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  1. Default Running out of sugar and backsweetening

    Hello folks, I'm a newbie to mead making and have been stalking the forums quite a bit to formulate my first jump into the world of mead.

    Thought I'd sign up as I had a pretty simple question that lurking hasn't answered quite yet.

    My first foray was a... perhaps overly simple, trad mead, but has been successful thus far.
    15 lbs of dark wildflower honey, locally sourced
    Water, to bring it to 6.0 gallons
    1 pkg of Lalvin EC-1118

    Initial Hydro check was 1.09.
    I fed it once after the lag (1 tsp Fermaid-O) and it fermented fairly quickly.
    2.5 weeks later I ended up with a bone dry (but still tasty) mead. Hydro readings have stabilized for 3 days at 1.00
    I've opted to start cold crashing it to help clarify the mead and shut down the yeast. (It's been in the fridge for 3 days. Still in the fermentation vessel)

    Here's my question:
    During my lurking, I realized that the yeast I picked is crazy hearty stuff... it survives at colder temps and won't poop out until it gets to around 18% ABV.
    I want to backsweeten a little with either real maple syrup, or more honey but am afraid that I will restart fermentation. If I follow the calculator, it looks like I have a 11-12% drink in my tank right now.

    I have some clarifying supplies on hand if any of that will help...

    Anywhosit. Do I need to worry about a fermentation restart if I cold crash for a week, then rack the mead, then backsweeten? If so, how can I avoid it or is this mead just going to end up being dry as a gulch?

    Thanks for any help/guidance!
    -H.R.

  2. Default

    After the fermentation is done, you stabilize it before back sweeten. Use potassium metabisulfite (K-met), then follow it up with potassium sorbate.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Saratoga Springs , NY
    Posts
    1,557

    Default

    Hiya H.R. and welcome. Sorry to say but I think that you are working arse backwards as they say in Britain. Using your yeast's published specs regarding its tolerance for alcohol is a lot like using the gas tank in your car in place of brakes to stop at a red light at a major intersection in a large city. Sure your car will stop when it runs out of gas... but a good set of brakes is a lot more practical and gives you a great deal more options and control.
    You are doing this arse backwards because you need to determine NOT when the yeast will give up because they are poisoned but how much honey (or sugar) is in your must to know how much mead (or wine) the sugar will make at the volume you have determined. Fifteen pounds of honey dissolved in water to make 6 gallons means that you are using 2.5 lbs of honey/gallon and if one pound of honey dissolved in water to make one gallon has a density (specific gravity) of 35 points (or 1.035) then 2.5 lbs will have a gravity of just shy of 90 points. A starting gravity of 1.090 = a potential ABV of a scant 12% . That is good. It is good but it should be brut dry when it is at .996 or thereabouts. What you do then is rack your mead off the yeast and allow it to age a few months. You then stabilize it by adding K-meta and K-sorbate and those two chemicals in tandem prevent any straggling yeast cells from reproducing and refermenting and when you have stabilized your mead you can then back sweeten it. That means you can add sugar to change the mead from being as dry as dust to being as sweet as you prefer. Others , I am sure will tell you how to bench test to determine how sweet you want THIS mead (each mead is likely to be different - even if you like the same sweetness, some meads are going to be more acidic, some less, some are going to be more astringent , some less, some are going to be hotter (more alcoholic) some less and each factor will affect the amount of sweetness you might want to add so that the mead you make is PERCEIVED to be as sweet as you want it...
    Bottom line - forget how tolerant of alcohol your yeast is. Treat the tolerance for alcohol of the yeast much like you treat the tolerance of your step ladders for weight. Knowing that a strain of yeast can tolerate 18% is irrelevant if you make mead at about 12% -which is the ABV which makes good sense given the flavor richness of honey, the acidity that wine drinkers look for (about 6g/L of acid), the tannins in the mead (astringency), the sweetness that most Americans seem to prefer, the heat of a wine etc.. all these things need to be nicely balanced and they tend to be more easy to balance when the mead is around 12% - not close to a shot of scotch (the 18% = 36 proof)

  4. #4

    Default

    Welcome H.R.
    Yeast will stop when the ABV knocks them out, or there is nothing more to ferment. That doesn't mean they're dead though. I'm not sure if EC1118 is very good for sur-lie aging, but if you only have fine lees left, and occasionally rouse them into suspension they should at some point spill their guts and give you some additional mouthfeel. That may take a long time.
    Most I know of on this forum will move to stabilize their mead when fermentation is done as this also protects the mead. This is called SO2 management. Potassium Metabisulfite (k-meta) helps stabilize the mead and kill bad guys. I typically dose this first, then dose Potassium Sorbate (k-sorb) about 24 hours later. Potassium Sorbate does not stop an active fermentation, but it will stop future fermentation (so you can back-sweeten).
    If you've been stalking the forum, then you've likely seen the recommendation to review the GotMead podcasts starting at Sept 5, 2017. One of those series discusses this very thing in more detail.

    My opinion is that once you're ready to rack off the rough lees, rack onto some k-meta and k-sorb (EC1118 is not malolactic friendly, so k-sorb at the same time as k-meta is probably a safe bet) - you need to know how to calculate quantities of each here. You could use a clarifying/fining agent after letting it sit for a bit, or wait to use them, but some aging will likely do you well before you back-sweeten because the mead will keep changing, and hopefully have more of the honey flavor come forward with some time. This will give you a better taste of what you're dealing with and how much to back-sweeten. I'd personally wait on the fining agent because more honey and, I'm guessing syrup as well, will make your mead a bit cloudy. Be sure to start with small amounts because you don't want to go too far with the honey or syrup.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Default

    Bernard/4give - Thanks for the quick responses! This helps alot.

    I guess I should've clarified just a bit, I am quite happy with where my ABV% is at right now. That's why it'd be bad news bears if the ferment started again, and reading the specs on the yeast I bought gave me a fright. I will let the jug o' mead set in the fridge and rack it off after a week. I bought some k-meta and k-sorb when I was shopping for supplies, mostly because from what I read it looked like they were pretty fool-proof methods to clarify the mead, but I'll use it to stabilize.

    I'll rack onto both k-meta and k-sorb as you described and let it age for 3-4 months before I even think about sweetening. (Is there ever any reason to sweeten with syrups, THEN age?)
    @4give - As far as mouthfeel goes I bought some oak cubes after reading some posts by Squatchy and reading through the Newbee guide... I'll likely add those in at racking in a sanitized cheesecloth if there is concern about mouthfeel.

    Thanks again for all your help folks!

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