Drink Mead

Mead may well be the oldest recorded fermented beverage. The Celts were drinking it in 500 A.D. There are indications that the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Scandinavians, Assyrian, Incas and Aztec used mead, both in festivals and as a religious drink. Honey, and by association, mead, have been attributed with such powers as that of an aphrodisiac, and it has been said that it imbues the drinker with attributes such as life, wisdom, courage and strength. Mead was popular until the 18th century, when sugar was developed. As the popularity rose and the price fell, sugar became the sweetener of choice and mead and other drinks made with honey became increasingly rare.

Making Mead

All you need is honey, water, yeast and a container. No boiling is required and infection is much less likely than in beer. Keep in mind that there are a thousand ways to make mead, and no one way is ‘correct’.

Equipment

A lot of the equipment listed can be found or made with little to no money with a bit of ingenuity. Just remember that you have to sterilize this stuff so, keep away from wood.Choose plastic, glass, enamel or stainless steel. And don’t use aluminum, as it will react with the acids in the mead.

*Yeast Starter Bottle (a quart Mason jar)

*Primary Fermenter – a 5 gallon food grade plastic pail is common

*Secondary Fermenter – 5 gallon glass carboy (bottle). (try glass shops or brewing stores)

*Siphon Hose for Racking

*Rubber Stoppers for the primary and secondary fermenters

*Air Lock (also known as a fermentation valve or bubbler)

*Sanitizing Solution Bleach: 2 tablespoons to a gallon of water.

*Scum Skimmer (tea strainer) for those who use raw honey

*Measuring Spoons

*Long-Handled Spoon in stainless steel

*Bottle brushes

*Funnel

*Bottles, Corks or Caps, and Corker/Capper Bottles are easy to come by. Be sure to sanitize them! Some people use screw top bottles, some use beer bottles and cap them (you can get cappers and caps at the brew shop). Standard wine bottles work and grolsch bottles with the flip top are a hot item.

*Brew Pot

*Racking Cane This is a rigid tube that fits down into the carboy. It connects to the siphon hose, and allows you to more easily siphon off the clear mead and leave the gunk behind.

*Bottle washer

*Bottle filler or bottling cane Hydrometer and acid testing equipment

Basic Mead Making Information

1.Sterilizing The Must (the mixture of honey and water)

You want to do this to kill off wild yeasts and other microorganisms that can spoil your developing mead, and you want to give the yeast the best chance to do it’s thing. To pasteurize dissolve the honey into 160 deg. F water and let it set at that temp for about 5 minutes. This is called ‘flash pasteurization’.

2.Considerations

Honey- The amount of honey will help determine how sweet your mead is. Dry meads use from 2.5-3 pounds of honey per gallon of must while sweet meads will need from 3-4 pounds of honey per gallon. Also, keep in mind that the of honey you use will greatly determine the flavor of your mead.

Water – Use the best water available.

Yeast – Your choice of yeast will also affect the mead’s flavor and sweetness.

3.Nutrients

Add raisins, bee pollen or bee larvae to provide lacking nutrients such as such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

4.Acid

Add lemon zest and a bit of lemon juice to balance the acidity of the mead. Mead tends to lack in acidity which can make it too sweet.

5.Tannins

Tannin helps the brew work more efficiently and adds to the balance of the finished product. It also helps bind the protein and ride it out of the must, providing a clearer mead. Tannin affects the mead by providing an astringency that gives the mead it’s ‘punch’. You would add tannin to a mead that did *not* have hops, herbs or fruits. They generally don’t need it but it does work nicley in a plain mead. You can get tannins from black tea.

6.The First Two Weeks

Rubber Stoppers and Air locks are important for the first couple of weeks of fermentation after which the activity level of the yeast drops off, and you can siphon into the secondary fermenter. Stop the neck of the bottle with a drilled rubber stopper and fit it with an airlock. The bubbles in the airlock will tell you when your fermentation is nearly over.

7.Siphoning and Racking

This is what you use to take the mead from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter, and also for your subsequent rackings. You don’t want to pour the must (honey and water) from fermenter to fermenter, because it introduces oxygen, and that is *bad* in the latter part of the fermentation. Oxygen is also something that will encourage growth of acetobacter (the bug that makes vinegar!). Use a length of 5/16 inch hose, 3-8 feet long. Some folks use a racking cane, which can be a big help. You need to place your secondary fermenter below your primary fermenter, and start the rack by filling the hose with water and placing either end in each of the fermenters. Then let the water run, and it will pull the must with it. The purpose of racking is to get the mead off the sediment, so you set the end of the racking hose just above that, leaving the sediment behind.

Recipes

Poor Man’s Cyser (apple) Mead

8 quarts recipe :

Made in TWO batches, so 1/2 ingredients for each pot.

2 large pots.

64oz. apple juice

2 lbs honey.

6 packs of rapid rising active yeast.

8 TBS normal cane sugar.

4 (black) teabags.

4oz lemon juice.

4-5 2 liter coke bottles sterilized with soap and a little bleach

Balloons (20 ct).

Ice to cool (or patience)

Divide the recipe into two equal batches to boil in two pots with the apple juice, honey, sugar, and tea bags. Boil and stir for about 15-20 min. Scoop off the foam. Remove teabags and put ice into mixture to cool and wait 45 min or so until its tepid, warm to the touch. Take a 3 packs rapid rising active yeast dissolve in and mix (for each pot) into a cup warm water and add while stirring. Stir 5 min. Mix the yeast up. With a funnel, pour into bottles and add a balloon on the lip. Change Co2 about 4x daily. Wait a week and wait for the yeast and Co2 to settle and rack (pour) off into another container discarding the yeast and then cap the bottle off (only if balloons are no longer active or you must wait.) Ready in a week, kick ass in two or let it age, it only gets better. Although a non traditional recipe as far as some steps or ingredients, it makes a tasty mead that is about 16%-18% alcohol.

Blackberry Melomel

12 pounds clover honey

3 quarts water packed blackberries

water to 5 gallons

Wyeast #3632 Dry Mead liquid yeast 4.5 tsp mead yeast nutrient

Heat 2 gal. water to 160 and dissolve 10 pounds honey into it. Pasteurize for 15 minutes. Add 2 more gallons room temperature water to pail. Pitch yeast into must, and aerate. Seal and airlock for one month. After a month, rack the mead into another plastic pail onto the blackberries in a fine mesh bag. Add 25-50 oz of raspberries if you like. Let sit for one more month, then rack to a carboy, adding another 1.5 pounds of honey dissolved in water. In another month, rack again, topping off if necessary. This mead ferments out dry, with a good blackberry nose, and a nice body. Complex flavors, but clean.

Ginger Cinnamon Warmer

12 lbs (1 gal) honey

4 gal water

12 oz bruised ginger root

8 lg cinnamon sticks, crushed

4 c raisins

juice and rind of 1 orange (organic) and 2 lemons (organic)

1 pkg Wyeast dry mead yeast

yeast nutrient

Simmer 1 gal water at 160 d. F. Add honey and simmer, stirring to dissolve honey for 15 minutes. Pour into pail and add rest of water. Pitch yeast and nutrient when must drops below 80 d. F. Allow mead to ferment out. Boil 3-4 cups water and steep spices for 15-30 minutes. Let cool and pour into must. Rack mead, and age in carboy, racking when necessary (about once per month) for 6 months. If desired, use clearing agent such as bentonite to hasten clearing, and bottle.

Birch Mead

15 pounds unrefined honey

14 grams champange yeast

couple large peices birch bark – first outer layer

water

5 1/2 gallon glass carboy

cork

airlock

Heat 1 gallon water in large kettle and add paper thin birch bark.When hot slowly add honey while stirring, until honey is desolved. Do not boil. Strain into 5 1/2 gal. carboy. Top off with room temp water.seal. Wait 24 hours to add yeast. Add airlock, and wait. 4 months to ferment and a long time to settle but worth the wait.