Aging Mead, questions

Discussion in 'Meads' started by Belzicore, Jun 3, 2018.

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  1. Jun 3, 2018 #1

    Belzicore

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    I've been making Mead for a few years but I've never given much thought to aging it. Do you feel it improves the flavor of the Mead? And if you do which wood do you think would be best for a fruit Mead
     
  2. Jun 4, 2018 #2

    Slappy

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    A lot of people age mead, some for several years so hopefully someone chimes in for you. I'm not sure how the flavors develop over time as I have only done 1 batch that's at 6 months since bottling. It's drinking beautifully now but I will hang onto a couple for 3-5 years to see how it goes. From research most sources recommend a sack strength mead for aging potential. Mines at 14% abv. For a fruit mead maybe condider making a pyment if you want to age it, preferably with fresh grapes and extended skin contact to extract tannins. My sister was given 2 bottles of pyment made with red grapes and she raved about it. I told her to hang onto the second bottle for a year or 2 for comparison.
     
  3. Jun 4, 2018 #3

    Grabo

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    When you say "aging" do you mean specifically with oak? Generally speaking, mead gets significantly better over time. I make my meads more like wine than beer (not carbonated and higher ABV), and the last 5 gallon batch I bulk aged for nearly 18 months before bottling. I used cheap store brand honey, but it is already really smooth and delicious. I have tried meads that have been aged for longer, and I don't think I've ever tasted one that had started on the decline.

    If you're specifically asking about oak, then that's about your personal flavor preference. I've had a mead that had gone through an American oak barrel and then aged for 3-5 years, and that is my top tier goal for a homemade mead. I also prefer bourbon flavors, so American oak appeals to my taste.
     
  4. Jun 4, 2018 #4

    meadmaker1

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    No question as to improvement.
    How long I can't answer with science or math.
    Some of he bottles that I've managed to save a year or more have left me heart broken that I didn't save them all.
     
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  5. Jun 9, 2018 #5

    JamesGrape

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    566CE995-3EA8-4C69-AB1A-9C6A88076FD2.jpeg I hope this isn’t a hijack - but will aging mead with charred oak change the color of the mead?

    I have a first trial batch of apple cinnamon mead that is just a few weeks past fermentation and I thought I might add oak chips to enhance its aging.

    I thought I would try to simulate bourbon barrel aging so as an experiment I put some medium toast French oak chips in a bit of bourbon with a couple of drops of vanilla. I thought I would let it soak then add the chips (not the liquid) to the mead. But the next day the bourbon color had changed from amber to chocolate brown. So I did not add the chips yet. Will toasted oak add that brown color to the mead over time?

    The pic above shows the clearing Apple cinnamon mead with two cinnamon sticks and lees in the bottom. The plastic container shows how the pale amber bourbon became dark brown after sitting with the toasted chips overnight. As an FYI - the mead now tastes like apple cider with a hint of honey (no sweetness) and the apple aroma includes very faint cinnamon.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
  6. Jun 10, 2018 #6

    JamesGrape

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    I went ahead and racked the mead off the lees into a sanitized bucket.

    I was a bit surprised at the small amount of fine lees. I used an organic apple juice with pulp - thinking the apple pulp in a mead might be kinda sorta analogous to grape skins in a wine - so I expected more lees.

    I drained the small amount of liquid (bourbon) from the oak chips and blotted them dry, the added them to cleaned and sanitized carboys. I also rinsed the cinnamon sticks and replaced them in the carboys. Then I racked the mead over them.

    The mead did turn noticeably darker in the glass, but it is actually now a more pleasing color to me. The chips did have a very nice smell of bourbon, wet wood, and vanilla.

    And to the original point of the thread - I think it’s at least promising that this oak will improve the flavor of this mead - from the original apple/cinnamon/honey - to a more complex mix that can include hints of toasted oak/bourbon/vanilla. Admittedly I tweaked the latter two.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
  7. Jun 11, 2018 #7

    BernardSmith

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    Hi Belzicore and welcome.
    I think there may be two very different answers to your question about "aging" a mead. There are folk who make mead very badly and their understanding is that mead requires years to age to make their drinks pleasant. They are not wrong but the problem is that their protocol is garbage. There are others who adopt a far more scientific approach to mead making and their meads are ready for drinking weeks after pitching the yeast. Those meads can improve with age but they are already delightful very early. The higher the ABV the longer a mead needs to age but good yeast rehydration protocol, good nutrition protocol and good degassing protocol amongst other factors reduce the length of time a mead needs to age. Aging should not be about reducing the flavors of fusels and other undesirable flavors. I make low ABV meads and they are ready to enjoy two months after pitching the yeast.
     
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  8. Jun 11, 2018 #8

    meadmaker1

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  9. Jun 11, 2018 #9

    Grabo

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    Calling someone's mead-making process "very bad" is pretty ignorant for such a broad statement without understanding the flavor target. If you're making a low abv mead, it is very different flavor profile from a higher abv mead, so it matters what your end goal is. There are flavors that take time to develop, and given time, keep improving. If your recipes are more wine-like meads, like I would assume is popular on a wine forum and when asking about oak, of course time will help. If you follow good practice and recipes, hey, your mead will continue to improve with age, and believe it or not, this is supported by award winning mead makers, amateur or professional.
     
  10. Jun 11, 2018 #10

    Zintrigue

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    So, slight off topic question here for the mead-minds: Do you sanitize the mead with kmeta a day before pitching yeast? I don't have a mead recipe to follow, but I'm going to be attempting something mead-like pretty soon here. Last time I tried a mead I contracted Bretts and that was horrifying.

    Also, thanks to this thread I might have to get some american oak spirals for this.
     
  11. Jun 12, 2018 #11

    meadmaker1

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    I've done it with and without.
     
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  12. Jun 13, 2018 #12

    Grabo

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    I've read of people doing it either way, so if you're concerned about contamination or if your honey is straight from a beehive (meaning straight from a beekeeper) it doesn't hurt. I've tried it both ways, and I've also tried to boil the must and letting it cool before pitching the yeast. I've had success either way, and with the honey that I use, I don't think boiling or kmeta is necessary.

    Out of curiosity, what are you planning to make? I ask since you say "mead-like."
     
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  13. Jun 13, 2018 #13

    Bodenski

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    I have only a small number of meads that have made it more than a year. Here's been my (limited) experience:

    1. Some meads I've made had flaws that decreased over time. My first JOAM had too much pith taste, but that definitely decreased over time. Another one (a fall spice methagalin) was really undrinkable at 6 months, but at a year was just "unpleasant." I'm hoping that in another year it will get to "OK." I don't need the bottles it's in, and it was only a gallon so it isn't taking up too much space to give it time. In my meads that start out better, I've always noticed improvement over time. It's only the non-stellar ones that "require" the time. Otherwise the desire to drink overwhelms my patience ;) (Having lots of batches under my belt helps as well too. Easier to wait now than it used to be.)

    2. I make more melomels than any other type of mead. For those I always use Kmeta 24 hours out. Even my methagalins have usually had a little fruit in them, so I use Kmeta on those too. I've never done just a straight mead. If I did, I don't think I'd use any. Hard to imagine what could survive in straight honey. It's not known as something that goes bad after 1000 years :)

    3. I've never used oak in a mead. One that I'm aging right now (a caramel apple mead recipe that is also a braggot) I've thought about throwing some oak chips into. My experience with oak has only been oak chips, and only in a few wines that I've made. It's the only thing they had at the local HBS, so I don't have experience using different toasts, etc.
     
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  14. Jun 13, 2018 #14

    Zintrigue

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    Well, Danger Dave's dragon blood enjoys a huge success in this house, and some of my creative friends said "now show us demon blood." And the first thing that came to mind for demon blood was dark and thick like syrup, so I thought some kind of blueberry/pomegranate/acai melomel (correct name?) sort of thing. I'll be trying to cross mead recipes with the dragon blood recipe, and it'll be a one gallon experiment. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

    (Sorry to derail, I'm done hijacking now)
     
  15. Jun 13, 2018 #15

    Grabo

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    That sounds great! I have limited experience with melomels; I've made JAOM batches, but those were some of my first ever brewing experiences, and I chose it because I could find everything at my local grocery store. I'd recommend browsing some mead-focused forums for ideas on that, and maybe post your draft recipe for input there. But definitely keep us in the loop here!
     
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  16. Aug 30, 2018 #16

    seth8530

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    Ageability depends on the kind of mead you are making. Lower ABV meads if made right (5-8)% can have a pretty quick turn around 1-2 months. As was alluded to before the goal of aging is not to make up for a flawed fermentation but to allow the mead to come together. With my mine strength meads I like to give them at least a year before I think about putting them into a bottle. However, what is important is the taste and not the amount of time. If you are really wanting to push out the mead even faster you can back sweeten a bit..... But, in my opinion that is not the purpose of adding back sugars.
     
  17. Oct 1, 2018 #17

    winemaker81

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    The last mead I made in 1998 was good at the 1 year mark. Opened the last bottle in 2008 ... that mead got better with every passing year. I was sorry to open the last bottle ... well, not too sorry to not drink it. :)

    I have no idea what the total lifespan of that batch would have been. I made it wine strength (11.8% alcohol) and it never quite fermented dry (FG 1.008).

    Started another batch recently, will be doing about the same method. I'm thinking I should do 5 gallons every year so I'll build up a stock for aging.
     
  18. Oct 7, 2018 #18

    BernardSmith

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    Sorry Grabo, but protocol is bad if the result is that the mead made is full of fusels. That may be a broad statement but I am sticking to it. Fusels are not ethanol and they are alcohols that are not wanted when the idea is that the product is made for drinking and not for fuel... and if they are produced when you are looking for a mead with 5% alcohol, 7% alcohol, 12% or 18% then the mead maker simply does not know how to make a good mead. The idea that mead needs to age to remove fusels highlights the problem. Aging a mead makes a good mead better. Aging a mead full of fusels makes a poor mead less bad.
     
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  19. Oct 7, 2018 #19

    winemaker81

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    All fermented beverages change as they age, and the possible presence of fusels is only 1 small potential factor. Oxygen is a significantly greater factor, as every beverage bottled with a cork gets small amounts of oxygen through the porous cork.

    But the factors go beyond that -- take the case of beer, which is bottled (or canned) in non-porous containers. Beer changes as it ages -- bottled beer is drinkable at 2 weeks (when post-bottling fermentation is completed) but is always better at 2 months and heavier beers may be far better at the one year mark. This is the result of complex chemical changes that I have yet to find anyone claim to fully understand. [If anyone knows of a complete explanation, please post the link.]

    Alcohol, acid, and sugar levels all directly affect aging. I found one reference that stated some German Rieslings can age better than reds, due to high acid levels.

    Let's take another instance. I make limoncello, using commercial vodka & lemon zest. A few years back I made a batch with lime zest -- but I considered it a failure. The result had an intense lime aroma ... but was nearly tasteless, especially in comparison to the lemon-based version. I deposited the 2 remaining bottles on a shelf and ignored them.

    Three years later I opened one, just for the heckuvit. WOW! I was astounded at the changes -- the flavors had enhanced -- not quite as vibrant as the lemon version, but for someone who loves the flavor of lime -- highly pleasing. I have 1 more 375 ml bottle .... that I'm going to age for another couple of years. [I also need to buy 10 lbs of limes and 2x 1.75 l bottles of vodka ...]

    Side note completely unrelated to the topic: When making limoncello, I end up with 5 to 10 lbs of naked lemons. So I run them through a juicer and have fresh lemon juice. Except my juicer dumps a lot of pith in it, making it a bit bitter, producing a lot of sediment, and leaving the liquid milky in appearance.

    This last time I let it settle in the fridge for a week, poured the clear juice off the sludge, then added 1 tsp bentonite. I let it set in the fridge for another week and poured the lemon juice off an even thicker bed of sediment. The remaining juice is not clear (unlike store bought, which has been filtered) but is extremely tasty.
     

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