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