Making Mead
Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Making Mead

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    West Stockbridge, MA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Making Mead

    If I were to declare a goal, I would say it is: To produce my own honey for the purposes of making mead.

    There are some important considerations with that qualification. Making mead could be considered similar in philosophy to making honey. I am relying on another organism to produce a product which I desire. In order to obtain the best quality product, my role is to provide optimum conditions for the organism to be healthy and thrive, thus allowing the organism to produce the product which I desire to obtain.

    If I want to provide an optimum environment for my yeast to thrive when making mead, I certainly do not want to start with honey laced with chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides, miticides, and worse of all fungicides (yeast is a fungus after all). Depending on what honey I use, I may be subjecting the yeast to a hostile environment without even knowing it.

    I could further qualify the goal by adding "for commercial sale" at the end of it, which has further implications on the economic considerations of traditional versus natural methods, but without even going there, just focusing on the bee to mead process, the natural/treatment-free approaches to beekeeping are very appealing to me and my own research and practices are leading me further down that path.

    Anyone else using their honey to make mead? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on how the chemicals used to treat bees may impact the yeast and the resulting quality of the mead - haven't really found any insight on that online yet.

  2. Remove Advertisements
    BeeSource.com
    Advertisements
     

  3. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    West Stockbridge, MA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: New beekeeper already struggling with traditional vs natural

    Base mead recipe:

    This is what I use as a base mead recipe. I typically anticipate some other fruit or flavoring being added to it and adjust the recipe accordingly. The recipe is for a 5 US gallon batch, but ingredients can be scaled linearly to suite any batch size.

    Ingredients:

    12 lbs honey raw, no added chemicals, unpasturized, unfiltered
    2.5 lbs raisins chopped or crushed, no added chemicals or preservatives (i.e. no sulfites)
    2 lbs maltodextrin for body
    1 tbsp tanin powder for tannic bite
    3 tbsp wine nutrient I use wyeast nutrient, or Go-Ferm for vitamins/minerals
    1 tbsp di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) for nitrogen (beginning of fermentation)
    1 tsp yeast energizer for amino acids (end of fermentation)
    2 tbsp acid blend (equal parts malic, citric, tartaric) for acid bite
    1 tbsp malic acid for acid bite
    1 pack Lalvin D-47 dry yeast for fermentation
    ~3 gallons water top off to 5 gallons

    Process:

    Chop or grind raisins.
    Add honey, raisin mash, tannin, nutrients, acid, and maltodextrin to fermenter. Top off with water to 5 gallons.
    Target measurements = 21.4% brix, 3.3-3.5 pH, and 7-9 g/L TA.
    Oxygenate and pitch yeast.
    When mead starts to show signs of fermentation (~12 hours) gently stir in DAP being careful not to disturb trub.
    When mead starts to show signs of slowing down (~5 days) gently stir in yeast energizer being careful not to disturb trub.
    After 4-8 weeks, when mead clears, rack to secondary.
    Re-rack every 4-8 weeks until mead softens to desired taste then bottle.

    Important Factors (in order of importance):

    1) Sanitize everything. Any equipment that touches the mead needs to be sanitized. I use StarSan - quick, easy, no rinse required.
    2) Only organic. You certainly do not want to use any product that has preservatives in it. The less treated in any fashion, the better. Heat-treated is technically OK, but you lose volatile aromatic compounds when anything is heat-treated and some things will take on a "cooked" taste if you heat. I don't.
    3) Stepwise nutrient additions. This is the step that turned my mead from "ok" to "great!". Yeast need vitamins/minerals/nutrients to get started. Once fermentation starts (but not prior), yeast needs nitrogen. Honey has a lot of sugar but it is severely lacking in nitrogen. Diammonium phosphate (DAP) can fill that need. Towards the end of fermentation, yeast still need nitrogen but won't take DAP anymore. An amino-acid based nitrogen supplement (typically sold as yeast energizer) can fill that need.
    4) Oxygenate before pitching yeast (and only before). Yeast need oxygen to multiply. You can shake air in for 15 minutes but in order to properly oxygenate, pure O2 is best. I buy the small disposible O2 tanks from the hardware store and use a diffusion stone to pump O2 in slowly for 3 mins before pitching. Do NOT add oxygen after pitching. While yeast needs oxygen to multiply, they need anaerobic conditions to produce alcohol. Adding oxygen after pitching will negatively affect the yeast's ability to produce alcohol and may oxidize the mead yielding very awful tastes. Even small amounts of splashing can cause issues - always rack very carefully so as to not introduce oxygen.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Bologna, Italy
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: New beekeeper already struggling with traditional vs natural

    Quote Originally Posted by Jus144tice View Post

    12 lbs honey raw, no added chemicals, unpasturized, unfiltered

    1 pack Lalvin D-47 dry yeast for fermentation

    Thanks for sharing your receip.

    I don't have great experience with mead, but my question might also be involved with beer production as well.

    Honey contains his own yeast. Using an unpastorized honey, even if adding selected D-47 dry yeast, can anyway lead to a "standard" product?
    To my small experience, yeast that are naturally contanied in honey are more difficult to control and can lead to unexpected flavor or start a fermentation process difficult to terminate. Did you experienced anything similar with mead?

    For honey classes, just chech the Courses page at the American Honey Tasting Society. I think there will be one in Boston beginning of Feb2016.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    West Stockbridge, MA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: New beekeeper already struggling with traditional vs natural

    Radallo, that is true, unpasteurized honey will ferment on its own when watered down. In fact, some people making meads and ciders won't pitch any commercial yeast at all and will instead rely on the wild yeasts present in their ingredients to ferment. Yeast strains vary per geographic region, so you can produce some very unique and interesting tastes by relying on yeasts from your own locale... You can also end up with un-drinkable garbage if the wrong micro-organism gets a foothold. That is the nature of relying on wild yeast, you may not get predictable or repeatable results.

    By pitching one packet of commercial yeast per 5 gallons and preparing the must for optimal yeast growth conditions, I find the commercial yeast will very quickly overtake any wild yeasts or other micro-organisms present in honey. If you don't want to take those chances, you can pasteurize the honey, but you will lose some delicate aromatic compounds. You can also use 1/4 tsp of potassium metabisulfite (K-meta) per 5 gallons after preparing the must, then wait 24 hours before pitching the yeast. The K-meta will produce sulfur dioxide gasses that will knock down any wild yeasts or other micro-organisms and will then dissipate over the course of 24 hours before pitching the yeast you desire. Do not use potassium sorbate (k-sorbate) or the yeast will not be able to propagate.

    In terms of terminating fermentation, I typically let fermentation complete to full attenuation (consumption of sugars). You can vary the residual sugars by choosing different yeast strains with different attenuation properties. Or, you can ferment to full attenuation, stabilize the mead with 1/4 tsp K-meta and 1 tsp K-sorbate per 5 gallons, then back-sweeten with more honey to the desired sweetness. If you stabilize, your yeast will no longer ferment sugars, so you would not be able to naturally carbonate if that is something desired.

    When using honey for making beer, I would recommend you add the honey in at the end of the boil and allow it to pasteurize. Yeast strains used for beer-making tend to have lower attenuation than those for mead and wines in order to leave residual sugars behind for a balanced taste and body. The wild yeasts present in honey may continue to ferment sugars in your beer after the beer yeast has quit.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Red Bud, IL, USA
    Posts
    1,810

    Default Re: New beekeeper already struggling with traditional vs natural

    I use my honey to make mead, if the need arises I also purchase honey from local bee keepers for mead. Hopefully this doesn't spin the thread off into a treatment free discussion, I try to be chemical free which has proven challenging. I continue to impliment of treatment/chemical free practises but will treat, as a late resort, if conditions gets out of control (mites disease, etc). So I guess I'm a chemical minimalist and feel OA is the "lesser of the evils" for varroa.
    Back to the original question, " I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on how the chemicals used to treat bees may impact the yeast and the resulting quality of the mead - haven't really found any insight on that online yet." I haven't noticed any fermentation differences between my honey and that of the other beekeepers. No scientific studies, but my assumtion is any chemicals in the honey to be essentially inert and likely to be more interactive with the alcohol than the yeast. At times I've had some of the wild yeast to be problematic if the fruit product isn't pasturized; just had some hard cider not produce as expected and I suspect the cider had a high amount of wild yeast.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Red Bud, IL, USA
    Posts
    1,810

    Default Re: New beekeeper already struggling with traditional vs natural

    Also, before you sell any alcohol check the liquor laws. My understanding is you can produce alcohol for your own consumption and/or gifting but can not sell it without a liquor license.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    6,891

    Default Re: Making Mead

    If I melt my cappings with steam, could the resulting honey/water be used to make mead?
    All of my opinions and suggestions are based on my five decades of actual beekeeping,
    not so much on book learning, watching YouTube videos nor reading internet sites.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Red Bud, IL, USA
    Posts
    1,810

    Default Re: Making Mead

    I would say yes but the heat would have an impact on the aromatic compounds, how much impact would depend on the actual temps and duration.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    523

    Default Re: Making Mead

    Quote Originally Posted by Jus144tice View Post
    If I were to declare a goal, I would say it is: To produce my own honey for the purposes of making mead. I could further qualify the goal by adding "for commercial sale" at the end of it.
    That is quite a lofty goal. One commercial meadery I know keeps 10 hives - and it's just for show. Another meadery gets honey in 300 gallon totes.

    I've brewed mead from honey out of treatment free hives and honey from commercial hives and it all works just fine. The old school method and beer brewers boil the honey, increasingly mead makers are electing o not heat the honey. Using a high pitch rate, the packaged yeast out competes any wild yeast in the honey.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Lyons, CO
    Posts
    3,097

    Default Re: Making Mead

    I use my honey for almost all my meads. I also don't use most medications, but if I have to I use it strictly according to label so as to not contaminate honey... the "biggest" gun I use is probably the thymol, so not too scary. The professionals I know source their honey mainly from known and trusted sources, but that said I don't believe I've ever heard that colony management products are detectable in the finished mead. Many award-winning meads, commercial and artisanal, are made with commercial honeys that almost certainly were produced under typical commercial processes (that is, using typical treatments).

    +1 on the commercial sales advice above: selling alcohol is one of the most-regulated activities there is (with the exception now of cannabis), and the regulatory scheme doesn't quite know what to do with mead: it's not a wine, not a beer, cider, etc. so it's even harder than establishing a business in one of those more "typical" bev industries.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    West Stockbridge, MA, USA
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Making Mead

    Sorry, this thread was split from another where I introduced myself. I do already own a licensed farm-winery in MA which covers the production of wine, mead, and cider. Licensing was certainly very challenging and even the yearly renewals can be challenging. I would happy to offer my experiences with that if anyone is interested, though each state is different so my experiences are very tailored to the regulatory structure in MA.

    I do agree that I would be extremely hard-pressed to source all of my honey from my own hives, but if I could do even a single batch from my own honey, I would consider that a major success!

    Glad to hear that the general consensus so far is that most properly used treatments will not impact the yeast's ability to work the honey or the taste & safety of the finished mead.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •