing it to a batch I brew six months from now is not a valid test.

Tell me --- This has to be a cosmic joke. The making of just one batch, Wikdwaze will tell you more than you can imagine. It will eliminate more than a few of your questions and 90 percent of the tests you have listed may be unnecessary. Many of the things you are seeking to prove are already discovered under controlled tests. You can purchase some books and research papers for a lot less money, read them, and THEN make your first mead and THEN build on that knowledge with your own experimentation without reinventing the wheel. Where would we be today, if we all started from scratch each time? Hope you do not find this offensive. If so, I apoligize in advance. Cause I get a kick out of your posts.
I realize that there is often cloudiness on this forum concerning mead but that is because so many of us are still learning. Much experimentaion has already been done and published. Sure there are differences of opinions on matters due to individual perceptions, uncontrolled experiences, and dogmatism but this is the internet, a bunch of great people and their comments and opinion and not a science lab. Therefore the cloudiness perception is perceived.
Joe

Oskaar
08-26-2004, 10:49 PM
Wickd,

I'm with Joe. Please don't take my comments above as negative. I meant them for real.

It took me no less than five batches to really understand what to expect from the fermentation and racking alone.

If I had it to do over I would do each of the five batches the same way. To me, practice does not make perfect if you practice incorrectly. Perfect practice makes perfect (my old piano teacher would laugh out loud to hear me finally say that). Since meadmaking for people still learning like myself is not an exact science, it's not going to be perfect. I try to learn from my mistakes and get better at it.

Sorry if I offended.

Oskaar

WikdWaze
08-27-2004, 03:52 AM
Wickd,

I'm with Joe. Please don't take my comments above as negative. I meant them for real.

It took me no less than five batches to really understand what to expect from the fermentation and racking alone.

If I had it to do over I would do each of the five batches the same way. To me, practice does not make perfect if you practice incorrectly. Perfect practice makes perfect (my old piano teacher would laugh out loud to hear me finally say that). Since meadmaking for people still learning like myself is not an exact science, it's not going to be perfect. I try to learn from my mistakes and get better at it.

Sorry if I offended.

OskaarNo offense at all, didn't mean to imply or suggest otherwise. ;D I'm all for constructive crititcism.

I didn't mean that making five batches won't teach me anything, I know it will teach a great deal. It's the difference between learning to ride a bike and learning to build a bike. Just because you can win the Tour de France doesn't mean you can fix a broken bike. Similarly, brewing several batches of mead will not help me figure out why things are happening. Even with the exact same recipe the ingredients will not be the same as little as a month apart. You can only make a valid comparison when the ingredients are identical and there is only one variable. And listening to all the folklore surrounding these issues does not help. One person says do this, another says don't. 98% of the time neither camp has actually tested their position, it's just the way they've always done it so they feel it's the best way. And perception plays a huge role. Even one of our own beloved members fell into this trap when he was ready to foul-mouth a certain yeast for producing gasahol until discovering that his fermentation space was warm enough to smelt iron. How many others have based their views on incomplete information?

I'm not upset with anybody, don't know how anybody got that idea. And please don't think I'm playing Frankenstein here. I'm still going to make my mead the old-fashioned way. I just want to find out why certain things happen and if they can be prevented or helped without resorting to chemical warfare. Be honest, if you found out that a 10-second blast of pure O2 through an airstone would make your mead perfectly age in a week, wouldn't you do it?


Test #6 - different yeasts: This one is on my list for this winter.

Test #9 - varying amounts of honey: Did this one last year, three batches varying from nearly dry to quite sweet. They seem to take roughly the same amount of time to become pleasant, though the sweeter ones became drinkable sooner. Simply because the sweetness masks some of the funkiness. If you are looking for wide variation in aging times, this is not your culprit. I'd say that it makes a difference of a month or two at most, unless you are going super-ultra dry. Type of yeast and fermentation temps are probably a bigger factor.

Test #12 - boiled vs pasteurized vs raw: A friend of mine did a boiled vs raw test last year. HUGE difference. Sure, the boiled still tastes like honey, but put it side-by-side against the raw and you see exactly how much aroma and flavor has been lost. This test was enough to totally convince me on this issue, raw honey forever! As a side note, Ken Schramm recently did some testing on microbe levels in raw honey. He found that it is basically sterile, so that boiling or pasteurizing is a waste of time anyway. My conclusion: DON'T BOIL. Thanks for the info. I was really hoping somebody had already tried some of these, that's a couple tests I can cross off the list. I already "knew" the answer to #12, but it had to be done in the interest of science.

Jmattioli
08-27-2004, 09:01 AM
Wikdwaze,
I think the differences that are clouding to you can be explained.
One can make meadmaking a science or an art. Personally I am of the opinion it is an art. Why? Because no matter how scientifically you make it, everyones taste perception and likes are somewhat different. That is why there is no one right way and wrong way. We aren't looking for a Bible, just some opinions and pointers and experiences. Mead is in the eye of the beholder and that is the lore of it. Many of us make mead to satisfy ourselves. Some to satisfy others. Either way, with some thought, perhaps one might see it more of an art. Hope this helps..... And now-- for the rest of the story. Page 2
Joe

Oskaar
08-27-2004, 10:13 AM
Just because you can win the Tour de France doesn't mean you can fix a broken bike. Similarly, brewing several batches of mead will not help me figure out why things are happening. Even with the exact same recipe the ingredients will not be the same as little as a month apart. You can only make a valid comparison when the ingredients are identical and there is only one variable.


Hi Wickd,

Hereís where Iím coming from.

My suggestion to make five batches was not intended to be a sequential but a simultaneous process. That is, make all five batches at the same time, age and drink.

The reason for that is to test your technique, not necessarily the ingredients. If there are differences in the each of the five batches it indicates process and not ingredients. The upside is that if your process is strong, you'll have five fine little gallons of mead to drink and share with friends.

The other reason for making five little batches simultaneously in my book is to get your crafting technique down. No matter how much you read, no matter how much you research, no matter how much you learn and ultimately know, the first time you make mead your perception of how things should be based on your research will be changed by the reality of how things are. I know you already know that.

Let me also say that while ingredients from batch to batch may differ slightly, if your technique is strong youíll be able to consistently reproduce the same results as long as your ingredients are not obscenely divergent from one purchase to the next. Also, consistent yeast lot production and quality control, along with consistent quality control and production control by bee keepers is very important if they want to keep their clientele. Providing inconsistent product to their buyers does not inspire customer loyalty or promote business growth within a market-space.

I understand that being able to ride a bike is not necessarily relative to being able to build one. However, just because I can build a bike does not mean I can ride one with any particular skill. In my mind, the more experience you gain with hands-on meadmaking the more consistent your meads will be.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in researching things up front. I did plenty of it myself before I started brewing ales and porters. But everything that I read, and the processes that I used all changed substantially when I made that first batch. The process of mashing, sparging, hopping, etc. were all different enough when I tried them myself to cast uncertainty into the mix, which ultimately caused the brewing time to run longer.

The same thing happened when I brewed mead for the first time. Along with a boil over and about an hour of intense scumming, things just didn't work out according to what I thought I knew, and what was documented over and over in recipes and on many mead sites.

So from my point of view all the research and knowledge in the world is not a substitute for actually going through the rote of making several batches and recording your processes and the results. To me, all the tests in the world aren't worth much if your meadmaking technique isn't sound.

When you put your first batch together you'll grok!

Cheers,

Oskaar

WikdWaze
08-27-2004, 01:03 PM
;D Seems we're thinking exactly alike, but speaking in tongues ;D

All these tests aren't for me to make my mead, they're for me to improve it later. I agree completely that all the reading and research in the world will not teach you as much as actually doing something. Like everybody else, I've learned that time and time again. To stick with the bicycle analogy, I plan to keep happily riding along on my bike while I research and develop a new bike. If I find a new trick while testing the new bike, I'll use it to improve the old bike. I want to perfect my recipe with the main batch, then use these little test batches to help improve the process. I figure I can have one batch going just to work on the recipe, then a few other batches going to run the tests I described. That could be 5-10 batches going at once, that's a lot of practice. That's like riding the bike all day to work on your technique, then studying all night to figure out how it works. The two processes are not mutually exclusive. I misunderstood your first post to mean five sequential batches, doing them simultaneously is a brilliant idea.