The Mad Trad Trial

I recently realized that I have yet to do a plain Traditional Mead. And, as fate would have it, I also realized I have 4 clear carboys at the same time (usually I do a better job of cycling the brews). So I decided as both a learning experience to fine-tune my basic meadmaking recipe, I thought I’d do two experiments at once.

Variable #1: Chaga Base

As you know, I regularly make mead with chaga tea as a base. But I’ve never done a side-by-side comparison of the same recipe, one done with spring water and the other done with chaga tea. This will therefore be variable 1 in the experiment.

Variable #2: Sumac vs. Oranges/Black Tea

I was taught to use Oranges and Black Tea to change the pH of the must, but later started to use Staghorn Sumac as a substitute, for a similar flavor profile. But again, I had never compared 2 identical recipes, one done with oranges/black tea and one done with Sumac.

So with this variable matrix, I will do 4 unique batches:

Mad Trad A

This one has spring water with oranges and black tea. It is the basic mead recipe I was taught from Harper Meader’s “Measure with your fist, Stir with your arm” method. 3 cups of black tea with the juice of 6 oranges to alter the pH of the must. Start at the beginning. If this group has a control, Mad Trad A is it.

Mad Trad B

Since I first began experimenting with chaga, the first deviation will be that. Mad Trad B also has oranges and black tea as above, but is made with a chaga decoction base rather than plain spring water.

Mad Trad C

Next is the sumac experiment. Mad Trad C is Spring Water with Sumac Tea to alter the pH.

Mad Trad D

Last but not least, Mad Trad D is made with both Chaga Tea and Sumac Tea.

I made all the batches consecutively, so the variables are minimized (temperatures, yeast rehydration and pitch time, etc. are all similar). They were all brought up to an 18% initial alcohol potential reading.

From left: Mad Trad A, Mad Trad B, Mad Trad C, Mad Trad D. Notice how the 2 chaga batches are darker.
From left: Mad Trad A, Mad Trad B, Mad Trad C, Mad Trad D. Notice how the 2 chaga batches are darker.

Let the games begin!

18 Hour Update

So far it seems the tea/orange combo are quicker to ferment. Batch A has the most foam at the top, but Batch B has more bubbles in the airlock. Still early, fermentation hasn’t really started yet for any of them. The next 12 hours will be fun.

 24 Hour Update

All the batches are bubbling now. A and B are almost full-on. C and D are slower but have started. This is evidence that pH levels with oranges and tea are more favorable than with sumac. In both pairs, the chaga bubbled a bit earlier which also seems to support that chaga is good for the yeast.

40 Hour Update

Everything is now bubbling away as one would expect…. and the carboys are all in the cabinet, out of the light. Will check on them regularly, and am definitely looking forward to a mad trad mead shootout later this summer….

10 Week Update

All 4 batches were racked tonight. There is a separate entry detailing the results of it. Mad Trad A has 6% remaining alcohol potential, the other 3 batches have 4% remaining alcohol potential.