Taste it! Honestly it's a rare water that's unsuitable for mead. If it's highly chlorinated let it sit out overnight. Don't use distilled water. Apart from that if it's good to drink it'll make good mead.
Though if you are interested academically, there are some elements for targeting optima from a yeast health standpoint, but it's small potatoes compared to proper starter preparation.
What I am aiming to do is to make a traditional mead, just honey, water, and yeast... I'm a beekeeper, so I will be able to take care of ingredient 1. I know that the flavor profile can change depending on extraction times and from year to year but that doesn't concern me. I see it as what makes it unique. I've done a batch of mead before and some beer as well. For those I used charcoal filtered water I believe. What concerns me about the bottled water is that I really don't know what is going on with it. I also don't like our tap water, so that is out. My cousin has a well, so we are hoping to utilize that as our source, as it is clean tasting. I would like to academically learn as much as possible so that I can hopefully produce consistent results. For the first round I will be making 5 gallons of must and distributing into into 1 gallon carboys for use with various yeasts.
Do you have an opinion on the yeasts, which is better for a traditional? Should I just start another thread about that?
I'd stay away from 'purified' water. You want the minerals in water. When I talked to the brewmaster at Two Brothers Brewing, he said they use the city water right out of the tap. Obviously they had it tested before doing this, but unless it is highly chlorinated, as Ben said, use water that has some 'body'.
You can check out the stickied "intro" thread for some info on yeast management and ideas for picking your strain based on your recipe goals (sweetness/dryness, alcohol content etc). As to the water, if you want to get really freaky you can get an analysis for the well or ask the municipality for a water report. If you do, be sure to explain WHY and that you want the TDS breakdown; they usually get a little testy and assume that you're trying to complain about sanitation or contaminants. That said, water analysis is a lot more important for brewing (and only really at an all-grain level) than for meadmaking: many of the trace minerals that yeast need are in the honey. I do add small amounts of magnesium sulfate and calcium chloride to my water for all beverage-making, but in very small and carefully targeted amounts since my tap water is extremely pure (you can see the glacier where it lived a couple days ago out my window ).
Honestly I wouldn't worry much about the water if you like it.... most water that's too soft (like mine) tastes kind of "flat" from not having enough mineral content: unlikely in well water. Consider a small amount of yeast nutrient (not energizer or DAP, that's a different product with a differet goal though sold interchangeably by some vendors) for a trad; they can be nutrient-deficient musts which might hamper yeast performance.
Does your R.O. system add minerals BACK INTO the water after processing ?
If not, it is not good to be drinking. R.O. processed water has no minerals and will leach them from your body. Things like calcium, potassium, salt, ETC.
DVR, I have to chuckle as I want to answer your question with a question, tell me about the meads you make...
I assume: mead is a beverage of fermented honey and water, perhaps a few other ingredients.
In essence, I mix honey, water, yeast, measure specific gravity with a hydrometer and make sure the mead will be of sufficient alcohol content. The lowest I have made is 11% ETOH. Primary ferment roughly a year. Secondary a while longer (months to years). Bottle in corked wine bottles or crowned beer bottles or grolsch flip tops. Age. Doing so improves the quality of most of them.
I age white wines quite well also. Fermentables with some fruits (apple and pear wines and meads) seem to not taste as well after a few years, I understand many of them by the moniker "country wine". My straight meads are exceptional, recently had one from 2004.
I see. I should have been a bit clearer as I meant that my mead goes bad 6-9 months after bottling. I have never left it in the primary for a year though, usually about 6 months. My process is almost identical to your surprisingly (other than the time at each stage). I think I will try to extend the primary and secondary stages and see how it goes.
What type of yeast are you using? Do you make a sweet or dry mead?
All kinds of yeast, I generally refer to the Schramm book for style guidance. My extended fermentation is generally from laziness and waiting for clarity. If your mead goes bad I would look at cleanliness issues. I try and avoid bleach, run my bottles through the dishwasher on high temp, boil corks or crowns, use common brew disinfectants for cleaning, wipe down the kitchen with bleach.
Beyond that, I would encourage you to ask about this issue at the mead-lovers digest, info located here: http://talisman.com/mead/
The things to remember in my opinion- no chlorine (easy to remove - let it sit as mentioned earlier), you want minerals, if your water comes from a commercial source such as a municipal system- bottled water is far less regulated than your tap water is. In other words, as mentioned, if you can drink it without bad tastes or high chlorine levels and it hasn't been distilled - use it. Bottled water is a personal choice, but the bottled water industry is almost unregulated. Municipal systems are usually highly regulated and monitored. I won't waste a dime on bottled water because it may have come out of a garden hose somewhere and got a nice label applied. That said if it says 'srping water' it needs to be spring water, other than that, almost anything goes in the bottled water business. We drink RO water, but filter chlorine only from the water that goes into our koi pond or our mead.
A forum community dedicated to beekeeping, bee owners and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about breeding, honey production, health, behavior, hives, housing, adopting, care, classifieds, and more!