hist-brewing: Re: Mead

Al Korzonas korz at xnet.com
Mon Jul 27 13:44:56 PDT 1998

Sorry about posting so late on this topic, but I was at the
AHA Conference in Portland all last week.

Henry asks about Meadmaking.  Although I have only been making mead
for two years, I have had some critical success in this area and
discussed it at length with mead experts before I began, so I'd be
happy to share what I've learned.  Actually, I'll just supplement
what others have posted, if I may...

Pug writes, quoting Henry:
>> fall to the bottom of the pot and burn. But one recipe said make sure the
>> water has come to a rolling boil before you add the honey.
>There are several schools of thought on this one.
>1) Don't every boil the honey cause it destroyes the flavor.
>2) Boil the honey to get the protien (scum) out.
>3) Simmer the honey to get the protien (scum) out.
>Personally I do either 1 or 3. When you boil you have the risk of
>carmelizing the honey. Simmering will pasteurize it without risk of

Any kind of heat will drive off aromatics so your mead will be less
aromatic.  "Destroyes" is perhaps a little strong a word, I would
say.  Boiling and simmering both reduce the aroma of your mead.  On
the other hand if you don't boil, your mead can (and most often is)
slightly cloudy (due to proteins, just as Pug suggested).  So,
you have a trade-off clear less-aromatic mead or slightly cloudy
more-aromatic mead.  I chose to not boil.  I simply boiled some
water to drive off the chlorine and sanitise the water, turned off
the heat, added the honey and a pinch of Fermax yeast energiser
and then immediately cooled the must to pitching temperature (70F).

Dan writes:
>"Must" is wine before it becomes wine. The yeast sediment is 
>typically called "yeast sediment". (In brewing, it is sometimes 
>called "trub".)

I thought in mead- and winemaking the sediment is called "the lees."

>of a one-week ale, a single-stage fermenter). Sometime before the 
>end of two weeks, it has stopped producing CO2 fast enough to 
>prevent the wine/beer/mead from oxidizing. (Also, plastics are 
>also slightly oxygen-permeable; not a concern over the short 
>term, but becomes a problem if it's in the plastic for an 
>extended period.)

Good point... although I think there is more oxygen ingress through
the interface between the lid and bucket than through the plastic

>Use it as a primary fermenter. You'll probably end up transferring 
>a lot more sediment to the secondary than you would if you had 
>used a racking cane and down-flow thimble, but that shouldn't 
>be a concern--it won't be enough to cause autolysis problems.

The mead that won the gold medal in the nationals was *never*
transfered.  It spent it's whole life in the same carboy (8 months
before the competition).  Some of it is still in there... yes, the

>> I am a little nervous about the siphoning
>> part of brewing. I read you should not use your mouth because
>> the bacteria from your mouth can infect the batch.
>I read that all the computers are gonna crash in the year 2000 
>and we'll be without electricity for at least ten terror-filled 
>minutes. C'mon, ya can't believe every myth you read. 

Actually, it is guaranteed to infect the batch, but then again,
the batch is already infected.  None of us can maintain 100%
sterility in a kitchen or basement.  The question is, will the
infection you introduce ruin the mead/beer/wine.  Often not.
Sometimes yes.  I made wine for the first time last year.  The
vintner from whence I purchased the grape juice simply used
his mouth to start a siphon.  Being primarily a homebrewers, I
was taken aback.  The wine seems to have turned out alright,
but I would like to point out that the *first* carboy he filled
(out of four) started fermenting *before* I added yeast the
following day (it had been sulphited and stored at 45F... I had
to wait until the next day for the juice to warm to pitching

Bottom line: I suggest making every effort to
minimise risk of infection (there's yeast in your mouth too!).
This includes finding an alternate way of starting a siphon
besides using your mouth.  I fill mine with Iodophor and then
use that to start the siphon.  This isn't very smart, acually,
because I can ruin the must/beer if I let the iodophor go back
up into the source container.  It is far safer to use the
sanitiser to start a water siphon and then use that water to
start the must/beer/wort siphon.

Mark writes:
>I have found a great way to use your mouth without the risk of infecting
>the mead or beer.
>**  Gargle with vodka or whisky!!!!    *******
>The high alcohol will kill mouth bacteria.  Swallow after gargling or
>spit it out, your choice.

Actually, contact time for sanitation with alcohol is 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes with alcohol in your mouth, you might forget why
you were sanitising your mouth ;^).

>You can either boil or bring the must to 170 degrees to sterilize.
>boiling will destroy the proteins more thoroughly than just pasteurizing
>the honey must.

Actually, even boiling does not sterilise... sterilisation means even
the spores are killed and most spores laugh at 212F.  Furthermore,
it's not destroying proteins that you want to do, but rather get them
to coagulate.

Actually, to be *historically* accurate, I would say that some bacterial
infection was 100% assured in all fermented beverages made more than 100
years ago.  This is a historical brewing group, after all.


Al Korzonas, Palos Hills, IL
korz at xnet.com

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