Making Our Own Mead

My family has taken up brewing mead.  For us, we’re doing this as dead simple as we can, namely by using as little as we can to make as wide a variety of meads as we can.

Since we do not want to blow up to 2 lb. or more of honey and 1-3 (I usually favor 3) months of brewing just to see if a recipe works out, we are doing all of our experiments in mason jars.  Our first mason jar mead was started about 3 months ago.  All the mason jars we use for this are quart sized, the water comes from our well, and rather than buy baker or champagne yeast, we use wild yeast.  I cannot remember which websites we ended up using as our guide, so I will list our usual procedures below.  After testing samples ourselves, and especially by very dear friends, I can say with certainty that our experiments with mead have been very successful and very tasty.  We also took some samples to our local homebrew store, and they loved them, and are interested to see how the latest batch turns out!

The first thing to do when getting ready to brew mead is to figure out what kind you want.  There’s a lot of different kinds of mead out there; one of my favorite sites about mead is this one.

Our first batch of mead was made up of 12 quart mason jars.  We had Fall and Spring honey from a local grower for about half of our meads, and when we ran out of Spring honey we had a single mixed honey from this source.  These came in glass bottles which we have been reusing for holding honey from other sources.  For the rest we used Michigan-sourced honey from Meijer in the 5 lb. plastic jugs.  The honeys imparted different flavors, especially since the Spring and Fall were concentrated from their harvest times, but both the local organic Michigan honey and the Michigan-sourced honey from Meijer’s did the trick for fermentation equally well.  When I say something like ‘this was an 8oz mead’ what I mean is that the honey put in was 8oz with the rest of the quart being filled with warm water.

In the first batch we made one metheglin with 8oz of Meijer honey and one ounce of Mugwort wrapped in cheesecloth.  We made a single melomel with 8oz of Meijer honey and one ounce of organic raisins.  We made a roughly equally mixed 6oz Spring and Fall mead.  We made 4, 6, and 8oz each of Spring mead, and made the same for Fall.  The last 3 made were  4, 6, and 8oz of Meijer honey.  We also made an experiment with some of the batches: we tried doing the open fermentation for three days using cheesecloth as a cover, whereas the rest were simply opened for the three days.  We did not see a significant difference in taste or brewing between these two methods.

We left the mead alone as much as we could, and almost every time we went to interact with the mead we would cleanse ourselves physically and spiritually.  Here’s the fun part about working with non-commercial fermentation: heads sometimes develop on the mead that is unlike what happens when I have worked with a carboy.  When they do, it is simply a single transparent layer or it is a single layer of green powder on top of a semi-transparent film.  We take this off with a clean, sanitized spoon, and have had no issues with it.

At first this threw me, and I damned near panicked and threw out the whole batch because I thought I had bad mold.  Then, I did some research online, and it turns out that racking will usually solve this. Most sources I have read recommend using 1 campden tablet per gallon at this point, but I wanted to see how the mead would go on if we merely racked it.  So, we racked it, and the substance did come back.  I believe it did this because we intentionally left the lids of the mason jars a little lifted so they wouldn’t blow up from the pressure of fermenting.  Most of the things that sources say to look for, such as sour taste, chunks in the mead, and so on, were not present.  Many of the sources said a small film, which is what developed on top of the mead in all of these cases, seems to be yeast proteins.  There have been no ill effects from myself or others, and the mead tastes quite good.  Before we tried them, we racked them again, and then put the top down tight without heating up and fully sealing the mason lid.

Steps for Making Our Mead

Please note that I am an amateur mead maker, and that this is a guide to how we have made our own mead.

Step 1
Figure out the meads you want to make.  When preparing this keep in mind the purpose of the mead.  If it is to serve a religious purpose, as the metheglin with mugwort will, make it with that in mind.  If it is to serve as a gift, make it with the person’s tastes in mind.  If it is for a God or Goddess, Ancestor(s), or vaettir, make it with Their desires in mind.  Our son has put together a mead in our new batch that I expect will be fairly alcoholic: 8oz of honey with 1/2 ounce of cherries and 1/2 ounce of raisins.  He will be sharing at least some of it with Thor.

Step 2
Source and measure out the honey and other ingredients you will need for each jar’s recipe. Especially if you are on a budget, this can help with approximating how much honey and other ingredients you are going to need to make the meads you want.

Step 3
Clean and sanitize everything to be used, and wash your hands very frequently.

Step 4
Add honey and any other starter ingredients to the cleaned and sanitized mason jars.
The proportion I make for my mead in the carboy is about 2 lb of honey to 1 gallon of water.  2lb of liquid honey equals 32oz.  1 gallon is about 128oz.  A quart is about 32oz itself.  Taking the proportion of 2lb, or 32oz of honey, to 1 gallon, or 128oz, you can develop an idea of how much honey you will need to how much water.  The ratio works out in this case to about 1:4.

A simple way of figuring out ounces is that one cup is about 8oz, so half a cup is about 6oz.  A quarter cup, then, would be about 2 oz.  A lot of Pyrex liquid measuring tools have both measurements on them, but I figured for those who do not this would be helpful.
I tend to warm the water to make it easier for the honey to dissolve in it, but I do not use boiled water.  Once the ingredients are together I will pick up the jar, and shake it until the honey is dissolved into the water, and a light white bubbling head develops on the water’s surface.  Then we take them upstairs, unseal them enough that air can get in and out, and will generally leave them be for 3 days open, or close to it.  After that we tighten the lids down a little so that escaping air can push up the lid, but not so that if we knock into one of them that they will spill.

Our latest batch we actually sprung for the grommets and airlocks for each of our jars.  Our local homebrew store drilled holes in the jar lids, and we installed the grommets and airlocks after thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing them all at home.

Step 5
Wait.  This is perhaps the hardest part for me.  After about 1-3 months I will put it through the mead’s first rack.  Racking is transferring the mead out of the old fermenting container and into a clean, sanitary new one to finish the process of fermentation.  We use a strainer like this, and if we have that film I talked about earlier, we use either a clean, old t-shirt, or cheesecloth over top of it.  It works very well.
Then, we wait some more, depending on when it was first racked.  In total I usually wait about 2-3 months for the mead to ferment.

Step 6
Bottle.  Or, in this case, jar.  If the mead has a head with filmy material like I described above, we rack the mead one last time, and seal down the new jar once this is done.

Step 7
Enjoy and share the mead.

 

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  1. June 5, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Great post. How do you get wild yeast for the mead making?

    • Keen
      June 5, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Wild yeast is captured from the air or from the ingredients that are used to make the recipe. Yeast is present on the skin of ginger root for making ginger beer, for example. There’s no buying it – unless you’re making sourdough, and even then starting a starter is easier than boiling water.

  2. Keen
    June 5, 2016 at 11:22 am

    I have been looking for a guide to brewing alcoholic beverages (instead of ginger beer or kombucha; though I suspect those would get alcoholic if left for long enough, not sure how they’d taste) with wild yeast for a while and haven’t found a darned thing until this. Thank you!!

  3. June 6, 2016 at 2:07 am

    As Keen said, wild yeast is yeast captured from the air or from ingredients in the recipe.

    Also, I forgot to mention this, but my 2 lb. of honey to 1 gallon of water is a dry mead. For a more sweet mead, 3 lb. of honey to 1 gallon of water or even up to 4 lb. of honey per 1 gallon of water. You can also add all sorts of ingredients, such as juniper berries, apples, raisins, etc. to change up the flavor. One of our meads was made with 8 oz. of honey, 1 oz. of raisins in one of our quart jars and is very sweet and alcoholic.

  4. thelettuceman
    June 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve always wanted to dabble in mead making and brewing. I don’t have the space for the former (yes, even one jug is too much room right now), and the latter is too much chemistry.

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