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  1. #1

    Default oxidation and mead

    I come from the brewing world. Of late I've been getting into making mead and so I've been perusing this forum. It is amazing how different these two worlds are from each other. In particular nobody ever seems to talk about oxidization. Oxidized wort/beer is of huge concern for brewers, especially the big ones. The macro brewers even mill under deaerated water to reduce O2 content in their grists.

    I am wondering if any of you mead makers concern yourselves especially with this. If oxidation does occur in a mead or wine, how does it show up (in beer it is often described as a wet paper or cardboard flavor, sometimes even a sherry flavor)? Are there any oxidized flavors that are desired in mead? Is there anything that has reducing power in mead (for example, vitamin C/ascorbic acid, dark malts in beer...)?

    I ask because some people recently moved several carboys of my mead up a flight of stairs without my supervision and this kind of thing always makes me worry. I am guessing they will be fine, but you know, they're my babies...

    So please, share with me your knowledge and experience with oxidization in mead and wine.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Elk Grove, CA


    Oh, you will hear chapter and verse on this one!

    Sure, as the mentors will attest, you certainly can oxidize mead, and it can be bad, but it's not as much a problem for mead as it is for beer.

    As for myself, I try to minimize contact with room air by not splashing after the 1/3 break just in case. I try to keep headspace as small as I can, and will flush it out with CO2 if it's too big. I use O2 absorbing caps when I use beer bottles. I do try not to oxidize.

    Some of us (waves to Medsen) do it on purpose.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    The Fusel Shack, in the swamp west of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida


    Welcome to GotMead? !!!

    Oxidation in mead varies considerably depending on the mead. Some melomels are quite prone to oxidation. Traditional meads seem to much less prone to oxidation than most beers or wines. I have kept open bottles of mead in the fridge for up to a month and still found them nice and drinkable. I've not yet had a beer or wine I could say that about.

    This is not to say that mead cannot be oxidized. Let me assure you that it is possible. When it occurs, it may create a sherry-like aroma with a nutty character. If you like sherry or Madeira wines, it could be desirable. If it becomes severe enough, there will be a flattening of aroma and the wet cardboard smell may develop along with loss of flavor. Oxidation also promotes development of acetic acid and leads to vinegar and nail polish remover odor.

    During fermentation, mead is protected from oxidation due to the production of CO2, its natural resistance to oxidation, and the reductive capacity of yeast/lees. After active fermentation is complete is when the big risk of oxidation develops, and mead should be kept in containers that are fully topped up or such that they are otherwise protected from air exposure.

    I am a firm believer in the use of sulfites to protect against oxidation as well, especially with my light fruit melomels. I use them in traditional meads as well. Ascorbic acid may be a useful adjunct, though I have rarely used it. Tannins and phenolic elements from such things as dark berries may provide strong protection against oxidation. With melomels, I am currently experimenting with the use of glutathione which also can help protect fruity aromas/flavors from oxidation - I'm not certain if it will extend the lives of these melomels or not. Time will tell.

    If a batch does get oxidized, fining with casein or powdered milk may help remove the oxidized character if it is not too severe. Charcoal fining is another option. In meadmaking, these options are almost never needed.

    With making mead the risk of oxidation is low during fermentation and the risk of incomplete fermentation is high if the yeast doesn't get enough oxygen to produce necessary sterols and lipids for the cell membrane. This is why we recommend aeration of the must during the early part of fermentation. It sounds like heresy to a brewer, I know, but it is necessity for a mazer.

    Good meading!
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  4. #4


    Like all things mead, much depends on the varietal honey. Some meads may oxidize, others are fairly resistant. Try this link for antioxidants in honey:

    If you cut an apple, the brown color that results from exposure to air is from polyphenol oxidase. Honey is not fruit based, so there is less potential for changes from exposure to oxygen.

    Still, it's best to take the same precautions as you would with wine. There's less cause to worry, but be careful nonetheless.

    Dan McFeeley

    "Meon an phobail a thogail trid an chultur"
    (The people's spirit is raised through culture)

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