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How to Make Mead
Mead Making Theory
Mankind has made mead since the beginning of time. Making mead is not difficult and it is a lot of fun. If you have ever wondered what it would take to make your own mead, you have come to the right place. We will teach how to make mead as simply as we can. All you will need is some honey, water, and yeast and a container like a 5 gallon carboy or 1 gallon glass jug like your favorite inexpensive wine comes in. A few simple wine making tools will really make things easy. A home wine maker’s hydrometer, a piece of clear plastic hose, and an airlock and you will really be in business.
We are going to approach how to make mead from two different directions.
- You can go directly to our step by step directions with a few simple Mead recipes to start.
- Continue reading to learn mead making theory and create your own custom mead recipes.
- If you need to buy mead making supplies and tools. Visit our online store where you can purchase our mead making kits and supplies.
What is mead?
First off, our philosophy here at Hidden Legend is that mead creation shouldn’t be stifled by rules.
Our definition of mead here is, fermented honey, that’s it.
Now before the mead snobs go nuts, we are perfectly fine with mead competition rules, variety definitions, and industry standards that are being developed every year by a growing commercial mead industry and the insatiable thirst for mead by people everywhere. That said, even in the commercial mead world, let’s give the people what they want, exciting innovative mead varieties but we’re getting off track. We just think that home mead making should be fun and as such, can be anything you can dream up, as long as honey is at the heart of it.
What mead is not
Mead is not beer, it is not brewed. Brewing is a heating process by which sugars are converted for fermentation Brewing is used primarily in beer and spirits manufacturing and involves sugar conversion in grains. Honey is ready to ferment as it is. It just needs a little water and yeast. Though mead is made by a nearly identical process to grape wine making, we don’t think it is really wine either. For now, the United State Government has defined it as honey wine and while we believe that robs mead of its unique history and comes up short defining what mead is, it is the best way to describe the mead making process. Mead making is much more closely akin to wine making than beer brewing.
There a few universal truths that will help you along the way. Just a little theory so you know what’s going on when your mead fermentation starts working. Basically, yeast metabolizes sugar to create alcohol. This is true for all forms of alcoholic beverages including mead. Yeast metabolizes sugar at an approximate rate of 1.75 to 1 (click here for more information about mead alcohol content theory). This is where your hydrometer comes in. If you know how much sugar you start with, you will know approximately how much alcohol you have when you are finished. A little better than approximately really, you will be pretty close. Honey is about 97% sugar in pure form. If you add water to your honey until your hydrometer reads 22% sugar, when it is done fermenting, you will have 12.57% alcohol if your fermentation finishes completely. You can figure this out by simply taking your percentage of sugar and dividing it by 1.75. ( 22 / 1.75 = 12.57 ). You don’t have to know much more that this to create your own recipes. The sky is the limit. If you want to make a melomel (honey and fruit) combine your honey and fruit and then add water until you have the desired starting sugar content. This is the first part of any recipe. The sugars.
Yeasts have come a long ways in recent history. Wild yeasts are somewhat unpredictable. We have met home mead makers that achieve good fermentation with wild yeasts but it takes a long time you will have trouble consistently recreating your mead if you make something you like. Wild yeast generally can’t survive in as high a concentration of alcohol. The type of yeast you use is very important to the flavors you achieve both in the flavors you bring out from your sugars and the alcohol content you achieve. Don’t be afraid to try different yeasts with your recipes to experience the differences. Most modern yeasts are hearty enough to complete fermentation up to 13% alcohol or better. See our mead alcohol page for more information about fermentation and alcohol. This brings us to some different methodologies for finishing mead. We will define and focus on two ways to finish your mead. The first we will call the back sweetening method the second we will call staying with what you got fermentation.
The first method for making mead is to pick a suitable yeast to take your sugar contented all the way down to practically nothing during fermentation and then adding honey back to your mead to taste after adding a fermentation inhibitor like sorbate. This method is sometimes criticized for leaving too much of a raw honey flavor in your mead. Some mead makers really like that about it. Either way, one of the benefits of this method is simplicity and the ability to adjust flavors in a very controlled way. This is also a great way to create recipes that you might use later with the staying with what you got fermentation method on once you dial in on your preferred residual sweetness.
The second method is to start with the additional honey sugar content you intent to leave in your mead after fermentation has stopped, by using a yeast that will not completely use up all the sugar before the alcohol content is too high for it to continue working. This method eliminates that raw attribute some people claim back sweetening creates.
Finishing mead flavors
The flavors in mead come from alcohol, acidity, and sugar. The mead maker can also use oak as a flavoring method. Any wine supply store will have various acids like malic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid and grape tannins. These ingredients can be used to create the acid flavor profiles you desire. Too much alcohol can create an unbalanced flavor as well. In our experience, 12 % alcohol is pretty safe in your flavor profile but don’t be afraid to experiment with the recipes you create. Honey sugar content or sweetness is very important in mead. Your mead can be as dry or sweet as you desire. Sometimes a mead you are making that doesn’t taste right can be fixed with a little residual sweetness. Just don’t forget you need to stop fermentation if you are going to add sugar or your mead may just keep fermenting.
Clarification and mead wine bottling
When your yeast stops working, your mead will start to settle. Bentonite clay can be used to speed up settling. After fermentation stops, rack your mead, and then add bentonite according to the instructions on the packet. Your mead will settle on its own just fine. In the first couple of weeks after your fermentation stops, you will want to rack your mead several times as sediment builds up. When your mead is at the point you want it to be go ahead and bottle it. Happy mead making!