How to Make Mead? The Original Homebrewers

by Karl | Updated: November 20, 2020

Mead, an alcoholic beverage, is somewhat easy to make. You just need to ferment honey with water to get started. You can also mix it with fruits, spices, grains or hops. The drink has around 8% and 20% alcohol by volume.

Fun fact about mead: it is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known.

How to make mead? The Homebrew Academy edition of making mead at home

Mead was created in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and it has played an essential role in history (and mythology) of alcohol culture. Its creation was in ancient history.

This drink is also called the “the drink of the gods“. We have to remember that mead has been cultivated and consumed across the world for thousands of years.

How do large companies make mead?

The process uses by large companies is not that far away from the usual homemade recipe. Sure, in large companies, you’ll see mass production. They also pay more attention to all the chemical details that might affect the final result.

Also, some companies might use different types of additives and chemicals, so the outcome stays how they want it to stay. The process starts with the selection of raw materials.

The type of honey is vital because it determines the flavor of the mead. The stronger is the character of the honey, the stronger the taste of the mead. When made using fruits, large companies usually use infused fruit and co-ferment it with the mead for better results.

Usually, the mix goes through some processing before finishing it, such as pasteurization and sulfiting. While fermentation is happening, the chemicals that react with water and honey are put to the test when adding the correct yeast for the desired result.

Interestingly, mass commercial production of mead is not that similar to a homemade recipe either. 

The processing of the mead is a little different. That’s mainly because you probably don’t have the same equipment used by prominent companies.

You can make homemade mead with a few ingredients and small brewing equipment. Those two elements are the only real significant differences between the two types. Yes, the recipe doesn’t look that different, but the kind of honey, fruit and spices used in a big mead company are highly and carefully selected.

Spiced Mead is called: Metheglin

From color to taste to chemical reactions while fermenting and processing. A big company uses high-end tools to monitor and verify the state of the mead at all times.

When the mead is done, you should let it ferment for about a month or even two weeks, depending on your taste. A big company usually lets it ferment for months and even years. Just like wine, mead tends to taste better over time.

The way a big commercial company makes mead is the same old recipe but taken to the next level. It uses high-end equipment, tools, and materials. There’s one significant disadvantage of the industrial process the mead goes through in these companies. They may use certain types of ingredients that can take out the healthy properties of mead. That’s why making it yourself at home can be a better option. You can decide and monitor what you are going to drink at the end of the day.

Making Mead At Home: What do you need?

The advantages of making homemade mead are many. You gain a new hobby, and you get to control what goes in and out of your mead. Also, making mead is a great option to perfect your homebrewing skills.

To make mead, you need space first. If you just want to make small batches, you’ll only need the space in your kitchen to do part of the process. You also some space to let the fermentation happen.

You will be using a carboy or fermentation bucket for this, so you’ll need a space to let that sit for 2 or 3 weeks. It is better if the light can’t reach this space if you are using glass or see-through plastic; the sun can affect the fermentation. Then, you will need the space for conditioning the mead. You will have to rack to a new vessel allow it to clear, and let the harsh flavors fade.

The conditioning and maturing of your mead depend on the type of mead you are making; it can last from 2 to 6 months. As for the bottling, you will need the space to store your bottles for a while. Some people recommend waiting a while before opening them, around 3 to 6 months. You only need the space to put your carboy, vessels and bottles.

A few space options when making mead:

  • You can clean your kitchen to make room for your brewing equipment. If you are working with small batches, you won’t need much room.
  • You can make mead in your kitchen without problems; you also need a particular brewing room or go to a specific place to ferment your mead. We recommend that the space you choose has little access to the sun or hard lights.
  • You do need equipment to brew at home and do it the right way. So, to make your mead, you’ll need to start with the brewing equipment. Additionally, you will need sanitizer for using on every tool.

This way, you can be sure your drink won’t have any type of bacteria in it, which can make it taste bad or don’t ferment well. You will need a large stainless steel kettle, a stainless steel spoon, and a large funnel. You will also need a carboy; a one-gallon glass one with a lid will do fine.

I highly recommend using glass instead of plastic when it comes to carboys. The lens will last longer, and it’s also a lot cleaner. Oxygen won’t get through it and affect your beverage with oxidation. With plastic, oxidation is a significant risk because plastic can absorb oxygen and expose your mix to it.

This point can profoundly affect the fermentation of your brew and damage your batch. Therefore, you will also need an airlock and rubber stopper for your carboy.

With the airlock and rubber stopper, you’ll make sure that everything is secure inside and external bacteria and microorganisms aren’t getting any closer. You can use a sanitized piece of aluminium foil, and it will do a good job as well. You will also need a kitchen thermometer.

For bottling, you will need auto-siphon and tubing, bottling wand and some flip-top bottles, as many as you need.

The quality of the equipment you use is essential. Every piece can affect the taste of your final product and how the fermentation process goes. That doesn’t mean you have to go buy industry equipment.

There are amazing brands, and products for homebrewing that can take your brewing to the next level without much effort and money. Using the proper equipment is essential when attempting to brew and make any type of beverage this way. Using the wrong material can make the whole brewing process quite dangerous.

One essential tool you’ll always need to pay attention too is a sanitizer. You need to create a happy and healthy environment for the yeast. Any type of bacteria or germs will affect your beverage, and you need to remove them from anything that will come in contact with your product.

There is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing. Cleaning is removing the dirt while sanitizing is a process that reduces the number of living organisms present in the area. Yeast needs the number of living organisms to be minimal.

You need to clean first, with mild dish detergents, mainly because they are non-toxic. You can also buy a brewery wash cleaner to make this task more comfortable, and it will reduce the need to scrub. Scrubbing can create scratches on smooth surfaces where bacteria and germs can easily hide.

Once again, you need to pick the right carboy or fermentation setup. We will always recommend a glass carboy. A glass carboy can be expensive, but it can last you for years, and it’s easier to clean and sanitize than other options. Glass doesn’t scratch easily, and it doesn’t absorb oxygen.

Plastic can become scratched without much work; you will need to change your plastic carboy every 5 to 7 fermentations.

Once you have all your equipment ready, plus all the tools and accessories, you will be prepared to start buying the ingredients. They depend on the type of mead you want to make, but you will always need honey, water and yeast to start. The type of honey you choose, as we said before, will determinate the taste of your mead, so pick it carefully.

As for the yeast, you cannot use just any type of fungus; it is recommended to use a mead yeast for better results and better taste for your drink.

When it comes to water, make sure it is clean and pure, and it doesn’t have any chemicals. Sometimes, the water is sanitized using chemicals that are safe to drink, but they will react with the yeast, and that’s not what you want.

Honey Mead Recipe

There a lot of honey mead recipes, from simple to complicated. Let’s show you a few.

Let’s start with the standard honey mead recipe.

You’ll need essential ingredients: honey, water and yeast. You will also need your homebrewing equipment, as mentioned before.

One more time, make sure to sanitize all your tools thoroughly. You can either boil them in hot water or wash them with special brewing wash or wine-making sanitizer. Remember that the smallest amount of bacteria can spoil and damage an entire batch of mead, so be careful.

If you want to make a big, six-gallon batch, you will need to boil 1 1/2 gallons of water in a big pot. Then start adding the same amount of honey. Don’t add the honey directly to the pot of boiling water. This method is known for ruining some of the accents of the mead.

You can also add fruit or herbs to flavor your drink as you like. You can use frozen fruit, infusions, or just add cut-up fruit directly to the mixture. You can put herbs in a muslin bag and then add them to the batch.

Now that you added your honey, fruits and herbs, add three gallons of freshwater. Filtered or spring water is better because it doesn’t have chlorine in it. Remember that chlorine tends to react with yeast.

Monitor the temperature with your kitchen thermometer, and once it’s between 65-75 °F, add the yeast. If your water is too cold or too hot, the yeast will not react, so pay attention to this step. You can use a hydrometer to help you know the alcohol content of your mead at this point. Here’s how to read one.

By now your batch must be in your fermentation bucket or carboy; make sure to seal the top. If you are using a jug or carboy, you will need an airlock. The airlock will let air escape once the fermenting process begins, about 24 hours from the start of the process.

Now, you should let your mix ferment for about a month, and once that month is over, you can start siphoning the mix into a second fermenter or container, this way leaves the sediment at the bottom of the first fermenter. 

You will also need to cover this second fermenter with an airlock and let the mix sit there for another month or longer. When that time is over, you start siphoning your mead into bottles.

Alterative Mead Honey Recipes:

If you want to shake your mead game up a bit, you can try making dry mead and sweet mead, not just the simple one.

To make a sweeter mead, you just need to add more honey and use a yeast made specifically for sweet honey wine. If you want a dry champagne type of mead, you need to use less honey and use champagne yeast. You can even have dry sweet mead!

You get this result if you add more honey or sugar after bottling. You will need to stop the fermentation process and add additional sweets. Remember that if you don’t stop the process, you might cause your bottles to burst.

To add more flavor to the homemade mead, you can use herbs like lemon balm, rosemary, hibiscus, vanilla, rose and hops. You can mix and try until you make your own unique-flavored mead.

Here is another dry mead recipe:

You will need 3 and a half lb of honey. You also need water, wine yeast and yeast nutrient.

The trick to this recipe is to start the yeast two days ahead. Once you sanitize your jar, add a tablespoon of honey. Add boiling water and stir to mix. 

When you cool it to 68°F, you can add the yeast and yeast nutrient. Keep it covered for two days.

Now, put the honey into a fermenting bin or carboy and add boiled water that’s still warm. Stir the honey until it’s all dissolved. Once it has reached 68°F, add the yeast mix.

You need to keep it in a warm-but-not-hot place until fermentation stops: around 3 weeks.

This is another way to end up with a dry homemade mead. Once again, you mix it up with your favourite herbs and fruits. A great combination is a peach and vanilla, or pineapple with lemon balm.

Other mead recipes

For a lot of people, there is no mead without honey. And it is a hard idea to put your mind around it.

However, if you are a vegan now and miss the taste of a good mead in the fall, you can make mead without honey.

You just need to replace the honey with agave nectar. Agave nectar is a sweetener produced from species of agave. Yes, agave nectar is vegan but doesn’t mean it is healthy, some studies show that sugar actually is healthier than agave nectar.

Another alternative is using maple syrup. Once again, substitute the honey with maple syrup in your recipe.

Both of these alternatives will affect the taste of your mead, so expect a new flavor when finished. With the agave nectar, it will end up tasting like a mix of beer, wine and rum. If you want a dry result, you can still use the champagne yeast and have an excellent finish and taste.

There are a lot of ways to make your own unique mead. You can play with the syrups, yeasts, fruits and herbs and make a different recipe every time.

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