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Raspberry Mead

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This is hands down the best mead I make. It's easy and DELICIOUS. And it won the praise of my local homebrew guy, who also happens to the be National Meadmaker of the Year for 2003. So I must have done something right!

This instructable is for a 5 gallon batch (roughly 25 bottles). You can scale it up or down to whatever you plan on making. You'll need 3 pounds of honey and roughly 6 ounces of raspberries per gallon. Honey is expensive. I have since made a Raspberry Wine, exactly like this, but with Dextrose (Corn Sugar) as the fermentable sugar instead of honey. It's considerably cheaper. BUT, you can no longer call it a Mead. And there will be obvious texture/mouth-feel/flavor differences. But they are both delicious. If you do end up going the sugar route, you don't need 3 pounds/gallon, closer to 2 pounds/gallon. Use your hydrometer to fine tune, you're aiming for about 1.10 or so as the starting gravity. I think I ended up needing about 12 pounds of dextrose. Anyway, on to what you'll need. I'm assuming you've brewed before and already have basic brewing equipment. If not, take a look at my other Instructables, or any of the other ones on this site to see what you need.

15 lbs of honey. I got my honey from http://www.flyingbeeranch.net/. These are the nicest people in the world, and their honey selection is AMAZING. I've also used Dutch Gold for bulk (60 pound bucket), or worked out deals with local apiaries. What turned me on to Flying Bee Ranch was their selection and prices. Really good. I went with the tried and true Orange Blossom. But I imagine if the Raspberry honey is available, that would work quite nicely as well.

32 ounces of Raspberries. It's hard to say precisely how much I used, I was very fortunate that my Aunt had several raspberry bushes and would pluck the best ones for me. I asked for about 2 pints. Store bought bags are just as good. The trick I've mentioned before is to freeze them. Allegedly this breaks the cell walls of the raspberries, which caused them to release more flavor. Whether that's true or not, I can't say. But that's what I do.

Yeast. For this first batch, I used Lalvin 71B. https://www.midwestsupplies.com/lalvin-wine-yeasts-5-grams-71b-1122-narbonne.html?utm_medium=feeds&utm_source=google&gdftrk=gdfV24959_a_7c1306_a_7c6184_a_7c8830&gclid=COKavfjF4bcCFVSe4AodUgYAUQ I read that it's supposed to be a nice pairing with fruit. But it fermented extremely fast and had some initial off flavors that took a while to tame out. Some of that was because it was quite hot. Since then, I used Lalvin D47. http://www.midwestsupplies.com/lalvin-wine-yeasts-5-grams-1cv-d-47-white-wine.html. I've never had a problem with this yeast, everything has always came out delicious.

Yeast Nutrient. http://www.midwestsupplies.com/fermaidk.html This is a good one. I've also had success using regular yeast nutrient/yeast energizer. And frankly, I'm not even sure it needs it. The raspberries will provide a decent amount of nutrition.

Spring Water to fill the rest of your carboy up. I'd avoid city water since it has some chemicals in it. Not to say it won't be good, but if you can get a good, clean water source, use it.
 
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Step 1: Le Sanitation

Sanitize your stuff. It takes all of 15 minutes and reduces the risk of infection. Again, I'll leave you to research your own method of sanitizing. I use C-Brite. 

Step 2: Add the honey.

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Pour all 15 pounds in the carboy. Some people heat it up so it flows easier. Some people boil it. That's a long standing debate whether to boil it or not. I don't. But plenty of fine meads have been made with boiled honey. It does make it easier to mix later on. But since I have the fancy drill attachment, I don't bother.

Step 3: Fill 'er up!

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But not all the way! You'll need to leave room for the raspberries.

Step 4:

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Mix it up good. Again, I can't speak highly enough about this drill attachment. Seriously, get it if you're really getting into this hobby. It does such a thorough job mixing. Then I took a reading with my hydrometer, to make sure I hit my target gravity (usually do) and that it was mixed well.

Step 5: Add the Raspberries

Picture of Add the Raspberries
I mentioned this in my last Instructable, when to add the fruit. Every blind taste test I've read about says adding after primary fermentation has been completed makes for a better tasting mead/wine. I don't have the guts. In fact, if you're doing this with just dextrose to make the wine version, you'll probably run into the same problem I ran into. Fermentation just did not kick off very well. Even though I added nutrients, plain old sugar water just doesn't seem to be enough to get it going. Once I added the raspberries. the thing took off like Old Faithful. Seriously. I had to store it in the shower.

Anyway, take your raspberries out of the freezer, and carefully put them in the carboy. I made a real mess doing this haha.

Step 6: Pitch the Yeast.

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Also follow the instructions for the nutrient (if you're using any). Mix it up again. And make sure you don't store it in a stupid place. Like your carpet. Like I did. I learned my lesson after the first fruit explosion, and kept it in my awesome shower. Just don't, you know, shower with it in there.

Step 7: The Waiting Game

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Once the raspberries have lost their color, rack off them and the lees. Take a gravity reading. If it's at the ABV% you want it to be, I'd recommend adding some Super Kleer http://www.midwestsupplies.com/super-kleer-kc-finings.html, and storing it in a cool place (or fridge, if you have room). After a few days, it should clear up beautifully. You can rack it off the lees again and get ready to bottle. While you're waiting, make up some cool labels. I used http://www.myownlabels.com/.

If you've lost quite a bit of volume from the rackings, you can add more water. I've done this with every batch without issue. In fact it's even helped with some off-flavors. But you need to be careful not to add too much. It will dilute the potency and flavors.

Step 8: Bottling!

Picture of Bottling!
One it's done fermenting, and clear, it's time to bottle. You can use a siphoning hose or a funnel. I've been using a funnel lately. It's just quicker and I'm too impatient! Look at these babies. The last time I made this in wine form, I made an amazing discovery. It fermented a little too sweet for me, but not so sweet that I was going to re-pitch more yeast and hope it fermented out. I decided to see if adding anything to counter the sweetness would help. Enter, the cinnamon extract.

I had one I made a while ago kicking around, and I happened to smell it as I walked by my brewing area. It was a wonderful combination. Hands down, how I'll be making this again. So if you have a cinnamon extract, or make your own, try experimenting with adding it to your mead/wine. Do it in a small sample size until you find a good ratio, and scale up. It was a truly delicious pairing. And the spice of the cinnamon balanced the immediate sweetness of the raspberries.

That's it. Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions, and happy brewing!
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I started this last night (first batch ever) how long before the bubbling really gets going?
I started this last night (first batch ever) how long before the bubbling really gets going?
I started this last night (first batch ever) how long before the bubbling really gets going?
I started this last night (first batch ever) how long before the bubbling really gets going?
You mention racking the mead once the fruit has lost its colour, do you rack even if it's still bubbling strongly?
jimbles (author)  gareth.mckeown.335 months ago

Sorry for the late response. Yep, and fermentation will probably kick up again once you re-rack into secondary, so no worries!

Immortals7 months ago
Maybe I missed this but how long did you leave it in secondary before bottling? Anybody have any suggestions on bottling primer? Id like to make it carbonated. Also im doing 5 gal
jimbles (author)  Immortals5 months ago

Sorry. After the raspberries cleared, I stuck it in the fridge with super kleer and once the whole thing was clear, I bottled.

juniiper5 months ago

Is cap management an issue with this recipe. Other recipes I've seen talk about the necessity of punching the cap. I want to ferment in a glass carboy not a plastic bucket and am not sure how easy it is to punch the cap with such a small opening.

Also, do you ever add tea for tannins?

Thanks for the recipe, a lot of fruit mead recipes sounds overwhelming but this one seems doable.

jimbles (author)  juniiper5 months ago

Nope. Yeast will find it. I made this in a carboy, it's really not a problem. I once made a metheglin (mead with tea), and I've added tannins. Both came out really bad in my opinion. To my tastes, they don't require any tannin additions.

mandocommando5 months ago

You said if you removed the honey this stopped being a Mead. This stopped being a mead the moment you added Raspberries. This is a Melomel(Mead + Fruit).

jimbles (author)  mandocommando5 months ago

Well, I'm glad your learning more about Mead, but I'd encourage you to keep up with your research. Melomels, hydromels, and a host of others, are variations of meads with their own identifiable name relating to the type of subset of mead they are. Like a lager or an ale- both are still considered beer. Don't confuse the fact that them having their own name that they are no longer meads, and are now some new separate, non-mead libation. They are still considered meads.

SuzukiDHP9 months ago

Did you end up putting the Rasberries in whole? I wonder if you could do this with the strawberries?

jimbles (author)  SuzukiDHP9 months ago

I did use whole raspberries. Here is a link to my Strawberry Mead

http://www.instructables.com/id/Strawberry-Mead/

codycnnn042 years ago
If your feeling cheap, you don't really need the yeast, but it will take longer to ferment, there is natural yeast in the air, so it will ferment on its own if you don't add yeast, but it will take a lot longer. I made a batch of black berry mead and it took about 5 months before it had an alcohol content at all. But for all you wondering, mead is like a wine, it will get better with age. So if you have been graced with patience, then more power to you.
jimbles (author)  codycnnn042 years ago
So I've read and am totally into the idea of spontaneous fermentation projects. But as the author of this Instructable, I can't recommend this. Most of these people are going to spend nearly $100 on the honey alone. To suggest leaving the fermenting up to chance in order to save $1.50 on the yeast is not frugal advice. And there's no guarantee that the bacteria in the air will result in a good flavored brew. You're also leaving it open to all sorts of infections. Since honey is the most expensive fermentable sugar there is, I wouldn't even try this with a mead. Are you sure that your blackberry mead fermented from bacteria present in the open air, or the natural yeast already present in the honey/blackberrries? How did it turn out, and how many gallons did you make?
Oh no, I don't recomend it, either. God knows what kind of bacteria will grow in it. But I'm not sure why the fermentation took place. I feed humming birds and sometimes the sugar water will ferment, so I get to deal with drunk humming birds. That would take a 2-3 weeks, but I made a 5 gallon test batch. ImI'm under age so I couldn't enjoy, sadly :,(

Bacteria aren't a tremendous concern if handled properly. There's some good information in the book "The Art of Fermentation" by Sandor Katz. Of course, it's probably best to do a smaller batch and not to risk $100 of honey trying it out. I made one bottle of strawberry mead last year with a wild fermentation, but am waiting till the end of this year to drink it.

Ramming jimbles2 years ago
To avoid unwanted bacteria along with your fermentation, you can capture wild yeast with hopped agar plates placed outside on different (dry) locations over night. Preferredly placed a couple of meters above grund. Make some petri dishes, with a mixture of hopps, agar and yeast nutrient. The hopps has anti-bacterial properties but does not effect the yeast much. Once the yeast have been catched, grow them over night (maybe more) at 30-35 °C. Once the colonies are around 1mm i diameter, move them to sterile agar plates. One colony per plate. It should be easy to tell "infections" from yeast. Yeast is usually white or slightly yellow. A good advice is to keep your plates and workplace sterile before, under and after the catch. Another advice is to pre-incubate the sterile plates, before use to spot potential contaminants. If you want to try it out with mead, then make micro fermentations in jars or sodabottles. It's not as expensive. But keep in mind that not all wild yeast tastes good, some quite bad actually. If you find this interesting on a higher level I recommend building a LAF (Laminar Air Flow) Bench to keep a total sterile environment. When i work in these benches the normal procedure is to wash everything inside with ethanol and I'm using Nitrile gloves that I also give a wash in ethanol. Just keep everything sterile either with heat or with ethanol. Just remeber some earth bacterial spores like Clostridia spores can take a lot of heat and some even can be activated with heat (some at 80 °C). Clostridia live anaerobic and cause some very severe diseases. Normally potential spore infection are prevented by the large quantities of yeast.
IkilledKenny made it!1 year ago

Amazing complex taste.

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jd_clampet1 year ago

The mead that comes out is absolutely amazing. I made two batches, one raspberry and the other blueberry, for my wedding. It was a it with everyone there. That was almost 3 years ago and people are still asking me when I am making more. Thank you for the amazing instructable. Sorry, I don't have any pics, so I can't choose the "I made it" option.

jimbles (author)  jd_clampet1 year ago
That totally made my day, thank you for sharing! I'm glad you liked it and that it was a hit at your wedding! Congratulations! I would love to hear about your blueberry batch.
When you take the raspberries out of the freezer, do you immediately put them in the carboy or let them thaw out first?
sysiphus2 years ago
Twice you mention your drill attachment, once as "the fancy drill attachment" and once saying "I can't speak highly enough about this drill attachment." But the only photo you have doesn't really show what it is, only that it is long and on the drill. Any more description, or a name, or a photo you could share?
thealflores2 years ago
I heard mead takes upwards of a year to age...is this true?
jimbles (author)  thealflores2 years ago
In my opinion, no. I won't say it for a fact, but here's my experience:
I've tried meads that were aged from 1-5 years that tasted bad.
I've tried and made meads in a matter of weeks that tasted GREAT.
I seriously doubt someone new to drinking mead could even differentiate the complexities of a young mead vs an aged one.
That said, I've also had meads that tasted absolutely horrible after a few weeks that were amazing after a few months. Aging can help settle out any off flavors that happened during fermentation. So my advice would be to try it after it clears, if it's good drink away. If not, give it a few months, and if it's still bad it probably won't get substantially better. In fact I've had some meads get worse after aging. Again, this is all just my opinion and experience. Hope this was helpful.
puggirl4152 years ago
love the idea of making Mead. Already have done a bunch of fermenting of other beverages (mostly wild ferments) My concern is all the stuff you put in and use that I do not know what it is. For example:CBrite and Super Kleer. These sound like chemicals. If they are can I leave them out. After all ancient mead makers didn't have them. I just don't want to use chemicals. Can I still make good mead without them?
jimbles (author)  puggirl4152 years ago
You don't have to use anything you don't want to. C-Brit is for sanitizing, super Kleer is to quicken how long it takes to clear. If you really want to do it the old way, leave a bucket of honey out in the rain for a few weeks!
Javin0072 years ago
I love your instructables. I'm very seriously going to go out with my next paycheck and get all the gear to make this. I've wanted to make mead for so long that I even started keeping my own bees, but I've just not found any sites that really spell out everything clearly, and concisely as you do. For instance, when looking at the items to purchase, my first thought was, "Well, if you're racking, seems like you'd lose a lot of volume... I wonder if you can just add water back to it or if that'd screw up the aging process somehow?" After googling it, I couldn't find an answer. Then I read the second of your instructables I've seen today, and you have this to say:

"If you've lost quite a bit of volume from the rackings, you can add more water. I've done this with every batch without issue."

These kinds of tidbits are what make an awesome instructable. I can't wait to get my setup!

Do you add the cinnamon extract to the batch while it's fermenting? Have you tried just adding a cinnamon stick? How long do you age your mead for? How long is "too long" to age it?
jimbles (author)  Javin0072 years ago
Thank you very much! I'm happy to have been able to help! What kind of honey have you been able to harvest? That is great, very impressive! If you ever have any other questions, I'll try to answer them as best as I can.

Making it is almost more fun than drinking it. Almost! You will really enjoy it. And it's going to be so much cheaper if you have your own honey. It's such a cool feeling to be able to make something so delicious from scratch. You should check into harvesting your own yeast too, so it's completely locally homemade.

As for the cinnamon extract, I added it at bottling, after all the fermenting had taken place. I have made a couple of meads with a cinnamon stick straight in the batch, but the flavor was weak. The extract was much better. On aging, I'm pretty different from many other mead makers. They usually say a year at least, even longer. I don't purposefully age any of them- it's drinkable when it's clear. The very first batch of this one for example, received a score in the low 40s only 4 weeks after I started it. Aging helps mellow off-flavors and adds some complexity. But in my opinion, unless you're a mead connoisseur, you wouldn't be able to taste a drastic difference between a mead aged a month and a mead aged a year. I've had meads aged 5 years that I wasn't impressed with, and some aged a few months that were fantastic. There really isn't a "too long" period, short of 20 years. If it's not sealed well it can oxidize. But my rule of thumb is when it's as clear as water, it's ready to drink. Hope that helps!
The honey we get in our area is very floral. Like, it literally tastes like flowers. It's amazing stuff. We have three flower nurseries within range of my hives. I forget just how much we get from a single hive, to be honest. We had a horrible fall and winter, and I lost two out of three hives this year, so I haven't harvested any out of the remaining hive this year at all. They were weak coming into the spring, and I plan on trying to split them soon, so they'll be keeping all of their honey this year.

Any tips on where I would look to find out how to "harvest" local yeast? I've never even heard of doing that, and that would be super interesting stuff. I have a medical research background, so anything involving a petri dish gets me excited.

Thanks for the info on when I can drink it! We'll probably be buying some honey this year from a "True Source Honey" vendor so we can go ahead and get started without waiting for the bees to catch up. What does a "score in the low 40's" mean?
jimbles (author)  Javin0072 years ago
Sorry to hear about the bad year. That's a shame. Especially if it's a floral honey, it sounds like it would make a delicious mead. How long will it take for them to bounce back?

You can get wild yeast from fruits that grow in your area. Lots of different methods, and some would probably be right up your alley if you're into petri dishes and microscopes. What I did was made a small batch of cider from the apples in my yard. I racked it off the lees, and then poured the lees into a separate container (like a mason jar). That will separate again, all the bad/dead yeast will sink to the bottom, and the good yeast will be on top. I'll siphon off that yeast, and use it for my next batch. But I've only done it with small batches, because you're running the risk of it being a bad strain of yeast. But that's how I do it when I want to make something totally from scratch.

What kind of honey is local to you guys? I had my local homebrew guy, who I think I mentioned is a national mead maker of the year and renown mead judge, rate it for me. It's a score out of 50. 00-13, Problematic, 14-20 Fair, 21-39 Good, 30-37 Very Good, 38-44 Excellent, 45-50 Outstanding. I think he rated it a 42. He said the only reason he couldn't give it a perfect score was because he couldn't detect much honey flavor. And because it is a mead after all, detecting honey is kind of important haha. It was a real honor to have such a reputable mead guy think that highly of it.
Wow, impressive! I've never tasted mead at all, and am super stoked to do it. We're also going to try making some hydromel. That sounds amazing too.

The hive I have now have actually already bounced back pretty well. So long as the queen's alive and the nectar's flowing, it's pretty impressive how quickly they can snap back. I checked them last weekend and they even have a full hive body (10 frames) completely packed with honey. But I don't use foundation, miticides, antibiotics, or sugar with my bees, so they'll need that honey to make it through the winter, especially with a split.

I'll have to try the "yeast harvesting" thing! We've planted a few fruit trees in our yard last year, and while we don't have any fruit yet, we should next year or the year after. I can probably get some fresh fruit from the local farmer's markets though. Do you have to do anything special to it? Adding sugar, water, or anything? Or do you just basically mash it up and leave it alone?
Vaseales2 years ago
I was curious about your mention of cinnamon extract. Did you find a good ratio? And when did you add it? Thanks for posting this recipe.
jimbles (author)  Vaseales2 years ago
Great question! I did, for me it was about 1.5 ounces per gallon. But, that was in context with the fact that it was rather sweet. That amount might be too much or not enough depending on a lot of factors. I had better results adding it at each bottle during bottling and adjusting that way. Good luck!
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the white wine yeasts. They always seem to add weird flavors, and waiting out the flavors takes a long time and saps the mead of a lot of its flavor. I prefer champagne yeast if you are sticking to that--your mead can go up to 18% that way. Alternately I'm a huge fan of Belgian yeasts, which will hit the 10-15% range.

Orange blossom honey is the way to go--I've tried a number of different kinds. The next batch of mead that I make I will use buckwheat honey (which is that really dark toffee flavored honey). I'll be mixing it with some stout grains and making something super tasty I hope.
jimbles (author)  PerfectionLost2 years ago
I've had off flavors, but not specifically because of the yeast, so I probably wouldn't say it's always the yeasts fault. Usually it's because of less than ideal brewing conditions for that particular strain. I don't personally like higher alcohol meads. The fusel alcohols tend to distract from the flavor when it gets that high. But that's just me. Let me know how the buckwheat turns out. I've haven't heard many positive reviews when it was all buckwheat. Maybe the grains will help.You should try it as a brochet.
fastenspy2 years ago
Hello,
For an amount of 15 KG of honey for 5 gallons of mead, it is not too much? This does not kill the yeast?
You want 1 gallon of honey per 5 gallon batch of mead (aka 4 gallons of water). This will yield something to the tune of 18% alcohol.
jimbles (author)  fastenspy2 years ago
Oh yes! 15 KG of honey would be WAY too much. I specified it in lbs though, not kg. It's about half that in pounds.
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