View Full Version : Semi-dry traditional?

07-01-2016, 02:53 PM
Hi, just wondering if someone can point me in the direction of a ratio or calculation I can use to formulate a recipe for a semi-dry traditional? Looking to have a bite, but a bit of sweetness as well (hopefully without back sweetening)

I know we have the mead batch caluclator on here, but I'm a bit confused by how to interpret it...

From what I've read here, it's pretty standard to have 3 pounds of honey per gallon water for a good, dry traditional.

So, would this mean, if I used like, 16-18 pounds for a 5-gallon batch, I'd be set? I will likely used 71B as so far, I've had a really positive experience with it and feel it leaves a lot of great aroma intact.

Don't I multiply the yeasts' alcohol tolerance (14%) by 135 or something? And then figure out what gravity I need to surpass it's limits?

Or would I/should I just use 15 lbs for a 5 gallon batch ans stabilize when my desired gravity is reached?

07-02-2016, 12:36 PM
If the “bite” to which you refer is alcohol, then I would recommend an upper limit of about 12% ABV. Too much above that amount the mead starts to taste “hot”, i.e., more like a whiskey bite. If the bite is tannins, you can add that later by oaking, by adding tannin powder, or by adding acid blend. Use the search engine for “mouthfeel” for more about additives.

Assuming FG = 1.000: 12.6 lbs. per 5 gallons (OG = 1.090) yields ~ 12% ABV; 14.9 lbs. per 5 gallons (OG = 1.107) yields ~ 14% ABV. Any unfermented honey past that will yield sweetness. I always make extra to compensate for racking losses.

VERY IMPORTANT: Yeast often exceeds its stated manufacturer’s upper limit for ABV. To stop at the desired ABV you must either filter out all the yeast with an absolute 0.5 micron filter and then stabilize for added safety, or, cold crash and stabilize. Removing the yeast will change the flavor of the final product. Otherwise back sweetening is your only real option. Back sweetened mead will likely have a different flavor then mead with residual sugar due to the sugar preferences of the yeast.

Good luck.

07-02-2016, 12:43 PM
Thanks for your input!

However, I'm still a bit confused. Are you saying I should use a different yeast then? What wine yeast is there with a 12% limit??

Cold crashing and micron filters aren't particularly available to me as options but I coud get some stabilizer.

What stabilizer would you recommend?

07-02-2016, 01:22 PM
I am saying that the manufacturer’s stated “upper limit” on ANY yeast is NOT set in stone, especially if adequate nutrients are provided for good, healthy fermentation. Unfortunately, I know this from experience. Quite a few years ago, I was counting on my yeast to quit at its stated upper limit of 12%, leaving an off-dry melomel. Instead I got a 14.8% hot-tasting, dry, rocket fuel. At this point even stabilizing and then back sweetening did not cover up the hotness.

I would recommend adding enough honey to get 12% ABV and ferment to dry. Stabilize with potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite following manufacturer’s recommendations. Also, re-reading the newbie guide occasionally is a good idea for those who have made only a few batches. Then back sweeten to desired sweetness. Also note, mead’s perceived sweetness tends to increase with aging.

Experience is absolutely the best teacher. Unfortunately, it is also the most painful.

07-02-2016, 02:34 PM
Thank you!

But again, what wine yeast has an (supposed) abv of 12%? I thought most were around 14-18? Did you use a beer yeas/ cider yeast?

So, even with a ratio like, 18# Honey/5 Gallons and a 14% yeast, there's still a chance it could ferment dry?

07-02-2016, 05:08 PM
>>But again, what wine yeast has an (supposed) abv of 12%?

I believe Wyeasts's Sweet Mead smack pack yeast has a ABV (stated) of about 11 or 12, but this will have different flavor profile than 71B, and may not be as ideal for a tradition. There are others as well. RC212 I believe is 12-14% (stated), but I just used one in a raspberry melomel that ended up at 15.5%

>>So, even with a ratio like, 18# Honey/5 Gallons and a 14% yeast, there's still a chance it could ferment dry?

With proper nutrition, pH management, degassing, temperature control, etc. 71B WILL exceed 14%--most likely closer to 14.5 %. I've even had a 71B go above 16%, Im not sure why, I followed the same protocols as the others. What that means is if you put in enough honey to make 12%, then this will end up bone dry--well below 1.000 for FG. If you make the OG with a potential of 14% and it ferments to 14.5%, it will also be dry. Remember, yeast are living organisms and we cant say for certain what will happen each time, we can only try to affect their output. On another note, I find OG calculators very un-useful. Each honey as its own moisture and mineral content, which will lead to different SGs. Also, my tap water is usually lower SG than if I buy gallon jugs of spring water (dont use distilled water by the way).

If your mead does turn out dry, dont worry!! First stabilize with potassium sorbate, wait a couple days for the yeast to get neutered, then back sweeten. (Or cold crash, but i think adding K Sorbate is easier). I like to take the yeast to its limit and then backsweeten to just the amount of sweetness I like. Again, with proper nutrition, pH management, you can keep the fusels (ie, "hotness") to a minimum, and with aging the majority-if not all- will go away, especially for a mid range ABV like 14%. You will end up with a very nice bite, and with enough patience (as little as 6 months, but probably closer to a year) it will be very smooth as well!

07-02-2016, 05:31 PM
Thank you, Heidrun'sGift!

That is more along the lines of the info I was looking for.

But now I have a few more questions lol

1) Can you just use k sorbate without sulfites as well, then? From what people say on here, it seems like they have to be used on conjunction, so I wasn't sure.

2) How much honey would you say it takes to back sweeten a dry mead, to a "semi-dry"?

3)What yeasts would you recommend for a wildflower traditional?

07-03-2016, 05:14 PM
No worries!

1. You only need potassium sorbate (when I first posted I accidentally put K metabisulfite, but then edited it. Im sorry if you read it and caused any confusion before I changed that!). Note, K Sorbate does not stop yeast that are in the process of fermenting. It just stops them for renewed fermentation. So, A. Dont add any honey (backsweeten) right before you add the K Sorbate and B. Make sure you give the K Sorbate enough time to do its job, I think a couple days is usually fine.

2. Some people consider a mead with SG under 1.000 dry; others, up to 1.008. For me, I use the following: less than 1.000 is dry; 1.000-1.010 semi sweet/medium; 1.011-1.020 sweet; above 1.020 dessert.

I like my finished meads around 1.005-1008. However, note that stronger honey like buckwheat will seem more sweet than a less pungent honey like clover, so I might lean closer to 1.005 for a semi dry buckwehat, but 1.008 for a semi dry wild flower.

For a 5 gallon batch, I would recommend adding 1/3 cup at a time, stir it in, wait a week to let it fully disolve, measure SG and take a taste test. Measure how much the SG went up (should be a couple points, ie, if you started with 0.098 and added 1/3 cup, it should be around 1.000 or 1.001.) Based off your taste preferences and how much that SG went up, decide from there how much more iterations of honey to add. Note that the percieved sweetness will increase as you age though, so I would recommend stopping the honey additions just before the level of sweetness you want.

3. Lalvin D-47 is my go to yeast for all traditionals, but will take longer to age than Lavin 71B. 71B is also good, but does not flocuate as well (you will end up with more lees even after aging compared to D-47), and others out there please correct me if Im wrong, but you should not do excessive aging on lees with 71B. This means more racking, and less mead in the long run.

If you are willing to wait a year, I would say definitely go with D47.


07-03-2016, 07:02 PM
If you follow good fermentation management you should be able to drink D-47 in 6 months and 71-B as early as 3 months. I recently made a D-47 trad that was drinkable before it was even close to clear. I filtered it after I clarified it at 3 months and it was sellable at that time.

Also, 1 pound of honey will give you 35 gravity points in 1 gallon of water. Or just under 6 points in a 5 gallon carboy. I personally feel it's important to use Sorbates and sulfites as a combination otherwise you have a chance to end up with a Geranium fault from using only the sorbate. Plus the sulfites will help with color retention and oxidization.

Lastly adding the Sorbate does in fact stop the budding from occurring but it doesn't do anything to stop the biomass from continuing fermentation. So don't think you can add sorbate at a certain gravity and it will halt there. It simply won't happen.

If you plan to embrace this passion long term this is what I do. I have many different traditionals. Some bone dry and others ice wine sweet. You can add either to a newly finished mead to make your gravity move in one direction or another based on your desired final gravity.

07-04-2016, 01:20 PM
1) Can you just use k sorbate without sulfites as well, then? From what people say on here, it seems like they have to be used on conjunction, so I wasn't sure.

It's not recommended that you use K-sorbate alone. There are certain kinds of bacteria that undergo a co-fermentation with yeasts ("malolactic fermentation," or "MLF"). These are pretty common, and unless your sanitation practices are incredibly strict there's a chance they're in your must.

Normally they don't cause problems, but they eat sorbate and make a compound that smells and tastes like geraniums. This compound does NOT age out, and your mead will be forever tainted.

It's just not worth the risk, IMO. If I'm using sorbate, I always pair it with K-metabisulfite.

07-04-2016, 01:51 PM
Thank you, everyone!

All this info is extremely helpful and now I feel like I'm really grasping all the concepts!!

This will help me immensely with both my current melomel and my planned traditional!

Lastly, is there any protocol when using the k sorbate and metabisulfites?? On my bottles, it just says "use such and such amount per gallon to kill live yeasts before sweetening"... Do I need to add these guys to hot water, beforehand? Boil them? Or just toss em in and mix?? Should I be cool to put them in at the same time??

If it has any bearing on procedure, both the meads I'd be using them on, are at the moment, totally stabilized. One, is a few days shy of ending primary and has maintained gravity for about 5 days and the other has been stable for quite some time, as it's on its third rack and merely aging