How much honey to use for backsweetening

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Raptor99

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My first batch mead is coming along nicely. When I am ready to bottle it, I plan to add Kmeta and K-sorbate and then backsweeten it with honey. My question is how to determine how much honey to add. I am shooting for a "medium" level of sweetness. It is difficult to bench test sweetening with honey because it is not easy to measure small amounts of honey accurately. If I have a reasonable starting point I won't have to spend so much time making a lot of adjustments.
 

Rice_Guy

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There are several points in your post,
* Mead has higher residual sugar so it has some sweetness without added sugar.
* I weigh small quantities with a 0.01 gram scale. IF I was dealing with liquid I would dilute some honey 50/50 in the wine and then measure with a syringe from the drug store for dosing medicine to kids. Metric is easier math. I would take a small quantity as 50 ml (roughly two ounces) and dose several levels to find what is best tasting.
* honey has proteins which will make clear wine cloudy again
* sweetening with honey is linear with gravity, if you know what you like
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Raptor99

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Thanks for your suggestions. Here are my comments.
* I am using D-47 and I fermented my mead dry. I was aiming for about 12% ABV.
* I was thinking of diluting the honey 50/50 with water, but using some of the mead is a better idea. I was assuming that would make the honey more liquid so that it is easier to measure and mix in
* I was expecting that I will need to bulk age it for a while to clear again before I bottle it. It is quite clear now, so I assume that it can clear again if I give it some time. The only downside of that is that if I take some out for testing and can't return it to the carboy, I'll need to find something to use to top it off.

Once again, thanks for your help!
 

Rice_Guy

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* there is an age question, how old is the mead? If it is clear over a year, in which case I skip sorbate
* the protein is said to be the issue with the turbidity, and I have read that boiling the honey denatures the protein so it comes out of solution, ,,, you might speed the process by making a light color bouchet with the honey, and adding honey instead of other liquid when you do testing, ,,,, that is what will get tried with this years crab apple cyser
* I have cooked honey in a slow cooker and then melt my apple juice into it while it is still hot
an interesting test; An easy way to start a bochet is with a slow cooker, no monitoring a boil, can leave it for a few hours, and easy to melt back into a must/ wine since it is hot.

When I do this again I will stop ar the six hour point where the room smells like cooked honey (about 200F). The ten hour point has lost some aroma and flavor has notes of a dark ale.
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WinoDave

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I ferment out my mead to dry, sorbate it etc to kill off the yeast and then buy a 1 pound maybe 2 pound container of honey and put it under very hot water to get it runny and thinned out. I pour about 1/2 in at first, give a few gently stirs to get it mixed in and take a hydrometer read, I shoot for 1.020 or around there and this seems to make a semi sweet mead. At 12% seems to take around 6 months + till it smooths out and taste good. Around 1 year mark they get really good. The higher alcohol %, the longer they need to age. If you want a fruity mead go to store and buy some frozen canned concentrate and add that with some honey to the mead. I split 5 gallon batches to 2-2.5 gallon batches. My gauge is 1.020 is semi sweet and 1.030 gets up there to sweet but everyone’s taste is different.
 

winemaker81

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I like my mead (actually metheglin) off-dry, so I use a minimal approach. First, I reserve several cups of mead to use as a control. I sweeten with table sugar, adding 1/4 cup to 5 gallons, stirring well, and then tasting. I contrast against the base mead. My last batch used 3/4 cup sugar in 5 gallons, so I may be sweetening a bit less than most. My final SG was 1.003. Take my advice regarding how much to sweeten with a 10# bag of salt. ;)

@WinoDave's suggestion to soften the honey is a great idea. I often quick defrost meats by half filling the sink with 70 F water and floating the package in it. I'd use the same approach, but run the tap top. Quarter fill the sink and then empty it after a couple of minutes, to heat the metal. Then half fill the sink with hot tap water and place the honey container in it. Ten minutes later you should be set.

Diluting the honey with mead is a much better choice than water. This way you're not diluting the mead as you sweeten it.

Target SG 1.010 for the first round, using the above information. It's much easier to add more honey than to take some out. Based upon your taste, add more honey in 1/2 increments, meaning 1/2 what you used to get to 1.010. Stir well and taste in between.

When you think the mead needs just a bit more, stop. A year from now, you'll like what you got.

Wine strength mead takes time to age, as @WinoDave said. Put aside 10 bottles and open them annually. By year 10 you'll wish you had more .....
 

Ty520

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An easy, general rule of thumb for backsweetening:

1 pound (16 ounces) of honey = (approximately) 35-40 gravity points per gallon( depending on the varietal)

so hypothetically, if you had a mead with an FG of 1.000, and wanted to increase it to 1.020, you would add 8 ounces of honey.

for additional reference...

sugar adds 50 points per pound per gallon
maple syrup = 35-40 points per pound per gallon (almost identical to honey)
lactose = 20 points per pound per gallon

Roughly, if you can find the percent sugar content of whatever you want to use, then divide by 2, (e.g., sugar is 100% / 2 = 50 points) you get the gravity points it will add per gallon, but you'll also have to account for the presence of nonfermentables which can knock this down a few points
 
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dmw_chef

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* Mead has higher residual sugar so it has some sweetness without added sugar.
Categorically false. There is nothing intrinsic to mead that leaves it with higher residual sugar.

* the protein is said to be the issue with the turbidity, and I have read that boiling the honey denatures the protein so it comes out of solution, ,,, you might speed the process by making a light color bouchet with the honey, and adding honey instead of other liquid when you do testing, ,,,, that is what will get tried with this years crab apple cyser
Yes, the haze after back sweetening is protein haze. I low dose of bentonite post back sweetening (4-6 g/gal) helps.
 

winemaker81

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Categorically false. There is nothing intrinsic to mead that leaves it with higher residual sugar.
What do you base this statement on?

I searched on the topic of residual sugar in mead, but didn't find anything that wasn't about how much a mead is backsweetened. Given that dry mead of wine strength isn't common, I'm not surprised.

What surprised me is this chart which states that red and white wines have different ranges for residual sugar, 0.1% to 0.2% for whites and 0.2% to 0.3% for reds. Everything else I found typically states that "dry wines" are in the 0.1% to 0.3% range, which covers reds & whites in general.

Given that residual sugar in dry wines is a measure of unfermentable sugars, dry red and white wines have different residual sugar ranges, and honey is different from grapes, does mead have a different range in residual sugars? If anyone finds information regarding this, please post it.
 

Raptor99

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I did a little searching, and found that honey has at least 25 different kinds of sugar, with fructose and glucose as the main ones: Sugars in honey and why honey is so sweet. Here is a detailed article on sugars, which states that 95% of the sugars in honey are fermentable: Brewing Sugars & How To Use Them - Brew Your Own

The exact percentage of the various sugars in honey will vary by pollen source and local conditions, so I take the 95% number as a ball park figure. That would mean that about 5% of the sugars in honey will not be fermented. It is also possible that different varieties of yeast will be able to digest different sugars.
 

Ty520

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I did a little searching, and found that honey has at least 25 different kinds of sugar, with fructose and glucose as the main ones: Sugars in honey and why honey is so sweet. Here is a detailed article on sugars, which states that 95% of the sugars in honey are fermentable: Brewing Sugars & How To Use Them - Brew Your Own

The exact percentage of the various sugars in honey will vary by pollen source and local conditions, so I take the 95% number as a ball park figure. That would mean that about 5% of the sugars in honey will not be fermented. It is also possible that different varieties of yeast will be able to digest different sugars.
If it is still sweet, it is either because the yeast reached it's alcohol tolerance before metabolizing all available sugar and went dormant, or the yeast struggled for some reason and crapped out before it could finish. Meads can be as dry or drier than wine
 
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Raptor99

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@Ty520 Did you have a chance to read the article that I linked above (Brewing Sugars & How To Use Them - Brew Your Own )? The author says that 95% of the sugars in honey are fermentable, which means that 5% are not. There are at least 50 types of sugars, and not all of them are fermentable. I sometimes use Erythritol for backsweetening my ciders because yeast cannot digest it. Lactose is also not digestable by yeast: Demonstration: Can Yeast Digest Lactose? | I don't see either of these in the list of sugars present in honey, but my point is there are some sugars that yeast cannot digest.

I think that the 5% unfermented sugars would provide only a little bit of sweetness, so I still plan to backsweeten my mead.
 

Ty520

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@Ty520 Did you have a chance to read the article that I linked above (Brewing Sugars & How To Use Them - Brew Your Own )? The author says that 95% of the sugars in honey are fermentable, which means that 5% are not. There are at least 50 types of sugars, and not all of them are fermentable. I sometimes use Erythritol for backsweetening my ciders because yeast cannot digest it. Lactose is also not digestable by yeast: Demonstration: Can Yeast Digest Lactose? | I don't see either of these in the list of sugars present in honey, but my point is there are some sugars that yeast cannot digest.

I think that the 5% unfermented sugars would provide only a little bit of sweetness, so I still plan to backsweeten my mead.
Sure, but I was addressing rice guys post that mead is inherently sweeter - it is not
 

winemaker81

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Sure, but I was addressing rice guys post that mead is inherently sweeter - it is not
What do you base your statement on?

I'm willing to accept (for now) the ideas in the article @Raptor99 posted, as it sounds reasonable and I don't have another source of information. If there is another source, I'd love to read it.

If the article is correct and honey is ~95% fermentable sugar, then a 25 brix must results in 1.25% residual sugar, well above the dry wine level. If the fermentable sugars are 99%, then the residual sugar is 0.25%, which is dry red range.

Based upon my limited experience in mead making, I suspected the residual sugar was in the dry red range -- but I make metheglin and the spices alter the taste, and having few samples to form an opinion from, I don't trust that my palate made an accurate evaluation before I backsweetened the wine slightly.
 

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