Mead Making FAQ
Here is a list of the various questions I have received about the art of making mead.
What is Mead?
Mead is wine! Simple as that. But unlike what you normally think of as wine Mead does not use grapes. It uses honey.
Is Mead expensive to Make?
Not really, I guess it depends on what you consider expensive. To make a 1 gallon batch of plain mead which is about 4 bottles of wine it would cost you less than twenty dollars (without equipment which you can fudge). This cost is about a dollar for yeast, a dollar for water and the rest is for three pounds of honey. You could shop around and get three pounds of honey for probably around twelve dollars. I usually get it around nine dollars. So if you got your honey for nine dollars a first batch of mead would cost you around eleven dollars.
But what if I have to buy the equipment too?
Well, all you really need is a 1 gallon jug, a drilled stopper and an airlock. Probably cost you around ten dollars.
How long do I wait before I can drink my home made mead?
This is the number one question when it comes to mead. And it is a bit difficult to answer. The rough overview of this is that you can taste it when the fermenting bubbles stop. But it will continue to age and improve over time. How long it takes to get to be its best is very dependent upon the recipe, ingredients, yeast and honey. But I would say as a rough guide that you can start to drink your mead after about three months from the day you made it and you can start to really enjoy your mead after about five or six months.
Is Mead Delicious?
How do I halt the ferment of my mead so I can get it to the sweetness or alcohol level I want?
This is easy enough to do. You simply add a chemical called Potassium Sorbate. While it doesn't kill the yeast it prevents it from reproducing effectively halting the ferment.
How do I calculate the alcohol content of my mead? There are a few different ways to do it and there are some rules of thumb based on type of yeast used. The best way to do it is with a formula and a hydrometer. I have that information on calculating alcohol content of mead here
How do I make a sparkling champagne style mead?
This involves adding some extra sugars after the initial ferment is done. Quite easy and I have a tutorial about it here
Who Invented Mead?
That is lost to history and nobody knows. It is believed to be many thousands of years old.
Is Mead older than beer and wine?
This is another subject for debate and nobody knows for sure. Personally I think it probably is.
Do I really need an airlock on my mead jug?
Absolutely, the fermenting mead builds up gases that can create enormous pressure. This pressure could explode your jug or container. Gotta have some kind of an airlock. They only cost a buck, don't be so cheap. Mead is worth it!
Is it easy to start a meadery?
Nope, predominantly because it is an alcoholic beverage which means both alcohol restrictions and food stuff concerns. There are state, local and federal requirements and regulations. It is a real pain in the carboy :) And there are very strict labeling laws and rules. Just getting a label approved takes time and effort.
There is a brownish foam formed on the top of my mead inside my carboy. Is this ok?
Yup, pretty normal. Happens all the time for my mead batches. Crack it open and smell it - does it smell rotten or tainted? If not then it is perfectly fine.
There is a thick layer of goop on the bottom of my fermenting mead jug! Is this normal? Yes, absolutely, but don't leave it there for the whole ferment cycle. After two to four weeks you should siphon out the liquid into a new jug and throw all that sediment away.
Are there yeasts specifically made for mead?
Yes, Wyeast company makes two yeasts specific for mead makers. I haven't used either of them yet but will be giving them a try. I have some basic information about yeast here
Some recipes boil their honey and water while others don't? Which is right?
Big controversy here. Do whichever you are comfortable with. I have done it both ways and each works fine.
Do I really need to sanitize my equipment?
I highly recommend you sanitize your equipment. It is not for cleanliness of the items. It is to kill any kind of living thing that might have a growth bonanza in your honey water. Some odd bacteria could take over your ferment and kill off the yeast you want to grow.
What is a hydrometer?
It is a tool that measures the specific gravity of your liquid. Really handy tool that will help you determine maturity of your mead, alcohol content and sugar content. More about hydrometer here
Why do I add nutrients to my mead? Why should I?
Honey is very rich but it is weak in some of the critical nutrients that yeast needs to grow so we add some nutrients to help it along. If no extra nutrients are added the ferment could stall and not complete.
What kinds of nutrients can I add?
You can purchase commercial nutrients and energizer for a few dollars a jar (will last for many many gallons of mead) or you can add some home made nutrients like tea leaves or lemon/orange peels. Many fruits can also be used which would also contribute some flavoring to your mead.
Why all the different names for mead?
Well, there is mead, nectar of the gods and honey wine. Pretty much all the same but there are variations of mead that have individual names. Kind of like when you think of white wines, red wines, rosees etc. In regards to this think of mead as a Base drink that you add flavors to. Some of these variations are:
- Melomel: This is a mead that has fruit added either in the ferment or afterward. There are as many variations as there are fruits.
- Cyser: This is a mead that is fermented with some derivative of apples such as apple cider, juice or or cider.
- Pyment: This is a mead that is either sweetened or fermented with grapes. Yup! This can also work in the opposite way in that you make a wine and then flavor it with honey! Still called Pyment.
- Metheglin: This is mead that is flavored with spices or herbs.
- Braggot: Mead that is made with malted grain or malted barlety
- Sack mead: A strong mead made with extra honey
- capsicumel: Mead made with Chili Peppers
- hippocras: Mead made with Honey, grapes, and spices
- Mora: Honey and Mulberries
- Rhodomel: honey with attar, a rose petal distillate
How can I clarify my Mead?
Mead can take quite a while to clarify. You can accelerate the process and get a sparklingly beautiful and clear mead much sooner by adding bentonite to it. I have an article with pictures here
How do I sweeten mead? It is just a matter of adding more honey or sugar at the right time. You do have to insure the batch of mead has stopped it's ferment. I have a short article that explains the chemicals and how to sweeten mead here: How to sweeten mead
How much mead can I legally make for my own consumption?
This rule is subject to change and it is determined by the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. As of the writing of this FAQ you are allowed for personal consumption (no selling) 100 gallons for a residence with one adult and 200 gallons for a residence with 2 adults. Here is a link: TTB.GOV
Can I make Distilled Mead? The short answer is no! It is illegal to distill spirits in the US. But, it can be legally made and had. Here is a distilled mead called "Gwires" that you can check out.
I think I killed my yeast? Or didn't realize it was expired. Can I just add more yeast? Yes, you sure can. Wait 48 hours after you pitched that first yeast though. It may catch on. If there is still no airlock activity then you are free to add more yeast.
What is "Racking"? - It is the technical name for siphoning the mead into a fresh jug or bucket, leaving behind all the sediment, fruit and junk.
Do I have to Rack and if so How often should I rack? Technically you don't have to rack your mead at all. But it is a good idea for clearing up the mead and avoiding off flavors. And racking is a function of need. If there is a sediment you should rack it. Typically every 30 days is good or until no more sediment forms.
Do I have to heat the honey or must when making mead? The short answer is no! You do not have to do it at all. But... if you are a beginner I recommend you do it, particularly if this is your first batch. It makes the process safer and easier.
How should I store my bottles of mead? Just like regular wine you should keep them in a cool place and tilted slightly toward the cork so the cork will remain wet. A dried out cork could leak so we keep the bottle tilted and the cork wet.
Absolutely new to Mead?
I have a nice little 4 minute video that you can watch. It explains what mead is and how it is made: What is Mead and How is it made?
Love Kindle Books? I just published my kindle book on how to make mead. It is a no-nonsense easy guide to making a batch of mead. You can get it in the kindle store.