Mead Lover's Digest #0304 Thu 12 May 1994


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



Sparkle my mead ? ("Peter J. Burke" (FSAC-PMD))
re: vintage honey (Dick Dunn)
Re: vintage honey (Jay Hersh)


Send ONLY articles for the digest to
Use for subscribe, unsubscribe, and admin

requests. When subscribing, please include your name and a good address
in the message body unless you're sure your mailer generates them.

There is an FTP archive of the digest on in pub/mead.

If you have email access but not ftp, it will accept "listserv" requests.
Send email with message "help" to


Subject:  Sparkle my mead ?
From: "Peter J. Burke" (FSAC-PMD) <pburke@PICA.ARMY.MIL>
Date: Thu, 12 May 94 11:57:55 EDT


Being new to this, I have a basic type question.
I have been aging my mead for appox 5 months. I would like
to open bottles or sparkling (carbonated) mead on 18 June
for my daughter's birthday. The mead is now in my carboy,
I plan on bottling.
Should I prime it with corn sugar like you do with beer
1 or 2 weeks in the bottles ? I've heard that you
can also accomplish this by "priming" with grape juice
prior to bottling.

Any help out there ?

You can respond direct to me at:

Thanks in advance. Pete Burke

Subject: re: vintage honey
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: 12 May 94 22:42:48 MDT (Thu)

"Daniel F McConnell" <> responded to a
question about some very old honey with material from a book and a USDA
tech report. I think the opinions he cites about crystallized honey are
overreactions. Perhaps in response to Robb Harris's original question
about 17-year-old(!) honey, they may be appropriate, although Robb did say
that the old honey still tastes fine, which is a pretty good judgment.

from one of Dan's references:
> Perhaps the most hazardous of all storage problems is granulation
> or crystallization… Crystallization is particularly
> hazardous to unpasteurized honey because the concentration of solids
> around the crystal creates a higher moisture content (above the
> critical 18 – 19% level) in the residual uncrystallized honey. This in
> turn promotes fermentation…

It allows for the possibility of fermentation. But it takes a pretty
strong yeast to be able to do much fermentation, at that strength of sugar,
with the wrong pH and lack of nutrients. If fermentation does start, it's
likely to proceed *very* slowly.

>…resulting in alcohol and, in the presence
> of oxygen, the alcohol will break down to acetic acid and water…

I must be missing something; this sounds just plain wrong. It IS possible
to convert alcohol to acetic acid and water, but it doesn't just happen.
Otherwise every alcoholic beverage would be starting to turn to vinegar
from the air in the headspace in sealed bottles, let alone opened bottles.
Acetobacter will do the conversion, IF it's present AND if the conditions
are right AND if there's plenty of oxygen…but this is an induced process,
not something that happens spontaneously.

>…If crystallization is present, and a distinct separation of solids and
> liquids is apparent, your honey is at distinct risk of fermentation.

Note here that the risk does depend on the extent of separation. It also
depends on time…this does not happen quickly.

Roger Morse, in _Making_Mead_, claims that crystallized honey is just fine
for mead-making. I tend to grant Morse good credibility; he's obviously
done a lot of work with bees and honey as well as with mead.

Harold McGee, in _On_Food_and_Cooking_, discusses the role of crystalli-
zation in accelerating spoilage, and also explains the connection between
crystal size (and visible separation) and spoilage.

What to do? I'd say don't worry much about it. Don't use honey that's
obviously spoiled in any way, and taste before using it, but crystalliza-
tion by itself is not a bad sign. In particular, we usually find that the
honey we seek for mead-making tends to crystallize easily, simply because
it hasn't been treated to reduce its tendency to crystallize.

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

…Yeah, yeah, "patience"…how long will *THAT* take?!?


Subject: Re: vintage honey
From: Jay Hersh <>
Date: Thu, 12 May 1994 14:45:12 EDT

Dam McConnell's post was very imformative. However I'm not sure I agree with
the conclusions (don't know if they're Dan's, Eva Crane's or Jonathan White's
since apparently the info is a compilation done by Dan).

First, personal experience. The 1.157 mead I made recently was made from honey
from an Apple Orchard. I got it through the guy I get my cider from and it sat
on the shelf for 18 months before I finally got around to using it. There was
some separation and some crystalization. Prior to use I heated the honey and
shook it up to aleviate these problems. There was no sign of any ferment
however, and the honey was sealed during storage which was at room temperature.

I didn't age the honey on purpose, things just kept preventing me from actually
finding the time to make the mead. anyway the mead did get stuck (as readers
here will know) but after racking and re-yeasting it finally fermented down to
1.027. What I tasted at bottling was strong (18%) yet sweet enough to cover the
alcohol. Warming yet fruity. I'm aging it now and think it is almost certainly
one of the best meads I've ever made. I think by any standard whether it wins
awards or not it would be judged as a fine beverage, not one with serious flaws.

This leads me to address 2 issues. Conversion of sucrose, a fermentable sugar
to dextrose and/or levulose (which I don't know about) which are unferemntable
(or mostly so). This in and of itself is not necessarily bad. It certainly
would change the character of the final product, likely causing it to have more
residual sweetness and less alcohol content. Taken to extreme such a change
might be problematic, but without an understanding of what kind of timeframe
this occurs over it is not particularly useful. The figure of up to 9%
conversion to more complex sugars is not that extreme. Such aconversion might
be beneficial to acheiving a sweeter balance in the mead.

The other issue is the conversion to certain acids. While fermentation in the
presence of oxygen, and then a resulting conversion by acetic acid bacteria
to acetic acid would certainly be undesirable, this is more an issue of
improper storage rather than one of storage itself. Storage under anaerobic
conditions will reduce or eliminate the conversion to vinegar though it might
not alleviate possible partial fermentation. Being unfamiliar with gluconic
acid I do't know if it is an undesirable flavor constituent, however again
creation of some level of acidity may not be inherently harmful. Proper acidity
levels yield balance and complexity to the final product. In extreme
circumstances (lambic beers, and other Belgian sour beers such as Rodenbach or
Oud Bruins) they are extremely important flavor components. Intentional
presence of non-fruit based sour flavors made add distinct flavors to the final

Thus my personal inclination is not to unilaterally dismiss such effects as
unwanted and thus cause folks to get into a tizzy about the freshness of their
honey and possibly even toss it for fear it might be too old to be usable.
If I'd read this post prior to using my 18 month old honey I'd probably have
gotten pretty worried. My advice would be to use a dose of common sense. If the
honey has off aromas, smells of alcohol (indicating some fermentation has
occurred in storage) then it would probably be wise to exercise caution when
using it (consider diluting it with some portion of known fresh honey to
mitigate possible deletirious effects, or if it is really rank consider tossing
it). Evaluation of the ingredients and adjustements is always part of the
process of making such beverages. A willingness ot experiment is useful as
well. After all a lot of what we know today is a result of serendipity.



End of Mead Lover's Digest #304