View Full Version : Making Tej with wild yeast?

spoiled brat
03-19-2011, 05:41 PM
Hello all! I am very new to meadmaking...about one month. Before I actually try to make my first mead, I have a pretty basic question: if my concoction forms some kind of mold, sludge or slime anywhere in the process, can I make myself ill by tasting the brew all along the way? Is it possible to ingest harmful molds or bacteria? I have been reading about Tej and don't want to use anything other than honey and water, letting the brew pick up yeasts from the environment. I react badly to commericial wines, beers etc. due to sulfites and who knows what else may be in there. Thank you for any advice!

03-19-2011, 05:59 PM
it would pay to make a seperate thread about this.

i certainly wouln't be drinking anything thats got molds etc growing in it.
also if you taste straight from the fermenter you may get a little crook. some people can't diges the yeasts very well, tend to end up sitting on the toilet for quite some time.

for a first mead i wouldn't try doing it naturally. you have no idea what yeast will start, how long it will take to start (ie more risk of infection), generally take a long time and possibly a long time to age into something drinkable.
you may well have forgotten what you did by the time its drinkable.

is it sulfite you react with or histamines?

03-19-2011, 07:11 PM
Sulphite reactions are very rare, it's much more likely that an allergy to yeast is the problem if someone is having reactions to wine and beer, but not to distilled alcohol like vodka for example.

It might pay to have that checked out by a doctor, there are very accurate tests to determing what exactly a person is allergic to.

I also would not do it with random yeasts floating in the air, the likelihood of getting garbage is very high - and there's nothing better for you about those wild yeasts than there is about packaged yeast.

03-19-2011, 11:23 PM
For me there was something almost romantic about the idea of capturing wild yeasties. So last fall I decided to do just that with a batch of hard cider. I spent 3 hours picking apples, nearly 5 hours grinding and pressing. Unfortunately, there was nothing romantic about the reality. It was very nasty and I had to dump it out. There really doesn't appear to be much gained from trying to catch wild yeast but there's a lot of downside. I recommend buying a known yeast.

Medsen Fey
03-20-2011, 03:00 PM
Hi spoiled brat! Welcome to GotMead!

I moved your posts over to a separate thread as your questions are certainly worthy of one.

Wild yeast often have a lower tolerance for alcohol and have a much higher chance of producing sulfur odors. They will often come mixed with various strains of yeast and bacteria, and become quite sour as well. Still if you get a batch that tastes good, it is kind of cool. You may be able to get a strain going by soaking some of the Gesho (without boiling or washing or sanitizing) in a little apple juice - when it starts bubbling you can step it up as a starter by adding a bit of must until you have a good sized batch of yeast to pitch

As for health concerns, I suggest you read the health and safety thread (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13459). If you use the search tool, you can find more information as well, and we strongly encourage using it before posting questions.

Let me also suggest that you read the NewBee guide (see link in the column to the left of these posts) as it is packed full of useful information.

Good luck with the wild yeast!


03-20-2011, 03:55 PM
I haven't been bit by the feral yeast bug because I'm just too dang cheap to risk ruining my ingredients. :)

spoiled brat
03-20-2011, 05:07 PM
Yes, thank you for your thoughtful responses. Indeed, I probably do have both yeast and histamine reactions. And Medsen Fey, thank you, I will go directly to the health and safety thread after I finish this post. I did look at the Newbies section and spent several hours searching the forums but didn't find anything that seemed to address my specific concern.

Rather than bore you with my 61 year medical history coping with serious allergies, suffice to say that I decided many years ago that the best approach was to avoid all premade and processed foods and beverages. I've had good luck with acidopholous and nettle in controlling asthma, bronchitis and hay fever, but I believe I lack a digestive enzyme(s) which still causes my system to react as if there is an invader. Wheat has been one of my no no's for a long time, but I've had good success with wild yeast sourdough bread using the traditional extended ferments which predigest the whole grain phytates and build up naturally occurring lactobacillus.

I've recently investigated Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions and Sandor Katz' book Wild Fermentation as well as Harry Kloman's web page All About Tej at http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/tej.html. So...because I did well on the wild yeast sourdough I want to experiment with the wild yeast Tej. Since I react adversely to all commercial wines, beers and breads, I find all commercially available wine, beer, and bread yeasts and additives suspect. BUT, I don't want to jump from the frying pan of allergic reactions to killer toxin bacteria or molds!! EEK! Since I have no experience with the Tej I don't know how to recognize any maybe distasteful bacteria/mold that my make the Tej unpleasant to the taste buds, versus one that could make one seriously ill. When you speak of an "infection" in the brew, do you mean something that is simply distasteful, or dangerous to consume?

Sorry for such a long post but I have a lot to learn. Thanks again!

Dan McFeeley
03-21-2011, 12:01 AM
It might be an idea to pick up a good book on basic homewinemaking -- many of them have sections on the various kinds of infections that can occur. Few if any are deadly serious but may make you mildly sick, especially if you already have sensitivities.

Thanks for post the link on Tej! Looks like a good one on a first quick browse.

One of own GotMeaders, Miriam Kresh, wrote a good article on Ethiopian that you might want to take a look at. Gives guidelines for making authentic Tej. Link is here:



03-21-2011, 12:17 AM
Infections are pretty obvious when they get to be bad enough to cause health problems. Anything you're likely to get sick from will smell and taste like something to be spat out. Mild infections might not have a visual cue, but are often accompanied by volatiles (often vinegar-like or acetone-like smells). Larger infections usually have some kind of polymeric goo surrounding the bugs, such as a pellicle (on the surface, a whitish bubbly layer) or ropes (into the liquid, look like ropey snot), or even something similar to a mother (blob on the bottom, you can see these in unfiltered, unpasteurized vinegars).

The first time you make mead, it will smell and taste funny at first. Often the "green mead" smells and flavors are confused for infections by beginners, as they are not standard aromas and tastes found in finished wines. However, these do not have the characteristics above (vinegar or acetone smells, snot-like goo) so don't freak out right away. :) Organic acids have a smell, and these can be quite strong at first. The new ethanol also tends to taste solventy and harsh right after fermentation, but it will mellow with time.

If you want to try the wild yeast idea, use some yeast from a sourdough starter that you've had success consuming in the past. This eliminates the chance involved in capturing something from the air. You will still get a mixed culture, but at least you know where it came from. I would also suggest doing a few small batches first, serially pitching the yeast from one into the next. This helps kill off bacteria that is not alcohol-tolerant, and you should get a cleaner result than if you made your batch straight from the bread starter. Using musts with OG around 1.040-50 for these "weed-out" batches would be my suggestion.

I have successfully captured wild yeast, as have several others here, so it can be done. My batch details are here (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14483). Perhaps some good information can be gleaned, there are also links there to other experiments.

spoiled brat
03-21-2011, 12:42 PM
Thanks akueck. Very useable info for a newbie...

I guess it's time to stop worrying this bacteria thing to death and just jump in and start growing something! Most of my present confusion regarding possibly toxic bacteria and/or molds etc., stems from my first exposure to Tej at the aforementioned web site of Mr. Klomen, which advocates simply measuring honey, water and gesho in a suitable glass container and letting the magic happen, without the use of any tools or measurements. When beasties form on the surface, you simply stir them back in and then strain out any remaining beasties with cheesecloth after about five weeks, and enjoy!

Has anyone here watched that video? I'd be interested in any feedback on that process and if anyone has attempted it themselves and lived to tell the story. The website again is http://www.pitt.edu/~klomen/tej.html.

Too much thinking and not enough drinking...I think.

03-21-2011, 01:13 PM
Too much thinking and not enough drinking...I think.

Cogito, ergo imbibo!

spoiled brat
03-21-2011, 01:27 PM
heheh Not quite the Latin I remember but the Latin I shall now remember...

03-22-2011, 10:48 AM
Cogito, ergo imbibo!


I love this.

03-27-2011, 05:15 PM
I have made tej using a no-boil mix of honey, water and gesho.

From my experience, I would venture to say that, if you have got the essential gesho (inchet), and if you use it in the indicated way (any of the indicated alternative ways, actually) as have been described in the Harry Klomen site, it seems that you will have introduced enough live Ethiopian microbe starter in your brew so that you don't need to go looking for any other sources of yeast, wild or select.

I hesitate to even credit yeast for the style of fermentation that makes a characteristic tej. I have to guess it should be yeast, based on how it acted in the process when I tried it, which was a lot like my single-strain yeast controlled fermentations of other mead, but then again, there were a lot less lees than I was expecting, so it left me puzzled.

I am not sure that the sources (those mentioned on the Klomen site) have come to a firm definitive conclusion about the responsible microbes that make a tej.

The Ethiopians say that gesho is what makes tej, tej. I would agree with that!

Have fun with it and good luck!

spoiled brat
03-30-2011, 04:49 PM
Thanks Oldonehundreth for your input on the gesho. I ordered some gesho leaves from Brundo's but it is on back order. Popular stuff, apparently...couldn't find it at any other Klomen suggested web sites. Since you are familiar with the Tej process and product from Harry Klomen's site, is that Tej carbonated? Is any Tej carbonated? Did you measure the percentage of alcohol in the Tej that you made by that method? I'm trying to learn what I can while I wait on the gesho. Thanks!

03-30-2011, 05:09 PM
Carbonated T'ej would be dangerous - because it's a sweet mead. So unless you want to carbonate via force carbonation it's not a safe idea, could leave to massive injury/damage.

03-30-2011, 10:20 PM
Thanks Oldonehundreth for your input on the gesho. I ordered some gesho leaves from Brundo's but it is on back order. Popular stuff, apparently...couldn't find it at any other Klomen suggested web sites. Since you are familiar with the Tej process and product from Harry Klomen's site, is that Tej carbonated? Is any Tej carbonated? Did you measure the percentage of alcohol in the Tej that you made by that method? I'm trying to learn what I can while I wait on the gesho. Thanks!

Huh, next time I drive by I'll poke my head in Brundo and see what their stock looks like. Last time I was there they had bags and bags of gesho leaves and sticks.

03-31-2011, 08:11 AM
Just wanted to say welcome to Gotmead.com.


spoiled brat
04-01-2011, 04:14 PM
Carbonated T'ej would be dangerous - because it's a sweet mead. So unless you want to carbonate via force carbonation it's not a safe idea, could leave to massive injury/damage.

WMD's from my first brew might discourage further experimentation....Forced carbonation sounds a few steps down the road for me, then.

spoiled brat
04-01-2011, 04:18 PM
Thanks for the welcome, Roger. I might be getting hooked...

04-01-2011, 10:08 PM
...I might be getting hooked...

It's hard not to!

Mars Colonist
04-12-2012, 01:22 PM
I made a starter from a piece of gesho, and it took the 1040 starter down to 1000. Anyone have a guessitmation what the EToH tolerance of the wild yeast might be? 7%? 10%?

I guess I could bump the applejuice/honey starter strength up to 22Brix and see how far it drives it down... but I would really like the plate the yeast to isolate it so I dont get the extra bacteria in a big batch... Im hesitant to drop the gesho starter on a 5gal batch rather than go with conventional wine yeast... although the gesho 1040 starter smells and tastes quite nice!

04-12-2012, 06:05 PM
You could acid wash the slurry to reduce the bacteria count. I've also had anecdotal luck reducing the bacteria count just by doing several passes and repitching the slurry. The less alcohol-tolerant bacteria will die off after a few runs, and you'll also select for the more robust yeast cells.