Ask the Meadmaker – Basic Questions Pt 4

In which Ricky the Meadmaker goes back to basics and answers questions about brewing mead with fruit and spices, including when to add fruits and spices, whether to use fruit concentrate, whole fruits, or fruit flavors, whether to sanitize spices before adding them in secondary, and more!

Further Reading:
To the Larder! Experimenting with Fruits and Spices
How We Brew Everything We Brew

Video Transcript:
​It’s the episode you’ve all been waiting for, assuming that all of you have been waiting for the episode where I talk about nutmeg.

Welcome to Ask the Meadmaker, where I, Ricky the Meadmaker, answer your questions about mead making, mead drinking, mead brewing, and really any question you’re willing to send to me. This is part four of possibly four possibly more, depending on the questions I get by the end, of basics about mead making And as promised, it’s an episode all about fruits and spices in mead. 

And the first one is easy: When do I add fruits? And the reason it’s easy is, ooh it’s complicated. Uhhh… Let’s see. Usually if it’s a sugar heavy fruit like cherries. Uh, you add them at the beginning, so that you can ferment those sugars out. And the fermentation process usually won’t take up all the flavors. Citrus is usually added at the end. But not always. Strawberries are one of the only common fruits that’s almost added always in the secondary fermentation – because although there are sugars in it, it’s such a subtle flavor – so the reason it’s easy is because, ooh, you’re just gonna have to experiment.

Our next question is juice concentrate or natural fruit flavors. And the answer is, concentrate is convenient, and usually you can get things in concentrate that you may not be able to get in pure juice form. Juice is great if you can get it. Natural fruit flavors are, for the most part – there are no hard and fast rules, but for the most part -to be avoided.

Our next question is just as easy as the first one. When do I put in the spices? And the answer is, oh, obviously. Let’s see, uh, cinnamon is weird because you can put it in at the beginning or the end, if you put in at the beginning, you’ll get some yeast scrubbing, which means it will change the flavors that you extract due to the yeast interacting with some of those compounds. Also, it’s a bark technically, which means you can get the effect of oak aging while extracting cinnamon flavors. Uh, cloves are very intense, nutmeg is very intense. (I know you’ve been waiting for it.) So we recommend putting those in at the end, tasting it every day. And then going, “Uh, that’s enough,” and racking it right off of those spices and packaging it. Uh, let’s see, what other common spices – oh, herbs. Herbs usually go into the secondary. What did I say about that first thing? Oh yeah, you probably have to experiment. I know I keep making it sound like experimenting is a bad thing. It is not. Experimenting is the best because then you have a whole bunch of mead.

We’re gonna breeze right over the question of how much spice to add. And you need to see my thing about experimenting. Also, you can add a lot and rack it off really soon afterwards.

So one of the big questions in homebrewing in general is do you sanitize your spices? So you’ve gone through all this work of making sure you have a clean must when you start your fermentation, and now you have a great mead. Do you have to sanitize those spices? And the answer is, that’s a tough one. But the best way to sanitize a spice, if you’re going to do it is drop them into vodka, then you get the addition of high ethanol extraction on some of those compounds, and you pour the whole thing into your mead, then it’s a little boozier has a lot of spice flavor, and you don’t have to worry about the ingredients not being sterile.

And our last question this week is: Are there special dangers about adding spices? This is a curious question because there are things that are safe until there’s an ethanol extraction of them. But for the most part, anything you might want to add to your mead would be safe, as far as I know, but I am not a medical doctor. And if you’re questioning it, either do a lot of research or don’t use it. It’s the best advice I can give you. There are so many safe ingredients you can use.

So that was our last question this week. Keep sending them and I’ll get to them as soon as possible. Cheers.

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