The original resource on authentic Honey Wine - THE Reinheitsgebot of MEAD!


Mead and appropriate fermentation temperatures.

 © 2012 Douglas Remington

Note this is an advanced/professional method of Mead fermentation and will require the resources for temperature control.

Mead should be fermented and made exactly like white wine (not beer!) varieties such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. The correct temperature depends on the honey type and the yeast used. This of course takes much experience (citrus blossom honeys can benefit from a bit more heat and the use of a Sauvignon Blanc yeast for example), but in general we are looking at: 10-18 Celsius or 50-62 Fahrenheit. I shoot for around 12-14c to start my fermentation off. These numbers are lower than most commercial Meaderies (but similar for white grape wine producers), but in my opinion it is simply because they either do not know better or they are trying to get their product out faster: time = money, warmer = faster.

The reason white wine and Mead should be fermented relatively cool is to make it more focused. Warmer temperatures such as 20-25c makes a Mead more fruity, confusing to the palate, and damages the varietal character of the honey. Honey is a product from flowers so we try to retain as much of that floral character as possible. Now when I talk about these temperatures I am talking about the initial fermentation, not the final fermentation temperature. It is most important to keep the fermentation at these cool temperatures for the first 72 hours. That is when the majority of off-flavors are developed if fermented warm. After 72 hours I raise my temp to 15c where it remains there until fermentation is nearly complete and then raise up to 18-20c until fermentation is finished. The 18-20c step permits the yeast to reabsorb any off flavors and finalizes attenuation. From there the Mead is racked off and cold conditioned for a short time at -2c, and then racked off one more time and kept at 10c until filtering and bottling.

On the home scale this can be accomplished by getting a large chest freezer and a dual temperature controller (such as a Ranco that sells) and some of heating element or ferm-wrap. What I do at home is I have a thermo-well in my fermenter(s), and I have a ferm-wrap attached to the fermenter. When the fermenter warms over the target temperature the controller kicks on the freezer until the desired temperature is reached. If it needs to warm up, the controller kicks on the heating element. You can control your temp within 1 - 2 degrees in this manner and ramp it up to whatever you wish. On the professional scale we do the same thing but with a glycol jacketed fermenter. A glycol chiller pumps cold glycol around the fermenter to control the temperature.

I recommend the following yeast strains for cool Mead fermentations: Lalvin R2, DV10, EC-1118, RHST, Cross Evolution, W15, BA11, Maurivin Elegance, Vitilevure 58W3, QA23, Quartz, CHP.



Water and Mead - H2O, CaSo4, NaCl, MsS04, CaCl, NaHC03, CaCo3

 © 2010 Douglas Remington

Hard water should generally be avoided to make Mead with, especially water with high sulphate content. Many people boil their municipal water to remove chlorine compounds, however a boil will create an endothermic reaction to mineral ions in water and precipitate out some of the minerals. This may be good or bad, depending on the structure of your starting water. If using municipal water, the lab analysis are provided to you free through your water department. Some municipalities use well water in certain times of the year and non-well water for the rest of the year. Water content will vary throughout the seasons so it's best to check the content quarterly.

Calcium and Magnesium are the principle ions in consideration of TH. We are addressing calcium here.

You need a minimum of 50ppm of calcium for yeast health. 50ppm of calcium or higher also aids in natural yeast flocculation, clarification, and stability of ph buffering value during fermentation.

Water below 100ppm could be considered soft, with 150pp of total hardness is considered semi soft. For Mead making we want to avoid water above 150ppm TH to prevent a permanent to semi-permanent harshness to the finished product. I prefer my Mead water to be between 50 - 100ppm TH.

Also to be considered (and perhaps beyond the interest and capabilities of the home Mead maker) is the mineral content of the honey type itself, which can have a wide degree of variance.

Here in the Portland Oregon area we have the softest water in the world. Our water is softer than famous brewing cities in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Portland water is as close as it gets to distilled as provided by nature. This is ideal. It is very easy to add desired mineral value, but very expensive to take it out. This is just one of the reasons why Portland Oregon is the brewing capital of the world today.

To add calcium to your Mead, I recommend via calcium chloride. In small amounts it helps create a round and perceived sweet mouth feel to your Mead. Gypsum (calcium sulphate) can add a harshness because of the sulphates. So we should avoid this type of calcium addition. Calcium carbonate (chalk) is helpful in managing temporary ph drift in fermentation, however it is largely a temporary hardness and much of it precipitates out in a short amount of time.

If you are starting out with distilled or Portland water, .50 - .75 grams per gallon of calcium chloride is a good start for great Mead making (I would avoid exceeding 1 gram per gallon).

I will address other minerals for Mead in a future blog, however calcium is of the imediate interest here.

Na zdraví!