Make Mead: Boil the Honey or Not?
As a mead maker one question that will inevitably come up and be discussed and debated is whether you should boil the honey you use in making your mead or whether not to boil it, or even if it should be heated or not.
Those in the boil camp recommend starting off your must (the pre-fermentation mix of honey, water, and any other spices, fruit, etc,) by bringing your honey and water mix to a boil and then skimming any residues that come to the top out of the must. The pros of this approach are said to be a clearer end product with less treatment, while a major con is that this can destroy the honey aroma which is a key part of enjoying a mead.
Some favor a more moderate heating approach, only heating the must, usually to about 150 degrees (F) and maintaining it for 5-10 minutes, followed by a quick cooling process. Those in favor of this approach argue that this preserves more of the honey aroma.
The other approach is not to boil at all. The proponents of this approach will state that proper sterilization of the equipment and must allow the must not to be boiled or heated and thus maintain maximum honey aroma in the finished mead. Any possible clarification issues can be dealt with prior to the bottling stage. It is worth noting that this approach also doesn’t require you to handle boiling liquids in ranges from 1 to 5 gallons in the usual batch sizes.
All three of these methods have been used successfully by many to make good meads. The mead maker can experiment on his own to determine which approach works best for their meads. This can be a worthwhile part of the mead making journey to experiment with and use as a learning experience.