Wondering how to store mead, now that you have (or are interested in starting to) enjoy it? Like wines or spirits, mead can be stored long-term and aged.
Since mead is closer to wine than cider or beer, are the rules just like storing wine? There are some similarities, but there are some significant differences. Just like storing wine, you need a temperature-controlled or at least temperature-stable environment for storing mead, with relatively controlled humidity.
Aging Mead vs Storing Mead
At this point, it's relevant to define aging mead versus storing mead. Mead, like wine, cider or beer, needs a certain amount of time in the bottle before it reaches a suitable "age" to drink. Just like with wine or certain spirits, there's a minimum age and then there's a peak age, usually much later.
Bourbon, for instance, is a blended spirit and usually requires about three years in the barrel before it's aged enough to truly enjoy. Single-malt Scotch, on the other hand, can take up to ten years before it has sufficiently mellowed.
Mead should ideally age between six months to three years of aging before its ready to drink, depending on the mead. Just as with wine, lighter meads tend to be ready sooner; heavier, darker meads take longer.
Most classic meads generally are ready to drink within one year.
Storing mead, on the other hand, is done to further age the delicious beverage so that it truly become all that it can be.
What You Need To Store Mead
To store mead, you need a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight with safe storage that can falls or bottle shock, at least within reason. If you live in an area where earthquakes don't occur, you probably don't need a bomb-proof bunker.
Temperature should ideally stay between 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with relatively low humidity. Temperature factors into aging, with higher temperatures accelerating the aging process. Somewhere between 50 to 60 degrees is perfect.
As to humidity, keeping the mead indoors is generally all that's required. If stored outside or in a garage, some sort of sealed container is advisable, such as a wine cabinet or refrigerator. Storing upright is perfectly fine, but racks have the advantage of increasing storage capacity.
You must also make sure that the mead is not exposed to direct sunlight, or at least only exposed minimally. Just like wine or beer, sunlight will oxidize the liquid, which can skunk it in the bottle. This is why a lot of beer and wine is bottled in dark glass.
How Long Can I Store Mead?
Meads, like wines, have a definite peak age beyond which they aren't as good to drink as they are before it. However, that peak age depends a lot on the mead.
Lighter, sweeter meads are best consumed more or less as soon as possible. These meads don't stand up well to long-term aging, so anything beyond a year - maybe two - is not going to be beneficial. This is also true for lower-alcohol meads.
Darker meads will last longer, as will meads with higher alcohol content. Depending on the mead in question, it may be able to last up to a decade or longer. What's recommended is to buy a few bottles of a specific mead and start aging it. Sample one every year or every six months, and you'll notice a peak age for that mead.
Just like aging and storing a wine, you'll know when it peaks. From there, you'll know how long to store that brand and bottle.