Mead Lover's Digest #0555 Mon 21 April 1997


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



Re: acid adjustment (Rich Webb)
Sorbic Acid as a Stabilizer (Dave Cushman)
First mead… (
Searchable archive (Spencer W Thomas)
Yeast starter, ginger, and carboy size (
Mead Brandy & Wormwood ("Rodney Valdez")
Matt Crapo's Stuck Fermentation ("Karian, Anthony A")
Archive text file (
Re: Wormwood (Peter Miller)
First mead success (
Hoping with honeysuckle (michael rose)
First mead (John Wilkinson)
OSG 1.180 ??? (Francois Espourteille)
AMA status? (Mark Koopman)
AMA starthistle honey… (Mark Koopman)
Buckwheat / barrels (
Ginger Meads (William Chellis)
peach melomel (JD Pierce)
Re: Adjusting mead pH with Acidex vs. Calcium Carbonate (Dieter Dworkin Muller)
Second batch questions (


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Subject: Re: acid adjustment
From: Rich Webb <>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 10:21:41 -0700

In MLD 554, Derrick asks about adjusting mead's pH…
> Nor do I have $100 for an electronic pH meter.

What I'm about to say requires that you have an accurate pH meter,
but mine only cost about 50$. I guess there's no requirement to
have an _expensive_ meter!

Last fall, some of the local homebrewing clubs got together with a
local cider presser, and crushed up about 400 gallons of sweet
apple juice. Lotso fun, and quite an experience. However, the
resulting cider was waaaay too tart for most people. I compounded
the error by using the Wyeast strain that adds an acidifying
bacteria to the mix. Extra-extra tart by now. A fellow Brews
Brother gave me the straight dope on how to de-acidify this mix,
but it required heavy chemicals and a pH meter. He supplied me
with food grade "caustic", or sodium hydroxide. This is also known
as "lye", and is found in Draino and other commercial drain
cleaning products, but this wasn't that stuff. In the
concentrations that he had, it was used for cleaning and
sanitizing, but in dilute form, could be used for acid adjustment.
(Sure it's toxic. It's the alkali nature that makes it toxic. In
small quantities, it shouldn't harm me. I hope!)

In any case, I diluted the caustic to a 5% solution, as per Ted's
directions. (Actually, he said to dilute to 3%, but 5% was much
easier to deal with using the graduated cylinder that I had.) I
took a small sample of the cider, and a small sample of the
diluted caustic. Using outdated cups and tablespoon measurements,
I first added too much caustic. Mouth puckering! Of course, I
didn't drink it. (I recommend doing this near a sink of some
sort!) I kept dropping the quantity of dilute caustic until the
measured pH of the cider came into a range that had been
recommended to me. Also the taste became much more agreeable…

I don't have my notes in front of me, but as I recall, 3/4 cup of
5% caustic raised the ph from the low to mid 3s to the low to mid
4s. This made quite a difference in the perceived tartness of the
cider. It is now quite enjoyable, where before, it was quite

Your milage may vary. If this stuff is deadly poison, even in the
quantities stated here, I'd like to hear about it! But I believe
that the effect of this chemical was only to raise the pH, but not
to dangerous levels.

Visit my Zymology page at:

Rich Webb

Subject: Sorbic Acid as a Stabilizer
From: Dave Cushman <>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 10:42:58 -0700

I recently mad up a keg of light and too dry mead. The mead suffered from
(I believe) too high of fermentation temperature and had some slight off
flavors and was somewhat murky. The keg sat for a few months with no
noticable improvements.

About a week ago I was picking up some winemaking supplies and happened
across something called "Wine Stabilizer" from Wine King (of Canada).
Essentially, it is water, sucrose and sorbic acid in some proportion. I
added the minimum recommended amount (about 2 oz/gallon).

I don't want to sound like a miracle occured, but the change was
impressive. Within five days the mead settled out pretty much all of the
visible suspended material, and is crystal clear. Also, the aroma and
flavor have improved that I would willingly serve this to friends with a
smile. The mead is really "stable" enough to bottle with a cork finish…I
am trying it on a white Zinfandel which needs help also.

I believe that the added sweetness balanced out the flavor, and that the
sorbic acid lowered the pH to force the flocculents to settle out rapidly.
Can anyone confirm these suspicions? If so, has anyone experimented with
making a "mead stabilizer" using honey/water/sorbic acid in solution. So
far I am impressed with the results.

Dave Cushman

Subject: First mead...
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 13:48:31 -0400 (EDT)


I am new to the digest and already love it. I made my first batch of
traditional mead on 08 Apr. I have never tasted mead, but have been
intrieged for a couple of years. I still have not tasted mead and would like
to ASAP. I am drooling over my 5 gal batch and can't wait.

Can someone tell me where I can mail order one bottle to try? Even better
would be if someonce could tell me where I could go in Omaha, Nebraska (or
nearby)to buy a bottle.

Jeff Rife

Subject: Searchable archive
From: Spencer W Thomas <>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 13:55:38 -0400

Go to, then follow the link to "search
homebrew digests". The MLD is there, too.

=Spencer Thomas in Ann Arbor, MI (

Subject: Yeast starter, ginger, and carboy size
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 10:38:19 +0000

> Subject: Yeast starter, ginger, and carboy size
> From: "Moyer, Douglas E" <>
> Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 8:28:06 -0400
> Collective soul,
> I have a few newbie questions. This (or next) weekend I will try to make

> my first batch of mead. I am planning on making five gallons of basic dry
> mead. With that in mind, I have purchased Wyeast #3632. Typically, for my
> homebrew, I don't make a yeast starter for my smack pack. (My sanitation
> is very careful, and hopefully very good.) Should I worry about
> propagating a starter?
> Also, as I was getting ready for work this morning, I got thinking about

> ginger. How many of y'all have made a ginger-flavored mead? Any good?
> Could you use the chopped ginger that comes in a jar (Christopher Ranch)?
> How much? I saw one recipe (Lemon-Ginger Metheglin) in Cats Meow, but it
> looked too bizarre (four slices of toast?) to contemplate for my first
> go! Another looked good (Orange Ginger Mead), but it mentioned ginger in
> terms of grams. How much in dry measure? It also called for hops. Are
> hops used often in mead? Any other good recipe ideas?
> For a five gallon batch, do I need to use my 6.5 gallon carboy, or can I

> use the five gallon carboy? In other words, how vigorous (read "foamy")
> is the initial fermentation?
> Thanks for the patience!
> Doug Moyer


Always, always, always make a starter. Honey is hard enough to
ferment with a good starter (compared to beer). As for ginger, I have
made some GREAT mead with ginger.

Moonlight Mead (Matt Maples)

2oz FRESH ginger pealed and greated
1.5 oz hops ** I've used Mt Hood and Willamette don't use anything to

** high in alpha acid

1 gallon wildflower honey.
Cot de blanch yeast redstar

take 2 gallons water add hops boil for 60 min add ginger boil 30 more
min. Take off heat add honey let sit for 15 min. Stain into a carboy
top to 5 gallons with cold water. Pitch at 75 to 80 degrees.

This is best dry and sparkling. The flavor is very delicate so I
don't recomend adding more ginger.

Ive also have a giger mead in works that uses 10oz of giger. Its very
spicy / peppery. I wouldn't recomend that one unless you REALLY love
ginger, as I do.

As for the foam. You do get a lot of foam if you have a high original
gravity and a vigerous ferment. Use a blow off tube or a lager

Water separates the people of the world, wine unites them. – Anonymous

Matt Maples

Subject: Mead Brandy & Wormwood
From: "Rodney Valdez" <Rodney.Valdez@MCI.Com>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 12:57 -0600 (MDT)


Mead Brandy (Ice Mead)

I made a Mead Brandy about 5 years ago by mistake. Ah…now I know
what you are thinking, "What do you mean by mistake?" Yes my friends,
by mistake. I did this by sticking a bottle of 15% sack mead in my
freezer in an attempt to quickly chill the ambrosia. I forgot about
the bottle until the next morning where I found it in a semi-frozen
state. I quickly opened and poured it through a wire strainer (to catch
all the ice) and had a sip. WOW. It was intense in flavor as well
as alcohol.

This is the only LEGAL way to make it here in the USA. (Nudge, Nudge,
Wink, Wink.)

Wormwood (Absinthe Mead)

>Does anyone have any experience or info on how to safely use wormwood
>in brewing?

I made a wormwood mead about 6 months ago and it is still too strong
(in flavor) to drink. I used about 4 grams of wormwood for a one
gallon batch, which is a safe level to use. I bottled them it in 7
ounce bottles and am letting it age until the flavor mellows.

I hope this information helps.


  • -Rodney

* Mead Is Life, The Rest Is Just Details – R.Valdez *

Subject: Matt Crapo's Stuck Fermentation
From: "Karian, Anthony A" <>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 97 14:54:00 PDT

Though some may say a mead with an 1.180 OG won't ferment well, I've
started an 1.160 OG mead with the same yeast without problem. Key
differences: I used 1 tablespoon energizer per gallon (yes I know that's
high, but I've never picked up on any taste) and I added almost two
teaspoons calcium carbonate per gallon to keep the pH from going too low.
(Actually I measured pH with a meter, aiming to keep it around 4.0) The
large amount of honey tends to push pH below what the yeast like. IMHO,
if you follow these two approaches you should still be ok, everything
else sounded reasonable. (Mine finished fermenting in about six weeks 🙂
The Wyeast dry mead yeast has a reported alcohol tolerance of 16-18%.
Good luck, and let me know how it turns out.

Subject: Archive text file
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 14:58:25 +0000

As some of you may know I have been keeping the mead digest archive
in one LARGE text file. I do this so I can pull up the entire archive
with Word and easily do searches on it. I just updated my file so it
now contains #10 – #554 that's the complete archive to date. The file
is 4724k and 1535k Zipped.

1) Is anyone intrested in this file?
2) If there is, does anyone have a publicly accessable file space

that I could upload it to? I wouldn't mind sending it to one or
two people but I wouldn't want to choke our mail server by sending
the same 1.5 meg file to a bunch of people.

Home brewing is like making bread. It's not a matter of knowing how. Many people
try it once, then
never again. You have to be into the kneading of the dough. Home brewing can be
very boring. You
have to be into your zen thing — hanging around the kitchen, washing bottles —
it's work and you have to
do it with the Spirit.

  • -Mountain Brew, Tim Matson

Matt Maples

Subject: Re: Wormwood
From: Peter Miller <>
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 97 09:10:46 +1000

>Date: Thu, 10 Apr 1997 14:13:02 +0000
>Does anyone have any experience or info on how to safely use wormwood
>in brewing? Yes, I know that in large quantities it is dangerous
>that's why I'm asking for help. You see have have an interest in
>historical brewing and there in a BIG SCA event coming up. If anyone
>has any info I would appreciate it.


I'm no expert, but I think that as well as being dangerous it may also be
technically illegal. I know for certain that Absinthe, which contains
wormwood, is illegal in most countries except Spain (and maybe Portugal).


Perpetual Ocean Music & Sound Design

Subject: First mead success
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 09:59:46 -0400 (EDT)

Just thought I'd let y'all know that my first ever mead has turned out quite

I followed the suggestion of monitoring and adjusting pH upward to speed
fermentation plus using yeast energizer and nutrient. Clarified with gelatin.
It is two months old and very drinkable. I'll find out just how drinkable
after a contest this weekend;)

One thing is that it fermented out a little further than I had wanted and is
slightly hot from alcohol content.
I haven't added any acid blend. Is it true that acid blend will help to
soften the alcoholic hotness?

Bob Talkiewicz, Binghamton, NY <>

Subject: Hoping with honeysuckle
From: michael rose <>
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 08:53:37 -0700

I'm a long time homebrewer(beer) but new to mead. A local brewery makes
orange blossom beer this time of year (its awesome). Unfortunately I
missed the orange trees blossoming so I will be unable to make any
myself until next year. BUT!, honeysuckle blossoms are just now
blooming. My idea would be 3-4 pounds of honeysuckle blossoms in the
last minute of boil for a 5 gallon batch. Any comments or
suggestions? Private E-mail is fine. Thanks Mike Rose, Riverside

Subject: First mead
From: (John Wilkinson)
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 97 16:15:05 CDT

Brace yourselves, here come some stupid questions from a novice.
I have been brewing beer for a couple of years and am finally getting
around to trying to brew mead. I was inspired to do this by someones
suggestion of using the yeast cake from a previous beer for mead. It
seems easy and I have a healthy yeast cake available to try it with.
I realize the ale yeast will not ferment the honey out completely due
to the yeasts intolerance to alcohol but the person suggesting this said
he has done it and likes it. I like my wines dry and am not sure how I
will like this so I plan to do a small amount (2.5 gallons) for my first
attempt. I also have my first batch of wine fermented and ready to rack
and wondered if using the yeast cake from it for mead was practical. Will
the high alcohol level of the wine (~10-11 percent) have killed the yeast or
does wine yeast survive this? I had thought I would siphon the wine off the
yeast prior to adding the sodium metabisulfate and potassium sorbate and doing
that in the secondary. Would this leave a healthy yeast cake in the primary?
As I write this I realize that I already siphoned to the secondary but have
not added the metabisulfate and sorbate yet. Will there be yeast in the bottom
of the secondary? If not, would the idea be practical on the next batch if
done with the primary?
For that matter, can it be done using the empty primary of mead? Does mead
leave a layer of yeast in the bottom of the primary like beer does?

Well, I warned you I didn't know what I was doing. Guffaws at my ignorance
will not be resented.


John Wilkinson – Grapevine, Texas –

Subject: OSG 1.180 ???
From: (Francois Espourteille)
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 18:41:25 -0400

Matt Crapo wrote:

>Started it in the pouch for about 6 hours, then boiled 1 cup extra light
>malt powder and 1/2 tsp energizer in 2 cups water for 10 min, brought to 80
>degrees and added the yeast. This went about 4 hours & started bubblin'
>good in the airlock. {snip} I had an OSG of 1.180. No that's not a typo.
>I pitched the yeast, shook vigorously for a few minutes, then let it rest
>at 75 degrees.

Your main problem is the gravity. To really tackle this type of mead you
need a very large yeast starter, in the order of 1 pint of *slurry* (not 1
pint of starter) or even 1 quart of slurry. When I make beers above 1.100 I
usually make a lighter bacth, sort of a 5 gallon starter, rack it to
secondary once finished and then use the slurry at the bottom of the
fermenter to start the high gravity batch. Works great.

>It took 4 days for fermentation to start, and it never got vigorous. It
>continues to bubble slowly after about three weeks.

I did a barley wine with OG 1.145 and with a quart of slurry it never got
vigorous, although it started fermenting in 6 hours. You might also not
have oxygenated enough.

>Should I rack it? Would it help to add more yeast? water? shake it?

What you could do is make another starter, with 2-3 gallons water-2/3lb
honey, lots of energizer, using another yeast pouch. After it's finished
fermenting, wait for the yeast to settle, ditch the liquid and pitch the
yeast in the high gravity mead. *Do Not Aerate!!* This would be sort of
like sending in the cavalry to relieve a few rifflemen surrounded by
Indians. It might help your mead reach a drinkable level as far as
sweetness is concerned (and then again, maybe not). As you state later,
it could be syrup (good chance of that). If it remains very sweet, try
champagne yeast, but then it might turn to rocket fuel. You could still
do what I suggested earlier (making a new starter) and instead of ditching
the liquid, add the whole thing. In that case don't overdo the energizer
or you'll get a strong metallic note. I would be curious as to the
outcome of this batch. Post a note in a few months… Did your
hydrometer actually go in the liquid or just bounce back?

Good luck


Subject: AMA status?
From: Mark Koopman <>
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 1997 08:59:45 -0500

Does any one out there know what's up with the AMA? I called the 800
"GO HONEY" order line yesterday, and it seems to have been
disconnected. Is there a non toll free number still operational? Is
the organization dead?

This is, of course, the sort of thing which should be in the news
letter! If the organization is dead, it seems the least the AMA could
do is to forward the addresses and phone numbers of their honey
sources. The bulk honey was the primary reason I joined, only a couple
of months ago.


Subject: AMA starthistle honey...
From: Mark Koopman <>
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 1997 09:08:37 -0500

O.K.,… here are a cou;le of questions concerning some starthistle
honey I got from the AMA recently.

One, it's the grainiest honey I've yet seen. My understanding from the
MLD is that crystalized honey is still fine for eating and making mead.
The only contrary imfo is the article by Dan and Ken on honey in "Inside
Mead"s last issue. It tastes fine, but I'm wondering if starthistle
crystalizes more readily than other varietals, and when and where to get
some at its freshest.

One other quirk. During primary fermentation there are "huuuuge"
bubbles in the neck of the carboy. I've never seen this with other
honeys. Is it normal for starthsitle? I am hoping there was not
residual soap on the inside of the cute little one gallon pail the honey
came in! Any comments other than "don't worry" are welcome.


Subject: Buckwheat / barrels
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 1997 19:19:39 -0400 (EDT)

In my travels I recently aquired some very good quality buckwheat honey. This
weekend it shall begin a several year long journey to become a mead. Since
there have been inquiries about buckwheat meads lately on the MLD, I would
like to point out that buchwheat, like heather and other similar honeys are
very strongly flavoured. These strong honeys are not well suited to the
hurried mead maker. The fermented flavours in meads made with strong honeys
can, when properly matured, be unparalled in flavour. When hurried can be
disapointing at best. So if your in a hurry go light on the honey variety, or
learn patience grasshopper.

On another note, I visited a place called Honey Acres in Ashippun,

WI. It is a large apiary. There is also a museum of bee keeping and a honey
tasting room. It is a very interesting place. I recomend it to anyone who
might be in southern Wisconsin. The place is about 40 miles from either
Milwaukee or Madison.
Honey Acres 1-800-558-7745. BTW They like mead makers and might trade (
honey )if you bring some mead.

On to the oak barrel topic, I must recommend using only french oak

barrels. They will have the mildest ( least oaky ) flavours. It is best (
and cheapest ) to acquire used barrels from wineries. After a number of years
use the barrels wear out, that is they do not impart enough flavour to the
wine. These are often easy to come by from the smaller wineries. Perhaps this
will help with your oak quest. The potential flavours should be wortth the

micah millspaw

Subject: Ginger Meads
From: William Chellis <>
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 20:53:03 -0400

Ginger Meads are great. My first was a Rubarb Ginger for which I used 4
oz grated fresh Ginger root/6 lb rubarb/20 lb honey for a 5 gal batch.
I also did a straight Ginger mead using 8oz ginger/12.25 lb honey for 5
gal batch.

both meads were great, the ginger mead was a red ribbon winner. Next
time I would add 1/2 lb dates to it, was quite dry.

try it

"The world will not be saved by old minds
with new programs.
If the world is saved. it will be saved
by new minds – with no programs."
(The Story of B by Daniel Quinn
Bantam Book/ISBN:0-553-10053-X)

Subject: peach melomel
From: JD Pierce <>
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 21:57:49 -0400


I can't find an faq about the m-l-d on the web so pardon me if any of
this is repetitive or not correct (I'm not even sure I've subscribed,
actually, as I've gotten no response). Regardless, on I go…

Has anyone made peach melomel? I've heard that this particular kind of
mead does not age well. I'd like some for my next batch but want to iron
this out first.

Also, on a traditional mead made with just under 3 lbs of honey per
gallon (1.1-ish o.g.) and champagne yeast, around what final gravity
should I expect. I know this is a tough one, but any generality would be
more than I know now. 1.030? 1.020?


Subject: Re: Adjusting mead pH with Acidex vs. Calcium Carbonate
From: Dieter Dworkin Muller <>
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 21:19:29 -0600

Derrick Pohl wrote:
: Thanks to those who responded to my pH adjustment questions. I called my
: local supply shop, and they said there are no pH papers sensitive enough
: and in the right range to accurately adjust the pH for mead, but offered to

Interesting. I've got a tube of test strips that range from 2.8 to
4.4, with a quoted accuracy of +/- .1 to .2 pH. Seems pretty close to
me. Admittedly, they can be a little hard to read, given that mead
has a colour that mimics some of the indicator shades.

These were made by Precision Labs, Inc., 9889 Crescent Park Drive,
West Chester, Ohio, 45069. I got them at my local brew supply shop.


Subject: Second batch questions
Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 00:27:07 -0400 (EDT)

My second mead was from a recipe on the Cat's Meow, a kiwi cyser. The recipe
given is for 3 gallons, yet the liquid ingredients called for a total of 6
gallons (one gallon kiwi puree, 2 gal cider, and 3 gal water). I cut the
recipe back to one gallon, but I didn't add any water (1/3 gal kiwi and 2/3
gal cider + 2 pounds honey). This mixture was very thick and the hydrometer
would not give a reliable reading. It fermented vigourously for about 3
weeks, and then stopped completely. I racked it to another jug at this point,
and again the hydrometer did not work. I tasted the mead and it seems to be
very alcoholic and solvent-like.

I think that the reason for the hydrometer's failure could be pulp from the
kiwi puree, which I did not strain. I have a 3 inch layer of this in the
bottom of the secondary jug.

I need advice on what to do-

  • -Is there a way to filter out the majority of the pulp without too much risk

of aeration?

  • -Should I add a gallon of water in order to make this 2 gallons? Or is it

okay as is?

I'm leaning towards the second solution, hoping that a larger container will
help me rack the must off of the pulp the next time I rack. Any advice on
saving this batch would be greatly apreciated.


Daniel Fox

End of Mead Lover's Digest #555