Mead is simple and turns out great!
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Step 1: Ingredients
For this recipe we used:
~ 3/4 gallon water
3 pounds of honey
One packet of yeast (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 of a cup of roughly chopped mint
10 key limes
One gallon jug (glass is best) with cap
One balloon (red is best)
The flavor can be almost anything you want. We have made orange/raisin (awesome) and huckleberry/cherry (pretty good) recently, be creative.
Step 2: Prepare the Flavor
First chop the key limes in half, or smaller if the neck of your jug is narrow.
Also roughly chop the mint.
Cutting up whatever fruit or herb you use helps to release the flavor.
Step 3: Add the Honey
First fill the jug with an inch or two of water. This will help keep the honey from sticking to the bottom too much.
Then add the honey.
Once the honey is mostly in the jug, it can be helpful to fill the honey jar up with water and swish it around to help get the last little bits of the honey out.
Step 4: Add the Rest of the Ingredients
Next add the key limes, mint and yeast.
Then fill the jug most of the way full with water. It's important to leave some air space at the top of the jug for the foam that will be produced during the fermentation.
We accidentally did the water and ingredients backwards because we were distracted by the documentation. Thankfully we remembered to stop adding water while there was still enough room to add the other stuff.
Step 5: Shake, Shake, Shake
Next screw the lid on the jug nice and tight, and shake it for a couple of minutes.
This helps disperse the yeast throughout the mixture. The honey will mostly settle out in the bottom anyway. That's okay.
Step 6: Bubble Cap
After you are satisfied that everything has been well mixed, remove the lid of the jug.
Stretch the balloon over the mouth of the jug and poke a small hole in the balloon with a pin.
You can also use a bubble trap if you have one. They are available at your local brew shop.
Step 7: Label and Wait
It is a good idea to label your mead at this point. We usually put the date and flavor on our tags.
After about 20-30 minutes - or at least within several hours - the balloon will inflate and the mixture will start foaming. The foam is normal and is a sign of healthy yeast growth. Once the balloon is no longer staying full, cap the jug and put some place where it won't be disturbed.
The pictures below show a couple of stages along the path to finished mead.
NOTE: Keep an eye on the balloon for the first 24 hours or so. If it's threatening to pop off the jug, secure with a rubber band and/or poke another pinhole in the balloon.
***Note: The foam grew enough to lift the mint into the balloon after about 24 hours. If this happens to you, take the balloon off and push the mint back down into the liquid, rinse out the balloon and replace it. This will help keep the CO2 moving out of the jug.***
Step 8: Bottling
After your mead has been fermenting for a few months it can be bottled. The longer you wait to bottle it the less carbonation the final product will have, so keep that in mind.
For bottling you'll need 4-5 wine bottles, ~ 3 feet of tubing (aquarium type), corks for each bottle, and a pan of some sort for when you accidentally spill some of the mead next to the bottle.
I use zork brand corks because they seal without need of a corking machine. You can get zorks at your local brew store or online.
Step 9: Fill the Bottles
Siphon the mead from the jug into the bottles, being careful not to suck up the solids that are on the bottom of the jug. This is probably best done with 2 people so that both ends of the tube stay under control.
We siphon by placing the jug on the kitchen counter and having bottles ready on a little kitchen stool (and in a tray) that allows the tops of the bottles to sit below the bottom of the jug, then we suck the mead through the tube to get it started*.
Consider beforehand what you might do with an odd volume of mead. Of course you can use differently sized bottles if you have a good way to seal them, and there's nothing wrong with aging a less-than-full bottle. But if it's a really meager serving, maybe just hand a couple of shots to some friends to watch them breathe fire. (We promise it mellows beautifully)
*Some instructions recommend swishing a mouthful of scotch before siphoning. For sterilizing purposes.
Step 10: Done
Once the bottles are full press the zorks all the way down. Despite the pics here, we think the best way is to put the bottle on the floor and brace it well between your knees while you push.
When you're finished corking, you might consider labeling with the flavor and "born-on" date again, so that you know how long your mead has aged.
Wait for the mead to reach about six months old before you drink it. The longer you let it sit the better it gets. Enjoy!