Mead Lover's Digest #0414 Tue 13 June 1995
Mead Lover's Digest #0414 Tue 13 June 1995
Forum for Discussion of Mead Making and Consuming
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor
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Subject: Thoughts (long)
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 1995 20:52:39 -0700
Well, I've just finished catching up on back issues of
MLD, and have a few thoughts.
Someone asked about a maple-mead recipe. We've just
finished drinking the last of a batch I made last fall
that turned out very well, except for maybe being a bit
too alcoholic for some people's tastes. The recipe was
1/2 gallon maple syrup, 1/2 gallon light honey, and water
to make 5 gallons. Get a good yeast starter going, and
when it's ready, mix the honey, maple syrup and water in
a fermenter. Shake like the dickens until it's mixed. Add
the yeast starter. Relax.
Another question was about getting sweet carbonated
meads. While it's hardly traditional, using cornelius
kegs and force carbonating is the only reliable method
I've found for this. Given that I put all my brews
(except for 3 or 6 bottles for possible show entries)
into kegs, this is practical for me. Another option that
has appeared lately is a fitting that screws onto a
2-litre PET bottle, and has the same handy ball-lock
quick-disconect as the kegs I use. It's called "The
Carbonater" and is available from Liquid Bread at
407-957-4472. It was kinda pricey (over $10 for one), but
well worth the money in my eyes. I've used it for
carbonating things other than meads, too. Fun!
Lastly, I was involved in judging some mead lately, and
here are some thoughts I had, which may serve as helpful
guidelines for beginners, or, for that matter, anyone
entering a mead in a contest: 1) Use honey with
character. The AHA Guidelines specify that the honey
character should be noticeable. A great many of the
entries I tried lost points because none of the judges
could find any honey aroma or flavor. Highly processed
light honey is usable for adding fermentables, or
mellowing out a strong honey (like buckwheat), but it
shouldn't be the basis for a recipe. 2) Seek balance. If
you use a very strong tasting honey, and want to add
spices or other flavorings, you'll need to add more. If
you're using a honey with a very mild flavor, use less
spice. Don't overpower the honey, it's the whole point of
mead. 3) Ferment cool. Most of the entries I tasted had
some fusel/higher alcohol taste to them. Warm
fermentation is great for getting things done in a hurry,
and adds character to steam beers and Belgian-style ales,
but it doesn't belong in a mead. Keep it cool. 4) Use a
yeast that is neutral in character. There are many yeasts
out there that are great for making wine, but don't
belong near honey. The character imparted by the yeast
can totally overpower the character of your honey and/or
fruits/spices. Edme Ale yeast has been one of my
standbys, and I'm actually moving more toward using lager
yeasts for many of my meads. Again, honey is the point of
mead, find a yeast that helps express the honey, and
you'll do well. 5) Don't be afraid to experiment. I've
made quite a few batches that I wouldn't have scored high
in a contest, but I still got pleasure out of consuming.
They either didn't fit a style the way I'd meant, or just
tasted funky. If you don't make mistakes, you won't learn
from your mistakes. 6) Lastly, be patient. There's very
little to go wrong in a mead that can't be cured by
longer aging. If it tastes weird, set it aside, and try
it again later. Don't be afraid to keep bottles around
for years. There are wines that aren't worth drinking
until they've sat for more than 5 or 10 years. Same thing
with some meads. Of course there are also some that are
perfectly drinkable after a few months. Let your
tastebuds be the judge.
Sorry for the length of the message, but I had a lot of
thoughts to share. Hopefully someone will find them
Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #413, 9 June 1995
From: Jacob Galley <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, 11 Jun 95 11:44:40 CDT
> From: Russell Mast <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > From: Fliper <email@example.com>
> > (i don't even float eggs till they be the size of a groat)
> I'm not really sure what this means. Is this some Bosnian thing?
Russ, this is a reference to the recipes of Sir Kenelm Digby, Kt.—
that methglin-making nobleman and third-rate philosopher of the
seventeenth century. In some of his recipes, Digby uses a freshly
laid egg as a hydrometer. He floats it in the boiling must, until the
exposed surface of the egg is the size of a groat, which was a coin of
some sort. There was a long discussion about this on the Homebrew
Digest a few years ago. (It might even be worth it to sift through
those archives.) The consensus was that this would produce a fairly
high gravity must, but no one knows exactly how high, because (1)
groats came in different sizes, and (2) the buoyancy of an egg varies
with freshness and size, etc.
I really gotta write that paper NOW!
Subject: Re: PET bottles
From: Fliper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 1995 08:32:10 -0400
Russell Mast <email@example.com> writes:
>I don't usually use a hydrometer in my meads, because I don't do usually
>do a full boil, so I water my musts down, and at that point the only thing
>I want to be sticking in there is yeast.
but..but..but….. what about all those lovely wild thingied floating
around in the air? the ones that let people know… this mead came
from *your* house. 🙂 actually if you clean everything off with
sulfite or bleach (then rinse well!) it shouldn't matter….
>> (i don't even float eggs till they be the size of a groat)
>I'm not really sure what this means. Is this some Bosnian thing?
A fresh egg was used in the early days as a crude hydrometer. the
eggs were floated in the must until the size of the portion above the
surface was about the size of a groat…a little larger than the
american quarter byt smaller than the eisenhower dollar (that would
but it 1.5 " (3.8 cm i think) in diameter.
firstname.lastname@example.org (James Powell) writes:
>container more adaptable to mead's unstable characteristics. I thought of
>bottling my mead in 16oz. plastic bottles; the type found to contain soda
>pop at the grocery store. Before the traditionalists and skeptics set their
well here has been my experience:
plastic bottles are a fine thing….. for very short ferments.
I've used plastic bottles almost exclusivly for my first 3-4 batches of
mead (they were all very small batches.) I've found they hold the
pressure quite well and will provide a very high carbination. Those
meads to me taste fine…and coments from other brewers and whatnot
usually had only comment on the youngness of the mead. Note i did not
age the meads in the plastic… i use groulsh (sp?) bottles… which
have the nice quality of being glass, while having the ease of venting
the meads as to make sure the pressure does not get too high.
>- – Bottle is made of food grade plastic. It won't give any off-flavors to
>the mead. Acidity should not ruin the plastic.
Acidity, no… Alcohol ( a solvent) quite possibly (so i've been told)
>When you get elderly and eventually pass on, your kids may come across
>a couple of cases of DIVINE WINE (of the vine), and not know how to
>reproduce it. :'-(
sort of like grandma's cooking… huh?! 🙂 don't know about you… bu
ti hope to teach my children (if they are interested) all about mead
making, and english country dancing (and bransles), and needlework,
and the making of armor, and how clothes can actually be comfortable
AND durable, and that apples and onions cooked together is not such a
bad thing… (ok…. if you haven't guessed…. i'm in the S.C.A. 🙂
but i do agree…. if sometihng turns out *really fine* it would be
nice to be able to reproduce….
Vivat centum, vivat mille!
Subject: Deja Vu
From: Russell Mast <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 1995 08:53:38 -0500
> Subject: Bottling Solution to Overcarbonation?
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org (James Powell)
> The cons to this storage container:
> – – Couldn't easily make a sparkling mead. Bottle will deform from the
> pressure. It may still carbonate, but…
Actually, these babies CAN take a lot of pressure. The big con, however, is
> The only thing I can think of that would be a big negative is oxygen seeping
> into the mead through the plastic. I don't think this occurs, does it?
Sure does. See my post in last issue. These are fine for beer, not much
comes through in a month or two, but two years? You bet yer booty.
Also, Jim, I didn't know you were a meader. I used to work in Peds. at UofC
a few months back. I think we met, I forget. (I'm the guy with the huge
> Subject: Guava mead
From: email@example.com (Dick Dunn)
Date: 13 Jun 95 08:43:22 MDT (Tue)
Gary Shea <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> >From: Fliper <email@example.com>
> >as an off note…. is everyone here so scientific… or
> >am i the only one who blows off the hydrometer?…
> Me too. I don't have a hydrometer, don't measure much, don't
> boil the honey… I guess I like thinking of mead making as something
> you can develop a "feel" for, and the less chemistry and technology
> involved, the happier I am…
I only follow this halfway.
Yes, you develop a "feel" for mead. There's plenty of stuff that makes no
sense to measure. (Anyone for Lovibond numbers on honey?;-) The ingredi-
ents we use–honey and fruit in particular–come with a lot of variation,
and it just makes a lot more sense to learn from experience how the tastes
of the ingredients will contribute to a mead than to try to measure half a
dozen variables and "calculate" the taste.
Moreover, I find mead more interesting than brewing beer these days because
(among various reasons) it seems like so many homebrewers have become full-
bore gadgetologists. I think this is what Gary is talking about…people
get wrapped up in the technique and the numbers to where they miss the rest
of the experience.
On the other hand, for me, at least, "chemistry and technology" doesn't
get in the way unless I let it. I don't find that taking a hydrometer
reading interferes with the magic or the feel of mead-making any more than
knowing why the sky is blue and clouds white interferes with enjoying a
sunny day. People test meads along the way and we learn that things like
acid balance have a lot to do with how well the fermentation goes. I
rarely measure acid myself, but others have done so and I draw on that
information. I use a hydrometer when it will give me useful information,
or when I'm just plain curious.
I rarely use a hydrometer at the start any more, because I'm in one of two
situations: (a) I'm making a traditional mead and I have a good idea what
the starting gravity would be anyway because I know how much honey I've
got, or (b) I'm making a melomel using fruit (not juice or extracts) and
there's no way to get a meaningful reading at the start anyway.
Usually I measure each time I rack, because it gives me a feel for how the
mead is progressing. I can start to think ahead to when it will be time to
bottle. I also drink the hydrometer sample, of course, and this helps me
learn and educate my tongue.
And I religiously measure gravity before bottling! While I can live with
batch-to-batch variation in taste, sweetness, etc., I *don't* want vari-
ation of the sort "Batch 84 was fine but the bottles in batch 85 are
exploding." My hydrometer taught me an interesting point recently, namely
that I had a couple of stoppers that weren't sealing well around the fer-
mentation locks…so while it looked like the mead was done (no bubbles
through the lock) it was actually still fermenting, just slowly enough that
the gas could escape through the tiny leak.
Dick Dunn firstname.lastname@example.org -or- raven!rcd Boulder, Colorado USA
…Simpler is better.
End of Mead Lover's Digest #414