Mead Lover's Digest #0594 Fri 19 September 1997


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



re: Preservatives… (Dick Dunn)
Pectinase (Jeffrey Rose)
Req: Tupelo honey mead recipes (Dan Cole)
Sources of Honey (
Fennel honey for mead (Miguel de Salas)
Bitter Peach Mead (Olson)
re: aloe vera ("Olin J. Schultz")
Party Pig use for meads. (Dan Cole)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #593, 16 September 1997 (Jeff Duckworth)
Re: Vanilla Cream Mead ("John R. Bowen")
STOP!! ("Samuel W.Wwilliams")
Prickly Pear Update and ? ("John Heubel")


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Subject: re: Preservatives...
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: 16 Sep 97 15:53:49 MDT (Tue)

Charles Hudak <> wrote:
> …I get brilliant melomels and I've not sulfited a one. Rather, I
> pastuerize the fruit by pooring hot must over the fruit and letting it sit
> at ~170F for 30 minutes…

Hmmm…is there a special name for a melomel made with stewed fruit? 😉
Sure, you can do it that way, but your time/temperature are way more than
is needed, and that much cooking *is* enough to affect the flavor. I'm
suggesting that you don't want to use a method which is going to make
sulfiting look attractive by comparison!

> …In fact, until only recently, brewers and
> vintners didn't even know how the transformation from grape juice to wine
> took place. They certainly didn't know it was yeast…

Curious use of "recently"…it's been known for many centuries. (OED takes
the root word and use back to Saxon, circa 1000.)

Although it might not have been used for wine (because as Charles says,
grapes have good wild yeast present), it couldn't have been much of a
challenge to observe fermenting beer, fermenting wine, and the effects of
the results, to figure out that it was the same thing going on. The micro-
biology of yeast had to wait, but its existence and properties were pretty
well understood way back.

>…Wine used to be made
> by crushing the grapes and letting the natural yeasts on the skins ferment
> the wine. Although they didn't know why this worked, it did. This
> traditional method is still practiced throughout Europe, although the fear
> which many have demonstrated is starting to turn the tide towards chemical
> treatment…

Several issues are tangled together here. As a side note, wine is still
made with natural yeasts in the US as well, by smaller wineries. But the
question of using natural yeasts _vs_ inoculating with a culture is not the
same as the question of using sulfites or not. Sulfites are used in the
processing of all commercial wines save a few specialty wineries. In par-
ticular, sulfites are still used by wineries which use natural yeasts.
Also, they are used (for example) in essentially all of the top Bordeaux
and Burgundies…and have been for a long time. (Don't be misled by the
changes in US labeling laws in the past couple decades. The processes have
stayed essentially the same in the top wineries.)

The reason for inoculating with a culture is what Charles mentioned later,
namely product consistency. Thus it's standard procedure for large
commercial plonkmakers who want the same product year after year. Smaller
wineries may inoculate always, never, or only if the weather indicates it
might be a good idea. But still, this is separate from sulfiting.

>…Sulfiting has gained popularity as wineries have moved away
> from the practice of growing their own grapes (which would ensure that the
> flora are consistent for a particular vinters wares) and have started
> buying them from all over…

But this can't be right, because sulfiting hasn't gained popularity! The
processes are little changed, save that the scare-effects of the labeling
changes, coupled with increased interest in "natural" foods, have induced
a handful of wineries to work entirely without sulfites. Wines made with-
out any sulfites are *more* common today than they were 20 years ago.

Hmmm…perhaps the next sentence gives us a way to a better understanding:
> I object to using sulfites for the same reason I object to mass pesticide
> use…

Note the adjective. I too would object to "mass" pesticide use, but I
don't object to all pesticides. I'll use pesticides iff I've got a par-
ticular problem (i.e., not as a blanket preventive) and I'll use gentle
stuff like pyrethrins or fast-breakdown chemicals as a first choice. But
the reason I refuse to be dogmatic about it is that I'd rather use a little
than lose a crop.

And this does tie back in to meadmaking. As a rule, I don't sulfite.
I've done it to learn about it. I would do it again if I felt it was the
best way to solve a particular problem, but I'd go into it with an under-
standing of the downside. (There's always a downside. Heating fruit
changes the taste.) With some care, I can use the minimum effective dose
of metabisulfite and most of it will dissipate before I'm done–just as in
the garden I go for minimal use of pesticides and work so as much as
possible of the dangerous stuff will be gone by harvest.

Dick Dunn rcd, domain Boulder County, Colorado USA

Subject: Pectinase
From: Jeffrey Rose <>
Date: 16 Sep 97 17:33:31 -0400

I would like to make a berry-melomel by pasteurizing my fruit and
extracting flavor with a 1/2 hour boil. I know that boiling will set the pectin
and that pectinase is not active at high temperatures. My question is,
how soon does gelation (?) occur and when can I add pectinase? I'd also
like to make a crabapple wine and I think I may be faced with the same


Jeff Rose

Subject: Req: Tupelo honey mead recipes
From: Dan Cole <>
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 19:12:27 -0400

My local natural foods co-op's "premium" honey this month is Tupelo honey.
I've bought 9 lbs of it and am now looking for an appropriate recipe. I'm
probably going to make up a half-batch (2.5 gallons) and reserve the other
3 pounds for something else.

I've heard that Tupelo is held in high regard as a base for meads, but I've
looked in the Cats Meow and the Bees Lees and have only found a few recipes
that mention Tupelo honey.

I understand that it has a very unique flavor so I am leaning towards a
traditional mead, but I am willing to entertain any recipes. Also, if
anyone has a suggest for a preferred yeast (dry or sweet) for this honey,
please speak up.


P.S.: I am planning on brewing this in the next couple of weeks and hiding
the finished product from myself for at least a year.

Subject: Sources of Honey
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 20:32:50 -0400 (EDT)

How can I find out about appeiaries (sp?) in the Ann Arbor, MI are?

I want to make some mead, but as you know, good honey is very expensive.

Thanks, Rene'

Subject: Fennel honey for mead
From: Miguel de Salas <>
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 11:48:21 -1000

Here in Tasmania fennel is a noxious weed. It grows all over the place, and
bees make honey from it. The honey, marketed as fennel honey, does have a
slight fennel sort of flavour to it. The question is:

Has anyone out there ever made mead from fennel honey? What were the

results like?

I get the impression that it is one of those flavours that become

unpleasant when the sweetness is reduced, much like eucalypt honey, but it
would perhaps be appropriate on a sweet mead…

Any help appreciated.

Miguel de Salas, in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.


Subject: Bitter Peach Mead
From: Olson <>
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 21:38:01 -0600

>I'm new so bear with me. i have an 8 month old 10 gal. batch of peach Mead.
>Okay, I know it's not really mead. My problem is that it has a bitter taste. My
>peaches were frozen and may not have been ripe. Any suggestions to save it. It
>is very clear and looks wonderful. Thanks


Did the fruit taste good when you made this mead? If fruit used in a
mead is under- or over-ripe, it will not taste any better in a mead than
it does fresh.

What is the gravity? It may be that it has fermented out very dry and
your taste buds are expecting a sweet peach taste. When I made a peach
mead, I deliberately made it semi-sweet, 1.022. If yours is below 1.010,
you may want to add some more honey.

Or it may be that you added acid blend and now it is too sour. Are you
confusing bitter with sour? What is the pH of your mead?


Subject: re: aloe vera
From: "Olin J. Schultz" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 21:13:05 -0700

>I was wondering if this can be used somehow as a mead/cider/cyser
>indredient. I know they make an agave extract, and to me the aloe and
>agave plants look very similar. Anyone have any thoughts? I was
>thinking that boiling off some of the H2O from the gel might leave an
>extract-type flavoring compound.

I would think the key question here: Do you really like the flavor of
aloe vera? I often glob some on my pancakes in the morning but I am not
sure I would like it in my meads…

I think experimentation is great. If it turns out good let me know so I
can take my own bottle of aloe vera out of the bathroom and into the
brew room.

Olin Schultz

Subject: Party Pig use for meads.
From: Dan Cole <>
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 06:17:08 -0400

>I was
>wondering about something I read in a recent sales letter from my local
>supply shop about using what they call a "Party Pig" instead of individual
>bottles, it seems to be designed for beer, but could it be used for mead?

I see no reason why it couldn't be used for dispensing meads, but I would
seriously recommend against the party pig for the long aging that meads
often go through. The "pig" is plastic and over time may be oxygen
permeable. It is not a problem with most beers because beer is consumed in
larger quantities at a time (at least I hope so… imagine sitting around
with some buddies and spliting a "case" of mead).

If you wanted to try, you could age your mead in glass as usual, and then
transfer the mead to the party pig to dispense. One note though, remember
the party pig is only 2.5 gallons.

Good Luck,
Dan Cole

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #593, 16 September 1997
From: Jeff Duckworth <>
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 97 08:53:11 -0500

Hey Nathan,

>Greetings to all. I'm interested to find out some info about buffering.
>If pH influences yeast health and metabolism to the point that it does, has
>anyone developed an effective buffer for a mead? Many posts refer to
>periodically checking fermentation pH and adjusting with chalk as the pH
>gets too low for effective fermentation. Could a buffer work?

I've been reading and experimenting lately with the acid content of my
meads and thought I would give you my thoughts:

First off I would suggest ignoring pH all together. I have done so for
all of my batches of mead with no problem. I achieve vigorous
fermentations, usually in about 24 hours, so I feel that all that sugar
is just too attractive to the little guys!

However, I have discovered the usefulness of measuring the titratable
acid content. Since you know about buffers I'm sure you know that they
are generally weak acids which resist changes in pH. Since most acids
present in your basic meads (citric, malic, etc.) are weak acids,
measuring and changing the pH to achieve a desired level can be a
difficult job (although, to be honest, I have never tried).
Additionally, as far as I have been able to determine pH is of little
value as far taste goes because acid which isn't contributing to the pH
(i.e. still protonated) is contributing to the taste. Measuring
titratable acid content is easy, repeatable and useful. My meads which
have a low natural acid content (depending on the ingredients) routinely
taste awful until I get the titratable acid into a good range.

As for when you need to adjust the acid…some books (i.e. Ducan and
Acton) stronly assert that you MUST do it before fermentation, but I have
found that even with 1.5 year old meads it makes an incredible difference
(it was a batch with almost no titratable acidity and it still tasted
horrible after one and a half years! quite drinkable after I adjusted the
acid). Also, I don't KNOW this, but I suspect that the alcohol that the
yeast produces inhibits the yeast much more than any change in pH that
occurs during fermentation. I would guess that the biggest component in
the change of pH during fermentation would be all of the CO2 that is
dissolved in the must (I doubt that yeast produces and excess of other
organic acids) and I have certianly had a lot of CO2 disolved in my musts
with no fermentation problems. Of course, if you are using a must with a
very high initial acid content (depending on your ingredients) you may
want to lower it by using chalk before you pitch the yeast as it could
very well inhibit your fermentation.

I use a titration kit made for wine that works quite nicely to measure
the acid in my musts. In short, adjusting the titratable acid has been
the single biggest improvement in my mead making and I don't put a lot of
stock in adjusting the pH with the livelyhood of my yeast in mind.

Feel free to fire back any additional comments on this topic, that is if
you don't tire of reading my excessive emails!

Jeff Duckworth

Subject: Re: Vanilla Cream Mead
From: "John R. Bowen" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 1956 13:04:39 +0000

Dan, while I am also hoping for an answer to your basic question, I
don't think lactose is going to do it for you. I added 1 cup/5gal to
a pymet last week, with not a hugh increase in sweetness. I think you
would probably need 2-3 cups/5 gal minimum, and it still might not be
sweet enough.

The lactose might increase the vanilla taste, which could be good.

The downside is that we depend on the lactose being unfermentable by
the yeast. But if you have any contamination with other yeast or
bacteria, possibly even a little bit, they might break the lactose
down into fermentable sugars, causing 1) loss of sweetness and/or 2) a
glass BOMB if you use a lot of lactose.

I wonder if there aren't some other stable sweetners out there?


Subject: STOP!!
From: "Samuel W.Wwilliams" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 16:05:19 -0500

Kind Readers,
I've been lurking here for a few weeks, but sadly, after I attemped my
first Mead. My 2 questions are:
1. Is there any way to stop a ferment dead in it's tracks? I started at
a gravity of 1.135 (16 lbs honey in a 5 gallon batch) and I'm using Red
Star Champange yeast. The gravity is now at 1.040 and is too sweet. I'm
concerned that my mead might feremnt to a dry mead and I don't want a
dry mead. I want a med dry to sweet, still, sack mead.
2. What's the formula, using starting and finishing gravities, to
calculate the alcohol level.
Thanx for all the info I've learned for last few weeks and TIA for
answers to my questions.
Private answers acceptable.

Subject: Prickly Pear Update and ?
From: "John Heubel" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 20:09:13 -0500


I just racked my mead tonight for the first time. Brewed (is that the
correct term?) it on the 6th and here's the generals:

Day 1: 8# Local Mesquite honey

7# Prickly Pear fruits
1/4tsp CaCO3 in RO H2O to counter the pH drop expected during ferment
1 Tbsp Fermax ™ yeast nutrient
2 pkgs (10g) Red Star Premier Cuvee (aka Prisse de Mousse)
O.G. 1.060 in 5gal

Honey was added to 2gal H2O and brought just to boil start, heat turned
skimmed for albumin. Force chilled in ice bath. Fermax added as heating.

Fruits were chopped and topped with H2O then boiled 2hrs as per Papazian
recipe in _Homebrewer's Companion_. Chilled and added to fermenter.

Yeast proofed in following: 1/2cup Orange Juice, 1/2cup H2O, 1Tbs malt
extract (boiled, chilled, yeast added while luke warm, took off well).

Day 2: Brought just to boil 4# Mesquite in 1/2gal H2O and skimmed albumin.
Chilled and added to fermenter. Should've put the gravity in the 1.090

Stirred/swirled fruits twice a day first couple of days, then every other

I've heard about adding honey til the yeast stops working to adjust desired
level of sweetness:

1. How much at a time and how frequently?
2. How do I insure sanitization of honey at this point since I don't wa

more water added at this point (pasturizing thru heat) . Sulfites? Not a
factor at this point due to high alcohol and *good* yeast population?
Gravity now at 1.000.

3. I know time will eventually win, but if I want to add pectic enzyme,

how much and when should it be added (or am I too late already).

I plan on splitting off about 1-2 gal to stay dry and make the rest
sweetish. Hydrometer sample promising at this point. Sorry for the length
but I wanted to provide enough info to get some good answers.

Wichita Falls, TX

End of Mead Lover's Digest #594