Beginner mead maker

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wbhutchins

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Hi everyone. I started making mead a couple months ago. My first wasn't that great, but might get better with time. My second batch is about 3 weeks from getting bottled and a sampling of it shows great promise!

Both of those batches were 1 gallon and I recently bought a 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket and a couple 5 gallon carboys. I currently have a very interesting batch of dragons blood going in one of my 5 gallon carboys, so I have to wait until I'm done racking that before I can start a new batch of mead.

I took my recipe from the book by Ken Schramm, "The compleat meadmaker" and I'm inclined to follow that recipe again since the second batch that I made is coming along nicely.

In previous batches, I followed the recipe in the attachment, a picture from the Ken Schramm book. On the recommendation that Ken said about oak, I bought some medium toasted oak spirals and my second batch is currently soaking with about a half stick.

A friend of mine, his son tried adding blackberries to his, but it made the alcohol level increase and they much preferred the regular mead to the berry infused mead.

The one part of the process that is not very scientific is the back sweeting of the mead. Ken writes that he adds about a cup of honey at the beginning and then more as he desires. I started with 1/4 cup in a gallon batch and that seemed to be a good amount. But I checked the S.G. and it was 1.006. I thought that would be pretty dry, but I had already bottled. I later dumped 1/2 the bottles back into a carboy and added about an 1/8 c of honey or maybe a little more. The S.G. rose to about 1.020. Maybe a little too sweet, but who knows.

Is there a specific gravity reading to shoot for? I don't know what right is supposed to taste like at the end really, so having a goal that I can measure should get me closer. That being said, I also bought a PH meter, but I'm not sure exactly how to use it or what the measurements should be.

I'm a newb and am open to any comments/suggestions.

Thanks in advance!
 

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wbhutchins

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Another question is the honey I'm about to use is the Kroger brand clover honey. Is there anything to be aware of by using this store bought honey?
 

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Rice_Guy

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welcome to Wine Making Talk

Are you looking for science? grandpa and mom made wine with only a hydrometer and Campden tablets. This works because a lot of wine making is cooking and thinking about flavor balances.
Science, ,,, The attached graphic is the finished sugar function for a low tannin wine. Most of us do bench trials which are in the search function above. I look at my TA then mix up target sweetness and a point above and below and then ask the wife what is best. TA versus sugar usually works. The exceptions are because of tannin or other strong flavor.
A guideline for where to balance TA on wine;
after club contest this year I collected eight first place wines which are the red triangles
View attachment 81200
The sample set "cloud" is primarily commercial wines, with some collected in the vinters club and here on WineMakingTalk
NOTE: TA is one of several quality traits which a first place wine has as absence of flavor defect, appropriate aroma for the variety and clarity , , , etc.
NOTE 2: this is an easy test, if ya'll are interested in your wine ,,, PM me
I have used Kroger honey, it is readily available. If buying Costco has had generic honey at atabout a dollar a pound so I ask someone to get some. Possibly ask your neighbor who has a membership to get their big size. Generic honey is a good place to learn. ,, Store honey is clean which purists don’t like, ,, I have honey from a club member but no real opinion. , ,,,, I have done brouchet (cooked to 210 F) and heated just enough to drop proteins out. I like carmelized flavors so that is normal.
. . . make what you like
Most of what I make is cyser and melomel. For me having some sugars and flavors seems to make sense. Ken Schram is an excellent reference. I like him since he explains things that grape fermenters can ignore, ,,, but country wine makers have to think about. The New Cider Makers Handbook also is a good book for whys.
 
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wbhutchins

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welcome to Wine Making Talk

Are you looking for science? grandpa and mom made wine with only a hydrometer and Campden tablets. This works because a lot of wine making is cooking and thinking about flavor balances.
Science, ,,, The attached graphic is the finished sugar function for a low tannin wine. Most of us do bench trials which are in the search function above. I look at my TA then mix up target sweetness and a point above and below and then ask the wife what is best. TA versus sugar usually works. The exceptions are because of tannin or other strong flavor.

I have used Kroger honey, it is readily available. If buying Costco has had generic honey at atabout a dollar a pound so I ask someone to get some. Possibly ask your neighbor who has a membership to get their big size. Generic honey is a good place to learn. ,, Store honey is clean which purists don’t like, ,, I have honey from a club member but no real opinion. , ,,,, I have done brouchet (cooked to 210 F) and heated just enough to drop proteins out. I like carmelized flavors so that is normal.
. . . make what you like
Most of what I make is cyser and melomel. For me having some sugars and flavors seems to make sense. Ken Schram is an excellent reference. I like him since he explains things that grape fermenters can ignore, ,,, but country wine makers have to think about. The New Cider Makers Handbook also is a good book for whys.
So the graph shows pretty much what I thought I needed. But just to be sure, the graph shows specific gravity on the vertical and Ph on the horizontal, right?
 

Rice_Guy

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So the graph shows pretty much what I thought I needed. But just to be sure, the graph shows specific gravity on the vertical and Ph on the horizontal, right?
No the function is Titratable Acidity versus gravity. Basically how many grams of acid molecules the saliva from the mouth has to dilute versus the grams of sweet molecule working on sweet taste buds
 
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Welcome to WMT!!

Back sweetening is an art. While it's great to apply as much science as possible, the one thing that cannot be calculated is your taste.

You and I might split a batch, and back sweeten to different levels because we have different likes.

When I back sweeten, I add small amounts of sugar, stir well, and taste. Repeat until I think it needs just a bit more. At that point I stop. It's far easier to add more, than to take some out.
 

wbhutchins

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Welcome to WMT!!

Back sweetening is an art. While it's great to apply as much science as possible, the one thing that cannot be calculated is your taste.

You and I might split a batch, and back sweeten to different levels because we have different likes.

When I back sweeten, I add small amounts of sugar, stir well, and taste. Repeat until I think it needs just a bit more. At that point I stop. It's far easier to add more, than to take some out.
This might be a stupid question, but just making sure I'm thinking right... Back sweeten mead with honey and fruit wines with sugar, right? Or is it better to use sugar for both? Thanks in advance!
 
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This might be a stupid question, but just making sure I'm thinking right... Back sweeten mead with honey and fruit wines with sugar, right? Or is it better to use sugar for both? Thanks in advance!
You can back sweeten with anything you want. Sugar doesn't affect clarity, but I'm not positive about honey. If it does, it's just a matter of giving it time. Wine of all types is very flexible.
 

wbhutchins

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You can back sweeten with anything you want. Sugar doesn't affect clarity, but I'm not positive about honey. If it does, it's just a matter of giving it time. Wine of all types is very flexible.
I didn't think about clarity. I noticed some floaties in some of the first bottles I had from my first batch. I thought I just picked up sediment from the bottom of the carboy. But that could be what happened since I added honey directly. And since the honey was unpasteurized, totally possible I introduced something that wound up in my bottle. Thanks for that.
 

BigDaveK

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When I back sweeten, I add small amounts of sugar, stir well, and taste. Repeat until I think it needs just a bit more. At that point I stop. It's far easier to add more, than to take some out.
I've read this so many times here and naturally I had to find out for myself.
I deliberately sweetened a small batch to taste. After two months in the bottle I tasted it just this past week. YEOW! It's too sweet for me. Guess I made a blender.

Reading is one thing but sometimes you just have to try it yourself to really learn.
 

Rice_Guy

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I didn't think about clarity. I noticed some floaties in some of the first bottles I had from my first batch. I thought I just picked up sediment from the bottom of the carboy. But that could be what happened since I added honey directly. And since the honey was unpasteurized, totally possible I introduced something that wound up in my bottle. Thanks for that.
What Bryan was referring to in honey is a protein haze. ,,, this is like one of the kids drinking a glass of milk and then refilling the glass with water. It is small/ below visible particle detection. ,,, If you have particles that are large enough to see shape your first guess may be correct. A second place to get large visible particles is that a young wine will still have yeast floating, when they flocculate together they become visible. ,,, My answer for this is to try to wait at least nine months before I bottle/ back sweeten.

As a cyser maker I like to back sweeten with frozen 100% apple juice concentrate. The purpose is to add back apple notes which were lost in fermentation. ,,, When you back sweeten have a purpose ,,, is the goal sweetness ,,, is the goal aromatics ,,, color etc.

I've read this so many times here and naturally I had to find out for myself.
I deliberately sweetened a small batch to taste. After two months in the bottle I tasted it just this past week. YEOW! It's too sweet for me.
Wine is a highly reduced chemical mix. There is a reaction between an acid and an alcohol which produces an ester and water. Over years at room temperature (fairly slow) I expect the total acidity (flavor) to measurably drop (ex 0.1%/year) as esters are formed.
You will find lots of opinions where a harsh wine improves with time. ,,, Tannin chemistry is also useful to change astringent/ sharp notes. Our flavor balance is combined tannin and acid versus sweetness.
 
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David Violante

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Welcome to WMT! Good luck with your mead, it sounds like you’re off to a great run. There’s a lot of good and friendly help here, as you can see, from folks who will help you understand a process to make your best decision of what you want to see as an outcome. As Bryan said, it’s your mead, and as Dave said, sometimes you just have to try. I suggest a bunch of small trial batches to give your process, tastes, and ah-ha moments some time and confidence. Making some fast / early drinkers like DB or skeeter pee will also help, and will give you something to drink while waiting. Looking forward to hearing how it’s all going!
 
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Reading is one thing but sometimes you just have to try it yourself to really learn.
This is very true. I learn better by doing, as do many folks.

However, I pay attention to problems and failures. Certain things I'd much rather experience vicariously through the problems of others. ;)

What Bryan was referring to in honey is a protein haze. ,,, this is like one of the kids drinking a glass of milk and then refilling the glass with water.
I was also thinking of particles in general, as raw honey may contain foreign particles that need to settle. These typically precipitate with time. A protein or pectin have may require action to eliminate.

@wbhutchins, winemaking is like an onion. At it's basics, it's a simple thing. But each layer peeled back reveals more. You can delve as deeply as you like
 

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I deliberately sweetened a small batch to taste. After two months in the bottle I tasted it just this past week. YEOW! It's too sweet for me. Guess I made a blender.
Wine is a highly reduced chemical mix. There is a reaction between an acid and an alcohol which produces an ester and water. Over years at room temperature (fairly slow) I expect the total acidity (flavor) to measurably drop (ex 0.1%/year) as esters are formed.
You will find lots of opinions where a harsh wine improves with time. ,,, Tannin chemistry is also useful to change astringent/ sharp notes. Our flavor balance is combined tannin and acid versus sweetness.

I would have asked Dave what he sweetened with. If just table sugar, I would have given the opinion that the sweetness increased because the disaccharides converted to monosaccharides over time in the acidic solution. If he sweetened with inverted sugar, then I dunno! 🤷‍♂️
 

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I would be cautious about using store bought honey especially the cheap stuff, sometimes it has some corn syrup. If you like the taste its fine to use, but defiantly use the hygrometer at the beginning. Corn syrup is higher in sugar so the ending ABV will be higher and ferments quicker, so it might finish earlier too.
 

BigDaveK

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However, I pay attention to problems and failures. Certain things I'd much rather experience vicariously through the problems of others. ;)
You got that right!!
I'm very grateful that members share their hiccups, fubars, and disasters. My "issues" have been kept to a minimum because of that.
 

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