Coffee Berry Mead: The Jittery Blackbird
This recipe and post was contributed by our very own Steve Kent. Enjoy!
New Day Meadery in Indianapolis makes an amazing sparkling honey wine with black raspberries and coffee, called Breakfast Magpie. I know for some the idea of adding coffee to a wine sounds alien, but it works wonderfully. The acid from the coffee makes the berry flavors pop, and the deep, rich flavor of the coffee lends a chocolatey richness to the final product. I thought it would be great to make a Breakfast Magpie clone recipe!
This recipe is for a three gallon batch. You will need about seven pounds of berries for this. I used mulberries that I had in my freezer, but if you don’t have access to mulberries, just about any berry will work well for this recipe. Obviously black raspberries would be ideal, but you can’t go wrong with blackberries, red raspberries, or boysenberries. I find that freezing and thawing the berries helps break down the cell walls and leads to greater juice extraction. I have also had great success (and with a fraction of the effort) by using our Vintner’s Harvest blackberry puree instead of mulberries. The fruit is pasteurized and the seeds and skins are removed, so all you need to do is pour it directly into your secondary fermenter. Most fruit wine recipes call for the fruit added during primary fermentation. While this does make for easier cleanup, I find the violent primary fermentation drives off a lot of the fruit flavor. By adding the fruit during secondary fermentation, you ensure that more of the fruit flavor remains in the final product. One can of blackberry puree will work for this recipe.
When it comes to honey, the most important thing is to use a high-quality honey. Some homebrewers insist on pasteurizing their honey beforehand. I believe this is both a waste of time and results in an inferior final product. Honey is naturally hygroscopic, so microorganisms cannot grow in it. Furthermore, heating the honey to pasteurization temperatures will drive off some of the more subtle flavors in the honey. As long as you observe proper sanitation practices and pitch a sufficient amount of yeast, you will have almost zero chance of infection.
When it comes to coffee, I prefer cold-pressed coffee for all my brewing purposes. To make cold-pressed coffee, simply fill a mason jar 1/3 full with coarsely-ground beans, fill the jar to the top with bottled water, seal it and store it at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The long, cool steeping process extracts all of the coffee flavor with none of the harsh bitterness that comes with brewing the traditional way. You will need about 20 ounces of cold-pressed coffee for this recipe. When I made this recipe, it took about 3 ½ cups of water and three ounces of coffee beans. If you plan on using a milder fruit like mulberries, I recommend a coffee varietal with high acidity. This will help heighten and accentuate the fruit flavors in the final product. A light to medium roast coffee from Colombia or Costa Rica would be a great option for this. If you plan on using blackberries, raspberries, or black raspberries instead, use a lower acid coffee. A Brazilian varietal would be a great option. Finally, this recipe is meant to be kegged, but I am also including instructions for those of our customers who do not keg.
The Jittery Blackbird (makes 3 gallons)
Estimated OG: 1.064
Estimated FG: 0.996-1.004 (1.007-1.013 after backsweetening)
Estimated ABV: 8.4%
4 lbs 4 oz of honey for fermenting
7 lbs of mulberries or 1 can of Vintner’s Harvest blackberry puree
12 oz of honey for back sweetening
20 oz cold-pressed coffee
1 pack Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast (You can use a dry yeast like Lalvin 71B-1122 or Pasteur Champagne, but you will need to add an extra eight ounces of honey during back sweetening)
Yeast nutrient (I recommend Fermaid K)
1 tsp. Pectic Enzyme,
¼ tsp. Potassium Metabisulfite
1 ½ tsp. Potassium Sorbate.
- To a 6.5 gallon bucket, add 2.25 gallons of bottled water, 4.25 lbs of honey and your yeast nutrient to make 2.75 gallons. Stir well to combine and to aerate.
- Pitch your yeast and wait for the mead to ferment dry. The first time I made this, it took four weeks, but your results may differ. Once the final gravity has stabilized, you can proceed to the next step.
- Add your fruit and pectic enzyme to a clean, sanitized 5 gallon carboy or Better Bottle. If you are using fresh fruit, I recommend adding potassium metabisulfite and letting the fruit sit 24 hours to kill any wild yeast.
- Rack the mead onto the fruit. Let it ferment an additional 10-14 days. For the first few days of secondary fermentation, you will want to punch down the fruit cap with a sanitized spoon. If the fruit dries out, it may lead to an infection.
(If you plan on kegging this, go to step 5. If you plan on bottling this and making a still, sweet mead skip to step 8. If you plan on bottling this and making an off-dry, carbonated mead, skip to step 10.)
- Rack the mead to a keg. Dissolve the potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate in ½ cup bottled water and add it to the keg. Purge the keg with CO2 and rock the keg back and forth to mix.
- Stir the 12 oz of honey with just enough water to dissolve. Add this along with the cold-pressed coffee to the keg. Once again purge the keg with CO2 and shake to combine.
- Force carbonate the mead to approximately 2.6 volumes of CO2. It will be drinkable as soon as it is carbonated, but I recommend cold-crashing the keg for two weeks to allow any stray coffee grounds to settle to the bottom.
- (For a bottled, still mead) Rack the mead to a sanitized 3 gallon carboy. Dissolve the potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate in ½ cup bottled water and add it to the carboy. Stir thoroughly to ensure that the sorbate and metabisulfite are evenly distributed. Add the 34 oz of honey and the cold-pressed coffee and then degas the mead thoroughly (for those unfamiliar with this process, here is a handy tutorial http://winemakersacademy.com/degas-wine/). (Optional) You may also add a clarifying agent (I recommend Super Kleer KC) after adding the honey and coffee, but before degassing.
- Let the mead sit in the carboy for 14 days to clear. After 14 days, rack the mead to a bottling bucket and bottle.
- (For a bottled, off-dry, carbonated mead) Rack the mead to a sanitized bottling bucket. Add ½ cup of corn sugar for priming. Let the bottles carbonate for 2-4 weeks before enjoying.
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