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Boil or sulfite?

Chauvan

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I've only had made one batch so far and I pasteurized it. But I also just through half of The Compleat Meadmaker and I think for the next batch I'm gonna go with no-boil, no-chems and see what happens. I figure this first batch smelled like sweatsocks when I racked it last so I can't go much wrong.
 

pain

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A flamewar? On GotMead? :eek:

Me? I pasteurize, and I don't sulfite. So far, so good........I tried boiling and decided that I could retain more honey flavor if I pasteurized.

Vicky
 
S

severian

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Water, honey, yeast, fruit (as my constituents prefer melomels and the fruit means plenty of nutrients for the yeast).

water is only as hot as the tap. I can't determine the effect on long term aging of meads as mine all disappear by the first year mark, which I choose to view as a mark of quality. (nevermind the free alcohol angle)

After tasting several others' offerings that were boiled and or sulfited that had aged for a year or more I am even more stubborn in my ways... the other meads I tasted were nigh undrinkable (and the brewers thought they were good, what does that mean?)

-s
 

ronjohn55

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I dump and stir! No boil, no sulfite. Tap water, honey, and a drill-powered paint stirrer to mix (and it aerates!).

John
 

Rygar

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well, I've only done two batches so far, and number two is only a week in the secondary.

the first ( a cyser ) tasted very strong of alcohol and I didn't have a hydrometer yet, so I have no idea what it's at. I pasturized it (Thats like, almost boiling, right?)
I don't think I did very well on it, cause it never did drop clear, even after bottling it. (I think I did that too soon too) Has this residue on the inside of the rim of the bottles now. If it did get contaminated it won't be all that bad, I'm doing 1 gallon batches for practice for a while.

The second I pasturized as well, but this one looks to be turning out much better already. I have camden tablets, and I think I'll use those for when I finally start into the 5 gallon batches. I don't have a way to boil that much must at once!! hehe, almost would need a witches cauldron. ;)
 

Redleg

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Rygar,

You should take care when applying heat to apples or apple juice. There is pectin in the fruit that can cause a permanent haze. You might want to try using a pectic enzyme and sulfiting the must.

Brian
 

Rygar

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Thanks for the tip Redleg! I didn't know that. I thought it applied to grapes and other such fruits. Didn't know it applied to apples too!

I'll remember that for the next batch. The friends seem awful partial to cyser and keep bugging me to make more....soon! ;D
 

Lagerman64

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Potassium Bisulfate. I started out boiling , as an experienced wine maker I saw no reason for this practice. I have produced superior meads ever since. Although I am now considering pasteurizing as an alternative to sulphiting, due to the growing number of people with health issues (allergies, etc..).
 

Dan McFeeley

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Hello all --

I think you can make good meads with either of the
methods -- heating or sulfiting. There are pros and
cons for all of them.

Brother Adam boiled the honey must, but only lightly.
Just enough to bring it to a boil for maybe a minute.
He said that this would preserve the aromatic character
in the honey while still accomplishing the purpose of
killing off microorganisms.

Standard pasteurization is about 150 degrees F for 15
minutes. That is supposed to ensure that the majority
of microorganisms are killed off. Research by Townsend
in 1938 (I think, I'm at work right now and don't have
access to my files) showed that it takes even less heat
to kill off any wild yeasts in the honey. About 150 degrees
F for only a few minutes.

I saw a note somewhere on the Internet that the late
Bill Pfeiffer did not heat at all, but used sulfites to kill
off any microorganisms.

The benefits of boiling the honeymust is that you can
be sure that everything is killed off. The mead will
also clear more easily since the heat will help settle
the coiloidal material in the honey. Heat can easily
damage the more delicate flavor nuances in the
honey, however. Many people who have tried boiling
have observed that the mead loses its nose. The
fructose sugar in honey is also easily damaged by
heat. That's the sugar that gives that nice brown
color to baked goods using honey as an ingredient.

Pasteurization is a nice compromise. There's not as
much risk of damaging the aromatic and finer flavor
components of the honey, and you can be comfortable
that the must is sanitized. It really doesn't take much
heat at all to pasteurize a honeymust.

Sulfites will also do the job, but there's the problem of
the sulfites forming compounds with other components
in the honey, possibly altering the flavor profile.

Then there's the no heat, no nothing method. Ken
Schramm in _The Compleat Meadmaker_ mentioned
that he has used this method. The benefit is complete
preservation of flavor and aroma of the honey. To
make it work, it is important to take no shortcuts in
sanitizing equipment used during the meadmaking process.

The late Roger Morse of the University of Cornell used
this method during his 1950's research into honey
fermentation. He reasoned that because the wild yeasts
commonly found in honey are osmophilic, i.e., adapted
to survive only in the high osmotic pressure of honey,
there was no need to kill them off since they are not
able to survive once the honey is diluted to must levels.
The meads were tested under laboratory conditions and
found to be microbiologically stable.

Honey itself is relatively clean. Its antibiotic qualities are
well known, and it certainly requires no refrigeration or
preservatives. Morse had found that many meads made
during the 1950's had high levels of volatile acidity,
suggesting bacterial contamination. This would have
come from the meadmaking process, not the honey
itself, as Morse's research in the lab had shown.

Boiling works, but there is the risk of damaging honey
character and quality. Brother Adam applied it carefully,
and it was said his meads were of exceptional quality.
Pasteurization is a good compromise but there is still
the problem of damaging flavor and aroma. Sulfiting
will do the job without heat -- Bill Pfeiffer's meads
were excellent -- but there are drawbacks. No heat
at all, no sulfites has been shown to work, but there
can be no compromise with sanitation methods.

Hope this is helpful!



<><><><><><><><><><>
<><><><><><><><>
Dan McFeeley
 

chuckwm

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Hmmmm, boil, heat, sulfite, hmmmmm.

Why?

Hmmmm, yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, lemon juice, acid blend, hmmmmm.

Why?

Go to the National Honey Board (NHB.org) and read about honey and it's constituents. See that honey is a natural antibiotic. Have you ever heard of HONEY in a hive having a bacteriological or fungal infection? It doesn't happen, ever. (I'm a beekeeper and I oughta know.)

Yes, there is some yeast in honey and yes, the bees know how to prevent fermentation by those yeasts. I have tied to ferment a honey must using those yeasts and have been unable to get them to ferment. (search for my experiments in the MLD.)

So where is all this nasty bacteria coming from that you are boiling and sulfiting for? Probably from your dirty hands and equipment because of your poor sanitary procedures. Or are you using pond water in your mead? The bees certainly aren't adding to the bacteria count of your must. Are you?

I make all of my mead by taking (room-temperature) water and honey and mixing it to the starting OG that I want. Then I pitch yeast. What yeast you pitch is important, as well as how much. Modern day wine yeasts (especially certain Lalvin "killer yeasts" like K1-V1116) will out-compete any wild yeast found in any honey.

And back to all those chemicals. Why add acid? Read Dan McFeely's experiments on the MLD concerning gluconic acid and the natural buffering of that acid in honey. You'll see there is no need, and every reason not to add acid.

Why add yeast nutrients and energizers? If you are using a water-white honey you will have very little of the nutrients to nourish yeasts. Then you MIGHT want to add a very small amount of nutrient (but then, how much is enough, AND how much is too much?). I prefer to just substitute a couple of pounds of darker honey (like buckwheat or fall wildflower) which have all the natural nutrients necessary without adding an unknown and unknowable excess of chemicals.

Sighhhhh. I make a lot of mead. It is ready to drink within 3 weeks or 4 at most (of course faster with fruit). That doesn't mean that it is by any means clear (although some is), but it is drinkable and doesn't have listerine-like flavors. I don't add anything but honey, water and yeast and maybe some grape tannin to aid in clearing.

I am convinced that the people who continually write that their meads are not drinkable for "at least a year" are 1) boiling their musts and then 2) over-adding yeast nutrients and acids because they have followed some recipe that told them this was the way to do it. I think those off flavors are due to the "if one teaspoon is good, a couple of tablespoons is better" syndrome. So try none and see how it tastes.

I use hard water (minerals) and never less that three different honeys, at least one of which is dark (nutrients). I have no stuck fermentations, I have no listerine-like flavors, I win at least one Mazer cup a year (should be more), and I have people continually asking me to share my mead with them. Does my mead tast better after aging for a year? Sometime yes, sometimes no. However, the ones that are yes are not dramatically improved, and they were pretty good to drink when they started out.

Chuck
Beekeeper
meadmaker
and now, mead vinegar too!
 

pain

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Mixing Honeys was Re: Boil or sulfite?

Chuck, I'd like to have some more conversation about mixing honeys. I've done that, and invariably the meads are better. Usually I do it because I'm back-adding honey water to the must to achieve the desired level of sweetness, and haven't got any more of whatever I started with.

What do you prefer in a darker honey?

I'm also curious if you've had the chance to work with buckwheat honey, and what happened. I did a honey-water-yeast mix with a gallon of buckwheat, and the durn thing is *still* moving towards drinkability, and the only thing I did that you didn't mention in your post is pasteurize. Other than that, I did nothing else, racked twice, and set it to age.

Vicky
 

Dan McFeeley

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Re: Mixing Honeys was Boil or sulfite?

Chuck, I'd like to have some more conversation about mixing honeys. I've done that, and invariably the meads are better. Usually I do it because I'm back-adding honey water to the must to achieve the desired level of sweetness, and haven't got any more of whatever I started with. . . .

Chuck should have a lot to say about mixing honeys. He's
been making a mead patterned after those made by the
meadmakers of Brittany France for a few years now, along
with all kinds of creative blends of his own.

Just to add a little background before Chuck checks back
into the thread -- the color of the honey offers some
general guides to fermentation characteristics. The darker
honeys tend to be higher in mineral content, nutrients, phenolics, acidity, and antioxidants. Vice versa for the
lighter honeys although there are exceptions. Tupelo
honey, for instance, is relatively higher in acid content as
compared to other honeys of similar lightness.

As you can see in Chuck's post above, discounting flavor
profiles for the moment, you can offset deficiencies in
fermentation characteristics of one honey by blending it
with other honeys. No need to add acid -- blend in a
honey with high acidity. The darker honeys add extra
nutrients and help stabilize the fermentation. Judicious
use of dark honeys can be a good thing to add to a very
light honey, as Chuck suggests.

John White jr did an extensive analysis of U.S. honeys
during the early 1960's. If you can find a copy of the
article, you'll have a very detailed analysis of the essential
components of well over 400 U.S honeys. That should
give some basic data to work with. Abreviated portions
of White's work are available in a web paper by Ken
Schramm and Dan McConnell on meadmaking. The paper
is titled "An Analysis of Mead, Mead Making, and the Role
of its Primary Constituents," available at:

http://www.solorb.com/mead/danspaper.html

Naturally, I wouldn't advise going about honey blending
on the basis of composition and fermentation characteristics
alone. Flavor is the key -- Chuck should have much more
to say on this.
 

Dan McFeeley

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Oops -- forgot to mention in my previous post on
the pros and cons of boiling the honeymust. Roger
Morse had found during his 1950's research that
boiling the must lowered the nutrient level of the
honey. He boiled the must for 20 minutes in that
series of experiments at Cornell University.
 

chuckwm

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Re: Mixing Honeys was Boil or sulfite?

Chuck, I'd like to have some more conversation about mixing honeys. I've done that, and invariably the meads are better. Usually I do it because I'm back-adding honey water to the must to achieve the desired level of sweetness, and haven't got any more of whatever I started with.

What do you prefer in a darker honey?

I'm also curious if you've had the chance to work with buckwheat honey, and what happened. I did a honey-water-yeast mix with a gallon of buckwheat, and the durn thing is *still* moving towards drinkability, and the only thing I did that you didn't mention in your post is pasteurize. Other than that, I did nothing else, racked twice, and set it to age.

Vicky
Vicky asks about blending honey. I first got interested when I bought a pail of exceptionally light honey from a local beekeeper. This was about the time that Wyeast came out with their Eau de Vie yeast which they claimed would ferment to 21% alcohol. Since I had been able to achieve that level by feeding my must I figured that I could maybe coax this one along to maybe as high as 30%. I thought to use that very light honey so that the resulting mead would look almost like water, yet have honey aroma and a kick!

It would barely ferment. I was not used to this. Most of my meads ferment out in less than three weeks and some with fruit seem to finish in a couple of days. So I just could not understand how this high-test yeast could just sit there. That's when I started wondering about the nutrient levels in darker honeys.

When Wout Klingens and I went to Brittany in July of 1999, we talked to quite a few French commercial meadmakers. They pretty much all had the same recipe. Wildflower honey, buckwheat honey, and heather honey. They would mix them up, stick them in a used oak wine barrel (some from very famous wineries) and basically let them sit all winter. In the spring they would siphon off the crystal clear wonderful nectar. Only one of the meadmakers used nutrients and acid (tartaric) and he said that that was the family recipe that had been handed down to him. He was also having problems with his mead. :)

I don't have Dan's scientific bent, but I've noticed a few things. Light colored (like pale straw yellow) honeys do not have enough nutrients to ferment well. Very strong dark honeys, like buckwheat, have an excess of the nutrients required to ferment well. I include 2 pounds of buckwheat in almost every 5 gallon batch that I make, unless color is an issue. That addition adds a fullness to the flavor which I enjoy, without overpowering the flavor of the mead. If color is a problem, then I use a darker fall honey for nutrients. I almost never use less than 3 honeys in a batch, unless I have a circumstance like a recent one.

A fellow I know keeps one hive of bees. It produces too much honey for him so he occassionally gives me a pail of honey. I like to make a batch of mead using only his honey so I can give him a couple of cases of mead back. The only problem is that his honey is very light. I have to make a very large starter, and make his batch lower than my usual 1.100 gravity to get his honey to finish dry like he likes it.

But Vicky asks about buckwheat. This is a VERY strong honey. My wife says it smells like "barnyard" (manure). It does have a strong aroma, which disappears with fermentation. It's funny, I've not yet made a 100% buckwheat show mead, although I've been meaning to. But the last two smoke'n chiles meads that I made were 100% buckwheat.

It has been my experience that 100% buckwheat ferments out just about overnight, clears in like a week, and is ready to drink almost immediately, but it is very strongly flavored. Perhaps my Smoke'n Chiles has burned out my tastebuds! I don't know what yeast you're using Vicky, but I generally use either D47 or K1. I also got my buckwheat from Dutch Gold. Where you got yours may make a difference.

Gotta work now...

Cheers,

Chuck
Beekeeper
meadmaker
and now, mead vinegar too!
 

chuckwm

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Oct 20, 2003
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Re: Mixing Honeys was Boil or sulfite?

Tupelo honey, for instance, is relatively higher in acid content as compared to other honeys of similar lightness.
It's interesting that Dan mentions Tupelo. This is a very unique honey with a very unique color and flavor. It also makes a wonderful mead.

But It has been my experience, and others that I surveyed, that tupelo honey ferments very slowly. Very very slowly. I have no idea why, but if you're going to make some tupelo mead, be prepared for a wait.

C
 

pain

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Chuck, I used a montrachet in my buckwheat, which might very well have something to do with it. The mead fermented out *very* quickly, and *did* have a very strong flavor, almost too strong. I haven't been home long enough for a while to remember to go check it, but I'll give it a taste and see what its like now. I'm fairly certain I don't have any infections or anything, it's clear as a bell, and doesn't have the 'bad' flavor I associate with decay/infections. It's just very, very strong.

I'd love to be able to take up your posts here on honey and mixing in meadmaking and put an article in the honey section of GotMead. Would you be open to me putting it together based on what you said here and submitting it for your approval? It would, of course, be posted under your name, but I'd like it to be out where I can put a front page teaser to link to a page discussing this......

Vicky - sitting in a hotel in Murfreesboro, TN
 

chuckwm

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Chuck, I used a montrachet in my buckwheat, which might very well have something to do with it. The mead fermented out *very* quickly, and *did* have a very strong flavor, almost too strong. I haven't been home long enough for a while to remember to go check it, but I'll give it a taste and see what its like now. I'm fairly certain I don't have any infections or anything, it's clear as a bell, and doesn't have the 'bad' flavor I associate with decay/infections. It's just very, very strong.

I'd love to be able to take up your posts here on honey and mixing in meadmaking and put an article in the honey section of GotMead. Would you be open to me putting it together based on what you said here and submitting it for your approval? It would, of course, be posted under your name, but I'd like it to be out where I can put a front page teaser to link to a page discussing this......

Vicky - sitting in a hotel in Murfreesboro, TN
Gee, I was just in Nashville for a meeting on Tuesday. Should have given you a call... :)

I haven't used the montrachet for a long time. Maybe I should give it a try. Your description of the quickness and clarity of fermenting with buckwheat exactly matches my experience. Now all you have to do is add 5 pounds of sliced jalapenos and a couple of pounds of ginger, some lapsang sochong tea and you're all set. :)

Feel free to slice and dice my posts as you see fit. If I can help someone make better mead natually, I'm all for it.

Chuck
 

pain

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Chuck says whilst I was quaffing a mazer o' mead:

>I haven't used the montrachet for a long time. Maybe I >should give it a try. Your description of the quickness and >clarity of fermenting with buckwheat exactly matches my >experience. Now all you have to do is add 5 pounds of >sliced jalapenos and a couple of pounds of ginger, some >lapsang sochong tea and you're all set.
>
>Feel free to slice and dice my posts as you see fit. If I can >help someone make better mead natually, I'm all for it.

Hmm. Jalapenos, ginger and tea, eh? Those amounts sound pretty large. You wouldn't tease my poor tired brain, would you? ;) If this is on the up and up, I might just try it.

I'll dig in your posts and put together something and get it to you for approval. Thanks for the permission!

Vicky - going to be in McColl, SC next Mon-Tues, and in Fayetteville, TN Nov 11-13.
 

Dan McFeeley

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Hmm. Jalapenos, ginger and tea, eh? Those amounts sound pretty large. You wouldn't tease my poor tired brain, would you? ;) If this is on the up and up, I might just try it.

He's not joking -- I've tried it! Very hot for the non-chile head, but quite nice. I found it goes well with chinese cuisine. The flavor combination may sound surprising at first glance, but everything works well together.

I think capsimels are a largely unexplored area in meadmaking. Good heat is essential, but very subjective. I like a heat level that is in the background, so as not to overpower the flavor, but my idea of a good heat level may be too much for other people. Chuck can munch raw habaneros without a quiver, so his capsimels are especially powerful.

-- Dan M.