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Getting The Right Amount Of Sweetness In A Mead

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machalel

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If I want to brew a sweet mead, how do I work out the OG vs attenuation vs ABV etc to get the "right" amount of residual sugars?

In other words, if I brew a mead that has an estimated ABV potential of 14% with a yeast strain that only goes up to 12%, will that be 'sweet' or only semi-sweet? What about 16% ABV vs 12% yeast? etc...

I understand that yeast can go higher than they are rated to (and sometimes lower), but as a general rule of thumb, what % difference is there for a semi-sweet vs sweet vs cloyingly-sweet?
 

brettprevans

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easiest way to ensure a sweet mead is to use a sweet mead yeast

in relation to your 2nd line. % alc of your mead isnt going to play a bif part in sweetness. having a 12% mead that cuts out at 10% is going to be as sweet as a 14% mead that cuts out at 12%. its still 2% differance. what you will have is extra alc in that and you can taste alc and perceiveable sweetness, but in reality its exactly the same sweetness just stronger (as a general rule).

sweetness is also subjective. someone who doesnt like sweet things will prob still find a dry mead, too sweet for them.

now i have a vaugue recolection that in one of the original mead threads there is some info on generally whats classed as dry, semi and sweet. of course you could prob look at the alc tolerance of both dry and sweet mead yeasts, split the differance in tolerance and say thats semi sweet.
 

mmmyummybeer

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Sorry that this doesn't really answer your question as i don't know a lot about mead, but craft brewer sells a sweet mead yeast you can use if you just want to know how to brew a sweet mead.
 

Ronin

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The way I did it is by running some trial batches for each yeast that I use.

Say for 4632 Dry mead yeast, I made 3 small batches of must, about 0.7L at OG 1.125, 1.145, 1.165 . Then I taste after fermentation so that I can see how much attenuation each yeast gives and what taste I like.For the above yeast the 1.125 fermented out to 1.000 and was too dry, the 1.145 fermented to 1.015 and was a bit sweet and the 1.165 fermented to 1.032 and was a little too sweet for me. I use OG 1.140-1.150 for this yeast to get a slightly sweet (and strong) mead.

It's the best way I've found for getting a handle on how each of the yeast behave and how to get the right sweetness for me. Doesn't cost a lot to do, just 2kg of honey should do the trick.

All good fun,

James
 

machalel

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Thanks for the replies,

Ronin's response made me realise that I should have written it around the other way. What I should have asked is what sort of final gravity am I aiming for with a semi-sweet vs sweet mead etc...?
 

Airgead

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OK. This is actually a pretty hard question and "use a sweet mead yeast" isn't quite the whole answer.

To cut a short story long... Honey is almost all simple sugars. its not like malt where there are significant amounts long chain unfermentables to leave residual sweetness. Put simply, honey will always ferment out bone dry if there is active yeast present. The key is the active yeast part. To leave residual sweetness you have to remove the active yeast at some point.

Generally there are two ways of doing this. You can use filtration/chemicals to remove or kill the yeast and stop fermentation where you want it or you can choose a yeast strain and OG so that the potential alcohol is greater than the yeast's tolerance and they basically kill themselves.

This second method is what happens with the sweet mead yeast. Its a strain with a fairly low tolerance (I'm guessing 12% or so) so if the mead is stronger than that, and most will be, it will leave some sweetness. If the mead is under its tolerance though it will just finish dry. Doesn't matter if the packet says sweet mead yeast, if its below the tolerance of the yeast it will end up dry.

My usual method for sweet and semi sweet meads is to use a low tolerance strain (my preference is 71B which is about 12%) and aim for a potential alcohol 2% above that (14%) for semi sweet and 4% above (16%) for sweet. Mind you, I like things pretty dry so this may not be enough for you. You could use a higher tolerance strain if you want something stronger. DV10 will go up to 18% so if you aimed for a potential of 20% you would end up semi sweet.

Once the yeast has reached its limit you can adjust the sweetness with more honey to suit as it won't re-ferement.

Fermentation is affected by a whole bunch of factors that can make a yeast under or over perform so this is a little hit and miss sometimes. Stopping through heat/chemicals/filtration is more precise but means investment in gear or the need to add lots of chemicals to your brew which I prefer not to do.

Cheers
Dave
 

machalel

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Thanks Dave & James, that's kinda what I was looking for.

I've read a bit about using chemicals to stop the fermentation, but it's not really a path that I would like to go down at the moment.
Pasturisation sounds like it could work reasonably easily, but i'm not sure how it would affect the taste?

I might have to brew up a couple of small batches to get a feel for it a bit better, but (considering I quite like sweet stuff) you think I should aim for ~3% above for semi-sweet, and ~5% above for sweet?
 

Airgead

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Thanks Dave & James, that's kinda what I was looking for.

I've read a bit about using chemicals to stop the fermentation, but it's not really a path that I would like to go down at the moment.
Pasturisation sounds like it could work reasonably easily, but i'm not sure how it would affect the taste?

I might have to brew up a couple of small batches to get a feel for it a bit better, but (considering I quite like sweet stuff) you think I should aim for ~3% above for semi-sweet, and ~5% above for sweet?
Best to aim for a couple of percent above the yeast's tolerance to start with. That way if its not sweet enough, you can add more honey to sweeten further once the yeast has pegged out. If you aim too high to start with and it finishes too sweet its very hard then to change that.

Measure what you add and adjust your recipe accordingly next time. Rinse & repeat until you have a recipe that works for you.

Cheers
Dave
 

MHB

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I like very sweet and very alcoholic mead so I feed on racking. Usually about 1/3 of the honey is set-aside at the start, I use Wyeast Dry Mead Yeast. You will get better attenuation and I believe a cleaner ferment with lower OGs (making sure you have plenty of nutrient in there) and rack once primary steadies down, adding about 1/3 of the reserved honey, rack again at about 4 weeks, and again 4 weeks later, adding honey at each racking.
The amount of residual sweetness is very much a matter of personal taste but the higher the alcohol the more sweetness the mead can support.
Mark
 

machalel

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Ok thanks, yeah the idea of backsweetening to taste sounds sensible.

Mark - Interesting, have you done any side-by-side comparisons?
 

MHB

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Several and I think incremental feeding makes better mead, if you are going for high alcohol and sweetness.
Mark
 

machalel

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Hmmm ok. I'll have to put that on the list of things to check out, thanks :)
 

Airgead

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Incremental feeding is definitely better for strong meads whether they are sweet or dry. The yeast doesn't get as stressed. Most of my meads are down at 12-14%, some at 16% tops so I don't bother. If I was making a stronger one, I would do the incremental feed.

Cheers
Dave
 

DUANNE

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with the incremental feeding is the yeast more likely to go beyond the stated alcohol limit before finally giving up the ghost? also how do you get a reasonable estimate of alcohol levels with this method, assuming losses at each racking and touble therefore in keeping track of exact volumes.
 

MHB

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Given that we are aiming up near/past the limits then yes, if you feed the same amount of Sugars in one lump verses incrementally the yeast will attenuate further in the incremental batch, I think its just that the very high sugar concentration stresses the yeast while its getting started, same for beer if you want to do an Imperial anything its best to start the yeast in a weaker brew, get the population up, all the yeast hydrated and happy, then feed them the heavy wort.
Mark
 

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