Mead Lover's Digest #0721 Thu 21 January 1999


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



Acid testing (John Wilkinson)
Cotton Honey for Mead? ("Stanley E. Prevost")
Thanks (Eric Reimer)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #720, 18 January 1999 ("Charles Hudak")
A Mead Question / Warning. (
Re: Stirring up oxidation again ("Wout Klingens")
1 Must – 4 Yeasts…6 months later ("Philip J Wilcox")
Argentine Sunrise ("Philip J Wilcox")
More on Mead and Buffering (Dan McFeeley)
Difficulty shipping Mazer Cup entries from Canada (Terry Estrin)


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Subject: Acid testing
From: (John Wilkinson)
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 14:24:29 -0600

Are the chemicals in an acid test kit sensitive to temperature?
The Sodium Hydroxide in my test kit has a non-clear bit to it and I was
afraid the temperature variation in the outbuilding I keep it in had harmed it.
I bought a new bottle but it has a little of the same brownish inclusion.
It is not exactly a sediment as it seems to be in the liquid but separate
from the bulk, which is clear. I tested with the old stuff and came up with
a reading calling for the addition of what seemed like a lot of acid blend.
This is in a red wine and when I racked the wine off the yeast this weekend
it seemed pretty acidic. I don't know if I overdosed or not or if the acidity
will moderate with age. Any advice? Should I keep the test kit in heated
and cooled space?


John Wilkinson – Grapevine, Texas – john.wilkinson@aud.alcatel com

Subject: Cotton Honey for Mead?
From: "Stanley E. Prevost" <>
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 23:47:20 -0600

Hi, y'all –

Since I live here in Alabama, in the Land Of Cotton, I wonder about using
cotton blossom honey in mead. I was talking with a local honey producer,
and she said their fall honey is mostly cotton. It is a dark honey, which
they sell as "wildflower" honey since they don't feel they can sell it
called cotton honey. I haven't tasted the honey, I wonder if anyone has
heard anything or has personal experience with it. I might just try it if I
could get hold of a little of the honey to taste.


Subject: Thanks
From: Eric Reimer <>
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 09:09:51 -0500

Hello all.

Thanks to everyone who responded privately and publicly to my "pooped
yeast" questions. I decided to add a rehydrated packet of champagne yeast
to the cyser and see what happens. Some airlock activity is now evident.
I tasted some before adding the additional yeast. Not too bad for a still
fermenting cyser! I think this one will be quite good with some ageing.

Eric Reimer
London, Ontario

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #720, 18 January 1999
From: "Charles Hudak" <>
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 10:03:03 PST

Randall poses the question "Is a honey solution a weak or strong

A honey solution is a very weak buffer. It does not resist changes in pH
very well.

He also asked if a fermenting mead will achieve the proper pH through

Yes, it usually will. This is true in any fermentation. The yeast will
quickly acidify the must/wort, etc making the environment inhosptible to
competing microorganisms. Conventional wisdom advises against acidifying
a must before fermentation due to the lack of buffering. Small amounts
of acid can cause huge drops in pH. While it is true that yeast favor a
low pH, addition of acid can easily drop the pH below the desired range
and cause slow fermentations.

Modifying the titratable acidity level in a mead must is best
accomplished after fermentation has finished but before it is aged so it
can stabilize.

Regarding the acidity or basicity of ethanol: all alcohols are acidic,
though most are very weak. Ethanol does reach an equilibrium in solution
were a very small fraction of the species exist as EtO-, having given up
their proton to the solution, the rest exist as EtOH.

Hope this helps

Charles Hudak

Subject: A Mead Question / Warning.
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 20:02:01 EST

A Mead Question / Warning.

Has anyone every made a successful Watermelon Mead?

We made one over the summer that we are just sampling now.
We used 2.5 gallons of watermelon juice ( 3 large seedless fruits, rind removed,
run through a blender and strained ) a gallon of clover honey, added water
up to 5 gal.
The watermelon flavor is far too strong, overpowering, and really gross.
Its only the watermelon flavor that too strong, otherwise it's a medium sweet,
still, clear, Mead with no off flavors.
We used all that juice because we thought a lot of the flavor would blow off,
we were wrong.

If anyone made a good Watermelon Mead, how much juice did you use?
Did the flavor mellow with age?
How long did it take?

Anyone thinking of making a Watermelon Mead learn from us, use less juice.


Captain Ozzy and The Aimless One

To try is to risk failure, not to try assures it

Subject: Re: Stirring up oxidation again
From: "Wout Klingens" <>
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 10:59:27 +0100


What an interesting topic Chuck and Dan are trying to discuss here.
Oh, where to begin? Let's try to tackle my good friend Chuck first 🙂
Why is it, that the general opinion is, that blanketing a mead with CO2 will
prevent oxidation?
Because some scientist says, that it is heavier than air? If that was
absolutely true, then we would all suffocate. Especially us, in The
Netherlands, which means "low country", because we would get all the
greenhouse gasses you US guys are producing over there 🙂
Now, not burdened with any chemical knowledge, me in my virginity-like
innocence would say, that CO2 mixes very well with air. If I recall
correctly, this process is called diffusion (?).
Anyone care to correct me on this….? Preferably on the digest?
Now let's see, what happens, when I top off, instead of adding CO2. My docs
say that if you top off, a smaller surface contacts the air. So less of the
mead will get "saturated" with air. A good argument for making large
Now what does "saturated with air" mean? Does that mean, that the oxygen
part of air will react with…. with what? Alcohol? To form acetaldehyde? Or
with tannin if present? Or just solve? And if so, is that bad?
"Winery technology & operations" says, that barrel aging accomplishes: "Slow
oxidation of the wine, mainly the phenolic compounds which are then partly
polymerized and precipitate".
Are we looking at a sentence, that partly answers the problem Dan is trying
to solve? I think so. The same book in the same chapter talks about
saturation levels of oxygen in wine, depending on the temperature of course
of about 6 milliliters per liter of wine. The author states, that in a 50
gallon barrel the addition of oxygen by topping off and racking is about 4
times the saturation level of wine.
Now with oxidation the phenolic compounds (tannins) change in color from red
to brown, polymerize and precipitate(!) If the exposure to air is too high,
a direct oxidation of alcohol will take place, "which results in a temporary
flat taste. (If so, later, in the absence of excessive oxygen, the
acetaldehyde interacts with the tannin, and the flat taste disappeares)."
End of a very interesting quote!
Here we have the "buffer" Dan mentions in his piece. Tannin, as he found out
So is this the answer to all Dan's questions? I don't think so. Because we
have to consider, that red wine isn't mead, mead has a high protein level,
which also interacts with tannins in some electrical way and precipitate.
Also there are different kinds of tannin. Grape tannin seems to do the
trick, but is red. Many among us add tea. Not the same as grape tannin. I
personally use gallnut tannin, which is white. The author I quoted doesn't
mention the interaction of oxygen with the tannins from oak, so…..
Another possible problem seems to be, that there are peroxide-like compounds
in honey, which could lead to problems as well.
Well, I realize, that I demonstrated my ignorance 🙂 But then that is
exactly why this forum exists, so I don't feel bad about it 🙂
I also don't sweat petty things. I wouldn't call a 6 gallon glass carboy
filled with mead a petty thing, you know! 🙂
So…. who is going to correct me? Or am I just absolutely right? Any
chemists out there? Please do reply to the digest instead of privately! Your
remarks are always interesting for everybody to read.


Subject: 1 Must - 4 Yeasts...6 months later
From: "Philip J Wilcox" <>
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 11:04:14 -0400

From: Philip J Wilcox@CMS on 01/20/99 11:04 AM

Dear MLD,

Late in June this last year I found myself some time off the golf course to
start a series of Meads. I pre boiled 4 gal my local over-clorinated water
and chilled it down to about 160 before adding about 3/4 gallons of local
wildflower honey to it to create a standard must. I had not had luck
finding champagne or Mead yeast so I went about taking a selection of wine
yeasts. My first mistake. Montrachet was available at both brew shops so I
figured it was ok, (Ouch! I know) At least with 1 packet/gallon I wasn't
under pitching. I then sanitized my 1 gal fermetors, labled and added the
other things to them. Below are my notes from what I started and ended
with. All were racked 10/22/98 and a few were sulfited 1/11/99.

Pineapple Melomel
1 can Dole unpasturized/No preservatives concentrate
Wildflower Must from above to fill almost to top
SG. 1.100
1 packet Premier Cuv?e
FG. 0.996 and Sulfited
Tasting Notes: adjusted FG to 1.028 very very fruity very clean Light it

Cranberry Melomel
1 can Dole unpasturized/No preservatives concentrate
Wildflower Must from above to fill almost to top
SG. 1.096
1 packet Montrachet
FG. 1.054 added EC-1118 on 1/18/99 to finish it off
Tasting Notes: Cloying sweetness-no surpise-Blush in color needs to finish
and needs more cranberry, but otherwize clean.

Mountian Cherry Melomel
1 can Dole unpasturized/No preservatives concentrate
Wildflower Must from above to fill almost to top
SG. 1.100
1 packet Cot? de Blancs
FG. 1.021
Tasting Notes: Light Blush in color, Cherry only faint, some fruityness,
Sweentess good. Very clean.

Was Traditional Now Metheglin (Clove&Anise)
added 1/4 tsp Yeast nutrients
Must and additional honey to
SG 1.100
Flor Sherry
4 cloves in August, 2 drops of Anise flavor at racking
FG 1.032 Extremely cloudy??
Tasting Notes: A bit too sweet maybe, Anise dominant, Cloves barely there.
Pale yellow but almost opaque

Tonight I will add the potassium sorbate and extra honey to sweeten the
Pineapple up to 1.028
The Cherry and the Metheglin are fine, Infact quite tastey. I packaged a
bottle of each of these up for the last homebrew club meeting. We were
exploring meads for the first time. Too bad the weather froze out all of
our invited guests and many of our members. Only 6 of us to share 10
meads… including a bottle of Chaucers which wasn't nearly as bad as
everyone had led me to believe. It was Nice, not extrordinary but quite

I would love to hear comments on yeast selection and performance from those
who know. I am also curious as how to clarify the Flor Sherry? I have some
PolyCar but have never used it, as I don't have a filter.

What do you think?

Phil Wilcox
Poison Frog Home Brewer

Subject: Argentine Sunrise
From: "Philip J Wilcox" <>
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 11:15:40 -0400

From: Philip J Wilcox@CMS on 01/20/99 11:15 AM

Dear MLD,

I also started another mead project a Traditional with an assortment of
Honeys personally imported by a friend from Argentina. These came to me as
over a dozen 3-5oz samples. None of them were marked as to what they were.
Wildflower, Orange Blossom, Apple Blossom, Tupelo, Mesquite were among the
ones I think I could pick out. Some were light others quite dark, but not
as dark as buckwheat. A few were whipped. All of them tasted good! They
totaled 48 lbs so I started a 2.25 gal batch in my 2.5 gal fermentor. I
continued my Montrechet mistake by adding 2 packets to this must. But at
least it wasn't a bust like the Metheglin. It fermented out to 1.005!!!! I
don't have a note on the SG. But if I knew the points/lb/gal of honey I
could figure it out. (HELP!!) I did not stop this one so I can still "Feed"
it. but I don't want to add to much of any one kind of honey since I dont
want any one flavor to be dominant. I did add some 4 oz of Star Thistle to
it when I racked it a few months ago. I have some buckwheat but I think it
would "taint" the flavor too much. What do you think? Any suggestions?

Phil Wilcox
Poison Frog Home Brewer

Subject: More on Mead and Buffering
From: Dan McFeeley <>
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 12:31:52 -0600

In MLD 720, Randall <> wrote, first quoting himself:

>"Honey is a buffer solution — which means it resists changes in pH —
>so it may take more acid than one would expect to lower the pH to the
>desired level."
>In the same MLD Dan McFeely had some reputable information that stated
>honey was not well buffered and required less acid to adjust the pH. My
>statement was based on information I read in a book recently. I must
>admit that I was surprised that the juice of one small lemon and 1/4 tspn
>of grape tannin could adjust the pH of a gallon of mead must to the proper
>pH. I suspect that Dan's information is correct and mine was at best out
>of date. Any light on this subject would be appreciated.

Adding lemon juice and tannin may not have been been bad advice. Without
knowing anything about the book, I would guess that this is an older
technique used by mead makers, and likely with some success. Going back
before the days of readily available wine making supplies, country wine
makers and mead makers would use citrus fruit and raisins to make up
nutrient, acid and tannin deficiencies in the must. The idea here is
that yeast seem to be biologically adapted to function best in grape musts,
but musts from other sources don't have the biochemical stuff in them to
match that same environment. Old time country wine makers made up this for
by turning to other natural resources, such as citrus and raisin. These
methods worked, although the results may have been hit and miss at times.

>This raises an interesting question. Does the fermentation process affect
>the pH of the must? If it does not, then readjusting the acidity of the
>must when teasing would be the right thing to do. If it does, then the
>adjustment could be done to the teaser before adding it to the must.

The endproducts of yeast fermentation are ethanol alcohol, of course,
along with glycerol, and volatile and nonvolatile organic acids including
acetic, succinic, and others. This would certainly have an effect on
pH levels in the fermenting must, but the strength of the effect would
depend on the amount of acidic byproducts produced by the particular type
of yeast strain, and strongly or poorly buffered the must is. Some of the
references I've seen indicate that the process of fermentation in honey
musts can drop the pH appreciably during its active phase, especially
if acid blend was added at the start of the fermentation.

Buffers against pH changes are either weak acids and their conjugate bases,
or weak bases and their conjugate acids. As an oversimplied illustration;
if a base is added to the solution, excess OH- ions are consumed by the
H+ ions of the acid component of the buffer system, and vice versa.

Wine making texts indicate that the acid buffering capacity of a must has
much to do with the organic acid pool that is contributed by the fruit
used in the wine making process. Most grape and fruit musts are acid
solutions, with ph ranging between 3.0 and 4.0. According to Roger
Morse in _Making Mead_, pH levels in grape and honey musts are roughly the
similar, but the total acid content in grape juice is two to four times
higher than that of honey. For this reason, primarily, honey musts
are poorly buffered in comparison to grape musts, and are much more
likely to show wide swings in pH levels with the addition of acid than
do grape musts. Variations in pH and acid content in different types
of honey can give mixed results. According to a paper titled "PH & Acids
in Honey," available at (National Honey Board), the average pH
of honey is 3.9 with a range of 2.4 to 6.1, and its average total acidity
is 29.12 meq/kg with a range of 8.68 to 59.49 meq/kg.

As an illustration, I was experimenting with using an herbal tea as a
flavoring additive to mead, but the fermentation stuck without warning.
Checking the pH showed a level of 2.9, which explained why the yeast had
given up. I still didn't know why it had happened until I checked the
ingredient label on the tea box. One of the additives was citric acid!
No wonder the mead had quit on me. Lesson learned from this experiment

  • — read all the labels before adding extra stuff to meads!

These are additional references on the subject:

Roger Morse, _Making Mead_, Wicwas Press, 1980.

Roger Morse & Keith Steinkraus, "Wines from the Fermentation of Honey,"

in _Honey: A Comprehensive Survey_, edited by Eva Crane. Crane,
Russak & Company, Inc., New York, 1975.

C. L. Stong, "The Amateur Scientist," _Scientific American_ Sept. 1972,

pp. 185 – 190. The article quotes liberally from what seems to
have been Roger Morse's original thesis project at Cornell University
where he conducted experiments designed to speed up the fermentation
process of mead. Lots of technical papers on honey put out by the National

Honey Board.

Daniel McConnell & Kenneth Schramm, "Mead Success: Ingredients, Processes

and Techniques," _Zymurgy_, vol 18, no. 1, Spring 1995, pp. 33-39.

Daniel McConnell & Kennth Schramm, "An Analysis of Mead, Mead Making, and

the Role of its Primary Constituents." I found this a few years ago at
http://www.atd/, but the web site may
have changed since then. You might find a link to it at one of the mead
making web pages on the 'net.

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

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

"Mead ten or twelve years old is a most sovereign and a pleasant remedy
for many diseases." Galen (quoted by Purchas)

Subject: Difficulty shipping Mazer Cup entries from Canada
From: Terry Estrin <>
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 11:44:58 -0800

Hi Dick,

I'll understand if you don't post this for lack of mead-content (but it

would sure help me get my mead to the Mazer Cup!).

A question for fellow Canadian mead-makers,

I am trying to send a couple of entries to this year's Mazer Cup, but

have discovered that it is pretty much impossible to ship alcohol over the
border (via courier or mail). Have any other Canadians tried and succeeded,
and if so, how did you do it?

As an alternative, Ken Schramm has kindly offered to pick up my

entries if I can ship them to a brewer in Windsor, Ontario. Anyone out
there in Windsor? If so, just email me at: .


Terry Estrin
Vancouver, B.C.

End of Mead Lover's Digest #721