An all-hive mead uses the cappings after harvesting the honey and some old combs with plenty of pollen too; nutrients for the yeast.
Brewing like most 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 can follow the difficulties I had.
The huge advantage of this all-hive mead is that the nutrients for the yeast are supplied by the natural, lightly-filtered honey and pollen without having to add various chemicals; 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%.
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 liquid and add it to the yeast mixed with cold water. Stir for a few minutes; and then pour it back into the carboy.
9. Fit the air-lock and allow to ferment for about 2 to 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 if it has cleared; otherwise rack again.
Dissolve 8kg of cappings in half a bucket of warm water at 40oC. Break two old broodcombs into the mixture.
Leave the mixture overnight for the wild fermentation to start. Stir vigorously with a long handled plastic spoon and get the temperature back to 40oC, filling the bucket or carboy to about two-thirds full.
I measured the specific gravity with a hydrometer; it may be difficult due to the thick nature of the wort but appeared to be about 1.050.
Used a 10g packet of Anchor bread yeast with a few tablespoons of warm water, waited half an hour for the fermentation to begin and then added a little of the wort; stirred vigorously and poured the mixture into bucket.
Sealed the bucket and fixed the air-lock, with a few millilitres of vodka, in place with a little Prestic. Now we wait for fermentation to start.
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.
I'll be sharing difficulties and joys as I go along. For example I have realised there are contradictions concerning the specific gravity. Now that the wine-thief has arrived I will be able to get much more accurate readings.
This is what Eddy Lear's all-hive mead looks like.
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 in small tranches. After mixing in recheck pH. I usually do my measurements before fermentation but have also needed to do it at racking some times.
So I always add 5ml of lemon juice, if it's alkaline.
If your pH is 3 add 1.25ml Bicarb. If it is 5 then use 1.25 ml Tartaric acid; both in powder form. Stir without adding air into the mix; it may start an oxidisation process; you might end up with a vinegar.
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.
Bottled the all-hive mead using the auto-syphen. It's very good but clearly needs to mature.
You can see from the photo of the first glass at the top of the page that I bottled before the all-hive mead had cleared.
There's a little dilemma to be considered. If you want your mead to act as a probiotic you need live yeast cells; it will not have cleared. Your mead will be a bit murky as above.
If you want a beautifully clear all-hive mead to impress your friends then you have to wait longer before bottling; it will in all probability also taste more 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.
An allied field is that your all hive mead will contribute to re-establishing the intestinal microbes in your gut; a subject of great complexity and importance. Equally complex is why even one glass of commercial alcohol per week increases the prevalence of malignant breast tumours; yet folk in four of the five Blue Zones drink natural local wines every day.
This photo is in appreciation of the remarkable work of photographer Ingo Arndt.
All are agreed that alcohol make a good servant but a very bad master.
However the research on how much alcohol is beneficial and when it starts to do damage is very contradictory.
Recent reports from the University of Saskatchewan state that even three standard drinks per week will increase the rate of malignant tumours, especially of the breast and colon.
The difficulty appears to stem from the fact that they did not take other lifestyle factors into account, nor considered natural, unpasteurised drinks such as all-hive mead; admittedly very few people would be consuming them.
The fact remains that people residing in the Blue Zones drink far more than these recommendations yet live into vigorous old age.
It is highly likely that the vast majority of drinkers also have a generally poor overall lifestyle.
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Now you know why all-hive mead can only be brewed by a beekeeper.
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