Mead Lover's Digest #0569 Mon 2 June 1997


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



Flavoring mead w/ extracts (Thaddaeus A Vick)
Re: Aussie bees/honey (Peter Miller)
Aging mead (
Yet another aging question (guym@Exabyte.COM)
Re: "Acid" by Matt Crappo ("John R. Bowen")


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Subject: Flavoring mead w/ extracts
From: (Thaddaeus A Vick)
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 1997 14:47:04 -0400

Has anyone had any experience with using regular alcohol-based

flavorings and extracts as
a shortcut for flavoring mead? How much would you think would be an
appropriate amount?

Hugh the Barefoot
mka Thaddaeus A. Vick –or–

Subject: Re: Aussie bees/honey
From: Peter Miller <>
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 97 10:41:55 -0000

>From: (Jane Beckman)
>Date: Thu, 29 May 97 14:25:01 PDT
>>As far as I know honey from bees in Australia only differs from honey in
>>countries by virtue of the nature of the blossom upon which the bees feed.
>>Honey made from Eucalyptus blossoms is rather strong-tasting compared with
>>a lot of other blossoms and as a consequence it requires longer maturation.
>Uck, uck, uck! I *hate* Eucalyptus honey! It has *weird* off-flavors in
>mead. (I got some *real cheap* once, and swore "never again!") I didn't
>find the flavors changing a whole lot with aging—it got different, but it
>was still weird.

No this is simply not true (well not as a generalisation anyway). As I
said in the last MLD, I've tasted several different kinds of meads made
on Eucalyptus honey. The tastes are certainly unique and unexpected, but
in no way could be considered "off". I can only assume that the "real
cheap" stuff you got was also "real bad".


Perpetual Ocean Music & Sound Design

Subject: Aging mead
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 1997 22:43:32 -0400 (EDT)

The question has been put, how long can mead be aged. Since my crystal ball
is not wholey to be trusted, I can only tell what has happened up 'till now.

I moved recently ( March) and so had a chance to open several bottles of mead
that had been secreted away in my cellar. BTW these were shared with fellow
mead makers ( some of whom are MLDers ). The age range of the meads went back
as far as '87, a dandelion still mead, there where present myself and two
others who had tasted this mead in the past at least five years earlier. It
was still quite good and readily drinkable, it however was slighty oxidized
and darker than remenbered. Fortunately that was the last bottle, no loss.
Next came the '88&'89 orange blossom meads. one still, one traditional, both
were exceptional and had matured very well, and I beleive are better than
they were several years ago ( these meads won the '93&'94 show mead at the
mazur cup ) We then tried a '91 sage honey mead sparkilng it was very
champagne type, but always had been, in fact any change due to age was not
detected. The biggest suprise was a '88 braggot made with a lager yeast, I
had not liked this at all when it was first made and had not ever tasted it
since, somewhere in the interveining years this mead had improved markedly,
it was complex smooth and drinkable. So in all, this whole aging bussiness is
more like leaving suprise presents for future yourself. So if you like

BTW these meads were all stored underground in very stable conditions. Most
spent the first one to three years in SS soda kegs, and were later bottled.
The oldest was the only one of the lot of have been bottled and capped (
crowned ) the rest had been corked, with mushroom caps and wired. Some had
been filtered some not. I am still drawing conclusions about aging and its
effects. There are many, many variables in addition to time.

micah millspaw – brewer at large

Subject: Yet another aging question
From: guym@Exabyte.COM
Date: Mon, 02 Jun 97 10:17:32 MDT

To add a slightly different angle to the aging discussion, I have a
question. What is the consensus on the proper temperature for aging meads,
melomels, etc.? Room temperature? Cellar temperature? Refrigerated? I
have a melomel made with 13 lbs. Alfalfa honey, 4 lbs. blueberries, 2 lbs.
blackberries, and Wyeast 3184 sweet mead yeast (3 gallons; O.G. 1.157, F.G.
1.049) that is sitting in a refrigerator in my garage. It was made on
5-28-96 and bottled on 9-1-96 and is a delightful, sweet, dessert type
drink. It is a rose-purple color and crystal clear and was fermented at
72-74 F. My question is, would the character develop even better if I
moved it out of the refrigerator? I am very pleased with it thus far but I
do want to lay it down for extended aging at the "proper" temperature.

Also along the same lines, what temperature is considered "proper" for
serving mead/melomel/etc.? I have only made melomels (sparkling or still)
and have always served them chilled (not too cold).


Guy McConnell /// Exabyte Corp. /// Huntersville, NC ///

Subject: Re: "Acid" by Matt Crappo
From: "John R. Bowen" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 1956 15:40:05 +0000

Matt, you raise some interesting questions about pH and acidity. I
must confess that even with a PhD in biochemistry and 15 years
experience selling pH meters and electrodes, some of the acidity
discussions baffle me. Here are some thoughts, explanations,
conjectures, and more questions. I sure wish I knew which were which.

If you can bear with some terms and defintions, I will try to relate
this to mead at the end.

"pH" is a measure of the concentration of H+ (hydrogen ion) in
solution (OK, to be picky, it is the chemical activity of the H3O+
{hydronium} ion, but close enough for our purposes). There is always
some H+ around: when the pH is 7, there is as much H+ (the acidic
component) as there is OH- (the basic component), and the solution is
neutral. Notice how when you add the H+ to the OH-, the + and –
cancel and the result in H20, which is water. Isn't science neat?
But there is always a little H+ and OH- present, even in pure, neutral

Because of this ability of the H+ and OH- to combine and neutrilize,
pH is also a measure of the ratio of H+ to OH- in a solution. So you
can think of it either way, either the concentration of H+ (acid) or
the ration of H+ to OH- (acid to base balance).

"Acidity": When the H+ concentration exceeds the OH-, the pH will be
less than 7 and the solution is said to be "acid", or "acidic". The
pH is a measure of the excess: at pH 6, the H+ to OH- ratio is 100:1;
at pH 3, the ratio is 100,000,000:1, but there is still some OH-
around. When the OH- exceeds the H+, the pH will be greater than 7 and
the solution is "basic". As before, at pH 8, the ratio of OH- to H+
is 100:1, and at pH 11, the ratio is 100,000,000:1. But there is
still some H+ acid around in this very "basic" solution.

Restated, when the pH is below 7, the solution is acidic. The farther
below 7, the more acidic. A low pH means a high acidity. When the pH
is above 7, the solution is basic. A high pH means more basic. The
terms "low" and "high" are relative. If someone tells me that have a
"low pH", I generaly think in terms of pH 4 or lower but they may only
mean "The pH is lower than they wanted it to be", so I try not to jump
to conclusions.

"Acid additions". Some chemicals are called acids because they can
produce H+ in solution, increasing the H+ concentration, tilting the
H+/OH- ratio and reducing the pH to make the solution more acidic. We
commonly use tartaric, citric, malic, lactic, and phosphoric acids.
They have differing abilities to product H+, but none of these will
release all the H+ they are capable of. The degree to which they will
product H+ is called the "acid strength": Phosphoric acid is strong,
lacitc less so and the others even less so. Its an equilibrium
process, some of the molecules releasing H+ and some holding back. If
some of the released H+ is consumed (for instance, by reacting with
some of the OH- that is always present), some of the other molecules
will release their H+, so an H+ balance is maintained. Which brings
us to

"Titratable acidity or total acidity or potential acidity". Now let's
get confusing. Remember that pH refers to the concentration of H+ in
solution. It does not address this untapped resevoir of H+ that could
be released from those "acids" like tartaric under the proper
conditions. That resevoir is usually measured by "titration" with an
acid test kit. "Titration" is simply the addition of a chemical of
known strength (usually sodium hydroxide solution in our kits) which
will react with an unknown chemical ( in this case, the free H+ and
the H+ released from the resevoir of unutilized acids ). Sodium
hydrozide is a strong base, producting much OH- in solution. The OH-
from the sodium hydroxide reacts with the H+, neutralizing the H+ and
producing water. When this happens, the resevoir of acids release
more H+, which reacts with more OH-, over and over until all the
resevoir is consumed. We use a dye to change color when the pH is
near neutral, indicating that we have consumed the resevoir. The
quantity of sodium hydroxide we needed to use to consume the resevoir
tells us how large the resevoir was. This then is the "total acidity,
or potential acidity or titratable acidity". It is simply how much H+
could be released if all the H+ releasing compounds did so.

The "potential acidity" is not a measure of pH. pH tells how much a
acid H+ is present now. "Potential acidity" tells how much could be
released if it were all consumed. There is no fixed relationship
between one and the other, and no way to relate the determinations.
As an example, phosphoric acid added to pure water will release a
great deal of its H+ immediately, so the pH will be low, but the
potential acidity may also be low, as much of the H+ has already been
released. On the other hand, tartaric acid added to water will
release much less of its H+ initially. So the the pH will be higher
(or "less low, if you will), but the potential acidity will also be
higher, because the resevoir of unreleased H+ will also be greater.
If both phosphoric and tartaric acid are added together, the pH will
be low from the contribution of the phosphoric acid, and the potential
acidity will be high from the contribution of the tartaric.

"Buffers". The last related concept I can deal with is buffers, and
buffering. When a compound like tartaric acid releases part of its H+
in solution and retains part as that resevoir, a "buffer" is created.
Buffers resist change in pH. If more H+ is added with the addition of
a strong acid like phosphoric, some (but not all) of the added H+ will
be taken up by the tartaric, increasing the resevoir of potential
acidity and tempering, or "buffering" the change of pH due to the H+
addition. Likewise, if a small amount of sodium hydroxide is added to
introduce the basie OH-, some of the tartaric will release additionan
H+ to react with and neutralize some of the OH-, reducing the size of
the remaining resevoir of potential acidity, and "buffering" the
change in the pH by consuming part of the OH-. So a well-buffered
solution will resist changes in pH from additions of H+ or OH-, but at
the expense of increasing or reducing the size of that potential H+

Now, to relate this to mead. The paragraphs from Acton and Duncan
that you quote are a little confusing. When they state "Where a must
is deficient in aicd, certain peculiarly substances are produced
during fermentation….", I muse chide them for imprecision. Do they
mean the must is not sufficiently acidic, that is, the pH is not low
enough, or do they mean the must is lacking certain acids, like
tartaric and malic, which increase the resevoir of potential H+? If
the latter, these acids may have other effects on the yeast
metabolism or be converted to other by-products, or may themselves
affect our taste perceptions. Is it the pH or the chemical presence
of these other acids that concerns them?

A note on honey: We know that honey is highly variable: The pH of
honey can vary from low, around 3, to actually somewhat basic, around
8, although 4 to 5 is most common. The potential acidity is also
quite variable. As this potential acidity is the reason for the
buffering of pH, and as acids are producted during fermentation, this
potential acidity will effect the pH during active fermentation and
the final pH. When the authors state that honey is poorly buffered
relative to wine musts, they mean that the buffering acids tartaric,
malic, citric, etc. are low, and the pH may drop rapidly during
fermentation. Is this a problem or part of the meadmakers art? I
don't know.

I don't know about the "sulfuric acid standard", but I think you will
get the same numbers relating this to tartaric acid. Sulfuric acid is
a strong acid and perhaps mopre accurately titrated in a chemical
reference lab, but % acid should be % acid, and their numbers or 2.5
to 3.5 ppt (.25 to .35%) seem reasonable to me for the way we usually

It appears as though they are saying meads need less acid addition
because they are poorly buffered, and a little acid will go a long
way. But the addition of the acid itself creates a buffer, so I'm not
sure I agree.

When I make mead, I measure the pH of my must. If it is between 5 and
3.5, I do not add any acid. I save my acid additions for the end,
when I can measure the final pH and total acidity. My last mead (a
pymet) ended up at pH 3.2 with 0.3% total acid. I have heard that pH
3.2 is necessary to protect mead from acetobacters and other spoiling
bacteria (I don't know!). Even though 0.5% acid is a common target
for wine, this is mead, not wine, so I have opted not to add any acid
blend. My pH is low enough. Wine, with its greater buffer capacity,
might have ended up at a higher pH, thus needing the added acid to
lower the pH, not just raise the % acid. I don't know what effect
added acid would have on the flavor profile of the finished mead,
independent of the acidic tartness. I probably should add some to a
bottle or two and compare.

IMHO, nobody really know what affects mead. The "acids" are present
(with or without their associated H+) no matter what the pH, but
wether they are more readily utilized in one form or another, or
whether they are converted to flavored esters or what, I dont't know.
It is difficult to sort out the affects of acidity (pH) from the
effects of the "acids", and the natural variabilty of honey doesn't

It would probably be worthwhile to study wine elvaluation and
chemistry to understand the relationship between pH, total acidity and
taste perception. Ah, time, where hast thou gone?

If you opted to zip through most of this, forgive me. I think its
important that we understand the relationship between acidity and
"acids" and pH and total potential acidity so we can relate what we
measure to what we taste and improve our meads accordingly.

And I see in writing this that I am beginning to plumb the depths of
my ignorance. Best wishes.


End of Mead Lover's Digest #569