Making mead is fun, rewarding, and down-right delicious. The Mesopotamians loved it, the Vikings loved it, and we love it today. It isn’t that difficult, either. I made these instructions below as simple as I can for you to make your very first mead, but you will also need to review the basics of sanitation before you begin. After making your first mead, you can explore options to improve the process. Have fun and let me know how it turns out!
- 2 one-gallon glass jugs – Buy a couple of gallons of real apple cider and get a free jug to ferment your beverage in. If you need something to do with the apple juice, try making a cyser.
- 1 bung & fermentation lock – If you can, take that jug into the brewing store and ask them to help you put a stopper in it. Tell them you are going to make some mead and you need that stopper and a fermentation lock.
- 3 lbs. honey – Buy this from your local brewing store or a bee keeper. Buy in bulk. You do not want to pay the full retail prices that you would have to pay in a grocery store. You also want to be wary of cheap honey at your bulk grocery warehouses. Get the best ingredients you can. If you are going to spend the time, make it the best it can be. You may also have to purchase a bucket to put it in that you can use again for your next trip to the store.
- 3 quarts of water – I like to buy filtered water. You may get by with using tap water, but filtered water is not that expensive and will help ensure quality.
- 1 Funnel – This can easily be found at the brewing store or anywhere you can get basic cooking utensils.
- Two-gallon pot – You may already have this.
- Yeast Nutrient – You can pick this up from your brewing supply shop. For this recipe, you will need only 1 teaspoon.
- Acid Blend – Pick this up at the brewing store. You will want to add 1 teaspoon to this recipe.
- Sanitizer – There are a variety of sanitizers you can get from your homebrewing store.
- Thermometer – You will also find this at the homebrewing store.
- Sweet Mead Yeast – Ask for it at the local brewing store. There are a variety of other liquid wine yeasts you could use. Any one of them would probably make good mead. If you are insistent upon using a dry yeast, then read ahead to making your second mead.
- Small Racking Tube and hose – This will be used to siphon mead from one container to another – a process we call racking. Be sure to tell the person at the homebrew store that you will be making only one gallon at a time and that you only need a small one of these.
Now that you have all of your equipment and ingredients laid out before you, turn on the burner, warm your water and dissolve the honey into it. Stir it in with the yeast nutrient and the acid blend and bring it to a boil. The mixture you are creating now is called must. It is just what we call wine before it becomes wine. The next step will be to cool it down to room temperature.
Fill your sink with ice water and set the pot you have been using into it. This will cool the must rapidly. The sooner we reach our desired temperature and add the yeast, the better. It is important, however, that we do not add the yeast until it is at least below 80 degrees F. Anything higher will start to kill the yeast, and that won’t do us any good. It is also important to note that anything that touches the yeast must first be sanitized. Be careful with wet hands not to drip into your pot and also keep everything away that could contaminate your otherwise perfect concoction.
Once your must has come down to at least 80 degrees F, transfer it to your sanitized glass jug. Plug it as best you can and shake it well. For this part of the process, you want oxygen in the must. It will allow those little yeasties to reproduce and create a happy healthy colony in your mead to be. Add your yeast. Fill your fermentation sanitized lock with sanitation fluid or vodka and set it in a cool dark place.
After about 24 hours, you should see the bubbles come up frequently as the yeast releases carbon dioxide. This is just a part of the process of creating alcohol. Let it sit until the bubbling stops. This may take a couple of months, so be patient. Once it reaches a stand-still, sanitize the second glass jug and the racking tube, and move the mead from one vessel to the other. There will be some sediment on the bottom of the first jug. This is the spent yeast. Do your best to leave it in the first vessel and discard it. Let the mead sit in that second vessel until you just can’t stand it anymore. It will be at its best after it has aged for 1-2 years, but I will applaud you if you can wait that long. Then, bottle or share with your friends.
I hope that gives you a good overview and enough to get started. Dive right in or skip to your second mead for a few more tips and tricks to further your journey. Also, check out this simple cyser recipe for something to do with that apple juice. You will also find great reading in Brewing Mead: Wassail! that will give you many more options to explore.