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Mead IX – the first completely raw mead

June 13, 2011

Up until Mead IX all of my meads have been heated to boiling, and then held their for varying amounts of time.  The logic behind boiling the honey is simple – honey is a natural product and thus may contain wild yeasts or bacteria.  Boiling the honey thus eliminates these organisms.  However boiling has the downside of removing a great deal of the aromatics of the honey.  To mitigate this loss I reduced boiling times progressively from ~15 minutes (my first batch) to 2 minutes (my later batches).  Even at this extremely short time period however the honey is losing its floral character and natural enzymes.

So, what is one to do?

In order to ascertain what should be done, one must first know the risks.

A common misconception about bacteria is that all or even most bacteria make you sick.  However, the vast majority of bacteria don’t particularly care for human and would much rather spoil what you want to eat without making it unsafe (merely unpalatable).  Fermenting liquids, for example, just don’t harbor the right kinds of bacteria that make you sick.  So the real risk is not that the consumer would get sick, but that the yeast that I’m introducing into the must (Unfermented honey/water mixture) would not be able to compete.  This could lead to off flavors, or if a wild yeast is a rampant producer of carbon dioxide, the bottles may have an annoying tendency to explode.

So the good news is that other than not enjoying the beverage because it has some odd flavors(or because you’re now wearing the overly carbonated mead on your shirt) the risks are minimal.  Not only that, but the yeast that are being introduced into the mead are hardy, robust creatures that have been selectively bred to be very efficient at creating alcohol and living in conditions that would kill just about all other bacteria and yeast.  By observing some simple rules of hygiene, its easy to have a happy healthy mead.

With this knowledge and my trusty bottle of commercial grade acid based cleaner I set out to make a mead that has never had its honey exceed Atlanta summer temperatures.  The mead is left unflavored, so that if the no heat method results in a more complex flavor the subtle additions won’t go unnoticed.  Alcohol content is likely going to be around 7 or 8%, low enough that the flavor of the alcohol won’t stand out, but high enough to allow the mead to develop a more robust character.

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