Sulfites in mead

molecular structure of yeast

Sulfite: the goal is to neutralize wild yeasts in your mead must, so that they don’t give you awful off-flavors.  Brewing yeasts are carefully engineered for the way they process the honey and nutrients in your must, which is how you can get lovely citrusy overtones or floral aromas just from fermentation.  Other possible methods to neutralizing unintended yeast fermentation range from sterile filtration to heating your must (see related post).  In brewing, potassium metabisulfite (potassium pyrosulfite or K2S2O5 ) is I think preferable to sodium metabisulfite, as the latter adds sodium to your brew.  The two are chemically very similar, and both are chemical sterilants that kill microorgansms.

There are many people who claim to have unpleasant reactions to sulfites in beverages, so please clearly label anything you sulfite.  Given that we measure sulfites in parts per million, it seems unlikely that it could be present in sufficient quantity for anyone’s biochemistry to take note, and some brewers will try to blame tannins instead.  However, until we can prove exactly what causes the unpleasant reactions (and some are very unpleasant indeed), I’m not willing to take chances.  I do sulfite my wines, though not my meads, and I make sure anyone drinking it is aware that I have.

To use sulfites, dilute your honey in warm water to dissolve it. Once dissolved, add the rest of your water, then the potassium sulfite to around 65 to 70 parts per million (ppm).

Advantages: The must is sterilized. The must will retain all of the delicate flavors and aromas contained in the honey. No change in color to the honey.
Disadvantages: Possible protein haze in your finished must, requiring extended aging in bulk or the use of a fining buy xanax with no prescription agent to remove the haze and clarify the mead.

Sulfite comes in several easy-to-use forms for homebrewers and winemakers. One of the most common forms is the classic Campden tablet. The tablets are crushed and then added to the must. Each tablet contains 0.44 grams of sodium metabisulfite and adding one crushed tablet per gallon of must is just about right (the amount of sodium metabisulfite in tablets can vary; check the label and adjust the amount if you need to.) Since these tablets contain sodium, I would err on the side of caution when using them, since you can end up with a salty flavor in your mead. The easier and much better product to use (I think) is potassium metabisulfite, which comes in powder form and is ready to measure out and use. Here is a quick guide that tells you how much potassium metabisulfite to add to various batch sizes of mead.

Sulfite Additions
(potassium metabisulfite)

Amount of must 1 gallon
Amount of sulfite 0.33 gram or 0.05 tsp
Result 50 ppm

Amount of must 1 gallon
Amount of sulfite 0.46 gram or 0.07 tsp
Result 70 ppm

Amount of must 5 gallons
Amount of sulfite 1.64 gram or 0.26 tsp
Result 50 ppm

Amount of must 5 gallons
Amount of sulfite 2.3 gram or 0.37 tsp
Result 70 ppm

The advantage here is that you don’t have to damage the honey with heat pasteurization.  One possible downside is leaving a protein haze, which the heating method usually clears, though it tends to damage honey color, aroma and flavor.  If you don’t mind using more additives, common fining agents such as isinglass or bentonite generally clear the protein haze from your mead within a week.

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