The Secret Art of Mead Making
A Variety of Home Made Mead
Mead Making For Beginners
This tutorial will take you through the basic steps to making One gallon of Mead (Honey Wine). It is suitable for a person who is curious about making mead and always wanted to but doesn't want to expend the money to make a big batch.
With a one gallon batch you get the experience of making mead at very little expense and you get to give it a taste!
The picture above shows nine batches of mead I am currently making. The two large bottles are 5 gallons in size. The seven bottles in the center of the picture are a gallon each. The different colors are because they are flavored with various fruits like raspberries or oranges.
One gallon of Mead will net you approximately 4 wine bottles full of honey wine.
How to Make it
Mead is wine fermented from honey rather than the traditional way of fermenting with grapes. Nobody really knows for sure how old the art of making mead is. This information has been lost to history. But it may very well be the oldest form of brewing known to man. And it is an art that is not part of the mainstream of brewing.
It is theorized that the mead was discovered under a tree and it makes a lot of sense. The theory goes that a beehive either overflowed or was damaged and the honey dripped down into a pool of water. To turn this into a fermented beverage all we need to add to this honey and water mix is some yeast. In an open environment a natural yeast will grow in the honey water and this is enough for it to ferment.
Equipment and Supplies you will need
- 1 - 1 gallon glass jug
- 3 pounds of honey
- 25 raisins
- 1 package of wine yeast (almost any bakers yeast will work too)
- 1 gallon of Spring Water
- 1 Airlock (that's the funny shaped plastic thing at the top of each bottle in the picture). They cost about a dollar
- 1 drilled rubber stopper (this is what the airlock fits into then is inserted into the gallon jug
- A Sterilizer to make sure everything is clean! (Wine Makers use a product called Easy Clean and it will cost you about 2 dollars.)
The Simplicity of Mead Making : The Steps
- Sterilize all your equipment including the jug, airlock, rubber stopper and any spoons or utensils.
- Mix the three pounds of honey with enough Spring Water to almost fill your gallon jug. Mix it vigourously by stirring or shaking.
- add your raisins
- add 1 packet of yeast and gently stir
- Fill your airlock about half full with spring water, push it into the rubber stopper then put the stopper onto your jug.
- Within 24 hours the airlock should begin bubbling. This means the yeast is working well!
- Over the course of the next 2 to 3 weeks you will see a cake develop on the bottom of your jug. This is the husks of yeast as they grow, multiply then die and it is perfectly normal.
- When the airlock bubbles at less than 1 bubble every 30 seconds you should transfer the liquid to a new santized jug; use a hose to siphon the liquid and leave all the old yeast cake behind and dispose of it. Put the airlock on your new jug.
- Within about 3 months it will be drinkable but you should wait 6 months to let it develop in taste. If you can wait a year it will be even better.
- At any point you can siphon to a new jug if another thick cake forms in the jug.
Making sure you do it right
While the process is basically very simple there are some things you need to do to insure things go well. I talked a little bit about yeast and unwanted yeast and this unwanted yeast is the most important factor in determining if your mead will come out good. You absolutely have to sterilize all the equipment and containers you will be using for your mead making; and this includes any spoons or tools. This is to make sure no unwanted yeast or bacteria take hold and grow in your honey water. You want only your chosen yeast to grow and nothing else.
The Weakness of Honey as a nutrient
Honey is actually rather poor in the nutrients yeast need to make mead. And it can cause a rapid growth in the yeast that only lasts a short period of time. The yeast then dies out and your fermenting process can slow or even stop. This lack of nutrient can be corrected by adding raisins, orange peels (1 whole orange worth), tea leaves ( 2 teaspoons), or commercially available wine nutrients and energizers (Which cost only two to three dollars).
I have used a lot of different yeasts to make mead and here is a list of some of the tried and true names in yeast you can use:
- Fleischmanns bakers yeast (found in any grocery store)
- Lalvin D-47 Makes a good medium or sweet mead
- Premiere Cuvee - Best for a dry mead
- Lalvin DV-10 - Creates a higher alcohol content
To Boil or not to boil?
There is a lot of debate as to whether you should heat your honey before you use it. I recommend you don't heat your honey because this is the easiest method. But if you want to boil your honey for sanitation concerns you should bring it carefully to about 150 degrees fahrenheit for about 5 minutes. This will pasteurize it while having a minimal effect on flavor.
The Real Beauty of Mead
Using these guidelines I have here gives you plain and traditional mead. This is terrific but the real beauty of Mead is in its ability to be a blank canvas for an extraordinary wide range of flavors and tastes. Mead is perfect for adding things like raspberries, oranges, cinnamon, pears, plums, peaches, or just about any type of fruit or spice. And this is where it really gets exciting and it is also where the big secret lies. To get good at mead making you have to experiment with fruits and spices. You have to try different quantities and let them ferment for different periods of time.