My Mead Failure.

As I already said, about 20 years ago, I was into making home brews. If it had sugar in it, I would often add yeast to ferment. My successes, as I said, were rather hit and miss.

Anyways, I had this really old manuscript of old recipes. And it had many recipes for Mead in it.

You can really get as fancy as you like with Mead, or not fancy at all. The honey-water base you start with is called hydromel. And you can add spices and other stuff to it. Or you can just leave it alone.

Anyways, one old recipe I had called for making Mead without any yeast. I followed the original recipe as closely as I could. It said then stop it up in a stone vessel and bottle it when it stops hissing.

I didn’t have a stone vessel naturally. So I just put it in a bottle in my hot attic, and left it to ferment. Not much happened at first. So I gave it a little more time. Still nothing. Then it got moldy, and I had to toss it away.

Where did I go wrong? I often hear people tell you need to put sulfides in the mixture. What on earth are sulfides? Where do you get them? And would this have made any difference?

Thank you in advance to all who reply:).


If the recipe calls for no yeast, is the hope that some ambient yeast find their way in before the vessel is stopped?

Lots of old recipies called for no yeast. It was mainly due to the fact that many of the people making booze missed a lot of pasteur’s work and didn’t believe yeast existed. Generally, they lived in areas where the native yeast were perfect for making their preferred type of booze and the recipies would sometimes have steps that would move yeast from a previous bath into the new one to kick off the fermentation. In both cases their recipies work quite well as long as you use them in the area where they were developed.

Once you move the old fermentation recipies their flavors change rapidly and it similar to trying to make sourdough in florida. When I was a kid, my mom, who grew up in the bay area had a method for making sourdough starter that basically was mixing water and flour and letting it sit on the counter. While she could get a starter going her bread never tasted as good as my grandmother’s.

People now mostly prefer to ferment where they live rather than moving to the places with the best water, native yeast, and local fermentable of the best quality for their booze and so you have to modify recipies and bring in the yeast you need, treat your local water and buy honey from wherever. It gives us a ton of flexibility and the old recipies can be very instructive but still need to be modified for the world we live in today.

Pepper Mill, who has made mead (although not without yeast) says that you NEVER put it in a hot place. You put it in a cool place. We’re pretty much agreed that your recipe assumes that you’ll catch some adventitious yeast from apple skins or from the air or something.

Yeah, the problem with old recipes is that they most likely suck. :smiley:

Mead is very simple, but you made some basic mistakes as noted by others. Always pitch a goodly amount of active yeast, keep out of light, and let it ferment for longer than you think in a cool place. I’ve won numerous awards for my meads, but not until they’ve aged a few years.

Did they have a layered aroma, a tinge of sour cream, and a fantastic after-essence?

Only if I’ve filtered them through my sweat socks before bottling. :smiley:

The single best mead I’ve ever tasted was a friend’s Sherry Raisin mead. The bottle he gave me was 19 years old when I drank it. Stunning liquid.

Did you use raw honey?

Yes, but I brought it to a boil for a few minutes to make sure I at least stunned any wild yeasts present. Controlled yeasts means controlled flavors. Just because my ancestors had to put up with off flavored plonk to get a buzz doesn’t mean I have to.

Honey is naturally resistant to fermentation, so I am not surprised your experiment didn’t work out. You definitely need to pitch yeast, and when making mead I’ve also always added yeast nutrient as well. I’ve always let mead ferment at room temperature.

That resistance to fermentation can also be aggravated by using a honey that’s too wet–if it pours easily, it’s probably a good idea to cut down the amount of water in the initial solution. I like using a honey that has to be pried out of the bucket due to crystallization, that’s always given me the best results. If I were trying to go with a wild yeast (which I’d be highly unlikely to do because wild yeasts can give some really off flavors in a mead) I’d let the wort sit after the simmering and skimming and let it get to room temperature with no lid on–that’s going to give it the best chance of cotching a helpful yeast. And as has already been pointed out, heat is not your friend during fermenation. Use a proper fermentation lock to keep fusty smelling things from getting in, put the vessel in a cool place and if necessary wrap it in a blanket if you can’t control the amount of light it gets–which should be, basically, none.

Back when I used to brew, I used champagne yeast for Cyser (apple mead). Light, tickle-your-nose, and happy tasting. Although WY Yeast is also good, I preferred the champagne yeast for Cyser.

My dad was a beekeeper and won national awards for his Sourwood honey. Never used anything better.

These days Wyeast offers several strains specific to mead: 4184 (sweet) and 4632 (dry). I usually would pitch a combo of an ale yeast and champagne yeast. One to get things going and develop some flavors, the other to ferment out long and slow to get maximum alcohol. Seems to have worked pretty well.

I might as well hijack this while there’s successful mead makers around; what sort of honey/water ratio do you use? I have some very crystallised honey knocking around from last year’s harvest, I was thinking of making some mead.

I’ve done a few country wines, but never mead.

My standard was about 20lbs honey to a five gallon carboy. I’d put the honey into a big stock pot, add enough water to dissolve it and bring it to a boil (carefully, because if that shit boils over you’re gonna be hating life as you clean your stove and floor!) then simmer it, skimming all the froth and gunk off until it simmers clear, then let it cool enough to put into the carboy and top it off with spring water so it’s at room temp, then add the yeast activated in a bit of warm water.

20 lbs? That stuff has to be syrup!

My standard ratio was somewhere between 7.5 and 10 lbs. of honey for a 3 gallon batch. 7.5 gives you a light, summer quaff while 10 gives you a winter warmer.

Not after I got done fermenting it, it wasn’t!

I only made mead with sourwood honey once, because it was really expensive. It was some of the best mead I ever made, though.

I like champagne yeast too, though the mead I made with it came out really dry. I ended up using Montrachet yeast mostly.

Good to hear that Wyeast has mead-specific yeasts now; it’s been ages since I’ve made a batch. I should give it a go again, though now we have a lot more commercial availability than we had back in the day when I started making mead.

those old recipes rely on there being enough airborne yeasts of the proper species getting into the mix. Which was probably the case in the areas of the world where the beverages were invented/discovered. In your case, those natural airborne yeasts either weren’t present or mold fungi got in there first.

The star thistle is one of the most evil and useless plants ever evolved on the planet, but if you can manage to find honey made from it, grab it at any price. I used star thistle honey and fresh squeezed pomegranate juice to make an absolutely ambrosial melomel once upon a time. I’d love to recreate it some day but I’m much too far away from a zone where they grow to be able to afford the raw ingredients–pomegranates are expensive AF in the PNW.