hist-brewing: Mead Sweetness

Mills, Scott Scott.Mills at COMPAQ.com
Fri Jun 23 14:27:30 PDT 2000

OK, as primarily a meadmaker I gotta throw my 2 cents in also.

I am a believer that the way to achieve a properly sweet mead is to do the
math up front and use a yeast that you understand well enough to get the
desired results.  The easy answer on how to get a sweeter mead is to add
more honey for the next batch, or to sweeten and stabilize after
fermentation.  However, I do not think those are the best answers.
Sometimes you simply don't have enough honey but many times you simply
didn't use the right yeast.

As far as Karen's comments on the amount of honey per gallon to use... Those
are completely reasonable numbers however those numbers are largely
meaningless without knowing what yeast is being used.  Those numbers are
only half of the equation.  

I usually recommend that a good starting point is three pounds of honey per
gallon of must but you will need to adjust depending on the yeast you are
using.  Use a Champagne yeast with a 18% alcohol tolerance in this must and
you will likely still have a bone-dry finished product.  Use your typical
wine yeast with around 13% alcohol tolerance and you might have a
lightly-sweet mead.  Use your favorite ale yeast with a 8% alcohol tolerance
and you might have something syrupy-sweet.

So much of good mead making is the yeast.  Honey in general and particularly
many varietal honey is full of subtle flavors and aromas that can easy be
destroyed or overpowered in fermentation.  Different yeast have different
flavor and aroma profiles that may compete with rather than promote the
honey character in your finished mead.

My general rule of thumb for quick calculations is that 1 lbs of honey to a
one gallon volume will give you about .030 - .035 points of gravity.  This
of course depends on the honey. .035 points of gravity gives you a potential
of about 4.6% alcohol.  So for each pound of honey you add to a gallon of
must you will increase the potential alcohol by 4.6%

When formulating a recipe understand what the alcohol tolerance of your
yeast is then add the appropriate amount of honey to have the residual sugar
that you want.  If the resulting brew would yield a mead with so much
alcohol that the alcohol aroma, flavor, and heat overpowers the subtle honey
characters then you might want to choose a different yeast with a lower
alcohol tolerance.  

Next to the brewpot and fermenter my most used piece of brewing equipment
might be the hydrometer.  Now your gravity, know your yeast, and after a few
test batches you can repeatedly make the meads you want.


Scott Mills 
smills at scabrewer.com

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