There are 2 ways of making mead, there is the brewing method which is more like making beer. This creates a malt honey beverage similar to beer. And the wine making method. This is the classic or traditional mead or Honey Wine. This is the method we use for mead. It's much less fuss and much less chance of losing the honey flavors by heating it too high, so the equipment and methods discussed here will be based on the wine method of making mead.
Let's start out with the equipment, ingredients and method needed to make the mead.
At the top of the list is of course is HONEY... the nectar of bees
There are many types of honey, Wildflower (which is said to be good for combating allergies if you use local wildflower honey like from a farmer's market), Orange Blossom (very floral and makes a nice mead), Blue Curl, Blackberry, Clover, Alfalfa, Eucalyptus (this does not make a good mead), Meadow Foam, and many other varieties of honey. Raw unfiltered honey has the most flavor and we've found is the best for making mead. So, check out your local farmer's market, health food, organic stores or your local brew shop.
A very important tip for making mead is to taste your honey before making it into mead. What your honey tastes like will be what your mead tastes like. So, if you don't like the flavor of your raw honey, you're not going to like your mead. And even if you do like the honey for lets say in your tea or on your bread, it may not taste well as mead. So, make sure you taste your honey before you use it. Unfortunately, grocery stores usually don't allow this, also many especially large chain grocery store honey tends to be processed and has lost some of it's flavor. Our suggestion is to go to your local farmer's market, health food store, organic grocery or your brew shop. Better yet, get on good terms with your local beekeeper they will usually have raw unprocessed honey which is perfect for mead or even better still, take up beekeeping as we did and use your own honey.
You will need about 3 pound of honey for each gallon of mead. We like to make between 3-5 gallons at a time. That about 9 to 15 pounds of honey. This will vary some because different varieties of honey have different amounts of sweetness, but it gives a good approximate.
You will also need di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) which is to help the yeast in the fermentation process. Superfood which is a yeast nutrient again to help the yeasts become active and grow. These are necessary because the honey is lacking in the nutrients that the yeasts need to grow, multiply and go through the fermentation process. Also Tartaric Acid is needed and Potassium Metabisulfate. And finally Champaign or Mead yeast. Mead yeast can come in both dry Mead yeast and sweet Mead yeast depending how much residual sugar you want or how sweet you want your mead to be. We use dry mead yeast or champaign yeast. We like our meads dry, no residual sugar.
The basic recipe for one gallon of mead is very simple. Adjust this recipe as needed for how many gallons you're making. We usually make between 3 and 5 gallons at a time.
3 pounds of Honey
5 grams of Superfood (about 1 1/2 teaspoon)
5 grams of DAP (about 1/2 teaspoon)
3 grams of tartaric acid (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon of Potassium Metabisulfate
water, check your tap water, if you don't like it's taste then use bottled water
1 package yeast
Heat some water on stove and allow to cool to below 130 degrees F. The honey flavors and aromas change if honey is brought to a temperature of 130 degrees or more. Pour the honey into a container large enough to hold a gallon plus having some head space. Use the warm water to rinse the honey out of its jar and into your container. Stir well to dissolve honey adding water (this can be regular tap water or bottled water). Stir until all the water and honey are mixed. At this point you will want to check your beginning specific gravity with your hydrometer. You want the adjusted reading somewhere between 1.080 and 1.085. Add more water if necessary. Add in the superfood, DAP and tartaric acid, stir well and recheck the hydrometer reading. Next, add in the potassium Metabisulfate and test using the titrate kit. You want somewhere in the neighborhood of 30ppm. You should now put the airlock on and let it sit for 24 hours before pitching the yeast. We're usually too impatient and pitch the yeast immediately.
After pitching the yeast allowed allow your mead to ferment for about a month, then rack it off into another carboy and let sit for between 1 and 9 months. We tend to let our meads sit for about 9 months. After this time, you're ready to bottle or keg your mead.
Variations: You can also add grape tannins to you mead as well as oak chips if you want an oak flavor. You can add fruit if you want to make a fruit mead. There are many different types of mead. Also, your mead will taste differently depending on the type of honey you start with. Enjoy experimenting!