Sparkling Ginger Mead

glass carboy with airlock, golden liquid and a lot of foam; it's working

This is a recipe in progress for a sparkling ginger mead.  I’m adding all my thought processes and decisions here.  I’m making it for my friend Cynthia, unless she tells me she doesn’t like ginger…

Sanitize EVERYTHING, except the spice bag, which doesn’t sanitize well so I boil it.  Spatula, brew bucket, air lock, hydrometer, EVERYTHING.

A day ahead: 1 lb honey in warmed water and 1/4 tsp Fermaid K^^ in an Erlenmeyer flask, stirred until it’s evenly and well mixed.  Pitch Safale S-04 yeast, drop in magnet and place on stir plate.  Do this several times until I get the right spin going on the magnet.  Cap the flask with tin foil and let ‘er go until the texture has thinned, then thickened, then evened out and the apparent swirl speed picks up again (24 hours).  Then she’s about ready for pitching.

For 5 gallons:

  • Safale S-04 yeast+
  • 18 lbs.^ honey*
  • 6-7 oz sliced ginger**
  • Fermaid K~
  • Diammonium Sulphate (DAP)~
  • Deer Park spring water

OG 1.140-1.145

I use cold method (I never boil honey and I try not to heat it much; heat reduces the aroma and flavor compounds).  I’ll pour as much of the honey as I can into a brewing bucket (nice wide mouth on those), then use warmed but not boiling water to rinse out the jars, scraping with a spatula.  Using a brewing paddle, I’ll stir until the water/honey mix is uniform.  At this point I’ll float the hydrometer in the must to see how close I am, topping off until I get the right OG (around 5 gals).

I’ll slice a big ol’ ginger root very very thinly and put it in a boiled-and-cooled spice bag.  Drop it in the must, dunking it well.

Add the one-liter yeast starter.

Add 1/4 tsp Fermaid K and 1/2 tsp DAP, aerate thoroughly.  I use a flanged padded with a drill, unless I don’t feel like using the drill; then I rotate the flanged paddle between my palms really fast for a while, as though I were using a stick to start a fire (I use flint and steel, myself).  Stir like crazy.  The drill is more effective at getting air into the must.

I intend to leave the ginger in the must until I rack to secondary.  At that point I’ll taste and see if I think I’m going to need more ginger flavor; if I do I’ll re-boil the bag and slice another ginger root.

I’ll rack to secondary, and wait 2-3 months; I suspect this one is going to finish early and probably be flavorful earlier than most of my meads.  My average is to wait at least 2 years before I serve a mead of mine.

Cynthia wants it sparkling.  I have two choices: keg it and use CO2 to about 3 volumes, or bottle-condition it.  In the latter case I rack it over a sugar syrup (probably more honey in water) and bottle it in champagne bottles with corks and cages.  Why champagne bottles?  They’re thicker-walled and built to take increased fermentation pressures; champagne is bottle-conditioned.  The corks are held in with the wire cages.  I have a few around from buying Lambics, which often come bottled like champagne, but I would need to invest in enough for a whole batch’s worth of bottles and champagne corks/cages.  There is an argument that CO2 changes the flavor, which I’ll consider when I can tell what this is going to taste like.

~ The plan is to add 1/4 tsp Fermaid K and 1/2 tsp DAP daily after giving the must a good stir until aerobic fermentation slows (the really buy tramadol 50 mg online no prescription visible bubbling part).  I’ve never stirred my must every day, and the idea of breaking the seal on the carboy makes me uncomfortable – fermentation drives out the oxygen and replaces it with CO2, which is far better for the must.  If anything, I may remove the vapor lock and use a sanitized funnel to drop in the DAP and Fermaid K, then replace the lock and slosh the bucket.  The idea is to drive the CO2 out of the must as it’s forming, to encourage yeast fermentation.  Too, Safale S-04 is a bottom-fermenting yeast, and I want it to get as much access to nutrients as possible.

+ Safale S-04 Whitbread strain is a dry ale yeast – meaning it comes in dry form in a packet.  It produces a medium gravity, and the sediment packs nicely.  Of the four yeasts I had in my fridge, this one best suited my goal of getting a semi-sweet finish.  It’s a fast fermenter known for giving big flavor, without adding too much fruity ester, which I don’t want.  It’s a bottom fermenter.  Optimum fermentation temp is 64-75F; my house runs around 66-68 in the winter, and gets cooler at night, which will slow fermentation down.  I use ale yeasts a lot for my meads these days.

^18 lbs of honey divided by 5 gallons gives me 3.5 lbs. honey per gallon, which should be about perfect used with a medium-attenuation yeast to get a semi-sweet finish.

^^Why double-does with DAP and Fermaid K?  Feeding yeast regular small amounts of nutrient seems to really help it finish fermenation faster.  Fermaid K is “a complex formula that provides DAP, free amino acids, yeast hulls, unsaturared fatty acids, sterols, and micronutrients such as magnesium sulfate, thiamin, folic acid, biotin, calcium pantothenate, and other vitamins and minerals”, so it’s got some diammonium phosphate (DAP) in it already, which is why I use pretty small amounts of DAP in combination.

* I’m using 12 lbs of my friend Luke’s honey, and 6 lbs of my friend Matthew’s, both apiarists.  Luke’s honey is a light golden, and has an almost astringent mid-tongue that reminds me of wood.  I’m thinking most of the bees’ diet must’ve been a flowering tree, but I’m no bee expert.  Matthew’s is darker and richer-flavored, so I’m glad it’s the minority honey by quantity, but I really like it.  I tend to favor darker, more complex honeys, but I don’t want one that will compete with the ginger, but rather, set it off.  I almost chose orange blossom honey exclusively.

** I looked up a number of ginger mead recipes to see what kinds of proportions people are using.  Most of them use around 5-6 ounces, which worked well for me since that’s about the size of the ginger root I had in my refrigerator bin.  I did find one recipe calling for 3.2 lbs. of sliced ginger!  I am prepared to taste this carefully when I rack to secondary, and see if I need to add another round to boost the flavor.  I don’t want an uncomfortable amount of heat!  Ginger can aid digestion right up to the point where it burns your stomach, in my experience.  Skinning the ginger doesn’t seem to be necessary, though I scrub it well; the woody outside doesn’t give much if any flavor of its own, and taking it off wastes a lot of good ginger substance.  Slicing thinly is important, though, to give as much surface area as possible to the must so the flavor is transmitted.

~

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10 Comments

  1. Clarification question here…

    “18 lbs of honey divided by 5 gallons gives me 3.5 lbs. honey per gallon, which should be about perfect used with a medium-attenuation yeast to get a semi-sweet finish.”

    Does that mean 18 pounds added to 5 gallons or 18 pounds and enough water to MAKE 5 gallons.

    How I have been reading other recipes has been to start with a 5 gallon volume. I could be completely wrong on how I read them and I want to make sure I am doing things right before I invest in the Honey.

    This looks like a very intriguing recipe.

    Thanks

    • 18 lbs and enough water to make five gallons – my intention is to use the OG to determine the mix of honey and water exactly, then tweak it to 5 gallons or a bit more (’cause I’ll lose some in racking, and a brew bucket can take more than 5 gallons, where a glass carboy mostly can’t). I think we all assume 5 gallon volumes most of the time. I’ll be assembling this tonight, and will be able to say for sure how it works out.

    • I’ve already instigated your buying a beautiful but expensive evening wrap – you’re going to look just wonderful in it – butI probably owe you some champagne bottles. But this does settle the question; I will bottle some or all of the batch for you.

  2. Safale S-04 is an English Ale Yeast, and is thus a top fermenter not bottom; lager yeasts are bottom fermenters. Most wine yeasts are also top fermenters, but there are a couple that are bottom fermenters.

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