hist-brewing: "An Arab Mead"

Jeff Renner JeffRenner at mediaone.net
Tue Oct 23 06:20:54 PDT 2001

"Bruce R. Gordon" <obsidian at raex.com> wrote that Owen Hutchins wrote:

>  vinager, specifically
>>  acetic acid, is biologically oxidized methly alcohol, and can only be formed
>>  from methyl alcohol.

No, no, no, no, no.  Sorry to be so hard on what you've written, 
Owen, but I'm afraid you've simply got it wrong.  After all, the word 
"vinegar" comes from the French "vinaigre," meaning sour wine.  And 
that is what it is - soured wine (or cider, etc.).

Fortunately, fermentation of mead, wine, beer, cider, etc by yeast 
produces almost entirely ethyl alcohol and virtually no methyl 
alcohol.  I say fortunately, because methyl alcohol is quite toxic 
(as opposed to ethanol, which is only somewhat toxic).

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol, also called grain alcohol) (CH3CH2OH) is 
oxidized to form acetic acid (CH3COOH) via the action of the microbe 
Acetobacter (mother of vinegar).

You may notice that there are two carbon atoms in the molecule of 
both ethanol and acetic acid.  Methanol (wood alcohol) is CH3OH, 
which has only one carbon.  It oxidizes into formaldehyde, CH2O.

Many people don't realize that oxygen is necessary for vinegar to 
form.  That means that a well sealed container of mead, wine, beer, 
cider will not turn into vinegar as long as oxygen is excluded.  But 
if oxygen is present, there isn't much you can do to keep fermented 
beverages from becoming vinegar as Acetobacter is ubiquitous.

Some historic information is at the "Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle 
Ages" page on vinegar at
http://www.geocities.com/Paris/1265/cvinegar.html, a link from the 
Meadery http://www.inetone.net/mshapiro/index.html.

Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, JeffRenner at mediaone.net
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943

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