What Is Mead?
Put simply, Mead is a type of alcoholic beverage that is sometimes called "honey-wine" because one of the main ingredients is honey. I like to call it "honey-awesome-beer." It can be carbonated or still, and it can have ABV of 8% to 20%. The type we are making here is a simple still, sweet mead with stuff you can snag at your local grocery store.
After you've mastered this simple process you can graduate to more complicated ingredients and processes to really get your creative mead groove going.
Here we have taken a photo of everything you need to make a basic mead. Actually, here we have the supplies for making two batches of mead! We are going to follow the process for the orange mead we put together—we're calling it "Honey Bumble Sting Rodeo Clown." The other batch we made with raspberries we crowned as "Raspberry Quicksand." The process for the raspberry mead is the same, just use the raspberries!
Keep in mind that these are really just suggestions. Maybe you want to throw in a dash of vanilla? Some ginger perhaps? Maybe you are a pear freak? Well, create away, you crazy mead-making wizardly fool. You may, however, want to keep yourself under control if this is your first batch. It would be a huge bummer after six months of waiting to find out that your gallon of "Kiwi Ginger Vanilla Thunder" tastes like bathroom tile grime.
Here is what we got (again for making 2 batches of mead):
- 2 jugs spring water
- 3 packets of bread yeast (any kind will really do, we have Fleischmann's here)
- 2 containers of honey, 1 lb 8 oz each
- 1 box raisins (doesn't have to be the huge box we got here)
- 2 oranges (you really only need one, we just wanted to eat the other)
- 2 (6-ounce) containers of raspberries
- 10 pack of 12-inch balloons
Total cost: $33.00 (in Alaska)
Step 1: Warm the Honey
While we do some other stuff, go ahead and fill a bowl with some hot water and put your honey containers in there. This will make the honey extraction process more awesome.
Step 2: Divide the Water
Now pour about half your spring water into a clean container; we need to make room for all the stuff we are about to cram in the jug.
Step 3: Add Your Fruit of Choice
Next, chop up your fruit of choice. Here we used an average-sized orange—the other one we ate as a nervous side effect of making mead. You'll want to cut up pieces that you can shove through the neck of your jug without making too much of a mess. If you want a clearer mead in the end, avoid really mashing things up, as this will be harder to strain/siphon out if you choose to do that later.
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A note about your portions. This is a tough one. We used an average-sized orange for this gallon jug, we could have put in another or even two if we really wanted to. You'll have to think about what you believe using more or less of your given fruit will do to the end taste. Will it be sweeter? Overpowering? A giant blob of a mess? We've heard and read about the law of thirds, the law of four parts (one part fruit, one part honey, two parts water) and we think, do whatever strikes your fancy. You are the mead master of your own house.
Step 4: Add Your Raisins
We added around 30 raisins. You could probably just grab a handful or two and chuck them in the jug.
This is a strange step that not even we really understand. Many argue, with evidence that looks straight out of a chemistry textbook, that you need a huge amount of raisins and/or grapes to affect and support the process that the yeast goes through in eating the sugars in our concoction. Others say you need to mash up or blend your raisins to help the yeast out in doing its thing. Further, newer recipes say forget the raisins.
Without getting too much in the weeds and saying things that will get proud brewer's panties in a bunch and calling us idiots, there is an interplay of chemistry happening largely between acid, sugar, and yeast. Raisins may contain elements that can help in your yeast producing a better-tasting mead. That being said, it's magic to us at this point. If this is your first batch and you are not too much into diving into chemistry at this point, just add the raisins as a superstitious step. Later on, you can do something else and come back here to call us idiots.
Step 5: Add Your Yeast
We used one packet of yeast, which is around a tablespoon.
Now, about using bread yeast. We're writing this for people that are interested in brewing something but don't know where to start and are intimidated by shopping around for beer yeast. You may have a beer snob in your family or circle of friends that shake their heads judgmentally at your folly, maybe your spouse crinkles their nose at you like you are insane while pouring in your bread yeast to make mead. This is all normal. In six months, drink your mead and be merry. Say you would have shared, but you know, it is below them.
Step 6: Add Your Honey
We used one 1 lb 8 oz container of honey per gallon jug. It would be better, and much more traditional, to use a lot more honey. But, let's be honest, honey is expensive. If you've got spare change, you should probably use around 2-3lbs (or more!) per gallon for a truer mead experience.
Step 7: Prep for Storage
Pour some of your spring water back into your jug, leaving an inch or two from the top. Take one of your balloons, poke a hole in the top with a clean needle or sharp point, stretch it over the neck of your jug, and label your creation with a kick-ass name and the date you jugged it. Please use a better name and handwriting than we did here.
Step 8: Wait
This part is probably going to drive you insane. Luckily, the first few days or up to three weeks will be pretty interesting. Your yeast should be kicking up a storm within a day. Your balloon will inflate and your creation should be bubbling like mad. After three weeks or near that, the first phase will be completed.
At the three-week phase, you can strain/siphon your creation into another clean jug/container and replace the balloon on it. This will make for a clearer mead, and it will also change how the end product will taste.
Sit tight for a total of six months, doing a few sips along the way to ensure things are running in your favor, and boom, you're the mead-making master of your own kingdom of awesome.