If you have ever brewed beer before, you will come to realize that Mead is a simpler process. You don’t need as many ingredients. However, you will still need the basics. I have created a bare bones checklist for you so that you aren’t missing anything once you get started. The basics of mead are very simple and even though I list something here, there are usually ways around not having it. But for your first batch this is what I would recommend.
-Beer or Mead making kit
I would suggest springing for the wine making kit here because usually the difference between the two is that the wine making kit comes with a glass secondary fermenter called a carboy included in the package. If you get a beer kit or already have a beer kit and are using it to transition to mead, don’t worry. Just make sure that when it is time to transfer the mead to the secondary that you have already picked up a glass carboy to use. Items that should be included in a good kit that are essential to making mead are as follows:
1. Fermentation bucket
2. Bottling bucket
3. 5 gallon glass carboy
4. Fermentation lock
5. Rubber bung to hold the lock
6. Siphoning tubing
7. Bottling wand
8. Bucket thermometer
Honey is the key ingredient of mead, so I would suggest sparing no expense if you are looking to make a great product. There’s all sorts of different kinds of honey to choose from, and they all impart different characteristics to your mead. If you are just starting out I would suggest going with wildflower (what I used) or clover honey. For a dry mead use around 12 lbs, a medium use 15 lbs, and a sweet mead use 18 lbs. I usually buy my honey at the organic food store as they have the best variety, but you can also try the regular super market, or a farm to get great honey.
I would recommend not using tap water. Tap water has a bunch of chemicals in it like chlorine, flouride, and even pharmaceutical drugs. I just buy 5 gallons of distilled water at the store. Usually I will end up only using 4, but I get another just to be safe. They are only about a dollar in cost, so I don’t even think about it. Peace of mind is worth the couple bucks you will spend.
You will need a package of yeast. There are a bunch of different types of yeasts that you can use. They all impart a different character to your mead. Some people go all out and buy the liquid packs from homebrew shops. Others just get the little package of dry yeast and use that. Either way it will work. I would suggest for your first time to use one of the Lavlin wine or champaign yeasts. They work great.
Because of the nature of honey, sometimes fermentation will take a long time if you are going with straight up yeast. This is one reason why people will put in nutrient to go along with the yeast. It’s basically a way to ensure a quick and healthy fermentation. I will buy a jar of the nutrient at my homebrew shop. If you wanted to you could substitute different fruit items or tea leaves for nutrient as well.
I use a large spoon when stirring the honey to have it dissolve in the water, and to also aerate the must in order to get more oxygen into the mix before fermentation begins. I would recommend getting one if you don’t have one already. It will make everything easier.
Either print out a set of instructions or have a mead making book handy. It’s an easy process, but if you get stuck on something or have a question, it’s nice to have your recipe right next to you.
Get a good cooking thermometer and your life will be much easier. It’s a real pain in the ass to be sitting waiting for the must to cool down to a certain level, and it’s much worse if you have a poor thermometer. My advice would be to get a good one and be certain of your temperature to know the correct time to pitch the yeast.
People use different products here. I like to use Star San. It is the easiest to use in my opinion. The only down side is that a bottle of it is a bit pricey. If you are looking to save money use the sanitizer that comes with the wine kit or use bleach. However one of the great things to Star San is that you don’t have to wash it off, so it saves a lot of time.
This one is obviously optional, but it can come in really handy when trying to describe your process to anyone later. If you are making changes to your recipe, it would help a lot if you jotted the specific measurements of those changes in your notebook to go back and see what worked and what didn’t work. It’s also a good place to write down the original and final gravities of your mead to determine what the alcohol percentage is.
You can add a lot of things to your mead to give it a certain look or flavor character. Fruit, malt, hops, spices, and many other things all add unique flavors. Play around with it and see what you like, or don’t add anything and have a true mead.
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