Introduction: Easy Mead
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
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.
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!