The Newbee Guide to Making Mead – Chapter 13: Preparation and Mixing

The three methods for mixing the Must (the Boil method, the Pasteurization method, and the No Heat method) are all accepted and easy to complete, so it is entirely up to the individual as to what method to use.  Each has its own pros and cons, but it is important to point out that no single one is the “right” way. 

The Boil Method: 

This is a tried and true method of preparing the Must and is favored by those who wish to make Mead based on historical or period recipes.   


  • The Must is sanitized by the boil, reducing the chances of contamination.
  • Particles, such as bee bits, wax, pollen etc., are removed as scum.
  • The honey is thoroughly dissolved into the water.


  • The Must has to be cooled before pouring it into the fermenter, exposing it to possible contamination.
  • The honey may be burnt during the pour (as discussed below).
  • Some of the ‘essence’ of the honey is lost by being boiled off.  The character of honey is made up of the unique flavors and smells derived from the flowers it was collected from.  As you boil the Must, you can smell the honey, which is actually some of those floral essences evaporating away.
  • Valuable proteins, enzymes and varietal characters are lost as they are boiled and are skimmed off with the “scum” that is being removed.  This will detract from the final taste of the Mead and cannot be avoided using this method.

If boiling is the method you prefer, there are some things that can be done to avoid the con of waiting for the must to cool.  First, cool the Must by only boiling a quarter of the water with the honey.  Pour the remaining cold water into the fermenter before adding the Must.  Not only will this help bring the temperature down rapidly, it will also allow you to seal the container while it continues to cool, reducing the chances of contamination.  Second, stir the water as it boils to avoid burning.

Method:   Place the total water into a pot and bring it to a boil.  Add the honey, stirring constantly with a spoon as you pour.  Honey is heavier than water and will immediately sink to the bottom, coming into contact with the hot metal of the pot. This could result in burnt sugars and a ruined batch.  Continue boiling the mixture for 15 minutes, skimming off the scum that forms using a sanitized spoon.  After boiling is complete, cool the Must before adding it to the fermentation vessel.

Warning: Do not pour boiling hot Must into a glass fermenter as the thermal shock could result in cracked glass and a potential burn hazard.  Always let it cool first or pour it onto cold water.

The Pasteurization Method: 

Most yeast and bacteria cannot withstand high temperatures for a prolonged period of time.  The hotter the environment, the less time it takes for the micro-organisms to be killed.  Pasteurization is the process of heating and maintaining a liquid at a temperature that will denature any bacteria present without the need for boiling.


  • The honey is thoroughly dissolved into the water.
  • Not all of the volatile components of the honey are lost, maintaining some of the flavor and aroma in the Mead. 
  • Cooling is achieved far quicker. 
  • Denaturing of the proteins in honey results in Meads that clear more easily.  
  • Particles, such as bee bits, wax, pollen etc., are removed as scum.


  • Unfortunately, as with the Boiling method above, some of the delicate varietal and floral characters of the honey are still lost.  You are cooking the honey and destroying some of the desirable complexities and beneficial enzymes and proteins.
  • Cool down time exposes the Must to potential contamination, although it is fairly easy to cover the hot liquid to minimize any airborne intrusions.

The main advantage of this method is that the Must can be heated to a fairly low temperature and kept there for a specified length of time.  The cooler the temperature, the longer it must be heated.  Table 1 lists the times required for specific temperatures for pasteurization to be achieved:

Table 1

Time (minutes)

Temperature (°F)















    ** Extrapolated from Logarithmic Curve

Method:             Heat the water in a large pot up to at least 140°F.  Pour in the honey, stirring continuously until completely dissolved, and then bring the water back to the temperature selected from Table 1.  Maintain the Must at that temperature for the time specified for the given temperature, then cool and transfer into the fermenter.

The No Boil Method:

A repeat is in order concerning honey and it’s natural ability to fend off the affects of yeast.  The sugar/water ratio of honey is skewed toward the sugar side so much that it is extremely difficult for yeast to take hold in straight honey.  This does not mean that it cannot happen, but it would have to be a very tough yeast to be able to survive in such a ‘dry’ environment.  This means that the honey you add to the water will likely not be carrying any unwanted wild yeasts with it.  Any that are present will be so overwhelmed by the huge influx of yeast you will be adding, they will not have much of a chance to take hold and ruin your Mead.  It is therefore possible to mix the honey with the water without boiling and still make a high quality product. 


  • Not boiling the honey greatly minimizes the loss of any volatile components in the honey, resulting in a Mead that retains much of the true floral flavor and bouquet of the honey varietal being used.
  • No boiling, no heating, no fuss.  Easy and quick.
  • You can pitch the yeast immediately since the Must is already at the correct temperature.             


  • Slight potential for contamination, mostly from the water supply rather than the honey.
  • Harder to dissolve the honey.  Most new Mead makers completely underestimate the stirring involved for complete dissolution of the honey into the water and as a result leave some unblended honey at the bottom of the vessel. Stratification of the must can slow, stress or stall your fermentation and result in off flavors.  Get ready for a good deal of shaking.
  • The chlorine must be removed from chlorinated water prior to pitching of the yeast, or distilled water used.

Method:             Pour approximately 25% of the total water volume to the fermenter.  It helps at this point to warm the honey slightly by placing the containers in some warm water.  You do not want to get the honey too hot, but just warm enough to flow easily.  Add the honey to the water.  Cover the carboy with a sanitized lid (or use some plastic wrap straight from the roll), and begin to shake vigorously until the honey is completely dissolved.  Add water to bring it up to the desired level.  If you are using an open bucket fermenter, use a sanitized stirrer, spoon, or whisk to agitate the liquid and help dissolve the honey. A wine “whip degasser” or “lees stirrer” attached to a power drill are frequently used by those craggy old experienced Mead makers who are otherwise too lazy to stir by hand. They make quick work of blending the honey and as an added bonus, they aerate the heck out of your mead so it is chock full of oxygen when you pitch your yeast.

It is during the mixing of the Must that other ingredients such as nutrients, spices, fruits, teas etc. are added to provide flavor or character to the Mead.

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