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Thread: Methods of Caramelizing Honey for a Bochet

  1. Default Methods of Caramelizing Honey for a Bochet

    I've been doing a lot of research on methods of caramelizing honey for making a Bochet.

    I know that I will need to try these different methods and then taste them to be able to find the flavor profile I am looking for.

    When you read on this, there is a crock-pot method, an open kettle-direct heat method, and a pressure cooker method.
    All having advantages and disadvantages.

    You can observe the amount of color change when using the open kettle or crock-pot method. (advantage)
    However the crock-pot or the pressure cooker method may not get the honey hot enough to really burn the honey to the 'roasted marshmallow' flavor. (disadvantage)
    The open kettle method has the issue with smoke indoors and bees outdoors, not to mention the lava hot honey needs to be continually stirred. (disadvantage)
    But the open kettle method allows you to monitor the color change and really 'burn' it if you choose to. (advantage)
    The pressure cooking method has the issue of not being able to see the amount of color change. (disadvantage)
    But the pressure cooking method is a set it and forget it method. (advantage)

    My thought here is to do experimental pressure cooker batches 1/2 pint at a time to determine the time and pressure that I would like to use. (I've read anything from 45 min at 5 psi to 120 min at 15 psi) Once that has been determined, I can up the volume.
    This still leaves the issue of the 'roasted marshmallow' burnt honey. I think that if you burnt a small amount of honey (maybe 5%) on a stove top and blended it in to the main volume of honey that had been caramelized, to your preferred level, in the pressure cooker, it might add that flavor that would be missing.

    I've also considered the possibility of blending multiple batches of caramelized honey done to different levels. Say, 1 part Raw honey, 1 part 30 min, 1 part 60 min, 1 part 90 min. Would you be able to tell the difference? Would this add a complexity to the Bochet that you could not get with only one level of caramelization? I know that the use of different levels of roasted grains in the grain bill of a beer adds to the complexity, that's where the thought is based.

    Ok...Really going out on a limb.
    Is there such a thing as making multiple batches of Bochet, made with differing levels of caramelized honey, and then blending them to the desired flavor profile? (also done with certain types of beer)

    For the sake of openness, I am extremely inexperienced at mead making. I currently have my first 1 gallon batch of a black raspberry Melomel in primary. With that said, a Bochet is next on the list, and I'm just doing research.

    All input welcome.

  2. #2


    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    So I have made several Bochets. And, I'm also a certified mead judge and have judged that style in competitions, including the Mazer Cup, the most prestigious comp in the world.

    I have waaaaaaayyyyy too often tasted burnt honey that taste like shit. Burnt honey doesn't add anything you want in a mead. And most people go way too dark and mess up the meads because of it. It will not age out in 100 years. So caramel flavor does not come from burnt honey at all. The degree of temp is much more important than the color or the duration. I have great results buy going with low heat and you don't really need to move it across the cover wheel very far either. That idiot who burns his honey outside on a cast iron skillet until the smoke is blue or black wouldn't be able to convince a "starving to death pig" to taste a single bit of that shit. The honey doesn't need to get so hot it expands all to hell 3, or 4 or 5 times it's volume at start. It almost doesn't need to swell or bubble at all. So go low and slow and don't go too far on the color wheel. I'm sure you must think I'm full of it. But try it and come back and report to us.

    Lastlt. If you were to learn how to make good traditionals first it will raise the bar for everything else you make the rest of your life. You can hide all kinds of problems in a melomel. Nothing can hide in a traditional.

    Just shooting straight here my friend
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Saratoga Springs , NY


    Hi WillieP - and welcome. A couple of thoughts about bochet. You don't want to burn honey and smoking sounds as if you are burning the honey. I began experimenting with a crock pot - and while it most definitely will get up to temperature. (when you are cooking water the temperature of the water cannot exceed 212 F but you are heating honey and honey can hold far more heat than 212F. But it may take several hours to reach critical temps (fructose caramelizes at 230 F , glucose at 320F).
    To use a large pot you may find that you can adequately caramelize 2 -3 lbs of honey within 30 minutes.
    Cannot speak to whether one might be able to distinguish very different levels of caramelization. I suspect that you can but the amount of time cooking may depend on the volume of honey and the actual temperature you are heating the honey at.
    Good luck!

  4. Default

    Squatchy and bernardsmith, Thank you both for your input!

    Got it. No burnt honey!!
    I think one of the difficulties that I am having is I have no reference point to relate to.
    I know the difference between the taste of a barley malt roasted to 20 Lovibond compared to one roasted to 120 Lovibond.
    I don't know the taste profiles of honey caramelized to amber/red compared to mahogany/brown or even black. I understand that color is not the determining factor, but I also have no reference to honey raised to a specific temperature for a specific time.
    How do I know how long and at what temp to caramelize the honey at, if I don't know what makes a honey taste like roasted marshmallows or toffee caramels candies.

    Would it be conceivable to caramelize a really small amount of honey, like an ounce, to different levels (while recording color and temperature) to see what each level tastes like?
    At least that way I would have some sort of clue.

    I agree that the mastering of a traditional is the long term goal.
    I am first looking for minor victories on the mead battlefield before engaging in a more serious conflict with a superior foe.
    To put it in beer brewing terms, If you can brew a great pilsner or kolsch, you can brew anything. Nothing there to hide behind.

    Again, all input welcome.

  5. #5


    FWIW, Some pictures of my last Bochet foray. First is the honey on the stove, complete with boil-over remnants. Second is color record (ignore recipe notes at the top - old information). And third is in the primary ready for pitch - very interesting looking. Result had nice caramel and marshmallow. (Sorry, no tastes, all gone.) (I hope these links work.)


  6. Default

    Thanks for your input.
    I know I'm way over thinking this.
    I just need to give it a whirl...
    Will be a bit though, I've got a medical thing I need to get thru.
    I will post result when I get that far.

    Willie P.

  7. #7


    We wrote a Bochet article for Beekeeper Magazine a few years ago to encourage beekeepers to consider a market for their wax melter honey which if they do sell it goes cheap to bakers, we wanted them to consider it a value added product to sell to crazy meadmakers! We did each of the 3 ways in your first post and you have covered the advantages and dissadvantes pretty well. Each method when taken to its extreme will give a different result. Obviously with the stovetop method you can go from a light darkening to black tar blob at the end, its is a little dangerous and a lot of information on it isnt excactly correct, like you do not have to keep stirring it once its started, caramel makers dont do that and neither do Bochet makers, it will stir itself, and you dont want to add water back to it at the end while it is still super hot, it can cool a little and be safer to add your water to dilute it, we like to run it through a strainer (for honey, stainless steel and fits over a bucket) to get the chunks of protein out. If you wait until the smoke coming off of it looks greyish you are near the final tar black stage into the extreme toasted burnt marshmallow stage. The crockpot method is nice, not so dangerous and gives a very nice carmelization but you wont really reach the burnt marshmellow stage. The pressure cooker method gives a very nice smooth caramel flavor, this is really nice to pour on ice cream so make an extra jar. We have made mead from each technique. I have to mention we started off with an extremely high quality tulip poplar honey and the beekeeper was elbow deep in the cooking of his honey at a brew your own beer business called the Flying Barrel who let us use their kettles for burning over a fire, the Flying Barrel folks were very brave to let us use their kettles which was a lot of fun and cleaned up really easily. After making the meads we found the one burnt to a tar stage had a hint of bitterness but was good, the more mellow cooking with the crock pot and pressure cooker made more smoother Bochets. Not all of the sugars will ferment out so these usually end with some residual sweetness which is very good. As has been discussed on GM in other threads, adding some uncooked honey at the start with your burnt honey gives the yeast a little more sugar to work with and keeps a little more of the body of the honey while flavoring and sweetening with the Bochet honey. Some additions to compliment a Bochet, some vanilla beans are good to bring out the flavors of the burnt honey. Oak also goes very well with Bochet to round out the flavors and even a little cocoa but not to much as it can contribute to some bitterness itself. Sorry about the pictures, the jars are from before and after pressure cooking, the crock pot cooking away and the last is burning over a flame in a big 25 gallon kettle, the 5 gal of honey in there did try to escape many times.


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