If you enjoy consuming honey mead I have good news for you. You can create your own honey mead and it is quite easy to do. You will need to be patient, as unlike following a recipe for cooking most food, fermentation takes some time. You will not be able to taste the results right away. However, it may be sooner than you think. The process of making mead is simpler than perhaps any other alcoholic beverage. If you make a traditional mead, as the recipe that follows lays out, there are only three ingredients – water, honey and yeast. It will require a few specialty pieces of hardware, but not as many as you may think.
First, some words of explanation as to how I came up with my process. I am still somewhat new to making mead, but I have been happy with all of my results thus far. I have entered meads in the Savannah Brewers League Domras Cup mead competition for the past two years. My most recent entry was first in its category and went on to the Best of Show round. I am going to describe what works for me, but it may deviate a bit from what other sources will tell you. For example, I do not heat the honey nor do I sanitize my equipment. Honey is proven to be highly antimicrobial and therefore I believe the chance of contamination is quite low. I recommend simply cleaning your containers and tools with hot water and dish soap. Also, most recipes call for additional yeast nutrients purchased at a homebrew shop. I personally have found a small amount of additional sugar, such as more honey added at transfer to secondary is all that is necessary. In fact, other than consulting a recipe for the water to honey ratio, I largely improvise when making mead. I do take plenty of notes and learn from successes and failures, so it is not completely laissez-faire.
Also, to be clear you don’t personally make mead. You will make what is called “must”, which is a honey and water mixture. Once you add yeast the yeast feed on the sugars in the honey and generate alcohol. So in a sense, the yeast culture makes the mead.
I recommend starting small. It will keep costs down, as you will need less honey and less containers to bottle the results. Therefore, the following recipe is for one gallon. We are also aiming for a dry mead for two main reasons. First, it is easier to make. You will let the yeast ferment the honey until it stops. A sweet or semi-sweet mead requires you to halt fermentation but dry mead lets you just allow the yeast to do what it wants until it stops. The second reason is tupelo honey is excellent even with the sweetness fermented out. The aroma and honey flavor of dry Tupelo mead is divine.
The first step to is gather the needed equipment. What You Will Need:
2, 1 GAL Glass Jugs. This can be a carboy from a homebrew shop or as easy as the jug that apple juice comes in. You will need one for primary fermentation and a second to transfer to for aging.
Hydrometer optional This is also purchased at a homebrew shop or online. It measures the specific gravity, which is the density of your mead. With this tool you will be able to figure out the final Alcohol by Volume (ABV). Some beginning mead makers aren’t concerned with this knowledge but I recommend it.
Airlock Purchased from the homebrew shop. This piece is essential. It allows the carbon dioxide created by the yeast to escape without oxygen getting in. It also lets you monitor the fermentation.
Racking cane and tubing. Yes, purchased from a homebrew shop. You will use it to transfer the mead from your primary to the secondary fermentor vessel (glass jug).
Once fermentation is complete you will want to bottle the mead. For this I recommend:
4 750ml glass bottles
1 bottle corker
2 lbs. Tupelo Honey You can use any honey you like. I recommend Tupelo honey simply because it is my favorite! A traditional mead showcases the honey, so whatever you choose choose a honey of high quality.
3 quarts of water
1 package of champagne yeast Find this online or at the homebrew shop. Some home mead makers use wine yeast, but champagne yeast works best for a dry mead.
What You Do:
Now, this is where it gets easy. Preparing the must takes me only about thirty minutes.
- Wash the glass jug or carboy with warm to hot water and dish soap.
- Pour the water and honey into the container. Mix until the honey is dissolved in the water. I’ve found simply shaking the container vigorously does the trick.
- If you have a hydrometer, place it in the honey water and take a reading. It resembles a floating thermometer. Note where the floating piece rests. This is your original gravity. Write it down. Later you will compare it to the reading you get post fermentation to determine the ABV.
- Heat half a cup of water to 104 degrees fahrenheit. Add the package of yeast. Stir until thoroughly mixed and let it stand for fifteen minutes.
- “Pitch” the yeast, that is, pour your water-yeast mixture into the honey-water mix or must.
- Shake the glass container to mix the yeast into the honey water. This adds oxygen to begin the fermentation process.
- Now, stop up the jug with the airlock. Additional oxygen is not your friend! Place the jug in a cool dry place away from sunlight.
Now you wait. After about a day you should notice bubbles in the airlock. This is how you know you are successful and fermentation has begun! If fermentation is quite slow (less than one bubble in the airlock per minute) you may wish to add the additional honey as a yeast nutrient After about a month it is time to transfer the fermenting must to the second container. You are welcome to taste it at this point by syphoning off some with the racking cane. Transferring the must removes it from the spent yeast that has fallen to the bottom of the container and leads to a clearer mead.
- Place the carboy/jug with the fermenting must on a table. Place the second container on the floor below.
- Remove the airlock and place the racking cane inside and lead the tube to the second container. Siphon the must into your second container, letting gravity do most of the work.
- Place the airlock into the second container and move it back to your cool, dry, dark storage place.
Watch the airlock. Once the bubbles stop completely fermentation is complete. Remove it and you may measure the gravity again using your hydrometer. This is known as the final gravity. Write it down. Then use an ABV calculator, such as the one found at brewersfriend.com, to determine the ABV. It should fall in the standard strength mead range, which is 7.5 – 14%.
Now you can taste the mead. It will probably taste too “sharp” at this point. You’ll want it to condition in bottles for anywhere from one month to a year. This is where the four bottles come in handy, as I recommend opening one after a month, the second three months later, and so on. Take notes, and remember what worked best for the next time you make mead.
- Wash your bottles and funnel with water and dish soap.
- Fill your bottles using the funnel.
- Cork them using the bottle corker.
- Store in a refrigerator. While you can use a conventional refrigerator, I find these to be too cold. Mead is best stored at cellar temperature, just like wine. If you have a wine cellar or cool basement, great! Otherwise I recommend placing the bottles in temperature controlled refrigerator that you dial to 45-50 degrees fahrenheit. You may wish to chill the honey mead in the refrigerator before serving.
You are finished! I recommend sharing your results with friends and get their feedback. You can also enter a local mead competition and will get great feedback. If you like, pair up with another mead enthusiast and make the mead together. This is what I do, and it helps a lot to bounce ideas off each other. Have fun and know that you are part of a honey mead ritual that dates back thousands of years!
Interested in Honey Mead?
Submitted By: Jonathan Lee