Basic home brewing equipment can be used to make mead.
Mead is surprisingly easy to make at home—if you’re patient. This fermented honey wine, arguably the first alcoholic beverage that humans created, can consist simply of water and honey, left open to the air for several months until natural yeasts arise and start converting sugar to alcohol. This recipe, though, involves a lot less control over the end product (and a lot less sanitation!) than most brewers want, which is why commercially produced yeasts are typically used in mead-making these days.
I recently went to a mead-making workshop at Southwest Grape and Grain, a fantastic brewing and fermenting supply shop staffed by knowledgeable folks. One of those folks, by the name of Jonathan Ortiz, was kind enough to speak with me after the event and give me his basic mead recipe.
Southwest Grape & Grain
“Mead is not necessarily as sweet and syrupy as you might think, based on the ingredients,” Ortiz told me. The flavor profile of any given batch depends heavily on how long it’s fermented and what type of yeast is used. In the recipe below, for instance, a champagne yeast is used, yielding a very dry mead. You’re welcome to use any other kind of yeast you’d like—the resulting flavors of each yeast are usually printed on the packaging, so you can shop around for what you like.
Before you embark on your mead-making journey, visit Southwest Grape and Grain to get all the necessary equipment—they even have a preassembled mead-making kit to make your life a little easier. Here are all the things you’ll need:
Two one-gallon fermentation jugs
Combination bottle filler
Two #6.5 stoppers, one drilled and one solid
Be sure to sanitize everything before you begin (you can buy sanitizer at SWG&G), and happy hooch-making.
Jonathan Ortiz’s Simple Mead Recipe: One Gallon Yield
Three lbs. honey
Sanitized and dechlorinated water, enough to top off to just under the one gallon mark (Store bought bottled water is a perfect method too)
EC-1118 Yeast pack
Fermaid-K small vial
Yeast Nutrient AKA D.A.P. (Diammonium Phosphate)
1) Using a sanitized spoon or the cap-and-shake method, mix all honey and water in your one gallon fermentation vessel. There will be a point when no more honey will dissolve into the water (overly saturated water), and this is OK! Don’t worry; the yeast will finish the job. Add your yeast and nutrient mix (1/4 tsp. of Yeast Nutrient +1/2 tsp. Fermaid K per gallon).2) Once everything is added, mix/shake thoroughly and aerate one more time. This aeration process is essential for the yeast to replicate their numbers before the anaerobic fermentation begins.3) Add the airlock and ferment around the 68-70 degree Fahrenheit range (ideally).4) After seven days of fermentation, add 1/4 tsp. of Yeast Nutrient and 1/2 tsp. of Fermaid K.5) After another seven days (two week mark), add 1/4 tsp. of Yeast Nutrient and 1/2 tsp. of Fermaid K.6) After another seven days (three week mark), add the final dosage of nutrients (1/4 tsp. of Yeast Nutrient and 1/2 tsp. of Fermaid K).7) After one month of fermentation, the mead is finished … almost. Using your auto siphon with the tubing attached, transfer the mead from the primary fermenter into the secondary fermentation jar. You can add fruit and/or spices at this time. Don’t be afraid, experiment! Reapply air-lock with water or sanitizer and allow mead to sit undisturbed in a dark, relatively temperature-stable area (like a closet) for at least a month.8) After this month long wait, you will notice a small layer of yeast that has settled to the bottom. You’ll want to transfer the mead one more time off of this yeast layer into your second gallon jug and leave for a week to sit. 9) Now it’s time to bottle the mead. You have many options for bottling (wine bottles, beer bottles, grolsch style flip top bottles, etc. If you want to keep the small, final accumulated yeast layer, you can proceed to swirl it back into suspension before bottling (this can potentially add interesting flavors) or you can leave the sediment layer undisturbed at the bottom.10) Attach your bottling wand to the end of the tube on your auto siphon and start the siphon process. Now, depress the end of the bottling wand into the sanitized bottles and properly seal or cap.11) Store for months and enjoy once it starts tasting good. I recommend sampling at bottling time and then again after the six month mark and you’ll get an idea of how the mead has evolved with time.Side note: After the month-long fermentation time the mead is certainly drinkable. Some people prefer this stronger tasting beverage. Most styles of mead you’ll try commercially have gone through the aging process and a lot of the sharp alcoholic corners have lost their edge and mellowed out.