Hey everyone! Thanks for checking out this Strawberry Mead Instructable. It's not very hard and makes a really delicious mead when it's finished.
This calls for the Strawberries to be added during primary fermentation. But most of the experts in blind tests have preferred meads with fruit (actually called Melomel's) added during secondary. If those words are gibberish to you, primary means the initial fermentation. Usually this is between 1 week and 4 weeks. However long it takes for the yeast to get an ABV up to about where you want it (anywhere between 11%-14%). The Strawberry-Banana Mead in the picture above went from 0-14.3% in a week. I also have another mead going that is only at 4%, and it's been 2 weeks. So the time it takes can vary. Once the fermentation has petered out, you rack (removing of the juice) off the lees (all that stuff sitting on the bottom of the carboy). You usually put this in another carboy, or in a temporary sanitized bucket while you clean out the first one, and back into the original. This is now called your secondary vessel.
The only reason I added the fruit during primary rather than secondary, is I learned to make it during primary and it always came out good. So I have no good reason to change up the recipe. But feel free do add the strawberries after the primary fermentation is done.
Step 1: What You'll Need!
I'll put in links, in case you don't have a local home brew shop near you, or just like buying online. I hope links are okay!
Things You'll Need:
3 lbs Honey. I used Orange Blossom. Any kind will do, but make sure it's good quality. I bough a 60lb bucket from Dutch Gold.
3 lbs Strawberries. I know they're out of season and a little pricey, but I got 3 lbs for only $5 at Stop & Shop. Stick them in the freezer when you get home. It keeps them from going bad too soon if you can't make it right away. I've also heard it's actually good for the skins, too.
Yeast. I used Lalvin 71B-1122. It's supposed to be catered for fruitier batches. D47, Sweet Mead Yeast, or anything similar will work fine too.
1 Gallon Carboy
Water. I'd recommend using spring water or something similar from the store. City water has chemicals added, and well water (which is what I have) can sometimes be too hard.
Things that are nice to have:
Pectic Enzyme. The strawberries will make this a real pain to clear. Peptic Enzyme helps clearing in the end.
Super Kleer. This stuff is amazing. When it's done fermenting and cold crashing, you can add this and it'll clear up significantly in about a day!
Yeast Nutrient. I use Fermaid-K, Add it after a week of fermenting. Makes sure there's enough food for the yeasties!
Go-Ferm. I use this as a starter for the yeast. It has a lot of the essential vitamins and nutrients to help the fermentation really kick off.
Auto-Siphon. This will make your life infinity easier when it comes time to bottle and rack into a secondary.
Mix-Stir. Kind of pricey if you're only making one batch. But if you plan on making many batches in the future, it's a great tool. Note: It goes on a drill, so if you don't have a drill, don't bother.
C-Brite. It's what I use to sanitize. There's other products you can use, as long as you do it right!
The Basic's will cost you around $30. The bells & whistles around $50. Everything around $80. Although the more batches you make, the cheaper each batch ends up being. A lot of these things are only a one-time buy. But I can't imagine spending $80 to only make this one batch, so hopefully you'll be making more!
Step 2: Sterilize
Again, I'm not going to get into the details of how to sterilize. Why steal jobs away from perfectly good Google engineers? :) I use C-Brite, but there's a lot of different ways. Whatever your method is, do this first. It's going to take a little time to get everything else ready, and this doesn't take too long.
Step 3: Add Delicious Honey
The general Mead rule is 3 pounds of honey per gallon. So whatever size you're making, just scale it up. 1 pound of honey is approximately 1 1/3 cups. So for a one gallon batch, 4 cups ought to do it. It's okay if it's a little more or less. Pasteurize if you want to. I didn't. Heat if you want to. Again, I didn't. I also have a drill! So mixing wasn't much of a problem!
I used Orange Blossom. Tupelo, Raspberry, Wildflower & Clover are also popular.
Step 4: Get Strawberries Ready
Take your strawberries out of the freezer and let them thaw out. To move this along, I put them in a sanitized pot, added a little water and heated them. Once they're thawed out, remove the stems. Any greens on just about any fruit or flower winds up adding a bitter flavor to the finished mead.
Now you can extract the flavors one of two ways: Heat them on the stove, or put them through a juicer.
The juicer method is much more efficient and effective. If you use this method, I'd recommend getting a muslin cloth, or even some sterilized pantyhose, and putting the pulp in there. You can squeeze out some additional juices this way, and you want to get all the juice you can. I got about 4 cups of juice through the juicer. I strained the rest of the strawberries through a strainer, and used a bowl to squeeze the last bit I could.
If you don't have a juicer, or just want to do it the old fashioned way, here's what I did for my first batch,
Put all the strawberries in a pot and add about 2 cups of water. Set to medium high heat. You don't want it to boil, but you do want it to get hot. Have a potato masher or something similar, and push down on the strawberries every couple of minutes. You don't want to push down too hard, but enough until you feel some resistance back.
Once they're good and mushy, remove from heat. Using a strainer, pour the pot out into another container. Add the pure liquid to the carboy with the honey. I took the remaining solid strawberries and put them in a muslin cloth to strain the rest of the juices out.
Another note, but if you are adding this to your secondary, be aware that it might kick start the fermentation back up again. Make sure to have an air lock still on!
Step 5: Mix!
Before you fill the rest of your carboy up with water, now is a good and easy time to mix everything you have together. I used the super awesome mixer that attaches to a drill. It's WAAAYYY easier! But if you don't have one, a good shaking will work just as well!
Step 6: Fill With Water
Fill the rest of your carboy up with water. Not all the way to the top, however. You've going to need to leave room for the yeast. And if your batch is anything like mine, the fermentation will kick up so hard you'll get strawberry juice shooting up through the airlock! So space at this stage is okay. After it's done fermenting though, top it off with water. That's the time when oxygen is a bad thing.
Step 7: Take a Hydrometer Reading
This is optional. You only need to do this if you want to know the final alcohol content. Also, it's helpful to know if something goes wrong and you need help, or want to stop fermenting at a certain gravity. If you forget to take a reading, or don't have a hydrometer, there's calculators out there on the internets that can guess at the Original Gravity based on the amount of sugars you added. My reading was around 1.110.
Step 8: Add the Yeast
Follow the directions on whatever yeast you have. I make a starter using Go-Ferm and follow those directions. If you don't use Go-Ferm, adding a tsp of yeast nutrient will work as well. Just follow whoever's directions with whatever you bought for this step! I certainly don't know better than the manufacturer! Some good advice I got was to add some peptic enzyme. Apparently the strawberries make clearing the mead rather difficult. This helps later on when you want to clear it.
Once you add the yeast, shake/stir/mix like hell. Do this a couple of times a day for the next 2-3 days. Warning: if you're super cool and got the drill attachment like me, be careful! It foams up pretty quickly! After a couple of days, leave it alone.
I should also note that it shouldn't be kept anywhere too hot or too cold. Warmer than 60 degrees, cooler than 80.
Step 9: Play the Waiting Game!
Most of the fermentation should be done within the first couple of weeks. That's no guarantee, it may have gotten off to a slow start, it may have finished in a week. But when the airlock has very little movement, 1 bubble every 30 seconds or so, it's basically done. Or, you know, take a fancy hydrometer reading!
But you have an interesting choice to make. Traditional Mead is basically a white wine. But if you taste this within the first couple of days that it's fermenting, it is absolutely delicious, and nothing like a wine! The yeast has been going strong enough to give it a great carbonation, but hasn't eat much of the sugar yet so it's still very sweet. If you'd like to keep it like this, sample it every day until it's about where you like it. But be aware that it's only this good for really up to 5 days. It's like a guy growing his hair out- it can be really good short, or really good long, but the in-between phase is usually terrible! If you try this when it's at, say 8% or 9% ABV, it's going to be strange. If you want to stop it after only 3-5 days, put it in your refrigerator. This won't actually kill the yeast, but they'll go dormant and stop future fermentation as long as it's cold. You'd have to take a hydrometer reading to be sure of the alcohol content at this stage, but it's usually around the same as a beer.
For what it's worth, a low-alcohol content mead is called a hydromel.
If you plan on letting it mature to a wine, you'll want to rack off the lees (stuff sitting on the bottle), and into a secondary fermenter. I usually do this once I've attained the ABV I'm shooting for. You can use a second carboy, or even a sanitized bucket. If you're doing the bucket method, make sure to take only the good liquid off the top and leave the murky mess on the bottom. Then clean out the carboy you just emptied, and pour the mead back into it. If you're being really stingy, you can take the murky liquid on the bottom and put it in a narrow container and put that in the fridge for a couple of days, All the sediment will sink to the bottom again, and you can siphon off the remainder of the juice. A good way to not waste a drop!
Fermentation will likely kick up a little bit after all the moving around. Make sure to take a hydrometer reading every week. 12%-13% is a good number to shoot for. Any higher and you'll have a fairly dry mead. I can't tell you exactly what gravity reading to shoot for, since your starting gravity may be different. Here is a handy mead calculator to help!
Step 10: Cold Crashing!
When it hits the ABV% you're shooting for, throw it in the fridge for a few days. The longer the better. It also helps with clearing. While cold crashing doesn't necessarily kill the yeast, by this point I've rarely had a fermentation kick back up after cold crashing. There's just not a lot of yeast left or much sugar for them to feed on. But if you want to play it safe, you can add campden tablets and potassium sorbate. In fact, you'll most definitely want to add these if your mead finished too dry and you want to back sweeten it. Since that process involves adding sugar, you're definitely risking a chance the yeast will kick up again and make some bottle bombs.
At this point you can add some Super Kleer. This stuff is amazing (just follow the directions). It will really clear the mead up lightning fast.
Step 11: Aging/Bottling
The mead is ready to bottle if you haven't had a change in gravity readings from one week to the next. They also say it's good to bottle when it clears, but if you add Super Kleer that's not a great rule of thumb to go by! But given the choice, most people prefer to age their mead in bulk (still in the carboy) rather than in bottles. Oxygen is your enemy at this point, so an inch of oxygen in a carboy vs an inch of oxygen per bottle is much less damaging. I also wouldn't sweat it too much, I've had some delicious glasses of mead that were aged in the bottle rather than the carboy.
But that's it! Try to keep your hands off it for as long as you can possibly hold out! It'll only get better! Thanks for reading and good luck!
AndJoeG made it!