The sweet stuff

My mead has been in the making since October, and it’s still not done!

A Goblet of Mead, Makovsky Thinking for sure it’d be nearly ready for bottling after six months fermentation, I racked it to secondary tonight (siphoned it off the dead-yeast sediment at the bottom into another container) and ended up a bit perplexed. Despite most recipes saying that it should be ready for bottling about three months after it’s prepared, there was only about 1/4 inch of yeast in the bottom (most beers have an inch or more by the end of two weeks) – which means that the yeast are having a really hard time of it in there and there just hasn’t been much activity.

Hydrometer readings confirmed this – the specific gravity is only down to 1.08 (from 1.1) , which I guess means the alcohol content is only about 2.7% ABV yet. (According to this guide, a dry mead should be bottled at 1.005, and a sweet mead at 1.035 – which would bring the ABV to 8.7%) . Though it smells like a distillery – so much that I doubted the hydrometer’s reading and sipped gingerly, thinking it would probably taste like straight-up honey-flavored-whiskey or something.

Not so – it tastes pretty good. Well, maybe “better than it did at first” is all the praise I can honestly give. It’s still cloyingly sweet, but at least it doesn’t taste like simple honey-water any more. There’s a nice fruity tartness behind all that sugar, which I really hope develops more. I took a couple tiny sips and thought I might like it – it does have a good, complex honey flavor. But after even that small amount it was just too… gah. Saccharine. And though it pours like water, it has a hint of a syrupy mouthfeel.

I suppose what this all means is that I made the original mixture way, way too strong. (duh!) Most of the recipes I read indicated that 12 lbs of honey in about 5 gallons of water would render a dry, wine-like mead; I wanted a sweeter dessert mead (though not this sweet!) and went with about 15 lbs honey to 6 gallons of water. I did add more honey later (little did I know you’re supposed to add this much later in fermentation, not like 2 weeks after you mix the first batch – so that was a waste of good honey!), but I think it was only about another 5 lbs or so. Well, I guess it made more of a difference than I had thought!

So now the question is how to fix it. I do have another carboy available, and could maybe just split the concoction in two and dilute it a bit to make it easier for the yeast? Maybe I could only dilute half, to make a batch of drier mead, and keep the other half fermenting for as long as possible to make a sweet mead? (Though the last thing I need right now is yet another carboy sitting in my kitchen for another six months to a year!)

I also know that some people recommend adding acids to balance the sweet flavor… though I doubt it could balance anything this sweet. It might up being that mouth-puckering sickly-sweetness of key lime pie, you know?

Well, I’ll ask at the brew shop next time I’m up around there… and I guess we’ll see in another six months!

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