Subject: Mead Lover's Digest #992, 7 February 2003

Mead Lover's Digest #992 Fri 7 February 2003


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



("King, Derek")
Re: ancient v/s modern meads ("Kenneth R. Irwin")
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #991, 5 February 2003 (Rick Dingus)
ph – blending ("Micah Millspaw")
Re: Buckwheat (Dennis Henry)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #991, 5 February 2003 (
buckwheat, fermenting honey bucket ("Chuck NLN")
Re: MLD #991, 5/2/03 – Fermenting Honey ("Arthur Torrey (no spam please!)")
Mazer Cup and Ancient Meads (Ken Schramm)
on bee keeping (
Re; Wild Yeasts in Honey (Michael Kiley)
Yeah its racked. ("Steven M. Parrish")


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From: "King, Derek" <>
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2003 06:29:37 -0500

Does anybody know if there is an issue with using plastic carboys as a
primary fermentation container?

Derek King

Subject: Re: ancient v/s modern meads
From: "Kenneth R. Irwin" <>
Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 09:12:56 -0500

I don't have an ancient source for this one, but it's plausible and useful
in that context:

I tend to use modern sanitation and equipment, but try to keep funny modern
ingredient out of my mead. I often just don't bother with the hydrometer,
and once upon a time I didn't have one. But the first batch of mead I made
(and one I've made since 3 or 4 times with great results) was an
orange-clove mead that uses a nifty "natural hydrometer" trick that I
learned from the SCA's Baron Karl Aerdigwidder von Zauberberg, called Fum
(the first one is just more fun to say…)

Make mead as usual; I use about 12 oranges, 5 cloves, and 18 lbs of honey
in a 5 gallon batch. Throw the oranges, peel and all, into the carboy. I
cut the orange into 8ths so they go in and out of the carboy easily. The
oranges will float through most of the ferment, but will drop to the bottom
when the mead is ready. Not very technical and possibly prone to trouble,
but I've never had a problem with it. It has the advantage of trapping your
yeast bodies at the bottom of the carboy under the peels, so you can siphon
off an incredibly clear product without resorting to fining products.

I just discovered that his reciped is online at: — he cites Thomas
Hardy as an approximate source. It sounds like he uses rather less orange
than I do, and plain baker's yeast, which is probably much more like the
ancient product.

This has consistently been one of my easiest and best meads, the one I tend
to make for weddings.



Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #991, 5 February 2003
From: Rick Dingus <rick.dingus@TTU.EDU>
Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 09:47:28 -0600

> Subject: Re: MLD#990 & MLD #991, 3/1/03 & 3-5-03 - Keeping bees, Do it


I've often wondered about beekeeping and am interested to learn from recent
discussions that hives can be kept in so many different kinds of urban and
suburban environments. But I also wonder about the possible danger of toxic
chemicals that might find its way into honey in places with a heavy use of
pesticides, herbicides, and/or defoliants. I live in a city surrounded by
cotton fields. I see crop dusters flying in the country every season and
understand that there is a heavy dependence in cotton farming on toxic
chemistry. How much of a danger is there that those chemicals might
contaminate locally made honey? How much of a concern anywhere are
neighbors who use lots of pesticides and herbicides on lawns and gardens,



Subject: ph - blending
From: "Micah Millspaw" <>
Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 09:48:09 -0600

>From: Ken Schramm <>
>Date: Sat, 01 Feb 2003 09:14:50 -0500

>Dan McFeeley's recommendation on the mead with 6 tbsps of acid blend has
>me wondering if anyone has used blending with a must from higher pH
>honey to ameliorate this problem? I know certain honeys have pH levels
>that approach and top 5.0. Another question: do those honeys tend to
>ferment faster on their own?

First, I think you mean 'blending with a low ph must' rather than adding acid.
I have not tried adding other honeys to correct ph, but I have blended in a
variety of other substances to alter the ph. When I know that a honey has a
higher ph I will use it for a melomel, almost any berry type fruit seems to be
able to adequately lower the ph (pre fermentation). THese melomels do
ferment faster then straight meads with similar ph. I have attributed this to
extra nutrients from the fruit, rather than just ph change.
I would like to say that I rarely come across a must that has a ph in
the 5 plus
area. They usually fall lower. Most of my ph adjustments are post ferment.
I do not like 'flabby' meads.

Micah Millspaw

Subject: Re: Buckwheat
From: Dennis Henry <>
Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 12:41:52 -0500

I made a Buckwheat mead (with some rose hips) a few years back. The honey was
the dark and malty type that Matt described.

It turned out fairly well, but the malty character came through somewhat in
the mead and detracted from the overall quality. As a result, I left it
along and forgot about it for a few years. Last year I decided to pull a
bottle out and try it. The funny malty taste is now gone and it's wonderful.

Now it is on my to-do list to make another batch.


> Subject: Re: Buckwheat
> From: "Matt Maples" <>
> Date: Sat, 1 Feb 2003 12:45:13 -0800

> > ———————————————————————-
> >

> > Subject: just a quick note
> > From: Patrick Devaney <>
> > Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2003 11:33:21 -0800 (PST)

> >

> > If anyone out there is reluctant to make a pure
> > Buckwheat Honey mead because it's an expensive honey,
> > do yourself the favor and make one, because the
> > Buckwheat mead we've made is just damn good. 🙂


> Buckwheat honeys vary WIDELY!! There are several varieties of the buckwheat
> plant. Some produce a dark rich honey that has massive flavor that tend to
> run in the malt like flavor range and then there are some that run in the
> molasses flavors that also include an acrid smell and taste. Just like
> eucalyptus honeys there are different buckwheat honey so be careful. My
> friend Trevor is bound and determined to make a 100% buckwheat mead, after
> we had sampled some of the more mellow varieties of buckwheat. I agree that
> it had great potential but some of the buckwheat honey I have tasted didn't
> seem fit for consumption.

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #991, 5 February 2003
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2003 13:12:40 EST

In a message dated 2/5/03 12:33:11 AM, writes:

<< Anyone out there blend meads before and have any experience they can

Asher >>


You bet. Blending meads is a fine art, and one that I practice with almost
every batch these days–part dry, part sweet, result excellent. Just trust
your taste.

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

Subject: buckwheat, fermenting honey bucket
From: "Chuck NLN" <>
Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 13:45:13 -0600

In MLD #991 "Matt Maples" <>
contemplated his navel and said:

>Buckwheat honeys vary WIDELY!! There are several varieties of the
> >buckwheatplant. Some produce a dark rich honey that has massive flavor

I've had two different buckets. The first smelled, in my wife's words, like
"barnyard" (manure) but tasted incredibly rich with nary a taste of it's
aroma. The second has a malty aroma and flavor. Both made fine meads.

Also Ken Vale <> got a bucket of bubbles and asked:

>I have some unusual honey which I got from a local Beekeeper, what
>makes this honey unusual is that it has already started to ferment >right
>in the container. This Beekeeper has a lot of honey that has

This is caused, usually, by the beekeeper extracting the honey before the
bees have dehydrated (below 18%) and capped the honey. It can also be caused
by crystalization in the bucket which forces water out of the honey to the
top of the bucket. Generally honey below 17-18% moisture content will not
ferment. When water is forced to the top of the bucket the moisture content
is well above 18% and the honey can ferment.

>Now according to what the Beekeeper says, this other person claims >that
>the alcohol content is already over 18% in his honey; I have >already
>tasted this honey and there seems to be no off tastes at the >moment. So I
>have 2 questions:

I seriously doubt this statement, UNLESS the beekeeper extracted the honey
so early in the season that none of it was capped and basically what he
extracted was nectar. The extracted honey would have to be very liquid for
this to happen. Also, just how did this meadmaker determine that the alcohol
percentage is at 18%? Realize that you're talking about floating a
hydrometer in liquid honey here to start.

>First, what if any steps should I do when making a batch of mead
>with this honey? I'm not a newbie, I'm just a lurker with a half dozen

Well, another beekeper had the same problem and didn't know what to do with
it, so she gave a 30 pound pail to me. This honey was pretty thick but had
an obvious aroma of fermentation about it, but didn't smell bad. The first
thing I did was mix up a 5 gallon batch show mead so that I could at least
give her back a case or so of her own mead. And, er, well, I get a case or
so out of it also. (8^>)

I used Lalvin K1 V1116 for the yeast because I won't heat honey and I know
that that yeast is a "killer" yeast that will destroy any other yeast that
it encounters that isn't itself.

The rest of the honey I immediately worked away as honey blends in other
meads. Those other meads also used K1 V1116.

>meads under my belt (though most aren't bottled yet). The reason I ask
>is I would like to use the wild yeast that is in it just to see what it
>tastes like when it is done. My plan at the moment is to spilt the
>honey, leaving half in the container to ferment as it chooses and >mixing
>the other half with water.

Are you sure that the honey in the container is liquid enough to totally
ferment out? The other thing you should worry about is bacteria and mold. If
there is enough liquid in the honey to allow it to ferment out, there's
bacteria and mold spores there also that can get working. I'd suggest that
you should be prepared to throw this experiment away if it doesn't work.

>Second, suppossing this wild yeast proves to be a decent yeast for
>making mead, how would I preserve it for later use and keep a large
>enough supply of it so that I don't run out?

You'll need to read up on making slants and plating out yeast to do this.
This is not too difficult, under sanitary conditions, but you do have to
know what you're doing.


Chuck Wettergreen
Geneva, IL

>Subject: starting gravity estimation: Merlot
>Date: Tue, 04 Feb 2003 17:59:42 -0500


>Please excuse the non-mead question, but I know of no other place to >ask:

Try Rec.crafts.winemaking.

Subject: Re: MLD #991, 5/2/03 - Fermenting Honey
From: "Arthur Torrey (no spam please!)" <>
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2003 16:23:58 -0500


> Subject: Wild Yeast in Honey
> From: Ken Vale <>
> Date: Tue, 04 Feb 2003 18:15:22 -0500


> Hello Everyone
> I have some unusual honey which I got from a local Beekeeper, what
> makes this honey unusual is that it has already started to ferment right
> in the container. This Beekeeper has a lot of honey that has started to
> ferment, I would guess that it is all in the same batch, and although I
> can't be sure how much he has I know he has already sold more than a
> hundred pounds of it to someone else that makes mead. Now according to
> what the Beekeeper says, this other person claims that the alcohol
> content is already over 18% in his honey; I have already tasted this
> honey and there seems to be no off tastes at the moment. So I have 2
> questions:
> First, what if any steps should I do when making a batch of mead
> with this honey? I'm not a newbie, I'm just a lurker with a half dozen
> meads under my belt (though most aren't bottled yet). The reason I ask
> is I would like to use the wild yeast that is in it just to see what it
> tastes like when it is done. My plan at the moment is to spilt the
> honey, leaving half in the container to ferment as it chooses and mixing
> the other half with water.
> Second, suppossing this wild yeast proves to be a decent yeast for
> making mead, how would I preserve it for later use and keep a large
> enough supply of it so that I don't run out?
> Thanks,
> Ken.


Sounds to me like the beekeeper got over anxious, and harvested the

honey to soon, or possibly allowed it to absorb to much moisture from the



Bee's make honey rather much like Vermonter's make maple syrup. They

take the nectar from flowers which is a very dilute sugar solution, and
evaporate it (along with some other enzymatic changes which we don't need
to go into) until the sugar is highly concentrated.


If the concentration is high enough – I forget the exact number off

hand, but it's about 18% water, the result is a supersaturated,
hyperosmotic sugar solution which will keep just about forever. Any
bacteria or yeast that get into the solution are literally dehydrated by
the osmotic pressure of the honey sucking the moisture out of them, which
causes them to either die or go dormant.


If honey is collected from the hive to soon, or during times of

abnormally high humidity, it might not have been dried enough to get it
down below that critical 18% water level. Honey is also hygroscopic, or
moisture absorbing, and will absorb moisture from out of the air if it is
left exposed for to long, which can also cause it to become to wet.
Regardless of the cause, if the honey is to wet, it WILL ferment sooner or


As a side note; Honey crystallizes because the excess sugar falls out of

the supersaturated solution, which raises the water content of the
remaining liquid. Usually the change isn't enough to allow critters the
honey has already done in to revive and spoil it, but new contaminants may
cause crystallized honey to spoil.


Now from generally from a commercial standpoint, fermenting honey is bad

news, it tends to look bad, develop bad tastes (as compared to plain
honey) and the CO2 released by fermentation does nasty things to the honey
containers. From a mead maker's standpoint, I am guessing that the result
would depend on the exact strain of wild yeast present, which would be a
question of luck. Also remember that once alcohol starts forming, you
start getting potential growth of Acetobacter type bacteria, which will
turn the hooch into vinegar.


Therefore, I would suggest that if you are going to use this honey, you

probably should do it sooner rather than later, and in the meantime keep
it protected from air and contamination.




Subject: Mazer Cup and Ancient Meads
From: Ken Schramm <>
Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2003 21:41:58 -0500

The Mazer Cup will be held, and soon. I spoke with Jim Suchy, and he
has agreed to act as registrar. We are still looking for someone to act
as judge director, but if no one steps forth, we will take care of those
duties ourselves. I will post the submission details, categories and
rules shortly.

The entry submission deadline date will be March 28. The main judging
will occur at Jeff Renner's home in Ann Arbor on April 12 (one caveat:
there's a chance Jeff's son may be returning from duty in the Persian
Gulf then, which could throw a wrinkle in there, but we will deal with
that). We will make every effort to judge as many of the categories as
possible then, but will do it within the bounds of reason and safety.
Should we need to hold additional judging sessions, we will hold them as
soon as we can. PLease consider this an invitation to come and judge
with us. Even if you are not an experienced judge, please consider this
opportunity, especially if you are a mead aficionado. We will pair you
with an experienced judge. Inquiries can be directed to me at this
E-mail address.

We are also contacting the mazer thrower this week, and when I have
definitive news in that regard, you will hear it from me here.

This year, we will be asking that bragot/braggot/bracket be entered in
the Open/Combined category. This will reduce the competition to seven
categories, but as always, we will never collapse categories.

I am working to arrange posting of entry forms and rules on the web. I
will provide the details as soon as they are finalized. Requests for
hard copies should be directed to me, as well. I will have this done
within a week.

On the subject of ancient meads: I am one who conjectures that there
are reasons to believe that ancient meads, especially those in the
Indo-European world, might even have been better than those we make now.
Most notably, the nature of bee forage crops would have been much more
diverse, and the amount of acreage in flowering plants available to bees
would have been much higher. Think of the modern amount of paved and
developed land, the acreage in grass and grain crops. In ancient times,
much of that would have been wildflowers, or nectar-bearing forest
plants. Some of the honey would likely have been pretty average, but
some of it must have been remarkable.

Additionally, while the practices of skep hive keepers were destructive,
by the same practice, they would never have re-used frames, which can be
a source of off flavors and aromas in modern honey. The first crop off
a fresh frame is always the cleanest, and that would have been every
crop for a beekeeper who did not reuse frames.

It also seems likely that some of the yeast would have been the very
strains later isolated from the many grape producing regions, especially
throughout Rome, Greece, and especially now what is now Germany and
northern France.

Is this speculation on the affect on flavor conjecture? Certainly.
Wine historians are largely in agreement that at least some ancient
wines must have been of very high quality; beyond references to their
excellence, they were also known to bear aging, not a sign of infected
or otherwise flawed wines. Further, many of the vineyards and locations
used today were established in Roman times. Many references to mead
from pre Renaissance times discuss its exemplary quality, even when
compared with the great wines of those eras, and who are we to disparage
the veracity of these comments?

I'm glad to be back in the fray on the Mazer Cup. I hope we can run a
competition to the satisfaction of all entrants.

Ken Schramm
Troy, Michigan

Subject: on bee keeping 
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 01:52:11 EST

id love to make some mead frome my own honey does any one now of any good
sights for gitting bee keeping suplyies ect ? my fruit trees shuld realy
apreceate them as well

thanks in advance chris anderson

chris anderson

Subject: Re; Wild Yeasts in Honey
From: Michael Kiley <>
Date: Fri, 07 Feb 2003 15:18:18 -0500


Honeybees store energy in a very concentrated form. Hence there is a real
survival prize for other creatures, from yeasts to bears, and, er, humans,
to go to great lengths to acquire the resource. To deter the very small
coveters of this energy store, bees dry the nectar they collect to the point
where it is too dry for microbial life….yeasts can't reproduce in it,
though they are there, in waiting, for conditions to make possible their

Once released from capped honeycomb, open honey is stongly hydrophilic and
will pull moisture out of the air until there are parts of it where
fermentation can occur. If stored in bulk, open to the air, it will 'turn'.
Because the flavors that would be being produced by this wild ferment would
be unlikely to improve your mead, this honey sounds like it would be best
used as food for bees. In the wild, opportunistic fermentations of strong
sugar concentrations like this would be done by successions of yeast species
with microbial allies, so the yeast in this wet honey is unlikely to give
you a complete, good tasting, fully fermented, mead.

Reasons why a beekeeper might have fermenting honey might be; extracting
honey that has a high percentage of uncapped, undryed honey, extracting
over a protracted time period in a facility with very high humidity,
allowing absorption from the air, or, having some water leak, in a wax
melter, honey sump or other apparatus in the extracting line. None of these
are good things. The 18% alcohol is probably a measure of potential alcohol
in a must, who knows.

Honey that has crystallized thoroughly will eventually have so much sugar in
crystals that the remaining solution will have enough water in it to
ferment. This takes rare conditions; raw honey is rarely left around in
bulk for the time this complete crystallization would take. It is, though,
more salvageable than liquid honey which is not dry enough to store. This
doesn't sound like what is happening here.

As to what to do with it, if you're set on making mead with it, because,
say, the price is irresistable (which it should be, like, free), I'd treat
it just like any other honey, heat it in your water solution just to
boiling, with whatever additives, cool and pitch a large, vigorous starter
of a good commercial yeast.

I hope this helps.

I really enjoyed Dan's thoughts on ancient mead making.

Michael Kiley

Subject: Yeah its racked.
From: "Steven M. Parrish" <>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 16:03:33 -0500

Well after 6 weeks my traditional mead has finished its primary
fermentation. No activity at all in the airlock for 2 days. So I racked it
to a 5 gal carboy. The OG was 1.092 currently at 1.001 so accord to my
calculations that is approx 12.4% alcohol. It has a nice light butterscotch
color. Not a bad taste either. Can't wait to taste it in a year.


End of Mead Lover's Digest #992