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Cherry mead from Trader Joes Tart Cherry Juice

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Bodenski

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The other day at Trader Joes I bought 32 oz of tart cherry juice. Not from concentrate, no preservatives. I'm thinking about making a cherry melomel, but I'm not sure exactly how to translate from the recipes I find to using the tart cherry juice instead.

If I've calculated it out correctly, 32 oz of tart cherry juice (total carbs 124 gm) would equal about 2.3 pounds of tart cherries. (I'm doing the guesses based upon knowing that I have 124 gm of sugar in the bottle, and I'm estimating 50 gms carbs/pound of fresh tart cherries. I'm no where near certain on that!)

I've seen 1 gallon recipes of mead with 1 lb of cherries and some with 3 lbs of cherries. I'm thinking about doing the following.

Cherry Melomel
3 pounds wildflower honey
32 oz trader joes tart cherry juice
water to make a gallon
71B-1122 yeast
1/2 vanilla bean in secondary
nutrients on schedule

Does this sound like a reasonable plan?
 

BernardSmith

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Why don't you simply use only juice to dilute the honey? You have the cherries fully processed.
Water is great for cleaning but it adds no flavor or aroma to wine and will increase the alcohol content by zero points. The juice according to your figures will add about 500 gms of sugar (a little less) and that is equivalent to just over a pound (1.1 lbs). A pound of sugar will raise the gravity of a gallon of water by 40 points so this will raise the gravity perhaps 44 points. Three pounds of honey will increase the gravity by 105 points so your starting gravity - with that amount of honey will be close to 1.150 - I might reduce the amount of honey by at least one pound but that is me..
 

Mortalpawn

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I've used the Knudsen "Just Tart Cherry" juice in several batches and it comes out very nice. I'm actually starting one on Monday that is just cherry juice, honey and water.

You can calculate the equivalent fruit from the juice amount and juice gravity. Assuming the juice is around 1.056 gravity, your quart of juice would be the equivalent of about 2.9 lbs of fruit (assuming also that a pound of fruit yields 75% juice, which I've found to be a pretty good rule of thumb). So you would need just under 3 lbs of cherries to get the same amount of finished juice. Just under 3lbs/gal should be give you enough cherry flavor.

I ran the numbers (again assuming juice is 1.056) and your 1 gal batch size gives a OG of 1.125 and FG of 1.011 with the yeast maxing out at 15.5% alcohol. I'm assuming a TONSA-2 nutrient schedule - otherwise you probably won't get that much attenuation out of the yeast. I personally would drive it higher if you want a nice sweet cherry finish - I would probably shoot for another 8 oz of honey (3 lbs 8 oz) which would get you to 1.143 starting and roughly 1.031 finish. With the tart fruit you would not need to backsweeten at that gravity, and your fruit to honey ratio is just about spot on for this type of mead.

The only thing to be careful of is to use proper hydration (with Goferm) techniques on your yeast before pitching and aerate with oxygen if possible as the yeast need to be prepared properly before you dump them into a high gravity must.
 
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Bodenski

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Why don't you simply use only juice to dilute the honey? You have the cherries fully processed.
I only have 1 container (32 oz) of the cherry juice right now. I can buy more, but I'm not looking for it to be so strong I start thinking of cherry-flavored cough syrup! I do think you are right in that the sugar from the juice and from 3 pounds of honey is potentially overkill. But I've seen many recipes where it's 3 pounds of fruit and 3 pounds of honey per gallon. If I had 64 ounces of juice that would be nearly 5 pounds of fruit equivalent (if I've done the math right). I worry a little that would be overpowering, but that's why I'm asking for help!

Did you try this and did it turn out
Nope, this is a speculative recipe. I have enough honey to do it now, but I think I'll wait until April to start it. That gives me time to figure out what to do to tweak it. This will be my first custom recipe, and I figure I'll have to do the pH & TA to make sure it seems to be in range.
 

Jericurl

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When I have juice, I use it in place of water regardless of what I feel the lb/per gallon equivalency could be on that particular fruit.
If the juice is palatable, there is no way it's going to ferment and taste like too much of the fruit afterwards.

When I made my cherry mead, I used fruit juice and still added cherries. It tasted wonderful. My only mistake was adding a touch too much mahlab, but it is definitely a recipe I will repeat. http://www.winemakingtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=54888&highlight=cherry

While I understand the science minded curiosity behind your questions, you might be overthinking it a bit.

Also, I've heard that to avoid the cough medicine cherry flavor, it's best to use at least two different sources of cherry, preferably one sweet and the other tart.

eta: To answer your actual question, the only change I would make to your plan is to ditch the water and replace it with more cherry juice. (and maybe add a tiny amount of mahlab)
 

Bodenski

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I guess I need to pick up some sweet cherries to go in it as well then, as well as a little more juice. I doubt I've got a good cherry selection right now in the stores. Although at this point (with the pending snow) I think I just need to get the french toast fixings (milk, bread & eggs)! Anyways this recipe is on the "to-do" list and not necessarily my "do next" list.
 

BernardSmith

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Just cracked open a bottle (today) of blackcurrent - mesquite honey mead I made using blackcurrent juice to dilute the honey. Don't have my notes with me but from the label the SG was 1.050 (so I am assuming about 1 lb of honey) FG was 1.002. (so an ABV of about 6.5%) Pitched the yeast Feb 8 and bottled.... Feb 27th ! I added an extract of anise and one of paradise grains (I make my own extracts). Yeast was D47 and the wine was crystal clear. My friends loved it although this was very fruit forward and not honey forward. IMO, water is only good for cleaning, not for anything else unless you are brewing beer... or tea or coffee.
 

Bodenski

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OK. With all that I've heard, I think I'll go with this instead.

Trader Joes Tart Cherry juice (not from concentrate) 32oz X2
Trader joes Cherry juice (from concentrate) 32ox X1
3 pounds of honey. (Still up for debate)
water to 1 gallon. (if needed)
12 oz frozen dark cherries
71B-1122 yeast
1/2 vanilla bean in secondary.

So I've got a variety of cherry sources. I've seen suggestions for both more honey and less honey. The only thing that was constant was "no water!" I think three pounds of honey will be about 32 ounces, so I might not need any water at this point to get my gallon batch.

I've got everything I need except an empty carboy to put it once I get to secondary. So I think I'll make it in April, especially if there is another WOTM thread then.
 

BernardSmith

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I only have 1 container (32 oz) of the cherry juice right now. I can buy more, but I'm not looking for it to be so strong I start thinking of cherry-flavored cough syrup! .
Not a chemist but I think that the cough medicine flavor is not in fact caused by the cherry but is caused by the yeast's production of phenols and phenols are (I think) created when you ferment in high concentrations of sugar, at higher rather than lower temperatures and with a too small colony of yeast. One possible solution is (and this is touted by the Groennfell Meadery) is to begin with a low SG must and each day add more honey (and juice) as the yeast ferments what you provided. Basically, you are creating a starter and you are continually feeding the starter. Their assumption is that you are in fact growing your yeast colony and as you grow the colony fewer and fewer off flavors will result (in the opinion of Rick at GM, you cannot over-pitch yeast (he recommends 5 packs of yeast for a 5 gallon batch ) and you cannot over-feed yeast nutrient (1 oz of nutrient for the same batch).
 

Mortalpawn

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James,
Just my two cents but if you ferment to the correct OG/FG (see my earlier post) you won't need the vanilla bean as the residual sweetness will be enough. I started my 5 gal "tart cherry" mead on Monday working to the OG/FG mentioned above using Knudsen tart cherry "just juice" and will let you know how it goes, though I expect it will be 30 days before I get an idea of taste. I can usually ferment it out in 15 days but it takes at least another few weeks to clear and start to clean up.
 

Bodenski

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James,
Just my two cents but if you ferment to the correct OG/FG (see my earlier post) you won't need the vanilla bean as the residual sweetness will be enough. I started my 5 gal "tart cherry" mead on Monday working to the OG/FG mentioned above using Knudsen tart cherry "just juice" and will let you know how it goes, though I expect it will be 30 days before I get an idea of taste. I can usually ferment it out in 15 days but it takes at least another few weeks to clear and start to clean up.
The thought on the vanilla was more for the flavor than the "sweetness" per se. I guess I really need to decide on what % alcohol I really want in the finished product, as I'm not 100% sure what I'm looking for. I think I might just try to run it to 12% (going dry) and then back-sweetening it. I've still got a few weeks before I plan to start, so I'll just have to keep thinking about it. The one thing I've learned? There is no one right way!
 

Mortalpawn

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You might consider adding vanilla after it has fermented out - that way you can adjust "to taste". It may not be needed, but you can always add vanilla after fermentation.

The reason I recommended the higher OG is that I strongly prefer the taste of fully fermented melomels to those that were backsweetened with honey. The ones fermented to their alcohol limit have a much higher level of flavor complexity and layers of flavor while backsweetened meads to me taste somewhat one dimensional.

Most of the best pro mead makers use this technique of fermenting to the alcohol limit to leave residual sugars, but as you say there are many ways to make mead.
 

Tnuscan

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The thought on the vanilla was more for the flavor than the "sweetness" per se. I guess I really need to decide on what % alcohol I really want in the finished product, as I'm not 100% sure what I'm looking for. I think I might just try to run it to 12% (going dry) and then back-sweetening it. I've still got a few weeks before I plan to start, so I'll just have to keep thinking about it. The one thing I've learned? There is no one right way!
I don't know if you can use it with meads or not, but one of those little 1 gallon American Oak barrels might give a vanilla or nutt like flavor to it. It would be a neat experiment and a conversation piece. Or try the Am. Oak spiral.

Just a thought.
 

wineforfun

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Why don't you simply use only juice to dilute the honey? You have the cherries fully processed.
This is what I did when making cherry wine. I bought the same thing you did, Trader Joes cherry juice. I used a gallon of that, adjusted the SG to where I wanted it (1.090), and fermented. Turned out great.
 

Bodenski

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You might consider adding vanilla after it has fermented out - that way you can adjust "to taste". It may not be needed, but you can always add vanilla after fermentation.

The reason I recommended the higher OG is that I strongly prefer the taste of fully fermented melomels to those that were backsweetened with honey. The ones fermented to their alcohol limit have a much higher level of flavor complexity and layers of flavor while backsweetened meads to me taste somewhat one dimensional.

Most of the best pro mead makers use this technique of fermenting to the alcohol limit to leave residual sugars, but as you say there are many ways to make mead.
The plan for Vanilla was to add it in secondary. I'll have to think about the back sweetening issue. I almost wish I could do two side by side to see the difference, but that's a bit beyond what I want to do right now.

I have a 5L oak barrel that I still need to break in (to use for vanilla flavor), but I was only planning on a 1 gallon batch of this. And I have 6 gallons of Cabernet being started at the end of April that I plan on putting some into the oak barrel for.
 

Tnuscan

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I had intended on buying 40pnds of fresh frozen cherries, when I called to order I was informed the shipping was going to be 100 dollars. That sure was disappointing, now I guess I will wait for Cherries from my next door neighbor.
 

Bodenski

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I had intended on buying 40pnds of fresh frozen cherries, when I called to order I was informed the shipping was going to be 100 dollars. That sure was disappointing, now I guess I will wait for Cherries from my next door neighbor.
:< Wow, that would make for some expensive wine!
 

meadmaker1

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I got a couple of 2 gallon ice cream topping buckets from DQ. And made small prmary buckets. Plenty of room to shake (way easier than stirring) and racks to a full 1 gallon carboy, after lifting out the strainer.
And cheap..
 
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