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CordiallyYours
12-15-2005, 05:43 PM
I'm fairly new to making mead, and have a question about the time it takes to make a finished product. I have seen recipes that say the mead is ready to drink in 2 weeks, or 4 weeks, or 2 months, or 6 months, etc. What I'm curious about is what drives these numbers? If I understand it correctly, the fermentation is usually stopped when the alcohol content gets to a point where the yeast cannot survive. And it seems that in most cases that point is reached in about 4 weeks, give or take. So then why do some recipes say you can bottle and serve almost immediately after fermentation stops, while other recipes call for racking once a month for the next 5 months? I have no problem waiting for a good product if that's what's necessary, but I really don't understand what the difference is. Thank you in advance to anyone who will take a little time to help me understand.

WRATHWILDE
12-15-2005, 06:01 PM
Welcome to the Forum!

Generally the higher the Alcohol content the longer it needs to age. Also meads that end sweet tend to be drinkable quicker. Remember, Just because someone considers something drinkable... doesn't mean it's good mead. The longer you let the mead age the better it will be. This is true with "Quick Meads", Joe's Ancient Orange, Melomels, Pyments... ad infinitum. Personally right now I won't drink any of my meads at less than 6 months. I'm shooting for a year before drinking and next year I'll be shooting for two years. I might taste it at racking to make sure it's doing OK and heading in the right direction, but I don't draw off any to "drink".

Hope that helps,
Wrathwilde

lostnbronx
12-15-2005, 07:29 PM
CY,

Welcome to the Forums!

Wrathwilde is right about personal taste being the final and most important dictator of a mead's drinkability. There are several recipes that are specifically designed to permit quick consumption. Some of them are popular and pretty-much perfect (Joe's Ancient Orange), while others are still experimental and purely subjective (my own Flash Meads). There are many, many factors that can affect the final taste and "readiness" of a mead, including acid balance, tannin content, fermentation temps, yeast type used, nutritional supplements for the yeast, age, and many more. It's probably a bit easier to talk about an example, so you might want to pick out a quick recipe that you're interested in learning about or trying, and then asking this same question about itParticular recipes will have particular answers, and several people who post here regularly have worked with fast mead recipes extensively. One thing I can say as a general rule, though: in almost every case, the recipe must be followed slavishly. These types of meads are carefully constructed, and changing even seemingly unimportant elements will oftentimes lead to failure.

-David

CheshireCat
12-15-2005, 08:59 PM
Also remember that just because a mead is done being brewed doesn't mean it's finished. Even quick meads see improvment with aging.

lostnbronx
12-15-2005, 09:36 PM
Also remember that just because a mead is done being brewed doesn't mean it's finished. Even quick meads see improvment with aging.


This is true, by and large -- but there are exceptions. Flash Meads, for instance, are intended for immediate consumption, and will actually not stand any great aging due to intentional introductions of oxygen throughout the brewing cycle. Again, each recipe is a different animal, and needs to be approached in that way.

-David

WRATHWILDE
12-16-2005, 12:55 AM
Flash Meads, for instance, are intended for immediate consumption, and will actually not stand any great aging due to intentional introductions of oxygen throughout the brewing cycle.

I've never seen a recipe that calls for additional oxygenation throughout the fermentation cycle... but I would agree with lostnbronx on those particular meads... once oxygenated late in the fermentation cycle they won't stand up to aging.

Wrathwilde

Pewter_of_Deodar
12-16-2005, 12:59 PM
More things I have been contemplating recently...

A great mead is a perfect balance of a number of things...

Acids
Sweetness
Flavor
Aroma
Alcohol
Spices
and probably several other things I am forgetting...

A given mead recipe will result in a mead that has these factors balanced at a certain point in time. Aging will either lead towards this balance point or away from it. Think of it this way, white wines "generally" peak at around two years of age while red wines "generally" peak at 7? years of age (sorry, I've heard the number for reds but forgotten exactly what it was).

As has been mentioned, flash/quick meads are looking to have this balance very quickly so they can be immediately drinkable. Some aging will help Ancient Orange but I believe that it will begin to degrade after a year or two. A regular recipe mead will generally not be ready to drink for at least 6 to 8 months minimum and will improve with time for at least several years. As has also been mentioned, high octane recipes take a long time for the alcohol to balance/integrate into the batch.

Bottom line is that everything mentioned here is correct. You must decide what type of mead you are looking to make. Something quick and dirty? Something easy? Something foolproof? The equivalent of a fine wine? Something that will win a competition? It is the answer to those decisions that will determine which type of mead recipe is right for you...

Good luck,
Pewter

Dan McFeeley
12-16-2005, 01:35 PM
I'm fairly new to making mead, and have a question about the time it takes to make a finished product. I have seen recipes that say the mead is ready to drink in 2 weeks, or 4 weeks, or 2 months, or 6 months, etc. What I'm curious about is what drives these numbers? If I understand it correctly, the fermentation is usually stopped when the alcohol content gets to a point where the yeast cannot survive. And it seems that in most cases that point is reached in about 4 weeks, give or take. So then why do some recipes say you can bottle and serve almost immediately after fermentation stops, while other recipes call for racking once a month for the next 5 months? I have no problem waiting for a good product if that's what's necessary, but I really don't understand what the difference is. Thank you in advance to anyone who will take a little time to help me understand.

Hello CY -- welcome to the forums!

There's a lot of reaons for the different figures given in different recipes. The meads that are ready for bottling at two weeks are usually fermentations that have had some very strict control of the pH, generally with the use of calcium carbonate added to the honey must, along with a healthy dose of nutrients. This makes for a very rapid fermentation. Of interest for this style of mead (if style is the right word), this was originally called the "Cornell rapid fermentation method," first devised by the late Dr. Roger Morse and Dr. K. Steinkraus, both of the University of Cornell. In 1973 they published an analysis of commercial meads compared with the Cornell produced meads. A figure I recall is the ash content -- it was very high compared to the then available commercial meads. Morse and Steinkraus correctly surmised that the higher ash content was due to the strong use of nutrient formula which they had devised.

Four to six weeks is a reasonable time for a healthy fermentation. So long as a good blend of honeys is chosen, careful use of nutrients (too much can impart off tastes to the finished mead), good starting gravity, vigorous yeast, this should be easily achievable. Longer fermentations are highly suggestive of yeasts that are struggling under stressful conditions. The presence of fusel alcohols or phenolic off flavors would in the finished mead would confirm this.

Aging -- generally speaking, mead can be roughly similar to white wine in that it should be drinkable not long after it clears, assuming the fermentation was unstressed, clean, with little or no off flavors from stress factors. Also -- high alcohol levels aren't necessarily a plus factor in a finished mead. Unless you've planned to make a mead with residual sugar at desert wine levels, high alcohol levels will adversely affect the balance. If you can find references by the late French enologist Emile Peynaud, you'll come across a simple formula he used to outline balance in young red wines. Take a look and you'll see that he puts both alcohol and residual sugar together as contributing sweetness. It's true, alcohol at low levels will add sweetness to the flavor profile. Read Peynaud for more info on this.

Another major factor in aging is tannin levels. Of course, honey has little to speak of, unless you're adding varietals such as Buckwheat honey. That's where mead is roughly (emphasis on the word "roughly) analoguous to white wine, when it comes to aging factors.

Certainly, you can get improvement in a mead with aging, but it's not going to be the same as a high quality red wine deliberately vinted to age slowly over a period of ten years or more.

There are exceptions to all this, of course. Brother Adam's original Bee World article recommended aging mead made with heather honey (a strong flavored varietal honey) for eight years, in used sherry casks.

I should add that, because the medium we work with, honey, has so much more variation than grape must (i.e., hundreds and hundreds of different varietal honeys!) the general principles we talk about in meadmaking are much more flexible than in winemaking. I mentioned two week fermentations by strict control of pH and suffiecient nutrients -- I've made meads that fermented out in two weeks with nutrients alone (no added measures for pH control) or with no use of additives whatsoever.

Hope this is helpful!

Pewter_of_Deodar
12-16-2005, 01:44 PM
Dan,

Did you ever post any of your personal favorite recipes to Gotmead?

Just curious,
Pewter

Dan McFeeley
12-16-2005, 02:16 PM
Dan,

Did you ever post any of your personal favorite recipes to Gotmead?

Just curious,
Pewter


Um, I'm not sure! I know I posted a liquor recipe or two . . .

Problem is, I never use a recipe. Pretty much, every mead I make, even repeat efforts, is a bit different. I kind of start out with a mead I'd like to make, add a little of this and that, get it to where I think it's going to work and let it go from there.

Couldn't even stick with the Ancient Orange recipe. The first batch I made was according to Joe's specifics, but then I had to experiment with using different fruits, ending up with Ancient Orange, Ancient Apricot, and Ancient Key Lime. Funny thing, the Ancient Orange recipe works the best.

Pewter_of_Deodar
12-16-2005, 03:23 PM
Dan,

Would you be willing to share what your basic recipe is? If you were just doing a straight mead, what would you use besides the honey, water, and yeast?

Thanks,
Pewter

Dan McFeeley
12-18-2005, 06:45 AM
Dan,

Would you be willing to share what your basic recipe is? If you were just doing a straight mead, what would you use besides the honey, water, and yeast?

Thanks,
Pewter


Sorry, took me a little long to get back to the boards.

I like to make up a basic honey must, using whatever blends I'm working with (varies all the time, I don't stick with one type), for a SG of about 1.100. Yeasties are generally adapted for a SG of 1.086 or so (about 22 or 23 Brix) but because of the difference in amount of fermentable sugars in grape and honey must, it's better to shoot for a slightly higher gravity for meads. Grape must is about 94% or higher fermentable sugars -- you can treat it, in practice, as though it is a simple sugar solution and make reasonably good calculations. I'm at work right now, don't have access to figures, but the amount of fermentable sugars in honey might be around 87% or so, a bit lower.

I've had a lot of back channel conversations with Chuck Wettergreen, the master of natural meadmaking, and applied his ideas with varying success. One of them, one of my failures, was because I used a Syrah yeast (I can almost hear Oskaar starting to laugh :D ), which I later found was is a slow fermenting yeast, not the kind of strain you want to use in a low nitrogen honey must with no nutrient supplements. I got it to finish out after a very prolonged fermentation, but only with a *Lot* of tinkering. It's coming along nicely, after a prolonged period of aging, nice notes of brandy and oak to it.

When I use additives, I'll use Fermaid-K or Yeast-X, more recently using incremental feeding and periodic aeration during the early stage of the fermentation. I'll also add appropriate amounts of yeast hulls, and grape tannin to help clear the mead when it's finished.

I'm a lot less picky with measuring amounts of water and honey than I was in the past. I simply mix up the must in a six gallon plastic pail, using 35 ppg to work out target gravities and amounts, measure and adjust as needed, then dump to a 7 gallon carboy. Lots of headspace but no problem with a fermenting must. It's racked to the five gallon carboy, and a one gallon carboy which is used to top off for the final racking. The racking to successively smaller sized carboys is why I don't worry so much about exact amounts of honey and water anymore -- all I want to do is hit the target gravity with as little fuss as possible, including not worring about headspace when racking. Plus, by getting a SG and weighing the carboy, I'm able to calculate the volume of honey must without having to measure it out with measuring cups, which is much much easier.

I'm not able to make up a lot of mead, in the amounts that makes for some decent experimentation. I'm basically a light to moderate drinker, no one else in my immediate area to share meads with, so I can't make too much up at a time. Right now I'm at a point where my mead cellar is depleted, so I've got some batches going to get things up to speed again.

That's about it!

SteveT
12-18-2005, 10:54 AM
Hi Dan,

I've enjoyed reading your posts over the last few years and wanted to take a moment and say, thank you.

<<When I use additives, I'll use Fermaid-K or Yeast-X, more recently using incremental feeding and periodic aeration during the early stage of the fermentation. I'll also add appropriate amounts of yeast hulls, and grape tannin to help clear the mead when it's finished.>>

I'm curious about the feeding part, do you have a set pattern for feeding, or amounts used?

How often did you aerate?

In a recent conversation with Ken Schramm he mentioned this technique... In a recent Cyser I made, now in a secondary, I added 1/2 tsp/day Fermax for 5 days, the fermentation progressed very nicely. There are no off flavors that I can detect at this time.

Dan McFeeley
12-18-2005, 11:22 AM
<<When I use additives, I'll use Fermaid-K or Yeast-X, more recently using incremental feeding and periodic aeration during the early stage of the fermentation. I'll also add appropriate amounts of yeast hulls, and grape tannin to help clear the mead when it's finished.>>

I'm curious about the feeding part, do you have a set pattern for feeding, or amounts used?

How often did you aerate?

I've been more or less following the method Ken Schramm recommended in his seminar at the 2004 International Mead Festival (new information he recently started using, you won't find it in Compleat Meadmaker), about 1/4 increments over four days, aereate with each feeding.

I need to look over one of High Test's FAQ's on incremental feeding a bit more thoroughly. You can find it at this URL:

http://www.brewboard.com/index.php?s=97dd308019b959978fb2ab8f0d43c863&showtopic=26745

There's some other good info at this spot, check it over!

SteveT
12-19-2005, 07:40 AM
I need to look over one of High Test's FAQ's on incremental feeding a bit more thoroughly. You can find it at this URL:

http://www.brewboard.com/index.php?s=97dd308019b959978fb2ab8f0d43c863&showtopic=26745

There's some other good info at this spot, check it over!


Thanks Dan -- excellent information.

CordiallyYours
12-20-2005, 12:22 PM
Thank you to everyone who took time to reply. Your responses were very helpful, and I can see that making mead is a little more complicated that I originally thought it would be. Or at least it can be more complicated. But I suppose that's true with any art.

In any case, I'm still learning, and I do appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

-Cordially-

CordiallyYours
12-20-2005, 01:10 PM
Hello again,

OK, I've decided to try the Ancient Orange recipe. I'm not about to go changing the recipe, but I would like to change the volume. I'd like to make a 5-gallon batch instead of the 1 gallon. This is mostly due to the fact that I already own a 5-gallon carboy. Also this recipe is supposedly foolproof (I'm sure that must be true because I read it on the internet, right?). So why not make enough to share?

And besides, you'll probably never meet a bigger fool than I, so this sounds perfect.


I do have a couple of questions before I start though. The ingredient list (from a recipe posted here) is as follows:

3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like - these are potent critters)
optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast ( now don't get holy on me--- after all this is an ancient mead and that's all we had back then)
Balance water to one gallon

My question is, other than multiplying all ingredients by 5, is there anything else I need to do? Considering that yeast is alive and will reproduce, do I need 5 tsp to start? And should I expect it to take longer since the overall volume is higher?

As always, your collective advice is very much appreciated. ( And, while it's not what I'm hoping for, a response of "Listen up Cordially, just stick to the recipe as it's written you newbie!!", would be taken as instructive.


Sitting here on the Group W Bench,

-Cordially-

Brewbear
12-20-2005, 01:39 PM
I keep saying that I'll make a 5 gallon batch but so far I keep on making 1 gallon batches every month or so. That being said, I keep reading the forums and a few brave mazers have ventured into the 5 gallon AO realm. What I gather from the collective wisdom/experience is that the yeast amount is fine either way, you can use 1 teaspoon or five, just keep in mind that the amoun tof yeast used will dictate how fast the fermentation will go. I plan on staying in the middle ground and use 3 teaspoons of yeast. The note of caution echoed in many posts is about spices, cloves in particular, these are very potent critters and using six or more could be over doing it. I plan on using 4 to start and after racking decide if I want to add more. It is easier to add more spices than trying to mask the excess.

Best of luck, keep us posted
Brewbear