Better brewing through science.
I've been thinking about testing some water chemistry parameters in mead. Water chemistry makes a huge difference in beer, so I imagine it would in mead as well. The only testing I've seen was done by Kuri (gotmead.com member), but I didn't really get a firm conclusion out of it as far as taste is concerned. I also feel I need to taste it myself side by side with full tasting notes to really draw any conclusions. While things don't necessary translate from beer to mead, perhaps something can be gleaned:
Common Ion Concentration in Beer and their Contribution to Flavor Profiles.
Note: mg/L is equal to ppm.
Magnesium - 10-30 mg/L
-Too small a range to tweek.
Sodium - 70-150
-Rounds out the flavor. Too much is very bad(salty). Stay in mid-range. No tweaky.
Chloride - 0-250
- Much like salt, it rounds the flavor. Stay in the mid range. Too much is like using heavily chlorinated tap water. No tweaking.
Calcium - 50-150 mg/L
-Flocculation, hardness, and mouthfeel. Chalkiness if overdone.
Sulfate - 50-150 (up to 350 in IPAs)
-Enhances hop bitterness; make beer seem drier and more crisp. Not sure in mead. Maybe crispness?
Carbonate - 50-250 mg/L
-Neutralizes acidity; Can remove crispness from ales if overdone.
Based on this list, I would say no tweaking to magnesium. Metallic flavors are never a plus.
Sodium and chloride can be set to a mid-level.
Carbonates are set already due to my normal addition of potassium carbonate. I know the yeast are happy with this, so no tweaky.
That leaves us with calcium and sulfate levels for testing.
I currently use Ozarka spring water. I want to stick with this instead of using distilled water due to the trace nutrients. Plus, I already know it makes good mead. If I look up the Ozarka spring water profile I get the following for the relevant ions:
Calcium - 2.1-7.8 mg/L (5)
Sodium - 1.7-12 mg/L (10)
Chloride - 1.2-20 mg/L (20)
Magnesium - 1-2 mg/L (2)
Bicarbonate - ~10 mg/L (10)
Sulfate - 1.1-4.9 mg/L (4)
- ( ) indicates values I used as source water.
For the first experiment, I think I'll make the following parameters standard: Sodium - 50; Chloride - 50; Magnesium - 2.
I am proposing 4 meads as follows:
1. Normal BOMM with normal spring water.
2. BOMM with standardized sodium, chloride, and magnesium.
-0.25 g NaCl + 0.25 g Baking soda per gallon, also raises HCO.
3. Number 2 with high calcium (150).
-0.7 g CaCO3 + 0.75 g Ca(OH)2 (slaked lime), also raises HCO.
4. Number 2 with high sulfate (100).
-0.7 g Gypsum, also raises calcium to ~50.
All calculation were performed here:
Materials are already ordered.