Introduction: Melomel: the Fruity Honey Wine
Bees are awesome! Without bees we probably wouldn't be here or life just wouldn't be as enjoyable. They pollinate many of the plants that produce some of the best fruits and vegetables we regularly eat. An estimated $15 billion in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees each year. Next time a bee flies by your face don't swat at. They don't usually sting unless aggravated. Just say "thanks for the honey"...and berries...and apples and a million other things they help to produce. If possible buy your honey locally to support our dedicated apiarists. This will also make your product truly unique.
Melomel is Mead with fruit added. Mead is honey wine. Thank you honey bee! For the honey and pollinating our fruits.
Mead is super easy to make so don't feel like it would be to difficult to do. Don't be to concerned about the recipes, they are really easy to modify and pretty much whatever you do will come out nice.
The pic above shows 4 of the 5 flavors of Melomel that I made. Blackberry, Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Orange Ginger. They are all delicious! Not shown was a plain mead (no fruit) which turned out awesome too.
12-18 lbs. of honey = 5 gallons of wine
12 lbs. being dry to 18 lbs. being sweet
Step 1: Equipment and Ingredients
Don't get freaked out here with the equipment part. You don't necessarily need it all and I don't suggest buying it all until you make your first batch. If a friend does home brew see if you can borrow some equipment for your first time. Then if you like it and really enjoyed the process you can invest in your new hobby.
One of the most important things about home brew is cleanliness. Make sure you keep everything clean at all times during the process. Lock up any pets or kids while working. Sterilize everything that will come in contact with the must (unfermented wine). Start by getting everything out of the way in your kitchen. Sterilize your countertop and anything nearby. Keep your hands clean too. Don't be licking your fingers and then stick it in the pot. Use fresh towels. I prefer to have a couple of towels and sponges that are dedicated for home brew, nothing else. That way you can bleach it when done.
-Big honking pot (4 gal. or more stainless steel)
-Big spoon (stainless or plastic is fine)
-Fermenters (primary and secondary. Glass carboys are the best. Food grade 6 gal. buckets will work too)
-Airlocks and Stoppers (super cheap at home brew stores)
-Bottles (Dark glass bottles. Light will effect the wine)
-Bottle caps and capper
-Syphon (Auto syphons are nice because you won't contaminate the must)
-disinfectant ( You can use a little bit of bleach but then you have to rinse, rinse, rinse. I like the no rinse sterilizers that are sold at home brew stores. There are liquids and powders)
The pic above shows most of these items and other useful things to have in your home brew kit.
-12-18 lbs. of honey (Dry to sweet wine)
- 8-12 lbs. of fruit (The more the fruit the more it takes over the honey flavor. I like a little less to keep the honey flavor. If you don't use enough you won't taste it. Each fruit has different qualities and some will be more noticeable with less fruit. Remember that bees are responsible for the pollination of the majority of the fruits you'll probably use.)
- 1-2 packets of Yeast (No bread yeast! it works but will be...yeasty. Buy a high alcohol wine yeast)
-5 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (This is necessary if you are doing just plain mead. Honey in itself doesn't have the nutrients to support the yeast. Some use raisins but if you have enough fruit in your must you can probably get be without this)
-4 gal. of water (spring water or filtered. Do not use distilled. All the minerals have been removed. The yeast need these.)
Step 2: Freeze Fruit
Freeze fruit in a good ziplock bag. Depending on the fruit you may want to chop it up first. You can use almost any kind. The best fruits are the juicy sweet ones. Have fun and be inventive. Don't worry too much about the flavors because melomels are really forgiving. Whatever you make will probably be drinkable as long as you keep everything clean. After you make a few batches you'll feel more comfortable and can fine tune. Make sure you clean your fruit well and remove any stems, caps, peels or whatever.
Freezing supposedly helps to break up the fruit to release the juices later and it may kill some wee-beasties. The demi-john shown here has passion fruit in it. yummmmm..
Step 3: Disinfect
Disinfect everything that will touch your wine....You can't over clean. This is the most important step and it is what scares most people off of home brew. Don't worry... you can do it you filthy beast.
Step 4: Heat Water and Honey
In your big honking pot bring 2-3 gal. of water up to 170 degrees.
When the water is warm add 2-3 tsp. of yeast nutrient if using.
Turn off heat.
Add your honey while stirring until dissolved. Make sure the honey doesn't sit on the bottom because the pot can still scorch it a bit.
If your honey is store bought and already pasteurized skip this part. Otherwise...
Turn heat back on and bring it up to 150 degrees for about 20 min.
Step 5: Into the Primary
Now you have some options here.
There are a lot of different ways to start your must. I prefer to do one big batch of plain mead and let it ferment for 2- 3 weeks by itself. Then you can separate it into however many different smaller batches with the fruit. This way when you add the fruit you already have a low alcohol content and this will help to prevent any bacteria in the fruit that might possibly survive the freezing to take root. Some people like to add the fruit right at the beginning.
Add 1-2 gallons of room temperature filtered water to your primary fermenter
Pour your warm honey water into the fermenter
Shake it up for about 5 minutes. Oxygen is very important at this point for yeast production.
Top off to 4.5 gal. We don't want to much more liquid than that because fruit will take up more room in the secondaries
Let it cool to 105 degrees fahrenheit.
Sprinkle yeast on top of the must or follow rehydration instructions on yeast packet
Step 6: Wait
Seal up your primary fermenter with an airlock and cover it so light does not get to it. Light can kill the yeast. Keep it cool at 70-80 degrees like in a basement or crawlspace.
It's a good idea to aerate your must each day for the first 3-4 days. Just clean your hands, pop out the airlock and top it off with your hand and shake it vigorously. This will release some co2 and keep the yeast from being smothered on the bottom of the fermenter.
Wait two weeks...or until it your airlock stops bubbling.
Waiting is the worst part about making mead so go do do something fun..
Step 7: Into Secondaries
Here you can do one large batch of one type of fruit or you can separate the mead into smaller fermenters with different kinds of fruits in each.
I made five one-gallon batches to have different flavors.
Either way thaw your fruits and smash them a bit to release more juice. Put your fruit into the secondary fermenters. Syphon the plain mead onto the fruits. It's ok to add a little bit of oxygen to the mix at this point but not much.
Seal it up again with airlocks and let it sit another 2-3 weeks with the fruit in it.
Step 8: Rack It Again
After it's been fermenting for 4-5 weeks from your start date you'll want to rack it (syphon into another fermenter) to get the fruit out and some of the sediment. At this point you'll want to seal it up again with freshly cleaned airlocks and pretty much forget about it for a few months. You could keep it sealed up before bottling for quite a long time. And really the longer the better. It will continue to clear as sediment falls to the bottom.
Step 9: Bottle
First clean all your beer bottles you've been saving. Soak in warm water to get off the labels. Clean them with a home brew cleaning solution.
Again you want to disinfect everything.
If you have presence of mind to get your fermenter in place the night before do it. That way any sediment you stir up during the move will have time to settle. I like it higher than the counter to help the flow.
Put your bottle down low. It's good to have some help at this point to tell you when to shut off the flow. Keep your siphon a little bit above the sediment.
When done cap off your bottles.
Step 10: Labels
I believe this is a necessary step.
It's totally mental but a good looking label will add to the flavor. Why do you think the big companies spend millions on graphic art?
Just find some free images that you like, plug them into Photoshop or Gimp. Add your company name and presto!
If you plan on chilling your melomel you'll want to either buy labels or just simply spray them with a thin coat of clear sealant. When you chill them it will cause the bottle to sweat ruining your inkjet paper labels if you don't. If room temperature just spray some adhesive on the back and slap them on.
After many months of waiting your done. Crack one open and enjoy.
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