Author Topic: Cranberry Melomel  (Read 1370 times)

Offline jeffjm

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Cranberry Melomel
« on: December 10, 2014, 09:38:01 PM »
I'm thinking about making a sack-strength cranberry melomel with orange blossom honey. I am looking to have it finish quite sweet to balance out the tartness of the cranberries but haven't figured out the best way to go.

One idea was to substitute some (not sure how much) cranberry juice for water in the must. I'd have to find juice without preservatives or artificial sweeteners, and possibly add some grape tannin at bottling. The other idea was to boil some cranberries to get them to pop open, cool them, and add them to the primary. Again, I'm not sure how much to use. Has anyone tried making a cranberry mead? If so, how did you do it? What worked and what didn't?

Finally, I'm not quite sure what my starting gravity should be, as I've never made anything this strong before. I usually use 71B, which has a stated alcohol tolerance around 14%. I've been able to get it up  to around 15 with SNA. Can I expect more if I feed it more honey a few days into the fermentation? Should I plan on using a different yeast?

Thanks in advance!

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Offline dannyjed

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2014, 09:49:21 PM »
I recently made a melomel with orange blossom, mixed fruit, and 71B. I had to back sweeten after I added some potassium sorbate. The abv was around 16% and quite dry. I think back sweetening helped bring out the honey and fruit flavor. I wouldn't boil the cranberries, but rather freeze them. This will break the cell walls open and retain the flavor of the cranberries.
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Offline jeffy

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2014, 10:37:17 PM »
I was thinking of making a cranberry mead this weekend as well.  I made one once many years ago and made the mistake of adding three or four pounds of cranberries to a boil.  It was nearly impossible to get the liquid out of the kettle because of the pectin.  It took months to clear.  When it did finally clear it had none of the red color I expected and was very dry.
This time I plan to freeze the cranberries and skip the boil.
Which yeast would y'all recommend to finish a little on the sweeter side?
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
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Offline mbarnaby

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2014, 12:38:10 AM »
here is a sort of unhelpful post.  I have in secondary a Christmas Kolsch (Cranberry, spruce tip, and rosemary)  I originally brewed five gallons of Kolsch, when transferring into secondary I split it into two 2.5 gallon batches.  one to keep as a Kolsch, the other to make the Christmas experiment.  I used frozen cranberry sauce that I made the year previously and froze.  I added 3 cups of the homemade sauce plus the spruce tips and rosemary.  I boiled the hell out of it for two reasons, kill all the germs and to extract the flavor of the spruce tips/rosemary.  I just racked that into thirdary? (i.e separate fruit pulp, tips, and rosemary).  the color looks great, smells great, and taste is good for a mostly fermented un-carbonated beer.  I haven't noticed any issues with pectin or color....yet

Offline realbeerguy

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2014, 02:49:20 AM »
I was thinking of making a cranberry mead this weekend as well.  I made one once many years ago and made the mistake of adding three or four pounds of cranberries to a boil.  It was nearly impossible to get the liquid out of the kettle because of the pectin.  It took months to clear.  When it did finally clear it had none of the red color I expected and was very dry.
This time I plan to freeze the cranberries and skip the boil.
Which yeast would y'all recommend to finish a little on the sweeter side?

71b-1122, Stop fermentation around 1.020, or start OG 1.125-1.135.  Figure yeast to drop about 100 points.  Oh, and no boil.
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2014, 02:37:25 PM »
when I use cranberry in mead - and I do it often - I often add a little hibiscus.  it gives me tannin, tastes like cranberry (and sort of a raspberry/rhubarb too but more cranberry than anything IMO) and of course the awesome color.

the only real "secret" I have to any melomel is that it is usually two meads.  I go over-the-top on fruit, then blend with a straight mead to get honey/fruit balanced.  I'm happier with the results than when invariably I don't have enough honey/fruit from a solo fermentation.

cheers--
--Michael

Offline jeffy

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2014, 05:41:21 PM »
Cool. Where do you get hibiscus?
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
Homebrewing since 1990
AHA member since 1991, now a lifetime member
BJCP judge since 1995

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2014, 05:48:16 PM »
You can get hibiscus (dried) from Mexican groceries - it's labeled as 'jamaica'.  I'd like to use some in a saison.


EDIT -  Or Amazon :   http://www.amazon.com/Hibiscus-Flowers-El-Sol-Mexico/dp/B0000GKV6C/ref=sr_1_1?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1418320232&sr=1-1&keywords=dried+jamaica
« Last Edit: December 11, 2014, 05:51:30 PM by HoosierBrew »
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2014, 06:21:11 PM »
You can get hibiscus (dried) from Mexican groceries - it's labeled as 'jamaica'.  I'd like to use some in a saison.


EDIT -  Or Amazon :   http://www.amazon.com/Hibiscus-Flowers-El-Sol-Mexico/dp/B0000GKV6C/ref=sr_1_1?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1418320232&sr=1-1&keywords=dried+jamaica
I love it in a Saison as well. Here are the ones I use:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0039N0DN4/ref=pe_385040_30332200_pe_309540_26725410_item
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2014, 06:40:21 PM »
To the OP: Trader Joe's sells a preservative-free, no sugar added Cranberry juice that is very good. I'm planning on making a Cranberry-lime hydromel in the near future using this juice.

As far as getting it to stop sweet and at 10% goes, you could either arrest fermentation as soon as you hit the sweetness level you're looking for; or you could ferment dry, sulfite/sorbate, then backsweeten.

Assuming 100% attenuation, you'd want an OG of about 1.076 to hit the ABV you're looking for if you're going to backsweeten. If you're going to try to stop it at the right sweetness level, then I'd shoot for about 1.096. Usually the 1.020 range is nicely sweet for a mead.
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline jeffjm

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2014, 11:02:38 PM »
Lots of good info here - thanks to all who've replied.

I've used the Trader Joe's cherry juice before and been happy with the results. I expect I'd be just as happy with the cranberry juice.

Good point about freezing fruit rather than boiling - I'd completely forgotten about pectin. Maybe I'll use whole cranberries and juice both - that might be over-the-top with cranberries, and as Michael pointed out, I can always blend with a plain mead.

I'm actually looking for about 16%, which seems like it might be the limit of what 71B can do. I'd like the ending gravity to be around 1.030. As a WAG, that seems like about where the residual sugar will balance the tartness of the cranberries. That calculates out to an OG of 1.150 - seem reasonable?
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2014, 01:35:26 AM »
Lots of good info here - thanks to all who've replied.

I've used the Trader Joe's cherry juice before and been happy with the results. I expect I'd be just as happy with the cranberry juice.

Good point about freezing fruit rather than boiling - I'd completely forgotten about pectin. Maybe I'll use whole cranberries and juice both - that might be over-the-top with cranberries, and as Michael pointed out, I can always blend with a plain mead.

I'm actually looking for about 16%, which seems like it might be the limit of what 71B can do. I'd like the ending gravity to be around 1.030. As a WAG, that seems like about where the residual sugar will balance the tartness of the cranberries. That calculates out to an OG of 1.150 - seem reasonable?

You can add sugar to a finished mead, but you can't take it out. If you have everything dialed in just right, then a 1.150 melomel with 71B should make it down to 1.030. But if you haven't done it before, I'd recommend you start a little lower like 1.135-1.140 and be ready to backsweeten a bit if needed. Even if it gets down to 1.020 or so, you may find that it's sweet enough there.

For my first melomel with 71B, I started at 1.130 and finished at 1.010 (too dry). So the next time I planned for another 120 point drop and started at 1.150. It finished at 1.050 and is just way too sweet. I think we had a cold snap about a week or so into fermentation, so that's what I'm blaming. Anyways, the moral of the story is that I backsweetened the 1.010 mead and it's really good. As far as the 1.050 mead goes, I've never drank more than a hydro sample worth, and really aught to just dump it at this point.
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline udubdawg

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Re: Cranberry Melomel
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2014, 01:49:22 PM »
hmm, may have to get some of these Trader Joe's juices - look cheaper than the RW Knudsen stuff I usually buy (and love, especially blueberry.  Have to hide it though as I don't want anyone else drinking my $30/gallon juice)  ;D