Seems the mead-making is becoming a regular part of my brewing/fermenting rotation. And so without fanfare, here is Couples Massage, my passionfruit melomel.
To be honest, there was no special or particular inspiration for this mead. First, I thought it might be fun to make a melomel. Second, I wanted to make a mead while I took time off at the end of the year — so I hastily threw this formulation together. Lastly, when the day came to brew it, I thought to myself Just how fast could I make a batch of mead?
About a week ahead of the brew day, I reviewed the Nordic Farmhouse and Psychopomp (both recipes are open source) to get some ideas about how much fruit to use, when to add it, etc. Then I picked the fruit I wanted to use (passionfruit seemed fun). The rest is just honey, water, and yeast.
I started the timer around 3pm that afternoon, adding 5 gallons of water to my kettle and heating it up to 105°F. I ran off 2 gallons into my mixing bucket then spiked that with 5 (crushed) Campden tablets and 4 oz. of yeast nutrient. Next, I added 8 lb. of honey to make the must. The passionfruit puree (49 oz. of it) went into the carboy. I ran off the must into the carboy, then topped up the carboy with water until I hit the 5 gallon mark.
At this point, the must’s gravity was 1.064. I stashed the carboy in my “fermentation closet” to let the Campden tablets do their thing.
I checked my timer. 43:25; then another 20 minutes to clean everything up. Start to finish, including clean-up was 1:03:57 — makes me wonder why I’m not making mead every week?1
After 24 hours, the Campden tablets had killed off any wild bugs that might have accompanied the passionfruit or the honey. I rehydrated two sachets of D-47 and pitched that teeny tiny slurry. Within about 12 hours, I had some activity in the airlock. And a few hours after that, I was swapping the airlock for a blow-off bucket — a first for my meads! After about 2-3 days, the bubbling in the blow-off bucket had subsided enough that I swapped back to an airlock.
After about a week, the airlock activity had all but stopped. I took gravity readings at days 8 and 10 and found that it was holding steady at 1.000. My previous meads (here, here, and here) had all finished at just below 1.000 (by 1-3 points). I wondered about this, but just the same — it seemed fair to call that final gravity.
And as such, I siphoned all of it into a keg and (as soon as Jade Weka kicked) put it on gas.
I’m loving how this turned out. Strong passionfruit aromas and flavors (tart and tropical) backed up by a light and dry base mead — very smooth drinking.
AROMA. Leads with a strong impression of passionfruit — tart and tropical. The base mead provides mild floral characteristics.
APPEARANCE. Very pale. Very clear. Lots of bubbles.
FLAVOR. Very much like the aroma would suggest. Passionfruit dominates with its tropical tartness; it hints at some sourness but not unpleasant and not in an off-flavor kind of way. Honey sweetness is low with hints of wildflower, especially retronasally. Bone dry. There’s almost no impression of alcohol… which is dangerous being that it’s in the 8% range.
MOUTHFEEL. Light and dry. Moderately high carbonation gives it an extra kick of carbonic bite. Very little alcohol warming presents itself.
OVERALL IMPRESSION. Smooth, highly drinkable. Tropical tartness from the passionfruit is assertive and (at least for me) evokes some pleasant memories of being on a Kauai beach.
If I made this again, I might consider lowering the initial gravity a bit. At 8.4% it can be a little bit dangerous to do pint-after-pint. Something closer to 6% would be more like it. That being said, the strength of the passionfruit may be a little much for some people (I still need to shop it around a bit) — I like it the way it is, but I could see it being overwhelming. Having not worked with it before, I wonder how much rebalancing on the fruit side would be necessary if lowering the gravity on the honey side.
The recipe for Couples Massage is as follows:
Starting with the Champlain Water District profile as a base, add 1 Campden tablet per gallon.
- 3 lb. 1 oz. passionfruit puree
- 8 lb. clover honey
2 sachets Lalvin D-47
- Collect 20 qt. water and heat to 105°F. Pour 2 gallons into a mixing vessel (e.g., PET bucket); add 5 Campden tablets and 4 oz. of yeast nutrient. Stir until dissolved.
- Add 8 lb. clover honey to water. Stir until dissolved. Now you have must.
- Add 3 lb. 1 oz. passionfruit puree to sanitized fermentation vessel (i.e., carboy). Transfer the must from the mixing bucket to the fermenting vessel. Top off with water to achieve 5 gallons.
- Let sit 24 hours for Campden tablets to finish working.
- Aerate the must; pitch D-47 yeast.
- Start fermentation at 67°F.
Beyond Brew Day
- Allow fermentation to complete (approx. 2 weeks) at approx. 67-70°F. Periodically de-gas the fermenting must.
- After hitting final gravity, rack to a keg. Make sure to purge the keg’s headspace with CO₂.
- When ready to carbonate, connect to CO₂ at approx. 25 PSI. After approx. 48 hours, shut off gas and purge headspace. Resume CO₂ at 12-14 PSI. After 2-4 days, shut off gas and purge headspace again. Resume CO₂ at serving pressure.
Couples Massage, a passionfruit melomel by Tilde Gravitywerks
- Spoiler alert: I couldn’t drink it fast enough, that’s why. [↩]
About Rob FrieselSoftware engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →
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