Your second mead is same as the first, except I am going to expand your shopping list a little bit and give you a few more options that we didn’t cover the first time around. There are a lot of things going on. If you haven’t yet started down the mead-making road, you should read that article first. If you have a handle on it, we can tackle a little bit more.
- Hydrometer – This is a device that will help you measure the specific gravity of your must, thus allowing us to get an idea of how much sugar we are working with and ultimately, how much alcohol you have produced. Get this from your homebrew store.
- Graduated Cylinder – Buy this from your homebrew store at the same time you get your hydrometer. It will hold the fluid you will be testing it with.
- Yeast – Any yeast will do, but this time around, take a look at some of the dry yeasts as options. Champagne yeast will give you a dry, high alcohol content. Medium white wine yeasts will fall somewhere between the Champagne yeast and the sweet mead yeast we used on the first batch.
- Bottles – Grab a case of those self-sealing bottles and replacement rubber stoppers from the homebrew store.
- Bottling Bucket – This is a bucket with a hole at the bottom and a spigot.
- Bottling Valve – Buy this from your homebrew store. Cut a couple of inches from your racking tube to attach this to the spigot of your bottling bucket. When you insert this valve into your bottle and it reaches the bottom, it will trigger and allow the mead to flow smoothly in to fill the bottle.
The instructions will be the same as the first mead except for a few additional steps.
- Take copious notes. Write everything down. Don’t just record the ingredients. Record temperatures, measurements, and your thoughts as you tasted the samples. The more you write down, the more you will be able to learn from your mistakes and reproduce your successes.
- Instead of bringing your mead to a full boil, you may want to hold it at 165 degrees F for about five minutes and cool it back down from there. Our purpose is to pasteurize the must to keep contaminants at bay. We do not have to bring it to a full boil to do this. In fact, not bringing it to a full boil will better preserve some of the volatile aromatics of the honey.
- If you have chosen to use a dry yeast, you will want to hydrate it. Add the dry yeast to half a cup of water and allow it to sit for a half an hour before adding it to your must. Again, make sure everything is sanitized and clean. You can also add a small amount of sugar (1 teaspoon) to ‘proof’ your yeast. If the yeast is alive and well, the yeast will foam. If it does nothing, it is dead and will not work for you as you had hoped. Go buy another yeast packet.
- Once you have cooled your must the first time, insert a sanitized measuring cup into your must to grab about a half a cup to fill up the graduated cylinder. Use the hydrometer to get a reading. It will probably look something like 1.100. This is called your Starting Gravity (SG). Write it down. It will also have a corresponding potential alcohol reading. For a specific gravity of 1.1, this will be about 13.4%. Be sure also to check the temperature and adjust accordingly. Your hydrometer is adjusted for 60 degrees, so if you are taking a reading at 70 degrees, you will need to add something like .001.
- After your first fermentation of a few weeks and the bubbling activity has reached a still point, you will rack your must. As you do this, capture another sample to take another reading. Depending on the yeast you use, it could range anywhere from 0.980 to 1.200. This is called your Finishing Gravity (FG). For medium wine yeast, expect it to be something like 1.012. Write that down, as well as the corresponding alcohol by volume (ABV). Let’s say it is 1.4%. By subtracting this from your first reading, you will get your final ABV. In this example it would be 12%. Whew. That is some potent stuff. Drink responsibly.
- In your first mead, I glossed over racking and bottling but there is something here you need to also be aware of. Once there is alcohol, oxygen will no longer be your friend. The alcohol will oxidize and taste very bad. To minimize the risk of this, we avoid as much splashing as we can. This is why we use the racking tube and the bottling bucket instead of the funnel for these stages of the process.
Hopefully this gives you a more rounded understanding of mead making. From here, you are likely to want to experiment with different varietal honeys, different strains of yeast, and a variety of herbs, species, and fruits. There is much to explore and many years of fun ahead of you. Enjoy the journey. I hope to taste your wares one day.