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Thread: sparkling mead

  1. #1
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    Question

    I recently made a batch of sparkling mead and am already preparing a second. I thouroughly enjoyed the first lot, but am keen to get more bubbles and would like them to be smaller and more champagne like. I understand that temperature is the key to this, as in the lower the ambiant temp is during the second ferment the better, but would like advice on any other methods. I use gervins champagne yeast and fliptop bottles.
    time is passing...

  2. #2
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    I think you are going to have a hard time getting champagne-like mead in flip-top bottles. Those just won't hold the kind of pressure necessary to get champagne-like carbonation.

    Not that I've ever really played with carbonation temps. Varying winter to summer ambient temps always seems to give me the same beer-like result.
    <a href=\"http://www.slezakfarms.com\" target=\"_blank\">http://www.slezakfarms.com</a>

  3. #3
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    Temperature will effect the rate of CO2 production, but the total amount of carbonation (which would relate directly to the amount of bubbles rising) is determined by how much sugar the yeast ate no matter how long it took. It's a function of volumes of CO2 in solution. I'm not aware of fermentation temperature relating to the size of bubbles... any references on that? With Champagne (capital "C" only) the chaptalization does involve cool temps, but only to settle the yeast in the neck of the upside-down bottles to facilitate disgorgement AFAIK.

    For finer bubbles, I carbonate at a slightly higher level. If you carbonate much over that, the bubbles actually get bigger because there's more CO2 leaving solution when you pop the cap and the bubbles join as they rise.

    I've had swingtops so carbonated that they emptied (on the ceiling) when I opened them without bursting the bottle; I'm not sure that they can't stand up to Champagne levels of carbonation which (I'd have to look it up) I think run only in the maybe eight or nine volumes CO2 range. Maybe if the bails were maladjusted and they didn't clamp hard, but they should seal as well as just about anything.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  4. #4

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    If you recently made the batch and are making a second, it means that you drink enough to invest in kegs. Force carbonate to whatever level of CO2 you want.

  5. #5
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    One thing that will depend on temperature is CO2 solubility within the mead. Gasses are more soluble in a liquid as temperature goes down. That's why soda tastes better refridgerated... it holds more CO2 for a longer period of time (however long it takes it to warm up). I'm not sure how greatly this affects what you're looking for, but thought I'd throw it out there anyway.
    Central IL... where there are more hogs than people and more soybeans than hogs and people put together.

  6. #6
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    Basically, I've found it hard to find information directly relating to sparkling mead, so much of mine comes from books and articles on Champagne, which I assume (hope?) is transferable.

    One book, 'The Magic of Champagne' by Andrew Jefford talks about the temperatures I mentioned in my first post. He says

    "The cooler the temperature (for the 2nd fermentation), the more lazily the yeasts set about their work. This leisurely pace, however, is crucial, as it is thought to be one of the reasons why champagne has such deliciously petite bubbles."

    The other temperature change concerns what Ben was talking about when he mentioned the disgorgement process. This involves super cooling (to as low as -20) the necks of the bottles to freeze the yeast deposit to aid removal. This is a seperate process to the 2nd ferment however.

    Coming back to the innitial question though, is there anything else I can do to improve bubble texture. For instance, I use honey for the 2nd ferment, whereas I've seen corn syrup mentioned in other recipes, and I believe that some champagne houses use a simple sugar solution (I don't know whether its cane, beet or what). Does anyone here have any suggestions?

    Also, I've used the same yeast for both 1st and 2nd ferment (Gervins number 3, I think) in the past. Would I be better off using a different yeast for the bottle fermentation?

    Thanks for all the help so far.

  7. #7
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    That's interesting about temp and bubbles. I'll have to ask some of the winer friends about it. I would note that a lot of things that are "thought" to be the case may not pan out under more rigorous scrutiny. Anyone know any data points on that?

    For the sugar and the yeast, I don't think it'll make much difference on a carbonation level at all. CO2 is CO2 whether it came from yeast eating sugar, yeast eating honey, or dry ice from an asteroid . Exaggeration but you get my point. The only thing that might affect your beverage is if there's a significant residual from the priming material or a noticeable change to the batch because of the priming ferment, which is pretty unlikely.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  8. #8
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    if c02 is c02 regardless of where it comes from, then why do different wines have different types of bubbles? for instance, Prosecco bubbles always seem to me to be finer (and smaller) than most cavas, and the variety of bubble stream types in wheat beers is huge. Does anyone know what the different beer producers use for bottle fermentation? is it just sugar again?

    I'll crack on with some testing and will report back when I have some suppositions.
    time is passing...

  9. #9
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    My take is because the wines ARE different. Wine's not as much my forte, but certainly in beer the difference is the beer, not the CO2. For wheat beers, for example, it's proteins (beta-glucans and glycoproteins developed during the mashing schedule) from the inclusion of malted and sometimes unmalted wheat in the grist that cause a change in the surface tension and thus the head. The formation of the bubbles is a function of amount of CO2 in solution and nucleation points, residues and detergents in the glass, glass shape, ETOH level, serving temperature, even atmospheric pressure. For an example that homebrewers can identify with, many homebrewers use corn sugar at the same amount to prime virtually all beers. Nonetheless the production, profusion and retention of bubbles is very different. Similarly with say a commercial pilsner versus a commercial wheat beer (versus a Sprite for that matter). Each are carbonated to very similar levels but you'd never mistake the head of one for the other or the way they form bubbles similarly.

    My guess is that we'll find that it's the beverage in which the bubbles are forming. It's entirely possible that the yeast's action does alter the beverage a tiny bit in carbonation... especially with extended aging on the lees or bottle sediment. As yeast autolyzes it'll release lipids (and other things) which certainly alter head retention and possibly profusion too. Different beverages will have different solubilities as well, likely causing dissolved CO2 to leave solution at different rates. I tend to use only one strain for most of my meads, and I know of a couple meaderies that have similar preferences. I and they note a great deal of variation in the sparkle of different meads that nonetheless share a yeast strain: anecdotal but that's been my observation.

    As far as beer producers that bottle condition, most use one of two methods: they'll either bottle at a gravity that's about 1.002 to 1.005 shy of the terminal gravity (depending on level desired), or add fresh yeast and gyle of known gravity at bottling. Several do this, especially the Belgians who guard their yeast strain(s) jealously. They'll ferment out, sterile filter, and then prime and bottle with a different yeast than their proprietary main ferment strain(s). Chimay is an example. If you're using a widely available strain like Sierra Nevada's Chico ale, they don't bother hiding the main strain. Any brewer can get it from their local brewpub or drop $6.00 for a sterile tube from White Labs or Wyeast (001 California and 1056 American Ale respectively). No pro brewer that I'm aware of that bottle conditions uses sugar, though somebody must in the U.S. for the cost savings; it's just so easy to bottle it with the correct amount of fermentables left when you have that degree of control.

    OTOH, I know that some strains of wine yeast are chosen for their low-foaming characteristics during primary ferment. I think this is as much due to their flocculation properties and early-ferment productions of fusels and other things that are later reused and converted to more innocuous compounds as anything, but I'm not an eonologist by any stretch. Anal-ogist maybe! [img]smile.gif[/img] I guess my take is that I think the carbonation strain is less important than the makeup of the mead.

    Great thread; I look forward to input from techie wine geeks.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

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