Author Topic: Thinking about trying Mead  (Read 1385 times)

Offline yso191

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1806
  • Yakima, WA
    • View Profile
Thinking about trying Mead
« on: July 11, 2015, 05:29:09 AM »
I've got a Speidel fermenter that just sits unused.  I wanted to keep it for projects like this one...

I have a couple of questions after looking briefly at some recipe & instruction sites.

1.  How important is temperature?  As important as beer fermentation?  I'd like to just set the fermenter in a corner of my house which stays 70* all the time.

2. I read that most people use distilled or RO water (I would use RO), and I saw one recipe which called for 50 ppm sulfite.  Is this standard?  What governs the use of water salts like with beer?

Any other tips?  I'm thinking I'll start with a semi-sweet traditional mead (no fruit added).
Steve
All Hands Brewing
BJCP #D1667

Offline dkfick

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1054
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2015, 11:37:53 AM »
1) just as important. I typically ferment around 58F with 71b. Yeast strain makes a difference. That warm...Maybe a darker melomel (fruit mead) fermented with red wine yeast? Ymmv. I would not make any traditional mead at 70F.

2) Most people I know are against using RO water for their meads. I use RO for all my brewing and have used it for meads as well. Obviously it's fine if you can figure out the water profile you want for the mead. I wouldn't say there is a standard here though.
BJCP A0936 National Beer Judge and Mead Judge
Cicerone Certified Beer Server
AHA Member
CRAFT Homebrew Club
Sons of Liberty Homebrew Club
HBT "mors"

Offline pete b

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3123
  • Barre, Ma
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2015, 11:54:46 AM »
We ferment mead at warmer temps like 70 all the time. We often make 15-25 gallon batches and it would be pretty challenging to control temps. That being said we really take our time with mead which IMO is very important. We generally do about 10-14 days primary, rack into carboys and do a secondary in a pretty warm room (70ish) for 4-6 months then rack again into new carboys and put in the cellar (45-60 depending on season) for 1 year or longer.
Follow yeast nutrient guidelines. I just use organic yeast nutrient.
I really think a long secondary followed by a long time bulk aging is key to a good mead. Everyone who tries our mead can't believe how poor commercial examples are in comparison. I'm sure its because they hurry it to get it on shelves in 6 months or so. They also have to sulfite it and back sweeten it etc. to get it to taste different.
Edit: just read Dan's post : we make a lot of darker melomels, but still ferment at higher temps on lighter color meads with white wine yeast. At racking into tertiary there ARE quite a few fusels, but not at bottling a year later. I would say those meads are more complex when finished, so if "clean" is what you are going for lower temps might be better.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2015, 11:59:23 AM by pete b »
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline hopfenundmalz

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 9013
  • Milford, MI
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2015, 01:18:17 PM »
Ken Schramm says he ferments in the 62-63F range for 71B. That us good enough for me.

A few years back there was a mead panel at the NHC, all Mead Maker of the Year people on it. None of the meads served were older than 3 months. Those were all excellent.
Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild
AHA Governing Committee
BJCP National
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline yso191

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1806
  • Yakima, WA
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2015, 05:53:19 PM »
Thank you all for your input.  I was hoping to avoid tying up my fermentation chamber.  But if I time it right that would not be an issue.  So most use commercial spring water or whatever water doesn't have chlorine in it? 

I may have to buy a book on Mead basics.  Any recommendations?
Steve
All Hands Brewing
BJCP #D1667

Offline pete b

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3123
  • Barre, Ma
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2015, 01:24:55 AM »
Thank you all for your input.  I was hoping to avoid tying up my fermentation chamber.  But if I time it right that would not be an issue.  So most use commercial spring water or whatever water doesn't have chlorine in it? 

I may have to buy a book on Mead basics.  Any recommendations?
I use my well water which goes through a water softener which tests fairly neutral with not too much sodium compared to some softened water.
ken Shramm's Compleat Meadmaker is well regarded and actually a pretty good read.
My point about temp is that a warmer fermentation is ok if you age it some.
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline yso191

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1806
  • Yakima, WA
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2015, 01:26:22 AM »
Thank you all for your input.  I was hoping to avoid tying up my fermentation chamber.  But if I time it right that would not be an issue.  So most use commercial spring water or whatever water doesn't have chlorine in it? 

I may have to buy a book on Mead basics.  Any recommendations?
I use my well water which goes through a water softener which tests fairly neutral with not too much sodium compared to some softened water.
ken Shramm's Compleat Meadmaker is well regarded and actually a pretty good read.
My point about temp is that a warmer fermentation is ok if you age it some.

Compleat Meadmaker is on its way!  Thanks.
Steve
All Hands Brewing
BJCP #D1667

Offline pete b

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3123
  • Barre, Ma
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2015, 01:32:38 AM »
Ken Schramm says he ferments in the 62-63F range for 71B. That us good enough for me.

A few years back there was a mead panel at the NHC, all Mead Maker of the Year people on it. None of the meads served were older than 3 months. Those were all excellent.
I don't doubt a good mead can be made that quickly and that a lower temp is desireable, if possible. The original post, as I read it, suggested that a 70 degree fermentation might be necessary and I think from my experience that is fine as long as it has time to age.
My gilfriend made mead for about 15 years before we met which is what I got used to. She always aged it for at least a year, which is what I am used too. Compared to a well aged mead, commercial meads taste like diluted honey liquor to me, so I am a bit biased.
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline mchrispen

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 657
    • View Profile
    • Accidentalis Brewing Blog
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2015, 03:18:29 AM »
Can I suggest Piatz's new book? The Complete Guide to Making Mead: The Ingredients, Equipment, Processes, and Recipes for Crafting Honey Wine. In talking with Ken Schramm at NHC he recommended it as a new version of his book. Reading through it now...
Matt Chrispen
Sometime Austin Zealot
Blogging from the garage @ accidentalis.com
>> Bru'n Water Spreadsheet Walkthroughs<<
>> Bru'n Water Subscriber Version 5.3 Spreadsheet Walkthrough <<

Offline pete b

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3123
  • Barre, Ma
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2015, 11:11:22 AM »
Can I suggest Piatz's new book? The Complete Guide to Making Mead: The Ingredients, Equipment, Processes, and Recipes for Crafting Honey Wine. In talking with Ken Schramm at NHC he recommended it as a new version of his book. Reading through it now...
Let us know what you think.
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline hopfenundmalz

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 9013
  • Milford, MI
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2015, 12:11:27 PM »
Ken Schramm says he ferments in the 62-63F range for 71B. That us good enough for me.

A few years back there was a mead panel at the NHC, all Mead Maker of the Year people on it. None of the meads served were older than 3 months. Those were all excellent.
I don't doubt a good mead can be made that quickly and that a lower temp is desireable, if possible. The original post, as I read it, suggested that a 70 degree fermentation might be necessary and I think from my experience that is fine as long as it has time to age.
My gilfriend made mead for about 15 years before we met which is what I got used to. She always aged it for at least a year, which is what I am used too. Compared to a well aged mead, commercial meads taste like diluted honey liquor to me, so I am a bit biased.

Mead making techniques have progressed over the last 20 years. This is similar to the progress in home brewing.

Which commercial examples are you not impressed with?


Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild
AHA Governing Committee
BJCP National
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline dannyjed

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1040
  • Toledo, OH
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2015, 01:47:48 PM »
The biggest difference in my meads was when I started using staggered nutrient additions (SNA). The meads reached FG quicker and cleared up quicker which means that in 3 months you can start enjoying it.
Dan Chisholm

Offline pete b

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3123
  • Barre, Ma
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2015, 02:18:40 PM »
Ken Schramm says he ferments in the 62-63F range for 71B. That us good enough for me.

A few years back there was a mead panel at the NHC, all Mead Maker of the Year people on it. None of the meads served were older than 3 months. Those were all excellent.
I don't doubt a good mead can be made that quickly and that a lower temp is desireable, if possible. The original post, as I read it, suggested that a 70 degree fermentation might be necessary and I think from my experience that is fine as long as it has time to age.
My gilfriend made mead for about 15 years before we met which is what I got used to. She always aged it for at least a year, which is what I am used too. Compared to a well aged mead, commercial meads taste like diluted honey liquor to me, so I am a bit biased.

Mead making techniques have progressed over the last 20 years. This is similar to the progress in home brewing.

Which commercial examples are you not impressed with?
I think I have tried all or most of Moonlight Meadery, a couple B. Nektar, and a few I can't remember. Friends sometime show up with a bottle of mead they have tried trying to convince us to sell ours. Its not that any are bad, its just that I never want a second glass because they have been pretty one dimensional. I would describe them as without flaws but not very interesting. I suspect that the ability to get mead ready fast with good fermentation control and staggered nutrient additions that commercial meaderies and homebrewers use to get the product ready fast results in mead that has few flaws but little complexity. I think that is probably why Ken Shramm waxes on about the wonders of aged mead in the Compleat Meadmaker. Just as winemakers can now produce a $10 dollar bottle that is pretty decent young, it doesn't mean that aging isn't better for many wines.
The other factor with commercial meads is that honey and fruit can be pretty expensive. I have a ton of fruit we pick ourselves so we can really go hog-wild. We also make so much mead (probably close to 300 gallons in bulk storage or long-term secondary as we speak) that we are not interested in being in a hurry. Our current system is to do a primary, usually in mid-sixties with staggered nutrient additions (although with our local dark honey and copious amount of fruit its not necessary for some varieties) for 10-14 days, rack into carboys and store upstairs in secondary (70ish) for 4-6 months, then rack into carboys and store in the cellar (45-60) for 1-3 years depending on variety. By this time because we have racked twice and stored fairly cold for a long time its crystal clear with a very small, tightly packed, sediment. We then bottle and cork and store sideways in the cellar. Lighter meads such as peach, pear, cyser etc. general bulk age a year then get drunk shortly after bottling. Mixed berry, blueberry, spiced elderberry (port-like 18%abv) etc we will try to let go 2+ years. We have a 15 year old blueberry for a special occasion. 
Don't let the bastards cheer you up.

Offline AmandaK

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1850
  • Redbird Brewhouse
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2015, 03:09:56 PM »
Can I suggest Piatz's new book? The Complete Guide to Making Mead: The Ingredients, Equipment, Processes, and Recipes for Crafting Honey Wine. In talking with Ken Schramm at NHC he recommended it as a new version of his book. Reading through it now...
Let us know what you think.

Have it, read it in 2 hours. Good reference material and a good update to Schramm (with pictures to boot!).
Amanda Burkemper
KC Bier Meisters Education Director
BJCP Assistant Education Director
BJCP Master/Mead

Redbird Brewhouse - There's Always a Project
Our Homebrewed Wedding, AHA Article

Offline hopfenundmalz

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 9013
  • Milford, MI
    • View Profile
Re: Thinking about trying Mead
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2015, 03:44:07 PM »
Ken Schramm says he ferments in the 62-63F range for 71B. That us good enough for me.

A few years back there was a mead panel at the NHC, all Mead Maker of the Year people on it. None of the meads served were older than 3 months. Those were all excellent.
I don't doubt a good mead can be made that quickly and that a lower temp is desireable, if possible. The original post, as I read it, suggested that a 70 degree fermentation might be necessary and I think from my experience that is fine as long as it has time to age.
My gilfriend made mead for about 15 years before we met which is what I got used to. She always aged it for at least a year, which is what I am used too. Compared to a well aged mead, commercial meads taste like diluted honey liquor to me, so I am a bit biased.

Mead making techniques have progressed over the last 20 years. This is similar to the progress in home brewing.

Which commercial examples are you not impressed with?
I think I have tried all or most of Moonlight Meadery, a couple B. Nektar, and a few I can't remember. Friends sometime show up with a bottle of mead they have tried trying to convince us to sell ours. Its not that any are bad, its just that I never want a second glass because they have been pretty one dimensional. I would describe them as without flaws but not very interesting. I suspect that the ability to get mead ready fast with good fermentation control and staggered nutrient additions that commercial meaderies and homebrewers use to get the product ready fast results in mead that has few flaws but little complexity. I think that is probably why Ken Shramm waxes on about the wonders of aged mead in the Compleat Meadmaker. Just as winemakers can now produce a $10 dollar bottle that is pretty decent young, it doesn't mean that aging isn't better for many wines.
The other factor with commercial meads is that honey and fruit can be pretty expensive. I have a ton of fruit we pick ourselves so we can really go hog-wild. We also make so much mead (probably close to 300 gallons in bulk storage or long-term secondary as we speak) that we are not interested in being in a hurry. Our current system is to do a primary, usually in mid-sixties with staggered nutrient additions (although with our local dark honey and copious amount of fruit its not necessary for some varieties) for 10-14 days, rack into carboys and store upstairs in secondary (70ish) for 4-6 months, then rack into carboys and store in the cellar (45-60) for 1-3 years depending on variety. By this time because we have racked twice and stored fairly cold for a long time its crystal clear with a very small, tightly packed, sediment. We then bottle and cork and store sideways in the cellar. Lighter meads such as peach, pear, cyser etc. general bulk age a year then get drunk shortly after bottling. Mixed berry, blueberry, spiced elderberry (port-like 18%abv) etc we will try to let go 2+ years. We have a 15 year old blueberry for a special occasion.

Ken has said some of his benefit from aging, or you can drink now. We have a fair amount from his place.
Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild
AHA Governing Committee
BJCP National
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!