Subject: Mead Lover's Digest #1214, 13 September 2005

Mead Lover's Digest #1214 Tue 13 September 2005


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



Re: sulfites ("Karen Heim")
Piscamel (
Sulfites, HDPE and fruit presses (
Re: Subject: Different strains of yeast (Mike Peremsky)
use of Gooseberries and Rosehips in meads ("Ira Edwards")
Subject: Re: Sulfite/sorbate [was Re: Beach plum melomel] (Robert Keith Moore)
Sulfites and Sorbates (Charles Sifers)
Re: Beach plum melomel (J Stafford)
Varietal honey locator ("Eric Chumley")


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Subject: Re: sulfites
From: "Karen Heim" <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 12:43:26 -0500

Yes, yes, we've all heard about how wines and meads ought
to be sulfited for preservation purposes/to protect the
flavor and color, yada yada yada.

One of the main reasons I got involved in making my own
potent potables was *specifically* to avoid the sulfites.
Not because I'm particularly sensitive to them, but
because a large number of my friends ARE.

You can talk all you like about how there isn't a
significant enough amount of sulfites to make a
difference, or that there are naturally occurring sulfites
in grapes (so pyment could be a problem), or do everything
short of accusing my friends of being liars and
malingerers, but the bottom line is this:

*they drink commercial wines/meads (or homebrews)that have
been sulfited – they get migraines, no matter how little
they drink.
*they drink my nonsulfited wines/meads – they only get a
headache if they drink too much (and that IS their fault),
but they don't get a migraine from a normal evening's

That tells me that sulfites are something I DON'T WANT in
my product – period. It's NOT essential, even though you
think it is. I'm not making a stupid, backwards decision;
I'm making an informed choice based on experience. And my
5 year old meads taste just fine, thank you.


Subject: Piscamel
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 14:15:10 -0400

Rob, I never thought of combining my brewing and aquarium hobbies before!
Might I suggest trying this again with a Piranha tank on feeding day? That
way you will get the "added flavor" of the various fish parts that the
Piranhas miss, along with the contribution from the Piranhas themselves.
You could name it "Piranha Piscamel–the mead that bites back" and put a
Piranha tooth in the bottom of every bottle!

Russ Hobaugh
Goob' Dog brewery ( where we will NOT be making piscamels any time soon!)

Subject: Sulfites,  HDPE and fruit presses
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 14:19:52 -0400 (EDT)

My 0.02 about sulfites: I also observed some oxidation without the use of
sulfites and I read the same as Ken about the various advantages. I would
like to add that the best wine in the world contains sulfites (makes me
feel better about doing the same). To answer Robert's question, our
ancesters actually did use them too: they did not use potassium
metabisulfite from their favorite homebrew store but they quickly found
out that burning a wick of sulfur in a barrel before filling it with the
wine made a wine you could keep without spoiling and could age longer.
They were generating SO2 just like the metabisulfite does. It's just more
convenient to add 1/4 tsp sulfite instead.
I also agree with Ken that sometimes the traditional way is better because
it's more natural, sometimes they just didn't have have a better way at
the time. By the same token, some recipes call for throwing a chicken in
the batch (read "a sip through time"), maybe it was a way to add nutrients
but again modern techniques may be more convenient [Rob, here is an idea
for a poultrymel – may smell better than the fish broth – please kill the
poor thing before you use it as a source of nitrogen].

Update about HDPE containers: Despite the concern that HDPE is not 100%
impervious to oxygen, I tried to make mead in it and used it for both
primary and secondary fermentation (~1 year) . I happened to have some
that didn't want to clear so I waited quite a while and bottled after
almost 2 years in HDPE. I had a very good result without oxidation (maybe
because I used sulfites in the secondary), comparable to glass. This was
traditional mead at basement temperature (50-70 deg depending on the
season). Didn't try with melomels. I'm sure the controversy will continue
but as far as I'm concerned I'll do it again.

Thinking of buying a press: instead of puttting whole fruits in mead to
make melomels, I was considering using fruit juice instead. It works great
with cyser, maybe it could work as well with peach, raspberry or other
fruits and avoid the issue of separating the fruits from the mead later


1) would the collective think that one may lose flavor or complexity doing
2) Is it actually possible to press peaches, raspberries or other fruits
in a press, and separate the solids from the juice like you press grapes
or does it clog the whole system and gives a bad yield and a mess? Where
could I find a list of "pressable" fruits vs. those that don't work?
Thanks in advance

Subject: Re: Subject: Different strains of yeast
From: Mike Peremsky <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 12:12:00 -0700 (PDT)

> My friend and I are having some problems deciding on
> which yeasts to use.

>Lalvin seems to be readily at hand, and reading what
>little is posted on their web site has made me think
>the RC212 or D47 may be better choices. 212 for
>fruits, and D47 for meads.

When I had questions on the wyeast yeasts, I sent them
an email. They responded within the same day. If you
have specific questions you could try to send them an
email. Wyeast was very helpful.


  • – Mike Peremsky


Subject: use of Gooseberries and Rosehips in meads
From: "Ira Edwards" <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 12:53:11 -0800

Hi all,

I have picked ~20# of Pixwell gooseberries and was wonder about anyone's
experience with them in Melomels. they seem to have a fair amount of
tannins, some acids and a sugar content of 15 brix. but they are very mild
flavored… Any ideas that won't wast a bunch of honey? I could always use
them for jam if needed…

Next, my neighbors have a bramble of rosebushes that are loaded this year
with big fat juicy rosehips. I've made jelly with them before, but wondered
on anyones experience using fresh rosehips. Everyone I've emailed ot talked
to have only used dried rosehips, but I am wondering about the fresh ones.
I know that they have a lot of pectin in them. I have made wonderful
Rhodomels by making rose petal water, an think it would be good to try the

thanks for any ideas you may have as to these 2 ingredients woudl be greatly

Ira Edwards
Anchorage, Alaska

Subject: Subject: Re: Sulfite/sorbate [was Re: Beach plum melomel]
From: Robert Keith Moore <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 15:08:02 -0700

HI Ken,
I must say, that is the most comprehensive answer I have ever received from
this news letter. I am not offended at all by your use of sulfites. I
am just one of those all organic people. I eat organis food (whenever
possible) and with that I decided to make my meads the same way. I have
meads that go back 6 years and I have had no problem with them. although
I admit I do not know what "oxidative flavor" tastes like. I have won over
18 awards for my meads over the last three years.
I think I am one of the few that has a problem with sulfites. I so often
would get a headache from sulfited wines and made note of the times I
did not. Usually it was an organic no sulfite wine. Out of fear I made my
first few batches with sulfites, but have since made without. There must
be a lot of sulfite problem people in my circle of contacts because one
of the compliments I often get is, "your stuff is really good, and I did
not get a headache either." Since I am in charge if making mead for a big
group of people, I go with the popular opinion.
I do agree with you about your comments on the Vikings and Ethiopians. I
just through that in for the heck of it. My Ethiopian friends make Tej
and they drink the stuff before it stops fermenting.

Anyway, I appreciate your answer.


You sound positively offended that I use sulfites!

I have used sulfites on all of my meads save my very first batch. The
last few bottles years later had picked up an oxidative flavor similar
to a sherry, and it was not a positive addition to the mead. This has
never repeated itself since I began using sulfites, even with batches
which have aged much longer than my first. But I didn't know this would
happen when I began using sulfites, and so I'll try to explain my
rationale for the use of sulfites.

As I learned more about mead and wine making I learned that almost all
commercial wineries sulfite their wines. And in this case "almost all"
is very nearly all with only a very few exceptions. These wineries use
sulfites because it has a great many benefits, and nearly no drawbacks.

The advantages are several:

Greatly increased protection against oxidation
Greatly increased protection against wild yeasts and undesired bacteria
Improved color retention
Increased potential for aging/extended shelf life


The drawbacks are few and trivial:
Using sulfites costs more than not using them
There is an insignificantly small amount of the population that has a
reaction to sulfites

Let's examine all of the above. On the positive side all of the points
listed are things that I would desire for my meads and wines. On the
negative side the cost of the sulfite is a nearly insignificant part of
the total cost of making a wine or a mead. And 8oz container of
potassium metabisulfite costs less than US$5 and will serve to protect
many batches. I make 40+ gallons of mead and wine yearly and I
typically discard a bottle of sulfite due to age before I use it all.
And while I sympathize with anyone who has an allergy of any kind I have
never met a person who has an adverse reaction to sulfites, and so this
is not of any concern to me.

Sorbate is a preservative which inhibits the reproduction of yeast. I
add it to any wine or mead which is not completely dry, as an assurance
that the residual yeasts will not be able to ferment the remaining
sugars and possibly cause bottle bombs. It's a means of protection and
control, so that the wine or mead remains at the level of sweetness and
carbonation you wish it to remain at.

Now I'll address your other point, that the Vikings and ancient
Etheopians didn't use sulfites or sorbates. I find this kind of
argument to be specious. Given that you are not able to tell me with
certainty that the Vikings and ancient Ethiopians made mead or wine
which was palatable and had a decent shelf life, their methods are not
able to be applied to modern wine or meadmaking with any degree of
confidence. Ancient cultures did what they could with what they had.
This does not necessarily translate into their methods being good enough
for modern practice. To offer an analogy, look on the use of sulfite
and sorbate as insurance. The Vikings and ancient Ethiopians did not
have home owners insurance, health insurance, or automobile insurance.
I carry all of those forms of insurance, and I would suspect that you do
as well. Were I to suggest that you drop your insurance policies
because they were not needed in the days of old, I would expect that you
would demur. Can you make good wine or mead without the use of sulfite
and/or sorbate? Sure. You can also own a home, drive a car, and visit
a doctor without owning insurance (assuming your state law and lending
companies will allow this, of course!). But the prudent person chooses
to protect themselves against the possible negative effects of the
failure to take the precautionary steps of securing this insurance. And
I believe that the prudent wine or mead maker must also take
precautionary steps to protect their wines and meads.

I enjoy this hobby greatly, and I wish for the fruits of my labors to be
as good as I can possibly make them. If adding sulfites helps me to do
this, with only a trivial cost and a tiny bit of added effort, then this
is something that I will gladly and eagerly do. When I sit down and
drink one of my 5 year old meads, I never notice the sulfites. You
should be adventurous and try sulfiting!



Subject: Sulfites and Sorbates
From: Charles Sifers <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 21:15:06 -0500

On Sep 12, 2005, at 11:10 AM, wrote:

> I enjoy this hobby greatly, and I wish for the fruits of my labors to be
> as good as I can possibly make them. If adding sulfites helps me to do
> this, with only a trivial cost and a tiny bit of added effort, then this
> is something that I will gladly and eagerly do. When I sit down and
> drink one of my 5 year old meads, I never notice the sulfites. You
> should be adventurous and try sulfiting!


> Cheers,
> Ken

I share Roberts disdain for chemical assistance. I am well acquainted
with a number of people who are sensitive to sulfites and sorbates, or
chose to limit unnecessary chemicals in their diet.

While your analogy of insurance is well-taken, you are still adding
unnecessary chemicals to an otherwise healthful product. Regardless of
whether you have an overt allergy/sensitivity to these chemicals, they
are still doing you no good, and are really a short-cut technique that
is entirely unnecessary. The fact that commercial wineries use these
chemicals, does nothing to bolster your argument, IMO. There are
plenty of cheap short-cuts industry uses, that a true craftsman would
never consider.

I wouldn't presume to tell you how to proceed about your hobby, but
suggesting "be adventurous" and add sulfite to mead is akin to
suggesting someone "be adventurous" and take up smoking, since less
than 10% of smokers ever develop cancer.

I'm not saying that sulfites and tobacco use are equally dangerous, but
there are many who say that sulfites have a number of negative health
effects, and anyone can develop a sensitivity to sulfites at any time
in their lives. How bad would it be to have all that great product,
and not be able to drink it because you developed an acute sensitivity?

Finally to suggest that you never "notice the sulfites" must mean that
you intentionally ignore the reason that your mead tastes as it does.

  • -zz

Here are a few links to sites that discuss the health effects of

Subject: Re: Beach plum melomel
From: J Stafford <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 19:30:16 -0700 (PDT)

Robert Keith Moore <> wrote:
> hey,
> what is up with all the sulfite. The recipe sounds good except for the
> chemicals. Was this a special occasion or do you always add sulfite like
> that. WOW! I have been making wine and mead for over ten years and I
> have only used sulfites once, and that was because of a Candida that
> started growing in a rhubarb melomel. …

You're one up on me then, Robert. I've not used
sulfites or yeast nutrients or sorbate adjuncts.


I posted a black plum melomel recipe here a couple
months ago. None of that stuff on the ingredients

It placed 2nd at this year's county fair. Perhaps
I should reconsider this adjunct use. It may push
me up to the blue ribbon level. Hmm.

Best of luck,

Subject: Varietal honey locator
From: "Eric Chumley" <>
Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2005 08:53:03 -0500

Are you all aware of the honey locator, which can help you find varietal
honeys at <> ? Good luck.

End of Mead Lover's Digest #1214