Easy Mead

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Introduction: Easy Mead

About: I like photography, woodworking, homebrewing, and whisky.

I'm making this Instructable because if you're like me, you've gone to Home Brew shops looking for some recipes/ingredients/advice on making Mead, and they make it out like it's Rocket Science. I would leave with the impression that unless it were made under strict laboratory conditions, it would fail. The truth is, it's incredibly simple to make. For God sake's, it's just Honey & Water! You can certainly make mistakes that prolong it, but you have to really work at screwing it up to come out with 5 gallons of honey water that in 6 months ISN'T alcoholic.

Some people call to pasteurize the honey and water mixture beforehand. This gets rid of all the bad stuff that might be in your honey & water. I choose not to for a few reasons. First, and this is obviously going to continue to come up, Mead has been around long before Pasteurization! Not doing it doesn't automatically mean it's going to fail. Second, a lot of people don't LIKE to pasteurize it, because even though you're killing off some of the bad stuff, you're also killing off some of the things that contribute to the honey's flavor. At least for me, considering that the ONLY ingredient in Mead to give it it's flavor (for this recipe anyways) is the honey, and Mead has been made quite successfully without pasteurization, I see no need to jeopardize the flavor just to resolve a fear that something bad might take over. There probably is some wild yeast in the honey, but it is going to be greatly out-numbered with the amount of yeast we are GOING to add, that I don't think it's a likely possibility the wild yeast will take over. And finally, you'd likely need to get a 6 gallon pot to pour all this into to pasteurize it. And those pots are expensive, and take up a ton of space.


What You'll Need:
5 Gallon Carboy ($20, used)
15 Pounds of Honey (Quality matters, and if you can afford it, buy local! Clover Honey from Walmart- $40. Local Orange Blossom $90)
1 Packet of Wyeast Sweet Mead ($8)
1 Bottle of Acid Blend ($2.50)
1 Bottle of Yeast Nutrient ($3)
1 Hydometer ($10)
1 Airlock ($1)
Total = $84.5 with Walmart Honey, or $134.50 with Quality Local Honey

Optional:
1 Auto-Siphon (Optional, but totally worth it! $12)
2nd Carboy ($20, used)
About 25 750 ml bottles ($50).
Total = $82

This is one of those hobbies where you can kind of get caught up in the price of things and not realize it. Yeah, you're first batch if you go all out can cost you over $200- BUT, if you save the bottles, your second batch can cost you as little as $50!  This will make roughly 25 750ml bottles, and will wind up costing half as much as Commercially available Mead, and it is A LOT better. Most people hear of Mead and go, "Uggghh. That's disgusting! Have you ever tried it?" When in reality, they had some commercial Mead that isn't made anything like the way it's traditionally made. If you've ever tasted real Mead, made the real way, it's totally worth it.

Recipe:

Sterilize everything.

Add 15 pounds of Honey

Fill Carboy with Water for a total of 5 Gallons

Add 5 teaspoons of Acid Blend.

Take a reading with your Hydrometer
.

Add Wyeast Sweet Mead.

Add 5 teaspoons of Yeast Nutrient.

Shake the Hell out of it.

Store in warm place for 2 months!

Step 1: Sterilize

Step 1. Sterilize everything.

All of it. The Carboy, the Hydrometer, the Airlock, the Scissors you use to cut open the Yeast packet, everything. I won't go into how to Sterilize in this Instructable as it's been covered elsewhere. But it's really not as much of a pain as it sounds. You don't even really NEED to do it. Remember, Mead has been around much much longer than the idea of Sterilization has. People have been making perfectly fine Mead for thousands of years without sterilizing. But the reason it's recommended is you'll be creating an environment that fosters growth; you want the only thing growing is the yeast you add, not any existing bacteria that could take over the yeast. I want to stress that not sterilizing is not a guarantee for failure. But you're introducing a risk of it not succeeding.

Step 2: Add Honey

Add 15lbs of Honey(I used Orange Blossom)

But before you do this, remember the recipe calls for a TOTAL of 5 gallons. What I did first was took an old gallon of Spring Water (bottle had been sterilized, of course!), and poured in 5 gallons to the carboy to see where 5 gallons is. Some of you might be using a 6-gallon carboy, so it's important to know where to mark 5 gallons. Once I knew where the 5 gallon mark was, I emptied the carboy and filled it with honey!

It's also important to stress that the type & quality of honey you use makes a big difference. I've had good tasting Mead that was made from the Walmart Clover Honey. But if you can get it from a local Apiary, it's totally worth it. There's already plenty of websites dedicated to the benefits of local honey vs store honey, so I won't go into it. And I don't want to give the impression that if you use Store honey it won't taste good. The difference just goes from good to WOW!

Step 3: Fill With Water

Fill Carboy up to the 5 gallon mark with Water.

Step 4: Add Acid Blend

Add Acid Blend

Add 5 teaspoons (1 teaspoon per Gallon). After this, you're going to want to mix up the honey & water. This is probably the hardest part. Because we didn't boil the honey and water together, it's going to take a lot of shaking to get it to mix up. And it weighs about 60 pounds. And it's probably a little slippery from all the water you poured in it. What I did was laid it on its side, and rolled it around so the honey spread out throughout the carboy. I would do this a few times, then shake the whole carboy, then repeat.

Step 5: Take a Reading

Take a reading with your Hydrometer.

The first thing I did was check that my hydrometer was accurate by testing just water and making sure it read 1.00. If you don't have the auto-siphon, this will get a little messy. Fill the tube that comes with the hydrometer with the honey-water mixture (called must, btw). Take and note your reading. This is important if you want to find out exactly how much ABV your Mead has later on. You can also use this Calculator: http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16 to find out about what your target final gravity should be and %ABV to expect. It was a bad angle from the picture, but my reading was a hair over 1.10.

Step 6: Add Yeast

Add the packet of Wyeast Sweet Mead yeast to the mixture. I assume you read the instructions on the packet on how to prepare it. If you didn't, go read the directions and let it sit out for 3 hours in a warm room before adding. You can use other yeasts, but this Instructable is for this kind. Besides, it's way easier than making a starter!

Step 7: Add Yeast Nutrient

Add 5 teaspoons of Yeast Nutrient. Yeast doesn't exactly "thrive" off honey, and any help you can give it to grow and be healthy is good for the Mead.

Step 8: Shake the Hell Out of It!

For a good 5 minutes, too. This will continue to mix the honey up and get the yeast to spread out, while aerating it. I recommend sitting down with it on your lap so you don't risk dropping it!

Step 9: Let It Sit!

Find a warm place (about 70 degrees) to let it sit. The warmer it is, the faster the fermentation (although some say the quality tends to be worse). The colder it is, the slower it is going to ferment. I usually wrap my carboy up tightly in a horrible Snuggie I for some reason own. You're generally allowed, and sometimes encouraged, to continue to give it a good shake once a day for 3 days. But after that, for the love of God man, leave it alone. The airlock will start bubbling usually within the first 24 hours. That means the yeast is working and turning the sugar into alcohol. Don't freak out if you don't see any movement in the airlock right away. The most common reason for no activity is usually that it is stored somewhere too cold. If you know it's at least 70 degrees, and after 3-4 days still haven't seen any activity, you can either add more yeast nutrient and wait a couple more days, or repitch some new yeast. I've heard that Mead Yeast is one of the weaker varieties of yeast, and you can sometimes get a bad batch. Assuming it has started to show activity, just let it be. It should take anywhere from 8-10 weeks for it to slow down. When it slows down to about 1 bubble every 30 seconds, you can do a couple of things. If you're really impatient, you can add Potassium Sorbate, which will kill the remaining yeast, and add a clarifying agent to clear up the mixture. After a few more days, you can bottle it. If you bottle it without adding the chemicals, you run the risk of the yeast kicking up again, except this time with no airlock to let out the CO2. Exploding bottles! The more preferred method is to siphon the mead out of the carboy into a second carboy, taking care not to suck up the bottom where all the sediment has settled, and letting that sit and age. Aging can take anywhere from 4 months to a year, even more. The longer it ages, the better it gets. A rule of thumb is that once the mead has clarified, it is ready for racking (bottling). Good luck!

Step 10: Finished!

6 months later, I racked into some nice Bellissima bottles and made up some nice labels. It finished really clear, and is a hair on the dry side, but otherwise delicious! I decided to add these so you know what it looks like when it's finished!

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46 Comments

Nectar of the Gods...great job

hi, I've been making an easy mead recipe for about 6 or so years? over a month ago I started a new batch. just noticed about 2 or 3 weeks ago that the cover I used and usually use (a balloon with a pin hole in it) was destroyed. basically, part of the balloon seemed to have ripped or worn away and there was a hole about the size of a dime or nickel. I quickley replaced the cover with another one. i haven't noticed my mead fermenting or so it seems. has the hole ruined the process or should I just keep letting sit and hope it will ferment ok? I did smell it before covering it again and it seemed to be on the right track?, but I'm still a novice.

I really like your instructable and i am current doing this one. its been fermenting for about 2 weeks now. i've been looking at different forms etc about mead and alot say for a really nice batch let it age for half a year to a year or longer. i'm wondering does it still age the same when you put it into smaller wine bottles or would it be better to just leave it in the carboy for the year if i wanted to do this with a batch in the future? thanks again for the great instructable!

1 reply

Thanks, I'm glad you like it! When aging, you want the least amount of oxygen coming into contact with the least amount of mead possible. So the most efficient way is to bulk age it in the carboy, after you have racked it off any lees and it is totally clear. Although you can age it in bottles too, there's nothing wrong with that. All that being said, 90% of how it's going to end up tasting happens within the first month after fermentation has ended. Some great, though subtle, flavors develop over time, and imperfections can mellow. But I am not an advocate of waiting a year before you try it. 1-2 months will get you almost all the way there. Good luck, and enjoy!

FWIW, there's a little gadget that you can attach to a power drill and slip down the neck of your carboy, that when the drill is running, acts essentially like a paint stirrer. The 'vanes' on the thing are swiveled so that when the thing isn't spinning, the vanes drop and make it easy to get it back out of the carboy neck. It makes a huge difference in either aerating or mixing your contents.

1 reply

Yup! In all my Instructables after this one I include that gadget. Best purchase I ever made.

I'm working on a mead experiment right now. But I am a noobie. Last year I did a one gallon JOAM that turned out good. So...I did a five gallon batch of plain mead (12lbs of honey $22 in Ecuador!) I let it ferment for 2 weeks than racked it onto fruits in 5 seperate 1 gal. jugs. Blackberry, pineapple, passion fruit (yum), orange ginger, and plain. It's been almost 2 more weeks and fermentation has visibly stopped in the pineapple and blackberry. ( I didn't know about the punching down of the fruit cap until yesterday!) So I'm gonna rack it again soon and take a hydrometer reading. Any suggestions at this point in the game?

1 reply

Sounds great! I wouldn't worry about punching down the fruit. The yeast will find the sugar, and the flavors will get extracted. It sounds like you're doing well, I don't think you need any help from me. Good luck! Let me know which turns out to be your favorite!

Hey i find your instructable very nice! Im really interested to try to make this drink but i have a question since i never tasted it: Is this a sweet drink?

1 reply

Thanks for the compliment. It can be sweet. It can also be dry. Think of mead like a wine. Now if you want the "nectar of the gods" experience, stop the fermentation early with some potassium sorbate at around 4-6% abv. This will leave a lot of residual sugars and be delicious!

Iv just racked my first batch and it tastes great thanks for the instructable i look forward to it being ready. second batch went on today :D its so fun.

Over here in New Zealand we have (in my opinion and many others) the best honey in the world (Manuka). No mead I have tried comes close to the stuff made in New Zealand, but unfortunately barely anyone over here drinks it, so there's only one brand that makes it here.

I am sooooo keen to bang out a wicked batch of my own Manuka mead!!

Here's yet another reason to get your honey from a bee keeper you can trust:
http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.UcMvvKzgd8E

And as I found out just recently (I mention it in my BBQ 'ible) even buying your honey locally doesn't guarantee that it's real honey. You really need to know, and be able to trust your honey supplier. Many "local" bee keepers are buying fake honey from overseas, and selling it as their own.

1 reply

If it looks like honey, tastes like honey, and ferments like honey, I don't really care what they call it. But most mazer's know which are the good brands and which are the sketchy. Thanks for the PSA just the same. Hopefully it saves someone from buying something that can't ferment because it uses unfermentable sweeteners in the knock-off "honey".

I recently made a potato wine and after a few months maturing it tastes fantastic nice little winter warmer with a kick using turbo yeast to get it to about 22% cant wait to make some more soon as I get chance p.s I have never made anything b4 this was my first time.

3 replies

Nice! I've recently heard of a process called "jacking", or freeze concentrating. You stick it in the freezer, and the water freezes leaving you with something like twice the amount of alcohol. I'd be curious to see the kind of kick you'd get with a wine that high in alcohol!

Jacking as you call it, works because of the fact that different ethanol and water concentrations have different melting points. Ethanol has a lower melting point than water, so if we take two mixtures (on mass basis)

A: 80 % water 20 % ethanol
B: 20% water and 80 % ethanol

The first will have a higher melting point (closer to 0 degrees Celsius). In the jacking process , gradients occur which cause certain parts to freeze up. But in essence you're throwing away ethanol. Which also happens with distillation but that can achieve a much higher purity.

They say you also run the risk of getting a huge hangover if you jack (or freeze distill, freeze concentrate, fractional freezing, whatever terms and misnomers people like to use), because you're keeping a lot if the impurities (ethyl alcohols, etc.). But since they are already in the wine, if you plan on throwing back the whole bottle you're going to ingest the same amount. 1 jacked 375ml bottle of wine (likely even less) will have the same impurities as the 750ml it came from.

Thanks for posting! I've brewed beer, cider, and even some hard lemonade, but I'm excited to give mead a try sometime soon. As a hint to novice brewers who may be wary of investing in the equipment, a 1-gallon glass carboy works great for making test batches. Plenty of grocery stores sell apple juice in them (Whole Foods and Sunflower Market come to mind), and you can just make a 1/5th batch to see how you enjoy the process of brewing, and the taste of the brew.