Is Boiling necessary for Mead?

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jiffybrew

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I've read different mead recipes and some instruct you to boil the honey. Is this necessary? Isn't most store bought honey bacteria free? Or is it a pre-caution taken just in case?
 

Yooper

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If you boil honey, you can ruin the delicate flavor so I don't boil it. If you have honey that comes fresh with bits of beer parts and honeycomb in it, you may want to strain that out.
 

homebrewer_99

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You can boil the water first then remove it from the heat before adding any honey. Let it sit for 15 mins to pasteurize.

Any wings 'n things in the honey will fall out (eventually) so filtering/straining is not necessary unless it bothers you.

Some of my first meads I boiled for 1 hour. I used ginger and champagne yeast it fermented out really dry and there wasn't any residual honey flavor to be had anyway.

I don't boil anymore than 15 mins if I do boil it.
 

Moonpile

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There's a lot of conflicting and spurious information out there about mead.

Personally, I've chosen not to boil and recently sampled my first effort in over 10 years. Fantastic.
 

malkore

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also, mead making is very much a personal thing. there is as much variation in the mead making process among mazers, as there are variations in beer making, which is a more complex process.

there are a lot of right ways to make mead :)
 

GrantLee63

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There are a LOT of very experienced mead-makers over at gotmead.com and the vast majority of them do NOT boil their honey when making mead. With that being said, I've made 22 six gallon batches of various meads during the past 2 years and with the exception of the first 2 (whose procedure I followed in Papazian's book), none of them were boiled.

- GL63
 

MikeFlynn74

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I didnt boil mine and I used raw Fireweed honey. Came out beyond anyhting I could imagine
 

ilikebeer

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Just depends on how you perceive the risk of botulism. the risk is small, but botulism toxin is lethal. I believe you only need to heat to 170 degrees F (not quite boiling) for 15-20 mins to destory toxin (or at least substantially decreases the already low risk that there is botulism toxin in the honey).
 

MikeFlynn74

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botulism

in honey? I have never heard of any recorded case of botulisim poisioning from honey ever.

The only thing ive ever heard was Infants might be at risk and once the Alcohol is created woulndt that steralize the botulism?
 

ilikebeer

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MikeFlynn74 said:
botulism

in honey? I have never heard of any recorded case of botulisim poisioning from honey ever.

The only thing ive ever heard was Infants might be at risk and once the Alcohol is created woulndt that steralize the botulism?
It's kind of shaky. Classically, botulism is in honey. So when physicians and other health professionals are trained, this risk is some times exaggerated because better safe than sorry. Botulism is all over the place, esp soil. How common it is in honey? I would have to look it up. Probably REALLY low.

Infants are at a substantially increased risk because their digestive systems are not fully developed (simplified: acid and enzymes not strong enough to kill toxin or bacteria). Adults in normal health are at substantially lower risks (but that risk is not zero). Alcohol and the yeast growing may retard the botulism from growing. However, if the botulism bacteria were present in the honey beforehand, then there is a chance there may be botulism toxin (pure poison produced by bacteria) or botulism spores (dormant bacteria in a protective shell). The only thing that destroys these is heat. Really, boiling for 15-20 mins is only thign that would be a sure way of getting rid of these, but heating at high temps close to boiling will further increase the odds of destroying the toxins, spores, and bacteria.

I am new to mead (brewing first batch now)! Surely there are people who know tons of people who have never boiled and run into botulism. It must be very rare. As a health professional, I tend to see the worst stuff so frequently that it is easy for me to have a distorted perception of reality and thus overly paranoid. I had to weigh the low risk of contracting botulism with the high risk of death if I actually ingested it and my stomach did not detroy it.

But now... I am worried that heating my must to 160-170 for 15 mins ruined my mead! I guess only time will tell...
 

ilikebeer

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MikeFlynn74 said:
ilikebeer

So wouldnt you think that alc content of the mead kill the botulisim?
clostridium botulinum (bacteria) produce ---> spores and toxin
----------------------------------
The alcohol may retard the growth of the botulinum bacteria. The yeast growing in the mead may out-compete this bacteria causing them to perish. However, the botulinum bacteria crawling around in your stomach is not what typically makes adults sick. It is typically the botulism toxin that makes adults sick.

The botulism can form botulism spores (think of what supermans parents put him in as a baby when they shipped him to earth). These spores are like a protective coating around hibernating bacteria. The covering protects them from everything but intense heat, acid, enzymes, and a few other things. At any time, bacteria can "hatch" From the spore and start growing again. Thus spores would be unaffected by the alcohol. The spores could infect infants (and perhaps adults) by "hatching" in the stomach or intestines after ingestion. Babies (and very rarely adults) do not have sufficient hazardous conditions in their digestive tracts to kill the spores.

Botulism bacteria can also produce produce botulism toxin (poison). This would be similar to cyanide or arsenic. Alcohol won't make this poison not poisoness (just as arsenic would still be poisoness if it was mixed with alcohol). The botulinum bacteria can produce the toxin and/or spores the honey before you even start to make mead.

The risk that there is botulism is in the honey is real, but VERY small. The risk that the bacteria is in the honey and has produced spores or toxin, also VERY small... but none the less real. It thus becomes a personal decision... because without expensive sophisticated biochemical technique, you won't know if there is botulism (bacteria, toxin, or spores) on that honey not.

*The best recommendation would be to avoid feeding honey (and mead or other honey containing products) to infants less than 1 year old. Whether you apply this to yourself, is a personal decision because the risk is substantially less for adults.
 

Yooper

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Well, botulism is NOT killed by 170 degrees! That's why the USDA recommends NO low acid foods canned in a boiling water bath, but in a pressure cooker. Even 212 degrees doesn't kill all botulims spores- you have to get to 240 degrees to ensure that. So, unless you're boiling your honey in a pressure canner, botulism isn't destroyed anyway.
 

ilikebeer

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YooperBrew said:
Well, botulism is NOT killed by 170 degrees! That's why the USDA recommends NO low acid foods canned in a boiling water bath, but in a pressure cooker. Even 212 degrees doesn't kill all botulims spores- you have to get to 240 degrees to ensure that. So, unless you're boiling your honey in a pressure canner, botulism isn't destroyed anyway.
Those are the recommendations, but real life isn't cut in dry, which is why I was speaking in terms of probability (although I did mention that boiling was the only sure way). Heating to 170 degrees will indeed denature some percentage of spores and toxin, thus further decreasing the chance of ingestion. For example, the limits of 212 and 240 are the upper limits were 99.9% of botulism toxin and spores will be destroyed. At 170, the percentage may be around 40-70% destroyed- which could in fact decrease the dose of toxin you ingest. By heating to 170, rather than 240, you striking a balance between good tasting mead and safety (and also killing wild flora)..
 

flowerysong

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ilikebeer said:
The risk that the bacteria is in the honey and has produced spores or toxin, also VERY small... but none the less real.
Oh really? Please show one verified case of food-borne botulism resulting from the ingestion of honey. Note that this is distinct from infant botulism, which is caused by ingesting the spores and wouldn't be prevented (nor would the risk be notably reduced) by heating the honey to 170F.
 

flowerysong

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ilikebeer said:
Heating to 170 degrees will indeed denature some percentage of spores and toxin, thus further decreasing the chance of ingestion.
The toxin will be denatured, the spores (which are remarkably heat resistant) will not. The toxin won't be present in the first place, the spores will be. Do you see a problem with your reasoning here?
 

CBBaron

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Boiling or high temp pasteurization will destroy the botulin toxin and kill any botulism bacteria but will not sufficiently kill the spores. However the chance of botulism poisoning from mead is extremely unlikely.

First the poisoning is caused by the toxin that is produced by the bacteria during reproduction. The bacteria require a lack of oxygen and a moderate PH environment. Honey is too concentrated in sugar for any bacteria to grow so it will not have any toxin in it but it may contain spores.

The spores will survive boiling so this really has no effect on the safety of the mead.

Once the honey is mixed with water there should be a large amount of O2 in the must, especially if cool water is used. The botulism bacteria is anaerobic and so it cannot grow in the O2 rich must. Once the yeast start fermenting the must the pH is dropped below the functioning range of the bacteria (it may be too low even before fermentation).

The spores may survive all of this but they do do harm adults. The bacteria never get a chance to grow so no toxin is produced. So mead (and other alcoholic beverages) is safe for humans over the age of 1 to drink (with respect to botulism).

I won't be worrying about botulism from my mead.

Craig
 

ilikebeer

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CBBaron said:
The bacteria never get a chance to grow so no toxin is produced. So mead (and other alcoholic beverages) is safe for humans over the age of 1 to drink (with respect to botulism).

I won't be worrying about botulism from my mead.

Craig
The bacteria could have been growing in the honey in the hive or in the containers the bee keeper collected the honey. The toxin could have already been produced before you mix it into the mead. This is all in theory, of course. I won't be worrying about botulism either.
 

flowerysong

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ilikebeer said:
The bacteria could have been growing in the honey in the hive or in the containers the bee keeper collected the honey. The toxin could have already been produced before you mix it into the mead.
No, it couldn't. C. botulinum won't grow in honey. If you feel otherwise, feel free to provide documentation of a case where it has.
 

BoxMan

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I hate resurrecting an old thread like this, but why the hell would you give mead to an INFANT anyway?

Don't mind me, though, I'm just researching before I start my next batch (after a few minutes of cleaning up my kitchen).
 

SwampassJ

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I hate resurrecting an old thread like this, but why the hell would you give mead to an INFANT anyway?

Don't mind me, though, I'm just researching before I start my next batch (after a few minutes of cleaning up my kitchen).
Resurrects an old thread and misses the entire point of the argument in the thread.

 

Flumpy

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Children under the age of 2 shouldn't drink honey wine. Surgeon general sez so.
 
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