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Brewing Mead

Sunday, 15 July 2012 23:39 Written by 

In my article about considering mead brewing as a trade, I described a lot of benefits to being a brewer, but the biggest joy of all is the final, delicious product that you made with your own hands, and the enlisted help of some honey bees and friendly microorganisms. There is an astounding amount of flavor and complexity from just three ingredients: honey, yeast and water. And there is a great variance in flavor from the different types of honey. 

If you would like to learn to brew mead, you will need to make a small investment in equipment up front. But the expense will pay for itself after a few batches. If you already home-brew, then the good news is that you have most of the equipment.

There are many recipes and processes for brewing mead. But for our purposes, I prefer the method that requires the least amount of boiling, so we will be using store-bought spring water. This recipe can be used with many different types of honey, but I prefer clover, orange blossom or wildflower. 

For bottling, you can use 24 ounce plastic P.E.T. bottles with screwtop caps, porcelain-capped bottles, growlers, corked wine bottles, mini kegs, soda kegs, etc. But for this recipe, we are going with 12-ounce non-screwtop bottles. They are re-usable, easy to obtain, good for high-octane homebrew (since you may not want to drink more than 12 oz of mead in one sitting) and they are considered the homebrew standard. You can get a hand capper for fairly cheap, or you can upgrade and get a bench capper. Blank bottle caps will cost a few bucks for a gross.

One final note is that a good mead/wine yeast will tend to be very vigorous and will consume all the honey until the alcohol levels get to the point where they stop. But if fermentation ends prematurely, you can kick-start it by adding yeast nutrient, which is easy to find online or at homebrew stores. 

Sweet Mead Simple Instructions

This will yield a 5 gallon batch of still (uncarbonated) mead. It is fairly high-alcohol—anywhere from 10-12% ABV. As a general rule, the better the honey you use, the better your mead will be, so don’t be afraid to use a high-quality artisan honey. 

Equipment List

A basic beer-making kit: 2  6-gallon plastic buckets (primary & secondary fermentors) with lids & airlocks, transfer hosing, a bottle filler, bottle caps, a bottle capper, and a brush. You should be able to get these items for $75-$90. This can be obtained through an online homebrew supply store such as Northern Brewer, Midwest Brewing Supply or Amazon.com. 

You'll also need to buy about 53 12-ounce bottles. You can purchase them from a homebrew store, or buy some good non-twist off top microbrews, drink the contents and re-use those bottles. 

Ingredient List

- 3.75 gallons of spring water

- 15 lbs of honey - Use good-quality varietal honey. I prefer wildflower, orange blossom or clover.

- 2 packets of Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast 

Instructions

1. Sanitize ALL equipment, including the bottles, caps, tubing, 1 bucket, and stirring spoons. You can use unscented bleach (1 tsp bleach to a gallon of water) or a sanitizer such as B-brite. Allow about a half-hour for everything to air-dry.

2. Fill the sink with hot water and let the honey containers soak, so the honey becomes less viscous.

3. Fill fermenter with 3 gallons of room-temperature water.

4. Boil remaining .75 gallons of water and add honey to the fermentor containing 3 gallons of water.

5. Use the boiled water to fill the honey containers and dissolve the remaining honey. Add the caps and shake. Be careful not allow too much pressure to build when shaking the containers.

6. Pour the remaining honey/water mixture into the fermenter.

7. Place 1 cup of warm sterilized water (90-110°) into a sanitized cup. Add the yeast and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.

8. Stir the honey/water mixture in the fermenter for about 10-15 minutes, until all honey is dissolved. 

9. Pour in the yeast slurry, and stir well to mix & aerate.

10. Insert sanitized airlock and place the fermenter in a cool, dark place (65-70°). Fermentation should start within 24 hours. Do not open the fermenter, because that increases the chance of contamination.

11. Allow 2 weeks to a month for primary fermentation. When fermentation slows to one bubble every 60 seconds or so, fermentation is nearly completed.

12. When fermentation has subsided, transfer the mead into a sterilized secondary fermentation bucket, and seal, adding a sterilized airlock. Allow it to age for another 3-4 months. If you would like a clear mead, you can add a clearing agent such as isinglass, or you can stop further fermentation (for a sweeter mead) by adding potassium sorbate. 

13. When you're ready to bottle, siphon the liquid into sterilized bottles and cap them. The process is almost the same as beer bottling, and a quick reference video can be seen here

14. Mead betters with age. So even though you can drink it shortly after bottling, it's best to let it age 6-9 months. 

Questions/Comments

If you have any questions, feel free to post them and I will answer them as quickly as I can. Enjoy!

Last modified on Sunday, 19 August 2012 14:05
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