Sparkling Mead Making Guide
Home brewers: are you wondering how to make sparkling mead? Sounds like an incredibly refreshing tonic, the perfect drink for hot summer days or whenever you feel like it. (It is.) After all, fermented beverages can be carbonated or uncarbonated; it’s up to the producer to determine whether or not to introduce carbonation during the brewing process.
However, if you’ve decided to make some sparkling mead, here is how it’s done.
Sparkling Mead Is Made By Bottle Conditioning
The process of carbonation is commenced in the last stage of the brewing process, namely during bottle conditioning. Make your mead the normal way, and then go through the primary and secondary stages of fermentation.
However, you may want to take care to select a mead that is going to lend itself well to fermentation. It’s kind of like making a sparkling wine or carbonating a beer; there are certain types that lend themselves well to being carbonated and others that might not.
For instance, you wouldn’t probably carbonate port, Shiraz or most pinot noirs, nor are there too many “fizzy” stouts on the market. (There are, of course, black lagers – schwarzbier – but they’re much lighter than stouts.) That’s because port, Shiraz, most pinot noirs and dark, heavy ales don’t benefit from excessive carbonation; they taste better without it. Therefore, select a mead that would benefit. It should be on the lighter side, and shouldn’t be too terribly dark or overly sweet.
That’s exactly how we created our Bearded Saint sparkling mead and what we had in mind in creating it! It’s a crisp, refreshing mead that we’re sure you’ll enjoy.
That said, once secondary fermentation has concluded, carbonation is done in the bottle conditioning phase…but it’s also ridiculously easy. All you do is add extra honey right before bottling, about ⅔ cup.
What?! That’s IT? Just add more honey?
Yes! The additional sugars cause a tertiary fermentation with the remaining yeast in the bottle. The byproduct of yeast working their magic is carbon dioxide. However, by the time you get to bottling, the amount you add isn’t enough to produce more than trace amounts of alcohol but is enough to produce carbon dioxide.
During the first two stages of fermentation, it gets off-gassed by means of the airlock. However, bottles are entirely closed systems and since the carbon can’t off-gas, it remains in solution and thus produces a carbonated beverage. Pretty easy, right?
Choosing The Right Mead Bottles
Here is a caution, though – make sure you make the right choice when it comes to mead bottles. The typical bottle you might use or wine bottle is not – repeat NOT – sufficient when it comes to making sparkling mead, which is why bottle selection is crucial to the process of how to make sparkling mead.
If you use regular mead bottles or wine bottles, many of them will shatter during the bottle conditioning process, leading to mead all over the floor in your storage area and broken glass, which will not be fun to clean up and your wife/husband/domestic partner is not going to be amused.
Which bottles to choose then?
You need bottles that have been hardened to withstand the carbonation process, as typical bottle glass is not up to the task. Most people use wine bottles for bottling mead, so what you’re going to look for is champagne bottles. These can be new or used, but the point is champagne bottles have been hardened to take the additional pressure. You can also look for larger beer bottles, such as 22-oz “bomber” bottles or 750 ml beer bottles, which are becoming a bit more common these days, as beer bottles have likewise been conditioned for this process.
Next, the seal on said bottles: best practice with a sparkling wine is to use a champagne cork. Champagne corks actually absorb some of the carbon dioxide, and with their mushroom shape, swell in the bottle. This creates a tighter seal and with the wire cap, keeps the process contained.
Making Sparkling Mead
Making sparkling mead isn’t hard at all, is it? You just add a bit of extra sugars in the form of honey right before bottling into a suitable bottle. Then it’s just a matter of waiting until you can enjoy the fruits of your labors.
How to get started on how to make sparkling mead? Well, one of the first things you’ll need is the equipment to make it, if you don’t already have it. As it turns out, we have a mead kits available to get you started. It contains all the equipment you need to start making mead at home, including sparkling mead, except for the raw materials required and the champagne bottles – those you’ll have to source yourself.
Make mead as normal, then add extra honey right before you bottle – it’s that easy!