Making Mead

Making mead or honey wine is a simple wine for first time home wine brewers.

Mead, or honey wine, has been made for thousands of years. It is a simple wine that can be made with very little equipment. The key to making great mead is the aging process, the longer it is allowed to age, the better the mead will be.

For equipment, you will need a 5 gallon glass carboy or food grade plastic bucket with a tight lid. You will also need an airlock and bung or an airlock with a three foot length of plastic tubing attached. Airlocks and bungs can be purchased online or thru any wine or beer brewing shop in your locale.

To make a homemade airlock for the lid of a food grade bucket, use a 5 inch long, 1/8 inch diameter section of PVC plumbing pipe. Find an old wine bottle cork and carefully drill out a 1/8 inch hole in the center of the cork. Push the plumbing pipe through the hole to the point where the cork is centered on your pipe.

Cut a hole in the top of your plastic bucket lid and insert your airlock until the cork is three quarters the way in. Seal around the cork with silicone caulking for an airtight seal. Attach the hose to the outside and you are ready to make mead.

Before beginning the mead making process, you need to make sure you have yeast. Many home mead makers prefer champagne yeast or some other special yeast. While champagne yeast does indeed make wonderful mead, you can easily use brewer's yeast or if none of those is available, baker's yeast will work fine.

By experimenting with different types of yeast, you will be able to make several different types of mead. Champagne yeast creates mead that is very light, like a dry, white wine, whereas baker's yeast gives the mead a fuller flavor.

The general recipe for mead is 4 pounds honey to 4 gallons of water. Any type of honey will work, even the type from the grocery store that is packaged in little bears. The best meads are made with specialty honeys, those that have the flavor of specific flowers, i.e., clover, orange blossom, etc. A good tip is to look for local honeys at a health food store or upscale supermarket.

To make the mead, add four gallons of cool water to your bucket or carboy.

In a large stainless or enamel pot, heat the honey, stirring constantly, until tiny bubbles appear on the outside edges. Remove from the heat. This process kills any bacteria that may be in the honey, such as the bacteria that produces botulism. While many mead makers skip this step, I recommend it for both raw and store bought honey, just to be on the safe side.

Add your hot honey to the water in your fermenting vessel and stir throughly. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

While the mixture is cooling, dissolve the yeast in a cup with 1/4 cup, hot to the touch water and 3 tablespoons of sugar or reserved honey. This will allow the yeast to get started. When the yeast has doubled (or more, if you wish), add it to the honey mixture.

Put your airlock and bung on your carboy or the lid on your bucket. Attach the plastic tubing to the airlock on the bucket lid, if you do not have a bung.

Move the mead to a room or place where it will be out of the way for at least thirty days. The temperature of the space needs to remain somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees at all times.

After getting the container in place, fill the bung half full with water and snap on the lid. If using a hose, place the loose end in a quart jar half filled with water. This allows the fermentation gases to escape safely.

Within twelve hours, you should see bubbles forming, in either the bung or the jar. This signifies that the mixture is indeed fermenting.

Mead generally takes around two weeks to complete the fermenting process and can be siphoned off and used at this point. Mead can and does improve with age, the longer you can resist opening the container, and the better your mead will be.

We try, and sometimes fail, to allow our mead to age at least six months. That length of time gives us a golden, clear liquid and a wonderful, mellow taste.

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