Mead Water Chemistry: High Chloride to Sulfate Ratio

In this experimead, a high chloride to sulfate ratio treatment is tested for its flavor and aroma contributions in a dry short mead. The salts were added to a 7% ABV cherry and apple, bottle conditioned, short mead. The salt additions were added after fermentation. Triangle tests are conducted to see if participants can correctly identify the difference between the two meads. Correct respondents also provided feedback on the differences perceived in the two meads.

As far as I know, this is the first triangle test of water chemistry in meads and also the first to evaluate water adjustments after fermentation. The only other research on this topic, which I highly recommend reading, is the article “Influence of Water Chemistry on the Fermentation and Flavor Profiles of Traditional Mead” by Aaron Kueck. Aaron, tested water profiles both before and after fermentation and the flavor impact. What I find fascinating about this study is that the final water chemistry does not perfectly correlate with the initial water profile. It raises interesting questions on how nutrient additions build the water profile. Moreover, it confirms my suggestions (see TANG) that a soft water profile is preferred with meads.

I decided on this recipe since I had friends asking for more of the cream soda mead. I modified the recipe compared to the previous cream soda mead mainly by using US-05 yeast and adding some apple juice to provide depth. I used 2 kg of frozen Polish fermentation cherries, and used the TANG nutrient profile. After fermentation I added Costco Vanilla extract, additional acid, green tea, and a small amount of maltodextrin and bottle conditioned to 2.3 vol. Some of the bottles were treated with the water adjustments at the time of filling and some were left as is.

Recipe: 7%, Cherry Apple Short Mead, June 30th 2018, 5.5 gallon

  • 5.5 Gallon/21L
  • OG = 1.053
  • FG = .994
  • 1 lbs Dutch Gold orange blossom honey
  • 4 lbs Dutch Gold raspberry blossom honey
  • 3 lbs Toba wildflower honey
  • 1.5 lbs Organic Costco wildflower honey (Brazil and Canada)
  • 2 kg of Poland sour cherry
  • 1 liter of fresh organic Ontario apple juice
  • 4 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 6.5 tsp of malic acid
  • 6.5 tsp of acid blend
  • 2 packets of 11.5g US-05 packets

Nutrients:

  • Recommended YAN by The MeadMakr BatchBuildr is 165 YAN
  • 18.85g Go-ferm (115 YAN)
  • 9.7g Fermaid-K (50 YAN)
  • 2g Fermaid-O (20 YAN)
  • Total Actual YAN: 185 YAN

At pitch

  • Made an activation starter using yeast and all Go-ferm for 3 hours
  • Mixed Honey, juice, cherries added loose, and added spring water (profile below– used the larger green spring water from Costco)
  • Added rest of nutrient to must (all upfront)
  • Started at 62 f

Fermentation

  • +6 h blasted for 3 min with pure 02
  • +12 h bubbling like crazy. Dunked the bag in several times. 70f
  • +36 h Dunked the bag in several times. 73f
  • +48 h degassed for last time, left for holidays

Secondary 

  • +9 Days- At semi FG of 1.000, degassed, transferred to carboy, added Vanilla and acid. Added clarifier.
  • +11 Days- dropped perfectly clear, tasted amazing. Added 8oz of green tea to add tannin/body.
  • +12 Days- fermentation restarted. Nooo!
  • +3 weeks – Fermentation done for good. Final-FG was 0.994. Tasted ok but not as good as before fermentation restarted. The flavors were all there and it had a clean fermentation profile, but the flavors were not as melded as batches with D-47.

Bottling

  • ~2 months: bottled using 50g of maltodextrin, 1/2 cup of honey, using a calculation of 2.5 vol at 80f.

Treatment

The treatment was a water chemistry modification. The calculations were completed using John Palmers water profile calculator. The original profile of the spring water was as follows.

OrigWater

For each liter of the treated mead, 0.1 grams of Gypsum CaSO4*2H2O and 0.25g of Calcium Chloride CaCl2*2H2O were added. The salt contributions to the mead was as follows.

FinalWater

This resulted in a final water profile (excluding from nutrients, etc) as follows:

FinalfinalWater

The original Chloride to Sulfate ratio was close to 1-1 and the levels were low. The treated water profile had a higher Chloride to Sulfate to Ratio of 5/3 and levels associated with the NEIPA style. A high Chloride to Sulfate ratio is often used in these beers to promote a rounded malt flavour and emphasize the juiciness of hops and esters. In contrast, a higher Sulfate (SO4-2) ratio is often used to increase the perceived hop/bitterness character of a beer in IPAs. Both the ratio and the level are generally understood to be important.

Initial Tasting Notes

This is an good mead. The mead came out really clean. No esters or phenolics were present. However, partly due to the lack of yeast character, the creaminess of the cream soda mead that I had got from using D-47 was not there. It took some time for the favors to integrate, but they did after a few months.

When I originally dosed the meads (pre-refermentation) with salts for myself in a bench trial, I tried several ratios and though that the high chloride water profile added more creaminess, fruitiness and integration of the flavors. I found that the high sulfate samples emphasized the dryness and tannins in the mead, the opposite of what I was going for. I wish I had tried just upping the chloride and not adding any sulfate.

Next time I would not add the green tea, since the tannins weren’t needed at the degree of dryness that it unfortunately ended at. I think I would try a more expressive and fruity yeast next time like US-04. However, it still drinks with a good degree of body and is crushable.

AppleCherryMead.png

Triangle Tests 

Tests were evaluated when the meads were 4 months old at a local Oktoberfest blast with the Kingston area home-brew club, KABOB. Blind participants (other than myself) were asked to identify the odd mead out in a triangle test. The meads were poured 50-50 between in two groups of cups that looked identical except for a marking on the bottom of one set of cups. Randomly, half of participants were given two cups with the treatment, half were given two cups without treatment (as well as the other mead). Participants were asked their experience level with meads, how blown their palate was, and a their status as judges and home/professional brewers. If participants were correct, they were asked to say which mead they preferred and provide some comments on overall impression, aroma and flavor characteristics of the meads.

There were 17 participants, of which I was the only BJCP beer judge and mead judge. I did think the difference between the baseline and treatment was quite obvious. Out of the 17 participants, only 6 were able to identify the odd mead out. Of the 6 that identified the odd-mead out, 5 preferred the mead with salt additions. Here is a summary of the results:

results

More experience with meads was associated with higher success in the triangle tests. Those with less blown palates was correlated with being able to identify the odd-mead out.

experiencemeads

Again, I was the only mead and beer judge. Females who participated fared better than average and experienced home brewers did worse than average.

profile

Importantly, out of the five that correctly identified the odd-mead out, four preferred the mead with the salt treatment. Tasting notes are described below.

notes

Conclusion

This was an interesting triangle test. Like the other experiments, while the p-value of the ability to correctly identify the meads was not significant, I found it more interesting that most who correctly identified the meads preferred the meads with the salt additions. Chloride additions are now part of my arsenal.

Peer Review (From Modern Mead Makers Group)

Seth Clearwater: “Thanks for looking into this — I’ll be curious to see where this goes. One thing about salt additions from the beer world: those are almost always added in the mash/sparge stage and NOT after fermentation. I would suggest playing with these additions at both stages to see if you prefer one or the other.

In the referenced AHA presentation, the author seems to link phenols/fusels with water chemistry, but he doesn’t provide any reasoning behind that connection. His tasting notes for the meads indicate some phenolics, but I wish he would have indicated which phenols as that class of compounds is incredibly broad. My understanding is that fusels and phenols are much more associated with fermentation temperature and yeast health than water salts (beer brewers use a nearly infinite range of water profiles and none are specifically associated with phenols). I’m not disputing his report that his judges preferred the softer water meads, but I would have preferred him to leave it at that rather than try to tie in fusels/phenols.”

Jon TalkingtonI would have used a traditional mead using 1 type of honey for your experiment not a melomel. There’s nothing to hind behind in a traditional. You have too much going on in the ingredients list. IMHO”

Peter BakulicAgree with Jon. A dry, low ABV trad.”

Tom Repas agreed with Jon and Peter that it would’ve been best to perform this test with a traditional mead.

Authors Response

 

Thanks fellows. I agree completely that the experiment should be performed on a dry traditional. I used this mead since I had it on hand and I wanted to see if salts would impact the fruitiness and honey character in a short mead with fruit. 

In fact, I hope that the experiment is repeated on several meads. Like beer, I expect, if salts do matter, the optimal levels and ratios will likely depend on the style of mead. My hypothesis is that a dry traditional would benefit the most from improvements in mouthfeel and favor emphasis from a similar salt addition to that used in the experiment. Further, a sweet traditional may benefit from a higher sulfate to chloride ratio if its cloyingness is wanted to be toned down.  

In the future, I plan to experiment with salt additions in conjunction with nutrient profiles. The resulting water profile is likely to be greatly influenced by the nutrient protocol. 

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