Mead Lover's Digest #0281 Mon 21 March 1994


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



re: conflicting info. (Dick Dunn)
How'd it go? ("Steven W. Smith")
Re: conflicting info (Ralph Snel)
Re: conflicting info. (


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Subject: re: conflicting info.
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: 20 Mar 94 00:45:43 MST (Sun)

PETER J VOELKER <> writes:
>…I'm a new mead brewer with only 1 batch under my belt, but I have
> a few questions. First of all, some sources say to NEVER use any of
> the blended honeys you can buy at the generic grocery store, while
> others have said it's ok to use it… why such a difference in opinion?

Variation in style, variation in regional honey characteristics. In some
places, the big-brand honey has been heated and filtered to an extreme, to
clarify it and keep it from crystallizing through a long shelf life. In
other areas, the big national brands get limited shelf space and all you
see of them is their less-processed honey; the average honey is a lot more
flavorful and less refined.

Honey that is sparkling-clear is likely to have been processed more than
you'd like to make a good mead. If you see *any* ingredients other than
honey listed on the label, you probably don't want to use it. What will be
added is a neutral sugar syrup, which does more to prevent crystallization,
but doesn't help the flavor of a mead.

> …Also some sources say NEVER boil the honey, while other
> say to boil it for 20 minutes or so…

This is the main "open question" in mead-making. (The FAQ currently con-
tains a waffling response on the matter.) You can heat but not boil, boil
for a while, use Campden tablets or not, boil and use sulfites…all the
possibilities have partisans, and all will make good mead. More research
is needed! But in the meantime, it's a matter of picking a method you're
comfortable with, plus perhaps experimenting. (FWIW, my technique is to
bring the water to a boil, add honey and return to just below boiling, hold
for a bit, skim if there's anything to skim, then cool.)

>…I've been brewing beer for a
> while, so I decided to go with boiling the "stuff". What's the diff
> in the final product?

For a brewer, the boil does various things, among them helping to coagulate
protein so that the final product clears better. This also applies to
mead, but to a much lesser extent because there isn't much protein in
honey. With mead, you can boil and improve clarity, or you can not boil
but fine lightly later on to clarify. Also, the time scale for mead is
much longer, so there's inherently a lot more time for it to clear of its
own accord.

Boiling will remove some flavors from the honey, and it will change others.
Losing flavors is usually a bad thing; what you lose feels like the "deli-
cate" part, some of the faint flowery character. The changed flavors can
be + or -, but probably not a lot of difference…for example you might
find a bit of "caramelization" that you like or don't like. (A brewing
analogy might be managing the yeast to bring out diacetyl or not…it's
good or bad depending on what you like and what character you're aiming
for.) In any case, the effect of boiling is not night-or-day, but it is

Dick Dunn -or- raven!rcd Boulder, Colorado USA

…Mr Natural says, "Get the right tool for the job!"


Subject: How'd it go?
From: "Steven W. Smith" <>
Date: 20 Mar 1994 21:43:48 -0700 (MST)

Howdy all. Late news from the sicko who won't boil honey: The last 1 gallon

batch consisted of 5 pounds filtered honey, 1 1/2 dry pints crushed blueberries
and water to make 1 gallon. I washed the berries in tap water, froze then
thawed and smashed them; poured the honey, berries, then warm water (100F-ish)
into a 1 gallon jug and shook for awhile. Pitched yeast, racked after about 9
days to remove fruit.

It's about 2 months old now, quite sweet, and has a heck of a lot of

alcohol (judging by the "burn"). It's also, amazingly enough, incredibly
clear! A beautiful red color… I'm going to bottle it now. More news in a
couple of months – I sure wish I would have made 5 gallons instead of 1…
Oh yeah – nice, strong honey aroma!



\o.O; Steven W. Smith, Programmer/Analyst

=(___)= Glendale Community College, Glendale Az. USA


"All good people are asleep and dreaming"


Subject: Re: conflicting info
From: Ralph Snel <>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 94 10:58:48 MET

Peter asked about to boil or not to boil, and which honey to use.

As you may have noticed there is no concensus, especially not for the
boiling. I myself usually boil, but not always.
Some authors have claimed that boiling can create by-products that give
a bad taste. Others claim they have never noticed any such taste. Yet
others claim that the delicate bouquet of the honey disappears with the
boiling. Then there is the clearing question. It seems that boiling the
honey and skimming the foam that forms helps a lot in the clearing of the
mead afterwards. Personally I have noticed an effect of the speed of
fermentation as well, though I have never done any comparative batches.
It seems that boiled honey ferments quicker.
The general consensus is that boiling has some influence on the taste,
but not in a 'destructive' way.

Then there is the question of which kind of honey to use. Actually,
your reference never to use blended honeys is the first one I hear
that states it so strong. I have read warnings for 'unspecified'
blends, because they usually are too processed, and can have the
same problems that boiling the honey gives.
The best criterium is still what the honey tastes like. It should
taste honey (and not just sweet without extra taste; yes, I've tastes
some of that kind of 'honey'), but for the dryer kinds of mead the
taste should not be too strong. After having made a few meads you
get a pretty good feel for which honey to use. Maybe you have a friend
in the area who can let you taste the honey and the final mead right
next to eachother, so you get an idea of the effect of fermenting it.

The bottom line is: people don't realy know. Feel free to experiment,
and post your results here!



Subject: Re: conflicting info.
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 1994 10:24:49 PST

In Mead Lover`s Digest #280, Peter Voelker writes:
>First of all, some sources say to NEVER use any of
>the blended honeys you can buy at the generic grocery store, while
>others have said it's ok to use it… why such a difference in opinion?

The difference of opinion probably depends on several factors. I`ll boldly
state that you can make a reasonably good mead from almost any type of honey.
There are certain types, however, that have the potential to make outstanding
meads. The problem with generic honey is that it`s unpredictable. Since you
don`t know what type of honey it is, you can`t predict how the mead is going to
turn out. It`s also virtually impossible to duplicate a recipe that uses
generic mead, since (again) you don`t know what type of honey you`re using.

For someone new to making mead, I`d suggest using whatever type(s) of honey you
can easily obtain. For more experienced folks, I`d probably suggest going to
the additional effort to obtain specific types of honey.

>Also some sources say NEVER boil the honey, while other
>say to boil it for 20 minutes or so. I've been brewing beer for a
>while, so I decided to go with boiling the "stuff". What's the diff
>in the final product?

It`s my "theory" that beer makers tend to boil the honey, while wine makers do
not (I know that this is probably too generalized to be very accurate). The
only reason that I can think of to boil the honey is to kill any wild yeasts
and other beasties. From wine making I know that there are several substances
that can be used to kill the little buggers, so if/when I`m concerned about
that sort of thing I use one of them (usually I don`t bother). Since things
like hop utilization and hot breaks aren`t applicable to most meads I don`t see
any reason to boil anything. I do sometimes warm some of the water to make it
easier to disolve the honey, though.

Since I`ve never boiled the honey I can`t comment on whether it makes any
difference in the final mead. I have heard that boiling may drive off some of
the honey flavor and aroma, but I can`t verify this. As I said above, I think
that beer makers are used to boiling their wort, so when it comes time to make
mead they decide to boil the honey because that`s what they`re used to doing.
I`ve never heard of a winemaker boiling grape juice, and I figure that mead is
closer to wine than beer. For a beginner, though, it probably doesn`t matter.

Hope that my long winded response helps.


End of Mead Lover's Digest #281