Measuring pH in Mead

20_006_06_001-Application Note-2016-03-11

Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage made from honey; this honey-wine is possibly the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world. Mead is even mentioned in mythology; is said that the Norse god Odin gained his strength by drinking mead from a goat’s utter as an infant.  Further, the term ‘honeymoon’ comes from giving a newlywed couple a moon’s worth (one month supply) of mead. When grape wine was discovered, mead’s popularity declined in southern Europe. However, craft beer and wine connoisseurs alike have recently turned to mead for its unique flavour profile, making meadmaking a rapidly growing industry.

Mead in its simplest form is made by fermenting honey with water. Meadmakers may also add spices, hops, or fruits added for additional flavour and complexity. Modern meaderies may choose their honey based on varietal, such as orange blossom or clover honey. Controlling honey varietals helps to predict the colour, flavour profile, and other sensory characteristics of the finished product. Meaderies refer the unfermented mixture of honey, water, and other ingredients as the must. Like wine, meaderies may choose to add sulphites to the must to kill any wild yeast and bacteria present before starting fermentation. The mead makers then add the yeast of their choice to the must and allow it to ferment. During fermentation, the yeast converts sugars from the honey into alcohol. Fermentation can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. After fermentation, the mead is racked, fined, aged, and bottled. The finished product typically has an alcohol content ranging from 10-20% ABV.

The pH of mead is a critical parameter during production. A low pH (<pH 4.6) will prevent the growth of undesirable microorganisms and protect the mead from bacterial spoilage. However, if the pH is too low, then the yeast will be stressed, resulting in slow or stuck fermentation and unwanted fermentation byproducts. Honey typically has a pH of approximately 3.9, and the desired range for mead during fermentation is between pH 3.7 and 4.0.

Application

HI2002 HI10480A startup meadery contacted Hanna about monitoring the pH of their must during fermentation. They were looking for a meter that was accurate and easy to use without too many ancillary features. The Hanna Instruments sales representative recommended the HI2002 edge® Dedicated pH/ORP Meter. The customer appreciated the CAL Check™ feature on the edge. This feature provides users alerts to potential problems during calibration, such as contaminated buffers or a dirty electrode.  After calibration, the edge displays a gauge for electrode condition and response time, giving the customer peace of mind that their electrode was reading accurately. The customer appreciated this feature as their target pH range of pH 3.7-4.0 was narrow, and were concerned about being outside of this range and the associated fermentation consequences due to inaccurate pH measurement.

The Hanna sales represented suggested pairing the HI2002 with the HI10480 Wine Electrode with Clogging Prevention System (CPS) reference junction. The CPS junction design features a moveable PTFE sleeve over a ground glass junction. This design ensured that any particles in the must would not clog the reference junction, which would interfere with their readings and shorten their electrode lifespan. In addition to being clog-proof, the CPS junction design also has a high flow rate of electrolyte into the sample, providing the customer with a fast response time and stable reading.  Finally, the customer was pleased that all edge electrodes are digital electrodes; these digital electrodes have an integrated temperature sensor and stores the calibration data right in the electrode. This enables the customer to see the date and time of the most recent electrode calibration, as well as what buffers, were used. The HI10480 is preprogrammed to calibrate to pH 3.0 instead of pH 4.0, allowing the customer to ensure they were bracketing the pH of their must when performing a two-point calibration to pH 3.0 and 7.0. The ease of use, CAL Check feature, and application specific electrode of the HI2002 and HI10480 provided a perfect solution to the meadery ’s pH testing needs.

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