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I am in the process of planning my next mead batch, and I wondered if it would be a good idea to step-feed this one since I am planning a high ABV (18%). How would I do this best?

My recipe looks like this for now:

  • 3 US gal total target volume
  • 5.3 kg honney (amounts to about 3.7 litres)
  • Kitzinger Portwine yeast (max ABV of 18%)
  • Some yeast nutrients and salts

For now my basic idea is to start with about 7.5 litres of water and 2 kg of honey and a third of the nutrients. When the SG has dropped by about a third (should be around 1.044 SG) I'll add another 2 kg and wait for the SG to drop to 1.044 again, then add the rest and let it ferment out.

Is this the best way to do this, or is there something I missed in my research?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In the podcast Moonlight Meadery, Michael Fairbrother talks about stepped nutrient additions (around the 15:00 mark). He adds all the honey all at once, but staggers the addition of yeast nutrients and degasses as well.

I'm sure it's also fine to add the honey in several additions. The advantage there is that you're not stressing the yeast with such high osmotic pressures at the beginning.

He claims a 3 month turnaround time with the staggered additions technique.

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I will be trying the staggered nutrients and staggered sugar additions with my next mead. 3 months from hive to glass would be wonderful! –  mdma Sep 9 '12 at 15:36
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I remember reading about a similar technique in Ken Shcramm's The Compleat Meadmaker. Sounds like a good start to me. Be sure to add the remaining nutrients when you add the rest of the honey as well (I'm sure you intend to, but you didn't mention it in your post).

If this doesn't get you the ABV you want, then I'd try breaking it up into more than three additions or waiting for the gravity to go a little lower before adding more honey.

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I think that mdma has a good point in that step additions will stress the yeast less than pitching them into an extremely high gravity environment.

As for adding nutrients, I would only add nutrients if the yeast appeared to need them. I used no nutrients, acid, or buffers in my mead that won the AHA Gold Medal for Traditional Mead and Braggot in 1997, but granted, it was only a 10% ABV mead.

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