View Full Version : requesting feedback on recipe/mead calculator

05-25-2012, 11:14 AM
So I'm looking to make a mead with a high alcohol content, 18% to be exact. I'm usin Lalvin EC-1118. I'm not following any precise recipe yet because I haven't found one that I like. I'm looking to produce a strong beverage that still tastes as good as it can. I am very interested in feedback and advice or better yet a proven recipe to follow.

I currently have 17.5 lbs of high quality clover honey that I got from a Homebrew USA store and I wonder if I need more. According to the mead calculator, I'll need more like 20+ lbs just to get the ABV I'd like.

I have been looking at some of the recipes on this site and from what I've seen, I think I'd like to go in a Melomel/Metheglin direction. I like the idea of some cinnamon, raisins, orange zest/oranges, etc. I've had some commercially available mead, Viking's Blod, and confess I don't want mine to be so sweet. I'd much prefer a dry, strong, but pleasant taste.

Any advice?

Chevette Girl
05-25-2012, 03:39 PM
Well, first off, if you're going for 18% and very dry, don't expect it to taste too great for at least the first year or two...

That said, if you're still going to aim that high, I'd suggest step-feeding it rather than dumping in all the honey up front, too high an initial SG is harmful to your yeast. If you want 18% according to the mead calculator, you need to start at 1.140 if you want 18% with a finishing gravity of 1.000, that's a hard start even for EC-1118. I'd start the SG around 1.125, let it ferment out, but before it starts settling, boost the SG back up to just higher than you think you want it (if you want it a little sweet but not too sweet, 1.010 might be a good point to aim for so I'd boost the SG to 1.020 at least the first time or two), and let it ferment out, every time it drops below your target 1.010 (or whatever you select), push it back up just a bit until it stays or until you think it's reached the alcohol level you want, then stabilize it and backsweeten to taste. If you want it dry dry dry, you'll have to step feed in smaller increments, like every time it goes below 1.000, boost it back up to 1.000 again. You don't have to pick your finishing gravity now, you can figure it out by taste in a small sample once the initial honey has fermented out completely, add small amounts of honey until you like the taste, then check the SG of that sample, then you have a target SG. It's never a bad idea to hold back a little of your honey for backsweetening either.

I usually find that 3.5 lb honey in a gallon of water is about right to get 1.125 for a starting gravity, which if it goes completely dry is just over 16%.

As for spices and fruit, orange zest will give much more flavour than the juice, and if you've ever tried the JAO recipe you know what one cinnamon stick and one orange per gallon is like so you'll have to decide whether you want the spices to be strong or subtle, I find half of a cinnamon stick and the zest from one orange are definitely identifiable as such in a gallon of mead if you don't want them to be beating you over the head with their flavours. Other thoughts, a few cracked allspice, a clove or two per gallon, half a nutmeg...

05-26-2012, 06:30 AM
I kinda disagree that 1.140 is hard for EC-1118. I have a batch going that started at 1.147 and the EC-1118 started chomping away on it almost right away. After a week it was already down to 1.040. I think people that have trouble with hi-OG musts and 1118 must not be aerating or using enough nutrients or something.

That said, I do agree that if you want to hit the yeast's max ABV tolerance, step-feeding is the way to to.

Chevette Girl
05-26-2012, 07:10 AM
Well, my experiences with starting EC-1118 at what I consider too high an OG also have a good start, but they don't seem to finish dry when they should. Which is why I recommend starting a little lower, just to be on the safe side, especially when I don't know the particular person who's asked and whether they're good about aeration and nutrients... I try to keep my yeasties as stress-free as possible these days, it's just easier.

But hey, if you can start a really high OG and get it to finish, good for you, it's just not something I'd do myself or recommend to a beginner, since I don't seem to do so well with it myself and Rico wants a dry mead.

05-26-2012, 07:59 AM
So I think I did a bad thing... a few bad things, possibly.:(

I in the spirit of minimalism, I decided to make a very simple mead; water, honey and yeast, and backsweeten it later, if necessary. I simply poured my honey into my 5 gallon carboy (not actively dissolving it - a lot of it's still sitting at the bottom of the carboy), topped off to 3" from the top, put in my EC-1118 (without aerating) and left it alone.

8 hours later at and no too much going on in there.:confused: I think I messed up by not aerating properly and not dissolving the honey completely. I thought physics would take care of that part.

So is it a complete loss? Am I being too impatient and it'll just take longer without dissolving? Are my yeasties all dead from not aerating?


05-26-2012, 09:17 AM
You can still stir it up and aerate at this point, so no it is not a complete loss.

05-26-2012, 11:39 AM
IMO, if you are just starting out making adult beverages, don't shoot for the stars. Hitting 18% ABV on an 18% yeast is like never having seen a dartboard and hitting the bullseye on the first throw. Keep it simple and you'll be a lot less disappointed and maybe enjoy the hobby instead of stress about it.

That being said, Chevette covered all the bases for what you need to do to get a sack mead but, you need to start by having sound brewing processes (aeration, nutrient additions, temp control, recipe). No one makes "great" mead by just dumping it together and waiting to "see what happens", you can make drinkable mead but not something at 18%.

Thankfully you can save this batch no problem. Stir/shake it up and get it mostly mixed. Or, if you have an aeration system get it aerated.

What you are making is a show mead, go ahead and search show mead on these forums and you'll soon find out this is a very difficult style to manage. Honey, unlike fruits and grain, has very little nutrients to help the yeast stay healthy and happy, therefore, you need to supply them or the yeast will be very slow, stressed, and possibly just stop early.

A good solution would be to add in some fruit or fruit juice(if you have the head space). If you don't you might want to pull some water off the top before you mix it up. Just pull off a half to a full gallon and replace it with some juice(orange, grape, apple, etc). Add some spices too if you like, heck, go for a Joe's Ancient Orange maybe, it's always a crowd pleaser.

IMO make a few batches to just work on your process. Get a good process in place that produces the best mead you can and THEN try for an 18% ABV mead, if you still think you need to try for it. Personally, I'd rather make a very drinkable mead rather then just try to make a really high ABV drink. You want a high ABV mead, just spike it with a shot of vodka, viola.

05-26-2012, 11:55 AM
Although getting a dry mead at 18% ABV is a challenge, with some good fermentation management practices you can get there, and you can still get there with this batch. As others have already noted you should aerate the must to get as much oxygen dissolved into it as possible. I would also recommend that you pitch some more EC-1118 yeast, but rehydrate it first. To find out more about rehydration (using either plain water or water with a rehydration nutrient like GoFerm added), have a look at the Newbee Guide to Meadmaking. There's a link to it over on the left side of this page. You'll learn a lot about managing fermentation there that will really help to maximize the chances for success with this batch. You might also want to consider adding some yeast nutrient to the batch once your yeast do show some signs of fermentation - without nutrients, any yeast including EC-1118 will have a difficult time fermenting to complete dryness starting from a high initial gravity batch like this one. As someone else noted you can get some of those nutrients from fruit additions, or you can make your own "poor man's" nutrient from boiled baker's yeast. There are many ways to go with nutrient additions, and if you poke around the forums here a bit you'll learn a lot, including various staggered nutrient addition methods. Use the Search tool (link is near the top right of this page, in a menu bar), and you'll uncover a wealth of info.

One other thing to keep in mind - a dry mead with that high of an ethanol concentration will likely take a long time (many months) to mellow out and become easily drinkable. Don't be surprised if your first taste, once fermentation is over, reminds you more of paint thinner than anything else. That is common with high proof meads, since the yeast will produce more than ethanol when they are stressed by such a challenging environment, and those other byproducts of fermentation (fusels, etc.) are very harsh tasting at first - they take some time to break down into things that are more pleasant.

But don't be discouraged - you've chosen quite a challenging first batch, but since it is a dry traditional mead (where there will be no residual sugar or fruit flavors to hide behind) you'll learn a lot about meadmaking regardless of how it turns out.

05-26-2012, 12:18 PM
Surprisingly no one has yet said it, but if you don't already have one than get yourself a Hydrometer. Without it you will never know when your mead has reached its conclusion. Even if it looks like it has stopped it could have just stalled and you could be sitting on a cloyingly sweet mead instead of the dry mead that you want. Airlock activity is not a true indicator of fermentation activity, sometimes a mead will ferment and you will see very little activity in the airlock and activity can continue due to gasses leaving the must and changes in atmospheric conditions.

05-27-2012, 09:43 AM
Thanks to everyone who replied!

Here's the latest: I aerated the must and added some yeast nutrient...we have liftoff. Bubbling nicely now. ;D