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Old 11-23-2012, 01:08 PM   #1
JuneHawk
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So, I got it in my head that I would make a small batch of mead. I have never made mead before but I have seen the process and enjoy the product. I do food history and part of the enjoyment for me is to make things in as close to period ways as I can and for mead, this means using no fancy equipment, etc. I also decided that I don't want to use yeast, at least not this first time. There are many period recipes for mead that do not include yeast so it has to be possible. Many of the recipes call for boiling the honey with the water, which I won't do, but otherwise indicate that it is entirely possible to make mead with only naturally occurring yeast. My question is, have you ever successfully made mead without adding yeast? If it matters, I'll be using raw local honey that I purchased directly from the beekeeper.

 
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Old 11-23-2012, 03:23 PM   #2
biochemedic
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There are some info sources out there on natural fermentation/wild yeast. A couple of issues ago in Brew Your Own magazine there was a feature article on wild fermentation, and some advice on how to do it at home...I think it was the September issue.

I think what you're thinking of doing is very interesting, but you certainly risk brewing a batch you'll end up dumping...

If I had any recommendations at all, I say to start with a fairly low gravity 1 gallon test batch. First of all, you may find that any wild yeast/bacteria don't have nearly as high an alcohol tolerance as brewer's yeast, and you risk less wastage with a 1 gal batch. Also, if you do end up getting something good, you can use the lees from that primary to brew a bigger batch...it will essentially be a nice big yeast starter.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:17 PM   #3
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I read the following site a while back and it gets into some of the history of wild yeasts and how to capture, culture & maintain the yeast culture. It talks about using Flower sugar and possibly a tsp of honey to make a starter along with the propper wild agent to inoculate with some yeast. I would bet if you had some boild teril water with honey you could sdo the same. Maybe like 2 cups of water and 3 tbs of honey. Not sure where in the world you are but this artical may give you some insight as to where you can find some proper wild yeast.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-...z80sozraw.aspx
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Old 11-23-2012, 05:14 PM   #4
JuneHawk
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Thank you both! I am in South Florida. I have three pounds of wildflower honey from a local farmer who keeps bees and sells honey, as well as pollen, to her CSA customers. It is my intention to start with a 1 gallon batch for that same reason, if it goes awry then it's not too much wasted.

 
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Old 11-23-2012, 06:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JuneHawk View Post
I am in South Florida.
I wish you the best of luck. South Florida is a microbe heaven! You are going to have one heck of a time picking up yeast without picking up something else as well. I still think its awesome to try though.
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Old 11-23-2012, 07:19 PM   #6
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Honey is naturally anti-septic so no yeast could live in it. I imagine the wild yeast was introduced through other ingredients, such as fruit or something.

 
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Old 11-23-2012, 08:24 PM   #7
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I'd say try harvesting a yeast from grape or apple skin. These fruits have historically been fermented using naturally occuring yeast. I would think that they would be a good source for brewing yeast. try to get some fruit from the vine/tree if you can, that way you are more likely to be getting just the yeast and no other microbs (there is still a chance, but less of one).

Good luck!

 
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:24 PM   #8
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I don't see any reason he couldn't get it to ferment with wild airborne yeast, the only catch is going to be what it tastes like. This is the same process brewers use to make lambic beers. They just expose the wort(in this case must) to air overnight, and let the wild yeasties do their thing. Typically lambics are somewhat sour, so I would "guess" the same thing would happen to your mead.

The reason you probably don't see yeast listed in really old recipes is because they probably had no idea what yeast was. The yeast was getting in there(from air, fruit, etc...), they just didn't know it. All they knew was they mixed the stuff together, and in a few weeks it would make them feel funny when they drank it

Really only one way to find out.....please report back with your findings

 
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Old 11-24-2012, 07:32 PM   #9
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Really old recipes won't mention yeast because yeast wasn't identified as the organism responsible for fermentation until Louise Pasteur, I think. This does not mean that they spontaneously fermented, or that you'll get the same results. Brewers of old were a superstitious bunch, since it wasn't immediately obvious to them why some batches were great and some sucked. Certain equipment or areas would get inoculated with decent wild yeast, and the brewer just learned that once it was working, don't change out the vats, mash paddles, etc, or else the next batch might be "off".

Your intention is noble, but be aware that there's a good chance you'll pick up a nasty organism and get funky flavors you don't want. After all, those old recipes don't promise that every batch wold be great, do they?
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Old 11-24-2012, 09:11 PM   #10
JuneHawk
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No, most recipes in this book (written in 1669) do call for various types of yeast. I made a small batch, half with added yeast, half without. Let's see how it goes.

 
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