Mead Lover's Digest #0958 Thu 26 September 2002


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



Barrel aging and oak soakers (Michael Kaiser)
info on starting a meadery (Chris Johnson)
Re: Secondary additions (Ben Snyder)
pear juice mead ("Jeff Metzler")
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #957, 24 September 2002 (
distillation (Cam Lay)
RE: Mead Lover's Digest #957, 24 September 2002 ("Wout Klingens")
Re: Additions to Secondary Fermentation Question (DOUG BAILEY)
Silliest Question in the World ("Not A. Chance")
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #957, 24 September 2002 ("Mitch Rice")
distillation (various points) — Brief! (Adam Funk)
distillation, massive meads ("Chuck NLN")
Spanish mead ("Sergi Santacana")
Mead swapage ("Kemp, Alson")


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Subject: Barrel aging and oak soakers
From: Michael Kaiser <>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 09:23:19 -0700 (PDT)

Vince Galet wrote:

>Subject: Barrel aging and oak soakers
>From: <>
>Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2002 12:40:05 -0400 (EDT)



>I tried commercial mead aged in oak, and it's nice. I'd love to try
>aging mead in an oak barrel, but I just don't have one. On the other
>hand, my supply store sells what they call "oak soakers" – round oak
>marbles to add in the fermenter to get some of the barrel flavor (if you
>can't bring the mead to the barrel, bring some of the barrel to the


>I was wondering if anyone used that system or similar (i.e., wood chips)

>and would have comments to share, especially on how long to leave them
>in. Also, I suspect they may become bacteria redoubts and I was
>wondering what would be the best way to maintain them (if they are at
>all reusable).

Vince et al,

I split my last batch of mead to make a strawberry melomel and a dry
traditional. I used an inexpensive local organic honey (as organic as the

bees could produce) and fermented it out medium dry, then divided the
mead into two smaller batches.

The melomel process was as easy as adding cleaned/dressed/frozen fresh
fruit (organic strawberries, cleaned, topped, cut into quarters, and
frozen) to the mead, fermenting an additional 10 days in the fermentation
bucket, racking off the fruit, and fermenting again for 20 days in glass,
then bottling.

To the "plain" traditional mead I added a small handfull (1/4 cup) of
"Medium Toast Oak Chips" (from a local homebrew supply) at the request of

my Lady, who prefers a dry Chardonnay (the main grape in champagne, and I

used champagne yeast as well) which, according to are
" medium-bodied, medium dry and high in acidity. Chardonnays, more than
any other white wine, love to be aged in oak." and she loves an oaky

We added the oak chips to the carboy, and tasted the mead 48 hours after,

and it was *almost* oaky enough. We let the oak stay on the mead for
another 48 hours, and bottled. Four days tops. I was rather surprised
that it took so little time to taste so oaky, with just a few chips of

As to the reusability of oak chips, don't do it. Thats like using your
crusty bandage on someone elses wound ….. don't risk the chance of
contaminating a perfectly good batch of mead to save fifty cents
worth of wood.

Nine gallons of traditional to bottle in the next week, and 25 gallons of

spiced cyser to make ASAP. I love the fall 🙂

Michael Kaiser
Artist/Blacksmith/Webmaster/Mead Brewer
"Who loves not woman, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long."

  • -Martin Luther

"An uair a theld an gohainn aer bhath 'se is dearr a bhi reidh ris."
When the Smith gets wildly excited 'tis best to agree with him.

  • -Gaelic proverb


Subject: info on starting a meadery
From: Chris Johnson <>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 09:43:40 -0700

Hello fellow Mead makers!
Trying to get some info on selling mead and starting up a meadery
business. Is it impossible with all the paper work? How many cases
would one need to produce per year in order to stay above water?
What state has the least amount of red tape with alcohol start up companies?
Where is the best place to buy equipment on the larger scale? If
anyone has looked at going into business before and has any info,
positive or negative, please send me email. I live in California and I
hear it is pretty impossible to get started. I'm willing to move to
another state if need be. Then I have to find people with cash to help
get this dream started(need help with that as well 🙂 ) I'm open to all
feedback you might have.
Chris Johnson

Subject: Re: Secondary additions
From: Ben Snyder <>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 12:52:18 -0400


> Can someone there advise me ?


> I have read many pages of internet instructions and recipies on mead making.


> I have not seen much info about adding anything to a secondary ferment
> to help make up volumes lost due to racking (losses).


> Is this a common practice ? How is low headspace maintained in the secondary
> fermenters due to losses.


> thanks for your time.


> David



I don't claim to be "right" with this but I know this works for me:

I mix up a new batch of honey and water in the same ratio I started and
add this to the secondary. Then I rack on top of it until it tops off
the carboy. I used to mix a 2:1 ratio of water to honey then switched
to 1:1 – seems like a lot of honey but it did work for me.
Just a note, I have not yet been brave enough to not boil my honey,
since I'm very new at this I wanted a better guarantee of success.

Now, I did this to not only top off after racking but to also add more
honey to the mix, I was prodded into making a very sweet mead.
And that it is, quite sweet but surprisingly not cloying.

I'd like to hear comments if anyone thinks this is dead wrong, etc. so I
can learn also.

  • -ben

Subject: pear juice mead
From: "Jeff Metzler" <>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 09:58:20 -0400

Greetings, I've been reading the Mead Lovers Digest with great interest for
a while now. I've made one dry mead from apple juice and the jury's
still out on that one. It's been nearly a year now and seems to
fluctuate back and forth from tasting heavenly to tasting like kerosene
mixed with urine. I figure the next time it tastes heavenly I'll have a
feast and we'll drink it all.
Does anyone have a good recipe for Perry? I believe that's the correct
name for mead made from pear juice. I want it to be sweet. Are there any
special issues with using this juice to make mead. I would be very
grateful for any info / testimonials
best regards,
Jeff M.

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #957, 24 September 2002
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 13:45:55 EDT

What a great digest! I have a general question. Most competitions say you can
enter your meads in bottles as small as 6 oz. Does anyone know how to find
bottles that small which can securely take a crown cap?

Jay Ankeney
220 39th St.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-3983

Subject: distillation
From: Cam Lay <clay@CLEMSON.EDU>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 14:45:05 -0400

Don't want to beat the dead horse, but:
1) Methanol evaporates and condenses at a different temperature than
ethanol. "Traditional" moonshiners discarded the "heads" and the "tails"
of the run – the first and last parts of the distillate. There's a
distinct "break" in the flow, as temperature climb, as each fraction comes
off. OR so I've heard. One could also simply purchase a thermometer…

2) See also the "Whiskey Rebellion" of the late 1700's for a perspective on
how far the government is willing to go on this subject.



Subject: RE: Mead Lover's Digest #957, 24 September 2002
From: "Wout Klingens" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 21:16:05 +0200

Melinda wrote:

> that problem <G> Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing your
> recipe.

You're welcome.
At this point it might be appropriate to say, that this mead is based on an
orange wine, cooked up in the brain of a well-known Dutch homebrewing
author. With a few adjustments like omitting raisins, adding zest at the end
instead of the beginning because of a stuck fermentation, etc I succeeded in
finetuning it, so I can call the recipe my own. But I got *my* inspiration
from his book.

On Wednesday, September 24, 2002, a bold Dan Mcfeely writes:

> Ok, I think I get that part. How about this one — what would be the

Huh? If you get it, I answered your question….

> difference between a basic show mead and a show mead with a more
> "advanced" basis to it? Here I'm thinking of bare bones basic meadmaking,
> yeast, honey, water, nothing else. No TA kits, etc., et. al.

Why would you want to know? Either you like a mead or you don't. But if you
want your mead evaluated by experienced judges with sensitive palates they
spot an off-flavor immediately.
So you'd like to watch optimum fermentation temperatures, yeast strain
selection, fermentation vessel shape, quality of the water, kind of honey,
SG and maybe a zillion other factors.
And no, I won't comment on either of those topics, there is already much
said about those, between us privately and also by many readers of the

> And how about
> another one — do TA kits, sweetness/acid balance, light/dark honey
> fermentations, yeast strains and so on mean the mead recipe is advanced?


If the recipe author particularly states, that he recommends dark honey,
because light one tends to be too acidic, that's considerate of the author,
that makes the author maybe advanced, but not the recipe.

> Or maybe another way to put it, does technical control mean the difference
> between a basic and an advanced mead recipe?


What do you want to know? I don't understand. I have a hunch that you want
me to comment on complexity. I won't because I don't think I have anything
useful to say on that.
I'll have another try: a complex recipe is a recipe, which is not a
beginners recipe. So you need an apple cruncher, a press, pectinase,
mlf-culture. That makes it pretty much impossible for the beginner to make
the mead, because he doesn't know the places to go and buy these things.
By no means will this make a better mead though.


Subject: Re: Additions to Secondary Fermentation Question
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 09:11:25 +1200

Hi David

To help with losses during racking, try this:

I have adjusted my recipes so that I brew 5 litres for my 4.5 litre
(1 UK gallon) demijohn. This primary fermentation is done in a 10 lt
plastic pail. When I rack to the demijohn to begin secondary, I have
enough left over to also rack to a 500ml wide mouth (pump style) bottle.
Airlocks go on both.

One of the biggest losses comes from racking after the secondary
fermentation finishes. I rack into another demijohn, losing about
250ml, and make up the difference from the smaller bottle, also racking
off the lees. Now I'm back to topped up again, and from the same brew.

I ferment to dryness, probably racking once or twice more as sediment
settles, and then add pasteurised honey-water to taste. This allows me
to control the level of sweetness and brings the level up again. I rack
again after a last light fining and bottle a few days later.

Another idea passed onto me by a commercial meader is to pour all the
leftovers from racking into a tall thin bottle, let the lees settle
again, and recover the mead off them. However, I am not dealing with
enough volume to make that worthwhile.

Hope this helps


Doug Bailey – /
348 Heretaunga Street West
Hastings, New Zealand.
Phone: 64 – 6 – 876 8787

Subject: Silliest Question in the World
From: "Not A. Chance" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 15:27:36 -0700 (PDT)

At what point do I know when the mead is *done*? Quite
obviously, I'm going to wait for my mead to drop
clear, but after that, when is it ready for

Please, send both the simple and complicated answers
to the newsletter, as I'm quite sure that there are a
lot of newbies like myself in this position, and some
answers are better for some than others.

And before I get flamed for being a troll, please look
back a couple of months for my questions about
strawberry melomels and what I did at that point.


Quid quid latine dictum sit altum videtur.
(That which is said in Latin sounds profound.)

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #957, 24 September 2002
From: "Mitch Rice" <>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 19:48:08 -0500

Ok, a quick check of the internet confirmed my basic thoughts on this.
Elderberries contain cyanide, as do black cherries. As the fruit ripens, the
cyanide is "transformed" in the fruit to nontoxic forms, while it remains
strong in the seeds of both fruits. Cooking the seeds with the fruit would seem
unwise. Unripe fruit of both are dangerous in large quantities. (Humans can
tolerate and process a small amounts of cyanide!) I have eaten both from the
tree and bush, and had no ill effects. Here is a quote I found: "In sublethal
doses, the cyanide is rapidly detoxified by the human body through combination
with sulfur to form nontoxic sulfocyanides, and recovery is usually complete
within a few hours, with no permanent aftereffects." Not all cyanide compounds
are toxic, but the gas and metal salts are the worst. Cyanide compounds
comprise the majority of plastics made today.
As there are so many recipes for Elderberry wine, my assumption is that many
people have used them to no ill effect in the past. If you are cautious, I
would avoid them. I have 5 gallons of Elderberry-plum-blackberry aging in my
carboy at present.


> Subject: Elderberries
> From: "jps" <>
> Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 16:50:10 -0400


> I recently came across a multitude of wild elderberries. In looking for
> jelly recipes both books I looked in pointed out that they are poisionous,
> but that heat destroys the poision. I have also frozen a bag full to do a
> mead with, per recommendations that it help break them up to get more juice.


> question for the group is should they be cooked before adding them to a mead?
> None of the wine or mead recipes I've seen say anything about cooking them,


> I don't recall ever hearing about anyone being poisioned by elderberry wine,


> obviously I don't want to make up bottles of poision.


Mitch Rice
Roots Musician
Banjo, Uke, Guitar

Subject: distillation (various points) -- Brief!
From: Adam Funk <>
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 08:32:23 +0100

I think Dick Dunn has written an excellent summary and conclusion for this
discussion! Sorry if other readers think it's off-topic and I've dragged it



  • — Adam


Subject: distillation, massive meads
From: "Chuck NLN" <>
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 07:45:35 -0500

In MLD #957 Dick Dunn provided *all* the answers about "home distillation".
Good job Dick.

Also,Tom Smit <> asked about his OG 1.170 mead that
stopped dead at 1.065.

Hmmmm. Tom, your problem isn't low Ph, your problem is that you started out
with too high of an original gravity. Consider that a very strong beer might
start out at 1.070, and you started out 100 points higher than that. You
achieved a 62% attenuation which isn't bad considering how high you started.
You might get another 10 points by pitching several packs of a high
attenuation yeast like champagne or eau de vie, but much more than that is

"David Beaver" <> asked about additions to the
secondary fermenter.
>Can someone there advise me ?
>I have read many pages of internet instructions and recipies on mead
> >making.
>I have not seen much info about adding anything to a secondary ferment
> >(safely)to help make up volumes lost due to racking (losses).
>Is this a common practice ? How is low headspace maintained in the
> >secondary fermenters due to losses.

David. I usually make US five gallon batches in five gallon carboys (which
actually hold almost five and a half gallons). Consequently when I mix my
must, I mix up 5.25 gallon batches. The extra quarter gallon is for the mead
gods to drink (racking losses). I don't add anything to make up for racking
losses as adding water would dilute my planned recipe and my mead wouldn't
taste as fabulous as it does. Secondly, if you're worried about oxidation,
when you rack, CO2 comes out of solution in the container you're racking to
and forms a protective layer which prevents oxidation.

David Craft <> asks about his slooooooow agave mead

>I have a batch of Agave Mead going now for a month, sloooooooooooowly. I
>hear from different sources that it is slow. My question, is there any
>harm in rousing the yeast every few weeks or so? I generally shake the
>carboy for about 10 seconds and raise some of the yeast up.

Well David, it may be fermenting slowly, and then again it may not be. Are
you basing this on gravity readings or on bubbles out the airlock? If it's
bubbles then consider this. Bubbles only come out the airlock after the mead
has become saturated with CO2 at a pressure of one atmosphere. Every time
you shake your carboy you cause CO2 to come out of solution and lower the
level of saturated CO2 to a level below one atmosphere. No more bubbles wll
come out until the saturation level of CO2 comes back up, thus no bubbles,
even though fermentation is continuing.

I suggest you check your gravity to see where you really are. Of course you
may have already done that, in which case you can tell me I'm full of it.


>Second question, This carboy is in a basement that is about 70 now but
> >will drop to 60 in the winter. Should I move it upstairs for the
> >winter, which doesn't arrive here for some time, NC.

Nah, it'll ferment a little slower, but it'll be OK.

>I realize this may take a year to ferment and I accept that. Believe

It shouldn't take that long, unless of course you boiled your must. Then it
probably will take years. :?>)

"jps" <> asked about elderberries.

They are not poisonous, but make sure that they are dead ripe. Do not cook
them. Green ones will create a sludge in your carboy that you will have to
use wall cleaner to remove.


Chuck Wettergreen
Geneva, IL

Subject: Spanish mead
From: "Sergi Santacana" <>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 18:25:35 +0200


I'm a mead maker from spain and I would like to know if there is any
spanish or european mead contest as well as any "non presential" USA
contest. I'll be pleased to know anyone from spanish or european

Thank you very much!

Subject: Mead swapage
From: "Kemp, Alson" <>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 16:09:39 -0700


None of the mead meets are near me (North California) and
I'm not very happy with most commercial meads (Heidrun excepted),
so I'd like to see if anyone on the list would like to swap some

I make semi-dry (~1% residual sugar) and dry meads with
hints of oak. I bottle them in ~350mL beer bottles and 375mL
wine bottles. I'd be open to mead swapping for dry and
semi-sweet meads.

I'll soon have two meads bottled:
Chunky Orange Blossom – dry orange blossom mead that was
aged a bit in a 5G red-wine oak barrel. It has a hint of red
wine complexity and a very faint pink color. 10 months old.
Competition Orange Blossom – semi-dry orange blossom and
blackberry mead made for a competition against my winemaking
partner. Oaked with oak chips. 7 months old.

Any interest?

I'm not sure how legal it is to mail mead around, but I'm
willing to risk it.


End of Mead Lover's Digest #958