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Old 05-28-2010, 07:24 PM   #1
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Default Theoretical water source for mead

About a month ago, I became an apiarist. Now I'm contemplating what to do with all this honey that I'll be harvesting later in the summer and in the fall.

I was thinking about making a mead using only ingredients sourced in my garden, and water from some yet to be determined exotic mountain location within a hundred miles or so of my house.

From what I've read, clear water mountain streams tend to be relatively clean, provided they aren't near human activity (busy camp-sites, roads, mines...etc.). That being said, I still usually will treat water from any source in the wildnerness using my Miox water purifying device (chlorine) or by boiling.

Now, I suppose I could just make it easy and boil any wild-water additions that I would put into the must, which would kill any wild parasites or bugs in the water. But what I'm curious about is if instead of boiling, I could just mix in my honey+ingredients in the raw/untreated mountain water, then just pitch the yeast. Does the high ethanol environment of ~10-14% effectively kill any microorganisms that may have originally been in the water?

Just a theory....I'm bored as hell here at work today.

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Old 05-28-2010, 07:30 PM   #2
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Well, you'd be pretty much guaranteed that there would be bacteria and who knows what in the water. IF your yeast get a foothold first and out compete the wild bugs, I'd think it would be fine and the yeast would starve out most of the bugs and the alcohol would kill the rest. But that's a big if, in my book. The bacteria could also go to town on the sugars and take over before the yeast can. If you were using storebought honey, it might be a fun experiment, but if it were me and I were doing something special with my limited supply of home harvested honey... I'd boil the crap outta the water first.

Oh, and don't collect it downstream from a beaver dam.

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Old 05-28-2010, 10:09 PM   #3
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Well, you'd be pretty much guaranteed that there would be bacteria and who knows what in the water. IF your yeast get a foothold first and out compete the wild bugs, I'd think it would be fine and the yeast would starve out most of the bugs and the alcohol would kill the rest. But that's a big if, in my book. The bacteria could also go to town on the sugars and take over before the yeast can. If you were using storebought honey, it might be a fun experiment, but if it were me and I were doing something special with my limited supply of home harvested honey... I'd boil the crap outta the water first.

Oh, and don't collect it downstream from a beaver dam.
I'm talking about clear water from a moving stream. It is your belief that there will be enough bacteria and other wild bugs in that water (which is clear with low turbidity) to overwhelm and overpower a pack of mead yeast?

I'm not talking about finding a cesspool just downstream of the sewage treatment plant here , so I wonder how many sugar eating organisms might be present, and how many might survive the long-haul with billions of yeast (and eventually ethanol byproduct).
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Old 05-28-2010, 11:24 PM   #4
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Yes. I'm saying water from a stream, no matter how clean, will be teaming with microscopic life. NOT saying it will definitely overpower your yeast. I think it'd be great to try it and see how it turns out. Just saying that since the possibility is there, I wouldn't risk any special honey on the experiment.

That said... My big rule of homebrewing I often repeat is this: It's your brew and you can do whatever you want to do with it and if anyone doesn't like it they can go screw themselves! So, if you wanna do it, then go for it!

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Old 06-01-2010, 01:41 AM   #5
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In your shoes, I would collect the stream water and boil it before using.

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Old 06-28-2010, 06:49 PM   #6
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I would mix up the honey and water, and treat it with metabisulfite powder or campden tablets. Wait 24 hours for the SO2 to evolve out of solution, then pitch your yeast. If you shock it with 100ppm of SO2 (1/2 tsp of metabisulfite or 10 campden tabs to 5 gallons) you will eliminate anything in the honey or the water.... the must will be sterile.

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Old 06-28-2010, 06:50 PM   #7
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I would mix up the honey and water, and treat it with metabisulfite powder or campden tablets. Wait 24 hours for the SO2 to evolve out of solution, then pitch your yeast. If you shock it with 100ppm of SO2 (1/2 tsp of metabisulfite or 10 campden tabs to 5 gallons) you will eliminate anything in the honey or the water.... the must will be sterile.
does campden take care of e.coli or the critter that causes giardia?
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:36 PM   #8
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Any "clear water mountain stream" you find is almost certainly chock full of plants, bacteria, various fungi and probably some protozoans. Even snow at high elevation can harbor algae (eg. "watermelon snow"). Putting any of this into a brew without boiling or otherwise treating the water sounds pretty risky. It seems running it through a pump-style hiker filter would remove most of the nasties without changing the taste. You might consider that.

If I were attempting going 100% natural, as you suggest, I would head well above timberline to the highest spring I could find, and get the water coming straight out of rock. That will minimize the chance of contamination by animals and humans, and there will be little or no plant matter. I would brew with it as soon as I got home, in order to get my yeast started before whatever is in the water has a chance to take off. Check out summitpost.org for the high peaks in Utah (looks like that's where you live). There is usually information on water seeps on the summit approaches.

O yeah ... and you might want to recruit some generous (or gullible) friends to help you lug all that water back to the vehicle.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck on your project!

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Old 06-28-2010, 07:36 PM   #9
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Several years ago I made a guava melomel.

I had just gotten back from meeting my In-laws in Puerto Rico and came back with a bunch of fresh guavas. I lived in San Diego at the time so, the wife and I went for a long drive and I pulled the water for my mead from the Palomar Artesian Springs high up on Palomar Mountain.

Since the water source was already clean, I didn't worry about any sulfates and just let the yeasties do their thing.

I called it, "Mountain Guava"

For me, gathering the ingredients is half the fun of making my meads.

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