Mead Lover's Digest #0817 Thu 17 August 2000


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



searchable archives (Mead Lover's Digest)
Re: Vanilla Mead ("Bob Carbone")
Re: Caramelizing Honey (Dave Polaschek)
Re: Cyser Clearing (Dave Polaschek)
NYC area mead (John Baxter Biggins)
sweetening (Aaron Perry)
vanilla beans (Joe O'Meara)
New to the list / multiplying spices for larger batches (Ken Irwin)
"How To" Sparkaloid ("Matt Maples")
Herbal/Medicinal Meads (
RE: Carmelizing Honey (
chicago meaderies (Bill Stewart)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #816, 12 August 2000 (Jim Johnston)


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Subject: searchable archives
From: (Mead Lover's Digest)
Date: 16 Aug 00 14:12:55 MDT (Wed)

I heard from Spencer Thomas. He was gone for a while; the machine hosting
his archives rebooted; the server for the archives didn't come back up as
it should have. Now all is well, and in any case it *is* intended that
there be searchable archives of the MLD there. (The URL is in each MLD

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

Subject: Re: Vanilla Mead
From: "Bob Carbone" <>
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 07:43:47 -0500

Stan Marshall from ? asks about the amount of vanilla beans, equivalent to
extract, to use in his vanilla mead. I just bottled my 5 gallons of vanilla
mead last week so I thought I would tell you what I used. I have been buying
all my spices from a Mom and Pop spice house in Wisconsin, Penzey's Spices.
I used their single strength Madagascar vanilla bean extract, which they
state in their catalog as being 10% stronger than supermarket extract. Also
in the same catalog they sell double strength extract which is described as
having "about 200 beans per gallon". Assuming the single strength to be half
of that 200 beans and considering I used 12 ounces from the 16 ounce bottle
I purchased that calculates to be, rounded up to the nearest bean, 10 beans
in my five gallon batch.

Next time I make this recipe I'll use the whole 16 ounce bottle as it is
very difficult to get the dose right when adding it at bottling time. It
seems to me with all of those vanilla aromas floating around the air, when I
was bottling, that I under-dosed the bottling bucket. Anyway it came out
with a nice subtle vanilla aroma and flavor behind the honey character. I
used some locally obtained clover honey from an apiarist that sells his
honey commercially in this part of the state. I'll be entering this mead in
competitions so we'll shall see what the judges think about it. Everyone who
has tasted it so far has liked it, although when you give someone a free
sample of mead they are hesitant to tell you to your face that it sucks.

Penzey's also sells the whole beans. As a matter of fact they sell
Indonesian and Mexican beans as well as the Madagascar beans. It might be
interesting to use a combination of all three types of beans to provide some
complexity. They have a web site at No affiliation yadda,
yadda, yadda, just a satisfied customer for many years.

Hope this helps,
Bob Carbone
Grand Cane, LA, USA

Subject: Re: Caramelizing Honey
From: Dave Polaschek <>
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 09:19:23 -0500

"Matt Maples" <> wrote:

> I know this borders on heresy but I just got the weirdest idea in my
>head. Has anyone tried to caramelize honey?

Not intentionally, but I've done it unintentionally way back in my
meadmaking career when I would boil the honey for a short while.

In a fairly plain mead made with dark-as-night wildflower-honey, it
wasn't the most pleasant taste. I considered that mead a "failure" at the
time. My notes say that I'd gotten distracted for some reason and allowed
the honey to boil-over. That almost always means some carmelization,
though I didn't explicitly note it.

Now that you mention it, I suspect a small amount of carmelization was
part of the flavor profile of the vanilla mead I haven't been able to
recreate. It was 12 lbs of honey, 8 oz of vanilla extract (Mexican) to
make 5 gallons. I did boil the honey, but didn't note any carmelization
or boil-over in my recipe notes at the time. Thinking back on it, I
suspect that a small amount of carmelization is the missing ingredient in
my attempts to recreate this recipe since then.

Time to do some more experimentation….. I should have results by

  • -DaveP

Dave Polaschek – Polaschek Computing, Inc. –
PGP key and other spiffy things at <>

"Maybe, just once, someone will call me 'sir' without adding,

'you're making a scene.'" – Homer J. Simpson

Subject: Re: Cyser Clearing
From: Dave Polaschek <>
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 09:19:21 -0500

Craig Agnor <Craig.Agnor@Colorado.EDU> wrote:

>I suspect that the haze remaining in the beer is at least in part due to
>the haziness of the apple juice.

If you boiled the apple juice, you probably set some of the pectin.
Pectinase might help clarify, as well.

  • -DaveP

Dave Polaschek – Polaschek Computing, Inc. –
PGP key and other spiffy things at <>
"Down with the categorical imperative!" – Graffito at UCLA, 1972

Subject: NYC area mead
From: John Baxter Biggins <>
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 13:53:55 -0400

Just curious. New to the group. Anyone here from the greater NYC
area? Also, are there any good places in the greater NYC area
(preferably upstate/CT area) to get good honey in bulk (roadside
stands/amateur beekeepers/etc…) Private email OK.

  • -jb

John B. Biggins
Cornell University Medical College
Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences
Student — Program in Pharmacology

Subject: sweetening
From: Aaron Perry <>
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 16:33:08 -0400

Hi folks,

I'm sure it's been covered, but I haven't needed to do it…..until now. My
low og ginger/hop mead needs a bit of sweetness to balance it out, it's just a
bit too sharp. I added a bit of sugar to a glass and it did the trick o
balancing. I also tried it with honey, worked even better!. So, what is common
practice? Procedure?


Subject: vanilla beans
From: Joe O'Meara <>
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 22:02:28 -0700 (PDT)

Wow, a topic that I know a bit about. The best way to
get as much flavor as possible from vanilla beans is
to split them lengthwise with a knife and then scrape
the meat of the bean a bit.

And my SO says that I'll never learn anything useful
from Emeril Lagasse. 🙂


Joe O'Meara
Mad Dwarf Brewery (AKA my kitchen and coat closet)
ICQ # 60722006

Subject: New to the list / multiplying spices for larger batches
From: Ken Irwin <>
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2000 10:58:11 -0400

Greetings all,

I'm very new to the list, though I've been making mead for about 5 years and
have been meaning to subscribe for about 2. I've got a question, but I thought
I'd introduce myself first:

My name is Ken, and I first met mead in 1993 through the aegis of the SCA in
general and Brigid of Andelcrag in particular (I think it was just a plain all
honey-and-water mead and it was fantastic); after much hemming and hawing I
finally got around to making a batch in time for my wedding and college
graduation in 1996.

Having come to brewing through the SCA I've never done much with all those
modern ingredients (except for campden tablets) and I've mostly stuck to
period recipes (when working from recipes at all, anyway). I own a hydrometer
but I never thing to use it until it's too late. (Though I do like the
"natural" hydrometer I learned about from Johannes and Baron Fum in Andelcrag:
use some lemons or oranges in your mead and bottle it when the fruit sinks.
I've gotten good results with that method, though it only works with citrus
mead.) I tend to call it all mead, though most of what I've done would
properly be called metheglin (what do you call a spiced fruit mead? melaglin?

  • — there was a message in the last digest about a watermelon mead which i

guess could be a watermelomel).

My question regards the multiplication of spices in mead. On the misremembered
basis of a story of a dire-tasting-mead that aged wonderfully (eventually…)
I made a 1 gallon batch of mead with 22 cloves, a .25 cup of raisins for
tannin and 3.5# clover honey. I boiled the wort and pitched the yeast (Lalvin
Montpellier wine yeast); I strained out the cloves after 2 months. After
almost 4 years, it had turned from undrinkable kack to a wonderfully warm,
mellow, spicy mead. Of course, after four years of racking and tasting and a
weekend of doling out little tastes, there's only half a gallon left. Since I
know it'll take 4 years to make some more I want to start a five gallon batch
right away. Here's my question: When multiplying spices from a one-gallon
batch to 5 or 6 gallons, what factor of multiplication do you use. I'm
absolutely certain that using 110 cloves in a 5 gallon batch would be a *bad*

Is there any conventional (or unconventional) wisdom suggesting how to
multiply spices for larger batches? I would love to replicate this batch on a
larger scale, but I'm afraid of screwing with the balance of flavors (or of
having to wait 10 years for a drinkable product!)


Subject: "How To"  Sparkaloid
From: "Matt Maples" <>
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2000 09:52:49 -0700

I haven't post this for some time. I did have a request for it and I did add
a couple of updates to it. It is my "How To" for sparkaloid. I know it is a
bit long winded but I was trying to be thorough and I have yet to see a text
that explains it very well. So for the people who have read this back in 97
go head and skip it. If your new I hope this helps you in some way.

First off let me tell you that I am NOT one of those mead purest or
naturalists that don't use chemicals in their mead. They are safe,
effective and if used RIGHT have no flavor. Science has brought us many
tools to make our mead faster better and more rewarding and damn it I have
no problems using them when need be.

As for Sparkaloid, the stuff is great. It took me quite a few batches
before I got the process down. The only bad thing that happened to those
batches is I ended up with a little Sparkaloid in the bottom of the bottles
but the stuff didn't have any flavor so it wasn't too bad. I've been using
it for about five years now and have never had it fail me yet.

Sparkaloid itself is a very very fine power (diatomous earth I think). You
should watch out for your final gravity, I don't know this for a fact but I
would guess if it were too high the Sparkaloid might not be heavy enough to
fall out. I would start thinking about it if you were at 1.030 but like I
said I don't know for sure if this would happen.

UPDATE! I did clear a batch of 1.035. It took many days to drop but it did

For Sparkaloid to work its best fermentation needs to be COMPLETE. Even a
little activity seems to keep it in suspension for a long time. First thing
I do is rack it off any sediment (of course) then if the final gravity is
above 0 (on purpose or by accident) I'll put in the fridge to make damn
sure that the yeast that's left is dormant The next day I'll put in the
Sparkaloid as per package instructions.The package instructions are as
follows. 1tsp/gall add to 1 cup boiling water. Boil for 15 min. For 5
gallon use 2 cups boiling water. Add to mead hot. If the gravity is above
0 I'll add some potassium sorbate (sorbastat K) to kill any dormant yeast
that might think about starting up again. If I plan to prime the mead I'll
leave out the sorbastat K and repitch just before bottling. The sobastat K
and the day in the fridge are not required as long as you are cretin the
fermentation is done and will not start back up.

The most important part of using Sparkaloid is after you put it in, put
your carboy in a place that you can rack from. It is important not to move
the carboy again until after you've racked it. If you do move the carboy a
big cloud of Sparkaloid will kick up off the bottom and thus into your next
carboy. Don't even start thinking "I could move it if I was real careful."
because you cant. The stuff is too light and fluffy.

When racking, make sure your siphon cane or hose does not hit the bottom. I
put the end of the cane only a few inches under the surface and move it
down as the level drops only touching the bottom at the last minute.

After you put in the Sparkaloid the next day you should see a very distinct
line of how far the Sparkaloid has dropped. With a final gravity of 0 it
should clear in about three days. If the gravity is higher it will take
longer. I let mine sit for an extra day so the Sparkaloid really settles
good. The last batch I did which was a raspberry cider, took a good five
days to clear and I let it sit for another two. It came out crystal clear
and a beautiful ruby red color.

In some cases ( I have had three in 5 years) I have seen whitish
translucent globs form that don't fall out right away. These are just
Sparkaloid and trapped CO2. All you have to do is rock the carboy back forth
to break them up and they will fall out as well. Or if you don't want to do
that you can suck them up with the siphon cane and they will fall out
before the second racking.

After the first racking put the carboy in the same place so you don't have
to move it for the second racking. Even though your mead is crystal clear
at this point you are still not done. This is where a lot of people go
wrong. You need to let it sit for another day or two and more Sparkaloid
will drop out. If you were patient and careful you should have very little
Sparkaloid on the bottom. I usually end up with a very very thin dusting on
the bottom and a little stuck to the side. If you do a good job at the
second racking it will be ready to bottle. If you are not sure about it, go
ahead and rack it to a carboy and see if any more drops out.

I have had some meads clear right after fermentation is done and I have had
some that didn't clear even after months. Sparkaloid reliably takes that
time down to a week or a week and a half. It is not uncommon for me to have
a mead in the bottle within a month. I have got my ferments down to 2 to 3
weeks and with Sparkaloid clearing takes 1 to 1.5 weeks
so my equipment is freed up to start again or receive beer:-) In all of the
years I have been making mead, I have never had Sparkaloid fail to clear a
mead to crystal clarity. Yes, It is more work but it is fast and reliable.
I hope this helps, I may post it to the group also.

UPDATE! I think the last time I posted this was in 97 and I am a much more
patient man these days. I am using Sparkaloid less and less as it is not
uncommon for me to bulk age a mead for 6 months to a year. It is still a
product and I use it when need be. So my advice is to be patient and let it
sit for a six months but if that is not an option sparkaloid will do the

Matt Maples
Anagram: "Tap Me Malts!"

May mead regain its rightful place as the beverage of gods and kings

Subject: Herbal/Medicinal Meads
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2000 20:18:22 EDT

Has anyone out there made meads using various tonic herbs or herbal extracts?
I have experimented with full-spectrum chinese herbal extracts from a
company called Mayway with good enough results to want to do more research.
I have also read some info about ayurvedic medicine that mentions healing
beverages made from fermenting herbs. I am just curious if anyone has done
anything like that with any success. I also read somewhere about putting
semi-precious stones (ie quartz) in during fermentation, which were
subsequently dissolved. Interesting?! Input greatly appreciated.

Subject: RE: Carmelizing Honey
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000 11:43:29 -0400 (EDT)

I never INTENSIONALLY tried to carmelize honey for a mead, but it did happen to
me once when I was using fresh honey from a beekeeper friend of mine and I was
trying to skim the wax out of the honey.

I did not like the resulting mead.

A friend of mine thought it was the best mead I had ever made.

I guess it just depends on your personal tastes.



> Subject: Caramelizing Honey
> From: "Matt Maples" <>
> Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000 12:28:00 -0700
> I know this borders on heresy but I just got the weirdest idea in my
> head. Has anyone tried to caramelize honey? One of my favorite beers (albeit
> way too expensive) is Traquair Hose Ale. It is a Scottish beer that is
> soooooo rich and malty and yummy. I have read that they boil the wort some
> ridiculous amount of time like 16 hours. This is done to caramelize some of
> the malt sugars. Not only does this give it a deep rich flavor but
> caramelized sugars are unfermentable. Now the caramelizing process is common
> in beer brewing in the form of longer boiling, and crystal malts so why not
> in mead.

Marc Shapiro

Visit 'The Meadery' at:

"If you drink melomel every day, you will live to be 150 years old,
unless your wife shoots you."

  • — Dr. Ferenc Androczi, Winemaker of the Little Hungary Farm Winery

Subject: chicago meaderies
From: Bill Stewart <>
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000 21:50:04 -0400

I am going to Chicago over the Labor day weekend. Are there any
meaderies in the city, or someone that sells it. (hoping)



Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #816, 12 August 2000
From: Jim Johnston <>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 00 23:01:50 -0500

>Mad Matt Maples may wish to consider adding some chocolate malt (available
>from a brewshop) to his mead instead of trying to caramelise the honey, try
>caramelising a small amount of honey (ie cook it in a saucepan) and adding
>it to his batch, or boil up some toasted grain (again from a brewshop) and
>add the strained liquor. The flavour of the Scottish Ale he refers to comes
>from toasting the malted grain, this is something the Scots excel at. This
>is done dry, not in the boiling process. The boiling he refers to is to
>reduce the volume and increase sugar concentration, and final alcohol, of a
>"Wee heavy" ale.

Chocolate malt, or any of the roasted malts and grains will impart a
roasted flavor, and will darken the color (ranging from reddish amber
with a couple of ounces to quite black with larger amounts). I don't
think this is the desired outcome based on Matt's initial post. Caramel
or crystal malt will impart the caramelized flavors and lend residual
body and "mouthfeel". The lightest of these is Carapils or dextrin malt
which wouldn't shift the color much. Darker crystal malts (higher
Lovibond numbers) begin to develop more dark caramel flavors, ranging up
to roasted range with things like DWC Special "B" from Belgium. These
may be used more sparingly. Some of the Scotch ale recipes I have seen
do rely on caramelizing the malt in the boil with long boil times and
sparging directly into a heated brew kettle. Personally, I would try to
caramelize the honey, then you avoid the malt issues altogether.

Jim Johnston

End of Mead Lover's Digest #817