How to Make Mead: Mead the Fourth Be With You
What Is Mead?
Mead is an alcoholic beverage that is made from honey and water. Often, it can be flavored with fruit, spices, herbs grains, and hops. Its ABV can range from 3.5% to more than 20%. The particular recipe I will be sharing here yields around a 15% ABV.
Why Do I Make Mead?
It's an issue of resources. I live in a dry country, so access to high-quality natural ingredients can be difficult. I cannot go to a wine vineyard, apple orchard, or honey farm to get quality juice to homebrew.
It was also somewhat by chance that I chose to make mead. I saw a large container of local honey in the grocery store, and after some quick calculations I figured out that it was cheaper by volume than the SueBee honey sold right next to it. I was shocked—quality, local honey that was less expensive than commercial brand honey! Moreover, the local honey came in a 2.5-kg container, compared to the 1-kg commercial brand. Value for money!
Secondly, there aren't liquor stores in a dry country. So, when you are in the mood for a beer it's not easy to acquire. In his poem The Task, William Cowper wrote: "Variety is the spice of life, That gives it all its flavor." Experiment and diversify is what I did, creating cider, wine, mead, and melomel. That way I had a choice of drink to match the mood I was in.
Why Not Beer?
You might ask, why don't I make beer? Beer is somewhat more complicated than mead. For beer you need grains, malt extract, large pots, and mesh cloths. Then you must take steps to boil the wort, and then let it cool. From there it's about the same.
Making mead, on the other hand, is simple. Mix the honey and water, add the yeast. Done.
About This Mead
This particular mead's final alcohol by volume (ABV) measures in at around 15%. It is a semi-sweet mead with a citrus finish. The spices give the mead body and subtle flavor profiles that give off a warm mouth feel.
The recipe makes around 18 liters (<5gallons) and takes around 9 weeks to ferment. Honey is a complex sugar and takes time to break down, you will see bubbling occurring meaning that the yeast still has sugars to consume.
After bottling it is best to allow the mead to age for several weeks minimum. I've slowly consumed a bottle at a time over the span of a year and each time it gets better, more mellow, more homogenous, less harsh on the tongue.
By the way, the title of this article, "Mead the Fourth Be With You," has no connection to the movie Star Wars. It just so happened that I bottled this mead on May the fourth, which of course is world Star Wars day.
Before starting, make sure all equipment is sanitised with Star San.
- Star San
- 18-gallon carboy (5 gallon) x2
- Homebrew spoon (long spoon able to combine your water and honey mixture)
- Airlock and bung
- Approximately 18 (1-liter) bottles
For the initial fermentation stage:
- 9kg honey
- 1 (8-ml) package vintner's harvest aw4
- 14 liters purified water
For the secondary fermentation stage:
- 6 valencia oranges, scrubbed, washed, and chopped into wedges
- 4 cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- Sanitise all equipment that will hold or come into contact with the mead. Sanitising rids your brewing process of wild yeast that may taint the taste or brewing process. I recommend Star San. Don't worry about the bubbles, they have no effect on the outcome. If you don't have access to Star San like those living in dry counties near-boiling water is an acceptable alternative, be cautious not to shatter glass containers with hot water. Soap does not kill bacteria though, so don't rely on simple cleaning.
- Make the honey more fluid by warming it up. Boil a large pot with 1 to 2 inches worth of water. Place the honey containers into the hot water; let them rest.
- Place yeast into a sanitized bowl with a small amount of water to hydrate while you complete the other steps.
- Add water to a 5-gallon carboy with room for honey to be added.
- Add honey to water. Leave a decent amount of headroom otherwise, your mixture will overflow.
- Add hydrated yeast to honey and water mixture.
- Optional Step: If you do have a hydrometer this will allow you to measure the alcohol content of your brew. Place the hydrometer into the mead and record the reading labeling this number Original Gravity (OG).
- Fit the airlock and bung in place. Add a small amount of water to the airlock.
- Ferment until bubbling subsides and is barely visible, which will take roughly 4 to 5 weeks. This completes the initial fermentation stage.
- Sanitize carboy, airlock, bung, and siphon.
- Rack mead, by using the siphon, making sure to leave any yeast sediment behind.
- Add the flavors: cut oranges, cinnamon, and cloves.
- Allow the mead to fully stop fermentation. You should see no bubbles being formed.
- Optional Step: Use your hydrometer again to measure the Final Gravity (FG). Input the recorded numbers and sum is your Alcohol By Volume (ABV). (FG – OG) x 131.25 = ABV %
- Bottle up the mead. The mead will age similar to wine, so the longer you allow it to mature, the better.