Hey everyone. I’ve been brewing beer for a few months and was thinking of trying mead after watching the Brewing TV ep about it. The trouble is I have no idea what it tastes like, so I’m a little hesitant to make a 3 or 5 gal batch only to discover I don’t. Are there any 1 gallon kits or good 1 gallon recipes out there?
Also are there any commercial examples I could possibly try to get an idea of what it tastes like?
Mead is very easy to make, and very delicious. Tastes like you think it would taste – tastes like honey! For a simple recipe, I like to dissolve 7 pounds honey in enough water to bring up to 3 gallons, heat it on the stove to about 170 F for about 15 minutes, then cool it and throw in some Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead yeast. Fermentation at room temperature will take roughly 4 to 6 weeks – it is slower to ferment than beer. And that’s about all there is to it. You can carbonate it, or traditionally it is consumed uncarbonated, like a wine. You can drink it straight out of the fermenter, and it is delicious just like that. I remember the last batch I made, most of it was gone by the time I got around to bottling the rest of it. Yet it will keep in your bottles for 10 years or longer – gets better with age. Go for it. Very easy to make, and very delicious.
As far as commercial examples, there are a few to choose from, but you might need to search around at specialty liquor stores and world markets to find them. White Winter, B Nektar, and Chaucer’s are a few that come to mind offhand. In the past I was never all that impressed with commercial examples, but in recent years I think they have improved significantly. I think the best mead you will ever have is the mead made at home. See for yourself!
I recommend trying the standard semi-sweet kit to get started. Personally, I’m in the no heat group and do not let heat anywhere near my mead. Heat destroys delicate flavors. I am also not a fan of Chaucers or RedStone unless you like mulling spices.
Thanks for the info everyone. I recently received 2 more 5 gal glass carboys for free so I think I’m going to dedicate one to try mead. I do have a few local sources for honey which might save me some initial investment.
Is late summer/early fall when honey is usually harvested?
Nighthawk - what do you mean by no heat? I read through the instructions for the standard semi-sweet recipe on NB and the only heat I saw was water to rinse out the honey from the containers.
Looks doable except I would not recommend Fleishmann’s bread yeast. I’ve done that before, and amazingly enough, the finished brew tastes just like… bread! Go figure. If you want it tasting very bready, go for it, but if not then opt for any wine or mead yeast and the result will be superior.
Dave suggested bringing the honey and water up to 170*. This would be pasturizing it. You will notice that hony can sit around for years (I have some 4yrs old) and will not spoil. So there is no need to pasturize it.
Using some warm water to get the honey to mix is a good plan. Heating it to much and you risk driving off the flavors.
I suggest keeping it simple. Honey, water, yeast nutrients. Lavin 71b or D47 dry yeast both make excellent meads.
If you make 3 gallons, you can split it into 3 one gallon jugs. All some different berries to 2 of them. Leave one alone
I hear that all the time, and there are no doubt thousands of homebrewers providing the same advice, and they have had good success. Yet my experience begs to differ. One time I had an unheated mead batch that smelled and tasted exactly like vomit – undrinkable. The reason: Just because honey in its normal concentrated state can keep a long time doesn’t mean there aren’t dormant critters within that are just waiting to leap out as soon as the honey is diluted, which is exactly what is done to make mead. It is for these reasons that I recommend pasteurizing at low heat. In my experience, the low heat doesn’t hurt the aroma or flavor of the final mead one iota. You can also opt to skip heating but instead add potassium metabisulfite (a.k.a., K-meta or Campden) in the amount of one tablet (crushed) per gallon, or as directed on the package. Add the K-meta 24 hours prior to adding your own yeast, and it will kill most, but not all, of the wild bugs, so that your own yeast has a much better chance of being the primary yeast for the job. I prefer heating because I feel there is a greater likelihood of killing all the bugs, and I also don’t care for the slight flavor that K-meta imparts. But if you do neither, then you better pitch a ton of yeast, or it’s anybody’s guess what wild bugs are fermenting your mead.
Not sure what flavors you are picking up from the campden when using the proper dosage. It needs to be added later in the process to maintain proper SO2 levels for storage anyways. IME nonheated meads maintain much more of the delicate flavors from the honey and show no off flavors from the use of K-meta. Even though I campden all of my meads prior to fermentation I consistantly score 48 or higher with mine in competitions.
As far as yeast goes, I also like 71B for many of my meads. However, I prefer a yeast such as D-47 in varieties such as Basswood.