Mead or 'Mead'

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bazookajoe
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Mead or 'Mead'

Post by bazookajoe » Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:33 pm

Always fancied having a go at making mead after seeing a few recipes about, but never having tasted it before, wasn't sure what it tastes like so didn't want to put any time and effort into something I may not like. So we were out on a merry jaunt and saw a bottle and bought it. However, reading the reverse of the label it says it's honey vatted with fermented grape juice and blended with fine spirits. This seems more like cheap wine + extra alcohol + honey to sweeten it to produce a commercial drink in decent quantity and speed? Tastes ok I suppose if you like sweet dessert wines, though feel a bit cheated as to what I thought Mead was? Any opinions?

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Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by Rookie » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:52 pm

bazookajoe wrote:Always fancied having a go at making mead after seeing a few recipes about, but never having tasted it before, wasn't sure what it tastes like so didn't want to put any time and effort into something I may not like. So we were out on a merry jaunt and saw a bottle and bought it. However, reading the reverse of the label it says it's honey vatted with fermented grape juice and blended with fine spirits. This seems more like cheap wine + extra alcohol + honey to sweeten it to produce a commercial drink in decent quantity and speed? Tastes ok I suppose if you like sweet dessert wines, though feel a bit cheated as to what I thought Mead was? Any opinions?
Mead made with grapes or grape juice is pyment, which can be very good, but with extra alcohol it sounds like stuff winos drink for a quick buzz. Meads made with clover or other light honey do taste like wine and are a good base for fruit mead.
It is easy to make mead. Heat one gallon of water to 80, stir in two pounds of honey, steep for 20 inutes, cool, put in a smal F V and add yeast.
I'm just here for the beer.

fatbloke

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by fatbloke » Sat Sep 24, 2011 1:09 pm

bazookajoe wrote:Always fancied having a go at making mead after seeing a few recipes about, but never having tasted it before, wasn't sure what it tastes like so didn't want to put any time and effort into something I may not like. So we were out on a merry jaunt and saw a bottle and bought it. However, reading the reverse of the label it says it's honey vatted with fermented grape juice and blended with fine spirits. This seems more like cheap wine + extra alcohol + honey to sweeten it to produce a commercial drink in decent quantity and speed? Tastes ok I suppose if you like sweet dessert wines, though feel a bit cheated as to what I thought Mead was? Any opinions?
There's a number of names for meads made in slightly different ways, as well as with different ingredients. I don't suppose it's truly a mead unless it's just honey, water, yeast and something to provide nutrient for the yeast (honey is famously low in nutrients for yeast - as well as surprisingly acidic i.e. the sugar/sweetness level is a good mask for acidity).

Your main problem is that most of the commercially made meads in the UK are hideously sweet. Yes some of them do have more than just the ingredients I mention above - but that's often for commercial reasons i.e. to get it made and to market quicker than more authentic methods - plus there's no real standard in the UK, the only mead related standards that I've seen published are from the Polish Government as Poland has a history of making mead type drinks - but they're nothing like you might see/read/hear about etc and Polish style meads are notoriously difficult/complex beasts to make.

So while it's not difficult to "make a mead", it's certainly not easy to make a good mead. There is a "fall back recipe" that is often suggested for the new/inexperienced mead maker. It's called "Joe's Ancient Orange Spiced Mead" (a.k.a. JAO/JAOM). It's easily made, from a straight forward recipe, with ingredients obtained from the supermarket. The recipe is in chapter 6 of the Gotmead Newbee guide, which does explain most of what you'd need to know. Yes, it's biased toward US mead makers, and the recipe isn't "traditional", plain or otherwise. It just makes a batch that comes out well if you stick as closely as possible to the recipe (just use the local bread yeast as "Fleischmanns" is a US brand and yes, I make mine up to 1 imperial gallon as it still comes out good enough). It might not be drinkable straight away, despite what you might read. It certainly isn't bad, but once it's finished and cleared etc, if you age it for at least 3 to 6 months, it can be truly excellent. Besides, 3 to 6 months is "a drop in the ocean" when it comes to meads as the late Brother Adam (of Buckfast Abbey mead making and bee breeding fame), used to age his for about 7 years.

Personally, I like to make my batches, get them finished and fermented dry, then back sweeten to about 1.010 or so, whereas I found all of the commercial meads I've tried to have FG 1.040 levels of sweetness, which is rather too much for my taste (except with JAO).

Dunno if that helps any

regards

fatbloke

bazookajoe
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Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by bazookajoe » Sun Sep 25, 2011 5:06 pm

Thanks for the replies. Have seen the Joe's Ancient Orange Mead recipe touted in quite a few places, so have just stuck one on to get me started (hardest part was getting the jar lids off) and will have a good read on it all for future batches.

bazookajoe
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Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by bazookajoe » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:35 pm

Was away on holiday last week and on return the Joe's Ancient Orange Mead had dropped clear. However, there's still tiny bubbles rising from the yeast that's all settled on the bottom. I was going to rack anyway, as I didn't fancy trying to bottle with the oranges and raisins floating round the top and all the yeast at the bottom but anyone hazard a guess if it's still fermenting or is it trapped CO2 in the yeast at the bottom being slowly released? Should I just rack now anyway? Reading other people's experiences across the interwebthingy some have taken months to clear, this has taken only about a month and is completely clear. Used a sachet of Allinsons yeast for it.

fatbloke

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by fatbloke » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:46 am

bazookajoe wrote:Was away on holiday last week and on return the Joe's Ancient Orange Mead had dropped clear. However, there's still tiny bubbles rising from the yeast that's all settled on the bottom. I was going to rack anyway, as I didn't fancy trying to bottle with the oranges and raisins floating round the top and all the yeast at the bottom but anyone hazard a guess if it's still fermenting or is it trapped CO2 in the yeast at the bottom being slowly released? Should I just rack now anyway? Reading other people's experiences across the interwebthingy some have taken months to clear, this has taken only about a month and is completely clear. Used a sachet of Allinsons yeast for it.
If you can, try following Joe's instructions as closely as possible i.e. leave it until the fruit has dropped as well. It's part of the maturing process, but also it's easier to rack/syphon off when the fruit is down with the lees. It may still be fermenting slowly.

One thing to add, with joes recipe is that the yeast doesn't flocculate very well, so when syphoning/racking, rack in the clear area as much as possible, then when you think it's likely to start picking up sediment (which will be hanging on the fruit as well as sitting on the bottom of the fermenter), then rack it into a 2 litre pop bottle and get as much of the liquid as possible. Then put the pop bottle upright, into the fridge for a couple of days, then move it to where you can work with it for a couple of hours and any slight sediment traces that have re-combined will drop out again as it comes up to room temp. Then all you have to do is to carefully cut the top off the bottle with a stanley knife and you should be able to rack off the last of the batch, minimising racking losses. If it's all clear and Ok, bottle it and leave it for 6 months as even JAO can taste a bit rank when it's young (some like it though). You'll be surprised how it changes over time.

waterwolf

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by waterwolf » Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:22 pm

A simple one I make is 5 jars of morrissons cheap honey 1/2 litre fresh orange juice topped up to the gallon with water add 1 tsp pectolase and youngs wine yeast, ferment to dry then back sweeten.
Once cleared racked and filtered I bottle it and leave it for at least 6 months minimum.
Substitute the orange for anything else that takes your fancy obviously better honey will give better results but this works for me.
Another is 4 jars of honey and 1 jar of good jam. just don't forget the pectolase with that one.

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Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by Rookie » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:04 pm

waterwolf wrote:A simple one I make is 5 jars of morrissons cheap honey 1/2 litre fresh orange juice topped up to the gallon with water add 1 tsp pectolase and youngs wine yeast, ferment to dry then back sweeten.
Once cleared racked and filtered I bottle it and leave it for at least 6 months minimum.
Substitute the orange for anything else that takes your fancy obviously better honey will give better results but this works for me.
Another is 4 jars of honey and 1 jar of good jam. just don't forget the pectolase with that one.
I also use cheap honey when I make a fruit or spice mead. Any time I do a straight mead I get rally good honey, usually at the farmer's market.
I'm just here for the beer.

bazookajoe
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Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by bazookajoe » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:01 pm

Ah well, as it happens I just racked it earlier this afternoon. I'd read that some can wait months for the fruit to drop down, and for some it's never dropped, and figured it's clear so I'll just go for it. Soon as I popped the end of the siphon tube in the cinnamon stick dropped down to the bottom like a little depth charge and brought some yeast with it. Carried on and even once the level meant the fruit was down to the bottom it was still coming through the tube pretty clear so quite happy with it. The racked mead is just a bit cloudy, but it's only been a couple of hours and the top 0.5cm is already completely clear again.

Emptied what was in the tube when I closed the siphon tap into a glass for a little taste and have to say I thought it was well yummy. Didn't really know what to expect as the only other mead I'd tasted was the cloyingly sweet one I'd mentioned at the top of the thread. Wasn't sweet at all, with the sweetness that was there nicely balanced by the bitterness from the orange pith (I imagine). Nice and warming going down, and quite floral, and once it's cleared again which I don't think will take long it'll be bottled, and I'd be more than happy starting drinking it straight away (or inflicting it on family as Christmas presents).

Of course, I have been running through the permutations of making this up with just the orange juice and zest instead of whole orange sections, wine yeast instead of bread yeast, cloves (I didn't add any this time), etc. but I reckon I'll stick another on as before once I've got some more honey from the shops as I'm more than happy with it so far.

Cheers for the comments and advice

Gordonmull

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by Gordonmull » Fri Nov 04, 2011 11:36 pm

fatbloke wrote:
One thing to add, with joes recipe is that the yeast doesn't flocculate very well, so when syphoning/racking, rack in the clear area as much as possible, then when you think it's likely to start picking up sediment (which will be hanging on the fruit as well as sitting on the bottom of the fermenter), then rack it into a 2 litre pop bottle and get as much of the liquid as possible. Then put the pop bottle upright, into the fridge for a couple of days, then move it to where you can work with it for a couple of hours and any slight sediment traces that have re-combined will drop out again as it comes up to room temp. Then all you have to do is to carefully cut the top off the bottle with a stanley knife and you should be able to rack off the last of the batch, minimising racking losses. If it's all clear and Ok, bottle it and leave it for 6 months as even JAO can taste a bit rank when it's young (some like it though). You'll be surprised how it changes over time.
That is an excellent technique, fatbloke, cheers for sharing that. I can think of another application - when forced to use bentonite to clarify something stubborn.

On another note - I've been meaning to pick your brains on JAO. Normally the sack meads I do are 4 jars of honey to the gallon. 3.5 lbs will leave some behind in a jar, which I prefer not to do since I can see the back of the cupboard becoming a half empty honey jar graveyard. Am I cool to throw 4lbs in and still have JAO work out ok? I ask because the recipe is very specific about following it to the letter. I assume it will be ok but I thought I'd best consult the Meadmeister before proceeding.

Oh, and by the way, I have only 1 bottle left of my first mead that I did no-boil and that refused to clear. I bentonited and bottled. It tastes absolutely lovely. I will be inflicting that on my crazy pro-boil Polish mate very shortly! The proof is very much in the pudding.

fatbloke

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by fatbloke » Sat Nov 05, 2011 2:20 pm

Gordonmull wrote: That is an excellent technique, fatbloke, cheers for sharing that. I can think of another application - when forced to use bentonite to clarify something stubborn.

On another note - I've been meaning to pick your brains on JAO. Normally the sack meads I do are 4 jars of honey to the gallon. 3.5 lbs will leave some behind in a jar, which I prefer not to do since I can see the back of the cupboard becoming a half empty honey jar graveyard. Am I cool to throw 4lbs in and still have JAO work out ok? I ask because the recipe is very specific about following it to the letter. I assume it will be ok but I thought I'd best consult the Meadmeister before proceeding.

Oh, and by the way, I have only 1 bottle left of my first mead that I did no-boil and that refused to clear. I bentonited and bottled. It tastes absolutely lovely. I will be inflicting that on my crazy pro-boil Polish mate very shortly! The proof is very much in the pudding.
Well that "wring the last of the mead out of the sediment" technique is only because I usually make 1 gallon batches and am too much of a tightwad to want to just pour it down the sink with the lees.

As for using 4lb in the gallon rather than 3.5lb ? Well logically, that's just gonna leave it sweeter. Now whether you'd get better results from using some sort of fermentation management, like aeration/stirring to the 1/3rd sugar break, or maybe a little nutrient/energiser/etc etc, I couldn't say, I haven't tried that road as far as JAO is concerned. What I do know, is that if you use wine yeast instead of bread yeast, it will make it dry and to be honest, it doesn't make for a good dry recipe - that tends to bring out any pithy bitterness that comes from the orange and is normally balanced out by the residual sweetness. Just like using fruit different from the orange, mostly my experiments didn't come out good, the only one that did seem Ok was with lemon instead of orange (Lime was just too over powering).

Failing that, just make 2 x 1 gallon batches and then you just need to buy 7lb of honey and split it.......

After all, having asked over at Gotmead, it would seem that any changes, however small, would be considered by Joe as "voiding the warranty" and that'd even include using locally bought bread yeast - despite the fact that Flieschmanns is a US brand not available in the UK. Either way, I just make mine as closely as possible to the original recipe.

As for "Meadmeister" ? Who would that be ? Certainly not me, I'm just a bloke who's convinced that you should be able to make a reasonable brew from relatively humble (and historic) ingredients, even if it does mean using some of the more recent wine making techniques.....

Like "British Rail" I'll get there eventually :shock: :mrgreen:

bazookajoe
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Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by bazookajoe » Sat Nov 05, 2011 2:25 pm

The racked mead cleared pretty quickly so bottled this morning in 250ml bottles.

Image

The very thin layer of remaining yeast had settled out nicely, and even when starting to tip the demijohn for the last bottle it's perfectly clear. Tastes lovely - my wife reckons it's quite similar to Cairn O'Mhor's autumn oak leaf wine. Just back from the shop with some more honey, so going to repeat as before using the same Rowse honey and Allinson bread yeast. Have to say I'm well happy with the results of this trial.

Oh, and thanks for the advice. I'll definitely be exploring mead further.

Gordonmull

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by Gordonmull » Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:06 am

fatbloke wrote: Well that "wring the last of the mead out of the sediment" technique is only because I usually make 1 gallon batches and am too much of a tightwad to want to just pour it down the sink with the lees.
A man after my own heart in that case. I don't actually throw my racking ends away. I pour them into a dj and now have a near full one of foul tasting mixture. I'll probably infuse it with something sufficiently strong tasting and break it out when mates are drunk! I make mead in 1gal batches as well and it's my most expensive drink, so I'll be making use of your trick

As for the JAO, I think I'll stick to the recipe the first time round, then and try another batch just chucking all four jars in. I can use the excess in place of sugar in something else.

fatbloke

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by fatbloke » Sun Nov 13, 2011 10:54 am

Gordonmull wrote: A man after my own heart in that case. I don't actually throw my racking ends away. I pour them into a dj and now have a near full one of foul tasting mixture. I'll probably infuse it with something sufficiently strong tasting and break it out when mates are drunk! I make mead in 1gal batches as well and it's my most expensive drink, so I'll be making use of your trick

As for the JAO, I think I'll stick to the recipe the first time round, then and try another batch just chucking all four jars in. I can use the excess in place of sugar in something else.
A friend has followed this route to make sure that there's nothing drinkable left in collated lees. Personally I can't be bothered (plus I believe you need a license) apart from the method I suggested, but he keeps it all, like you, and then racks off the liquid (and also does my method to remove it all), then it goes through his machine to recover the alcohol and then uses the result to fortify some of his recipes.

He seems to make a very good "port like" recipe (Ooooooo! the hangovers :twisted: )

TouLouseLePlot

Re: Mead or 'Mead'

Post by TouLouseLePlot » Thu Nov 17, 2011 9:55 pm

Can you help? I saw a recipe on t'internet for mead that added to the honey mace blades, vanilla, agrimony & cloves. Now I can't find the recipe anywhere despite several hours googling... has anyone seen, got or otherwise knows the recipe? I've got all the ingedients now and will cook up my own, but thought a guide might be handy...

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