hist-brewing: Re: hist-brewing-digest V1 #238

Scott Mills smills at verinet.com
Mon Jan 25 12:31:11 PST 1999

>Scott writes:
>>of the time.  A hygrometer and test jar are cheap, invest.
>Oops... should be "hydrometer."  Scott must have been thinking of his
>cigar humidor while writing.

Thanks for the catch.  What good is the spell check if it doesn't know what
I mean.

>>You can buffer the must by adding some calcium carbonate (chalk) when you
>>are preparing your water.  I usually add a tablespoon or calcium carbonate
>>to my water.  I have not found that this has any effect on the flavor, it
>>just buffers the must so that PH doesn't drop so quickly.  I have also on
>>occasion added a little chalk disolved in a half-cup of water to stuck
>>fermentations  to raise the PH a bit and had them take off again.
>Actually, no... calcium carbonate is just about insoluble in plain water.
>You can add it to the acidic honey must, however, and there it will
>dissolve.  You can suspend the chalk in water, but you can't dissolve
>much at all unless your tapwater is unusually acidic.

Yer right that the chalk doesn't disolve well in water.  I basically add it
at the same time as I add my honey in the same pot.  It gets the job done.
For me mead making is a one-pot process to limit cleanup.  Even if the chalk
falls striaght through to the bottom of the pot, so does my honey when I
pour it in and as I stir to disolve the honey so does the chalk.  I should
have been more specific about the procedure.  I guess I just assume everyone
brews exactly the way I do.

>Incidentally, various honeys will produce a rather wide range of pH's.
>I added no acidity or buffering (my water is naturally about 100 ppm of
>bi/carbonates) to my basswood (linden tree) honey mead and the acidity
>came out just right.  It won the 1st place for Traditional Mead in the
>1997 AHA National Competition, so I must have done something right ;^).

When you say the acidity came out just right what are you refering to.
Apparent acidicty to the tongue or did you actually test the PH.  There is a
big difference.

Certainly honey varies very widely in its characteristics.  A couple of
years ago at a homebrew club meeting we sampled 14 different varietal
honeys.  The difference is astounding.  There is no way to compare a
Buckwheat honey (dark like molasses, with a sulfurous or dare I say "fecal"
aroma) to a light clover honey.  However, honey is essentially always acidic
and unless you have really hard water your must will be acidic and
essentially unbuffered.

The pH of honey ranges from 3.4 to 6.1 with an average pH of 3.9.  With a PH
of 3.9 you are already getting down in the range where it is hostile to some
yeasts and bacteria.  If you want to find out more about the physical and
chemical characteristics of honey check out the National Honey Board website
ad www.nhb.org.  To specifically look at chemistry such as PH the URL is

I'll agree that buffering isn't necessary but I have found it helpful.  I
did a test where I prepared 5 gal of must and pitched the yeast, then I
split the must into two separate 2.5 gallon carboy's and added a chalk
solution to one carboy.  There where then fermented side by side under
identical conditions.  The carboy with the chalk finished in about 60 days,
the one without took about 120 (approximate I wasn't so much interested in
how long as I was in simple proof that the buffering helped).  I have gave
this tip to other local mead makers and they have seen similar improvements.

As I said, it is not necessary.  I won the AHA Gold Traditional in 96 and
didn't treat the water.  However, it was a slow ferment.  My logs showed 60
days in the primary and 210 days in the secondary when I pulled off a 6-pack
for the competition  I was really worried that the mead I sent to the AHA
would carbonate because there was still very slow but steady activity.  The
rest of the mead wasn't bottled for another 6 months.

Al, do you have any of your 97 medal winner left?  I have some 8oz bottles
of my 96 medal winner  left.  Interested in a trade for comparison?  Do you
still have a source for the Basswood honey?

As always, any of the above statements reflect my own experience and
opinions.  Your mileage will vary.

Have Fun,

Ld Eadric Anstapa
mka Scott Mills

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