View Full Version : Sound off
12-14-2004, 02:20 PM
Well I'll besmirch the new forum with an introduction... let's meet the meadmakers (mazers) out there! I've been making meads for about 10 years, and prefer off-dry to slightly sweet meads, metheglins, melomels and pyments. To me, as an erstwhile homebrew shop manager, there are three schools of meadmakers. 1) brewers who got into it through Charlie's venerable NCJHB, 2) winemakers who decided to explore mead, and 3) Society for Creative Anachronism types or other folks of historical interests. Each has their own approach, and all can make good mead. Perhaps we'll find that beekeepers are another gang in their own right? I'm kinda backwards here... a meadmaker who's now getting into beekeeping.
Ben Brewcat brewing in Lyons, CO
12-14-2004, 02:24 PM
I fall into the 1) category. I've only made a few 5 gallon batches of mead, so not much experience.
12-14-2004, 03:56 PM
I think my story is interesting. I started keeping bees. Had some extra honey. Tried making mead. Got to go to a homebrew competition with my wife and we were invited to sit down and judge since we had "experience". We sampled 9 different meads, enjoyed most of them. Since then, we have grown in our brewing interest and I am working on a more complete scientific knowledge of meadmaking.
This year I was doing well in NC competitions unitl I missed one of the comps that had not been advertised well. SInce I had only planned on 6 comps and had enough for 6 not 7, I decided to drink the rest (okay really I let my wife drink the rest). So we got to enjoy some great stuff that got scored near the professional level in 3 competitions. They included an apple/cinnamon metheglin, a ginger mead (this was much too drinkable),an allspice mead, and some immature raspberry meads and Lambrusco meads, and of course some straight meads.
I have some interesting stuff going(I'll only mention the meads). There is an orange blossom mead mostly clarified that should be bottled before too much longer. There are a couple of straight meads that might get some flavors added, a new fermenting orange blossom mead, and my first foray into a heated/boiled mead. I am not sure about 2005 comps but will aim to win first place in NC for 2006 or 2007 (purely for vanity).
I would kind of like to open a real meadery and sell stuff. Most people that buy my honey would buy a bottle of mead, the question is would they buy a second... Then of course, I think I would need to handle my waste water differently then now (just septic here, would need a change to make more than 200 gallons).
I think a new forum on this would be a good idea but slow on interest. Thanks be to Barry or whoever for setting such a thing up. There is also a good online discussion for meadmaking (meadmakers digest) but I have not been able to set up my computer to allow me to post there yet.
Meadmakers and beekeepers are welcome at my house any time. I'll open the best honey or mead for you (best honey is the honeydew from Germany).
12-14-2004, 10:20 PM
The idea for a mead forum has been around for quite a long time, see here;
Another lively thread;
I fall in the #3 catagory, as you read in the above thread.
Here is a site for buying supplies: http://rr.looksmart.com/r_search?l&iacs&key=home%20brewing%20and%20carboy&search=0
Here is a site for some recepies: http://www.epicurious.com/d_drinking/d06_mead/main.html
Here is a site with better recepies: http://www.brewery.org/brewery/cm3/recs/10_toc.html
Here is the Society for Creative Anachronism mead site, my favorite!
It is from an SCA brewer that I am learning the basics of mead brewing. One of my motivations for beekeeping was to make mead. Having the oppertunities to taste many, many different meads in my thirty years in the SCA I have quite an infinity for good mead. I have been presented with both the nectar of the gods and the drizzle of the dung. I learned to have my retenue taste test first. http://www.beesource.com/ubb/wink.gif
The most intimidating aspect of brewing mead came to me by just reading recepies. The complexity and termage like specific gravity, stuck fermentation, and the long list of chemicals kept me from even trying for a long time. Finaly Ld. David the Silent, a very fine and accomplished brewer who has run the gamit of confusing complexity, explained to me that it just does not have to be that complicated. When you think of it, if you have to have all those chemicals and fancy equipment, how could they have brewed it in the medieval times?
I use just three ingredients, water, honey, and yeast. Depending on just how sweet you want it, use 18 to 22 pounds of honey. Top off the must bucket to about six gallons of warm water. Add one packet of Premier Cuvee
yeast and stir. Let it fermentate for three weeks, then racking into carboys about every week until the mead just about stops bubbling. If you want to flavor, (not always necessary), add the spices or fruit consentrate to your prefered taste. Let set until it only bubbles once in about forty-five minutes. Bottle or drink as you wish. If you add fruit, you may also want to filter before botteling.
For me, it took the mystique out of brewing and gave me the courage needed to not worry about ruining good honey. So far, so good, and for what I have tasted so far, it is.
12-15-2004, 10:17 AM
Cool new page I will be watching to see what i want to do for makeing mead.I have aplaned on doing it but never took the time to see how it is done.some of you could post some stuff on getting started for us 1st timers.
thanks to all and hats off to Barry for a great job.
12-15-2004, 10:28 AM
First off, WASSAIL!
How about another category? Barter I guess is the reaason I got into all the odd hobbies I have. I trade some of my mead at the civil war reenactments for all kinds of things. Powder, bear jerky, any other jerked meat, sewing services, I am always amazed at what folks will trade me for good mead/beer/wine.
I suppose it is simply an extension of my curiosity in chemistry and the other "lesser" sciences. http://www.beesource.com/ubb/smile.gif I can't help but be intrigued with the extremely complex interactions that occur during and after fermentation.
12-15-2004, 10:36 AM
Getting started is easy; it does require some equipment and some attention to basic sanitation. A good book for beginning and intermediate meadmakers is The Complete Meadmaker by Ken Schramm, NAYY. I strongly encourage folks to consider supporting your nearest home winemaking or brewing shop for your equipment and advice. The prices are usually very comparable, you'll have someone to call with questions (though we'll certainly be here), you'll be supporting a local business that struggles in a very low-margin field, plus they'll often have other local honeys to play with.
Some tips for the get-starters:
Get a glass carboy, at least for the secondary fermentation, and reserve plastic for primaries and for adding whole fruits. Plastic is permeable to oxygen over time, and is generally poorly suited to the extended aging times that meads enjoy.
Consider pasteurization instead of boiling the must (unfermented mead). Boiling, though it'll give you a mead that falls clear quickly and matures somewhat more quickly, drives off the volatile aromatics that come from your honey and give a good mead a lot of its complexity. Some advocate just a strong pitch of yeast to a must with no further abuse and rely on the yeast to out-compete the bad guys. There are even strains like Lalvin's K1V that has the "killer gene" that will help it outcompete other bugs, though it ferments all but a monster mead to dryness with its 20% alcohol tolerance.
There's a lot we can talk about... Perhaps I can develop for posting some of my beginner's guide stuff for meadmaking as time allows. It can be as complicated as a serious "winer" gets with acid titrations and sulfite calculations, or it can be deliciously simple. A few basic principles will allow most folks to consistently make meads they enjoy and then decide just how geeky one wants to get. More in those later if there's interest.
Ben Brewcat brewing in Lyons, CO
12-15-2004, 12:54 PM
My first meads were relatively simple. I did not use a hydrometer. I think I roughly used a quart or so of honey to make a gallon of must. Unknown yeast strain. I made a batch with my honey and a gallon with the rest of the honey from Sam's club. No boiling or heat. Bleach as sanitizer. Used one gallon cider/apple juice containers. After about a year they were bottled. Mine was drinkable sooner than Sam's but the Sam's mellowed out nicely after the next year.
Just mixing up a batch without many tools or kits was a good way to get started.
12-15-2004, 01:00 PM
One-gallon batches are good for a lot of people, especially those who have to pay retail for honey and are on a budget. For me, after waiting 'till a mead hits its stride it's too painful watching the supply dwindle with each opened bottle! I make it in larger batches to ameliorate this anxiety, and because I have a boxcar-sized pile of brewing and vinting equipment sized for 3, 5, 6, and 10-gallon batches.
12-15-2004, 04:46 PM
I would be a group 3 (history) and group 4 (beekeeper) that became interested in making mead. I have batch 2 and 3 (both 5 gallon basic meads) in late secondary.
I figured mead would be a good usage for all my uncapped honey. But I am not sure that will be a large enough supply of honey. http://www.beesource.com/ubb/wink.gif
12-16-2004, 07:17 AM
Awesome! A meadmaking forum!
I too am a meadmaker turned beekeeper. I prefer showmeads and melomels, usually on the dry side. Though I am currently experimenting with champagne-style and port-style meads. It'll be another 6 months before I know how those turn out.
Anyway, I currently have about 165 gallons aging in my basement. I've stepped up production recently in preparation for going commerical. I'm in the licensing process now. Hopefully all will go well, and Vona Mead will be on the shelves sometime in 2006!
12-16-2004, 08:32 AM
I've always been interested in the fermentation process since early childhood with home-made breads, vinegars and cider made by my grandparents. I've never even tasted mead but always wanted to. So, it looks like I might have to make a batch.
Is it possible, on a small scale, to make a few gallons of good mead? I sure would like to try the experiment and sample a taste without converting my basement. That might happen latter :> )))
12-16-2004, 08:34 AM
Welcome ScottS, and congratulations on your venture! Meadmaking is enjoying a serious (and overdue) renaissance currently. I think the main challenge for a new meadery is getting over the public misperception that meads have to be brutally sweet... "it's honey, right?". A popular local meadery here in Boulder has broken in somewhat with several sparkling, low-alcohol (@6%) melomels that are terribly drinkable and encourage folks to trust mead and experiment with "harder" meads. Gateway beverages, man.
12-16-2004, 08:49 AM
Absolutely it's possible. One-gallon batches of mead are very doable, and mead, like beer, can be made right in your kitchen. My time's a little pressed just now, but in a day or two I'll be able to reply a little more thoroughly. I'd encourage you to check out some of the links posted above; other great resources are available through beertown.org, gotmead.com, etc. A good starter book I recommend is the Complete Meadmaker by Ken Schramm, available through the AHA at the beertown.org site or your local homebrew shop. I know a lot of folks from your area who come down to Boulder (two great commercial meaderies, more craft breweries than you can shake a mash paddle at) to go to the homebrew shop there. More info later on getting started; work demands are at a fever pitch just now but I can't resist the new forum!
12-16-2004, 11:35 AM
Thanks for the welcome!
You are talking about Redstone Meadery, right? I've been spoiled by homemade stuff, frankly. Their stuff is good, but seriously, make your own. You'll see what I mean. http://www.beesource.com/ubb/smile.gif
1 gal batches IMHO are harder than 3 or 5 gallon batches. Besides, its a lot of work and a lot of waiting for 4 wine bottles worth of mead. After you taste it you are going to want more, so just skip straight to the larger volumes. http://www.beesource.com/ubb/smile.gif You can probably get started for $50 in supplies and $30 in ingredients. Less if you've got your own honey. It won't take over your basement until you are hopelessly addicted, like I am.
12-16-2004, 11:51 AM
Agree 100% (see earlier post). Also nice to be able to taste how a mead evolves over a few years since you've got 30 bottles (I do six gallons). Larger volumes also fluctuate less in temperature over time and can be topped up with a similar finished mead with less adulteration of flavor after rackings. Personally I prefer Medovina meads of the regional meaderies, and home-made just can't be beat anywhere 'cuz you make it just the way you like it!
12-16-2004, 04:49 PM
You mentioned pasteurizing earlier as opposed to boiling - how would you go about doing that? My knowledge is limited to Papazian's treatment of mead in NCJHB, and if I remember correctly he advocates boiling.
About the "strong pitch of yeast" as another alternative - I think I'd prefer to try that next time rather than the pasteurization or boiling. How much yeast is a "strong pitch" for a 5 gallon batch? And will it affect the final product to pitch extra yeast?
12-16-2004, 07:57 PM
I'm not sure if I fit your classification system.Bee-Haver then beekeeper,homebrewer for about 10 yrs.I decided to combine the two and have started to experiment with mead.
Most recipes I've seen call for Campden Tablets(potassium metabisulfite ?)yet you mentioned potassium sorbate.Could you clarify?
If I understand you correctly,you prefer corn sugar at bottling(for a sparkling mead)because of its quick dependability whereas honey ferments at a slower rate
12-16-2004, 08:08 PM
YOu mention topping up(off).My 1st batch developed a air space of a couple of inches after racking off the sediment a few times.and I'm not happy with the flavor (after about 8 mos) A more experienced mead maker reccomended topping off with sterile water,Morse says sterile marbles,and you say mead.Whats a beginner to do?
Thanks ,Jack again
12-16-2004, 09:10 PM
>Whats a beginner to do?
Have a series of different sized vessels. Of course they will never be the RIGHT size you need, so you will just HAVE to drink the excess. http://www.beesource.com/ubb/rolleyes.gif
12-17-2004, 05:59 AM
A well-known meadmaker (Ken Schramm of The Compleat Meadmaker famr) recently proved that honey is more or less sterile. So boiling, pasteurization, etc are all unnecessary. You end up blowing off all of the aromatics with no real benefit. I've used the no-heat method with great success - just dump your honey in warm water and stir to dissolve.
10g of yeast is plenty for 5 gallons, under normal conditions. That's two packets. Rehydrate in 100 degree water for 15 minutes, then pitch into your must.
Neither sulfites nor sorbates are really necessary. But if you want to stabilize your mead before bottling, sorbate prevents renewed fermentation and sulfites kind of force the yeast into staying dormant. I don't like sulfites in my wines, I think they taste nasty. But that is just personal preference.
In my opinion, corn sugar is better than honey for carbonating because I can tell you exactly how much sugar is in a cup of corn sugar. I can't do that with honey. It matters - too much sugar and your bottles will explode.
Topping off isn't really necessary either. After fermentation, you've got lots of dissolved CO2 in solution. That slowly comes out of solution, displacing the air above your mead. Use sterile marbles or mead if it makes you feel better.
[This message has been edited by ScottS (edited December 17, 2004).]
12-17-2004, 07:57 AM
>A well-known meadmaker (Ken Schramm of The Compleat Meadmaker famr) recently proved that honey is more or less sterile. So boiling, pasteurization, etc are all unnecessary. You end up blowing off all of the aromatics with no real benefit. I've used the no-heat method with great success - just dump your honey in warm water and stir to dissolve.
That is the exact thing my mentor has been telling me.
>10g of yeast is plenty for 5 gallons, under normal conditions. That's two packets.
Mine worked fine with one packet, although I noticed that one batch didn't start cookin' very fast until it was transfered into the carboy. Perhaps the yeast was getting old? Until it hit the carboy it would bubble about once every 15 seconds, when it hit the carboy it bubbled about every 6 seconds. The other batches would bubble about every 3 to 5 seconds in the bucket.
>Rehydrate in 100 degree water for 15 minutes, then pitch into your must.
I put the honey in the bucket, the bucket in the bathtub, added water using a thermometer to make sure the temperature did not exceed 105. Added the packet of yeast and disolved honey with a paddle. Is there any benefit to disolving the yeast seperatly?
12-17-2004, 08:18 AM
One packet will get you fermentation, but the more yeast you add the faster it starts. The idea is to get a strong fermentation going before stray bacteria find the sugar and start their own nasty fermentation. Two packets seem to get it going in about 24 hours, and for the extra $1, I like the insurance. You can get fermentation in 2 hours with a yeast starter, but this really isn't necessary in most conditions.
Yes, there is great benefit to rehydrating in water rather than in your must. Studies have shown that if you rehydrate in must, you kill off 40-50% of your yeast cells right off the bat, I'm guessing because of a different osmotic pressure in your must than the solution where they were dehydrated. Simply, they want to "wake up" under conditions similar to where they "went to sleep".
12-17-2004, 04:54 PM
Whew! Lots to keep up on.
It is partly the osmotic pressure on rehydrated cells, and partly that as they swell initially, some elements of the must get into the cell without being properly addressed by the cell wall's enzymes. Using water lets them get into fighting trim before food arrives (kinda like having steak surgically inserted into your bloodstream).
I do like topping off, as dissolved CO2 can degass much more slowly (especially in an aged mead) than other factors can exert pressures. For example with a large enough headspace, say your two-gallon mead cools 5 degrees overnight plus a high pressure front rolls in. The airspace will contract as it cools, and the airlock will bubble inwards to equalize with the atmospheric pressure. This admits oxygen, and potentially contaminants in the air. I've observed this happening several times.
Different sized vessels are the norm, larger to smaller, and many folks also (once you have a few meads) just top up with finished mead of similar type. Brewers who have access to cornies age in them... purge with CO2, seal and forget!
I even have heard of folks who use mineral oil to form a barrier on top of the mead to protect from oxygen... haven't tried this personally.
I missed recent info from K. Schramm about sterility... certainly extracted honey without exactingly sanitizing all the equipment wouldn't be terribly sterile, plus each drop moves through a good bit of air during extraction which means a lot of surface area potentially exposed to wild yeasts. The existence of osmophilic yeasts in honey has been well documented... see Zymurgy's special edition on honey and mead for the most recent stuff I believe.
FWIW I do not usually heat or boil, just do a good starter. I use sterile wort (unfermented beer) for its nutrient content and its buffering ability in the acidifying mead. Never had my quart of malt affect the flavor of a six-gallon batch yet, though if you're concerned one could certainly let the yeast ferment out, flocculate, and then pour off the spent wort. Rouse the yeast with sterile water and pitch!
Sulfites and sorbate are usually used together to satbilize... Campden (potassium metabisulfite) is also a potent antioxidant in addition to its properties as an antimicrobial agent. The trick is that wine yeasts are wine yeasts precisely because they are sulfite-tolerant (and taste good, and flocculate well, etc), so that's why some use both. Sorbate prevents yeast from reproducing, and sulfite kinda hassles them even more plus protects the mead from oxidation during the bottling process and subsequent aging. Good transfer technique goes a very long way to protect from oxygen too.
Sulfites got a bit of a bad rap from enthusiastic overuse, especially in California white wines. They'll sulfite very heavily to you can finish that Chardonnay over three days and still have a fresh-seeming product, and too bad to those folks that don't like sulfites or even worse are sensitive to them. It is possible to use sulfites modestly, and it's possible to make great meads entirely without sulfites and other chemicals. It's a matter of preference and attention to technique; just another illustration that there are many paths to a great mead.
Ben Brewcat brewing in Lyons, CO
12-18-2004, 02:48 AM
I do not know the exact chemistry of things despite my BA degreee in Chemistry, but my wife said she does not like the headache after affect from drinking red wines. So in most of my fermentation activities I do not use the sulfites. For the kit wines (my grapes are too immature) I never even add the sulfites. None of the wines seem to have suffered from it, including those that have been aged over a year. As I understand the action of the sulfites, they kill or prevent the growth of foreign things (infection). Perhaps the key here for a sensitive homebrewer is to maintain equipment impeccably clean/sterile.
On the sorbates I feel a little different. Either in our house or in others some of my meads popped their cork and made a mess. THis was likely because of an incomplete fermentation. Previously I did not measure OG/SG as an indicator of completion. The sorbate I have lists that it will inhibit fermentation, not stop an active one. So I have added some to meads and wines, particularly those that are still sweet. Since then I have not had any bottles explode. Then again, I wait longer to bottle now....
ANother thing on sorbates: apple cider (not the hard stuff) seemed to come out in the stores a month or two ago. I was thirsty, bought a half gallon and had a sip or two on the way home. THe next day I took a large bottle of it to work and drank most of it. Within an hour or two I developed the worst headache of my life after having had some visual field disturbances on the periphery and light sensitivity. For several hours I worried about a stroke, but recognized that working in a hospital was probably the best place for me to be if I was to have a serious problem. When I got home I went to bed without dinner or beer (something seriously wrong!!!) I felt fine the next day. My wife also noticed a headache after she drank some but not as intense as mine. My theory after the fact is this: Pressed appples require lots of chemical control to prevent fermentation. THis is achieved with large amounts of potassium sorbate which is mentioned by name but not quantity on the label. I did a net search on sorbate, found a site that listed food additives and their side effects, headache was top on the list for sorbate. From now on, I will judiciously use the stuff.
12-18-2004, 08:47 AM
>my wife said she does not like the headache after affect from drinking red wines. So in most of my fermentation activities I do not use the sulfites. For the kit wines (my grapes are too immature) I never even add the sulfites. None of the wines seem to have suffered from it, including those that have been aged over a year.
That's a good point about sorbate... you have to ferment dry and then stabilize. Most folks who react to red wines, which are sulfited to a lesser degree than whites, are reacting to an aspect of the tannins(anthocyanins?) and folks who react to whites are sulfite-sensitive. I'll post this into a new discussion "chemicals" in case we want to kick this around more... thanks Barry!
Ben Brewcat brewing in Lyons, CO
08-08-2005, 05:04 PM
Hope you guys don't mind if I bring this thread to the front. I told a friend about the forum and he is looking for something like this.
08-09-2005, 09:14 AM
I started off as a brewer turned beekeeper. I think I've made just about every style of beer out there and quit a few meads. Personally I don't see big differences between boiling/sulfites/pasturization. Boiling is more work/hotter but gives a clearer product than any amount of fining, especially if you use whole comb or pollen rich honey. Sulfiting is slower to ferment but more tolerant of contamination/oxidation. Also, it seems like the "killer" type yeasts are making their own SO2, and really rapid fermenters, even without nutrients of any sort.
Right now I really like making my meads strong, sparkling and barely sweet with or without spices. Also, it seems like I can add a pound or two or honey to almost any style of beer with good results. Because bottling 5-6 gallons is a bunch of work, using 3 gal carboys for secondary fermentors can really be nice. As for honey being sanitary, I definitely believe it but still worry about my local water. The only thing I do consistantly is use soft, calcium rich water and keep the pH pretty low. My friends seem to really go for the melomels but by a nice traditional mead seems more special to me, and ages better as well. Drink more mead.....its good for the soul