Mead Lover's Digest #0770 Wed 1 December 1999


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



RE: Mead Lover's Digest #769, 25 November 1999 ("Brian Lundeen – F102")
Rose hips (
Re: Mead History (Myrriah Lavin)
Re: A reason to core apples. (
Using Plastic Buckets ("Michael O. Hanson")
Yeast OD? (Hilary Doda)
Cranberry Melomels & Fermentation Problems (Dan McFeeley)
Re: How to stop fermentation (Gordon & Linda)
Re: European honeys (Gordon & Linda)
RE: Mead Lover's Digest #769, 25 November 1999 ("Ogle, Michael")
tamarind (Scott Murman)
Aging times with melomels (
Is it legal? (Ken Mason)


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Subject: RE: Mead Lover's Digest #769, 25 November 1999
From: "Brian Lundeen - F102" <>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 13:07:46 -0600

> I cannot recommend aeration of a fermentation as
> you will likely produce oxidative browning before
> the yeast begin to ferment. If you want to do this it is
> better to aerate the yeast in a starter containing yeast
> energizer and the like, chill the yeast and discard
> the starter fluid by pouring it off before pitching.
> You may even wish to wash it in cold, sterile water.
> This will give you a strong yeast without the risk
> of spoiling the fruit or honey taste by aeration.
> I recommend a minimum of 30 ppm sulfite as an
> antioxidant to prevent this potential spoilage before
> fermentation. This is all consumed or scrubbed
> during the fermentation.

Absolutely, you will get oxidative browning. However, whereas you regard
this as a problem, I belong to a growing number of winemakers who believe
that pre-fermentation oxidative browning, or PFOB, is a good thing. I do not
fully understand the chemistry behind it, but the theory is that the
oxidized compounds drop out during fermentation, and actually leaves you
with a wine that is fresher and less prone to oxidation problems later in
its life. The key is to not use any sulfites which can bind the oxidized
components and keep them in the wine. With careful sanitation,
pasteurization of the honey, and adequate pitching rates, I do not see the
need to add sulfites at the start. I have used PFOB on premium grape musts
that I know did not have sulfites added to them, and have not experienced
any oxidative properties in the finished products. I vividly recall one of
the first wines I used this technique on was a Muscat Canelli, which is a
fairly dark juice as whites go. Before fermentation, it looked like 5
gallons of cafe au lait, with not a whole lotta lait. 5 years later, the
wine is still drinking beautifully. Now maybe I'm incorrect in assuming that
a honey must will behave the same as a grape must. However, I'm willing to
take that risk. I am starting another mead soon, and plan to PFOB it with my
air stone. I will let the MLD know how it turns out.


Subject: Rose hips
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 11:44:03 +1100

I have done a range of rose hip wines in the past, although not rose hip meads.
Usually I have made the wine with some fairly decent (not too light) dried
grapes, such as muscatel raisins to give the wine a bit of body and depth. I
guess a fairly dark honey would be a good idea to try.

Rosehips seem to result in a bit of a mouth-puckeringly dry wine which smooths
out nicely after a few years in the bottle, but I think the effect is due mainly
to the hairy little seeds within. If using commercially obtained dried rosehips
this problem doesn't seem to arise. If using fresh rosehips it is a real pain
in the arse to separate the seeds from the shell, as the hairs on the seeds are
really irritating. I usually process the fresh hips lightly, which means cutting
the hips up but avoiding cutting into the seeds as much as possible, and ferment
on the hips with some of the sugar (or honey) in solution for a week or so,
before straining and continuing as normal.

A good rosehip wine/mead will depend on the other ingredients.

Successful recipes have been (but I don't have any details with me at the
moment): rosehip and thyme – at least 5 years ion the bottle before drinkable,
but brilliant in the end ( although there is another on this list who might
offer a differnt opinion), and rosehip and juniper (with currants and muscatels)

  • – this one I had trouble clearing so I blended with a plum wine and fortified

up to an approx 20%.

I'll check through my records and see if there is anything else to add.


Subject: Re: Mead History
From: Myrriah Lavin <>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 20:48:45 -0500

Ron Raike wrote:

> I friend was recently married and i was going to give them a few bottles
> of some old stuff as a gift and wanted to include some historical
> expainations of why mead is/was used for weddings/honeymoons … does
> anyone have record of such info or a pointer to a web site (yes, i tried
> searching)

Charlie Papazian has a fun piece called "Mead, Honeymoons and Love" in the
meadmaking appendix of The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

Myrriah Lavin


Subject: Re: A reason to core apples.
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 20:52:34 -0700

"Stevenson, Randall" <rstevenson@LDI.STATE.LA.US> wrote:
: the main advantage of coring apples (especially those
: that are going to be reducsed to a ground mush) is that apple seed contain
: cyanide. The hull usually protects someone who eats them from ill effects
: (i.e. the seeds pass with most of the cyanide still in them). I have read
: of one case in which someone died from eating a cupfull of apple seeds.

What follows is some selected quoting from pages 255-256 of "Suicide
and Attempted Suicide", by Geo Stone (a book whose target market is
people in medically-hopeless situations that want out). Yes, I have a
varied and eclectic library….

[…] If you crush a fresh apple leaf (or cherry, plum, pear, and
some others) between your fingers, you should be able to detect the
faint odor of almonds. This is the smell of cyanide. Apple seeds
average around 0.6 mg hydrogen cyanide (HCN) per gram of dry seed.
Since the lethal dose of HCN is estimated to be about 50 mg, you need
around 85 grams (3 ounces) of dry seeds. This is around half a cup,
which requires a <i>lot</i> of apples. However:

1. Plants are variable; […] Cyanide […] can cause brain damage in
sublethal doses [….]

2. The HCN must be liberated from the sugar it's chemically attached
to. This occurs when the moistened seed is crushed, releasing an
enzyme, emulsin, which does the job. Apparently, this also occurs in
the stomach, due to the hydrochloric acid there. In any case, you
need to crush and eat these seeds fairly quickly, both to avoid
evaporation of cyanide from the crushed seeds, and so as not to lose
consciousness before ingesting a lethal dose. […]

He goes on to mention one recommendation, which is to dissolve
potassium cyanide in water. He specifically cautions against using
fruit or soft drinks, as their acidity will release the HCN too soon.

Combining all this, I come to the conclusion that you don't need to
worry about it if you let the crushed apples breathe for a while
before being stirred into the must, and/or letting the must breathe
after mixing. Since the must (and the crushed apples) are both
naturally acidic, the HCN will be released at that time, and if
there's reasonable airflow (i.e., no airlock in the way), it will
dissipate harmlessly. Of course, you might not want to stand over it
continuously sniffing to figure out when the almond odor's gone….

On the other hand, if you have an apple corer, that would make any
residual worries moot.

I would also infer from the aside about leaves, that the pits/seeds
from many commonly-used fruits are probably best avoided or aired out
as described above.



Subject: Using Plastic Buckets
From: "Michael O. Hanson" <>
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 11:33:07 -0600

I am responding to a post on the last MLD about using plastic buckets as
fermenters. Most people I know who make mead, beer, or wine use a food
grade plastic bucket as a primary fermenter. Due to the time it takes mead
to age and clear, you will want to transfer it to a glass carboy when it
bubbles about once a minute.
Racking mead to and allowing it to age and clear in a plastic bucket can
allow oxygen to mix with the mead. Racking will allow you to get your mead
off the settled yeast. Fill the carboy as full as possible to prevent
oxygen mixing with the mead. After you rack your mead, set up the airlock
on your carboy just as you would for primary fermentation. You can leave
it in the carboy until it clears or rack it again. If you have any
questions, please let me know.

Mike Hanson, President
Hanson=92s Hobby Homebrewing, Inc.

Subject: Yeast OD?
From: Hilary Doda <>
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 11:01:26 -0500

Hi! I'm a mead newbie — I've done all of two batches in
my spaghetti pot and pop bottles in my student apartment.
I'm learning, slowly, but I have a question that I hope
someone here can help me with.

The champagne yeast that I have has instructions on it
that say '1 package for 5 gallons (6 US gallons)'. What
happens if I put the package into less than what it
recommends? Is it possible to put too much yeast into a
must? How can you tell what's too much vs. not enough?

Hilary Doda.


There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

  • Dave Barry

Subject: Cranberry Melomels & Fermentation Problems
From: Dan McFeeley <>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 14:00:18 -0600

I recently bottled a batch of cranberry melomel, my second of two tries.
My first attempt was a simple combination of wildflower honey and a
cranberry juice concentrate picked up at our local health food store.
The second attempt was the same combination of honey and concentrate
but with the addition of chopped cranberrys. Both were fermented

It wasn't until after I'd bottled the second batch that I discovered
that cranberries have a reputation of being difficult to ferment!
I read this in the April '98 issue of _Fruit Winemaking Quarterly_
which had a reprint of a Cider Digest post by Andrew Lea giving some
advice on the source of the problem and how to work with it.

According to Andrew, it has been widely believed that cranberry juice
contains approx. 100 ppm of benzoic acid, which would inhibit the
fermentation. Apparently this has been known since 1905, according
to a reference by Charlie Nagel at Washington State University, he
said. Some work by Andrew, however, showed that the benzoic acid
in cranberries is largely bound up in an ester compound called
vacciniin. While it is in this state, it does not hurt the
fermentation. A glucosidase enzyme in cranberries can act to liberate
the acid if it comes in contact with the ester, thus increasing the
levels of benzoic acid. This would happen in instances where the
cranberries had been frozen, disrupting cell structure and allowing
the enzyme and its ester substrate to come in contact with each other.
Andrew had found that the enzyme activity can occur quickly once the
cranberries thaw. Some thawed samples which he had tested had over
1,000 ppm of free benzoic acid.

Andrew's advice was to be aware of the processing history of any
cranberries used for fermentation. Pasteurization would denature
the enzyme and prevent it from acting to raise benzoic acid levels.
Buying fresh berries that had not been frozen would also seem to
be a good way to avoid problems. Interestingly, the cranberries
I used for my melomel had been frozen, but the melomel had still
fermented with no problems. I had checked the pH before adding the
yeast and made an adjustment with calcium carbonate after finding
that it was too low. More than likely, in raising the pH to a
more acceptable level, I had also neutralized the benzoic acid
in the cranberries, allowing the fermentation to proceed without
any difficulties.

Hope this is helpful!

Dan McFeeley

Subject: Re: How to stop fermentation
From: Gordon & Linda <>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 19:27:07 -0700

Kent & Judy in MLD #768 ask about stopping fermentation.

I have used potassium sorbate many times without a single failure.
My technique is a variation on what Dave Burley discussed in #769.

I start out my fermentations at a moderate specific gravity, 1.070
to 1.090. Then when the SG drops below 1.010, I add more pasteurized
honey (not diluted with water). I always use the same yeast (Lalvin
K1V 1116) so I know how it behaves for me and what its alcohol
tolerance is. So I periodically add honey until the fermentation
slows down and the SG stops where I want it.

After the yeast settles out but the mead is not yet brightly clear,
I rack the mead into a clean carboy leaving almost all of the yeast
behind. Then I add the potassium sorbate and let the mead continue
to age. With almost no yeast to act on, the potassium sorbate is
very reliable. Of course the mead is also very close to the alcohol
tolerance limit of the yeast. Therefore, I am really combining two
methods to insure that I get a stable still mead.

If you want a less alcoholic mead, use the same method with an
ale yeast.

Most importantly, experiment and find out what technique works
the best for you and your equipment.

Gordon Olson

Subject: Re: European honeys
From: Gordon & Linda <>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 19:26:56 -0700

Gary Gutowski in MLD #768 asks for advice about European honeys:

>I purchased this honey at an eastern European grocery store in Denver. My
>thoughts were to make traditional mead, medium to sweet, out of each type.
>Since the mountain and forest types seem very strong, I plan on mixing about
>25% of each with 75% clover or some other neutral honey. The acacia honey
>seems much mellower. I plan on making a medium to sweet traditional mead
>with 100% acacia honey. Any information on experiences with these honeys is
>greatly appreciated.

My advice is to not dilute the strongly flavored honeys with neutral
honey before fermentation. Instead, if necessary, blend the resulting
mead with mild mead if it is too strong. This is a much more flexible
approach. Besides, from my experience, strongly flavored honeys become
much milder after they are diluted with water and fermented.

… A few years ago, I gave a talk about mead making at the New Mexico Bee
Keepers Association annual meeting. Half of them had never tasted mead.
The samples I passed out livened up what was traditionally a dull meeting.

During my talk I said that I was looking for "interesting and unusual"
honeys for making honey. Someone in the back immediately mentioned salt
cedar honey and the rest of the room bursting out laughing. Salt cedar
is a non-native bushy weed that has taken over the water ways here in
the southwest. Everyone agreed that it was an unpalatable honey that
would be impossible to use. That sounded like an interesting challenge.

So I requested and was given a couple gallons of salt cedar honey. When
I opened the container and tasted it, I had to agree that it was truly
unpalatable. It was complexly sulfury in the nose and taste. Very vile.
When diluted with water it tasted even worse. All sorts of nasty
chemical tastes.

Being very stubborn, I went ahead and made two batches, one traditional
and the other with spices (just in case I needed to mask the flavors).
At bottling time both batches tasted pretty good and after six months
in the bottle both tasted very good. The odd ball tastes of the salt
cedar honey were still there, but now in a desirable way. You would
certainly not mistake it for clover mead. It was the "interesting
and unusual" mead that I was looking for. I sent a couple of six packs
with a bee keeper to another annual meeting, but I never did hear back
from them what they thought of the mead. My beer and mead making friends
are happy to drink it.

Since then, I've heard that the bee keepers have found a market in
bakeries for this honey. It is high in diastatic enzymes and is used
in only small quantities in baking so the flavor is less important.

So, be adventurous and use strongly flavored honeys. Note that I used
fresh honey from a professional bee keeper. If someone gives you honey
that has sat in someone's basement for 20 years and is brown with
oxidation, I would not expect good results.

Gordon Olson

Subject: RE: Mead Lover's Digest #769, 25 November 1999
From: "Ogle, Michael" <>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 10:10:12 -0600

As to making cyser with beer yeast, I'm certain that you can do it, but I'm not
certain as to the advisability of doing it with the amount of sugars you have in
your proposed recipe. In a batch I started a couple of months ago I used the
same honey/cider ratio that you're planning, and the O.G. was 1.132. Depending
on your yeast and ingredients, you may find your fermentation stopped before you
want it to. Maybe look around for a beer yeast with a relatively high alcohol

The one thing I would say about your recipe is that you might consider dropping
the nutrients from the list; My cyser is pure cider and honey (no nutrients
added). I put a 1-quart starter on it, and within 36 hours the fermentation was
extremely vigorous — we're talking a HIGH volume of foam — with a notoriously
slow yeast: Wyeast Sweet Mead. There are plenty of nutrients in that cider. As
long as you have no Potassium Sorbate in the cider, you can expect it to take
off like a shot.

Also: be prepared for the possibility of a short period of time where the cyser
smells of sulfur. I don't know if this is produced by all yeasts, but the sweet
mead yeast did it, and I'm told that a few other yeasts do it too, especially
when fermenting apples. The smell goes away after a week or two, but it can
worry the hell out of you the first time it happens.


> ——————————
> Subject: beer yeast in cyser?
> From: Steven Sanders <>
> Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 10:33:08 -0800 (PST)
> Hello… Im looking to make a batch of cyser real soon
> here, and I was wondering if I could get away with
> using a beer yeast for it. I was thinking of using
> beer yeast because I had heard it would give less off
> flavors and result in less aging time. I was looking
> to make a fairly sweet product.. My planned recipe so
> far is:
> 4 gallons unpasturized cider
> 1 gallon raw wildflower honey
> Nutrient
> Would a beer yeast work for this? If so, what would be
> a good kind? (Id like to go with a yeast labs liquid
> type) Or would i be better off with a sweet wine /mead
> yeast and make sure it has a good strong fermentation
> going?
> =====
> My Moon-based Death Ray
> Panics the people of Earth.
> Mock my theories now!
> – -Andrew G. McCann

Subject: tamarind
From: Scott Murman <>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 10:52:06 -0800 (PST)

tried searching the digest, but couldn't find any info. i'm going to
try making and tamarind mel, and was looking for an idea of how much
tamarind per gallon. my procedure is to freeze the fruit overnight,
thaw and smash it up, then pasteurize and ferment with the honey.

  • -SM-

Subject: Aging times with melomels
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:18:15 EST

I've just bottled my third melomel batch (no prior fermenting experience,
refridgerator experiments discounted). The first two batches that I made both
contained large quantities of honey and raspberries (27-30 lbs. honey, 7 lbs.
raspberries for a 5 gallon dry yeast batch). When I bottled the mead, I was
pleased to find that it was immediately drinkable. They definitely smoothed
with age, but they were still quite pleasant to drink right away. I just
finished bottling a batch of pineapple-mango (around 5 lbs. fruit, 21 lbs.
honey, dry yeast). It finished much more quickly, and it is not in the least
bit drinkable. I realize that the raspberry batches might have been more
drinkable right away because they took longer to finish, but I'm wondering if
anyone else has taken notice of differences in aging times of melomels
depending on the fruits used. (I also am quite aware that I've gotten
completely spoiled in having ready-to-drink mead immediately upon bottling…)

  • Joshua

Subject: Is it legal?
From: Ken Mason <>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 17:53:36 -0800 (PST)

HEY! I just found out that it's illegal (in the U.S.)
to distill your own alcohol. What about
recrystalization? (repeatedly freezing mead and
removing the water ice which crystallizes before the

If it is illegal, I've been bad for a long time and
will need to revise some Christmas gift traditions.
Too Bad, the stuff makes a fine Cordial..

End of Mead Lover's Digest #770