Mead is a delicious alcoholic beverage made by fermenting a mixture of honey and water and, often times, other flavor additives. It was popular among vikings and is made in much the same way as wine. This article will guide you through the making of a gallon of simple mead.
- A one gallon container (preferably a glass jug)
- A bung and airlock (both available at a local home brew store - remember to get a bung that fits the opening of your container)
- Empty wine bottles and corks
- A corker
- A funnel
- Plastic tubing for siphoning (an auto-siphon is a very handy tool - you can find one of those online or at a home brew store as well)
- One gallon purified water
- 3 to 4 pounds of honey
- One packet of dry wine yeast (also at the homebrew store)
- Yeast nutrient
Step 1 Sanitize
Sanitize your container (from this point on I will assume it is a one gallon glass jug). You can do this by dumping a small amount of bleach into your jug and filling it to the top with water. Let sit for 20 - 30 minutes. Rinse well. Alternatively, home brewing stores sell a variety of non-rinse sanitizers.
Step 2 Prepare the "Must"
The must is the honey/water solution that will become your mead. Pour the water into a cook pot that is at least one gallon (duh). Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the honey. Place back on heat and let boil on medium high for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Now you must let your must cool to a temperature at which you can add your yeast. The sooner you can do this, the less likely your must is to get contaminated. My advice is to plug your sink and fill it with cold water. Place the pot in the water and stir the must to cool it down.
Step 3 Place the Must in the Jug
Once the must has cooled, you can pour it into your jug. Place your funnel (which I advise you to wash in the dishwasher prior to this step) into the opening of the jug. Carefully pour the must into the funnel.
Step 4 Add the Yeast
It is not going to ruin your mead to pour the yeast straight into the must, but some people like to give their yeast a head start and bring it back to life before it gets to work converting the sugars in your must into alcohol. To make a starter, add your packet of yeast to a small glass of warm water (Not too warm. Yeast dies at about 80 degrees F). Let this sit for a couple hours. It should be bubbling pretty well by this point. Add the starter to the must.
Step 5 Affix the Bung and Airlock
Make sure that the airlock is filled to the suggested line with water. This will allow carbon dioxide created as a by-product of fermentation to escape the container without exposing your mead to oxygen or contaminants. Insert the airlock into the bung and affix to the opening of the jug.
Step 6 Primary Fermentation
This step will take about 2 weeks. Place your container in a cool place like a closet and keep it at around 65 - 70 degrees. Check on your mead every once in a while. A layer of white stuff will begin to form at the bottom of the jug. This is a layer of dead yeast and is nothing to be concerned about. You will know when this step is over because the bubbling in the airlock will have slowed down to once every 30 seconds or so.
Step 7 Racking
It is important to rack your mead to avoid the dead yeast contributing off flavors to your mead. Sanitize a one gallon pitcher and siphon your mead into it, paying attention not to pick up any of the nasty stuff on the bottom. Clean your jug thoroughly and sanitize it. Siphon your mead back into the jug to finish fermenting. You can shorten this process by having a second glass jug to siphon your mead into directly, avoiding the holding pitcher.
Step 8 Secondary Fermentation
Place the jug back in the closet or wherever you keep it and let it sit for about two more weeks. Ideally your mead should clarify to a light yellow color. If you let it sit for longer it will become crystal clear. It is up to you when you feel it is ready to bottle.
Step 9 Bottling
Siphon your mead into the wine bottles leaving a little bit of head room in the bottle. Cork the bottles and label them if you would like.
Step 10 Aging
The preferable aging period for mead is 3 months to a year. If you used less honey in your must then the aging period will be shorter.
Step 11 Enjoy!
Your mead is complete. Invite some friends over and enjoy your homemade mead! Now that you have the process down you will feel more comfortable trying different, more interesting mead recipes.