Mead Lover's Digest #50 Sat 05 December 1992

Forum for Discussion of Mead Brewing and Consuming
John Dilley, Digest Coordinator


kumiss ("Daniel F McConnell")
re:milk and honey (R.) Cavasin" <>
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #49 (December 04, 1992) (Jacob Galley)
thoughts on "answers (in no particular order)" (Dick Dunn)

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Date: 4 Dec 1992 08:39:15 -0500
From: "Daniel F McConnell" <>
Subject: kumiss

Subject: Time:8:32 AM

Jane Beckman writes:
>If I were actually making a kumiss-mead, I would have boiled
>up the honey mix, then added it to the milk (uncooked milk) and >proceeded
from there.

Thanks Jane, this is exactly the type of tip I needed. I did not boil, only
heated to pasturization temperature and only that because I didn't have an
unopened gallon of milk. My next attempt (if I am so inclined) will be a
procedure similar to the one you described. Do you have a tested recipe for
kumiss? I have never tried it. From your description I sounds like a
wonderful holiday drink.

As a certified "scientific type" I love to trade ideas with the
"by-guess-and-by-gosh folks who use period sources and/or do a lot of
experimenting". No school is better and many of us are crossovers. Science
did not discover fermentation. Actually, I try to break (stretch, bend) as
many rules as I can, especially when it comes to the magic of mead.

Date: Fri, 4 Dec 1992 15:10:00 +0000
From: "Rick (R.) Cavasin" <>
Subject: re:milk and honey

Kumiss is the term used for fermented mare's milk, and Kefir for
cow's milk (at least that is my understanding). Although some recipes
I've seen call for the addition of sugar in various quantities,
I don't know if this was done 'authentically'. It seems improbable.
>From the several recipes in 'The Complete Anachronist #5,(Brewing)'
what sounds like the best kefir recipe consists of heating
a quart of buttermilk (commercial or homemade) to boiling and allow to
cool to lukewarm. Make a yeast starter from 1/3 package baking yeast
and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 cup warm water. Add starter to buttermilk
when both are lukewarm. Add four tablespoons of sugar. Mix thoroughly
and add to sanitized primary fermenter. Place fermentor in fridge
and shake at least once daily. The author
says she had to run the kefir through a blender after 4 days
fermentation. Ready to drink after 3 or 4 days. It is described as
being sparkling, but the author uses a sealed primary (vented before
agitation!) Using an airlock will presumably result in somewhat milder
carbonation unless it is sealed near the end of fermentation.
All of the recipes stress the importance of regular agitation to
prevent separation.

Date: Fri, 4 Dec 92 15:48:54 CST
From: Jacob Galley <>
Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #49 (December 04, 1992)

I brewed my juniper metheglin last night. This is my fifth mead (in my
first year of meading), but there were some lot of firsts. I better
give my recipe so you know what I'm talking about.

Forest Mead (until I come up with a better name)

For 5 gallons:
5 lbs Buckwheat honey
~3 lbs Clover honey
1/2 cup Fresh juniper berries, ground up
1 oz Fresh rosemary leaves
2 Bay leaves
1 pot Really strong pu–erh tea (very earthy flavor, high tannin)

1 liter starter:
1 lump Brown sugar
2 T M&F light malt extract
Belgian Ale Wyeast (having faith in opinions posted here recently)

I tried not to boil the must, for the first time. But then I didn't
want to skim the white scum off too quickly, because I was afraid of
removing the juniper pulp before it could flavor the mead. So I waited
about an hour first. By this time, all the scum had disappeared! and I
had nothing to skim. What happened?

Also, Jilara says:
> Initial gravity/honey-to-water ratio is personal taste. I like my mead on
> the dry side. I use 5 lbs of honey to 2 gallons of water. If you like
> sweeter mead, increase the ratio.

But says she prefers ale yeast to wine. Can ale yeast really ferment
that much honey? Anticipated lower attenuation, which is why I only
put 8 lbs of honey in the must this time — not knowing whether it
would be dry or sweet.


Reinheitsgebot <– "Keep your laws off my beer!" <–

Date: 5 Dec 92 01:11:13 MST (Sat)
From: (Dick Dunn)
Subject: thoughts on "answers (in no particular order)" (Jane Beckman) writes:

> There seem to be two schools of thought on mead. There are scientific types
> who like to treat it like beer, and there are some of us are by-guess-and-by-
> gosh folks who use period sources and/or do a lot of experimenting…

Reminds me of the saying, "There are two types of people in the world:
those who believe there are two types of people in the world, and those who
don't." I don't really buy the stratification; it's a continuum.

I don't think the beer-brewers are so much more scientific. They may
adhere more to known technique because beer is more susceptible to failure
from bad technique: The wort (unfermented beer) is nutritious to a much
wider range of microbeasties, and the alcohol content doesn't get high
enough ever to discourage the bad guys. I confess that one of the reasons
I like making mead is that it's more forgiving. This allows more latitude
in experimenting.

Let me argue against the dichotomy. There are things that work and things
that don't. Science is there whether we like it or not…the world is
(fortunately) not so submissive to our whims and wishes. We start with
some known facts, and work outward. The exploration is art, but it has
underpinnings of science–just as music is art, but the rules of sound and
the mathematics of tone are underneath…or painting is art, but the
properties of light and the characteristics of paint and canvas are under-

> I tend to favor top-fermenting ale yeast, myself. It really depends on the
> overall finish you want for your mead, what kind of yeast you use…

Quite so. Perhaps I get carried away in the amount of honey I use, but the
times I've tried ale yeast, it's given up too soon. It adds a character of
its own, much moreso than other yeasts, and you'll have to decide whether
you like that in a mead. (More precisely, you'll have to decide whether
it's the character you want in any particular mead.)

> Likewise, spices. If you're making a metheglin (fruit mead), the spices
> give it a nice balance. I find plain honey mead slightly insipid, myself.

This is curious to me. I can see that a light mead could be "insipid" with
nothing but honey; however, if you give it enough honey to work with (and
not too-light honey), I think you cover a fair part of the range of wine
character along the way from a moderate semillon to something that (ok,
I'll venture the travesty) can approach a Sauternes. Just honey, by
itself, is fairly complex. [I wonder, without a scrap of evidence, whether
Jane's statement about plain-honey mead being insipid is related to her
suggestion to boil the must…]

> I always boil my must. This gives me a chance to skim off the scum that
> always rises to the top, to get rid of impurities. I simmer it for about
> an hour, always skimming.

Of all Jane's points, this is the one I'd most like to explore. It's fortu-
nate that neither answer is clearly wrong, since we seem to be so divided
on the question: to boil or not to boil? On the one side, boil and get rid
of all that stuff, that crud. On the other side, don't boil and keep all
the delicate essence. It's curious that we should even consider the long
boils we use sometimes…we talk about getting the best honey, minimally
processed, then boil the bejeezus out of it?

I've boiled the honey and gotten good mead. The last handful I've made, I
haven't boiled…I've boiled the water, added the mead, and brought it to
sterilization temp, then cooled. I've gotten good mead. If anything, the
more recent meads have matured faster…but it would be bad science to say
that not boiling has anything to do with it, because I've changed a lot of
other things along the way.

I read that boiling will settle out the proteins. That's a brewer's maxim,
but does it apply to mead? How much protein is there in honey, anyway? I
see that you can skim off all the scum, but what's in it? Anything that
matters? I don't know! It's not clear-cut, the way that "don't boil the
fruit" is clear-cut (because it sets the pectin, and also caramelizes it a
bit). But maybe this is someplace that science could help us a little.
What are the real facts supporting either side of "to boil or not to boil"?

Dick Dunn -or- raven!rcd Boulder, Colorado
…Ain't no time to hate.

End of Mead Lover's Digest