Both kinds of taste change with temperature, so chilling mead will emphasize one taste over the other. How an individual reacts to those changes will determine how he likes his mead.
Although simple meads, e.g., those made from just water, honey, and yeast, and more elaborate meads to which have been added a veritable smorgasbord of malted grains, herbs, spices, fruit, and even vegetables all change their taste-profile along with their temperature, obviously, the more complex the mead, the subtler the differences between its warm and cold instances.
Do You Chill Mead?
There is no widely accepted standard defining the temperature at which to serve mead. Several surveys have shown that although most people (in the low 60s percent) prefer to drink mead served warm, a sizeable portion of the American mead-drinking populace likes to drink mead chilled, at least chilled to some degree.
How Chill Is It To Chill Mead?
Why be concerned about how chill it is to chill mead? If you are a cool cat (I’m a bit older than you might think, so please excuse the outdated language), you’d be too chill to care what others think. It all depends on what you want, on how you like it.
It’s not as if you are going to hold people down and pour cold mead down their unwilling gullets against their thrashing bodies and expressly stated concerns. Furthermore, it’s not even a straightforward question.
The same goblet of mead will taste very different depending on whether it is chilled to ice-cold, fridge cold, or simply because you’ve put some ice in it.
Just as with many other drinks, the active ingredients in mead affect our taste buds differently based on the temperature at which they’re served. For example, the perception of sweetness increases as the temperature of the drink drops. A cold pina colada is far sweeter and more welcome than a warm, yucky one.
The perception of bitterness is much the same. A warm lager tastes bitterer than a cold one, and a lager shouldn’t really be bitter anyway, which is why it is usually served chilled.
On the other hand, what we call a bitter and the Brits call a beer, although not all that bitter, is nevertheless served warm, which helps keep its bitterness.
IPAs can be served chilled, but the excellent thing about them–apart from the punch most of them pack–is that they taste better and better as they warm up.
Why Do We Humans Even Like Cold Drinks?
We mostly prefer cold over lukewarm drinks, in the first instance, because cold drinks help cool us down and our bodies perceive this assistance as refreshing.
However, it is an entirely different perception if the weather is cold and wet. On such occasions, the last thing we want on a miserable day of awful weather is a cold drink, opting instead for a warm beverage every time.
Another reason we like cold drinks is that, for our pleasure, manufacturers create modern drinks for us to drink at specific temperatures, mainly in the 3°F to 5°F range. This is the range to which drinks chill when left in fridges. Fizzy pops, lagers, and many other beverages are all designed for us to drink in that narrow temperature range.
Beverages like coffee and tea lend themselves to the opposite case; they can taste much better when piping hot. However, have you noticed that many hot drinks do a great double act and can be equally delicious when served cold? Greece loves ice-cold coffee, just as our American south loves ice-cold tea in the summer.
Different Varieties of Mead And How They Chill
How Mead Is Affected By Chilling
If you know anything about honey, you’ll know that there are many honey varieties, just as there are numerous varieties of grapes. This means that, as with wine, mead can taste completely differently almost from bottle to bottle.
Mead made with only one type of honey takes on that single honey’s character, but many makers mix and match different kinds of honey, always searching for the perfect blend.
Along with honey, mead makers can choose from fruit juices or fruits, vegetables, and even grains. Almost anything can go into making mead as long as the final product is pleasant.
However, the drink itself gets altered at a chemical level with each additional ingredient, and its physics changes forever. Specific gravity is one such metric (the heaviness of the fluid, in layman’s terms), and heat capacity (how hard it is to heat or cool the liquid) is another.
Technical Considerations When Chilling Mead
It isn’t necessary to become a scientist to understand what goes on when you chill mead. The information I’m about to provide is primarily common sense, and most folks can work it out for themselves anyway.
The specific gravity of mead and how it affects chilling
In layman’s terms, a fluid’s specific gravity is its density–a measurement of its heaviness in a given volume. For example, if we were to compare a glass of beer to a glass of water, which would weigh more? What if we used that same glass to weigh our mead? Would it be more or less?
The point is that the greater a fluid’s specific gravity, the heavier it is, and the more energy it takes to chill or heat it (because there is more of the stuff to cool or heat). Scientists have a way of describing the amount of energy it takes to chill or heat fluids; they refer to this as the fluid’s specific heat capacity.
Specific Heat Capacity of Mead and How It Affects Chilling
If it takes a lot of energy to cool a volume of liquid, it will take that same amount of energy to heat it up again. So, if you drink a mead that has a high specific heat capacity, your body is going to have to supply more energy to warm it up to body temperature compared to mead with a lower specific heat capacity.
There is anecdotal evidence that we enjoy drinks that heat up more slowly than those which heat up quickly. So, when made with ingredients that create mead with a higher specific heat capacity, it will taste nicer chilled.
In short, including fruits, grains, and vegetable matter will create a better-chilled mead. Simpler meads, for example, those made from basic components, will chill quicker, warm quicker, and taste less enjoyable when cold.
There is a simple but obvious caveat to all this. If your mead tastes perfectly disgusting in the first place, it’s not going to matter much how cold you chill it, it will still be awful!
Afterword: Do You Chill Mead?
Like many other kinds of drink, a goblet of mead does not taste the same hot, warm, or cold. Each temperature range offers a different experience, and much depends on what ingredients went into making the mead.
On the whole, cold suppresses intense flavors while warmth enhances them.
Humans are pretty diverse in gastronomic preferences, so some people are bound to adore heavy, pungent aromas and heavy flavors, while others will prefer these to be subtle and more ephemeral.
Subconsciously, each person will gravitate toward mead served at the optimum temperature for their particular taste.
Frequently Asked Questions on Do You Chill Mead?
Is Mead Better Served Cold or Warm?
It depends on the person’s preference and depends on the ingredients in the mead. Mead will take on a different flavor or character depending on the ingredients used and their temperature. Meads with more complex ingredients like fruits, vegetables and spices might taste better chilled than simpler meads.
What is Mead Made Of?
Mead is basically a sweet wine made by fermenting honey and water. Flavors from fruits, spices and other ingredients may be added to create many different varieties, similar to wine.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.