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Mead Lover's Digest #0498 Wed 18 September 1996


Forum for Discussion of Mead Making and Consuming
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor



Digest returns to life… (Mead Lover's Digest)
In reply to Cheryl's Plastic Taste (Douglas Thomas)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #497, 4 September 1996 (Charlie Moody)
Digested topics (Rebecca Sobol)
Re: Koopman's gravity problem (David J Jennings)
Recipes from competitions (Phoebe Wilson)
Is it done yet? (Tim McManus)
Wine Bottle Covers? ("Geoffrey J. Schaller")
pH and Commercial Meaderies ("Craig Jones.")
article in Atlantic Monthly (Jacob Galley)
autolysis (


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Subject: Digest returns to life...
From: (Mead Lover's Digest)
Date: 18 Sep 96 07:00:55 MDT (Wed)

Well, I *thought* the digest was on autopilot and set to deliver an issue
in my absence. Seems it's not enough to have the scripts to send the
digest; there must be something to trigger them. (This is sort of like
"it's not enough to have a light; you need to turn it on"…or in this
case, "…set the timer to turn it on…")

Mead-Lover's Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA

Subject: In reply to Cheryl's Plastic Taste
From: Douglas Thomas <>
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 11:56:09 -0700 (PDT)

My first guess would be that you may not have a food grade plastic
fermenter. My first batch of wine, made in a new 6 gallon plastic pail
with lid, turned out tasting like a ball point pen. At the time I was in
L.A., and it was difficult to find a good, reliable brew store, but did
locate one in La Canada-Flintridge. The store made their own primaries
by buying 7 gallon food grade plastic storage pails rated for pH levels
of 2 and less, and drilled bung holes and attached handles. I have been
using that primary for 6 years now. It works great! Next primary you
buy, check the bottom for an indication if it is food grade, and see if
there is a pH rating. Some plastics are food grade, to a certain pH, and
start to release polymers when food stuff with a greater acidity level
are placed inside.
My second guess is you may have some off odors created by too high of a
fermenting temperature, which should in time smooth out. Keep in mind
that a mead really is not too drinkable under 6 months of age. I have
just opened a bottle of 3 year old ginger mead and found it is just now
smooth enough for my liking.

Hope this helps

Doug Thomas

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #497, 4 September 1996
From: Charlie Moody <>
Date: Thu, 05 Sep 1996 08:17:06 +0500

>Date: Sun, 1 Sep 1996 15:07:37 -0400

>Fellow bottle washers,

>P.S.- Does anyone know how to get back issues of the Mead Lover's Digest=

>without egaging in computer battle, in the attempt to decompress the
>Stanford Archives?

The archives are *not* compressed – they are plain ASCII text. Just grab=
'em & read 'em.

Subject: Digested topics
From: sobol@ofps.ucar.EDU (Rebecca Sobol)
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 17:44:45 -0600 (MDT)

Subject: OK a few questions…
From: "Jon Grim" <>
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 96 16:09:52 EDT

Hey all.

I have just made my first mead(s) and I have a couple of questions.

I used 30 lbs of honey, added 5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient, boiled
10 min in 6 gallons, then added to 2 separate carboys, each
containing 2 gallons of pre-boiled and prechilled (more or less)
water. I didn't take a starting gravity because a friend ran off
with my hydrometer, and I didn't realize until it was too late.

Question #1: Is it too late to take a hydrometer reading (72 hrs)?
Do I need one anyway?

You'll get lots of different answers on this. My partner and I are extremely
lax about taking specific gravity readings. We almost never take one at
brewing time. Other brewers are religous about taking gravity readings.
We usually take one when we rack, and again before we bottle, but we have
been known to brew and bottle meads without ever taking a gravity reading.

Question #2: Please tell me this cloudiness (and the way it appeared)
is normal and not bacterial infection…

My guess is it's ok.

Question #3: Did I kill my yeast by adding it to the boiled water
too soon?

Sounds like you did kill your yeast. Add some now and it should be ok.

Question #4: When should I rack to a secondary fermenter?

When it's ready and you have time? I don't mean to be flippant, but I
guess this goes along with our laxness at gravity readings. When the dead
yeasties build up on the bottom, when we haven't messed with the batch
recently, when we get together to do brew stuff, if we think it's time to
rack, we rack. "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew."

Question #5: What should the final gravity be, given the 15 lbs
of honey per 5 gallons?

I really don't know. Our standard batch of mead has 10 lbs of honey per
5 gallon batch. We have used a bit more for some and bit less for others,
but I don't think we've ever used that much. I do have a friend that used
15 lbs of honey per 5 gallon batch in a traditional mead. It took forever
to age. It's been 5 years in the bottle and it's getting really close to
*there* now. Generally speaking it seems like the more honey, the longer
it will take to age.

We've only been brewing for a couple of years now. Other people on this
list have been brewing much longer, and obviously know much more than we
do. Some of our friends have been brewing for well over a decade, though,
so we've been drinking mead for much longer than we've been brewing it, and
we have sampled brews that were truely well aged. So far we haven't brewed a
batch that we thought was *bad*, but most (or all) of our's are also not
sufficiently aged to be at their best. Some of our earlier batches are
getting damn good, though, IMHO.

Subject: Approaching Final Gravity…
Date: Sun, 1 Sep 1996 15:07:37 -0400

Fellow bottle washers,

This summer I have started my first meads/melomels using WYeast dry
and sweet mead liquid yeasts. During the second racking of my
blueberry melomel, at six weeks, fermentatin seems to have
significantly decreased. No bubbles are seen on the surface,
although the airlock shows some very slow movement. The s.g. has
dropped to 1.026 from an o.g. of 1.085. After worrying a bit, (I
know Papazian's reccomendations) I added a half tsp. of yeast
extract in one cup preboiled water with no obvious change, (a
mistake?). Can anyone tell me if the activity I've observed is
normal and possibly what the expected final gravity of a melomel
using liquid sweet mead yeast might be?

We just bottled a blueberry mead. We used a dry package of Lalvin EC 1118
Champagne Yeast, prestarted a couple days earlier in a honey/water mix. It
had 10 lbs of honey per 5 gallon batch. This mead went from brew to bottle
faster than any other mead we've done to date. One month. We brewed it
and put it into a glass carboy for the primary, using a large tube as a
blow-off tube, rather than a cork and bubble lock. Then we got busy and
didn't have a chance to rack when we meant to. We never took an og. When
we racked the gravity was already down to 0.996, so the next time we got
together to do brew stuff we bottled it. Tasted ok, young and raw, but
with potential. But then I say that about all our meads. 😉

Since we treat brewing as more art than science, I have no idea of what
sort of final gravity you should expect, or even know how to define normal
activity. We had one batch that was slow to start fermenting. We added
more yeast and it finally took off. Fermentation slowed and we bottled,
thinking it had to be done. It wasn't. Four small bottles blew up on us.
We put it back into a carboy with more tea (it was flavored with herbal tea
to begin with, so we just added more of the same kind) and more yeast,
yeast nutrient, and some ascorbic acid to help prevent occidation, and let
it perk along. We finally bottled it, more than a year after it was
originally brewed. That was 7 months ago. At last tasting it still needed
some aging, didn't seem to be quite there yet, but definately getting
closer. We are very patient with our meads. After this experience, if
we ever have any doubts about whether a mead is ready to bottle or not,
we let it sit in the carboy a while longer, maybe rack again if there's
a thick layer of crud on the bottom. Mead making is not for those who
require instant gratification.

Which leads me to:

Subject: Strange taste in first batch
From: Sheryl Nance-Durst <P_SHERYL@KCPL.LIB.MO.US>
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 1996 10:03:26 -0500 (CDT)

A question from a newbie to all those mead-gurus out there:

I just racked my first batch of mead (strawberry melomel) into my
secondary after 2 weeks of pretty vigorous fermentation. The problem
is that I noticed a very definite taste that can only be described
as "plastic". I've heard about all sorts of nasty smells & tastes
from young meads that end up aging out. Will this taste go away with
aging? And what exactly is it? Did it pick up this taste from the
plastic primary?

I don't know if you are tasting plastic from the primary, or something else.
I usually think of young mead tasting a bit like Listerine, or cough syrup,
but there is no doubt in my mind that it will improve with aging. Whether
or not the "plastic" ages out completely, only time will tell, but you need
to give it time. Some meads (not many) seem to be really good when they
are bottled. I've sampled some that were 5 years old, and not quite there
yet, and these did improve with every sampling. The trick is to have some
left when it's finally done. Maybe next time only leave it in the primary
for a week? We mostly juice our fruit and use a glass primary with a large
tube that fits directly into the mouth of the carboy, so there is room for
the fruit foamy stuff to blow off. You might want to try that for your
next batch of melomel. Either way, don't give up on this batch yet, it's too
soon to tell. FWIW we have never added Camden tablets, or anything like
that. We are very careful about sanitation though, soaking everything in
a mild bleach solution and then rinsing well, pastuerizing the must, and all
that. All IMHO, YMMV and all that.

Rebecca Sobol * * Boulder, Colorado <– Unicorn Unchained Meadery

Subject: Re: Koopman's gravity problem
From: (David J Jennings)
Date: Fri, 06 Sep 1996 14:13:14 EDT

If this is the first time you have used WYeast liquid cultures then

there are a few things you should know

1. Sweet mead yeast has an alcohol tolerance of

appx. 12% this means that it will not survive in any concentration above
this level. I have found that most of the sweet mead that I have made
(around 15 5gal runs) with WYeast stops at about 8-10% and according to
your numbers you are at about 8% now a good rule of thumb is a reading
under 1.020 then gauge by taste

2. always allow for plenty of time for yeast to

prime in the foil packet. I never pitch until the packet is firmly
expanded, when I have rushed the pitch I have had trouble with stuck
fermentation. And anyone can attest to the displeasure this causes. Rule
of thumb 1 day per each month that the yeast is old.

Have the people that told you mead ferments down to almost 1.000

ever used sweet mead yeast? And are they making melomel or methiglin or
straight mead? this will make for a big difference in final gravity

hope this helps and don't forget what good ol' Charlie says
"Relax don't worry have a homebrew"

Dave ( )

Subject: Recipes from competitions
From: Phoebe Wilson <pawi@GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
Date: Mon, 09 Sep 1996 12:14:40 -0500 (EST)

Are any of the recipes from recent competitions such as the Mazer Cup going
to be posted on Mead Lover's Digest? I have a friend who is particularly
interested in braggot recipes, and I am curious about some of the show meads
and the best of show recipe. Thanks!

Subject: Is it done yet?
From: Tim McManus <tmm4264@Galaxy.Net>
Date: Mon, 09 Sep 1996 20:45:26 -0500

I have been fermenting a 5-gallon batch of Melomel (first one) since
around March. The darn thing hasn't done anything in about 1-1/2
months. I keep on racking it every 5 weeks or so. I used yeast
nutrients to speed the process up. It is crystal clear, and I have two

1) Has all of the yeast settled out of the Melomel? If so, what steps
should I take when I re-pitch the yeast at bottling time (yes, I would
like 50% to be sparkling); i.e. amount of sugar, things to watch out
for, etc.?

2) How long should I wait (minimum amount of time) for a *really* good
flavor to be present? Right now it's a bit warm and "scotch-like" on
the way down. Is 8-12 months too short?

Thanx in advance!

  • -Tim McManus

Subject: Wine Bottle Covers?
From: "Geoffrey J. Schaller" <>
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 00:04:36 -0400

While at my old local Homebrew store (I've moved since then), I purchased
some covers fro Wine bottles that are a plastic / rubber material. the
person who ran the store said I could cover the bottles with them after
corrking them, and then place the tops of the bottles (with the caps) in
boiling water to shrink-wrap the caps on.

I gave this a shot with my most recent mead (a Peach melomel), but they do
not appear to be shrink-wrapping.

Has anyone seen these things before, and know how to use them? Will other
forms of heat work, such as a Hair Dryer? I don't want to crack the
bottles by sticking the necks in hot water.

Geoffrey "Gofe" Schaller "Laugh, and the world laughs with you Weep, and you weep alone.
510 Queen's Drive For the sad old Earth
Schenectady, NY 12304 Must borrow its mirth
(518) 393-8607 But has troubles enough of its own."

Subject: pH and Commercial Meaderies
From: "Craig Jones." <>
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 16:09:55 +1000

Quick Question chaps,

Do commercial Meaderies check pH before sale and what is an acceptable
pH range for a commercial quality mead?

I've also been having good success with meads flavoured with the dry
spices( Nutmug, Cinnamon, and Cloves etc.) and Lime Juice. Anybody
else have such success with a similar spice mix?

Now to put the cat among the pidgeons…..Is the above closer to a
mead or a melomel? I use 2L of filtered lime juice per 60L.


Craig Jones.

Subject: article in Atlantic Monthly
From: Jacob Galley <>
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1996 16:51:36 -0500

There's an article about specialty honeys in the September issue of the Atlantic
Monthly. It's worth reading in spite of the fact that it doesn't mention
fermentation at all. The author (Corby Kummer) seems more interested in
expensive Italian honeys than in the interesting varieties that can be found
throughout America.

A few of the honeys he raves about are chestnut honey (dark, smoky, slightly
bitter, similar to American buckwheat honey); eucalyptus honey (no menthol
character); and thyme honey (suggests lavender). But the one honey that leaves
all the others behind is made from the blossoms of the corbezzolo, an evergreen
shrub found in Italy. He says it "made my whole mouth tingle. It was bitter,
sour, sparkling, peppery, not minty but somehow metholated, as if the harsh
purity of the forest were cleansing me." He says this is the most rare and
sought after honey, evidenced by the fact that it's the only one for which he
fails to provide the phone number to a mail-order house.

Well, no mead here. But I thought these specialty honeys might interest some of
you. Has anyone made mead with any of these?


Subject: autolysis
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 19:52:46 -0400 (EDT)


I've read in some older sources that a meadmaker should always
get the fermented mead off its lees "as soon as it's done
fermenting". I've read that a condition called "autolysis"
occurs when this doesn't happen. As a result, I've often wound
up racking meads just before they've finished, and wound up
with longer fermentations in the long run.

Can someone please tell me: How do I really know when it's time
to rack in order to avoid autolysis, and how much of a danger
is it really? What sorts of off-flavors am I risking?

I'd really appreciate feedback on this. Thanks in advance

David Prescott, Shaftsbury, Vermont

End of Mead Lover's Digest #498

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