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May 11, 2010

Maple Mead

by e1ven

I’ve long been a fan of Maple Syrup.
Real, honest Maple Syrup, rather than the Karo-derived maple-flavored concoction that Mrs. Buttersworth is so fond of selling.
I always love going to Bickford’s (A local breakfast restaurant chain) because you can request actual maple syrup for an additional fee.

Someday after I retire from working full-time, I might enjoy opening my own sugarshack, and gathering my own syrup each spring. It’d be a fun exercise in farming, patience, and practice.

Of course, then comes the question of what to do with the Syrup once I’ve gathered it.

Syrup on Pancakes is a good start, and there’s always maple candies, but I thought it might be fun to try to do more.

Enter the latest project- Maple Mead. [1]

People have been brewing honey and ciders for generations- With a bit of yeast and some starter, it nearly brews itself. Maple isn’t all that different- It’s got plenty of sugar to get things started.

I bought several liters of Grade B Maple Syrup, which is the darker variety usually used for Baking. The Grade B syrup has a richer flavor for the same sweetness, which should suit our purposes well.

The first step was to determine the right Ratio of Maple Syrup to water I’d need.

Preparing to measure

I mixed sparkling water with maple syrup in various concentrations, noting each on a whiteboard.

Just to get a feel, I tested three versions-

1:2
1:4
1:8

After blindly tasting them, and sharing them with a few friends, we agreed 1:4 was a bit strong, but 1:8 might be a bit light.
Since most of my friends aren’t heavy drinkers, and dislike anything with a heavy alcohol flavor, I decided to keep it a bit sweeter than I’d normally go for.
I made up two more “In-between” batches-

3:16
5:32

Of our personal taste-tests, 3:16 was the winner. Sweet enough, but not sickeningly so.

Taste Test 1

Next up, I cleared and sterilized the glass carboy which will house our yeast and maple for the next few weeks. I bought a new water trap, as well as some clean tubing.

Quick Math:
Some quick math extrapolates our 3:16 ratio out to fill a 5 gallon carboy- That gives us 96 oz of Maple to 512 oz of water.

Maple Syrup is 66% Sugar by volume, and 5-10% of the sugar content will convert to alcohol before our yeast starts to die off. This means that we need to add another 3-6 oz of Maple to maintain our sweetness level. As it turns out, Grade B syrup bottles at Trader Joe’s are 25 oz each, so this gives us exactly the 5 extra fluid ounces, if we use it all. What luck 😉

Our fully mixed proto-brew
IMG_0405.jpg IMG_0406.jpg

While mixing the maple to the desired consistency, set aside 4 oz of water to use with the yeast. I warmed 2 oz of water to 105 deg, and added the yeast to let it set, leaving it in the water for 15 minutes before adding it to the Maple. I used the additional 2 oz to clean out the yeast cup, and make sure I didn’t leave useful residue behind.

It’s like a little Aquarium.. That I can drink!

Now, it’s time to wait. Yeast doesn’t like very cold, or very warm temperatures- Ideally it will stay at 75 deg F, and out of sunlight. I found a only-mostly-full closet which has room to hold the carboy during the fermentation process.

Within 24 hours, the mead will start to bubble and noticeably ferment.
You may or may not see a foam on the top of your liquid, but there should be gas bubbles in the trap.

With any luck, Within 4-5 weeks, the mixture will stop bubbling, and it’s time to rack, remove the sediment, and bottle.


[1]
Sure, Technically since it involves no honey, it might be more accurate to call it a Maple Wine, but that’s not very alliterative now, is it?

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