Easy Mead making

Quick recipe – 1 gallon of mead

Ingredients

  • 3lb honey
  • juice of 1 lemon (citric acid)
  • 1 cup of black tea (tanin)
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • Yeast (wine yeast, not bread yeast)
  • Water
  • campden tablets (available online or at any wine making / brewing shop / wilkinsons)

WARNING – clean your equipment well before it touches anything that is going to sit for weeks, or you will end up with something that is NOT drinkable

While brewing this I ALWAYS use sterilised equipment, we are growing a yeast in ‘ideal conditions’ which means anything that gets in there will grow nicely too. Pay attention to anything that touches the mix, spoons, siphons, funnels, etc. A quick rinse under the tap or dropping equipment on the floor then using it it not ok – the “5 second rule” does NOT apply here – dipping a finger in to “try a bit” can have consequences.

Equipment

You will need :

  • 2 x 1 gallon demijohn – a glass (or plastic) vessel that can be sealed
  • a bung / stopped with an airlock
  • a siphon tube / funnel /
  • sterilising fluid / powder

Method

My method would be

  1. stick it all in a 1gallon demijohn without the yeast, adding 1 crushed campden tablet – this will kill off anything (yeast/mold) that might be in the ingredients that would grow when you don’t want it to.
  2. Put the bung and airlock on – agitate after 1 day to make sure the campden tablet has distributed well
  3. Leave for 48hrs – allowing the capden tablet to take effect, and that effect to wear off
  4. add the yeast and stir / shake well.
    • the 48hrs following this will feature significant fermentation, so be aware of flying bungs. Store in a warm place, not over 25°C, not under 18°C – airing cupboards are good – too hot kills the yeast, too cold makes fermentation slow
  5. Agitate every 7 days, trying distribute the sediment around – you should see bubbles rising in the airlock – this is the product of fermentation (CO2).
  6. If you are storing in a warm place for long periods it may need topping up with boiled water (boiled to prevent contamination).
  7. The airlock will also likely need topping up – do not let it run dry.
  8. After 4 weeks* decant / siphon (‘rack’ is the technical term) into a new demijohn to separate from the sediment.
    • * this should be 4 days after there are no more bubbles seen in the airlock
    • It can be moved from the warm location as fermentation should no longer be happening
    • Fermentation can be ‘stopped’ by adding a campden tablet, shorter fermentation will mean a dry / stronger mead, shorter will mean a sweeter mead (subject to yeast used)
  9. Decant again 7 days later after sediment has formed again
  10. 7 days later, it can be bottled and drunk – but it will improve if stored in a cool place

Supercedure and too many supers

For the first time I have 2 queens running side by side in one of my hives. I was looking through my hive the other day and saw the queen and was quite happy that she was doing well, this year’s blue queen, born about the end of May. Then I turned over the frame and randomly spotted another queen, in lay, by the size of her, and unmarked. Now I have enough fun finding queens at the best of times, so I have no idea how I spotted her and I don’t know what they are playing at superseding so soon, especially as the first is laying quite nicely. Well I am sure they know what they are about…

In other news, I have found k-wing in 2 hives and as such have started treating for varroa, as it happens I also found a bit of deformed wing on the other 2 hives on that site. I have swapped to apiguard this year from my usual api life var, just cos I had it to be honest. A few weeks ago I went round and cleared off what I had assumed would be the last of this year’s honey; the borage was cut and everything was slowing. Or so I thought. I went round and took off another 4 supers in total. Due to a backlog I now have 17 waiting for me to extract – I had to climb a step ladder to get the top ones on the stack – sigh… I appreciate for many this may be a welcome problem, too much honey, but it takes a long time to decapitate (sic) & spin. And its a sticky job. And then you have to put the supers on a hive to pull the remains of the honey out (As such I have left a couple of hives without treatment for now). And filter the honey into buckets. And this is all before jarring, labeling, selling, etc.

Oh and for those who think “oh that’s a good amount of honey”, it all comes at a price. I’m looking down a £350 sales shopping list at Thorne’s sale this weekend and at some point I want to get a motor on this extractor so another £350. And earlier in the year I paid about £300 for jars, and £70+ for turpentine and linseed oil – it never stops just keeps going around… Vicky ( the other half) is going to start a spreadsheet, as I think I spend more than I get back. Still its a hobby and my other hobbies I have would cost far more if I was doing them instead (yacht sailing is very far from inexpensive and the bees have kept me off that for 2-3 years now).

Beexwax polish

Last year I made some beeswax polish. After a while I managed to sell it. People really liked it and asked for more. So this year, from my cappings wax haul, I decided I would make some more.

Beeswax Recipe 1.

Equal parts beeswax and turpentine

Method

  1. Liquefy the wax by heating – do this in a ban marie so it doesn’t overheat and keep away from naked flames.
  2. Pour the turpentine in – this is flammable too, so be careful. also keep the area well ventilated, the fumes are not good for you.
  3. Some of the beeswax with solidify, keep warming until its all liquid.
  4. Pour into tins, allow to cool & solidify, use as you wish

pro’s and cons

  • This is simple to do
  • The product is a hard wax, it requires hard work to apply it, but it gives a very good ‘hard’ finish on wood
  • Turpentine gives good penetration into the wood for a long lasting effect
  • Turpentine is expensive
  • Turpentine is hard to find in the shops, usually replaced by turpentine substitute which wont do the job here.
  • Turpentine is not nice stuff *

* Wikipedia says
“As an organic solvent, its vapour can irritate the skin and eyes, damage the lungs and respiratory system, as well as the central nervous system when inhaled, and cause renal failure when ingested, among other things. Being combustible, it also poses a fire hazard. Due to the fact that turpentine can cause spasms of the airways particularly in people with asthma and whooping cough, it can contribute to a worsening of breathing issues in persons with these diseases if inhaled.”

Beeswax Recipe 2.

As above but also add a 3rd equal part of raw linseed oil, added after the turpentine.

Pro’s and cons

  • Makes for a softer compound and is easier to work.
  • Apparently works very well treating leather to make it waterproof.
  • Cheaper overall as less expensive than turpentine.
  • Still contains pretty nasty turpentine

Last year I made some of recipe 1 and some of recipe 2. Recipe 2 sold better, being easier to work and I think looking more brown. This year I’ve made more of that recipe, and used up all the turpentine that I bought.

Now I have found an option which doesn’t use turpentine. The question is, will it work as well?

Beeswax Recipe 3.

  • 1 part beeswax
  • 3-4 parts olive oil (some say this is replaceable with coconut oil, jojoba oil, walnut oil, etc.)
  • optional : Essential oils for scent (lavender, vanilla, sandalwood, etc)

Method

  1. put all together,
  2. warm

Pros and cons

  • Less flammable issues
  • Easier access to ingredients
  • Much cheaper ingredients
  • More natural product
  • Less harmful chemical concerns in preparation and in final product usage (e.g. kids toys)
  • Some concerns over oils going rancid, can be extended by fridge storage and/or Anti-oxidant such as clear Grapefruit Seed
  • Extract or Vitamin E oil can be added. However these antioxidant essential oils are very expensive

Queries

  • Will this recipe penetrate as well, so will the finish last as long as the turpentine recipes.
  • Concerns over the product going rancid – a) shelf life an issue & b) after application is there still risk of it going rancid in situ?

Wax on wax off

So many supers, so many frames; Finally its all spun out. Buckets and buckets of cappings, most of them relatively dry due to using an uncapping fork lifting the cappings off the honey cells above the air gap.

As before I wanted to clean the wax to use in lip balm, beeswax polish, etc. I found out the hard way that just heating it is unwise, you end up with a brown mess, you need to wash the honey out of it first. This has a nice side effect, basically, making mead. So to do so I put buckets at a time of cappings into a straining bag and washed them. Then straining them I used the washing water, now full of honey, to make mead. Just to understand the scale of this, I made 13 Gallons (uk) of mead.

Then it was time to melt down the wax. Now when it started it looked a lot like white sandy flakes, I added some rainwater (our local water is hard and that turns wax greenish). On heating all this brown gunk was produced along with the nice clean wax, even though there wasn’t a lot of brown going in, so I don’t know what that was. Anyway after decanting in bowls I waited for it to cool then scrapped the brown stuff off the bottom and heated it again. After a couple of rounds the wax is ‘mostly’ clean and the volume has gone down a lot; when I melt it again to make things I will decant it off the last of the gunk. End score 2.68kg 🙂

A tower of wax blocks shaped by bowls, sitting on a scale showing 2.68kg
Tower of wax