This is a question that tears at the meadmaking community, it separates, polarizes, indoctrinates, and just generally sparks a nice (or not) debate: do I boil my must? The general reason to boil would be sanitization, but the opponents will cite loss of aromatics as too high a price (especially when honey can be diluted and fermented without fear in most cases); but are there other benefits to be gathered from either method? We shall see.
Four different honeys where used to make a must considered to be average in flavor and aroma:
1. Winter wildflower from Miami (Lip Smakin' Good Honey): mostly avocado and lychee, maybe some citrus, but not much. 2012
2. Summer wildflower from broward and miami coast (Lip Smakin' Good Honey): late season black mangrove, seagrape, dogwood, and dune grasses. 2013
3. Wildflower blended from most of south florida (Bee Natural): citrus notes and general floral character, not too rich or thin. ????
4. Brazilian Pepper from broward and palm beach (Webb's Honey): brazilian pepper honey from 2013 and 2012.
These were mixed at about 4lbs No. 3, 2lbs No. 1, 2lbs No. 2, 1lb No. 4, to make a must of 1.1060 (volume was irrelevant as you will see).
Instruments used and their tolerances:
1. Hydrometer 1.1300-1.0600 ± 0.0005
2. Hydrometer 1.0700-1.0000 ± 0.0005
3. Hydrometer 1.020-0.980 ± 0.001
4. pH Meter MW102 14.00-1.00 ± 0.02
5. Thermometer 150C-0C ± 0.1C
6. Scale 500.00g-0.00g ± 0.02g
7. Scale 11.000kg-0.000kg ± 0.005kg
A must of 1.1060 was created as noted above, 5L was separated and left in a sanitized fermentation bucket. The remaining must (>5L) was placed into a kettle and brought to boil, then held at a boil for exactly 15min, with skimming at boil, 10min and 5min, and stirring at boil, 12min, 9min, 6min and 3min. The ramp time to boil was 15min, SG after boil was 1.1225 (showing that the boil was quite vigorous), and the must was cooled from boil (101C) to 44C in 1.25hrs (using passive cooling means). Once the boiled must reached 20C, it was adjusted with distilled water to SG 1.1060.
Booster blanc at a rate of 0.25g/L, tannin FT blanc soft at a rate of 0.05g/L and potassium carbonate at 0.25g/L were added to both fermenters. Yeast (D21) was rehydrated with go-ferm protect for 15min, then 34.1g of this solution were added to each fermenter, resulting in a pitching rate near 5*106 CFU/mL. These processes ensure that the only difference between the two musts is the reactions of boiling, and skimming, on the one.
Both will be given 1g/L fermaid K at the end of lag (SG ~1.106) and another 1g/L at the 1/3 sugar break (SG 1.072) resulting in a YAN level of 200ppm. Both will be kept in a fermentation chamber with ambient set to 20C ± 1C.
Five minutes after pitching, SG, pH and temp were observed:
Pitched 8 February, 2014 at 20:00
Boil: SG 1.1080 ± 0.0005, pH 5.33 ± 0.02, 22C ± 0.1C
No Boil: SG 1.1080 ± 0.0005, pH 5.60 ± 0.02, 22C ± 0.1C
The increase in gravity is due to additives and the yeast themselves. Note the lower pH of the boiled must, skimming most likely removes some of the ash that is in the honey resulting in less buffering and less alkali material in the must. Another note was that the boiled must was far clearer than the obviously opaque no boil must.