Mead Lover's Digest #0812 Wed 12 July 2000


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



Roger Morse in Review (long) (Dan McFeeley)
"must" bee a sign (Aaron Perry)
RE: varietal honey, no-chem meads (Holly Allen)
Jasmine Mead (Eileen Tronolone – NYC SSE)
Randy's stuck mead (Leonard A Meuse)
Mulberry Mead ("Jason Milliron")
Coffee mead ("Lane Gray, Czar Castic")
posting (Matthew Dickeson)


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Subject: Roger Morse in Review (long)
From: Dan McFeeley <>
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2000 11:07:42 -0500

As most of us have heard by now, after a long and fruitful life Roger Morse,
University of Cornell apiculturist and educator, passed away in his sleep
last May. Morse spent the majority of his academic career at Cornell
university actively campaigning for the advancement of beekeeping. He
had a unique gift of communicating the science of entomology to the often
harried and hard working beekeepers who had little time to read through
technical treatises for the practical solutions they needed. A prolific
writer, Morse wrote many texts such as _The Complete Guide to Beekeeping_,
considered a definitive book on the subject. He also wrote _The Illustrated
Encyclopedia of Beekeeping_ with T. Hooper, _The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture
(40th edition) with Kim Flottun, _A Year in the Beeyard_, _Bees and
Beekeeping_, and _Making Mead_, among others, and was a regular contributor
to the journal _Bee Culture_ for over 50 years.

Roger Morse was born in the village of Saugerties New York in 1927. He had
an early interest in bees and beekeeping and was influenced by his father,
a superintendent of schools in New York, who kept bees as a hobby. He gave
Morse his first beehives at age ten, stimulating what became a lifelong
interest and career. Morse even ran a commercial beekeeping business in
the Hudson valley and Catskill mountains for his first three years at Cornell
to help pay for tuition expenses.

Morse enlisted in the army in 1944 but was able to attend Rutgers University
under an acaccelerated program for two terms. After completing his basic
training he served in Europe and achieved the rank of Sergeant Major. Morse
was honorably discharged in 1947 and immediately entered Cornell University,
graduating in 1950. He entered the graduate school at Cornell in the fall
of 1950 and was assistant in apiculture to professor E. J. Dyce, receiving
his masters degree in 1953 and his doctorate in 1955. Morse was also a
visiting professor at many universities overseas, chaired the entomology
department at Cornell from 1986 to 1989, and made many trips to countries
such as Africa, South America and the Philippines, teaching beekeepers ways
of improving their methods.

Morse also had an interest in mead and meadmaking, publishing two successive
articles on mead in the journal _Gleanings in Bee Culture_ in 1953 and 1954
during his graduate school years. His masters thesis was titled "The
Fermentation of Diluted Honey," and was completed in 1953. Morse's interest
in mead was stimulated out of both personal interest and noticing the
opportunities offered for exploitation of the market for honey during the
period immediately after WWII and on through the 1960's. At the time of his
thesis work there was a surplus on the market of dark and strong-flavored
honey, a honey variety generally considered unsuitable for U.S. tastes.
These honeys, as Morse noted at the time, when diluted provide ideal flavors
for making mead and could be used to expand commercial ventures in ways not
previously explored. Although much work needed to be done to set up methods
of meadmaking designed to work on a commercial scale, Morse found little in
the available literature on this subject. His early work undertaken while
completing his masters thesis was a series of experiments intended to assess
the viability of fermentation under varying conditions, testing the effects
of nutrients, different yeast strains, filtering, boiling, while observing
factors such as total acid and pH and how they effected the fermentation.
He continued this work with professor Keith Steinkraus, eventually patenting
a method for producing mead on a commercial scale. World honey prices
continued to fluctuate, however, and the surplus prior to the 1970's became
a shortage. Morse and Steinkraus had been hoping to license someone to
produce mead on a commercial scale but put aside their aspirations during
the 1970's due to the increasing price of honey.

Morse was able to interject scientific clarity where much had been muddled
and confused. Particularly in the U.S. where meadmaking had been confined
mostly to home production prior to Prohibition, little was actually known
about meadmaking techniques and why one method might work better than
another. Mead was infamous for long fermentations, six months and more.
Many meadmakers felt this was an important factor in making mead and were
resistant to the idea of shortening the time needed to complete a
fermentation. They felt the mead would be inferior without a lengthy
fermentation time.

There was little or no mention in the available literature on meadmaking
in the U.S. from the 1900's through Prohibition, as Morse found during his
graduate research. In spite of mead's legendary status as the beverage
of ancient kings, mead had a poor reputation in the U.S., usually described
as overly sweet and having a poor flavor. The few firms making mead at
that time were often cited for failing to meet government regulations.
Unacceptably high levels of volatile acid were usually the problem suggesting
poor sanitation practices. Most of the mead produced on a commercial scale
at that time was used for Jewish sacramental purposes, Morse noted. These
meads, in order to meet Kosher law, could not use yeast in their production
and as a result were often sweet with off flavors and high levels of volatile
acid. Morse was only able to suggest adding a finished mead to the honey
must so that yeasts could be introduced without violating Kosher law. The
meads were improved but remained overly sweet and of poor quality.

Although little attention had been given to mead production in the early
literature prior to Prohibition, Morse found more extensive research on the
making of honey vinegar, which of course, required mead as its main
ingredient. This body of literature was the foundation of Morse's first
investigations into meadmaking. In the majority of the cases cited in the
literature, the use of various salts and nutrients were used in order to
speed the fermentation. On the basis of observation of the fermentation it
was understood that honey was lacking in the basic nutrients needed by yeast.
Later research into honey composition verified the observations of these
experimenters; honey was lacking in the nitrogen, minerals and other growth
factors needed to maintain healthy yeast growth and fermentation.

The first series of experiments conducted by Morse during his graduate
school research used a basic formula of 2 grams each of ammonium phosphate,
urea, cream of tartar and citric acid. Standard honey must batches used
1/2 gallon of distilled water diluted with 2 pounds of honey. Comparison
with a control group using no additives at all gave dramatic results. Meads
with additives fermented quickly and with little off flavors. Meads made
with buckwheat honey fermented even faster, suggesting that the light honeys
had much less of the materials needed by yeast as compared with the darker
honeys. Recognition was also given to the buffering problem in honey must
in these 1950's experiments, although Morse continued to add acids prior to
the fermentation. He attempted to compensate for the pH problem by adding
additional materials intended to improve buffering capacity of the honey
must yet it was clear from his experimental results that adding acid was
detrimental to the fermentation. He also showed differences in acid content
of honey versus grape must, pointing out that although the pH of the two is
roughly similar, the total acid content of honey was much less than that of
grape must. It does need to be said, however, that methods of measuring
total acid content of honey during the 1950's were problematic and suspect.
Alert readers will also notice that the starting gravities were somewhat
high, certainly skewing the results of these first experiments. In spite
of these and other problems, these experiments were the most comprehensive
examples of mead research at that time, certainly more diverse and
trendsetting than anything else published prior to Morse's first ventures
into meadmaking. It was clearly demonstrated that with a modicum of
scientific control, quality meads could be produced relatively quickly.

Another series of experiments was undertaken with Keith Steinkraus, also of
the entomology department at Cornell university. The results were published
in the journal article titled "Factors Influencing the Fermentation of Honey
in Mead Production" (Journal of Apicultural Research, 5(1):17-26, 1966). For
readers who may not be able to find copies of this journal, large sections
of Morse and Steinkrause's article are quoted at length in C. L. Stong, "The
Amateur Scientist" _Scientific American_ vol. 227, no. 3, September 1972.
Most college and pubic libraries have holdings of _Scientific American_ in
back issue.

These experiments established what so many of us take for granted as common
knowledge today: the benefits of different types of additives, and the
effects of pH and acid, temperature, and starter volume on the fermentation.
More recent additions to the literature were reviewed and it was shown that
the lengthy fermentations mead was so well known for were responsible for
the often poor quality of the finished mead. Autolysis during the length
of time needed to complete the fermentation was felt to be the source
of the off flavors. Percent alcohol produced and time needed to complete
the fermentation were the variables used to assess the outcome of the

A clover honey was used as the primary medium for testing two different
formulas, one adding nitrogen and phosphate and the other intended to test
the effects of stimulating yeast growth with vitamins in the presence of
added nitrogen. Clover honey was noted by Morse and Steinkraus to be
especially lacking in growth factors needed for healthy yeast growth and
reproduction, making it an ideal medium for testing the use of additives.
Buckwheat honey was also used in the experiments to show the effects of
different honeys.

Formula I was made up mostly of inorganic salts along with citric acid:

ammonium sulphate 1.0 gm
potassium phosphate (K3PO4) 0.5 gm
magnesium chloride 0.2 gm
sodium hydrogen sulphate 0.05 gm
citric acid 5.0 gm

6.75 gm


Formula II used various vitamins along with organic and inorganic nitrogen

biotin 0.05 gm
pyridoxine 1.0 gm
meso-inositol 7.5 gm
calcium pantothenate 10.0 gm
thiamine 20.0 gm
peptone (Roche) 100.0 gm
ammonium sulphate 861.45 gm

1000.00 gm


Formula I was added at the above total quantity to 1 liter of diluted honey
must; formula II at 0.25 gm per liter of honey must.

A combination of formulas I and II yielded the best results in these
experiments. Using a Steinberg yeast, a clover honey must diluted to 25%
solids and a 0.4% yeast starter, an alcohol level of 12% was reached in less
than two weeks. When tested in isolation, formula I alone performed better
than formula II. The two most important yeast foods in formula I, (NH4)2 SO4
and K2PO4, used by themselves gave results similar to the use of formula I in
its entirety. Buckwheat honey without the use of additives fermented much
more rapidly than clover honey, suggesting that darker honeys contain more
nutritive material than the lighter honeys. These results had also been
shown in Morse's 1953 study.

The effect of pH was also studied, showing an effective "window" where the
most rapid fermentation could be obtained. A pH above 4.6 and below 3.7
gave slower fffermentation rates than levels within this range. Morse
recommended a pH of 3.7 as a good compromise over a pH too high to inhibit
bacterial contamination but possibly low enough to inhibit the fermentation.
It was also observed that the addition of acid could drop the pH too low
during fermentation, a problem Morse tried to correct for by adding buffering
material to his additive formulas.

The size of the starter yeast inoculum had an effect on the fermentation, but
the results were realized mostly at its start. Fermentation of clover honey
was carried out using a 10% and 0.4% inoculum and the results were compared.
Although there was little difference between the amount of alcohol produced
at the finish, the 10% inoculum batch got off to a quicker start. Ideal
temperatures using the Steinberg yeast were a range of 68 to 75 degrees F.
Clover honey fermented at 55 degrees F was sluggish and did not finish out.
At 90 degrees F and above the fermentation stalled out early, leaving the
mead with low levels of alcohol and high levels of unfermented sugars.

Yeast strains gave different results. Morse had the most success with the
Steinberg yeast, taken from the Cornell university collection. Interestingly,
the Maury yeast, recommended in the British literature on meadmaking, produced
a rapid fermentation but the finished mead was hazy and difficult to clarify.
The other yeast strains, yeast 205 and 223 from the Cornell university
collection, gave good results in Morse's experiments but were not quite as
successful as the Steinberg yeast.

Morse found variation even with the same honey type. Some batches of clover
were able to ferment with treatment, others were more difficult. Some of the
control groups (no additives) fermented poorly, others not at all.

In conclusion, Morse stated ". . . with added growth factors, a selected
yeast, proper pH, and a temperature of 24 – 27 degrees C, even light-colored
honeys such as clover can be fermented to an alcohol content of 12 – 13 %
(by volume) in approximately 2 weeks, without agitation" (p. 24).

Much has been said and done in meadmaking since Roger Morse first published
his ground breaking work, but in the 1950's and 1960's, even through the
1970's, these were revolutionary ideas. There were a few people
experimenting with different methods of making mead but none with the
scientific purpose and organization of Roger Morse.

Although Roger Morse wasn't able to realize his dreams of working extensively
with U.S. meaderies, he continued to work overseas in places such as South
Africa, making efforts to introduce meadmaking on a larger scale. He
continued to make and enjoy his own meads and made an appearance on the
Steve Forrest video "The Magic of Mead" (available through Wicwas press),
enjoying a glass of mead and talking about how to best appreciate it.

Where are meadmakers today in comparison with Morse's work? It's hard to say.
To read through Morse's publications one would think it was impossible to make
a show mead, i.e., mead with no additives whatsoever. This is far from the
case, in fact, many meadmakers finish show meads within a reasonable time
and successfully enter them in competition, often placing high and higher
against meads made using additives. The literature on mead was very scanty
at the time Roger Morse began his investigations and as a result he often had
to rely on winemaking science for many of his hypotheses on making a good
mead. Now, mead is being recognized more and more as a beverage in its own
right, qualitatively different from wine although requiring many of the
techniques used in winemaking. Morse's recommendations on acid levels in
the 1950's, for example, were taken directly from what was known and talked
about in winemaking during that time. Many meadmakers today, however, prefer
to use acid adjustments according to taste and often not at all. Meadmakers
seem to be relying much less on the scientific control offered by the use of
additives and more on natural means to regulate and direct the fermentation.

Another factor to consider in evaluating the work of Roger Morse in meadmaking
is the time frame. Tim Mondavi, writing in Robert Mondavi's book _Harvests
of Joy_, describes the emphasis on scientific control in winemaking during
the 1970's in this way:

. . . our main preoccupation in those early years was what I call
'suppression of fault.' We were processing the wines a lot with
centrifuges and filters and correcting vineyard ddeficiencies by
adding acid. We treated wine as though it were a frail damsel,
and we had to rush to her aid. (p. 305)


Echoes of this emphasis in winemaking resonate through Roger Morse's work in
the strong use of chemical additives and technological methods in the
fermenting of honey into mead. Honey is indeed a delicate material to work
with, but neither is it a frail damsel. It responds best when treated as
unique in its own right, with composition and properties differing from that
of the grape.

This last point is Roger Morse's lasting legacy to meadmaking. His series
of experiments testing the reactions of fermenting honey under varying
conditions demonstrated the properties of honey in the making of mead, and
how it differs from grape must. Thanks to Roger Morse, we now know things
about how yeast ferment honey into mead that were known poorly, if at all,
prior to his work. Mead has been called the forgotten child when it comes
to researching the making of fermented beverages, but it was Roger Morse
who played the strongest role in helping to make a place for the mazer
alongside the stein and glass. Let's remember him with a special toast
of the wassail cup in thanks to his contributions!


Dan McFeeley

Subject: "must" bee a sign
From: Aaron Perry <>
Date: Fri, 07 Jul 2000 00:54:16 -0400

Hi everyone,

I subscribed to the MLD a few days ago, while I was planning a re-brew of a
lost batch (If you happen to read the HBD, I posted about a carboy smash up,
it was this mead!). Any way, I was mid-brew when my wife exclaimed..Mead
Lover's Digest!!!??? Oh Man! So brewing is a thing I enjoy, so what if all my
e-mail is brew forums and brews groups! 🙂

My questions to you folks are:

What's your take on low gravity meads? I just made a Metheglin with an og of
1.052, flavored with Ginger and Hops. (This is the one that had the carboy
smash up. 6 gal. all over the floor! It tasted Sooo Good at the transfer to
secondary, I had to try it again! So what if it cost my brew budget a carpet!!)

What's the take on using ale yeast in mead making? I Directed this batch onto
a sediment of Wyeast #1056. Freshly fallen from a Pale ale's secondary. As I
did with the original.

Is the leftover beer in an ale secondary a "nutrient" for the yeast? I've
heard of using a bit of malt extract as mead nutrient. Is it really a concern
with low og meads?

I've made a few Meads in my 5 years as a home brewer of beer. Most were small
batch traditional, high gravity, wine yeast types. They are always good and so
I figured there is probably a lot more to learn to make them great! so
here I am!

Aaron Perry

Subject: RE: varietal honey, no-chem meads
From: Holly Allen <>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 13:12:39 -0400

With all this general talk about avoiding boiling,
not using chemicals, honey-only meads, does
anyone have some specifics?

I only got into brewing recently, and my first batch
of mead has been fermenting for a few months now.
It seemed like a simple recipe: mesquite honey,
orange peel, cloves, cinnamon sticks, ginger. But
when I tasted it a few weeks back, it is far more
complex in flavor than I (personally) would like.

So, if anyone could provide a good recipe for a
honey-only, sweet, simple tasting, no-chemicals
mead, that would be great. In other words:
how much honey, what kind of honey, and
whether extra steps should be necessary to
promote adequate fermentation. It has already
been said that darker honeys aren't good for
honey-old meads, but which light honeys have
given people the best results?



Subject: Jasmine Mead
From: Eileen Tronolone - NYC SSE <>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 14:14:39 -0400 (EDT)


I've never made a rose petal mead, but have tried jasmine.

One of my first mead efforts was a blueberry jasmine. I had a jasmine
plant that flowered a lot, and as the flowers fell off I'd rinse them
in water and put them into a little jar of vodka. Over time these
accumulated and I popped it into the mead. More recently I tried this
with 4 2oz bottles of "jasmine essence" which I found at a chinese
supermarket. That one's still going, guess we'll see how it turns out.

PS what is a "rhodomel"? (I guess, a mead flavored with flowers?)

Eileen Tronolone | ][
System Support Engineer | -============================]o]///{O
2 World Trade Ctr 25th Fl | 212-558-9307 voice 212-558-9449 fax ][
New York, NY 10048 | Self Possession Is 9/10 Of The Law

Subject: Randy's stuck mead
From: Leonard A Meuse <>
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 14:06:26 -0700 (PDT)

in the last issue, Randy from San Diego had a stuck mead:
>…Realizing that the fermentation was stuck, I pitched another package
>of EC-1118 yeast, rehydrated. Also added 1/2 tsp. yeast energizer. At
>this time, the pH of the mead was 3.6….
I think its quite possible the your ferment is stalled due to too much
acid (this is a very common problem with those recipes that add acid blend
BEFORE ferment. Some honeys contain more acid than others and due to the
fact that honey/water musts are TERRIBLE buffers sometimes you must adjust
to lower titratable acids. I have used chalk (calcium carbonate) in the
past but I dont wanna give bad info on proper use since I dont have any of
my reference stuff in front of me.
good luck
Leonard Meuse

Subject: Mulberry Mead
From: "Jason Milliron" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 09:20:52 CDT


I just started an interest in melomel's. I was wondering if anyone had

a good recipe for mulberry mead. I was planning on using 15 lbs of honey
and 8 lbs of mulberries. Is this too much, and will it be sickly sweet? I
was told that this melomel would turn out really sweet but I thought I would
ask the digest. Also I was wanting to make a raspberry mead. I can't find
any good recipe's out on the net so I need people to e-mail them to me at
jmilliro19@hotmail or post them on the digest. Thanks to everyone that

Jason Milliron

Subject: Coffee mead
From: "Lane Gray, Czar Castic" <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 11:08:38 -0700

A few people have asked about my coffee mead that is turning out rather
nicely, and suggested that I post the recipe for it here. I seem to have
lost the file that I typed it in when I made it, but I can remember the
important bits.
I made one 48 oz. pot of coffee (I made it rather strong, using a blend of
light and medium roast Millstone coffees).
4# of honey, just a basic wildflower, from the guy up the road.
The yeast was, I believe, a Windsor ale yeast. and added water to make one
I operated under the assumption that the various stuff that makes up coffee
would have sufficient nitrogen to obviate the need for nutrient/energizer,
so I didn't use any.
I was right. The fermentation was so vigorous that it blew the airlock off,
and I had to split the batch into two one gallon fermenters (I use glass
cider jugs for my one gallon batches), as it ferments with a HUGE layer of
When the head fell, I racked to a single jug, and again from time to time
until it was done. I then bottled. The taste was incredibly foul at
bottling, not a "jet fuel" kind of thing, but just plain nasty. The taste
didn't really improve at 6 months, and it was pronounced "death in a bottle"
by members of the Dagorhir group (referring to the spiced mead, which my
wife calls "heaven in a bottle").
A year and a half later, I got a trusty friend to try the second bottle to
be opened (it was sufficiently nasty that in the intervening time, I would
see it sitting there, and not be able to summon the courage to open it), and
she pronounced it rather tasty.
It is now tasting like a very strong and very sweet cup of coffee, with that
slightly acidic (perhaps the wrong word?)bite of coffee that was allowed to
cool. A friend had suggested using the "cold-brewing" process for making
the coffee to eliminate that bite. If anyone feels like expanding or
experimenting, get back with us. I kind of regret only doing one gallon,
and plan on doing some more soon.


Subject: posting
From: Matthew Dickeson <>
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2000 09:34:50 -0700 (PDT)

Hello all,

I would like first to say that MLD has been an invaluable resource for ideas
and information about meadmaking. I'm glad there's a group like this out
there that shares a wealth of knowledge about such an oblique and yet cool
subject, meadmaking. BTW, I'm a first-time poster to and a short-time
reader of this digest, so bear with my lack of experience! 😉 I have three

I've never been clear about how you start a mead. Recipes call for a
certain amount of pounds of honey per gallon of water, and that's all fine
and good…but they also talk about making a certain size batch of mead, and
the numbers don't always add up. If I want to make a 5-gallon batch at
2#/gallon, do I use 5 gallons of water and 10 pounds of honey, which has a
final volume close to 6 gallons, or do I mix the same 10 pounds of honey
with water to a final volume of 5 gallons? I tried the latter formula, and
was shooting for a 2.5#/gal batch and a 4#/gal batch…and since each was a
5-gallon mix, I'm wondering if I wound up with a 3#/gal and a 5#/gal,

I've read several references so far about racking mead…some say to rack it
in two weeks, some say leave it alone for a month or two months after
pitching before even looking at it! What is an appropriate interval for
racking a mead? Also, does it really make a difference with racking once or
twice – and if so, should one rack a mead, say, once every two weeks until
fermentation is complete, which could lead to 5-6 rackings if the ferment
takes 3 months? How often should I test the SG, considering I don't know
what the OG was (I started before I had my hydrometer…shipping problems)?

Also, a question on racking melomels…I made two 1-gallon batches of
strawberry mead, one with 1 pound of strawberries and one with 3 pounds of
strawberries (trying to gauge how much to add for a good mead!). I used
grocery-store berries, shaved the skin and seeds off and then diced them
into quarter-inch pieces before freezing. I then crushed the thawed product
and poured a gallon (or so) of some mead (the 2.5#/gal at start) that I had
fermenting for about a month over the crushed thawed diced berries into the
jug. Racked off most of the fruit 9 days later, but I noticed that there
was a LOT of strawberry sediment in the 3# jug, so much that I would be
losing about a quart of liquid by not taking the fruit. Is it possible to
reclaim the mead that gets lost by racking off of fruit, which creates a lot
more sediment than yeast alone does? Just for fun, I split open a bunch of
Lipton's tea bags, dumped the tea out, and used the bags as filters to
strain the mead through, throwing away the strawberry/yeast mass. Is this
an acceptable practice to get all the goodness lying there at the bottom of
the carboy that the fruit mass settles into, or am I just promoting
infection and oxidation by exposing the mead to air like that (especially
after the first racking)? Has anyone else done anything similar / had

My first two batches are about two months old now, and are starting to
really clarify (fermenting between 75 and 85 degrees)…wondering when the
best time to bottle is. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance for any help you
can provide.

Matt Dickeson /

End of Mead Lover's Digest #812