Subject: Mead Lover's Digest #1032, 5 August 2003

Mead Lover's Digest #1032 Tue 5 August 2003


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



RE: Racking ("Thad Starr")
Re:Camden tabs and temperature (Kristinn Eysteinsson)
Improvement of mead with age ("Bob Garrett")
Commercial Mead ("David Jones")
nyRE: Mead Lover's Digest #1031, 2 August 2003 ("Olluyn Jo")
Re: History Questions ("Dan McFeeley")
Yeast fermentation byproducts ("Vince Galet")
Sugar metabolism (Intres Richard)
National Mead Making Day ("Matt Maples")
2003 Mead Day in St. Paul, MN (Christopher Hadden)


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Subject: RE: Racking
From: "Thad Starr" <>
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2003 10:31:02 -0700


During the racking process the level of the mead in
the carboy drops. What is the best way to take care of
this extra space. Recently I have read that dissolving
honey in water and topping it off is the way to do it.
Another was to add marbles to the carboy to raise the

This is how I handle this problem. I make up the batch of mead or melomel

at 7 1/2 gallons. Primary ferment in a big stainless bucket. After a week
or so, I rack to a 7 1/2 gal carboy. When I'm ready to rack again, I rack
to a 6 gal carboy and a 1 gal carboy. This 1 gallon carboy is the "topper"
for the 6 gal carboy as needed.
After I use the 1 gal carboy to top the 6 gal carboy after racking, I
usually reduce the 1 gal carboy to a smaller carboy to eliminate head space.
If the small carboy is not used for topping the original batch, it's used
for other similar batches.
Another big benifit I've found to doing it this way, is that I can never
seam to stay out of a mead. I've got to "sample" it constantly or someone
else needs to try my latest creation. I feel a lot more comfortable
opening the smaller carboy and exposing it to air than the 6 gal batch.
I've tried the marble route. Always scared the heck out of me dropping them
in the carboy to fill the head space. They make an aweful sound when they
hit bottom! Never was sure if they would break the glass, but what a mess
if they did!


Hope this helps. Thad

Subject: Re:Camden tabs and temperature
From: Kristinn Eysteinsson <>
Date: Sat, 02 Aug 2003 21:26:54 +0000

At 10:01 2.8.2003 -0600, you wrote:

> > From:
> > Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 09:47:19 EDT

> >

> > Here is a question about Camden tablets and temperature .

> >

> > The honey and water are heated on the stove and the surface is skimmed.
> > 1. at what temperature is this mixture brought?
> > 2. how long is it maintained at this temperature ?
> > 3. It's then cooled. At what temperature do we add camden tablets?

> >

> > Dr. Jim- Philly


>If you're going to heat, I'd answer question 1 with 180 degrees F (which I
>think should probably be around 88-90C, no?)

It's closer to 82C. 90C is 194F. The formulas for conversion between
farenheit and celcius are:

(F – 32) / 1.8
C * 1.8 + 32

Kristinn Eysteinsson
T=F6lvuumsj=F3narma=F0ur Austurb=E6jarsk=F3la Reykjav=EDkur

Subject: Improvement of mead with age
From: "Bob Garrett" <>
Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2003 12:53:16 -0400

A question for the group:

I'm new to mead making- actually just bottled my first batch, a sweet red
raspberry mead from my own honey (I have 8 colonies) and wild red
raspberries from my yard. I have a couple other batches in the early stages.
The raspberry mead is quite sweet (intentionally) and I am curious how well
it will age. I've been told that meads generally improve with age nearly
indefinitely (5-10 years?) if stored correctly. Does that apply to sweet
meads with berry adjuncts as well or just to straight meads? The mead I am
interested in was made with 22 lbs of honey, about 8 lbs of raspberries (5
gal) and is somewhere around 11% alcohol and tastes like a sweet dessert
wine. It is fabulous now, so there is no guarantee much of it will last long
to age, but I'd hate to reserve a bunch only to find it was better young.
Any advice appreciated!


Subject: Commercial Mead
From: "David Jones" <>
Date: Sun, 03 Aug 2003 16:08:10 -0500

Where can you buy commercial mead in the Chicagoland area?

Subject: nyRE: Mead Lover's Digest #1031, 2 August 2003
From: "Olluyn Jo" <>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 09:48:04 +0200

Greg McBee wrote:

>Can anyone point me towards any information about
>the byproducts (other than ethanol and CO2) of
>the result of fermentation of various types of
>sugars, i.e. fructose, maltose, dextrose, lactose,
>glucose, etc.?


>I'm interested in trace chemicals that may have
>an effect on flavor, as in the effect of using
>white sugar in beer that can produce a "cardboard"
>taste. What chemical does this?

Heehee…cardboard…could you be slightly more specific, as I've never
tasted cardboard before 😉

Anyway: manners first. I'm new here, also relatively new at brewing
(tried a few beers before and now also trying mead). My first batch of
mead is now in its earliest phase, so wish me luck.

Concerning sugars etc, I can imagine when using white beet sugar, most
of the aftertaste could spring from the traces of soluents in the sugar
itself. As you may know, white (refined) sugar is chemically speaking a
very dirty product, requiring dozens of steps before the brownish
molasses from the beets are transformed into the white sugarcube you all
know. Many of these steps involve quite vicious soluents and acids,
which each in turn need something even more nasty to remove them from
the ever clearing syrop. But in the end, the sugar you see is only white
in colour. Chemically, it is a rather unpure product.

I have, with success, used unrefined cane sugar in beer brewing, and the
very principle of mead making involves honey, which is also (preferably
at least) unrefined, even unheated. I have also used 100% pure glucose
once, which was not nice at all. We use brown sugar and honey in brewing
because of the taste it gives. Pure sugar gets completely converted by
the yeast, leaving nothing but alcohol.
I'm betting most of the ill-natured by-products of fermentation have
nothing to do with actual sugar conversion, but by all the extra crap we
add along with it. I've never had a mead hangover before (I've heard
tell you never forget those), but I'm quite sure they are the result of
all the extra stuff in honey besides sugars which are also transformed
by the yeast, leading to these by-products.

As you can see in the following links, fermentation (or respiration,
dependending) is basically the conversion or break-down of sugar
(carbon, oxigen and hydrogen in specific yet varying amounts, depeneding
on the sugar) to water, carbon-dioxide or alcohol and energy (for the
Most of the chemical components needed for this conversion (such as
coenzymes, NADH and ATP) are recycled in various biochemical synthesis
cycli, with little or no waste production.

I'm keeping my antennae out for more info on byproducts of



Subject: Re: History Questions
From: "Dan McFeeley" <>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 05:15:52 -0500

Thanks for the comments Ken — replies below. I had to cut your
post up in bits and snatches in order to reply . . . hope it's not too

On Tue, 29 Jul 2003, in MLD 1031, Ken Schramm wrote:

>I would like to reflect a bit on one comment you made…


>>I think you can say with reasonable accuracy that honey was first
>>used in the beginnings of the making of alcoholic beverages, but
>>mead itself was not the first.


>"first used" or "used first"?

I'll say "first used." I'm real leery of "firsts," especially in this area.
When you say that something was the very first, I mean the very
very first, without realizing it the statement has taken on the etiological
style found in myth. The human record doesn't reflect this. My
personal feeling is that various peoples, separated by time and distance,
at various times, each discovered how to harness alcoholic fermentation
using the available materials at hand. This would very likely happen
before the Neolithic era, and not necessarily dependent on the
development of technology such as pottery. No one was interested
in "style," at that time, whether wine, beer or mead. Honey would
have been one of many available adjunct ingredients.

>Until we can get a bit more archaeochemistry done, I think your point
>may be tough to prove or disprove.

I agree, but I'll add that even with archaeochemisty research, the point
will still be impossible to state with certainty. Archaeology can be
classified as a "historical" science, i.e., not something that necessarily
answers to the hardhat Newtonian model of strict verification. You
can't falsify archaeological data, according to strict Popperian/Hempel
guidelines, the way you can in the more objective sciences.

Sorry, that last one was probably too vague. I'm saying that the
historical sciences don't necessarily answer to the criteria of the
familiar scientific method, i.e., hypothesis, gather data, set up
experiment, etc.

>When discussing pre-historic fermented beverages, the term "mead" as
>a term for any beverage in which the primary fermentable was honey may
>be appropriate.

In a sense, we do this already by subcategorizing metheglyns, melomels,
etc, under meadmaking. When going back to very early use of alcoholic
fermentation, however, the term "mead," as well as "wine" or "beer" gets
stretched too much, IMHO. The earliest examples of brewing have been
called "beer," but it may be more accurate to call these barley wines,
since they were not carbonated, and had adjuncts such as dates and maybe
even honey (the word is apparently difficult to translate). Yes, these
ancient "beers" were made by a brewing process, on the other hand, is
it really proper to call them a "beer"? Even "ale" doesn't fit well. My
point is that once you go back to the earliest beginnings of alcoholic
fermentation, the categories we are familiar with start to break down.

Again, this is all very hypothetical (see above).

Another point is what has been called the etymological fallacy in
paleolinguistics. It's the tendency to read modern concepts back
into ancient terms, such as "mead." James Fraser, in a 1920 paper
(I'm too lazy right now to pull the paper out) pointed out this
exact same difficulty in the study of Indo-European languages,
specifically using "mead" as an example. It's well known that "mead"
appears in remarkably similar form throughout the Indo-European
language family, leading to the conclusion that the original Indo-Europeans
were familiar with mead. The proposed proto Indo-European word
for mead is "medhu." Fraser pointed out that we are assuming
too much when we feel that each of these language variants automatically
translate into the beverage that we now know as mead.

>It may be somewhat inaccurate; in fact, it may have been tej, which is made
>in Ethiopia, the very cradle of man, or it may have been another
>honey-based beverage fermented by a now extinct branch of the human
>tree. Mead as _we_ know it might not have been first, but I am still
>willing to suggest that some form of mead in some larger sense was
>first. Maybe I'm just babbling about semantics.

No, I don't think so at all. Semantics is more than a trivial point and,
properly used, can help out as a kind of a reality check. I agree, mead
as we know it today was not the "first," although it could have been made
very early in human history. "Mead" in the very broadest sense, i.e., as
you suggest, a category that covers the use of honey in the harnessing of
alcoholic fermentation, was likely present at the beginning, but as I
pointed out above, I'm not comfortable with the use of "mead" as a term
because of the problem of "backreading" modern concepts into a very
ancient mindset. The most I'll allow myself is to say that honey was a
part of alcoholic fermentation at the very beginning, but I stop short at
the use of the word "first."

I really think we're on the same page here; it's just a matter of clarifying

>I am curious to know what archaeological techniques might be employed
>to get to the bottom of the question.

This could be very difficult. Although honey doesn't "spoil" easily,
nonetheless it doesn't last through the centuries. Pollen analysis has been
helpful in identifying the use of honey in ancient artifacts, but in order
to do this, the artifact itself has to survive the centuries. We're both
talking about the use of alcoholic fermentation *prior* to the development
of pottery, which would limit artifacts to skins, gourds, leather, etc.
Pottery shards last and last, but more perishable artifacts don't.

>If the "Magic Bag Theory" has any merit to it, there will surely, in the
>future, be more accurate methods of determining the effects of the
>lifestyles of Neolithic and Paleolithic humans on their surroundings.

I think the "Magic Bag" theory isn't a fluke, but dead square in the middle
of what was happening way back then. Most people talk about the
discovery of alcoholic fermentation by serendipity, i.e., a happily
accidental discovery of an important process, usually observation of
nature at work, likely birds eating fermented berries and getting happy
over it. This would assume an observation way before the Neolithic
era. Martyn Cornell, in his recently released book _Beer: The Story
of the Pint_, makes the same point. Neolithic technology wasn't
necessary to make alcoholic beverages, and there are many examples
of that today. He cites the use of gourds in the making of palm wine
in Africa as an example. Once again, I feel that third world cultures
can provide the best glimpse into the past of what these ancient
alcholic beverages were like.

>As it has with bowls and vessels, chemical assay of soils and other
>relics will reveal massive amounts about diet and behavior. Evidence
>of early fermentations and their constituents (be they mead or beer or
>wine or cider) may come from that. I think in the long run that we will
>realize that for more than a hundred years of archaeological practice,
>sifting and discarding soils in search of bones and tools from pre-historic
>sights may have been throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Sadly, that has been the case in the early history of archaeology. Call
them "tomb raiders," but in a lot of ways, that's what early archaeologists
were like. Much was lost in the hunt for "treasures" from the past. The
best clues to early history are in highly perishable remnants such as soil
samples, pollen, pieces of wood, etc. Unless these are carefully removed
and preserved, the opportunity to learn from the past is lost. This is
exactly what happened in the first excavations into the ancient past.

The "Beer v/s Bread" debate over what fueled the Neolithic revolution
was enlightening, but on the other hand, it masked the importance of
alcoholic fermentation to ancient peoples, IMHO. That's what the
"Magic Bag" theory, yourself as well as others, is all about, i.e., the
importance of ETOH *prior* to the Neolithic era. If the folk in
academia could be prodded into looking into this, we'd be able to
learn more about our favorite beverage. 🙂

Thanks for a stimulating post!


Dan McFeeley

Subject: Yeast fermentation byproducts
From: "Vince Galet" <>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 08:54:22 -0400 (EDT)

Greg McBee asked about the result of fermenting different types of sugars.
The flavor of alcoholic beverages will not only depend on the fermentables
but also on other chemicals like nutrients, sulfur-containing compounds
etc.. The yeast will produce metabolites called congeners during
fermentation and modify the flavor profile. The more important type of
congeners are higher alcohols, esters and carboniles. There are not many
links I know between the biochemistry and the organoleptiic properties
(taste, aroma) but I just started looking into this (just curious).
The most promising reference I could find is in Spanish and I didn't go
after it because I wouldn't understand the language + I don't have access
tyo that journal. If someone could get this and translate it, this would
be just great… It is: "Biosynthesis of congeners during alcohol
fermentation [biosintesis de congenericos durante las fermentaciones
alcolicas]; Santillan Valverde, Garcia Garibay, Revista Latinoamericana de
microbiologia, vol 40, issue 1-2, Jan-Jun 1998, p 109-119
Please let me know if you happen to get it!

Subject: Sugar metabolism
From: Intres Richard <>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 09:59:03 -0400

Greg asks about the particulars of sugar metabolism. As a biochemist I
would say the last word comes from Albert Lehninger's text book
"Biochemistry". This tome will likely give more than you care to know…see
the chapter of structures of sugars and starches and follow-up with the
chapter on catabolism and glycolysis. Armed with this information you will
be able to absorb what the 'brewing books' are trying to tell you about
characters like 'higher alcohols' and 2,3.6-tri-O-methylglucose.

These studies of possible fermentation byproducts don't necessarily tell you
what is happening in YOUR fermenter. Rather they give you some
possibilities to consider being aware that chances for intervention are
limited. Large professional breweries employ all forms of modern chemical
analyses to take attendance of the various byproducts. At the home brewery
(my kitchen) brewing is driven by less exacting instruments…my eyes nose
and tongue.

While Lehninger is a difficult read the knowledge is worth the effort. Get
one at any college bookstore where former students are anxious to offload


Rick; still lurking in Massachusetts

Subject: National Mead Making Day
From: "Matt Maples" <>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 11:19:35 -0700

This is what we are doing for mead making day (August 2nd) here in
Portland Oregon. What are you doing to further the cause??

(re-posted with permission)

Interested in making mead, but don't know how? Looking to gain or share
information about meadmaking? Keep reading—

The BrewCrew will be conducting a Mead workshop at Steinbarts this Saturday
(August 2). We plan to begin at 10:00.

Tom Thompson will perform a demo while making a methyglin (herb/spice mead).

Trevor Millund and Matt Maples will lead this year's experiment–make five
batches of mead using different honeys but the same yeast. Honeys will be
Orange Blossom, Mountain Wildflower from the Timothy Lake area, Snowberry,
Blueberry, and Berry mix.

Wyeast Labs generously donated 6 extra large smack packs of Chablis yeast
for this experiment.

We will have some mead for tasting from last year's experiment (Six batches
of raspberry honey fermented with 6 different types of yeast).

Handouts covering honey and mead making will be available and we will
conduct a drawing for the new mead making book "The Complete Mead Maker".

World-renowned barbeque chef Preston Weesner will be manning the grill
around 11:30.

Hope to see you there.

Bob Farrell

Matt Maples

Liquid Solutions
12162 SW Scholls Ferry Rd
Tigard, OR 97223
503-579-6493 (fax)

Over 450 beers and 25 meads online, shipping available.
May mead regain its place as the beverage of gods and kings.

Subject: 2003 Mead Day in St. Paul, MN
From: Christopher Hadden <>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 18:04:17 -0500

National Mead Day was celebrated with vim and vigor in St. Paul, MN on
August 2nd as some 23 members of the Minnesota Home Brewers Association
gathered to sample 37 meads. Commercial meads included the likes of
Lindisfarne, Moniack, Redstone, and Mountain Meadows Mead (to name a
few) and we also had a few related beverages such as Xtabentun (an anis
and honey
liquor) and Brother Adam's Bragget Ale which is more of a barley wine
than a bragget. The most striking aspect was the quality of the home
made meads.

In addition, five mead makers made six batches of mead: two batches of
the official mead day recipe, cherry melomel, and batches of cranberry
blossom, raspberry ginger, wildflower, and mint blossom. In all, 32
gallons of mead were made. Mead making technique ran the gamut from
pasteurization to the use of sulfites to no sanitation of ingredients.

Pictures of the event will soon be available at .


End of Mead Lover's Digest #1032

Vicky Rowe
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