Subject: Mead Lover's Digest #1023, 27 June 2003

Mead Lover's Digest #1023 Fri 27 June 2003


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



astringency problem (Belinda Messenger)
Re: Pectinase and hangovers…? ("Dan McFeeley")
Pectinase and hangovers…? (Dick Dunn)
Pectinase and hangovers…? ("Micah Millspaw")
Hangovers & headaches ("Munro, Tina HI0")
Methanol shmethanol ("Vince Galet")
Mahlab was cherry mead (Eric Reimer)
Mahlab was cherry mead ("Eric")
Yeast, blending questions (Travis Dahl KE4VYZ)


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Subject: astringency problem
From: Belinda Messenger <>
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 16:22:08 -0700 (PDT)

Hello fellow mazers,
I've been making mead for about eight years and have a
recurring problem with my cherry melomels. It seems
that they all turn out to be too tart/astringent. I've
tried adding gypsum both in the beginning and after
the first tasting but it doesn't seem to help. I
usually add 1-2 tablespoons per 5 gallons, since I
didn't want to get a "chalky" taste. Any thoughts? Am
I not adding enough gypsum? Should I use a different
calcium compound?
By the way, they're usually still and semi-sweet to
sweet. pH around 4.0 at bottling.
Pigeon (aka meadwench)

Subject: Re: Pectinase and hangovers...?
From: "Dan McFeeley" <>
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 22:41:29 -0500

On Sat, 21 Jun 2003 , in MLD 1022, Ross McKay wrote:

>Maybe I'm taking a leap here, but could the use of pectinase be part of
>the hangover problem here?


>Also, is adding pectinase just a way of "hurrying up" the clarification
>of a melomel, or in some instances is it absolutely necessary to get
>that crisp, clean liquid that people seem to require?

Pectinase is an enzyme used in winemaking to break down the pectin
present in fruits. Pectin, especially if the must is heated, will cause a
haze in wines and meads. There's no danger from pectinase, and the
pectin from fruits is no worry either.

There are multiple causes for hangovers, one of which is the production
of fusel alcohols during the fermenation. Avoiding a strained fermantation
that stresses the yeast will minimize this problem.

Hope this is helpful!


Dan McFeeley

Subject: Pectinase and hangovers...?
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 23:17:47 -0600 (MDT)

Ross McKay <> wrote:

> I have also noticed many references to vicious mead hangovers, of which
> I have yet to experience (hanging onto wooden desk here!) and would like
> to avoid.

Mead hangovers really *are* legendary (literally back to the Vikings).
After drinking a lot of mead with a lot of friends over the years, plus
watching and listening and reading, I've concluded that there are two
primary causes:

* drinking mead as if it were soda, or even as if it were beer…
Mead is usually about wine strength. You will fare no better drinking
an entire bottle of mead than drinking an entire bottle of wine.
* Some people are more sensitive to mead than to wine or beer. I have
a couple close friends who have particular difficulty with mead, and
it seems to be almost any mead. No idea why, and I don't think you're
going to be able to get a government grant to find out!


> Recently, when reading some posts in rec.crafts.distilling, I ran across
> reference to production of methanol in fermentation as a result of
> converting pectin…

There will be some methanol produced if pectin-containing fruit is present,
but the quantities are tiny. Several things to keep in mind here:

* The pectins are present in the fruit anyway.
* Bacteria in your gut will break down pectins and produce methanol
even if the pectin was left alone during fermentation.
* The quantities of methanol produced are well within your body's
ability to de-tox.


I had poked around asking about this a while back, and found that the
pectin/pectinase->methanol connection is a bit of an urban legend. See
MLD 926.

> Maybe I'm taking a leap here, but could the use of pectinase be part of
> the hangover problem here?

No, not pectinase _per_se_. All it's doing is breaking down pectins…
which are going to get broken down somewhere along the way anyhow.

> Also, is adding pectinase just a way of "hurrying up" the clarification
> of a melomel, or in some instances is it absolutely necessary to get
> that crisp, clean liquid that people seem to require?

It's necessary in some instances. If you manage to "set" the pectin
(generally by over-heating fruit/juice), you'll have a haze that won't
clear with normal fining agents.

> One of the other things that occurs to me, coming from the beer brewing
> world, is that maybe some of the mead hangover stuff comes from
> fermenting too warm and thus encouraging the yeast to produce fusels,
> also implicated in bad hangovers!

Yes, warmer fermentation will produce those higher alcohols. I don't know
of any hard data that suggest warmer fermentation actually produces enough
to turn your mead into hangover-helper, but it's plausible.

> I did a search on MLD archives and found MLD#723 from 1999, where we are
> recommended to avoid drinks with amounts of methanol if we want to avoid
> hangovers…

>…But then again, in MLD#746 from 1999, the methanol/hangover link is
> "debunked"…

Ingesting any significant amount of methanol is not going to make you
happy. But the concern would have to include whether there is actually
such significant amount of methanol produced…and in any plausible
situation, there won't be.

Dick Dunn Hygiene, Colorado USA

Subject: Pectinase and hangovers...?
From: "Micah Millspaw" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 07:21:27 -0500

The notorious mead induced hangover.

I have observed this phenomenon a number of times, it seems to happen
most often to people newly exposed to meads. My theory is that; very
often meads do not taste anywhere near as strong (high alcohol) as they
actually are. The naive drinker greedily consumes more mead (because
it tastes good) than they ordinarily would a more known libation. The
resulting dehydration makes them feel like crap the next day. IHMO over
consumption is the largest culprit in the mead hangover legend.

If you want to test this, put a keg of melomel of draft and invite some
newbies over! It might be fun.

And, if you don't heat the fruit that is being used then there is no
need for the pectinase.

Micah Millspaw – brewer at large

Subject: Hangovers & headaches
From: "Munro, Tina HI0" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 08:51:13 -0600

Regarding complaints about hangovers / headaches:

1) gotta face facts… Alcohol dehydrates a body. Dehydration is one of
the main ingredients to a hangover. If you intend to drink until you are
cross-eyed, make sure that you drink enough water along the way.

2) Sulfur / sulfites. Most of the time when people I know complain about
headaches from wine or mead, I check to see if they are allergic to sulfur
drugs. Also, sulfur products are the type of thing that people can become
sensitive to over time and repeated exposure, and not even know that they
have a problem with sulfites.

I know that I am allergic to sulfur and sulfites. I never use them in my
mead, and I have NEVER had anyone complain about headaches with my mead. On
the contrary, many people remark on the fact that they DON'T get headaches
from my mead (and they do from wines).

I hope this helps.
mka Tina Munro

Subject: Methanol shmethanol
From: "Vince Galet" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 11:52:40 -0400 (EDT)

Ross McKay raised the question of methanol and fusel alcohols. Here is my
take on both:

It is true that methanol can be produced in small quantities, just like it
is in whisky or other fermented beverages, distilled or not. However, many
people do not differentiate very much between traces of methanol and large
1) Ross' source does mention that in a clean fermenter, well aerated
substrate composed mostly of sugars, little or no methanol will be
produced, so we should not have a big issue to start with.
2) many products from apple juice to commercial whiskey contain traces of
methanol and that's OK (never heard of apple juice hangovers yet). This is
not cyanide. Note that the web site quotes 0.2% methanol in applejuice and
commercial whisky and 0.0186% (10 times less) in "poor quality home
distilled spirits". Funny. Vodka is supposed to be better because it has
only 0.013%. It's like comparing arsenic content of your tap water (check,
a lot of tap water does have some arsenic and a lot of other nasty stuff –
but within the "normal range")
3) I will pass on the optic nerve toxicity which is a fact but only at
larger concentrations, because the hangovers are more of concern: methanol
is processed into an aldehyde: methanaldehyde = formaldehyde. Not good.
However, ethanol (found in your beverage at a concentration that is about
500-1000 times higher than methanol) is transformed into ethanaldehyde,
which is not that much better (and much more abundant that the famous
formaldehyde eventually). It is another aldehyde, very close to
formaldehyde. Luckily it spares your optic nerves but as you may know it
is a nerve poison in general – an old alcoholic will have a pretty bad
nervous system – again, quantity matters. You can bet that most of your
hangover comes from there. Sorry, no way around it. Of course, you have
dehydration as well as brain chemistry on top of that (part of the
hangover is due to alcohol withdrawal, believe it or not), but as far as
the toxicity is concerned, blame it mostly on good old ethanol.
The same beliefs extend to the often quoted fusel alcohols. These are
alcohols with a longer chain, but not radically different from ethanol
(ethanol is 2 carbons, we go up to 5 carbons). The heavier the alcohol is
(number of carbons) the more it is lipophilic and the more it affects your
brain with narcotic properties. (Some have been tried as anesthetics in
the early times of medicine). However their toxicity is very low (LD 50
1870 to 3030mg/kg per the same source, that is lower than ethanol).
On the other hand, some of them are used as food additives: isoamyl
alcohol is said to have whiskey tones, isobutyl alcohol is fruity, amyl
alcohol is "strong, somewhat sweet, balsamic" etc.. (all 3 examples are
fusel alcohols). They are also used in your carboy to form esters that
give such a distinctive taste to beers and other fermented beverages
(banana, clove, vanilla, apricot, peach, apple fruit or flower tones).
Esters are much more aromatic than alcohols and they are made FROM
alcohols, including fusel. In other words, this can be good! Again, there
is a question of quantity, and too much of that good taste today will hit
your head tomorrow (or even today – remember, they are narcotic). But keep
in mind that more than 99% of the alcohols you are consuming is the
ethanol, and even though it almost ignored because it's so common, ethanol
is also toxic…
Bottom line: there is not much you can do about it but it won't kill you
(unless you seriously abuse). Relax, don't worry keep making mead.


Subject: Mahlab was cherry mead
From: Eric Reimer <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 11:46:15 -0400

Hi Vicky.

I have never used (nor heard of til now) mahlab. I understand that it is
crushed dark cherry pits. You wrote that your mead had very little cherry
flavour until you added the spice. I am wondering if you have tried only
using the mahlab for cherry flavour and skipping the cherries all together?
Skipping the cherries would save a lot of headaches in regards to freezing
racking etc.

Also, where do you find/purchase mahlab?



Subject: Mahlab was cherry mead
From: "Eric" <>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 16:50:23 -0400

Hi Vicky.

I have never used (nor heard of til now) mahlab. I understand that it is
crushed dark cherry pits. You wrote that your mead had very little cherry
flavour until you added the spice. I am wondering if you have tried only
using the mahlab for cherry flavour and skipping the cherries all together?
Skipping the cherries would save a lot of headaches in regards to freezing
racking etc.

Also, where do you find/purchase mahlab?



Subject: Yeast, blending questions
From: Travis Dahl KE4VYZ <>
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 08:03:45 -0400 (EDT)

So last last year around this time I made my first (so far only) mead. It
has been racked twice and is sitting around 1.047. Unfortunately, I have
also lost my notes, but I recall using around 10-12 lbs of honey in 5 gal.
Now, I also did two things which I probably won't repeat in future brews.
First, I added acid blend when I mixed everything together. I also used
White Labs Sweet Mead yeast (which I've seen several people say tends to
result in stuck ferments).

A couple of days ago, I racked and added some yeast energizer. If I sit
and stare at the carboy long enough (~1 minute), it will bubble.

So, here's my plan: Make another 5 gal batch of honey and water, blend
the two and pitch a new yeast. This should decrease the acidity and dump
in some new nutrients, fresh yeast, etc. ANy thoughts from the experts
out there?

I was going for a sweeter mead. Are there any recommendations for a
different yeast to try?


  • -Travis

Ann Arbor, MI


End of Mead Lover's Digest #1023