Mead is a style of fermented beverage I’ve been wanting to make for a while. All I really know though going into this was that you shouldn’t use the honey at the grocery store as it is cut with other stuff and isn’t pure honey. I almost bought some wildflower honey in Illinois when I was there back in August, but I didn’t buy the honey last minute, which I regretted. So when I was in Hawaii in October, I didn’t waste the opportunity the second time and bought a local wildflower honey.
The only reference I used to make this was from an article in the October 2017 BYO magazine. It really had everything you needed to get started.
1. The basic starting point for the honey to water ratio is about 3lbs to 1 gallon of distilled water (though after making this I heard spring water might be better?) gets you to a starting gravity of 1.100/24 brix. I found that to be true. I heated my must up to about 170F so the water and honey mixed better then cool it down to room temp, but according to that BYO article, that isn’t necessary. I found it necessary though.
2. Next is rehydrating yeast and adding yeast starter nutrient. The yeast needed will be one with a very high alcohol tolerance. Wine yeast is used a lot for this reason, along with working well with the sugars in honey (both wine and honey have nearly a split fructose to glucose ratio and makes up most of both). I used the Lalvin D47 wine yeast as that was recommend in the BYO article. Mixing in Go-Ferm (yeast starter nutrient) with the dried yeast when rehydrating is recommended to give it a boost.
3. Once the yeast is pitched, yeast nutrient is needed due to the honey not having enough FAN (Free Amino Nitrogen), which the yeast needs to do it’s thing. Right before pitching the yeast, you should give it a lot of oxygen. I gave it a shot of pure oxygen for a minute for a 1 gallon batch. Then starting day one, yeast nutrient is needed every day for three days, then a fourth addition when the gravity is around 1.060. The yeast nutrient that is called for is either Fermaid O or Fermaid K. I used BSG Fermax as it’s basically the same thing, just a different brand.
4. Once fermentation has completely fermented out—which for me I was targeting a gravity of 1.000—then you transfer to a secondary. Some people add some Potassium Metabisulfite at this time (helps stabilization and also kills wild and active yeast), which is about 1/8 teaspoon per 5 gallons. You can get sweater mead by getting a little higher starting gravity and finish the mead closer to 1.020 with a strain that will stall at 13%, or with a higher started OG. I wanted this dry as a bone thug.
5. Let it sit for 2-3 months, and bottle from there. I’ve seen clear bottles used a lot, but obviously any bottle will do. You could also back sweeten at this time as well, but again, I opted to leave it dry—dry as a bone dog!
You can also add fruit to this (called melomel), which would be earlier in the process. I am not sure exactly when to add it, but probably in a secondary? There is more stuff for melomels in that BYO article, but I skipped over it because I wanted to see what the honey did purely on its own for my first try at this.
An amazing reference and tool for making this is the Tosna calculator. I used this every step of the way and it tells you how much of what you need to add for everything.
Good luck to us all.
“Brew” day video:
Batch Size: 1 Gallon
OG: 1.102/24 Brix
Est ABV: 13%-ish
3 lbs of Leuha Wildflower honey
3 lbs of honey to 1 gallon distilled water
11/7/17: Mixed in 3 lbs of honey to 1 gallon of distilled water in a 5 gallon pot. Heated it up to 170F for a few minutes to mix the hot water with the honey. Gravity was 1.102 (24.2 Brix) once cooled. Added 2.5 g of Go-Ferm in 50 mL of water at 100F. Added 2 g of yeast and let sit for 15 minutes. It was room temp by the end of 15 minutes.
Gave the “must” a shot of pure oxygen for a minute.
11/8/17: Added 1 g yeast nutrient (BSG Fermax).
11/9/17: Added another 1 g yeast nutrient (BSG Fermax).
11/10/17: Added another 1 g yeast nutrient (BSG Fermax).
11/18/17: Gravity at 1.020. Added .5 g yeast nutrient (BSG Fermax). Whiffed on adding more nutrient when it was at 1.060.
12/2/17: Gravity/brix at 0. Transferred to a secondary.
12/23/17: It’s a bit sulfury and slightly odd. Kinda hard to describe. Sara (fiancé) said it kind of reminded her of sake.
1/27/18: Bottled. Added Potassium Metabisulfite at this time, but earlier in the process would have been better. Efforting.