[Sca-cooks] Killing the yeast in Mead before bottling

Stefan li Rous StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
Sun Nov 25 15:10:03 PST 2007

Kotek asked:

<<< I bought a book on basic brewing, and almost all their  
suggestions for Mead
is roughly; "Boil up honey and water, add yeast, leave for a week or  
then add a campden (sulphur dioxide) tablet to stop fermentation,  
bottle and
store for 6+ months before drinking"

I've never elsewhere read anything suggesting the sterilization of  
the brew
before bottling - I presume this is to keep it sweet and not bubbly (or
explosive). Is this common, and does the tablet affect the flavor at  
all? >>>

Killing the yeasts before bottling does come up in a number of mead  
discussions. However, I doubt it was done in period, since their  
bottling technology until very late in our period, and this includes  
for wine as well, didn't allow for long time storage while keeping  
the beverage from going bad. Since using campden tAblets is far from  
a period technique, I've never used them myself.

The reasons to kill off the yeasts are to maintain a bubbly bottle  
without the concern that letting the fermentation continue will end  
up blowing up your bottle (which can be quite, ah, interesting  
especially if you have several pressurized bottles stored next to one  
another) or to keep a sweet mead which fermentation would turn into a  
drier mead. I've tended to get around the latter by waiting until the  
fermentation has died down and then adding some more honey or for the  
former, on luck. I've never had a bottle explode. I do tend to let my  
meads ferment longer in the carboy, with an air lock than many people  
do. That "week or two" seems awfully quick. I would leave my meads in  
the primary fermenter for a month or two at least. Definitely use a  
primary fermenter/carboy with a fermentation lock. If you forget and  
simply cap the primary fermenter, you *will* get an explosion. Sticky  
honey-water everywhere is *not* nice. This is one reason I gave up  
mead making when my wife moved in and I lost access to the one area  
in the house which had tile floor instead of carpet. However, with  
the new house having some larger areas of non-carpet...

One method that I've heard of, but haven't tried, is to heat up the  
sealed bottle in a water bath, basically pasteurizing it. But I  
suspect that the chance of having the bottle shatter while doing that  
would be quite high.

The yeasts will tend to naturally die off from either of two reasons.  
They die because they starve. ie: they run out of sugars. This  
creates a dry mead. or secondly, they die of alcohol poisoning. This  
gives you a high alcohol mead and depending upon how much sugars/ 
honey is left, either a dry or sweet mead.

Yes, the longer you can age a mead, generally the better it will be.  
I would recommend at least a year. I have left a bottle or two for  
over five years, but that was more because the bottle got hidden and  
I forgot about it.

For more on brewing mead and mead in period, see these files in the  
BEVERAGES section of the Florilegium:
Mead-Mkng-Tps-art  (9K)  6/23/05    "Mead Making Tips" by Byron Whited.
mead-msg         (170K)  7/ 5/04    Making mead. Honey based  
alcoholic beverage.
meadery-list-msg  (26K)  4/ 4/02    Lists and reviews of commercial  

THLord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad    Kingdom of Ansteorra
    Mark S. Harris           Austin, Texas           
StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
**** See Stefan's Florilegium files at:  http://www.florilegium.org ****

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