Them’s Fightin’ Words

Photo of Groennfell Meadery taken June 3rd 1865

Meadmakers are an affable bunch. Friendly. Kind. Gentle. Lovable. These are just a few of the many superlatives we proffer for the species Homo sapien hydromelis. (Oh yes, and that is totally our trinominal taxonomy.) There’s hardly a meadmaker in the world – pro or homebrewer – who we wouldn’t have over for a cup of tea.

Until someone mentions the “B-Word.” Yup, boiling.

Then all hell breaks loose. It’s like an Old West Saloon what with the chairs being smashed over heads and the bottles of perfectly good mead being used as the basest of blunt objects. Actually, we’ve never seen a genuine, honest-to-goodness bar brawl break-out over boiling must, but it is a fairly contentious subject.

Here are the facts:
1) Honey does not like to mix into cold water, so many meaderies bring the water up above body temperature, though not all of them.
2) If the honey is in a raw state, heating is one very effective way to remove wax and other potentially negative bee products… like bee legs and wings. This is done by skimming.
3) Heating honey can also have the negative effect of removing potentially positive chemicals which provide flavor and aroma.
4) Sanitization is a function of time and temperature, meaning 30 minutes at 145F is roughly equivalent to .1 second at 201F.[1]
5) If honey is not heat pasteurized, chemical pasteurization is recommended. This is usually done with sulfites.
6) People hate the word “chemicals” for some inexplicable reason, and think that sulfites give them headaches, despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.[2]

Unfortunately, that is sort of the end of the facts. Everything else after that, no matter how loudly pronounced, is opinion.

Some say that pasteurization is unnecessary since honey is naturally antiseptic. Since wild bacteria and yeast causes off flavors and potential bottle bombs, we do not recommend skipping some form of sanitization. That, however, is our opinion.

Some say that 30 minutes at lower temperatures is better than even a second at higher. Others say the reverse. Both are opinions. Both are fine by us.

Some say that they sulfite at the beginning and the end of the process because they feel that it preserves the integrity of the product as well as allowing them to “cold process.” Cool. Fine by us.

Some say that adding any chemicals is bad. These people do not understand basic organic chemistry. We tell them that we add Pentahydroxyhexanal to every batch we make, and tell them that if they don’t like it, they can take it up with the bees. [3]

Are you a boiler? A sulfiter? A Viking who believes that the Gods preserve your mead’s purity? If your bottles don’t explode and your mead tastes good, you’re always welcome to bring a bottle to share with us at Groennfell Meadery.

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