Mead Lover's Digest #0830 Fri 24 November 2000


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



Aging mead (
Sterilizing your blender ("Rich, Charles")
Non-Alcoholic Beer and Wine ("Michael O. Hanson")
cider yeast ("jw&a")
Sulfites & Honey Must (Dan McFeeley)
Re: Bentonite and blenders (Terence L Bradshaw)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #829, 13 November 2000 (Jim Johnston)


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Subject: Aging mead
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 12:14:44 EST

Kristine Adam <> writes:
> Switching topics, does anyone have a good rule-of-thumb on how long it
> should take mead to age? I made two batches in January of 1999 using

The only rule of thumb I've found is that berry melomels seem to reduce aging
time significantly. My raspberry-based melomels have always been drinkable
quickly, and my melomel with blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry
practically tasted like juice at bottling time (both were made with Wyeast
Dry Mead smack packs – no OG, but the docs I've seen show those get to around
14%). On the converse, I'm still waiting on my pineapple-mango, bottled a
year ago (same yeast, much drier).

  • Joshua

Subject: Sterilizing your blender
From: "Rich, Charles" <>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 11:28:02 -0800

Related to the recent bentonite-in-a-blender topic.

Most blender blade assemblies, the propeller thing that screws onto the
bottom, also fit regular mouthed canning jars. Same size, same thread.
These can then be pressure cooked to sterilize.

One way I've prepared sterile blenders is by half-filling a canning jar with
water then setting on the blade's rubber seal, then the blade and a canning
ring. P-cook for 20 minutes at 15-lbs and to sterilize. As with any
canning preparation, tighten the jar lid while hot to make a nice seal. As
a finishing touch I cover the tops with foil before canning to keep a
sterile environment about the jar top afterward, then store it, foil cover
and all, in a plastic bag to further keep dust from it.

Such a canned jar-o-bentonite can be prepared in advance and stored on the
shelf indefinitely. You can buy the blender blade assemblies at most
appliance stores, Wal-Marts etc. for about $10.

To use the sterile blender, remove the foil cover and the jar ring keeping
everything sealed, then attach it to your blender in the usual way. My
blender uses a thick black plastic ring to seat the blade to the bottom of a
pitcher (or now a jar) and then twist-locks to the blender's base.

Good luck,
Charles Rich

Subject: Non-Alcoholic Beer and Wine
From: "Michael O. Hanson" <>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000 12:30:16 -0600

Has anybody on these lists made non-alcoholic beer or wine? If so, how did
you go about doing it? Are there any kids available for making
non-alcoholic beer and wine? Private e-mail is fine.

Thanks in Advance,

Mike Hanson

Subject: cider yeast
From: "jw&a" <>
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2000 12:49:13 -0500

is cider yeast acceptable for mead? i have some cider that will be finishing
up soon, and some honey. i'm thinking of pitching the honey into the yeast
cake at the bottom of the primary. it's white labs cider yeast.


bob rogers
south carolina

Subject: Sulfites & Honey Must
From: Dan McFeeley <>
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2000 17:37:26 -0600

On Mon, 6 Nov 2000, in MLD 829, Fred Peachman wrote:

>Generally it said that sulfur dioxide preserves flavor by preventing
>It may combine by ionization with sugars and proteins to prevent oxidation,
>with oxidant compounds (again, to prevent oxidation), but is still in
>equilibrium with "free" SO2, so if SO2 gas is evaporating away, so is the
>SO2 that exists in these other forms (bisulfite and sulfite).
>Got this from the American Wine Society's Book "The Complete Handbook of
>Winemaking". I really recommend the book if you'ld like to understand wine
>(i.e. "Mead") chemistry in plain-english terms.

I have the book also, it's excellant and well worth reading. I would add
a cautionary note, however, that the principles of winemaking sometimes
apply only in general to meadmaking. Honey must and grape must are two
different biological products, with differing composition and properties.
What works for one may not work as well as for another!

White wine must is more vulnerable to oxidation than red wine must, and
even more so when winemaking is on a commercial scale. The process of
getting the must ready for fermentation involves the crushing and pressing
of perhaps tons of grapes, and can be much more drawn out than simply
mixing up a batch for a five gallon fermentation pail, creating more and
lengthier opportunities for exposure to air. Extra measures have to be
taken to protect the must, such as the careful use of sulfur dioxide,
among others.

The chapter on sulfites in _The Complete Handbook of Winemaking_ was
written by no less a wine luminary than Emile Peynaud, translated from
the original French and first appearing in "Connaissance et Travail du
Vin." As Peynaud points out, SO2 has three main benefits in winemaking,
as antiseptic, antioxidant, and flavor preservative. It inhibits the
activity of yeasts and bacteria, readily snaps up oxygen, reacts with
acetaldehyde thus helping to preserve the wine's freshness and staving
off "bottle sickness."

Sulfur dioxide when added to wine takes on two forms, SO2 in combination
with other compounds in the wine and free SO2. Only the free SO2 has
the beneficial properties listed above. Sulfur dioxide in bound form
has little taste or odor, and only a mild anti-bacterial action. The
amount of free SO2 in the wine is also pH dependent. Peynaud says that
in order for a wine to contain 1.5 mg of active SO2 per liter (the bare
minimum, he states, to preserve a white wine), it should have the following
amounts of free SO2:

pH 2.8 – 15 mg
3.0 – 25 mg
3.2 – 40 mg
3.4 – 64 mg
3.6 – 100 mg
3.8 – 150 mg

For those who are looking for more specific guidelines, the potassium
metabisulfate sold by Presque Isle yields 40 to 45 ppm per 1/4 teaspoon
when added to five gallons. One campden tablet will contribute 75 ppm per
gallon, their recommendations are 1/2 tablet per gallon. The pH would be
the range generally found in winemaking, about 3.0 to 3.4. Sulfates should
not be added to a fermenting must, they say, it is very poor form to do so.
Apparently adding sulfates under these conditions results in most of it
becoming bound up, with very little free SO2 available.

Not all of the SO2 evaporates off as a gas. Peynaud describes the drop in
SO2 levels through the process of oxidation, with some free SO2 remaining
in the wine. A problem that can occur, he points out, is that the process
of oxidation produces sulfuric acid, and is one of the causes of flavor
deterioration in wines that have been held too long in barrels.

Peynaud's recommendations are for the use of sulfur dioxide in wine making,
but it is questionable whether they apply directly to meadmaking. Some
meadmakers like to use an initial dose of SO2 to stun the wild yeasts in
the honey must so as to give the starting culture a chance to gain a
foothold, but use no more than that. Sulfur dioxide inhibits enzymatic
browning caused by polyphenyloxidase, but honey does not contain this

It's also uncertain as to how vulnerable honey must is to oxidation.
Research at the University of Illinois has demonstrated that honey has
antioxidative properties, with the darker honeys in general having more
antioxidant capacity. Lee, Kime and Gavitt of the University of Cornell
were able to show that honey could be used as a substitute for sulfur
dioxide in an article titled "The Use of Honey in Wine Making," published
in the August 1990 issue of _Apicultural Research_. They had already found
that a protein in honey inhibited polyphenlyoxidase and enzymatic browning,
so it seemed reasonable to assume that it would do the same in grape must.
The honey treated wines, Aurore and Riesling, both compared favorably with
the sulfited wines, although the Riesling wines were rated lower in color
score. Clearly, more research needs to be done in this area.

I've only used sulfites once, in my first batch of mead, and haven't used
them since. The recommendations were for the use of campden tablets which
I dutifully followed because I wasn't sure of what I was doing. I've become
more questioning since then, and the meads I've made are none the worse for

Here is a thought provoking paragraph from Robert Mondavi's biography,
_Harvests of Joy_ (pp. 116 – 117):

At Sunny St. Helena, I set out in earnest to master the art of
tasting. And right away I noticed something funny. In the
mornings at the winery, I would often do what my mother had
done for me as a child: put a little wine in my morning coffee.
But the mixture always seemed weak to me and I found myself
putting in more and more of our Sunny St. Helena wine, as I
tried to match the taste of what I had at home. Curious about
this, I began tasting the wines we were making in the winery
against the wines my father made at home, completely naturally.
The difference was stark: our Sunny St. Helena wines just didn't
have the same body and natural substance as the wines we made
at home. Something vital had been stripped out. Because we
were making bulk wines in such large quantities, we filtered it
and added sulfur to help prevent spoilage. This was common
practice; indeed, European wine makers have used sulfur dioxide
for centuries to inhibit the growth of bacteria and molds. But
while we gained in the cleanliness of our wines, we lost important
elements of character and vitality. So right away I learned that
wine making was often a trade off and a delicate balance; the
finer the wine you wanted to make, the more delicate the balance.

My personal feeling is that the use of additives can help to provide a safety
net of sorts for the fermentation, but if you can reduce or eliminate the
use of chemicals altogether, the mead is all the better for it. Sulfites
can be useful in protecting a finished mead during rackings, or perhaps for
bottling, but it would seem that standard precautions taken against too much
exposure to air and working with small batches would also prevent possible
oxygen damage.

Dan McFeeley

Subject: Re: Bentonite and blenders
From: Terence L Bradshaw <>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 14:54:57 -0500

I recently added bentonite to a batch of cider, and yes, I used a blender
to get it into suspension. The only thing this blender has been used for
is a couple of strawberry daquiris this past summer, and I took a cue from
that in sanitizing it. I poured a bottle of Don Cossack vodka in, let 'er
rip for a couple of minutes, then drained. I assume that did the trick.
I then added the bentinite immediately and by the next morning it was
CRYSTAL clear. I could read a beert label through the carboy, even the
little "12 fl oz." stamp.

>A word of caution to anyone planning on using a blender to "dissolve"
>bentonite: blenders are hard to sanitize. The only infection I've ever
>had in my wine/mead/cider was a direct result of my aged,
>used-for-milkshakes blender. In my humble opinion the effort required to
>adequately sanitize a blender is greater than the benefit.
>On the plus side, even poorly mixed bentonite seems to clear my meads quite
>well. This might have something to do with the length of time it takes me
>to get around to bottling it, though.

Terence Bradshaw Pomona Tree Fruit Service
93 Stowe St PO Box 258, Chelsea, VT 05038
Waterbury, VT 05676
The views represented by me are mine and mine only…………….

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #829, 13 November 2000
From: Jim Johnston <>
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 22:37:34 -0600

As for sulfites, I am mildly allergic so I don't tend to use them.
Some of the commercial canned wine and fruit concentrates have them
added so I can't avoid them, but keep notes on which batches have
them and which do not so you can label them accordingly. I have seen
other people have severe allergic reactions to sulfites.

I use an acid sanitizing agent from 5-Star (available at some
homebrew shops). Never had sanitation problems since I started using
this to rinse every piece of equipment that a beverage touches.

Jim Johnston

  • –Jim

End of Mead Lover's Digest #830