Author Topic: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?  (Read 890 times)

Offline duncan

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Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« on: March 10, 2014, 09:01:51 AM »
I bottled my mead yesterday. It was 3 gallons based off of Curt Stock's Super Berry Melomel recipe. The only major difference is I used tart cherry juice instead of black currant juice.

I followed the staggered nutrient schedule. Fermentation temps were at the will of my apartment, so it definitely fluctuated.

It has been bulk aging for almost 7 months, so I decided to go ahead and bottle it to free up some fermenter space.

I tasted a sample that was about 67*F, and it was decent, but it taste sort of bland and thin. I was already in the bottling mind set (which is hard enough to get enthused about) so I just went for it instead of researching any post-fermentation tweaks I could have done. Shame on me.

So I am curious if anyone has input on why my fruit-bomb mead came out so "lifeless" and what I could do (or could have done) to improve it. I am already regretting bottling it before asking this, but, hey, I can just brew it again  8)

-d

Offline udubdawg

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2014, 09:22:13 AM »
what'd it finish at, gravity-wise?
also, how's the honey-fruit balance?
« Last Edit: March 10, 2014, 09:31:00 AM by udubdawg »

Offline duncan

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2014, 09:46:29 AM »
what'd it finish at, gravity-wise?
also, how's the honey-fruit balance?

This is my "lazy" batch so I didn't take gravities or anything like that. But it isn't super sweet nor overly dry.

I definitely get a lot of fermented fruit character and not as much honey as I would have hoped. My initial thought was to backsweeten... But now I am reading about acid levels, too, which sounds like low acid levels can cause a lifeless character.

I am now calling this my "test" batch for when I brew it again in a few weeks  :o

Offline kramerog

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2014, 09:59:46 AM »
Is it still or carbonated?  I'm guessing still.  If it is still, I would keg it with some metabisulfite to reduce oxidation and then taste it to see if it still lifeless.
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2014, 10:15:06 AM »
what'd it finish at, gravity-wise?
also, how's the honey-fruit balance?

This is my "lazy" batch so I didn't take gravities or anything like that. But it isn't super sweet nor overly dry.

I definitely get a lot of fermented fruit character and not as much honey as I would have hoped. My initial thought was to backsweeten... But now I am reading about acid levels, too, which sounds like low acid levels can cause a lifeless character.

I am now calling this my "test" batch for when I brew it again in a few weeks  :o

was this a good quality wildflower honey with a nice floral nose?
since you didn't backsweeten, nothing is stopping you from taking a gravity sample now, or the next time you open a bottle.  Just curious how much it fermented out.

as a better mead maker than myself recently said to me: "honey is expensive and unfortunately it takes some practice to get the results you want" - and you picked a fairly expensive recipe.   ;D

I would find that FG number and experiment with a few bottles (...and a friend) and some honey/acid/tannin and make adjustments to your glass.  Gordon/Curt went over this in their NHC 2013 Post Fermentation Mead Tweaks presentation.

I wouldn't make that other batch until you're happy with this batch and can adjust.

my own Superberry just kept working and set new personal records for alcohol tolerance.  It was in port ABV territory before I turned the batch into 4 differnt things.  Recently gave one to AmandaK styled as sort of a blackcurrant dessert wine; waiting to see what she says.

good luck--
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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2014, 10:21:37 AM »
Quote from: kramerog
Is it still or carbonated?  I'm guessing still.  If it is still, I would keg it with some metabisulfite to reduce oxidation and then taste it to see if it still lifeless.
It is still and unfortunately I don't have the means to keg (yet).

what'd it finish at, gravity-wise?
also, how's the honey-fruit balance?

This is my "lazy" batch so I didn't take gravities or anything like that. But it isn't super sweet nor overly dry.

I definitely get a lot of fermented fruit character and not as much honey as I would have hoped. My initial thought was to backsweeten... But now I am reading about acid levels, too, which sounds like low acid levels can cause a lifeless character.

I am now calling this my "test" batch for when I brew it again in a few weeks  :o

was this a good quality wildflower honey with a nice floral nose?
since you didn't backsweeten, nothing is stopping you from taking a gravity sample now, or the next time you open a bottle.  Just curious how much it fermented out.

as a better mead maker than myself recently said to me: "honey is expensive and unfortunately it takes some practice to get the results you want" - and you picked a fairly expensive recipe.   ;D

I would find that FG number and experiment with a few bottles (...and a friend) and some honey/acid/tannin and make adjustments to your glass.  Gordon/Curt went over this in their NHC 2013 Post Fermentation Mead Tweaks presentation.

I wouldn't make that other batch until you're happy with this batch and can adjust.

my own Superberry just kept working and set new personal records for alcohol tolerance.  It was in port ABV territory before I turned the batch into 4 differnt things.  Recently gave one to AmandaK styled as sort of a blackcurrant dessert wine; waiting to see what she says.

good luck--
--Michael

Quite expensive, yes :). I'm definitely not in a rush to get it going until I have a revised plan with some deliberate goals, but I can taste the potential.

I will report back with an FG ASAP. And I really like the idea of the experimenting by the glass...I think that is what I will start doing to get an idea of what I could do better.

Thanks for all the tips Michael!

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2014, 10:46:44 AM »
Acid blend can help with a lifeless mead.  I would blend in small controlled batches to see how much acid makes it brighter.  Some of the main things you want in the mead is balance between sweetness, alcohol, acid, and tannin(if any).
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2014, 10:50:33 AM »
+1 to all of Michael's suggestions. I have yet to make a mead that doesn't require some sort of post-fermentation adjustment. I suppose if I had the time and resources to brew the same recipe consistently I'd be able to dial it in. But I am generally only brewing 2-3 meads a year, using whatever fruit I have that is fresh and crying out to be made into mead, and at whatever ambient temps I have in my basement.

I've learned to target the low end of the gravity range, because you can always add honey back, but can't take it out if it finishes too sweet.

For your particular issue with this mead, I'd start with acid blend. That will help with the "bland" and may add the perception of mouthfeel by giving a bit more "juiciness". If the mouthfeel is still thin at that point, then you can add tannin. When I adjust my meads, I start with honey (if needed), then acid (if needed), then tannin (if needed).
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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2014, 10:52:36 AM »
+1 to all of Michael's suggestions. I have yet to make a mead that doesn't require some sort of post-fermentation adjustment. I suppose if I had the time and resources to brew the same recipe consistently I'd be able to dial it in. But I am generally only brewing 2-3 meads a year, using whatever fruit I have that is fresh and crying out to be made into mead, and at whatever ambient temps I have in my basement.

I've learned to target the low end of the gravity range, because you can always add honey back, but can't take it out if it finishes too sweet.

For your particular issue with this mead, I'd start with acid blend. That will help with the "bland" and may add the perception of mouthfeel by giving a bit more "juiciness". If the mouthfeel is still thin at that point, then you can add tannin. When I adjust my meads, I start with honey (if needed), then acid (if needed), then tannin (if needed).
If it turns out too sweet you can always just add some water.  It would then be at the same ratio it would have been if you had added less honey in the beginning.  Depending on the fruit you add to a secondary fermentation it can water down your mead quite a bit as well.
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Offline prccap

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2014, 12:39:43 PM »
remember that your berry melomel is equivalent to a fruity red wine. your TA makes a big difference in the final taste of your melomel.  It is just as important as your pH was before you pitch the yeast.  when these levels aren't correct your wine can be completely lifeless. Making wine is a completely different animal then making beer

Offline duncan

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2014, 12:56:25 PM »
remember that your berry melomel is equivalent to a fruity red wine. your TA makes a big difference in the final taste of your melomel.  It is just as important as your pH was before you pitch the yeast.  when these levels aren't correct your wine can be completely lifeless. Making wine is a completely different animal then making beer

That seems to be the answer a lot when I search for answers online. I have started the process of kicking myself in the ass for not waiting to bottle :'(. I'll chalk it up to a learning experience and try to make the best of it.

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2014, 01:11:16 PM »
remember that your berry melomel is equivalent to a fruity red wine. your TA makes a big difference in the final taste of your melomel.  It is just as important as your pH was before you pitch the yeast.  when these levels aren't correct your wine can be completely lifeless. Making wine is a completely different animal then making beer

That seems to be the answer a lot when I search for answers online. I have started the process of kicking myself in the ass for not waiting to bottle :'(. I'll chalk it up to a learning experience and try to make the best of it.

make sure you stretch first. wouldn't want a pulled muscle ;D
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Offline duncan

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2014, 02:38:29 PM »
I always limber up before a self-served ass kicking. 8)

Assuming I find adding TA helps improve the mead, what is the feasibility of popping the tops and adding it to each individual bottle. I've never worked with the stuff, so not sure how much you generally add to a 3 gal batch (if it's only a few drops then I'm guessing it can't be easily done on a 12/oz scale).

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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2014, 04:57:01 PM »
If it turns out too sweet you can always just add some water.  It would then be at the same ratio it would have been if you had added less honey in the beginning.  Depending on the fruit you add to a secondary fermentation it can water down your mead quite a bit as well.

I've never had good luck diluting post-ferment. The result has always been watery and insipid. The thing is, not only are you diluting the alcohol & sugar, but you're also diluting the fruit, acid, tannins, and any other flavor compound in there. Plus for big melomels if it finishes sweet, then that means it already didn't attenuate as far as your target. Dilution is just going to push you further from your goal.
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Re: Bland/Thin/Lifeless Melomel -- how to improve?
« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2014, 09:12:54 AM »
If it turns out too sweet you can always just add some water.  It would then be at the same ratio it would have been if you had added less honey in the beginning.  Depending on the fruit you add to a secondary fermentation it can water down your mead quite a bit as well.

I've never had good luck diluting post-ferment. The result has always been watery and insipid. The thing is, not only are you diluting the alcohol & sugar, but you're also diluting the fruit, acid, tannins, and any other flavor compound in there. Plus for big melomels if it finishes sweet, then that means it already didn't attenuate as far as your target. Dilution is just going to push you further from your goal.
I've had good luck with it.  I just do it before I perform any balancing such as adding acid or tannin.  Most my big melomels finish sweet because that's where I target them.  I do like to dilute with fruit though after stabilizing.  I find it gives the fruit flavors a nice pop.
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