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Suggestions for adding some body to mead

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David Violante

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I made 5 gallons of mead back in June following a very basic recipe from an online meadery. I used 9# of raw honey to 4.5 gallons of water, and D47. It fermented to about 8.5% ABV. This was my first and I’m considering it a success. It turned out great but a little thin. When I make another I would add probably twice as much honey. I’m happy with it no doubt but wondering if there’s a way to give it some more body at this point. Oak? Vanilla? Banana? (I have a banana fosters mead stuck in my head... ), just additional time, back-sweeten with a little more honey...
 

VinesnBines

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I think 18# for five gallons would be your minimum. Some recipes suggest up to 5# per gallon. Your suggestions will add flavor...not sure about body. More honey will restart fermentation which is another route you might choose. I would probably make another mead using as much as 5# per gallon and try blending. Maybe you would take your five finished gallons and break it up to experiment. Say make another one gallon using 5# honey, blend that with a finished gallon of the thinner mead. Take the other four gallons and try other things you have suggested, more honey in one, vanilla bean in another, oak in a third and just age the last gallon or try your banana idea. You could also make a fruit heavy wine and blend with the thinner mead; nearly every fruit blends well with mead.
 

BernardSmith

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I think 18# for five gallons would be your minimum. Some recipes suggest up to 5# per gallon. Your suggestions will add flavor...not sure about body. More honey will restart fermentation which is another route you might choose. I would probably make another mead using as much as 5# per gallon and try blending.
Five pounds of honey per gallon? I am not sure that any yeast is capable of transporting sugar through cell walls at that concentration . That starting gravity would be 1.175 and that has (nominally) a potential ABV of 23% (or 46 proof). That ain't mead. That's a liqueur. Two to three pounds of honey per gallon is pretty standard an ABV similar to most wines (12 -14%) .

That said, five pounds often refers to the amount of fruit (for flavors) you might add to a must.. but not usually, sugar itself which is what honey essentially, is.

Mouthfeel is what it sounds like you are looking for, David, and that might be benefited by greater viscosity of the mead so that it coats the mouth rather than pours down your throat like water. More viscosity might be produced by some yeasts that produce greater amounts of glycerol - DV10 comes to mind; more sweetness (so back sweeten with honey); and more tannin - so perhaps add oak. You might add some glycerin but that will also add some more perceived sweetness so if you prefer a drier mead that may not be on the cards... There may be other techniques that I am not suggesting.
 

BernardSmith

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OK.. I see that but I also see that Hamilton, someone the author cites qualifies his 5 # of honey with the following...
"Use 1.5 to 5 pounds of honey per gallon, depending on your target for residual sweetness and alcohol content. The more honey, the more residual sweetness and the greater potential for a high, final alcohol content".{Jon Hamilton} (my emphasis).. but given that the published tolerance for alcohol of any yeast you buy is a nominal figure and that the actual tolerance can be far in excess of the published (guaranteed) tolerance then relying on residual sweetness is a crap shoot. But also - from the very same document you cite we have Gordon Hull stating "A good beginner batch is two US gallons of traditional semi-sweet still mead with a target alcohol content of 16% by volume. This recipe needs two quarts (4 pounds) of amber honey." (again, my emphasis) - which is 2 lbs of honey per gallon, by Hull's estimate. But finding two gallon carboys is a little bit of a challenge for that to be an unqualified "good beginner batch". One gallon carboys are ubiquitous, as are three gallon carboys..but two?
 

VinesnBines

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I think one gallon batches are good for trialing. I have 2 gallon buckets but not carboys. Anyway, if our OP tries a one gallon with more than 2# of honey, he/she can always add more water if the fermentation doesn't start. With five gallons the OP has a ton of possibly stuck mead.
 

David Violante

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I like the idea of doing another mead that is a bit more concentrated and then combining the two, and also trialing a few variations for taste. Thank you @VinesnBines for those suggestions. I also hadn’t considered combining it with some other wines.

@BernardSmith you're right about the mouthfeel and so I would like to bench trial a few additions to see what they do overall. I was considering back-sweetening with some honey (after using potassium sorbate) and perhaps some tannin as well. I do want to see what glycerine does, as you’re right it’s a bit on the ‘thin’ side in terms of body.

I began the recipe with just about 2# of honey per gallon which brought my ABV to 8.5%. I imagine more would bring the potential ABV up but would it add the other characteristics of mouthfeel?

I better eat before doing all this bench testing...
 

BernardSmith

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Two pounds of honey dissolved to make 1 gallon of must should result in a mead that is closer to an ABV of 9.5 but two pounds of honey added to a gallon of water will result in more than a gallon of mead and the ABV will be lower. Do you see the difference? But that said, as a matter of technique, you might want to begin with more than a gallon so that when you rack after active fermentation has ended you have a gallon in the carboy and no headroom. But that will mean that you want to focus less on the volume and more on the starting gravity. My own preference is to aim for 1.090 (about 3 lbs of honey) and whatever volume of water that takes to achieve that gravity.
 

David Violante

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Ahhh... yes... that makes sense. I think for practicality and as a matter of practice, I would like to stick with using a hydrometer and measuring SG. That having been said, I just added a teaspoon of honey to 250ml of this mead and it made a huge difference. It is still a little ’watery’ to me, but I’m also a fan of big reds so.... I’m going to up the experiment to a gallon tomorrow and see how it goes. Tannin is next.
 

BernardSmith

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But you are absolutely measuring the gravity. The difference is that what you are aiming for is a very specific specific gravity and not the gravity that is the result of random amounts of honey and water. So... if you REALLY want to add 5 lbs of honey you might need /want to make 2 gallons of mead... Or 4.5 gallons or ?? because what you REALLY REALLY want is to begin with say, a gravity of 1.090 - OR 1.100 or whatever... but the SG you select , you select for a reason and not because you've pulled that number from a hat. That said, a gravity of around 1.090 results in a well balanced wine - where flavor and alcohol are nicely balanced and where you can relatively easily balance tannin and acidity and mouthfeel with that ABV and that richness of flavor... A mead or wine that is at 18% ABV may result in the alcohol over-powering the flavors and the sweetness and flavors ... etc
 

Aleatoric

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OK.. I see that but I also see that Hamilton, someone the author cites qualifies his 5 # of honey with the following...
"Use 1.5 to 5 pounds of honey per gallon, depending on your target for residual sweetness and alcohol content. The more honey, the more residual sweetness and the greater potential for a high, final alcohol content".{Jon Hamilton} (my emphasis).. but given that the published tolerance for alcohol of any yeast you buy is a nominal figure and that the actual tolerance can be far in excess of the published (guaranteed) tolerance then relying on residual sweetness is a crap shoot. But also - from the very same document you cite we have Gordon Hull stating "A good beginner batch is two US gallons of traditional semi-sweet still mead with a target alcohol content of 16% by volume. This recipe needs two quarts (4 pounds) of amber honey." (again, my emphasis) - which is 2 lbs of honey per gallon, by Hull's estimate. But finding two gallon carboys is a little bit of a challenge for that to be an unqualified "good beginner batch". One gallon carboys are ubiquitous, as are three gallon carboys..but two?
Indeed ... WHY NOT 2-gallon carboys? This is a serious thorn in my side, thank you very much. Anyone else noticed this severe lack of ability to efficiently rack down?

Geez. (oops, exposed a pet peeve)
 

Aleatoric

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I clicked on this due to the fact that recently two things of note related occurred. 1. A new local friend presented me with a couple bottles of some very very strong, and very rich, full-bodied mead, and 2. I've been playing with oak and glycerin.

For the most part, I've enjoyed my own meads very much, even the strange experiments. Age hides many sins, and indeed, if one does not admit to that weird flavour being accidental, a few months or year+in bottle will make that weird flavour into "character" "depth" "full" "rich" or at least "interesting and unique, can I have some more please?"

Taking chunks of used wine barrel staves, crosscutting them into 1"-2" bits, splitting those and "toasting" them with a torch, then dropping those into carboys, growlers, bottles, decanters, etc. of various wines, meads, beers, for various amounts of time has yielded some rather interesting and luscious results. In fact there are three such chunks in my glass now. By itself, the oak adds a sense of body, and a lingering "something" I'm not qualified to try to express. Strong at times, but I've never actually felt that I've over-oaked anything. Yet. Under, for sure. But that's OK.

Also, being a maker of wild blueberry and huckleberry wines, I have at times found that the perceived body is lacking. Oak helps, but so too does glycerin. This, I have overdone. Best to take one's time with it, as if you mix some into your wine or mead and take a taste test, your palate will be skewed if you adjust and taste again soon. Best to wait. This is one thing that does not seem to mellow with age, as far as I can tell.

Together, oak (with my version of "toasted" which is more of a "burnt to a crisp in some spots, barely browned in others") and glycerin seem to have made some very interesting and amazing results.
 

Rice_Guy

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Yes why not?
Indeed ... WHY NOT 2-gallon carboys? This is a serious thorn in my side, thank you very much. Anyone else noticed this severe lack of ability to efficiently rack down?
the latest tests in carboys was PET two gallon and 2.5 gallon with a 120mm lid, ,,, as a cover/ airlock it gets a 4.5 inch silicone stretchable bowl cover which will balloon as pressure builds, plus a non porous saucer.
4D65D886-B02A-420B-8FCB-657C5137A459.jpeg
 

franc1969

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Yes why not?

the latest tests in carboys was PET two gallon and 2.5 gallon with a 120mm lid, ,,, as a cover/ airlock it gets a 4.5 inch silicone stretchable bowl cover which will balloon as pressure builds, plus a non porous saucer.
View attachment 67331
I've done this at home. 😊 Odd sized pickle jars for settling wine. I do have actual 2 and 2.5 gallon carboys, they vintage ones from what I have collected.
 

Aleatoric

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Clever airlock!

I should have specified, however: "Why not 2-gallon GLASS carboys?"

Not only is it that I prefer glass, but also the narrow neck for O2 minimization.

I do use plastic in some cases for primary, but those don't need O2 protection or airlock. I never do anything over a week in plastic.

Yes why not?

the latest tests in carboys was PET two gallon and 2.5 gallon with a 120mm lid, ,,, as a cover/ airlock it gets a 4.5 inch silicone stretchable bowl cover which will balloon as pressure builds, plus a non porous saucer.
View attachment 67331
 

BernardSmith

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In my opinion those wide mouthed jars are great as primary fermenters but after active fermentation has ended the surface area of the wine is very large and that encourages oxidation. Carboys with narrow necks are preferable for wine. For beer - which is aged in weeks not months or years, wide mouths are perfect. That said, I have no good idea why 2 gallon carboys are not made or if they are why they are not commonly available.
 

Aleatoric

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Oh .. case against small necked carboys of course is when some idjit thinks he's all clever and stuffs a bunch of random sized toasted oak chunks in there.

You do know wood swells when soaked in liquid, right?

You have my permission to laugh at my expense. It was (ahem) "interesting" trying to get those chunks out.

But the mead (a High bush cranberry mead, racked for final clearing last night) tastes rich mellow and smooth and full of yumminess. Not sure how much of that is the oak, but I did have quite a few chunks .. for about a month.
 

David Violante

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So I didn’t get to the mead yesterday, it was a day of yard work and then racking. Hopefully today. I do like the suggestions of oak as well. I have a medium toasted oak spiral to try. I picked up some glycerine to bench test as well.
 

Aleatoric

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After you determine your ratio, you add the glycerine just before bottling. I like to do it as I vacuum rack, for easier mixing, less stirring. Remember to allow time to give your palate a chance to reset before each tasting.

With the oak, know ye that I started out using oak tentatively, and in fact would split batches. (Oaked and not oaked). One wine I found three versions in my cellar: Oaked, blended, and non-oaked. I say with some confidence that I strongly prefer the fully oaked. but if you are still playing with 5 gallons (nominal) why not split it into two 1 gallon jugs (non oaked) and 1 3 gallon carboy (fully oaked) for your own edification?

My taste tester (Wifey) is giving me feedback independent of knowledge of use of both glycerin and oak in both wines and meads. She always likes it, but I remember at first she was annoyed with me for spending the money for the ingredients. The results indicate it's worth doing.

The spirals are great .. really strong at first, so tasting is skewed, but I have found it really mellows through after a bit of time, so remember that, too.

Good luck!

So I didn’t get to the mead yesterday, it was a day of yard work and then racking. Hopefully today. I do like the suggestions of oak as well. I have a medium toasted oak spiral to try. I picked up some glycerine to bench test as well.
 

David Violante

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I finally go to the mead yesterday and added half the honey of what I thought tasted good, so as not to over do it. I'll check it again in a week to see how it doing. It's far easier to add more to it later on than take any away (I did add potassium sorbate a few days ago well ahead of time).

I also added a medium toast american oak spiral.

I didn't try the glycerine yet, that will be next ...
 

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