Author Topic: Water Profile for Mead  (Read 7298 times)

Offline christo

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 67
Water Profile for Mead
« on: March 09, 2011, 05:42:58 pm »
In discussing aspects of mazering with fellow Mead Judge classmates, a question has arisen on which there does not seem to be lots of available data.  A check of Schramm's book provides only a few lines devoted to water.  Not really much on the web either.

So, what type of water is best suited for making mead?

From what I have gleaned, the primary and maybe only factor most mead makers use is pH.  If the combination of water and fermenting honey get a pH around 3.8, you don't need to make any changes.  Kind of like with extract brewing, if the water is good to drink, then it will make good mead.  But what about great mead?

It seems there are some prerequisites for the water profile of mead:  Sufficient Ca for yeast health and clarity, sufficient CO3 to offset the gluconic acid produced during fermentation and the low pH of natural honey, the need to keep levels of Na, Cl, and metals in check so not to highlight any off-flavors, and reduction of chlorine/chloramines is a given.  It seems that with proper nutrient additions, much of these basic items can be provided, thus killing two birds with one stone.

There has been countless hours of effort devoted to classic brewing cities water profiles for beer production and the various nuances provided by different ions in the brew water.  What else is worth worrying about for mead?

Offline kenschramm

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Mead head
Re: Water Profile for Mead
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2011, 02:39:35 am »
I've heard this question frequently, and I have to say that I find it built on a beer-based compulsion that doesn't necessarily fit.

Most of the water chemistry study in brewing is intended to match the water source of a particular beer style, so that the brewer can tweak their water to match that style. There really aren't many parallels in mead making, and the meads being commercially made in the US aren't being crafted to imitate a particular ideal commercial example. Unlike brewing, there is no element of mash efficiency or husk tannin extraction in meadmaking that can be affected by water chemistry.  Even if one were trying to clone, say dw√≥jniak, the greater challenge would be in trying to match the honey and other ingredients.  That stuff is just not easy to come by.

That said, I can readily say that yes, micro nutrients are a great thing, and that a fantastic tasting water can never be a negative in your mead.   As far as finding the best tasting water, there is a great deal of subjectivity there.  For a more detailed look at yeast micro nutrient needs, see the three blog pots that start here.

If you find the question really compelling, you could add to the knowledge base by finding several examples of water that have published chemical assays and brew identical batches with them.  Then you could take them all to the AHA conference and serve them to a room full of willing palates and see what they think.  That's always fun.

From my experience, the biggest impact seems to come from the combination of honeys of given floral varieties and different yeasts. I think that is where the mother lode of quality mead making knowledge is to be found.  
« Last Edit: March 12, 2011, 02:20:03 pm by kenschramm »
bright red cherries against a blue sky, fresh and ripe, preserved through time...

Offline christo

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 67
Re: Water Profile for Mead
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2011, 01:51:14 am »
Thanks, Ken!
I'd read your similar Zymurgy article and have taken all those items to heart.  A question had arisen during our Mead Judge Exam class (and subsequent mead-related activities) about how much effort to put towards creating water profiles.  Our group actually did discuss preparing a must of similar honey and yeast but changing the water profile to several of the "classic cities" to see how different they come out.   As you said, there are more complexities in beer brewing as pertains to water, but who knows, maybe we'll do it and see how they turn out.