Mead Lover's Digest #1513 Sun 30 January 2011

Mead Discussion Forum

Re: Sulfites are a matter of taste (Mike Faul)
Subject: Re: Clay and sulfites (Paul Shouse)
Cork and Sulfites vs Other Closures (
Re: Clay and sulfites (Chazzone)

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Subject: Re: Sulfites are a matter of taste
From: Mike Faul <>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2011 15:51:40 -0800

Camden tablets ARE sulfites!

> Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #1511, 18 January 2011
> From:
> Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2011 18:33:42 EST
> In response to our colleague Graham Clark. I reply:
> Clay will settle out and, in my experience, will do a great job
> causing almost all yeast to flocculate. If you rack after you
> think you have achieved 100% flocculation (which never happens),
> you only need to add crushed Camden tablets to stop secondary
> fermentation.
> Sulfites are a matter of taste. It???s your Mead. If you like it,
> that is all that counts.

Subject: Subject: Re: Clay and sulfites
From: Paul Shouse <>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2011 12:48:33 +0900

Ken writes:

>The term "chemical" is misused, and much
>misinformed stigma is attached to it. Water is a chemical, but you
>won't find any of those who rail against the use of chemicals in their
>mead making refusing to use water for the reason that it is a chemical.

This reminds me of a classic SNL skit, and the only response possible is
"Hey Ken, how about a cool refreshing glass of H2SO4?"

Seriously though, (and without the least hint of malice) I resist adding
chemicals to my mead for the simple fact that if you are doing everything
right, they are unnecessary. If I'm doing something that adversely affects
my mead, I'd like to know so I can stop doing it that way. Covering up my
mistakes with sulfites (which can potentially cause very nasty reactions
in some people) is not an option for me. The point is not that "making
mead without "chemicals" is somehow a better practice" but that better
practice allows one to make mead without additives, chemical or otherwise.
I'm the kind of person who enjoys reading a simple ingredient list: Water,
honey, yeast and nothing else turns me on.

One more thing: Sourness, in and of itself, is no bad thing as anyone who
has ever enjoyed cider, champagne or lambic can attest. All that wild yeast
and bacteria on fruit can lead to fantastic results if you just relax and
go with the flow. The best mead I ever made (Red Star Pasteur Champange)
smelled and tasted so horrible in the fermenter that I came close to dumping
all ten gallons down the drain. It was a bit sour in the bottle at first,
but my brew log still carries my comment on the last bottle: "Inhaleable!"

Subject: Cork and Sulfites vs Other Closures
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2011 12:21:10 -0500 (EST)

Opinion A "I know many good wineries are moving to screw tops for the
wines they want to age, because cork lets too much air in…"

Opinion B "No, other way around. Screw caps are going on the less-expensive
bottles which see very little aging before they're consumed. Corks are
still used on more expensive wines, and in fact the slight oxidation that
occurs during aging is deemed desirable, as long as the cork remains sound.
A "corked" wine is not oxidized. It is contaminated with TCA, which is
most often due to contamination on the cork itself.

My Opinion – Screw caps used to be used on inexpensive wine that would
not be aged. It has been considered primarily to avoid the contamination
of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, the chemical that causes corking and makes
a wine taste like wet cardboard. It comes, at least in part, from the
sterilization process used in making corks and has been a big, but variable
problem. From year to year, the percentage of ???corked??? bottles varies
(estimated 2001 = 6%, 2002 =4.6%, 2003 = 4.9%, 2005 = 7%, from different
sources and differing methodology).

At the 2003 International Wine Challenge, 50 experts blind judged 40 wines
that were available in corked and screwcap (Stelvin caps) bottles that
were up to 23 years old, with the screwcaps winning 29-1. New Zealand
is almost entirely screwcaps, and Australia is following close behind.
When I visited New Zealand a couple of years ago, they had handout at
all of the wineries explaining why all of their wine was in screwcaps.
In Napa and France, more of the wineries are converting to screwcaps.

The oxygen permeability is consistent in with the screwcaps and, although
not zero, is usually slightly less than a fine cork. There is debate
whether there is the need for external oxygen in the aging of fine wines.
A prominent Napa winery reported that they dropped the level of sulfites
from about 25 to 20, and now 18 ppm with the screwcaps ??? and checking
to see whether 17 ppm will be sufficient.

On general principles, I have been sulfiting most of my meads at a low level
(about ?½ tab/gallon) for extended bulk aging and most often use a bit of
sorbate when bottling. Based on my current reading, I may up the level to
the suggested levels.

I tried a year or so ago, unsuccessfully to find the permeation rate for
oxygen through my white rubber (convoluted/not solid) stoppers with traps
I use on my carboys, but couldn???t even find reliable info about from
which elastomer they are made (I think an ethylene propylene thermoplastic
elastomer might be best guess). I wanted to compare oxygen transfer
thru the plastic seal of crown caps (regular and oxygen barrier) with
bulk carboy aging, after opening a 9 year old carboy to bottle. It was
slightly oxidized, but that was probably due to tasting it once or twice
in the past 7 years.
Carl McMillin
Brecksville, OH

Subject: Re: Clay and sulfites
From: Chazzone <>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2011 14:13:31 -0500

> Subject: Re: Clay and sulfites

This is in response to Ken's post, since he noted that his is nothing
but opinion, I'd like to add mine, along with my real world experience.

The argument that "water is a chemical, so why pass on sulfites?" is
rather specious, since "chemical" can be used as the most generic of

Water is never toxic to human, or any other life form, while sulfites
and other "chemicals", certainly are.

He also does a great disservice by couching his preference for
shortcuts in the "old vs new", as if this is in anyway relevant to the
making of good mead.

This is a straw man, and nothing more.

Adding toxins to one's food is a matter of choice, and if you're
predisposed to doing so, then by all means proceed, just be sure that
you let those who you share it with know that your mead is toxic.

The idea that mead made with toxins is some how superior is
ridiculous, of course.

I have bottles of 20 year old cyser that was made without the addition
of any but the basic ingredients, and it is outstanding. This same
mead won a gold medal at the Indiana State Fair Wine competition (the
largest wine competition in the world), back in 1995, and when we
opened a bottle this summer, showed no signs of spoilage or oxidation.

In fact, we were all astounded at the quality of what we were sharing,
since many wines made with the addition of toxins can't achieve this

This is an old argument that will probably go on forever, but the
bottom line (to me) is that adding additional chemistry to one's
product is in no way necessary to producing a good quality product
that will stand the test of time.

In reality, it is nothing but a short-cut, and I guess I can
understand why those that chose this route would want to defend their

Good sanitation and attention to detail in the making, will produce a
product that will stand the test of time.

Nothing else is required.

  • -zz

End of Mead Lover's Digest #1513