Guava honey mead

Guava honey mead is really known as a melomel; it's a wine with a difference.

Let me start off by saying that whilst I've been brewing conventional mead and beer for at least thirty years, this is the first time I have tried making a melomel. We have a glut of guavas this year and are looking for ways to preserve the important phytonutrients in the fruit.

10kg of cherry guavas for a melomel.

May I add this is really for beekeepers who also have access to large amounts of fruit. If you are going to brew a 25 litre carboy you will need nearly 20 pounds of natural honey; in South Africa that will cost you around R1500 or more.

Beekeepers are always looking for ways to use their "gleanings;" the mixed wax-cappings and honey that are a byproduct of our hobby.

Ingredients

  1. 10 kg guava fruit
  2. 8kg honey
  3. Or 21 kg of wet comb and cappings mix[2]
  4. 1 large lemon
  5. 10 cloves
  6. 1 large ginger-root the size of your hand
  7. Tea from 20 guava leaves, boiled for 15 minutes in rain water
  8. 1 sachet yeast
  9. 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient

I would not go with more than half your honey from the gleanings; it's simply takes up too much room in the carboy.

Go for it

I made this batch of guava honey mead, or melomel to be more precise, on 4th May, 2022.

Mashing cherry guavas for a honey mead.
  1. Sanitise all equipment.
  2. Wash fruit and then cube.
  3.  Place cubed fruit in fermenter preferably without pips.
  4. Add lemon chopped into slices; first remove the pips and skin.
  5. Make a tea with 1 litre unchlorinated water and brew the guava leaves for 15 minutes.
  6. Add to the fermenter.
  7. Add the cloves and chopped-up ginger.
  8. Place honey or wet comb into a bucket and using 10 litres water agitate with your creamer until comb is well broken up. Place the mixture into the carboy with the fruit. Ensure there is at least a 10cm space between the top of the liquid and the lid; it will start foaming once fermentation starts. Watch carefully that it does not overflow in warm weather.
  9. Measure the acidity and SG; and taste.
  10. Add 1 tsp white-wine yeast for every 5 litres of must; stir into warm water at 35*C and pour it in after 20 minutes; add the nutrient, or a small block of comb, say 5cm, that is full of fresh pollen.
  11. Fit the seal and air-trap.
  12.  Ferment for 6 days then agitate vigorously to break the guava up even more; then after two weeks remove the fruit pulp and allow the bubbling to continue.
All hive cherry guava mead in carboy.

6 weeks stage

  1. After 6 weeks test the pH again.
  2. If a plastic fermenter is being used, rack now into glass demijohns.
  3. Fill the gap above the liquid with a syrup made from a ratio of 1 litre of water to130g fructose.
  4. Leave for 12 weeks.

12 weeks stage

  1. After 12 weeks or when fermentation has finished, do SG and pH tests again.
  2. Then siphon the liquid from the fermenter into a demijohn, trying to avoid the sediment.
  3. If it is clear and tastes good, bottle; it will likely need to be racked again.

Acidity

The pH range you want is 3,5 to 4,5. Add 1.25ml of bicarb or tartaric acid per 0.5 adjustment on 5 litres in tranches; it may bubble over.

After mixing the powder in, recheck the pH. I usually do my adjustments before fermentation, but have needed to do it again at racking sometimes.

Saligna honey tends towards being alkaline. So I usually add 5ml of Tartaric acid.

If your pH is 3 add 3.75ml Bicarb. If it is 5 then add 3.75 ml Tartaric acid, both in powder form. Stir doing your best not to let air into the mixture.

Air will start an oxidisation process, which might end up with a vinegar. It will then be nice on salads but not for consuming as your evening tipple.

Question and answer

Cherry guavas are almost all pips. I take it something in the seeds would detract from the melomel. Is that correct? Is using the whole fruit at the fermentation stage detrimental? 

In all fruits the pips have an oil they emit during fermentation; you could try leaving them in. It may become rancid. Going the “all hive” route it is best to put the fruit pulp in a muslin bag; remove it after two weeks.

The fruit pulp can then be used for making jam; in a sense during fermentation it has been pickled.

I use this device for creaming honey. Would it do, or should I make another with a shorter paddle? 

The one you use to cream your honey should be fine. However if you can get a stainless-steel paint stirrer, it’ll be even better.

Paddle for creaming the honey.

Roughly how many grams of ginger would you use? Or how long a root is best? 

A root about the size of your hand, cut in slices of about 3mm is best. Remember to remove the skin. It can be scrapped off using a serrated-knife.

In general how large a space is left between the liquid and the cork in a demijohn? 

I wouldn’t use a demijohn for this; either a bucket or a 25 litre wide-mouthed carboy. Almost a quarter of the height of the vessel must be clear. The gas production lifts the mass of cappings right out of the liquid. Alternatively you can agitate every few hours to keep the floating wax below the surface of the fermenting hydromel. However this needs to be done very carefully. You do not want to add oxygen as this will spoil things.

So the time interval is not cast in stone. At first racking can be anything from 3 to 12 weeks from start.

The secondary fermentation is to allow the mead to mature.

A guava honey mead like this can be ready to drink from 18 weeks from the start; about 4 months.

Cappings can be left on for a long time, or you can separate them after 3 weeks.
If your SG is too high you can add water. Just make sure it has been boiled.

It might be an idea to make a box with polystyrene to house the mead. Going below 18°C might cause the ferment to get stuck; or have an infra-red light shining onto the carboy to warm it up at night.

Racking

Racking of the guava honey mead is done to separate the liquid from the dead yeast cells that have settled at the bottom.

The first racking is usually done after some 2 to 3 months; usually it will be quite murky with small particles in suspension. Check and adjust the pH.

The second rack is done after it clears, usually 6 to 12 months later. One could then bottle after a few weeks.

A third racking may be necessary a few months later if it hasn't cleared.

Ask anyone who bakes or brews; yeast has a mind of its own. Sometimes it starts bubbling again months after it has cleared and you would have thought that all fermentation had ceased.

There is no reason not to start drinking your guava honey mead whilst it's still murky. It is an excellent probiotic; those yeast cells simply contribute to the normal flora in the gut.

Guava honey mead

Guava honey mead can only realistically be made if you have easy access to natural honey and the fruit; a wonderful aperitif.

Should you feel tempted to brew your own, this is the basic mead equipment you will need.

  1. What is Melomel Mead?
  2. 8kg gleanings + 3kg honey

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