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  1. #1

    Default Ok everybody. Here's your chance

    Hi everybody.

    Not this week but the following week. I will be doing a podcast about balance again. More and more I realize that it's really about making a good balance of ingredients. Once we can produce clean mead without any faults, ( and that's pretty easy with a little knowledge) it becomes an art form. Much like being a food master.

    So I am asking for you to please post here examples of meads you are working with or have had troubles in the past doing the final tweaking. So that I have real-life examples to walk you through the mindset to make the best decisions. Or at least give you understanding that will allow you to make the right choices. And yes. I'm the first to say there is not ONE way only to arrive at the best place. That in part is what I want to address. There are many optional ways to achieve a specific desire. But everything we do interacts with the other fractions of the equation. So this is why it's not easily taught because we do have choices. But after enough understand you start to realize some of the moves we make help several things at the same time. While other decisions might make different parts of the fraction move in the wrong direction, and detract from the overall finished profile.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  2. #2
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    I tend to struggle with the balance of the flavors: how to determine how much of a fruit flavor is balanced by the amount of acidity and alcohol, how much of other flavors, like cocoa or coffee should be in a batch of mead. Should flavors be like tints - enough to be aware they are there or should they be really present so that you know you are drinking say, a mango mead or a coffee mead?

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    I tend to struggle with the balance of the flavors: how to determine how much of a fruit flavor is balanced by the amount of acidity and alcohol, how much of other flavors, like cocoa or coffee should be in a batch of mead. Should flavors be like tints - enough to be aware they are there or should they be present so that you know you are drinking say, a mango mead or a coffee mead?
    As you might expect. The answer is both. Obviously. You can make a mead when you want to underscore one primary player. Your movie starts so to speak. And then it often pays to have supporting characters. I think the common fault is to add too many pieces perhaps without specific intention. If you start to add too many supporting actors, it starts to distract from the primary focus. So the difficulty here is being able to pull off simplicity in a magical way.

    The other side of this is akin to trying to make a barbershop quartet. Where each piece compliments the others. Agin, a single voice will easily get lost in the Morman tabernacle choir. Or, if you looked at it from a painters point of view. If you add too many colors, you end up with army green/gray. And if you wanted to highlight a certain color spectrum. Probably only a few colors very close to the main chosen color on the color wheel would work. Get too far from the primary shade you want, and it will start to take away your focus on the one particular spectrum you were delighting in.

    I might suggest playing with the ingredients first before you try making a mead with said flavors. Find a good balance with the primary players. Ask if it needs additional fractions of other stuff? Or will that add confusion instead of focus? Now. After you feel right about that. Add a little honey and maybe a little vodka or brandy, or even better (maybe) a very indistinct everclear. Play with the alcohol adds to find out how much alcohol it will be able to handle without going too far.

    You may or may not want to play with acid additions and oak or not. I make a dilution of tartaric and malic acid in water and keep it in old pill bottles. This way I can add one drop at a time. I also always have oak tea on hand as well. So I can add different species and toast levels to play with the various pieces each of them can bring to the table. I understand that your pH will not be the same. But if you can find a good balance now. That will give you a much better idea of what you can hope for with your mead.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  4. #4
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    I get what you are saying but the bigger issue for me is not so much about balancing tannins and acids and and alcohol with the flavors but in determining how much of the primary flavor should be in the mead. So, for example, I just racked a mead off some coffee beans I had added to the secondary. One part of me felt that the flavor was right but another part wanted to leave the mead on the coffee for another few days. There is no way for me to measure the intensity of flavor except by taste but taste is soooo subjective - and what I might think is enough someone else may think is hardly perceptible and at other times what I think is enough others might think is far too intense. I guess my question is then is there a good way to share or make inter-subjective the amounts of flavors present and the amounts of fruits or spices etc added (quantity and extraction time)? are there "rules of thumb" that can provide good guidelines or is this incredibly subjective and incredibly linked to the particulars of each mead (amount of alcohol, acidity, temperature, ripeness of fruit etc etc)..

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    I get what you are saying but the bigger issue for me is not so much about balancing tannins and acids and and alcohol with the flavors but in determining how much of the primary flavor should be in the mead. So, for example, I just racked a mead off some coffee beans I had added to the secondary. One part of me felt that the flavor was right but another part wanted to leave the mead on the coffee for another few days. There is no way for me to measure the intensity of flavor except by taste but taste is soooo subjective - and what I might think is enough someone else may think is hardly perceptible and at other times what I think is enough others might think is far too intense. I guess my question is then is there a good way to share or make inter-subjective the amounts of flavors present and the amounts of fruits or spices etc added (quantity and extraction time)? are there "rules of thumb" that can provide good guidelines or is this incredibly subjective and incredibly linked to the particulars of each mead (amount of alcohol, acidity, temperature, ripeness of fruit etc etc)..
    I think by far that latter applies. And each of us like things different than the other guy. So like we have heard. Make what you like. I think if you made the same batch over and over you could eventually quantify things. But that would only be for that certain mead and more likely than not. It would not hold true on the next mead.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  6. #6
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    I think my biggest challenge (when I'm not being a bad example) is balancing the fruit with the honey, sometimes I can't taste the fruit and sometimes I wonder why I used honey instead of just making wine with sugar for a fraction of the price of making a melomel.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  7. #7
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    @Chevette Girl: exactly.

  8. #8
    Devin Petry-Johnson Gotmead Visitor

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    So I am asking for you to please post here examples of meads you are working with or have had troubles in the past doing the final tweaking..
    One I'm currently struggling with is a lemon melomel. The issue is I used too many lemons so it ended really tart and really bitter from the pith. It's so astringent you can't have more than a glass. After I sweetened to about 1.010 it is a little better. I'm not sure if oak will smooth things out or make it worse. At this point I think my only option is to either age it and hope it goes away, or blend with maybe a sweet traditional. I've also wanted to try a ginger mead, so do you think the spice component from ginger will help? Any input will be appreciated.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Petry-Johnson View Post
    One I'm currently struggling with is a lemon melomel. The issue is I used too many lemons so it ended really tart and really bitter from the pith. It's so astringent you can't have more than a glass. After I sweetened to about 1.010 it is a little better. I'm not sure if oak will smooth things out or make it worse. At this point I think my only option is to either age it and hope it goes away, or blend with maybe a sweet traditional. I've also wanted to try a ginger mead, so do you think the spice component from ginger will help? Any input will be appreciated.
    I think adding the ginger would only compound the problem.

    You could try some American med or light to change the perception. It will add sweet notes so the gravity stays the same and the perception changes from the added vanilla and coconut fraction. Next time try just using the zest in secondary. I think this batch will need to be a blend with another trad
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Petry-Johnson View Post
    One I'm currently struggling with is a lemon melomel. The issue is I used too many lemons so it ended really tart and really bitter from the pith. It's so astringent you can't have more than a glass.
    I am no expert when it comes to make citrus meads (or wines) having made only a couple of orange wines and one lemon mead but I think a large part of the answer is in your question. You used the whole lemon - pith and all... If you were cooking or eating lemons would you use or eat the pith? I don't think so (although, allegedly the pith is rich in health enhancing compounds such as fiber, phenolics and anti-oxidants - and pectins) . The pith is just too bitter. I would squeeze the lemons for the juice and use a potato peeler or a zesting tool to get the zest (the peel). But I would avoid at all costs getting any of the white pith in my fermenter. But you may want to check the TA of your mead. A TA of more than about .6 g/L all other things being equal, will taste quite bitter.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Petry-Johnson View Post
    One I'm currently struggling with is a lemon melomel. The issue is I used too many lemons so it ended really tart and really bitter from the pith. It's so astringent you can't have more than a glass. After I sweetened to about 1.010 it is a little better.
    As Squatchy will say, it's all about the balance, and you've already discovered that some sweetness can help offset the tart/bitter aspect... blending with a sweet traditional is a good idea as it will also dilute the acidity and bitterness from too much citrus, which will also help.

    From experience with Joe's Ancient Orange mead and other citrus variants on that theme, the bitterness from pith does fade over time. Also from experience with JAO citrus variants, just use the juice and not too much of it (unless you're also watching your pH and correcting it if it gets too acidic for happy yeast) and zest, leave the pith out of your must unless you need a bit of bitterness for balance (like a JAO sometimes does). If you don't have a way to check pH, I would suggest not using much of the the juice at all, freeze it and only add at the end of fermentation if you need a little more tartness in the finished product. You will get way more flavour from the zest than you ever will from the juice, and significantly less acidity.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  12. #12
    Devin Petry-Johnson Gotmead Visitor

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    Thanks for the help everyone. For now I'm blending that lemon one with an orange blossom trad and will sweeten as needed. I'll age it a while and try some oak possibly.

    But this made me think of a new question. Ryan, for the podcast can you talk about which types of things will fade during aging and which won't? For example I know you've said many times that burnt notes from overcooking bochet will never fade. But I've heard that the heat from hot peppers will mellow over time. Does that hold true for all spices, like clove and cinnamon as well? I've heard that oak fades a little too. If I add acid to a mead, will that change over time as well?

    I think it would be helpful for me (and perhaps others) to better predict where a mead will go based on how it's currently presenting. What will fade, what won't, etc. Thanks!

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Petry-Johnson View Post
    Thanks for the help everyone. For now I'm blending that lemon one with an orange blossom trad and will sweeten as needed. I'll age it a while and try some oak possibly.

    But this made me think of a new question. Ryan, for the podcast can you talk about which types of things will fade during aging and which won't? For example I know you've said many times that burnt notes from overcooking bochet will never fade. But I've heard that the heat from hot peppers will mellow over time. Does that hold true for all spices, like clove and cinnamon as well? I've heard that oak fades a little too. If I add acid to a mead, will that change over time as well?

    I think it would be helpful for me (and perhaps others) to better predict where a mead will go based on how it's currently presenting. What will fade, what won't, etc? Thanks!
    I will hope to bring this up. I have found heat from peppers usually backs down about 30% over time. But I will also say I always use dried peppers (the entire thing) and have only used ghost peppers and Jalapeno. So I can't speak for other peppers. But I do believe that would hold true for any "whole, dried peppers" I'm not sure about fresh ones. I don't like the vegetal piece you can sometimes get with fresh. My caps are usually such that you can't smell or taste any heat in it until about the time you start to put the glass down. Then it starts to creep on you and gets hotter and hotter. About to where you might start wondering if it's going to get overbearing. And then the sweet comes back to stop it from continuing. I like mine a little hotter than some people do.

    I would say that generally, spices seem to fade about the same percent as well. And oak fades a little differently depending on what part you are talking about. The low end of the spectrum of American Oak light and medium toast seem to fade very little. Tannins integrate over time, so you might want to go 10-15% beyond what you hope for later after it's had a chance to integrate. The astringency stays pretty close to the same as well. Each of the last two become more rounded in its deliverance. So it becomes smoother. But other than that it stays about the same.

    The only thing I know of the top of my head that stops forward of time is the percieved sweetness of the honey. I am not sure why this happens. I think maybe after mead has aged a little and has had a chance to integrate. Some of the fractions of the profile that upstage the mead get rubbed out. We talk about vessels as a bad thing. But a good part of the flavor we enjoy is also fussels. Thay are not all bad. But they might be a bit immature early on, and this could compete with the honey. And if they then get assimilated, it might change the way they present and change enough to let the honey come forward.

    The other possibility, (and I know both of these are only my own conjecture). Is that part of the different types of sugar. Primarily fructose and glucose might go through some changes that would make one or the other, (or both) that would present sweeter as the ingredients mature.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  14. #14

    Default Ok everybody. Here's your chance

    Error. See below.
    Last edited by loveofrose; 06-02-2018 at 10:13 PM.
    Better brewing through science!

  15. #15

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    I guess my best example would be a Cypsicumel (Cyser Capsicumel Weirdomel).

    This is a Cyser with peppers. The goal was to balance the tart of the apples, the sweetness of the honey, and the heat of the peppers along with a general well roundness.

    Round 1: Initially, I tried only 1 type of pepper. It was too one dimensional. I also left it in too long and it gained a vegetable note that was not pleasant.

    Round 2: A Chefs trick is to layer flavors with multiple types of peppers. I did the same here and it worked very well. I removed the peppers before the vegetable extraction. The problem was you got honey sweet and apple tart upfront and heat in the aftertaste, but it tasted hollow in the middle. So how to bring it together? Oak. I layered oak in to pull the sweet/tart and heat together. This mead continues to be one of my favorites.

    Recipe here: https://denardbrewing.com/blog/post/spicy-bomm/

    Every time I make it, the timing is a bit different. You have to taste frequently to catch the sweet spot. I think this is true for most meads. Recipes are a good start point, but taste is the true guide. Also, I tend to leave the oak in around 2-3 months nowadays.


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  16. #16

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    By the way, fresh pepper heat doesnít go away in my hands even after several years. It seems to be pretty stable. Iím basing this off a dry capsumel I made. I think Sweet capsumels bring back the honey sweetness with time and have a perceived loss.


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  17. #17
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    My "punch in the face" gingerbeerlike thing I I made some years ago, I had a few bottles that stuck around in the back of the fridge and drank them several years after making it. When I first made it (1 lb ginger for a gallon of short mead) it was hot burny ginger, after a few years it was more the level of ginger you'd get in a good quality ginger ale.

    On oaking, I overoaked an ice style wine I bodged together from a wine kit and the resulting Chateau Plywood was a bit unpleasant for the first year or two but mellowed out really REALLY nicely. I don't have enough experience with tasting or using oak to tell you how the flavour changed, but it definitely became more drinkable.

    On tannins, my "cranberry puckerpuss" has been slowly depositing its excess tannins on the sides of the carboy for about thirteen years now and it's finally starting to taste like it will eventually be as good as it smells.

    On other spices, I've made Joe's Ancient Orange and variants many times (I use this as example because I don't mess with the cinnamon and clove quantities) and the cinnamon and clove (I sometimes also add allspice) do fade over time, defiinitely still recognizeable as "there are spices in here" but if you weren't told what it was you might not be able to tell exactly what spices were used.

    And there's my anecdotal $.02
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

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