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Mead V – Not quite Saturn V

May 5, 2011

Today was another brew day! This marks the first time I’ve had 3 batches of mead fermenting at a single time; in fact I have just as much mead fermenting as I’ve ever bottled.

Onto the mead!

Despite using enough honey to give a swarm of hummingbirds diabetic comas the potential alcohol* is looking to be ~11.5%. It’s actually a bit silly sounding to be disappointed with how low that is since you’d be hard pressed to find another drink in a beer bottle breaking the 10% mark. In any case, despite it not quite meeting my expectations the buckwheat honey (from previously mentioned Weeks Honey Farm) has an amazing taste. I’m not quite able to say it tastes like molasses (although I’ve seen people make this parallel) but it certainly has an amazing richness that should pair wonderfully with the vanilla pods.

Mead is a bit different from most fermented beverages; it is extremely nutrient poor. Beer isn’t called liquid bread for no reason, the wheat is extremely nutrient dense so fermentation takes place quickly and easily. But, since honey is almost exclusively sugar fermentation is slower. To offset this you can add yeast nutrients, basically fortifying the honey. Even with this fortification complete fermentation of mead can easily take 2 weeks, whereas a homebrew beer can complete fermentation in as few as 3 days. The reason I bring this up is that this batch is completely bereft of yeast nutrient. Since I’m infusing the mead with vanilla pods I want the fermentation to be on the longer side allowing more of the vanilla flavor to be absorbed. As a result this mead might not be ready to bottle until June, and ready to drink by July. But good things come to those who wait; and I’m waiting with great anticipation.

*What does potential alcohol mean?

The term is actually Potential Alcohol By Volume, because alcohol can be measured 2 different ways; by volume and by weight. I use a calibrated floating weight to measure how dense the mead is. the white part has lines...you just can't see them in this pic
Sugar increases the density of water (which is defined as having a density of 1) so the heavier the mead the greater amount of sugar it has. As long as you are using an alcohol tolerant yeast the yeast will consume all of the sugar and convert it at a fairly steady rate to alcohol.

But a single measurement is not sufficient, another measurement needs to be taken at bottling time to determine exactly how much sugar remains. Then you subtract the ending potential alcohol from the starting and end up with actual alcohol content. However, for all intents and purposes this strain of yeast will make short work of 11.5% ABV.

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