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Melomels


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#1 MtnBrewer

MtnBrewer

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Posted 11 April 2009 - 08:19 PM

Melomels are meads that have had fruit added to them. The fruit can be in the form of raw fruit, dried fruit, pureed fruit or even juice. There are advantages and disadvantages to using each of these types of fruit.Raw fruit, when in season, will give you the most control over the taste of your melomel. I strongly recommend that mead makers visit their local farmer's market in late summer/fall. Often times, the farmers will let you sample slices of their fruit before you make your purchase. That opportunity is crucial because the taste of that fruit will be the taste of your melomel. You'll obviously want to choose the best tasting fruit available and you won't get that opportunity at the supermarket or by buying purees. Also, I've found that fruit at the farmer's market is less than half the price of store-bought fruit.Most fresh fruits contain a large amount of water by volume as well as a certain amount of sugars. Therefore, when these fruits are added to the must, they impact the mead by simultaneously lowering the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) and by imparting new fermentables. As a result of these two factors, it can be difficult to formulate a melomel recipe with any amount of predictability in terms of final gravity (FG) and residual sweetness.Melomel CalculatorIn order to help mead makers formulate their melomel recipes, I've modified jjarmoc's excellent mead calculator spreadsheet so that it now estimates the impact fruit additions will have on the gravity and ABV of their meads. If you have any data about the amount of water imparted by particular types of fruit, I'd love to incorporate that information into the Melomel Calculator. Please feel free to post that information in the Melomel Calculator thread so that it can be updated accordingly.Melomels have a huge number of variables - not only between fruits but also considering the qualities and characteristics of the fruit you end up with. There will never be a crystal-ball type of calculator. You'll have to adjust for tartness and tannins and whatnot. It's really an art. I just wanted to put together something that will give people a rough guideline. When to Add the FruitNow there's a widely debated point. I prefer to add fruit to the secondary fermenter for four reasons:
    [*]The fermentation process changes the taste of fruit. That change can be sublime and it can be less than stellar but either way, it has an impact. Think of the difference between grapes and wine. I make melomels with the intent of capturing the flavor of the fresh fruit and I therefore don't want it altered by the fermentation process.[*]Yeast love fruit and will happily chew through the fructose and the delicate flavors your fruit contains. I don't want to lose those flavors and aromas.[*]The CO2 given off during primary fermentation does a great job of stripping out the delicate flavors and aromas mentioned above.[*]The high alcohol content, low pH and low nutrient content of fermented musts are a poor place for bacteria to grow. As a result, it's a safer place to add your fruit than the primary fermenter.[/list]Mead makers will always debate this point with some people prefering primary fermenter additions. Bottom line is, follow your heart and have fun.Quantities of FruitFor most fruits, I'd recommend 4-5 pounds of fruit per gallon of must going into the secondary fermenter. The one noteable exception would be for any fruit in the blackberry family (blackberries, boysenberries, marion berries) because those fruits contain a very high amount of tannins in their skins. Tannins are astringent, bitter-tasting plant polyphenols and in high concentrations they will just about turn your mouth inside out.Is there a need to sanitize the fruit?Over the course of many years of making melomels, I've never bothered sanitizing fruit and I've never had an infected batch. One of the benefits of adding fruit to the secondary fermenter is that the high alcohol content will pickle pretty much any critter that gets in there. The low pH usually found in a secondary fermenter is another inhibitor/killer of unwanted microbes and bacteria. However, I do rinse the fruit off and with certain types of fruit (e.g. peaches), I'll also remove the skins after blanching them first. For stone fruits (fruits with a large seed), such as peaches and apricots, I'll additionally remove the stone and cut the fruit into smaller peices in order to increase its surface area to volume ratio.However, if the thought of unsanitized fruit is enough to keep you up at night, you could add campden tablets to your fruit 24-48 hours prior to adding it to the must. My wife is allergic to high levels of sulfites, so I've never bothered with campden. Are you going to give me a recipe or what?That's a bit of a tall order considering that every type of fruit will bring it's own set of variables and considerations but here's something to think about:I like to start out with a cyser because cysers tend to be strong fermenters that leave you with a light, almost unidentifiable fruit flavor that's a good base to start from when adding fresh fruit. Most people make a traditional mead instead of a cyser in the primary. Here's my basic approach:Primary Fermenter16 pounds honey4 gallons cider or apple juiceLalvin 71B (2 packets rehydrated with go-ferm)Staggered nutrient additionsSecondary FermenterAdd Fruit. Leave the fruit in contact with the must for 2-6 weeks, punching down the fruit twice a day.Assuming 20 pounds of fruit were added, that recipe should leave you with and estimated FG of 1.010 and an ABV of 15% in order to max out the alcohol tolerance of the 71B yeast. Because yeast do so well at digesting fruit, it can be very difficult to have a dry melomel with strong fruit characteristics. For that reason, I believe you'll do well have at least some residual sweetness in your melomels - with an FG around 1.010. The melomel calculator is by no means a crystal ball but hopefully it will be of some use to people in formulating their own recipes.


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