There are lots of great resources for making Mead online. I would recommend joining a Facebook group that aligns to what you want to accomplish. The possibilities are endless.
Just like beekeeping there seems to be just as many ways to make Mead as there are opinions. At its most basic, Mead is just honey, water, and yeast. That’s about the end of the simplicity. From there you can add fruit, spices, coffee, endless varieties of yeast, nutrients, energizers, fining agents, enzymes to list only a few. Then there is temperature, when you put what in where, how much to put in, when to bottle, how to carbonate or when not to carbonate, and so on.
If you are looking for Mead Recipes Click here
Start with choosing your ingredients.
Honey varieties can make a big difference in the overall flavour. Most sources seem to say that you need to choose a good quality honey, preferably unpasteurized, to maintain the depth of flavour in the honey. As a hobbyist beekeeper I use my wildflower honey until it runs dry. I also always suggest sourcing local unpasteurized honey first, but saying that, Costco Kirkland honey is unpasteurized and “true source certified” which means you can guarantee it’s all honey. In Canada 22 percent of imported honey contained foreign sugars, even when labeled “pure honey.” It is likely adulterer honey if you are paying less than $6 a lb .
Fermenting honey into alcohol traditionally used natural occurring yeasts in the air or on the honey. The Vikings first used a magic stick that likely contained yeasts from the previous batch to culture their must (“must” is used to describe the yeast, water, honey mixture). While naturally occurring yeasts as well as bread yeast can be used to ferment honey they are seen as archaic practices because of the availability and low cost of commercially produced yeast strains.
- Lalvin D-47
- Lalvin K1-V1116
- Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead
- Lalvin EC1118 (if you really want to get things going)
Water is a very important part of your mead. If you tap water tastes good then you mead will likely taste good. If not, then you should likely try spring water, or filtered water. Some say that reverse osmosis water lack the important nutrients needed for proper fermentation (Lots of others have said it doesn’t matter). I only use reverse osmosis water and it works great.
If using tap water you will need to check to see if your water contains chlorine or chloride. Boiling for 10 minutes or leaving out in an open vessel over night easily removes Chlorine. Chloride is a much more stable chemical and needs to be removed using chemicals such as Campden Tablets.
Sterilize all equipment and utensils
There are a lot of nasty shit that can contaminate a good mead. When you are putting in the time and effort (mostly waiting and salivating) for the whole process, it can be very demoralizing when a batch goes bad.
Use Star San on everything(highest recommended but also most expensive) A small bottle will go a long way and is likely cheaper and in smaller quantities from local brewery supply store. It is a food safe acid sanitizer that wont hurt your brew. Some sources say yeasts will even like it in very small doses.
There are other options, click the link to an excellent info page on sanitizers.
Re-hydrating yeast (only for dry yeast)
Follow the instructions on the yeast. Dry yeasts need to be rehydrated and should not be put directly into the water and honey. Along with the instructions on the packet it is a good idea to use GoFerm (follow the instructions on the package) as a yeast rehydration nutrient to really make sure that they wake up ready for work. GoFerm is sold at any local brewery supply shop and is often sold in smaller quantities if you are just starting out.
Mixing your ingredients
You can mix the water and honey in a clean sterilized pail. Make sure to dissolve all the honey in the water. Mix it long and mix it hard, you want to get as much disolved oxygen in the must as possible.
Pitching the yeast
“Pitching” is when you add the yeast to the rest of the ingredients.
If you have heated any of the ingredients such as your water or honey make sure they are all cooled down before you mix them with your yeast. Too much heat will kill yeast.
[Some sources recommend pitching the yeast to a smaller amount of your ingredients mixture (1 gallon) to help with colony growth. This can be kept in a smaller vessel for a day and then added to your total amount.]
Add your yeast to the ingredients mixture and give it a gentle but thorough stir. It is at this stage that you should take a hydrometer reading to record your Original Gravity (often shortened to OG) Write this down
Its now time to get fermenting. Primary fermentation for mead can be done in a bucket that is at least 25-50% larger than your brew size, with a loose fitting lid or even a fabric that will keep dust and bugs out (cheese cloth is too porous). A carboy with an airlock is also acceptable but in my opinion a hassle to mix and can cause mead geysers that could hit the ceiling if fermentation is too vigorous. This will allow the brew to absorb oxygen and will also allow easy access to stirring and addition of nutrients.
In the beginning stages of fermentation the yeast will need to absorb oxygen in order to start eating the sugars in the honey.
Adding Nutrients and energizers
UPDATE: TOSNA or Tailored Organic Staggered Nutrient Addition is currently the gold standard for adding nutrients. You can check out a great TOSNA calculator here. The calculator will tell you exactly how much nutrient to add and when to add it. This formula was created using the most current science to make sure optimal yeast health while not adding too much to allow other nasties to take hold.
Add some yeast nutrients and energizers within the first 24 hours of pitching the yeast. Stagger the rest of the nutrients and energizers over the next few days. These will give the yeast the nutrients it is lacking from the honey, which is fairly light in yeast friendly nutrients.
Yeast Nutrients were traditionally made up of Diammonium Phosphate and food grade urea. Diammonium Phosphate can be hard on yeast in the first few hours so you could wait till the morning to add this. The most common and modern reccomendation is to use Fermaid O for a nutrient. It contains organic nitrogen and produces a cleaner brew.
Yeast Energizers are a mixture of the other essential nutrients to get your mead yeasts chugging.
Stagger your nutrients and energizers
Using the TOSNA calculator for your nutrients and energizers, mix them together and split into suggested portions. Add a portion once daily for the recommended days. This will allow the yeast to absorb more nutrients as the colony grows.
Sit back and Relax
It may take a few days for the yeast to look like it is doing something. It may take a week. Just be patient. I wasn’t, and I regret it. I wanted to see results. I wanted to know that I did it right. I did some stupid stuff like add more yeast and more nutrients.
What you should be doing is taking weekly hydrometer readings and writing them down. That is the only accurate way to tell . Bubbles in your airlock are not an accurate sign of fermentation. When you record two weeks without any change in hydrometer readings your primary fermentation is complete. This can take anywhere from two weeks to three months (maybe more).
Once you notice two weeks without any change in hydrometer readings it is time to rack your mead (transfer it into a different airtight vessel). Grab a carboy/demijohn, which is just a jug that you can put an airlock and stopper on the opening to stop any airflow. You can also add fruit, spices, teas, or what ever else you may want when racking to the secondary.
When racked to secondary, make sure that the carboy is almost full with very little head space left at the top. The less space you have the less chance of oxygenating the mead. Once in secondary, oxygen will make the mead taste like wet cardboard, so put on the airlock nice and tight and let that baby sit for at least 6 months, with 1 year. This aging will allow the flavours to balance and the alcohol to soften. You can rack again for a few reasons. See below
Letting the Mead Clear
When mead is fermenting there is suspended yeasts in the mead must. A good quality mead will allow these to clear in the secondary. It helps reduce the yeasty taste in the mead and is more aesthetically appealing. When more sediment falls out of suspension you can rack your mead again. With many types of yeasts this is recommended.
One way to clear the mead is to just let it settle over time. You can also add fining agents such as bentonite to clear sediment, or peptic enzyme if you used fruit in your mead.
Mead is very personalized and even after all these instruction you can choose if you want to carbonate or leave it still. Drinking the mead is the fun part and sharing is optional.
Recipes (more coming soon)
Cyser (apple Mead)
Blackberry Hydromel (Lower alcohol (ABV) content)