Subject: Mead Lover's Digest #993, 11 February 2003

Mead Lover's Digest #993 Tue 11 February 2003


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



Re: PLastic as a primary (Phil)
Re: MLD #992, 2/7/03 – Plastic Carboys; Beekeeping questions ("Arthur Torr…)
Mead & Sulfites ("Dan McFeeley")
Fermenting Honey and Variable capacity fermenter (Greg Fischer)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #992, 7 February 2003 (
Re: Blending Mead (
beekeeping (Mina Baisch)
plastic carboys (Dave Polaschek)
orange-clove mead details (was: Re: ancient v/s modern meads) ("Kenneth R….)
Honey Containing Unapproved Additive (Vince)


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Subject: Re:  PLastic as a primary
From: Phil <>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 15:30:59 -0800 (PST)

> Subject: 
> 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?

There's nothing wrong with using a bucket for a
primary. People shy away from them for long term
fermenting as, supposedly, oxygen will eventually get
through them.

Don't use them for more than a month and you should be


visit the New York City Homebrewers Guild website:

Subject: Re: MLD #992, 2/7/03 - Plastic Carboys; Beekeeping questions
From: "Arthur Torrey (no spam please!)" <>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 20:55:07 -0500


> Subject:
> 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

No problem with plastic in a primary fermentation, as the CO2 generated

by the fast fermenting yeast keeps the pressure in the vessel high enough
to keep the oxygen from diffusing through the plastic into the must and
damaging it through oxidation. Indeed I dare say that most small scale
home mead makers use a plastic bucket for the primary.


However there ARE problems with using a plastic *carboy* as a primary

which aren't as much a problem with the mead quality as they are
'mechanical' in nature…


1. Primary fermentation makes lots of sediment, and if especially if one

is doing a fruit or spiced mead, getting stuff out the neck of the carboy
can be a real b#$%h – a bucket is easier to clean. (Voice of experience,
trying to get herbs added in secondary out of a glass carboy ;-{)


2. Because we know that we will loose a certain amount of volume each

time a mead is racked, and because there is need for 'headspace' for the
yeast to foam in, many folks use (and most brewing kits come with) a 6 or
7 gallon bucket to provide the headspace, and to make a bit extra volume
(I typically start a brew with 5.5 to 6 gallons) to use in making up
racking losses.


3. Most of the plastic carboys that I've seen seem to have a very thin

sharp lip around the inside edge of the bottle mouth – I'm not sure how
easy it would be to get a good seal on a stopper for your fermentation
lock. However there might be an easy way to get around this, I've never
really tried to find one.


If you start with a 5 gallon carboy, you aren't going to get more than

about 4.5 – 4.75 gallons of must into it to start with, and by the time
you get done racking, are likely to only have about 4 gallons – that is a
really problematic amount of headspace to end up with in secondary.


Of course if you stick with simple or finely chopped spice meads, the

cleanup might not be a big deal. And if you are making less than five
gallon batches and racking into smaller carboys anyways the volume might
not be a problem. So you might get away with it, just be aware of the
potential problems.



> 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

> whereever…


> 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,
> etc?


> Rick

You might want to ask local beekeepers about the hazards particular to

your area, however the books I've read suggest that it usually isn't that
big of a deal. Bees only go after flowers, so they don't have problems
with sprays that are applied to other areas or in times when there is no
nectar flow. Any crops that are helped by pollinators, the farmers are
aware of it and will try to avoid using problematic pesticides during a
nectar flow since they WANT the bees around (indeed there are migratory
beekeepers that follow the nectar flows with truckloads of beehives, the
farmers pay BIG money to get their services, such that most migratory
beekeepers pay for their efforts with the pollination fees, and any honey
profits they make are a bonus)


Yards usually aren't a problem, since most of what the bees are

interested in are what most people call weeds, and the yards with lots of
chemicals don't have (or want) weeds.


Of course there is also the debate between those who are willing to

accept some 'acceptable' level of chemical exposure, vs. those who want a
pure 'organic' product… Again, all I can suggest is local research as
to what, if any, problems are present in your area.


> ——————————

> Subject: on bee keeping
> From:
> 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


This is sort of getting off topic for the digest, after all this is a

MEAD digest, not a beekeeper list. Of course considering the ingredients,
it's a bit of a fuzzy line however I don't want to make the moderator mad
at me <GRIN>


However for a short answer, there are LOTS of websites with beekeeping

supplies, most of the major equipment makers have sites, and alot of
retailers do as well. Doing a Google search for 'beekeeping equipment'
will give you lots of hits.


However, my reccomendation is to get a couple of catalogs from the major

suppliers, then find a good LOCAL bee supply store, and get most of your
equipment there.


Here's why…


1. You will get lots of advice on local conditions from beekeepers in

your area. Beginners especially will find they need lots of hand holding

  • – If you thought your first batch of mead was scary, you haven't lived

until you have had to confront your first 'package' of bees, and deal with
the notion of transferring a few thousand buzzing, potentially stinging
insects from a box to their new hive… Bee supply stores are generally
run by experienced beekeepers who are more than willing to share their
experiences with you. The other customers will also be more than willing
to advise you. My local store (Beekeeper's Warehouse in Woburn, MA) is
almost like a clubhouse for the local beekeepers, and you want to keep it
in business.


2. While most equipment is fairly standardized, there are variations in

things like what color you should paint your hives, how many and what
combinations of different size hive bodies you need, etc. which are all
regional variations which local people can help you with better than a
distant store.


3. There's alot of equipment listed in the catalogs, some of it's

useful, some of it's sort of gimmicky stuff you might not need. It helps
to be able to see things 'live' and talk to other customers about what
works and what doesn't.


4. The costs of stuff are comparable, especially if you look in the

catalogs just to get an idea of what to expect for prices. Keep in mind
that most beekeeping gear is bulky and or heavy to ship, so shipping is a
big expense. I find that if I allow for shipping, the costs are
comparable, and the value of the 'free' advice I get is worth far more
than any extra I pay for supporting the local store.


5. One of the more difficult issues a new beekeeper has to deal with is

getting bees. The post office is the only people that ship them regularly
and they have been getting increasingly difficult to deal with, especially
since 9/11 and the anthrax scares. Getting bees via the post office has
always been problematic, now it is even more so. The local bee supply
store will usually make some kind of special arrangement to get large
numbers of bee packages shipped in so that they arrive in better
condition, etc. OR they will know who is selling bees locally.


That being said, here are some of the sources I have looked at. I

haven't used any of them directly, since I get things from my local supply
store. However they are the folks I use for price shopping.


Dadant and Sons, Inc. <> One of the

older bee supply companies, lately has gone down hill, now more into
candles and the like.


=A0Brushy Mountain Bee Farm – 1-800-BEESWAX
<> Excellent catalog, I wish I had
one of their bee suits, they are the best I've seen described, also have
very large sizes.

<> – website source only, seems like

reasonable online source.


Glory Bee <> – Interesting catalog, not so good

for beekeeping supplies, but lots of soap and candle making supplies, lots
of varietal honeys for sale. I've heard bad things about their
bee-suits. They seem a bit on the expensive side, but have things I
haven't seen elsewhere.




Subject: Mead & Sulfites
From: "Dan McFeeley" <>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 08:01:05 -0600

This might be of interest for folk who were asking about the use
of sulfites in meadmaking. There was some research done by
C.Y. Lee and the late Robert Kime of the university of Cornell
on the use of honey in preventing browning in winemaking during
the late 1980's. Browning in wine is generally attributed to the
oxidative action of the enyzme polyphenyloxidase, causing amber
to brown color in white wines and changing the color of red wines
from purplish red, to red, to a brick color. The use of sulfites in
winemaking helps prevent this.

Kime and Lee, however, showed that honey also helps prevent
browning, strongly suggesting that honey can be used along with
sulfites, or even as a substitute for sulfites. Research at the
University of Illinois has also shown that honey has antioxidant
properties. This property of honey was sufficiently verified to
the extent that Kime and Lee were able to obtain a patent on
the process. The patent number is 4,900,564, and was granted


Apparently it is a protein in honey that is responsible for
impeding browning in honey, according to Kime and Lee's
research. The properties of honey proteins are a largely
unexplored territory — another protein in honey has been
identified in aiding the clearing of haze in apple juice. This
research was also done at the University of Cornell.

A summary of the patent and research findings can be found
at the URL below — it's a long one! It might be ncessary to
cut and splice it into your browser.


Dan McFeeley

Subject: Fermenting Honey and Variable capacity fermenter
From: Greg Fischer <>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 23:30:12 -0600

I have had honey ferment when it was extracted in very humid conditions
and not covered. This happened in my wax capping bin that was left open

in very humid air. The honey became very thin and started to ferment.

We dumped this into our wax melter so we don't know what kind of a mead
it would have produced.


Here's an idea that might work. I have yet to try it. Wax will float
on water and on mead. You might be able to seal up a mead in a
secondary by pouring in melted bees wax and letting it cool on the
surface. The wax will shrink so you may have to pour in more hot wax to
get a good seal. The bees seal honey in wax, so why can't we seal our
meads the same way preventing oxidation, I plan on doing a few
experiments and will let everyone know how things turn out. Anyone
else trying this, please let us know how it worked out.

Bee Happy

Greg Fischer
Wild Blossom Meadery – Chicago IL

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #992, 7 February 2003
Date: Sat, 8 Feb 2003 08:20:19 EST

Greeting Kinsman,
I'm glad that the Maiser cup is going forward and I for one am glad that
someone is willing to do the work. No good deed ever goes unpunished but I'll
keep my fingers crossed for you.
On the first time comb is used that the honey is better. Is an interesting
idea to me I am looking at a modern oddity for beekeeping its a system first
developed in Africa were getting the fancy wood beekeeping stuff is difficult
to impossible its called the top bar hive most beekeepers have heard at least
a little about it?
Not to bore the non beekeepers out there, if your interested do a search on

The idea I'm trying to inform you on is that you harvest the whole honey

comb and extract by pressing the honey out of the wax. So its strictly a one
time use. This of course limits the amount of honey (it takes the equivalent
of 12-15 pounds of honey to make a pound of beeswax)
I'm looking into it to help a gal in the SCA (I've been a member for 15
years) she wants to make mead starting with the bees. Skeps as most know are
illegal in all 50 states (you cannot inspect them for disease or other
problems) and you cannot remove honey without destroying them and the bee's.
So tell me is there a market for first extraction honey we are talking about
$4-5 (strictly a guess) a pound or mead honey. I kinda doubt it. I intend to
raise one or two of these hives this year to try it for myself. I doubt that
there is anyone who would make it worthwhile for a commercial operation.
Well, there is also a habit that my mentor picked up from his mentor (a bee
researcher at the UW). We have each hive draw out one box (IE 10 frames of
new foundation) of wax each year.
So with careful marking and juggling and an extra cleaning there might be
some first extract honey. Again it will be more expensive to keep separate
(and the average beekeeper will roll his eyes a you over more work at
extraction time [its like being a one legged man in an a– kicking contest).
Dave in Madison WI USA
AKA Viscount Cnut Ragnarsson


Subject: Re: Blending Mead
Date: Sat, 8 Feb 2003 11:55:58 EST

I quite often blend mead at racking time with excellent results. I have
several batches going on all the time in multiple carboys. I blend to keep
the carboys topped off. I do it this way since I always lose a bit of volume
when racking to secondaries or terciaries. I blend to keep the carboys
topped off to avoid oxidation while aging. Sometimes it only takes a quart
in five gallons and it adds a little complexity that is somewhat untraceable.
At other times I blend higher proportions to create something better
balanced between two meads. Sometimes I also downsize from 5 gallon carboys
to 3 for the last racking before final bottling and simply fill a few bottles
with the odd quantity of leftovers. This gives me a few tasters to enjoy
till I get around to processing the entire batch. I recommend that you blend
the mead into a secondary and let it age for a month or two to make sure that
no further fermentation restarts from the sweeter mead going into the drier
Bob Grossman

Subject: beekeeping
From: Mina Baisch <>
Date: Sat, 08 Feb 2003 13:05:16 -0600

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,



I keep 3 hives of bees in my backyard in urban Nashville, and have never had
any problems (that I know of) with local pesticides. Pesticides, on the
other hand, do kill bees and if your bees are pollinating something that has
just been sprayed with pesticides they will die. (my dad used keep his bees
at an apple orchard and would periodically lose hives to pesticide
spraying). Not sure how much pesticide they have the potential to bring
home to the hive if they don't die immediately. I looked up cotton in
"American Honey Plants". Sounds like it is pretty variable as a nectar
producer, depending on soil quality and area of the country – you might want
to check with area beekeepers or your state apiculturist to see if your bees
are likely to visit these cotton fields, and if the honey they produce will
be edible.

And to the person that wants to order beekeeping equipment, try Of course there are a lot of other companies as well, if
you want their contact info, but this was the closest catalog.

Mina Baisch
small-time beekeeper
halfway through my first batch of mead

Subject: plastic carboys
From: Dave Polaschek <>
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 09:16:10 -0600

Derek King wrote:

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

I've had no problems with using plastic buckets as primary fermentation
containers (making sure to use food-grade plastic). I've even had a primary
fermentation in one for nearly a year with no bad results that I can detect
(I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't panic if you don't get to siphoning
to the secondary on time, either).

If you're talking about the plastic carboys from bottled water, I'm a little
leery of them, as they don't seem terribly sturdy. Things get banged around
in my kitched sometimes, especially when I'm wrestling large containers of
water, honey or malt around during brewing. But then I've already got plenty
of buckets with lids for primaries and glass carboys for secondaries.


  • -DaveP


Dave Polaschek –
Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There
has never been a really good one, and even those that are most
tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent.

  • – H. L. Mencken


Subject: orange-clove mead details (was: Re: ancient v/s modern meads)
From: "Kenneth R. Irwin" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 12:12:15 -0500

Hi all,

Since several of you wrote to ask about the honey and yeast that I use for
the orange-clove mead I mentioned in the last digest, I'll just reply to
the list:

The specifics of yeast and honey are some of the things I can be a little
casual about. I tend to use what's at hand. I've used both clover and
orange blossom honey to great effect with this recipe. I've also used both
Montrachet and Champagne yeasts effectively. I think the very best one was
with Orange Blossom + Montrachet; the next best was Clover + Champagne;
other combinations or duplications have undoubtedly occurred.

It's worth noting too that this mead ages *really* well. It was my first
batch, pitched in Dec 1995 and first opened in June of 1996; it was lovely
by August. It was gloriously smooth Five years later, and there's one
bottle set aside for a ten-year trial. Yum.



Ken Irwin
Reference/Electronic Resources Librarian (937) 327-7594
Thomas Library, Wittenberg University

Subject: Honey Containing Unapproved Additive
From: <>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 10:51:32 -0500 (EST)

Here is a piece of news I got from a reliable source (FDA). You may want to
check before you buy honey.

Honey Containing Unapproved Additive Is Seized from Texas Company:
At FDA's request, U.S. marshals seized imported honey from Texas-based
Hoyt's Honey Farm Inc., after the agency determined that the honey contained
the unapproved additive chloramphenicol, an antibiotic drug used to treat
life-threatening infections. The seizure is the third such action FDA has
taken against different honey companies in the last six months.

On another topic, I'd like to get your advice:
I am considering increasing the size of my batches. Fermentation and
maturing take some time, consuming goes much faster so it is difficult to
age mead if you don't make a lot. I'm thinking about making 1 or 2 "big
batches" a year on top of the smaller batches I'm experimenting with. This
way, I would have enough to store and age for a while. Also, I realized
(the hard way) that it was much better to add fruits in the secondary
otherwise most of the flavor goes away, so I could use my biggie for plain
mead + dispatch some in different secondaries with different fruits. I'm
thinking 20 gallon batch size. I am considering the purchase of a big
polyethylene conical fermenter (25 gal). It's cheaper than steel but still
steep (around $400). I was thinking I would get the same end result with
more consistency,less labor, no need for multiple carboys, less need to
rack (conical) but more investment $$ and more risk (if a batch goes
wrong). I was wondering if
1) you experienced people think it would be a good investment or a waste of
my money
2) what you think about polyethylene conicals
3) you have any tips to make sure my big batch doesn't flop (i.e.,
increasing the size of the starter yeast or other considerations) as a big
batch may not behave like a small one

Thanks for your input
Vince Galet

PS: any news about "the compleat mead maker?"

End of Mead Lover's Digest #993