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backsweetening/priming questions

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hepcat

NewBee
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Feb 7, 2012
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Central Florida
I have a batch I plan to try and make sparkling mead from some of it and haven't found answers to a couple of questions I have about the process:

First, the batch of mead in question is finishing dry, SG was 1.000 when last checked on 2-17-12 and is quite likely lower now. I used Lalvin EC-1118 yeast and it still looks like there is a little ferm activity still going on.
So, because it's turning out pretty dry, I'm probably going to want to eventually back sweeten it a bit.

Since I plan to back sweeten, can I wait to do that right before I am ready to bottle so it would accomplish both back sweetening and priming (for a sparkling mead)?

Thanks for any advice!
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
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Mar 4, 2012
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I think you may have a problem with this one since usually you halt the fermentation when you backsweeten so the yeast doesn't go after the new sugars. If you do it before bottling any viable yeast left is going to go after the sugar giving you more ABV but not much sweetness. The amount of sugar you use to prime isn't enough to sweeten it.

You may want to try a non-fermentable sugar such as lactose to sweeten it and than prime it at bottling.
 
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hepcat

NewBee
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Feb 7, 2012
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Thanks TAKeyser. So If I understand you correctly, if I first back sweeten this dry batch, to keep it at the sweetness level I desire I would have to stabilize so then a sparkling mead would not be possible?

Or, I can just add priming sugar before bottling to get a sparkling mead that will be dry?

And so when you do back sweeten, you stabilize so the sugar you add doesn't restart fermentation, for a still mead correct?

I don't see why I couldn't add enough honey to make it a little sweeter than I want then not stabilize and bottle so it makes a sparkling mead?

And this makes me think of another question, I guess when you make a sparkling mead, you always have a little sediment in the bottles due to the fermentation that happens in the bottle?

As you can tell I'm a bit confused about this.
 
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HunnyBunz

NewBee
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Dec 29, 2011
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Think of priming and back sweetening as two different things (which they are!)

To back sweeten you stabilize so that the yeast will not become reactivated, then sweeten to taste before bottling.

To prime for carbonation you add just enough honey or sugar (1/2 - 3/4 cup in a 5 gal. batch) to give the yeast something more to work on right before bottling. This technique is something that takes some experience because it could easily create bottle bombs.

Like TAKeyser said, if you want a sweeter mead to be sparkling, the only way is to use unfermentable sugars. That's why Braggots work well for carbonating because not all of the sugars in malt are fermentable.

Hope that helps a little.:)
 

hepcat

NewBee
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Feb 7, 2012
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It does hunnybunz and thanks! I guess with this batch, if I want a sparkling mead, it will be a dry one.

Has anyone ever used lactose to back sweeten and then prime with honey to make a sparkling mead?
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
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Mar 4, 2012
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Thanks TAKeyser. So If I understand you correctly, if I first back sweeten this dry batch, to keep it at the sweetness level I desire I would have to stabilize so then a sparkling mead would not be possible?
You could add a non-fermentable sugar such as lactose to sweeten the mead and than bottle using the priming sugar. This method would give you the added sweetness and the carbonation you want. You would not have to stabalize if doing it this way since the yeast can do nothing to the lactose

Or, I can just add priming sugar before bottling to get a sparkling mead that will be dry?
You could do it this way as well and have a Dry Sparkling Mead. Many Champagne's are drier than they appear but from some reason the carbonation makes many think they are sweeter. I'm sure there is a scientific reason having to do with taste buds, but i don't know it :)

And so when you do back sweeten, you stabilize so the sugar you add doesn't restart fermentation, for a still mead correct?
Correct

I don't see why I couldn't add enough honey to make it a little sweeter than I want then not stabilize and bottle so it makes a sparkling mead?
You'll have a corked or capped bottle building up a ton of pressure so I wouldn't recommend this method, I forecast explosions if you go this route. Plus the yeast is going to be eating those sugars so you'll not know how sweet/dry it will be when you open the bottle. You'll be going into it blind.

And this makes me think of another question, I guess when you make a sparkling mead, you always have a little sediment in the bottles due to the fermentation that happens in the bottle?
You'll get a little sediment, but it will become fairly compacted and if you do a nice smooth pour most of it will be left behind in the bottle.
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
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Has anyone ever used lactose to back sweeten and then prime with honey to make a sparkling mead?
I've used lactose with many beers, but I'm using it for the first time in a mead now to backsweeten a peach so I can make it a Sparkling Peach
 

hepcat

NewBee
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Feb 7, 2012
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I've used lactose with many beers, but I'm using it for the first time in a mead now to backsweeten a peach so I can make it a Sparkling Peach
Alright, very cool TAKeyser! Hope it goes well.

And may I ask where you get lactose? Never mind, just found it on my local LHBS web site, they have 1lbs bags for $3.99. Gonna have to try that.
 
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hepcat

NewBee
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Feb 7, 2012
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Central Florida
OK thanks again TAKeyser.

Also, I noticed it says on the package(Crosby&Baker brand): "Boil in water to sterilize before adding to beer. Is that necessary for mead?
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
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Mar 4, 2012
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OK thanks again TAKeyser.

Also, I noticed it says on the package(Crosby&Baker brand): "Boil in water to sterilize before adding to beer. Is that necessary for mead?
You're Welcome.

I've never boiled it in water. I usually nuke a cup of water and use that just so it dissolves easier and doesn't clump like some powders can do when adding it to a liquid.
 

tuumi

NewBee
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Jul 15, 2010
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Detroit burbs or up north
To further complicate things and provide another option you could pasteurize. To do this you backsweeten and let the yeast go to work and carbonate your mead. Test the bottles often and when the carbonation is just right heat the bottles in a water bath to kill the yeast. I've never done it but Ive read a lot about it in cider forums and there are commercial cider companies that do it. You'll have to read more about it for the finer details (temp and time).
 

TAKeyser

NewBee
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Mar 4, 2012
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Detroit, MI
To further complicate things and provide another option you could pasteurize. To do this you backsweeten and let the yeast go to work and carbonate your mead. Test the bottles often and when the carbonation is just right heat the bottles in a water bath to kill the yeast. I've never done it but Ive read a lot about it in cider forums and there are commercial cider companies that do it. You'll have to read more about it for the finer details (temp and time).
Just had to throw an off the wall complicated method to counter my nice simplistic approach :)
 

hepcat

NewBee
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Feb 7, 2012
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Central Florida
You could also stabilize, backsweeten, keg it, force carbonation and bottle from the keg.
Aahh, another piece of equipment, that i don't have....yet:;)Coincidentally, I was at my local LHBS recently and they were unpacking these really cool looking little kegs they just got in, 2 or 3 gallon ones. I would like to try that sometime.
 

hepcat

NewBee
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Feb 7, 2012
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Central Florida
Wow my local LHBS sells 5 gallon refurb ball lock kegs for $45! Not bad! And I've already got two 20# CO2 cylinders. I see one of these in my future8)
 
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