Mead Lover's Digest #0716 Thu 31 December 1998


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



Re: Temperature regulation (Dave Polaschek)
spritzy mead (bob farrell)
Use of Acid in Mead Making (Dan McFeeley)
temperature regulation ("Stephen J. Van der Hoven")
end-of-year digest stats (Mead Lover's Digest)


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Subject: Re: Temperature regulation
From: Dave Polaschek <>
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 98 13:33:12 -0600

Mead Sender wrote:

>Hello All! I am starting my first mead in January. The problem is it is sub
>zero weather and I live in a drafty aptartment. John P. suggested using
>on the brew, but I am still wondering if that will be enough since I can't
>even regulate a comfortable temperature in my apt. How will the internal
>temperature changes affect my mead? BB JADE

I used to have this sort of setup, and the way I solved it was twofold.
One, I put my fermenter in the least-drafty corner of the kitchen.
Two, I wrapped the fermenter in an old, beat-up sleeping bag.

Between the two, the temperature of the mead stayed about 5 degrees above
the average room temperature while it was actively fermenting (remember
that fermentation gives off heat). While the mead was aging, it stayed
very close to the average room temperature.

If you're starting in January, you only have two REALLY cold months to
worry about, and there will be some fermentation during that time. By the
time fermentation starts to slow down in March, outside temps will be
rising, and you'll have less to worry about.

As for small/slow temperature fluctuations, I never much worried about
them. Between the sleeping bag around the fermenter, and the thermal mass
of five gallons of water, the room had to drop (or rise) ten degrees and
stay there for more than a day for the mead temperature to start to vary

If you're still worried, consider that mead was originally made in areas
without central heating, and which were often drafty. People still
managed to make mead. Sudden thermal shocks aren't good for mead (a quick
chill can cause yeast to give up and drop out of suspension, for
example), but with a little insulation, you can keep the sudden shocks

  • -DaveP

Dave Polaschek – personal: or
PGP key and other spiffy things at <>

You know you're really somebody in the software world when

Richard Stallman complains about you having a gratuitous patent.

Subject: spritzy mead
From: bob farrell <>
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 1998 09:03:33 -0800

Over the Christmas holiday, I used a wine thief to sample my five meads
that are in carboys. Both the blueberry and the blackberry melomels have a
slight effervescence. Is this normally expected with these two fruits or
do I have a secondary infection? If the effervescence is ok, do I run the
risk of explosions once these are bottled?

Many thanks to Dick Dunn for maintaining this forum.

Bob Farrell
Portland, OR

Subject: Use of Acid in Mead Making
From: Dan McFeeley <>
Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 01:36:21 -0600

Not so long ago, while browsing through the July 1993 __Fruit Winemaking
Quarterly_ , I came across a reprint of an article from the 1992 Summer/Fall
issue of _The Beverage People News_ titled "Raising Acidity in Wine and
Mead" by Bryon Burch. The article ranged briefly through characteristics
of tartaric, malic, and citric acid, and also gave directions for adding
tartaric acid to finished wines. What was most intriquing to me was the
chart at the end of the article listing minimum recommended acid levels for
wines and the various styles of meads. The chart, in percent grams acid per
liter (the unit of measurement was not stated in the article but I'm guessing
on the basis of the use of the decimal point), appeared in the FWQ reprint as
listed here:

Dry Meads — .55 Fruit Wines — .65
Metheglyns — .59 Cysers — .70
Melomels — .65 Ports — .75
Sweet Meads — .65 Pyments — .80

Unfortunately, the article didn't give details on why certain acid levels
meshed well with the characteristics of each style of mead, or what kind of
resulting flavor profile was expected as the end result. It was the clearest
breakdown of recommended acid levels I have seen in the material I've read to
date on mead making, but didn't give guidelines as to how those levels had
been arrived at.

The first batch of mead I made was inspired by a recipe out of _The White
House Cookbook_, an old book from the late 1880's which I found in an
abandoned building on the campus of my alma mater. The recipe only described
a process of adding new honey to spring water and then boiling it, but
without giving the measurements for the honey and water. Two ounces of
white Jamaica ginger, one ounce of cloves and mace, and one and a half ounces
of cinnamon were added to every fifteen gallons and the fermentation was
accelerated with yeast. I made some wild guesses as to the amount of honey
and water to be used for a small batch, added bread yeast, and put it in a
covered crock pot. Somehow it worked, although I wasn't sure I liked the
taste of the resulting mead. With all the guesses I had made it was
pretty certain that this was a poorly made batch, but at that time I had no
idea what mead was supposed to taste like.

I've learned a little more since then, not enough to be considered a mead
master in any sense of the word, but sufficient for making better and more
well enjoyed meads since that first batch. With apologies to Jade and others
who feel "simple is best," below are some ideas and guidelines I've picked up
here and there on the use of acids in mead and winemaking.

Acids can be broadly defined as chemical substances which release a positively
charged ion of hydrogen when added to water, and are categorized as either
strong or weak according to the degree of dissociation. A strong acid will
strongly dissociate, giving up a large majority of its hydrogen ions. Weak
acids dissolve in water mainly as undissociated molecules, with maybe 1 – 2
% dissociating into anions and hydrogen ions. A schematized formula (where
"R" stands for the variable molecule, or anion, shorn of its hydrogen ion)
is as follows: R(H) —> R + H(+)

A base is a chemical substance that releases an OH (-) or hydroxide ion
when dissolved in water. Sodium hydroxide dissolves into sodium and
hydroxide ions as follows:
NaOH —> Na(+) + OH(-)

Acids and bases react together to form a salt and water. This process is
called neutralization. The hydrogen and hydroxide ions in the solution
combine to form water. H(+) + OH(-) —> H(2)O Hydrochloric acid (a strong
acid) combines with sodium hydroxide in this way:
HCL + NaOH —> H(2)O + NaCl (water and common table salt).

The amount of dissociated hydrogen ion in an acidic solution is measured as
its pH. The pH is calculated as the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion
concentration: pH = -log [H+] . An acidic solution having 1 x 10(-2) M of
hydrogen ions is pH 2. Since this is a logarithmic function, a small change
in pH represents a large change in the amount of dissociated hydrogen ions
in solution. A pH of 7 is a neutral solution — anything less than 7 is acidic
and anything over 7 is basic.

Titratable acid levels (TA) are measured by first adding a color indicator,
usually phenolphthalein, to a prepared solution of wine or wine must. A
known amount of base such as sodium hydroxide is added (i.e., titrated, hence
the name titratable acid or TA) in small amounts until the indicator indicates
complete neutralization of the base and acid in solution by turning pink.
The previously unknown amount of acid can now be calculated by using the
known amount of base used to neutralize the solution. Whereas pH can only
suggest how basic or acidic a solution is, TA is a measure of the total acid
content of a solution, since the added base neutralizes both the dissociated
anions and hydrogen ions.

The three principle acids used in wine making are tartaric, malic, and
citric acid. These fruit acids are all weak acids, and only dissociate
partially in solution. Strongly dissociating acids, or mineral acids, do
not occur naturally in winemaking. TA measurements usually indicate acid
levels expressed as either sulfuric acid or tartaric acid. The European
standard as set by the French uses TA expressed as sulfuric, however, many
winemakers in this country prefer TA expressed as tartaric. Because the
different acids impart different flavor characteristics, it is important to
be aware of the meaning of TA. TA expressed as tartaric is essentially
calculating the amount of tartaric acid as found in grape wines, since
tartaric acid is the principle acid found in grapes. The principle acid in
apples is malic acid, so an acid test of a cider where the TA measurement is
expressed as tartaric can be somewhat misleading. Tartaric acid tastes
different from malic acid. Think of the sourness of lemon for citric acid or
the taste of apple for malic acid. Tartaric acid is extremely sour. It is
also important to note that the principle acid in honey is gluconic acid, an
acid with different flavor characteristics compared with those of tartaric,
malic, or citric acids. This suggests that ideas for using acid adjustment
taken from winemaking texts can be very helpful, but may not be completely
reliable due to the difference in biochemical properties between honey and
grape musts.

Duncan and Acton in _Progressive Winemaking_ recommend an acid blend of 50%
tartaric, 30% malic, and 20% citric acid for most wines. This is the
approximate balance of acids naturally found in grapes. If an acidity
greater than 4.5 ppt (expressed as sulfuric) is desired, they recommend an
acid blend of 50% malic, 30% tartaric, and 20% citric in order to reduce the
sharpness of the taste.

Here is a table from Duncan & Acton's _Progressive Winemaking_, giving a
comparison of sulfuric, citric, malic, and tartaric acid in ppt (parts per


0.5 0.72 0.69 0.77
1.0 1.43 1.37 1.53
1.5 2.14 2.03 2.29
2.0 2.86 2.74 3.06
2.5 3.58 3.42 3.83
3.0 4.29 4.10 4.59
3.5 5.01 4.78 5.36
4.0 5.72 5.47 6.12
4.5 6.44 6.15 6.89
5.0 7.15 6.84 7.65
5.5 7.87 7.52 8.42
6.0 8.58 8.21 9.19
6.5 9.30 8.89 9.96
7.0 10.0 9.58 10.7
7.5 10.7 10.3 11.5
8.0 11.4 10.9 12.2
8.5 12.1 11.6 13.0
9.0 12.9 12.3 13.8
9.5 13.6 13.0 14.6
10.0 14.3 13.7 15.3

What this table means is that the same amount of a known base will
neutralize (from the first line of the table) either 0.5 ppt of sulfuric
acid, 0.72 ppt of citric acid, 0.69 ppt malic acid, or 0.77 ppt of tartaric

Using the figure of 18 gm.s tartaric acid per 5 gallon carboy to obtain a
0.10% increase of TA, the following examples (taken from Jeff Cox, _From
Vines to Wines_) can be worked out:

1) Desired TA is 0.60; Actual TA is 0.53 The difference to be made up is 0.07

18 X 0.7 gm.s = 12.6 gm.s tartaric acid to be added to 5 gallons of must

2) Desired TA is 0.70; Actual TA is 0.58 The difference to be made up is 0.12

18 X 1.2 gm.s = 21.6 gm.s tartaric acid to be added to 5 gallons of must

(The figures above are percentages, which can be converted to ppt by
multiplying by 10)

Here is another table from Duncan & Acton's _Progressive Winemaking_, giving
the principle acids generally found in various fruits:

Bananas | Apricots Apples | Grapes Raisins
Red & White Currants | Blackberries Bullaces | Sultanas
Elderberries Grapefruit | Cherries Damsons |
Lemons Limes Loganberries | Greengages Gooseberries |
Oranges Pears | Nectarines Peaches Plums |
Pineapples Raspberries | Rhubarb Rowanberries Sloe|
Strawberries Tangerines | |

For white wines, Brian Markham in _Wine Basics_ suggests that their
complexity of flavor profiles can be set against a combination of two
scales — acidity and sweetness. The two scales of sweetness and acidity
are set up like this:


Heavy |
Unctuous | + Sweetness
Watery |————————— |

Little | – Sweetness
Hollow |


– Acidity | + Acidity
Hollow Thin Meager Tart Aggressive

Both scales are divided into two sections indicating either insufficiency or
excess. Combining the two yields the following profile:

| Heavy | Liqueurlike | Honeyed | Full | Nervous
| Unctuous | Sweetish | Fat | Sustained | Hard
| Watery | Limp | Balanced | Lively | Acidy
| Little | Flat | Dry | Fresh | Green
| Hollow | Thin | Meager | Tart | Aggressive


Although the midpoint is given as "balanced," in practice this is not the
case. Dessert wines, for example, are meant to rank in the upper corners of
the sweetness scale, and many German wines are intended to have an acidic
character to them. Although they are not "balanced" in the abstract sense of
a perfect meeting of the scales, they are perfected wines in that their
character is uniquely suited to the type of grape used for the wine and the
techniques of vinting the finished product. The same idea would apply to the
making of meads, depending on whether it is a high gravity sack style mead,
or low gravity dry mead. The flavor profile of the type of honey used for
the mead would also be important.

The biochemical properties of honey vary according to their source, including
pH and acidity. A table listing the composition of American honey types
compiled by John White (USDA Technical Bulletin #1261, 1962) and reprinted
in Dan McConnell and Ken Schramm's paper titled "An Analysis of Mead, Mead
Making and the Role of its Primary Constituents" is helpful here (the paper
is available on the Web, unfortunately, I don't know the URL). Taken from
the chart is a listing below of eight types of honey with total acid expressed
as a percentage, and pH.

Acid pH
Mesquite 16.33 4.20

Clover 26.53 3.77

Fireweed 26.77 3.03

Sage 29.1 3.51

Citrus 30.34 3.84

Tupelo 36.59 3.87

Raspberry 39.19 4.04

Tulip Poplar 42.99 4.45

Some of the recommendations for the use of acid in mead making can be quite
confusing. Roger Morse, in _Making Mead_, says nothing more than "Most wines
should have total acid values in the vicinity of 0.5 to 0.7 per cent; musts
will have slightly higher values since some acid is lost during the
fermentation." Charlie Papazian, in the chapter he wrote on mead making
in Gayre's _Brewing Mead: Wassail! In Mazers of Mead_, notes "When making
simple mead, it is often desirable to add a small quantity of 'acid blend'
(a combination of 25 percent citric, 30 percent malic, and 45 percent tartaric
acids) to the ferment. Honey alone lacks acidity, a characteristic that many
people consider favorable in mead. If a traditional mead were desired, then
any addition of acidity would not be called for." He recommends an unvarying
amount of 4 tsp of acid blend in five gallon recipes for mead, sack mead,
and metheglin. The same advice is given in _The New Complete Joy of Home
Brewing_, but with a stronger emphasis on the individual taste of the mead
maker. He suggests adding acid blend to mead only "to give it a subtle
fruity character and lessen the 'hotness' of the alcohol flavor." Four tsp.
of acid blend is suggested as optional for five gallon recipes. Pamela
Spence, in _Mad about Mead!_, also recommends 4 tsp of acid blend in a five
gallon recipe for traditional mead but adds that many mead makers prefer
adding acid in the form of citrus peel, claiming that this method produces
a "cleaner, more flavorful, and aromatic mead." She suggests scrubbing the
fruit first to remove any wax or pesticides, then using thin strips of the
peel and "a discrete squeeze of juice." Although high levels of oil from
the fruit peel can retard the fermentation, she states that the small
amounts used in home mead recipes should not affect the process too
adversely. Finally, Bryan Acton & Peter Duncan, in their book titled
_Making Mead_, stated that because honey musts are much more poorly
buffered in comparison to wine musts, meads require a lower level of
acidity compared with wines; approximately 2.5 to 3.5 parts per thousand
acid (expressed as sulfuric acid). With the exception of metheglins, they
state that melomels and "other honey drinks" should be treated as normal
wines when adjusting acid levels. Although they note an observation that
citric acid has been a standard choice for mead makers, they feel that the
best acid blend for superior meads is 2/3 malic acid and 1/2 tartaric acid,
in amounts of 10 gm (1/4 oz) tartaric acid and 15 g (1/2 oz) malic acid for
4.5 liter recipes. Clara Furness (from the British Isles, as are Acton &
Duncan) in _Honey Wines & Beers_ , however, reflects that many of the mead
makers who entered prizewinning meads in competition have generally used
lemon juice, a source of citric acid.

Interestingly, a tupelo mead I entered in the last Mazer Cup was made
following Acton & Duncan's recomendations for the use of tartaric and malic
acid. The mead placed third in the traditional category but was faulted
because it was a little too tart and not well balanced enough with its
honey profile. Either I didn't get the measurements right, or the use of
acid blend was simply a poor choice for this particular mead. The
conversation on use of acid that I've seen on MLD suggests to me that a
fair number of mead makers here would side with Papazian on the use of acid.
Unless a recipe is being followed that calls for specific amounts of acid
blend, many mead makers on the digest have said that they prefer the taste
of their meads with no added acid at all. Then again, there is Clara
Furness' advice: "It is vital to the final flavor of your mead to begin with
a good balance of acid in your must. As salt brings out the flavor of food,
so the acid added to mead accents the subtle flavor of the honey in the
final wine." It seems that the best summary of the above is to take the
time and patience to experiment with the different methods and techniques
that are already guaranteed to yield good meads in order to make even more
excellent meads.

Dan McFeeley

"The righteous shall be given to drink pure mead sealed with musk."

  • – The Koran

/ \ .-.
/ \ / \ .-. _

  • -/–Dan McFeeley——-\—–/—\—/-\—,– \ / \_/ `-'
\ / `-'

Subject: temperature regulation
From: "Stephen J. Van der Hoven" <>
Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 09:46:09 -0700

I've posted this several times before, but the question keeps coming
up. To keep the fermentation temperature up during the cold months, I
put the carboy/bucket in a larger container, fill it with water and use
a fish tank heater to maintain the desired temperature. If you've got
multiple fermentations going, buy a bigger container and another fish
tank heater or two. I also put bleach in the water to inhibit the
growth of unwanted organisms. I tried covering the container to reduce
the evaporation of water, but found that water condenses in the heater
and eventually shorts them out.


Subject: end-of-year digest stats
From: (Mead Lover's Digest)
Date: 31 Dec 98 10:01:26 MST (Thu)

The Mead-Lover's Digest finishes this year with 88 issues. This is down
from 1997, although I suspect it's more due to my erratic schedule in
getting the Digest out than to having less material. (I'm thinking of
going to a semi-regular schedule of two issues a week with additional
issues if traffic warrants. Comments on this to, please.)

We've got about 1000 subscribers. This number seems to be pretty stable;
the list size has bobbled around 1000 + or – a dozen all year. I am
encouraged that the list is holding up but a bit concerned that it hasn't
grown any more. I don't know whether the list is hard to find or there
just aren't many people interested in mead _and_ interested in this style
of forum.

Mead-Lover's Digest
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor Boulder County, Colorado USA

End of Mead Lover's Digest #716