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I have a mead that I think has too high of an acid level. I am looking for ways to raise the pH or lower the acidity1.

Roughly 7 months ago, I made a 5 gal batch of mead. The original fermentation got stuck, so I added some FermaidK based upon the local brew shop's recommendation. Initial OG was 1.116, and I added FermaidK at 1.088 and again at 1.042. I can't find the measurement prior to racking, but I think it was around 1.002.

So after sitting for about 6 months in the carboy, the clarity is pretty decent but the mead has a pretty boozy aroma to it. I haven't had many meads, so I don't know how to describe the flavor. It was tasty enough, but perhaps seems really bright. Drinkable but not quite amazing...

I used an acid titration kit to measure the acid level. With 15 cc of my mead and 3 drops of phenolphthalein, it took 7.5 cc of .2N sodium hydroxide to trigger the color change. According to the instructions I have, that's a .75% tartaric acid level but the recommended range for mead is .30 - .50%.

  1. Do I need to do anything to lower the acid level / raise the pH of my mead?

  2. If so, what should I use given that I'm essentially ready to bottle excepting this possible acid level issue.


Relevant questions I found on Homebrewing:

Was probably the most relevant, but I have no idea what will happen to the flavor profile if I add calcium hydroxide (pickling lime) to my mead. The OP on this question was adding at the beginning of the brew process, whereas I'm at the end of it.

Was also relevant and suggested using calcium carbonate, but again the OP was at an earlier stage in the brewing process.

Was somewhat relevant, but I didn't add any citrus to my mead for flavoring.

1 Yes, I'm a bit of a noob in this matter, my apologies for using the terms a little too interchangeably. Thank you to Tobias Patton for helping clarify the difference

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Is this a straight mead, or are there ingredients other than honey and water? I ask because I typically find straight meads to be lacking in acid, and so usually add some acidic ingredients like blackberries, or apple juice. –  Tobias Patton Jan 2 at 21:16
    
Don't confuse pH and total acidity -- they're not the same. Total acidity (TA) measures the amount of acid in solution. pH measures the acid's strength in solution. Some acids are weaker than others, and contribute less to a low pH. –  Tobias Patton Jan 2 at 21:36
    
@TobiasPatton - it's a straight mead. The person who has the other half of this batch has experimented with a few other additions, but he hasn't measured the acidity of his batch yet. And I updated the title to reflect your comment regarding pH vs. acidity. –  GlenH7 Jan 2 at 22:01

2 Answers 2

It's difficult to remove acidity from wine without affecting the flavour. You can add salts (calcium carbonate, potassium bicarbonate) to remove some acidity but this is considered a "last resort" solution.

This PDF claims that honey contains malic acid, though it doesn't give a breakdown. It does, however, indicate that gluconic acid is the primary organic acid, so malic must compose less that 50% of the organic acids. You could try introducing bacteria to initiate malolactic fermentation, which reduces hard malic acid to the more palatable tartaric. This won't reduce the titratable acidity of the wine, but will make the flavour less tart. Both WYeast and White Labs sell cultures of malolactic bacteria.

You could also try cold-stabilizing the mead, as this can cause tartaric acid to drop out of solution, lowering the overall acidity.

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I spent a fair amount of time researching my predicament, so I thought I would capture the highlights with respect to my question.

Please note, CMM below refers to the compleat MeadMaker by Ken Schramm.

I also found a useful PDF which has some notes compiled from CMM. The notes have a few errors, so I would refer to CMM prior to relying upon the notes.

Do I need to do anything to lower the acid level / raise the pH of my mead?

Maybe, maybe not. Chapter 5, page 68 of CMM says meads with 0.8 - 0.9% acidity tend to be overly tart. As my mead is sitting at .75% and doesn't taste overly tart, patience may be more important than futzing with what's there.

CMM also has an interesting bit about getting an incorrect acidity reading that ends up being too high due to gluconolactone converting to gluconic acid. So my measurement may have actually been high from the actual acidity level.

If so, what should I use given that I'm essentially ready to bottle excepting this possible acid level issue.

Regrettably, there aren't many options here. They boil down to (pun intended):

  • Sweetening
  • Malo-lactic fermentation

Before I commit to either of those, CMM chapter 6: Conditioning, Aging, and Using Oak indicates that a lot more patience on my part is required. It is Schramm's opinion that many meads don't really reach peak drinkability until they have aged for at least a year and perhaps two.

Adding some oak chips for a brief period (one or two weeks, maybe four) may also enhance the flavor profile of my mead.

Finally, I found a Q&A blog on brewing that had an additional bit of insight.

De-acidifying chemically is seen as sort of a last resort. It can be done by adding potassium bicarbonate powder at a rate of 2 g/L for a TA reduction of 1 g/L (estimated). … Always de-acidify before pitching your yeast.

To me, that helped confirm that any chemical changes to pH needed to be done prior to fermentation. For post fermentation changes, blending with a milder batch was the recommended route. Not quite feasible in my case since I only have the one batch of mead.


So the Magic 8-ball answer in this case is "Uncertain, ask again later." Time seems to be the critical ingredient that my brew is lacking and I need to put a fair amount more time and patience into it.

I think I'll wait another 3 - 4 months and sample again. If I feel the brew is still off, then I'll consider sweetening what I have.

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1  
In general, I agree with the "give it more time approach". A couple of points though: 1. malolactic fermentation is accomplished by bacteria, won't increase the alcohol content, and will proceed in a high-alcohol wine. 2. the carbon dioxide will dissipate given time, just as the CO2 produced the yeast fermentation does. –  Tobias Patton Jan 3 at 1:46
    
@TobiasPatton - Thanks for the additional feedback! I appreciate your correcting my misperceptions and I have removed them from my answer. –  GlenH7 Jan 3 at 13:23

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