Why does my mead taste horrible?

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RocketBee

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So far I've made four one-gallon batches of mead and none of them have tasted any good. They all have been simple recipes -- honey, water, yeast and nutrients. The latest batch I bottled June 2018. I finally cracked open a bottle after chilling it in the fridge. It does tastes better than my first batch (which tasted like what I imagine carburetor parts cleaner would taste), but still not very drinkable. In this last one-gallon batch, I used Lalvin D47 yeast, did the staggered nutrient addition and it still tastes like crap nearly two years later. Even though I'm a beekeeper, my lovely bride has given up on good mead and feels that I'm wasting good honey by trying to make mead -- she doesn't think it's possible to make good mead. I've done a fair amount of research and really thought that the SNA was the solution, now I'm wondering whether I let my batch get too warm during active fermentation. No idea what to try next. Any ideas?
 

1d10t

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The guy that reponsible for TONSA did a new version about a year ago because people could taste the nutrients in a one gallon version. It didn't scale down well. But that's just a wild stab since we have very little information here. How warm did it get during fermentation?
 

RocketBee

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How warm did it get during fermentation?
Being neophyte mead/wine maker, I didn't keep track of the temperature. So, I don't know, but based upon the time of year and the location where I do the fermentation, my guess is that it was at the upper end of the acceptable temp for D47.
 
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Arne

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Try making a fruit wine and use your honey instead of sugar. Personally I think trad. mead tastes like something undrinkable. That being said, my bro. in law thought the stuff was one of the best things he ever drank. Get your fruit base, use the honey to bring the S.G. up to 1.085 or so and backsweeten it a bit when it is finished. Use either honey or sugar to backsweeten. Bet you will be suprised. Had a bottle of pie cherry mead that got stuck back in the cellar. 5 years later I found it and have wondered ever since why i drank any of it while it was still young. Probably going to be another batch of it this early summer when the cherries come ripe. Hope they don't freeze off. Arne.
 

RocketBee

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Thanks for the replies! Regarding fruit wine using honey instead of sugar, I've been paying attention to @BernardSmith who says:

In my opinion, the best way to learn how to make mead well is to make what is called a traditional mead - that is honey, water, yeast and nutrients: no other additions. Trad meads are absolutely naked and there is no place to disguise or hide flaws.
I think somewhere else he said once you get the traditional mead making figured out, then add the fruit. it made sense to me, but wow, seems pretty darn hard (at least for me) to make the traditional mead into something that someone would actually like to drink.
 

jgmillr1

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which tasted like what I imagine carburetor parts cleaner would taste), but still not very drinkable. In this
This sounds like it oxidized badly. I don't see that you used any sulfites in your list but that might just be assumed. Regardless, the pH in mead tends to run high meaning some acid addition via fruit (melomel) or acid blend helps get it down. Higher pH wines are much more prone to oxidation.

I'd be interested getting the opinion of acid/pH management from @BernardSmith on this.

Personally I think trad. mead tastes like something undrinkable
Yes, I quite agree also. Although I've made a handful of meads, I've decided that I just hate the flavor of honey in wine. I'll keep it for use on my biscuits from now on.
 

cmason1957

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Yes, I quite agree also. Although I've made a handful of meads, I've decided that I just hate the flavor of honey in wine. I'll keep it for use on my biscuits from now on.
I love the taste of honey, in most cases, but I have never had a mead that made me say, boy I really want more and can't wait to open the next bottle of this. Glad to see I am not alone on this.
 

BernardSmith

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I don't know if I agree. A good trad - made with a honey that can hold the stage on its own (and that may not be clover honey or wildflower, but it could be Tupelo or meadowfoam or heather honey) that is not overly sweet and that has enough honey to provide all the flavor you are looking for (about 2.5 - 3lbs /gallon) can easily "say" this needs another mouthful and yet another mouthful. It's not so much about the mead demanding that you open another bottle, but when it beckons you for another glass THEN that's a good mead
 

RocketBee

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Really happy to hear you weigh in @BernardSmith . And if you have any suggestions for my fifth attempt, I would love to hear it.
 

CDrew

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Maybe mead is just bad. When I was brewing beer, I also had bee hives and made mead 5 gallons at a time for at least 4 batches. I never liked it and in the end, just decided that mead is what you drink when that's all you have. I stopped making it after that and never looked back.
 

Doug’s wines

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I’ve been reading the responses and finally have to chime in. I used to live near a meadery that everyone raved about. Big award winner. I couldn’t stand the stuff. It’s about the only alcohol I just won’t drink anymore! I’m done even trying to like it. I’m curious @RocketBee , do you like any particular mead? It may just be that you don’t like it in general, or if there are some you like perhaps try to replicate those?
 

RocketBee

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You know, that thought occurred to me to go visit a meadery and see. But, once I went to visit a real beekeeper's place of business a few years ago (I'm just a hobbyist). This guy has thousands of colonies. He showed me a pile of dregs from his honey production. That when he said, "This is what I sell to the meaderies." A few years later, I actually paid money at the liquor store for a bottle of professionally made stuff, didn't like it, but then remembered what the beekeeper said. Consequently, I've been thinking that meaderies generally use the cheapest honey to make their mead -- or at least their low budget stuff...which is what I would buy. Regardless, I should go just for a tasting somewhere with a lot of skins on the wall and see...and that should settle it once and for all.
 

opus345

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Got to say that my melomels were uninspired and i actually dumped some bottles. But my Carmel Apple and Pepper meads are fantastic. My Mango Haberno is shaping up nicely.
 

SVEN

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Here is a basic formula for a 1 gallon carboy:

Formula and Process Procedure:

*Strained juice of 4 limes/lemons/oranges
*1 whole orange peel from juiced orange
*6 g coriander seeds
*Water

*1730 g Salimo wildflower honey
*125 g brown sugar or maple syrup

*5 g EC-1118 yeast
*10 g Fermax yeast nutrient

*Add the juices, peels and coriander seeds to a sanitized SS pot. Add enough water to make 1 gallon.
*Bring to a boil then cool to 40C. Add the honey and brown sugar; stir to dissolve. Cool to R.T.
*Filter through a fine mesh filter and decant into a 1 gallon sanitized carboy. Check SG and pH.
*Dissolve the EC-1118 in some of the must and add to the carboy. Then slowly add the filtered must back into the original carboy. Vigorously shake the carboy.
*Add 10 g of Fermax dispersed in some must. Do this every day for the first 3 days of the primary. (Total of 4 additions initial + 3) Agitate carboy after each addition. Also, add Fermax slowly to prevent a "volcanic" eruption! Shake vigorously and insert the air lock.
*When the primary is complete, 7-14 days, siphon into another sanitized 1gallon carboy. Be careful not to disturb the sediment
*Clarify. For 1 gallon batch, disperse 4.8 g Ca+2 Bentonite in ~50 ml of must. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds on high to heat to ~60C. Let stand for 15 minutes until adequately hydrated.
*Add Ca+2 dispersion to the carboy. Shake carboy vigorously. Insert air lock. Let stand for 1 month at +5C.
*Move carboy to a room temp environment. Check pH and S.G. Syphon into sanitized, clear 375 ml bottles (or into another sanitized carboy and then decant into the bottles.)
*Refrigerate.
As always time dramatically improves the flavor.


Note: I took several bottles and fortified one with rum and one with brandy. The starting ABV was 14.4% and targeted 18% using the Pearson Square calculation. Also back-sweetened with 5% honey and added 2 twists of lemon and orange peel.

Good luck!!!

Sven
 

BernardSmith

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In my opinion, most commercially made mead tastes pretty bad. But then they make mead for folk who assume that a honey wine needs to be sickly sweet and those wineries that make mead may have expertise in wine making but they know diddly squat about making really good quality mead. You want to look for a mead made by a folk who know mead; who live and die by their mead; and who make nothing but mead. But all that said, I only drink mead that I myself have made - and I am no expert (although I did win a first place at the Mazer Cup for a metheglin (a spiced mead) I made four years ago.
 

tradowsk

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Just my view, but a traditional mead is very simple and thus harder to master. There's nothing for any flaws to hide behind, and so they come right up front. Or, even a well-made traditional mead might not be your cup of tea. I personally don't like dry meads, I backsweeten mine to 1.010-1.025 SG and they taste so much better imho.

My advice would be to try making a melomel, which is a mead with fruit. Easy ones use apple cider (which technically makes it a cyser) or any of the Welch's juices. Target a starting SG of 1.090, ferment dry at about 65F, and then sulfite and backsweeten.
 
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I made a traditional mead last year, and I'm happy with how it turned out. I used d47 yeast as well, and is quite light in alcohol for a mead, just under 12% and fermented dry. It has citric notes (lemon mostly) & flowers. The finish is decently long.

I didn't use much nutrients, actually none at first which resulted in a stalled fermentation but that didn't seem to harm it. My basement crawl space is quite cool, ~65F, which is where is finished fermentation and bulk aged for about 10 months. The honey was sourced from a small farm where the bees had their primary forage from wild blossoms, was harvested in the fall and was unfiltered & unpasteurized.

That's all I can recall about if from the top of my head, let me know if any other details would help
 

winemaker81

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I'm in the camp that doesn't enjoy plain mead. Even the best fail to catch my attention. I knew a few master mead makers (as accorded by the SCA) and even their meads didn't excite me.

The meads I've made are wine-strength (12-13% ABV) metheglin (as Bernard said, mead with spices). Last time I used 6 cinnamon sticks, 12 whole cloves, 12 whole allspice for a 5 gallon batch -- all crushed (put in hops bag, wrap in plastic, beat with hammer, discard plastic). I back sweeten to ~1% residual sugar as I find dry mead unpleasant. I've had universally positive feedback on the results.

I used the spices during fermentation, then discard. If the mead is already bottled, you can unbottle and bulk age with spices. Taste every few weeks until you like it. For 1 gallon I recommend using 1/5 of the amounts listed above, e.g., 1 cinnamon stick, 2-3 whole cloves, 2-3 whole allspice. Or whatever spices fit your fancy.

Next batch I'm going to add fresh ginger ...
 
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