All-hive mead

All-hive mead needs all the cappings after harvesting the honey and some old combs with plenty of pollen too.

Brewing like many old-fashioned activities demands mindfulness, patience and time. In many ways it is closely allied to baking your own bread. Taking copious notes of the ingredients and details of how they were used is imperative. Temperature, pH and specific gravity are all important factors.

These are my first ramblings, so you follow the difficulties I will be having.

The huge advantage of this all-hive mead is that all the nutrients for the yeast are supplied by the natural, lightly-filtered honey and pollen without having to add various chemicals, and the rich flavour is unique.

At the Royal Show in South Africa this last weekend, an all-hive mead was awarded the top bottle prize.

I follow the same principles when making my braggart, a honey beer, but that has a much lower alcohol-content; around 6%.

All-hive mead using honeycomb cappings.
  • A large carboy; this one holds 23 litres. You could also use a bucket.
  • One or more smaller demijohns that will hold at least two-thirds; in my case I settled for ten and five-litre glass containers.
  • An auto-syphon.
  • Various bungs for a tight fit.
  • A bubbler.
  • A hydrometer
  • Thermometer
  • 10 ml pipette
  • Two five-litre containers of cappings.
  • Two old brood-combs.
  • Extra honey.
  • A small piece of comb with fresh pollen.
  • Unchlorinated water to 2/3 fill the carboy.
  • Packet of white-yeast.
  • Or Anchor bread-yeast.
  1. Weigh the two five-litre containers of wax cappings, and multiply the figure in kilogrammes by 0.38 to get the approximate mass of honey (about 5kg). Place them in the carboy.
  2. Break up two old brood-combs into smallish pieces and add them to the carboy or bucket.
  3. Half-fill the carboy with rainwater heated in a kettle to 40*C, stir vigorously breaking up the pieces and using the hydrometer, measure the specific gravity; it will be around 1.12.
  4. Add more liquid honey whilst continuing to stir; get the SG up to 1.15.
  5. 12 hours later again check the SG is still around 1.15, note it, measure the temperature and add hot water, getting the temperature back to 40*C.
  6. Do not more than 2/3 fill the carboy. If you do, this is likely to happen.
An overfilled all-hive mead carboy.

7. Add 1 tsp of yeast to 50ml of cold water in a mug; allow to hydrate.

8. Half an hour later, draw off roughly 25ml of the warm carboy liquid and add it to the yeast mixed with cold water. Stir for a few minutes, and then pour it back into the glass container.

9. Fit the air-lock and allow to ferment for about 2-3 weeks depending on the ambient temperature; until bubbling ceases; sometimes it may continue for much longer.

10. Test and note the SG and pH.

11. Using the auto-syphon rack the liquid off into the demijohns.

12. Bottle after three-months.

Days 1 & 2: 13 December, 2021.

Dissolved 8kg of cappings in half a bucket of warm water at 40*. Broke two old broodcombs into the mixture.

I left the mixture overnight for the wild fermentation to start. Stirred vigorously with a long handled plastic spoon and got the temperature back to 40*, filling the bucket to about two-thirds full.

Measured the specific gravity with a hydrometer; it was difficult due to the thick nature of the wort, but appeared to be about 1.050.

Added a 10g packet of Anchor bread yeast to a few tablespoons of water, waited half an hour for the fermentation to begin, and then added a little of the warm wort; stirred vigorously and poured the mixture into bucket.

Sealed the bucket and fixed the bubbler, with a few millilitres of vodka, in place with a little Prestic. Now we wait for fermentation to start.

24 January, 2022

After six weeks the mead continues to bubble steadily every two minutes or so.

My auto-syphon has arrived and I will soon be testing the SG more accurately.

The page is under construction; I'll be sharing difficulties and joys as I go along. I have realised there are contradictions concerning the specific gravity. Now the wine-thief has arrived I will be able to get much more accurate readings.

All-hive mead ready for bottling.

This is what Eddy Lear's all-hive mead looks like.

9th February, 2022

It's now 10 weeks since I started my all hive mead at the beginning of December. Fermentation has stopped and I used the auto-syphon to do the first rack. It looks like dirty, muddy water but has the kick of a mule!

SG = 1.060 and alcohol by volume 8%.


So the range you want is 3.5 to 4.5. 

Add 1.25ml of bicarb or tartaric acid per 0.5 adjustment on 5 litres. After mixing in recheck pH. I usually do my levels before fermentation, but have needed to do it at racking some times. Saligna honey tends towards alkaline. So I always add 5ml of Tartaric acid, or lemon juice, if I use it.

If your pH is 3 add 1.25ml Bicarb. If it is 5 then add 1.25 ml Tartaric acid; both in powder form. Stir without adding air into the mix; it may start an oxidisation process, which might end up with a vinegar.

2nd May

Today I did the second rack and tested the pH. The colour on the test strip doesn't clearly match the given colours on the card.

My pH appeared to be about 1.5 so tentatively added 1/2 tsp bicarb powder when doing the second rack. It foamed quite badly and overflowed; next time I will add it more slowly.

5th June

Bottled the all-hive mead using the auto-syphen. It's very good but clearly needs to mature.


The wax cappings took up too much room so I could not add enough water to the carboy.

In future I will mush the cappings up in a bucket of water using a potato-masher, strain and pour the gleanings into the carboy. The wax will go to the solar extractor.

If you feel tempted to brew your own, this is the basic mead equipment you will need.

Honeybees making new comb.

This photo is in appreciation of the remarkable work of photographer Ingo Arndt[1].

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All hive mead

Now you know why all-hive mead can only be brewed by a beekeeper.

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