Author Topic: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.  (Read 1442 times)

Offline Hella Hazy

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Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« on: July 11, 2016, 07:44:04 PM »
Hi all,

So I've only ever made 2 meads, but I recently made a mead with orange blossom honey using the "TOSNA" nutrient addition method spelled out on meadmaderight.com.  I was surprised at how well the fermentation went - I used Lalvin 71-B and my must went from 1.105 to 0.998 over the course of 2 weeks, and then I gave it another couple months to clear and condition.  Based on my calculations, this places me squarely in the 14.3% abv territory, which is about the alcohol tolerance of the 71-B yeast.

However, I was surprised at 0.998 FG just how sweet the mead still tastes.  I mean, it's not cloying by any means, but it is also certainly not what I would call a 'dry mead.'  I understand that alcohol content can distort gravity measurements and that there indeed must still be some fermentable sugar since it's still sweet to the taste, but still...

I guess my question is if I wanted to truly make a 'dry' mead, should I have used less honey in the first place and started with an even lower OG?

And if I could ask a second question, I'm thinking of making a melomel next.  I will want it to be a true dry mead, so are there any particular fruits that tend to work better than others in dry mead?  I was thinking cranberries so I can make something nice for Thanksgiving, but I was worried that the sour tannic tartness of the berries might be too much in a truly dry mead.

Thanks, sorry for the wall of text!

Offline pete b

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2016, 02:51:52 AM »
It is amazing how the perceived sweetness of mead is often at odds with our beliefs about final gravity. I think even with no residual sugars honey leaves a certain mouthfeel and taste that feels like sweetness.
I make a lot of Cranberry mead and don't recommend it for a dry mead. I see your thinking: it seems like you can't get it to taste dry and what would help the perception of dryness more than cranberry? Believe me, cranberry really needs to be juxtaposed with sweet.
I like mixed berry done dry. We use what we have on our land: blueberry, elderberry, raspberry, and blackberry. I recommend lalvin rc212 here. 71b is a great yeast, one thing I like about it is that it mellows out a certain aspect of acidity and really rounds out a mead and accentuates a honey mouthfeel but if your going for dryness it's not the one. Also, I would not go above 13% potential alcohol.
Edit: I meant to say that the mixed berry dry mead can be thought of as a killer dry red wine to go with food or on its own. We hardly ever buy red wine because the mixed berry is our house wine.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2016, 02:56:36 AM by pete b »
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Offline Hella Hazy

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2016, 09:57:31 AM »
Thanks Pete!  I really appreciate your response, and I totally can see how cranberry would need some sweetness to back it up (it's not like we're drinking unsweetened cranberry juice... blegh).  The mixed berry approach sounds great.  I don't grow any fruit so I'll have to rely on frozen unfortunately, but I think I'll give it a try!  Which honey variety goes best with this approach in your experience?

Cheers!

Offline pete b

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2016, 11:41:58 AM »
Thanks Pete!  I really appreciate your response, and I totally can see how cranberry would need some sweetness to back it up (it's not like we're drinking unsweetened cranberry juice... blegh).  The mixed berry approach sounds great.  I don't grow any fruit so I'll have to rely on frozen unfortunately, but I think I'll give it a try!  Which honey variety goes best with this approach in your experience?

Cheers!
I have always used either our own honey or from a local apiary I'm friends with so I'll recommend local wildflower honey. Also, when mixing berries keep in mind their relative strength. If you mix equal parts raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry it will likely taste like raspberry because it's a stronger flavor.
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2016, 01:20:42 PM »
the interplay of sweet, acid, fruity, tannic, alcohol can be tricky to the palate. 
Last fall had a delicious wildflower trad the maker insisted was 1.001.  Beechum and AmandaK were there; tasted more like 1.010 to us but hey if he's certain, who am I to question it?

Have a blackcurrant melomel that's just a couple months old now.  People are calling it barely off-dry.  It's 1.025. 

on a side note, Pete do you mind telling us *how* sweet you go with your cranberry?

cheers--
--Michael

Offline pete b

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2016, 01:53:37 PM »
the interplay of sweet, acid, fruity, tannic, alcohol can be tricky to the palate. 
Last fall had a delicious wildflower trad the maker insisted was 1.001.  Beechum and AmandaK were there; tasted more like 1.010 to us but hey if he's certain, who am I to question it?

Have a blackcurrant melomel that's just a couple months old now.  People are calling it barely off-dry.  It's 1.025. 

on a side note, Pete do you mind telling us *how* sweet you go with your cranberry?

cheers--
--Michael
I don't often record FG unless I'm curious about something so I don't have that. All I have for you is that we go about 14-15% PA (we don't bother using the specific gravity scale for mead, it's just not helpful) and use 71b or rc212.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2016, 03:05:49 PM »
the interplay of sweet, acid, fruity, tannic, alcohol can be tricky to the palate. 
Last fall had a delicious wildflower trad the maker insisted was 1.001.  Beechum and AmandaK were there; tasted more like 1.010 to us but hey if he's certain, who am I to question it?

Have a blackcurrant melomel that's just a couple months old now.  People are calling it barely off-dry.  It's 1.025. 

on a side note, Pete do you mind telling us *how* sweet you go with your cranberry?

cheers--
--Michael

We have really enjoyed Schramm's Black Agnes and Red Agnes. The acidity of the currants really offsets the residual sweetness. Maybe moreso in the Red.
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2016, 03:31:56 PM »
the interplay of sweet, acid, fruity, tannic, alcohol can be tricky to the palate. 
Last fall had a delicious wildflower trad the maker insisted was 1.001.  Beechum and AmandaK were there; tasted more like 1.010 to us but hey if he's certain, who am I to question it?

Have a blackcurrant melomel that's just a couple months old now.  People are calling it barely off-dry.  It's 1.025. 

on a side note, Pete do you mind telling us *how* sweet you go with your cranberry?

cheers--
--Michael

We have really enjoyed Schramm's Black Agnes and Red Agnes. The acidity of the currants really offsets the residual sweetness. Maybe moreso in the Red.

haven't had the Red, but had Black Agnes at NHC '14 and '16.  That's a TON of sweetness but I get why people like it.  Ken is the best at balancing sweet mead.  Took a gravity reading on a bottle of his first batch of Nutmeg - 1.088.

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2016, 03:37:11 PM »
the interplay of sweet, acid, fruity, tannic, alcohol can be tricky to the palate. 
Last fall had a delicious wildflower trad the maker insisted was 1.001.  Beechum and AmandaK were there; tasted more like 1.010 to us but hey if he's certain, who am I to question it?

Have a blackcurrant melomel that's just a couple months old now.  People are calling it barely off-dry.  It's 1.025. 

on a side note, Pete do you mind telling us *how* sweet you go with your cranberry?

cheers--
--Michael

We have really enjoyed Schramm's Black Agnes and Red Agnes. The acidity of the currants really offsets the residual sweetness. Maybe moreso in the Red.

haven't had the Red, but had Black Agnes at NHC '14 and '16.  That's a TON of sweetness but I get why people like it.  Ken is the best at balancing sweet mead.  Took a gravity reading on a bottle of his first batch of Nutmeg - 1.088.
The Red is even more balanced than the black.
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BJCP National
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline Hella Hazy

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2016, 04:42:39 PM »
Thanks Pete!  I really appreciate your response, and I totally can see how cranberry would need some sweetness to back it up (it's not like we're drinking unsweetened cranberry juice... blegh).  The mixed berry approach sounds great.  I don't grow any fruit so I'll have to rely on frozen unfortunately, but I think I'll give it a try!  Which honey variety goes best with this approach in your experience?

Cheers!
I have always used either our own honey or from a local apiary I'm friends with so I'll recommend local wildflower honey. Also, when mixing berries keep in mind their relative strength. If you mix equal parts raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry it will likely taste like raspberry because it's a stronger flavor.

Interesting.  I'm actually of the mindset to just leave the raspberries out and go 50/50 or 60/40 blueberries to blackberries.  Do you think that ratio could work in a dry mead, or should I lean even more in favor of the blueberries (I imagine I'd want more of the less-tannic berry so that it isn't overly piquant)?

Offline pete b

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2016, 07:44:04 PM »
Thanks Pete!  I really appreciate your response, and I totally can see how cranberry would need some sweetness to back it up (it's not like we're drinking unsweetened cranberry juice... blegh).  The mixed berry approach sounds great.  I don't grow any fruit so I'll have to rely on frozen unfortunately, but I think I'll give it a try!  Which honey variety goes best with this approach in your experience?

Cheers!
I have always used either our own honey or from a local apiary I'm friends with so I'll recommend local wildflower honey. Also, when mixing berries keep in mind their relative strength. If you mix equal parts raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry it will likely taste like raspberry because it's a stronger flavor.

Interesting.  I'm actually of the mindset to just leave the raspberries out and go 50/50 or 60/40 blueberries to blackberries.  Do you think that ratio could work in a dry mead, or should I lean even more in favor of the blueberries (I imagine I'd want more of the less-tannic berry so that it isn't overly piquant)?
60/40 sounds right for those two berries.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2016, 04:40:25 PM »
Alcohol at modest concentration can be perceived as "sweet". High alcohol beers, ciders, and meads are at modest concentration with respect to distilled spirits.
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Offline toby

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2016, 05:47:29 PM »
Alcohol at modest concentration can be perceived as "sweet". High alcohol beers, ciders, and meads are at modest concentration with respect to distilled spirits.

That's my experience as well.  While higher concentrations of ethanol are bitter, in the teens it tends to have a floral/perfumy quality that comes across as 'sweet'.

Offline Hella Hazy

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2016, 08:59:08 PM »
Alcohol at modest concentration can be perceived as "sweet". High alcohol beers, ciders, and meads are at modest concentration with respect to distilled spirits.

Yeah I've definitely experienced this effect say in my strong Belgian ales, but in my particular case with this mead I kind of wonder if it has more to do with a lack of tannin/acid balancing.  I've certainly had many red wines of similar strength that don't come across as sweet at all, and it's probably because they're better balanced with acid and tannin than my little 'ol naked mead.

Offline Hella Hazy

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Re: Mead finished below 1.000, tastes sweet.
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2016, 05:06:00 PM »
Thanks Pete!  I really appreciate your response, and I totally can see how cranberry would need some sweetness to back it up (it's not like we're drinking unsweetened cranberry juice... blegh).  The mixed berry approach sounds great.  I don't grow any fruit so I'll have to rely on frozen unfortunately, but I think I'll give it a try!  Which honey variety goes best with this approach in your experience?

Cheers!
I have always used either our own honey or from a local apiary I'm friends with so I'll recommend local wildflower honey. Also, when mixing berries keep in mind their relative strength. If you mix equal parts raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry it will likely taste like raspberry because it's a stronger flavor.

Interesting.  I'm actually of the mindset to just leave the raspberries out and go 50/50 or 60/40 blueberries to blackberries.  Do you think that ratio could work in a dry mead, or should I lean even more in favor of the blueberries (I imagine I'd want more of the less-tannic berry so that it isn't overly piquant)?
60/40 sounds right for those two berries.

Excellent.  Now if I could ask just one more question, whereabouts would you recommend a 'berry to honey' ratio for a dry mead of this sort?  I imagine for a dry mead in say the 12% abv range I'd probably not want more than 1-1.5lbs of berries per lb of honey, since there won't be much sweetness competing with the berries for flavor.

Thanks again!