View Full Version : To sweeten or not to sweeten...

12-05-2003, 06:38 AM
??? Well, I've made my first batch of mead.. Poor man's cyser.... Apple Juice Honey a few tea bags and yeast. It was the most simple start up batch I could find. It worked for two full weeks and then stopped. I waited two more days and then racked into smaller containers. 13.4 % Alc...So I'm happy there, but it seems sour, or bitter. I added sugar to one bottle to taste...REALLY good... Should I sweeten the rest or will the sweetness return with age?? The best way I can explain it, is, It smells like old warm beer :-(......
Thanks! Ben

12-05-2003, 12:10 PM
I would love to answer your question. But I am two weeks behind you on the same journey. ;-)

I currently have a batch of Poor Man's Cyser resting on the floor of my closet. I didn't take an OG because I don't have the equipment. Heck, one of the reasons I picked that recipe was because it convinced me that I could try this without investing a lot of cash before I knew if it was for me. I started the batch last Monday. The other day I changed one of the balloons and couldn't resist taking a whiff (even though it left the stuff exposed to air that much longer) -- WOW... this is going to be potent stuff!

I don't know how it is going to taste but right now it smells like a really hard cider (well what the heck did I expect it to smell like). I would be interested to know if yours turns out better after some time has passed. And I will post the results of my batch when I have them.

12-06-2003, 04:53 AM
Thanks for the reply... Have you ever had Mead before? If you have, you're ahead of me!! Once I sweetened mine, it was quiet drinkable, yet in the background it still has that sour already been drunk smell :-( I hope that goes away....

12-06-2003, 07:23 AM
I have never had mead before. But I have wanted to try it for several years. Most of the recipes and howtos I found on the internet did a good job of scaring me away from trying to make my own. I looked a local stores and asked around but could never find any. Finally I found the recipe I am currently trying. And wouldn't you know it... just yesterday I was shopping in my local natural foods store and I was drawn to their wine selection. They had not one but two bottles of mead and one honeywine (not sure if it was mead or wine sweetened with honey). I had no cash with me to buy the $11.00 bottle but I have made a note to go back and pick one up soon.

Maybe when this batch finishes. Then I can do a little taste comparison to see which I like better. Probably what is in my closet because I like apple cider and think a cyser will appeal more than straight mead.

12-06-2003, 02:50 PM
I'd be interested to know what recipes you two used...it might help me provide some insight, especially how much honey and what types of yeast you used. it is very possible depending on what you did that your mead is too dry for your taste and needs to be sweetened. it is also possible that it just needs to be aged...alot of young meads have a taste that is often described as "honey gasoline" whch can take up to a year or longer to age out. some of the most wonderful meads you could ever make start out tasting like absolute hell. it takes alot of patience and can be very frustrating for the new mead maker but its just the nature of the game...mead making is generally not for the impatient (which is why i make beer too ;D)

12-06-2003, 04:09 PM
Well, first. I haven't tasted mine yet but I hope it is dry. I assume from my reading that it must be because there isn't nearly enough honey to make it a sweet. The recipe itself is on the site but I will repeat the basic ingrediants below this is actually going to be halved to simplify thinking. Note: 1lb/gal of honey should have a very dry mead.

1 lb Honey
1 Gal Apple Juice
4 TBS table sugar
2 oz lemon juice
strong tea
[and this next ingrediant makes everyone cringe ;-)]
Fleishmann's Bread Yeast... yep bread yeast.

Now, let me comment on the yeast. I used it because it was accessable and from what I can tell from the smell it did not leave a bready smell (and possibly taste) to the product. Mine is not done yet but the apple and even a little honey smell is all I can pick up... and both those are much weaker than the smell of alcohol. I bet the main issue here is that the alcohol needs a little time to age out and mellow. It will still be very dry and likely never sweet.

From what I can understand this is really a borderline mead over a hard cider. I am not sure if the smell of honey will remain at all when the yeast is done working because there was so little compared to the apple juice to start with.

Now, berate me for going the low road here. But I want to try something close to what I can create before I invest some serious capital (yes $50 is serious for a college student) in better equipment and ingrediants.

12-06-2003, 04:40 PM
Replying to myself like I often do.

In the above post I said I hoped my results would be a dry mead. I said that because I think I will like a dry mead a lot more. I know you figured that out but it wasn't exactly clear from my post. I like dry wines more than sweet so that is what I am going on.

Also, my results might be slightly different from RIVERRAT's because I didn't follow direction. :-) I did not boil the must. Using my candy thermometer (And I thought that would never be useful when I got it) I brought the must to about 180 degrees and held it there for 20 minutes to pasturize it instead of boil. I had bought the least processed honey I could and didn't want to boil away all the difference.

12-06-2003, 11:51 PM
I can absolutly sympathize with you on the money issue. i started brewing mead and beer in my college dorm room a few years ago and started just as you did...with plastic water jugs and tubing. i read that recipe last night and i was afraid you were going to say bread yeast! i guess all i can really say is that a packet of good white wine yeast, which without a doubt will produce a mead with better characteristics, can be purchased for between 50 cents and a dollar. I'm not saying however that a good mead cannot be made with bread yeast, i just want to let you know that i went through all the issues you are (including trying to hide my mead making in the closet of my dorm room) and there are a few simple things you can do to make a good mead a GREAT mead!

12-07-2003, 07:41 PM
Okay, the yeast was not really a money issue when I used it. It was that it was all I could get at the time. Now that I found a shop closer to home I am going to use what I can get. When you think about it the wine yeasts only cost about 5-10 cents more if they are really 50 cents and about half a dollar more if they are a buck. Not a critical amount. I did rack the mead today and it doesn't smell like bread at all. It tastes pretty good but raw... this alcohol is very young and needs to age. But it is like drinking any wine well before its time. This was started a week ago so I can't expect perfection right now. I think it will turn out well in the end. It should be very drinkable. It is obvious to all right now that I do not have very sophisticated taste buds; but, those will improve in time with my abilities, I hope. ;-)

I know that better yeast will make a finer final product. I do plan on trying a variety of yeasts to see which ones work best for me. But when I started this I didn't want to wait a week for yeast to arrive by mail or drive 120 miles to get some.

Now that I found a closer shop that probably carries some that should not be a problem.

12-08-2003, 11:15 PM
Other than adding more honey to a fermented out mead you can add a little more apple juice concetrate to kick up the sweetness/apple-ness. If its fermented out you can sorbate/sulfite if you want and then back-sweeten to add a little body/sweetness. Apple juice is VERY fermentable and without the sweetness (like strawberries) the remaining flavor doesn't often reflect the source. My first cyser was bone-dry, I then did a hard-cider and backsweetened with 2 cans of frozen apple juice concetrate (5 gallon batch) and it was just about right.

Fermening apple juice can also produce some strong sulfer aromas, this is normal so I'm told but it can take a while for those to age out as well.


12-09-2003, 07:37 PM
That probably explains why every hard cider I have had always (all commercial) had a strong sulfer smell. Not that it was unbearable or horrible but it was there. For a long time I assumed that they must be adding sulfer (okay they still might be doing this) but I couldn't figure out why. Now I know that it would be to kill the yeast before bottling if they did it. But even if they didn't the smell could still be there.

And the smell of sulpher on my cyser... very very minimal. It still isn't done with the secondary yet but it isn't bad. I will let it age out but when it comes to anything with apples I love the taste enough that some sulfer isn't going to scare my tastebuds off.

12-11-2003, 04:32 AM
So, RIVERRAT, any luck on the taste yet? Or did you just add sugar and drink it all at once? I hope you stuck a little bit in a corner to forget about it for a couple of months. ;-)

How long exactly did you let it age before trying it? As long as suggested in the recipe or longer? I suspect that the recipe suggests drinking the mead when it is really young.

12-17-2003, 07:44 AM
Okay, tonight I will be trying some of my Poor Man's Cyser. It is only 16 days since I started the batch so it is very very young. I am chilling it right now and will enjoy it during the new South Park episode. It is a little cloudy, which is to be expected because it is still throwing sediment. I racked it two days ago into clean bottles and capped them (this was racking number two) and today there was a very light dusting of sediment on the bottom of the bottle. So, it isn't completely done yet. But I am really impatient to try it. So I will let you know how it turned out after the show.

12-17-2003, 08:38 AM
Without a doubt I can say that the cyser was better than the SP episode! Probably because I am not a huge fan of Wizard of Oz paradies and this episode seemed more pointless than most -- which is saying a lot for SP. But the cyser was very nice. I did not find it very harsh at all. Near the end I tasted the slightest hint of yeast but I suspect that is due to it being suspended in the cyser. The smell and taste of it was similar to a cheap wine -- except with apples. Considering that it is only 16 days old, tasting like a cheap wine doesn't shock me. I expect it will only get better. It was fairly potent but I doubt it was higher than 11-12% ... but I have no real way to judge this so there is no telling.

I actually plan on drinking a little more tonight. I put another 12oz to chill in my freezer for a bit. It is very delightful for something that came out of the black pit known as my closet.

12-17-2003, 10:28 AM
Five posts in a row, new personal best. ;-)

Damn, Whatever the alcohol content is, I am fudged up right now. I have consumed somewhere between 750ml and one liter right now. This is over a period of almost 2.5 hours so it isn't like I chugged it or something. I was just sitting here sipping it (well drinking more than sipping). Now, I suppose I should be pretty wasted right now considering I have downed a whole bottle of wine here but for some reason this is a shock to me. Maybe because I usually drink beer or maybe because it was something I made and it actually produced something very drinkable.

Which is what I intended to say on this post. This is very drinkable. Especially chilled. It is very easy and tastes great. Not really yeasty or burning at all. Of course, since people say the best meads take time and taste awful at first this means it isn't one of the best meads. But other than the fact that I need to wait for the yeast to fall out and clear the liquid, it is bettter than I could have hoped.

12-18-2003, 03:55 AM
My! My! My! I must admit your cyser story was very entertaining. Next time you get to the supply store it might be wise also to get some airlock and stoppers. Its cheap enough and just in case your mead or cyser is a larger batch or lasts longer, it might pay off in the long run over your balloons.

12-18-2003, 05:08 AM
lol, I still have three liters from that batch. So it will last a little longer. But it was very nice. I did buy some better equipment for the future. Right now it is being used to make a five gallon batch of hard cider, not mead, but I have it for the future. But the balloon thing works and is a great way to get someone who is interested hooked on brewing at home.

Man, the kind of dreams you have after downing a liter of mead. It will take me years of intensive psycho-therapy to work them all out. ;-)

12-20-2003, 11:03 PM
Thought I ought to get in here before you go for 6 :o

IMO Cyser doesn't need lemon juice or the Tannins from Tea and is best at about S.G. of 1.02.

Certainly tartness our sourness experience before sweetening would have been from the Lemon juice and Tannins, that is what they add in the flavor profile. If I followed your thread correctly you added sugar to compensate for this just like people add it to tea who don't like the biterness of it straight, or people who add it to lemon juice and water to make lemonade.

I'll be the first to admit I haven't used Tea in my meads so I can't address if it makes it "better" or just different.

12-21-2003, 12:09 AM
Hmm the tea comment you made was interesting. I love tea and drink it black. This might be why I thought the end result was pretty good early on. But I don't think tea is that tart. The lemon is and that might come through. Overall, I enjoy things bitter more than sweet.

Yes, RIVERRAT adding sugar was probably doing the same thing as people who add sugar to their tea, coffee, cereal, etc. Not that this is wrong or anything. People have different tastes. There are other possibilities. Could be something that got into the mix. He mentioned an "already-drunk" smell. I assumed this meant raw but it might be the smell given off by a minor bacterial infection or something. I would really have to smell it myself to know. Or be told of something that would smell like it that I might recognize.

I found my batch very delightful. It is possible that our batches taste exactly the same but we have different tastes. But it is also possible to our batches are not similar at all. If only there was a way to send samples via email. ;-)

01-12-2004, 09:44 AM
Interesting note here, the bread yeast get stirred up really easy. I might just try and rack this again in a couple of days. Yesterday I tried a bit and must have shaken the bottle when I put it back because today I was going to have more and found that a lot of yeast had been put back in suspension and the liquid smelled a little yeasty. I know the bottle fell over then I placed it back so that might be it. Or I could have stirred some today. It is also possible that the yeast have started up again? If that was the case I would find it interesting. There was a little pressure when I opened it today -- more than I have noticed in weeks. Maybe knocking the bottle over get the yeast excited.

Well, only time will tell.