PDA

View Full Version : Honey



Samy
07-09-2017, 03:21 PM
Hello, me and a few friends have decided to make a batch of mead together, 30l between us, but we're not sure about the honey.

I've visited a couple local beekeepers who basically beekeep on their sparetime in their garden, but I'm slightly worried about sanitation. Since honey in it's natural state acts as a preservative due to the concentration of sugar (and as a result the low water content) a not 100% sanitized container might not be a big deal for just honey. But when that honey from that container that might not've been perfectly squeaky cleaned then gets mixed into a must, couldn't that result in a bad brew? Atleast that's what we're thinking, seeing how important sanitation seems to be.

Would it be wise to stick to a more "professional, big-time" local producer?

I had a hard time finding any good info on this, so I hope you someone here can give us some advice on how to think when picking the honey for our brew.

Thanks for any help

bernardsmith
07-09-2017, 04:18 PM
Hi Samy - and welcome. I am not a biologist but I very strongly believe that honey will have so little water in it that it acts to pull water from any living organism it contacts. That means that honey will kill bacteria and mold which is why honey is considered as a folk bactericide and is often applied to wounds "in the field" to help ensure that no infection occurs. Bottom line: if the honey is typical then it will be composed of less than 18% water. At that concentration and with the acids in honey and the peroxides in it, it is very unlikely that your local beeks will be providing you with honey that will in and of itself result in a "bad brew". However, if you are anxious, (and think about all the dirt, insects, bird poop and other detritus that is in pressed grapes) simply add the equivalent of 1 Campden tablet for each gallon of honey must in your fermenter 24 hours before you pitch the yeast... The SO2 the K-meta produces will kill off almost every living organism in the must.

Squatchy
07-09-2017, 08:20 PM
Personally, I wonder if professional honey is any cleaner than what you're talking about. I mean ultimately comes from the same place it's handled the same way put in the same types of buckets and containers.
I think sanitary protocol is very important. But I also think that it's not uncommon for new people to be overly concerned about Sanitation. If you pitch the correct amount of yeast, and have done a good job rehydrating it. There's really not any way for fell organisms in my opinion to stand a chance. And that especially holds true after you have a active biomass working full on. And then also when your ABV starts to go up. I don't think that it's very easy for anything to live in that environment. I would personally use your beekeepers honey over something you could buy at the store for sure

Dadux
07-09-2017, 09:46 PM
Just pitch enough well rehydrated yeast and if you are worried (no real reson to be) you can do as bernard said and add a campden tablet or some sulphites early on in the adequate amount to kill most things.
Im sure anyone who sells honey uses decent containers. Its hard to get anything from that.
Yeast and mold cant grow on normal honeys (altough it is usually packed with wild yeast and molds and other stuff, but the ammount is minimal compared to what you pitch. Many microbes can survive on it but not grow)
As i said if you pitch enough yeast it will be ok. After all we dont get mold on our meads normally. And some alcohol will kill most of the stuff too (and after 10% anything dangerous to humans dies so...)

My only recomendations is that you make a test batch. Personal experience here, your first brew might not be so awesome early on. Start with 5-6 liters (you can use water jugs) before you go big. Honey is expensive and making mead is easy, but making good mead fast takes knowledge and experience (same goes for all the other brews too, dont get discouraged!). But you can always buy the honey, make 5l then 5l then 5l and so on. That way the last 5l will be much better than the first ones and you'll learn more. The first meads you'll need to age for a while anyway so... I can say without a doubt that my 6th 5-liter try was way better at 6 months that my first brew at 12 months. And maybe give a try to JAOM if you want something easy.

If it reasures you some people here use their own honey with comb and bee parts inside to make mead and nothing ever happens. They just strain the meads afterwards.
Tl;dr: Pick the freshest, rawest thing you can find. Raw or strained (just filtered to keep impurities out) will give you the best flavour and aroma, and thus best meads. Dont get too worked up about sanitation. Weather the honey comes from local small beekeepers or bigger sellers as long as its raw or strained you'll get top quality, so go by price.

Shelley
07-10-2017, 05:56 AM
I make mead from my cappings wash; you would be hard-pressed to get any messier than that for a mead. The cappings are what get scraped off of the honey frames, and have been walked on by lots of unsanitary bees. Honey sticks to the underside of the cappings, so those go into a container before the honey is spun out (what would find its way to you.)

I rinse the cappings in water to clean off the wax, then brew. My wash ends up with honey, wax, sometimes bee bits, and whatever else was on top of the cappings when I stole them from the bees. I strain the macro elements out and have my must. This has never spoiled my mead. Honey should be put into clean containers when they bottle, but they don't have to be sterile. Boy would that quash a lot of market beekeepers!

I'll add a voice for moderation, though. Start with a 4L/1 gallon batch first. Read up on nutrients, yeasts, and techniques before purchasing and brewing.

And whatever you do, don't boil your honey! (says the beekeeper in me...)

Shelley
07-10-2017, 06:01 AM
Hi Samy - and welcome. I am not a biologist but I very strongly believe that honey will have so little water in it that it acts to pull water from any living organism it contacts.

An important exception is Clostridum botulinum spores, which can cause botulism -- particularly important for children less than 1 year old, who are more susceptible.

Stasis
07-10-2017, 06:37 AM
Technically there is wild yeast in honey and this is why some people attempt mead wild ferments. These yeast might be detrimental to your mead but wild ferments often take a couple of days to get going so the amount of wild yeast in your honey is rather low. Mazers rely on the commercial yeast's ability to outpace the growth of the wild yeast and thus the effect of wild yeast is negligible most times. This might not be negligible if you compound this fact with other bad practices such as bad sanitation or treating your commercial yeast bad.
So *technically* there is some merit to boiling the must, however the probability of this actually making a difference is outweighed by the surety that aromas and flavor will be blown off through boiling.
This is the common perception. There is also an article/test which goes against this wisdom and claims that perhaps boiling is better http://www.washingtonwinemaker.com/blog/2008/10/28/making-mead-testing-the-controversy-over-boiling/
I would love if a couple of our members did rigorous testing and blind taste tests with multiple participants to actually get some actual evidence of which technique is generally better. Perhaps even it's a matter of taste or it might even be dependent on what honey varietal is used. there might not be a true superior method

Shelley
07-10-2017, 07:10 AM
For those interested in a possible origin of the practice of boiling honey water, take a look at this article (https://aethelmearcgazette.com/2017/03/02/not-ready-of-boiling-and-seething-a-reevaluation-of-the-common-cooking-terms-in-connection-with-brewing/) by a friend of mine, who has researched and tried very old recipes (15th century) that call for "seething" and "boiling" of the must.

To relate back to the original question, meadmaking happened well before all of our modern sanitary processes. Of the factors that could create a bad batch, how the honey gets from the hive to you is at the bottom of the list.

Dadux
07-10-2017, 07:16 AM
Technically there is wild yeast in honey and this is why some people attempt mead wild ferments. These yeast might be detrimental to your mead but wild ferments often take a couple of days to get going so the amount of wild yeast in your honey is rather low. Mazers rely on the commercial yeast's ability to outpace the growth of the wild yeast and thus the effect of wild yeast is negligible most times. This might not be negligible if you compound this fact with other bad practices such as bad sanitation or treating your commercial yeast bad.
So *technically* there is some merit to boiling the must, however the probability of this actually making a difference is outweighed by the surety that aromas and flavor will be blown off through boiling.
This is the common perception. There is also an article/test which goes against this wisdom and claims that perhaps boiling is better http://www.washingtonwinemaker.com/blog/2008/10/28/making-mead-testing-the-controversy-over-boiling/
I would love if a couple of our members did rigorous testing and blind taste tests with multiple participants to actually get some actual evidence of which technique is generally better. Perhaps even it's a matter of taste or it might even be dependent on what honey varietal is used. there might not be a true superior method

Dont want to get sidetracked but that has been done already in a quite old post by chevette girl it was mentioned if im not wrong (i remember reading it, have no link, sorry). If i remember correctly she prefered non boiled mead, but not a huge difference

That being said clostridium is rare and yes it is toxic but its associared with bad sanitation of containers and long storage times. Even with just a rinse you'd probably get rid of it. I've never heard of someone getting ill from eating honey from a mason jar or whatever because of clostridium

bernardsmith
07-10-2017, 10:00 AM
I've never heard of someone getting ill from eating honey from a mason jar or whatever because of clostridium.. I think the concern about botulism in honey is with babies (until their sixth month) which is why in the US all honey sold commercially is labelled that it is not to be given to infants less than 1 year old. The spores are harmless (I understand) to children beyond their first year.

pwizard
07-10-2017, 09:45 PM
An important exception is Clostridum botulinum spores, which can cause botulism -- particularly important for children less than 1 year old, who are more susceptible.

And even then from what I understand the spores are in a dormant state. They aren't actually living/propagating in the honey.

Shelley
07-11-2017, 07:58 AM
And even then from what I understand the spores are in a dormant state. They aren't actually living/propagating in the honey.

True - but they're also not dead. They are still potentially harmful to infants, who haven't cultivated the gut flora to ward against them.

Shelley
07-11-2017, 08:05 AM
.. I think the concern about botulism in honey is with babies (until their sixth month) which is why in the US all honey sold commercially is labelled that it is not to be given to infants less than 1 year old. The spores are harmless (I understand) to children beyond their first year.

Correct. Botulism in adults is very rare.