Make your own mead at home, MMAgirlie style

Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by MMAgirlie, May 17, 2014.

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  1. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    Mods, if you plant to delete this thread, please give me a heads up first - I'll delete it and move it to the appropriate forum. I make this thread with the intent of showing some people how damned easy it is to make your own mead, and I'd hate to lose this because I missed some odd rule about the Mayberry.

    About six years ago, my brother quit making his own beer and gave me some beer making equipment. At first I thought, "I'll make beer" - then "I'll make wine!" and then I thought... Why the heck not make something I can't get anywhere else? So, I thought, I'll try making mead. It's one of those things I had never thought of doing because it seemed dauntingly hard going in - hydrometers and specific gravity, stalled ferments and generally ending up with just a crappy product... But when I tried it, not only was it not as hard as I thought initially, but it was also a great way really tailor what you're drinking to your own taste.

    What is mead? Honey wine or honey beer, depending on how you make it. It's a clear or slightly murky alcoholic beverage - actually, the very first booze made by humankind with a tremendously long and rich history - which is tasty as all hell if made right.

    With that in mind, I'm going to share some love and tell you that it's not that hard to make mead, and I'll give you a crash course on how.

    What we're making:
    About 11 liters of dry mead with a fairly neutral flavour. The neutral flavour allows you to boil in a variety of flavours ranging from tea to fruit to spices. Alcohol percent will be around 14%, and it'll drink more like white wine than anything else, but will be very distinct.

    Time and cost to make:
    Between 3 to 5 hours, with most of that being boiling time. Actual time you'll have to be there working at it is between 1.5 and 2 hours. Cost comes out to about $3 per liter of mead not counting one-time fees like the carboy - they are reusable.

    What you'll need:

    A 12 liter carboy - I prefer glass ($20 or less from most wine/beer making shops)
    Airlocks for carboy ($2'ish - beer making shop)
    Lalvin Ec-1118 Yeast, or other champagne yeast - ask the shop owner for advice if no Lalvin (99 cents - beer shop)
    One huge pot ($?) or several large'ish spaghetti pots - you'll need to juggle water a bit with several pots.
    3kg of plain #1 white honey per 12 liter carboy ($18'ish - Costco is good for these).
    A big stick/spoon for stirring - plastic preferred.
    A few spare pots or a kettle for sterilizing.
    Yeast nutrients - from any winemaking shop - if you aren't doing the below flavouring. Flavouring with tea/hops/fruit adds all the nutrients you need.
    Siphon hose
    Bottles to put it in for months down the road. Even empty pop bottles work just fine for this.

    Optional:
    Tea, hops, or spices for flavouring, with a big sock/straining cloth for boiling it into the liquid. I'm drinking a mead flavoured with peppermint tea right now and it's delicious. Bengal spice is good, various black teas are good, earl grey, etc etc - lots of good, easy flavour options. One standard tea bag is a good amount for 12 liters of mead - nothing fancy, the flavour gets washed out a bit by the alcohol.

    First off, the short version of how to make this stuff.

    1) wash and sterilize everything involved - every pot, spoon, sock, whatever. Use boiling water or some sort of a cleaning agent, but make sure to wash out any excess cleaning agent when done.

    2) Get enough tap water to fill the carboy to about 75% full into your pot or pots and get it boiling.

    3) Once water is boiling, if you intend to add any flavouring into the mead, put it all in your sock/straining cloth and leave it dangling in the water for 10 to 15 minutes, while boiling. Tea is a wonderful flavouring agent and also adds helpful nutrients to the ferment. Hops is a great one. Anything from cinnamon sticks to cloves to fruit works as well - experiment and have some fun with it. Once flavours have boiled in for 10 to 15, remove the sock with flavouring agents and dispose of items. You want about 20 teabags to get a pleasantly noticeable tea flavour in the mead.

    4) Once water has boiled and flavours are mixed in, turn off pots for 10 minutes - then add the full 3 kilograms of honey to the boiled water. Pour a bit of boiled water into your honey jug once it's near empty and shake the boiled water around to wash all the honey off the sides - no use wasting any - and then dump the remainder into the pot of boiled water. Next, take your big spoon and stir the boiled water until the honey is completely dissolved into the water.

    5) Next up, leave the honey water sit in the pot for a good stretch - oftentimes for one to two hours - until you can put your hand on the side of the pot and leave it there, feeling about as warm as you'd have your warm bath. Do NOT put your finger in the water or you might contaminate it. Once water is at warm bath temperature, sprinkle the Lalvin EC-1118 yeast on top of the water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

    6) Have a small pot of boiling water on the stove. Arrange your carboy on a big towel on the floor below the stove. Take your siphon hose and stick one end into the bottom of the big honey-water pot, and then start to suck on the end of the siphon hose until the honey water is almost to the end - then kink it. Stick the kinked end that was just in your mouth in the boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds to sterilize, then move the sterilized end into the carboy mouth. Unkink hose and let the honey water slowly drain into the carboy until all the honey water is gone.

    7) If you didn't use tea or hops or some other flavouring agent, add a teaspoon of yeast nutrients into your carboy. Then top of carboy with previously boiled, clean water - you want your carboy to be about 80% to 90% full, leaving a bit of room for foaming on top. Set up the airlock properly, seal carboy with airlock, and then move your carboy into a closet or basement somewhere dark with as consistent a temperature as you can manage.

    8) Wait 2 to 3 months if you used tea to flavour (speeds up ferment significantly) or about 4 to 6 months if you made it plain. Bottle mead and drink - stuff, as I make it, gives you a nice clean hangover, but still best to drink responsibly. I'll post more on bottling in the future if anyone actually gives this a try, but the bottling is simple.



    The end product of this will be a dry, clean tasting mead with a bit of the natural acidity of honey noticeable. Since the flavour is fairly neutral, added flavours should come out well. I drink it between fridge and room temperature.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2014
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  2. Serana

    Serana Destroyer. Banned

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    Have you considered bottling and selling it?
     
  3. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    Actually, I'm midway through the process of going commercial with it, after a mortgage broker friend of mine's boss tried some and decided that this would be a good way to invest some of his extra money. Not sure it'll ever actually happen, but we're about six months into working out details with the biggest one being going from 23 liter carboys to 1000 liter commercial batches, but, wheels are in motion. It was never my intent to do anything more than make it for myself, friends, and family, so I'm not 100% sold on the business side of it - but, we'll see.

    For the record, I made my 100th batch this year, and they started to get legitimately good after about 10 batches of figuring out how much honey I wanted, how to properly flavour it, etc. It's way more easy than you'd think to make, it's a great conversation starter at a dinner party, and it's a nice cheap way to make a distinctive quality drink.
     
  4. BearGrounds

    BearGrounds A great many scalps.

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    I want to drink honey mead by the growler. Sounds like that's the method by which it should be consumed. Least that's the vibe I get.

    Only alcoholic beverage I've ever made is Hooch. It's a joke but it sure as hell gets the job done.
     
  5. Cubo de Sangre

    Cubo de Sangre President of the War Room

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    Great OP. Thanks!!
     
  6. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    There is no real official way to drink it that I know of. At home, I tend to drink it out of a wine glass, but there is a very low-tech lodge I go to every summer and I bring up a 23 liter carboy of mead there when I go, and I drink the stuff out of a tin cup there for the most part. It has been known to happen that someone just lays on the ground with the autosiphon drizzling it into their mouth...

    A flagon seems appropriate.
     
  7. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    Welcome. I will check back on this periodically if anyone actually wants to try making some and has questions.
     
  8. BEER

    BEER Resident Feminist Platinum Member

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    I have a friend who makes mead, and it's amazing. Shame she went for mead, though, she makes damn good beer.
     
  9. Protectandserve

    Protectandserve Red Belt

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    May have to try this. I ave a buddy go has a doctorate in medieval literature. He said the only way to drink mess is from a drinking horn. Game of Thrones style.
     
  10. Edgar Allan Hoe

    Edgar Allan Hoe Black Belt

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    Too buzzed to read all of your thread...

    What type of beer does your mead resemble?
     
  11. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    White wine more than anything else. They don't make a beer that'll get you sloshed like this stuff, not even the Belgians. Flavour isn't like beer either and, while it's not like wine, it's more like white wine than beer. I have made meads that somewhat resemble ciders, or *something* like a Belgian wheat beer, but this isn't one of them.

    Problem with the yeasts for beers or ciders is they're quite sensitive and honey is very acidic. With a relatively simple methodology like I've outlined above, lighter beer/cider yeasts are hard to get a ferment going with. Champagne yeast will work and make a very drinkable product even if you even if you mess up your sanitation a bit.
     
  12. Bebop

    Bebop Brown Belt

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    i bought mead from bevmo and it tasted like tussin. maybe i'll try making this one day
     
  13. CC's left foot

    CC's left foot Silver Belt

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    I made a few meads about 6 years ago, and I still have one bottle left. Gonna try it soon. In my experience they are about 500% better if you wait at least a year and a half before opening them.

    Mead Made Easy is a great resource
     
  14. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    Good source. There are actually a host of mead making resources on the net.
     
  15. Kanster

    Kanster Guest

    This thread is worthless without pics.
     
  16. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    Hrm... Pictures of what exactly? I don't have any full carboys at my home, and I'm not pouring myself a glass of mead before 9 AM to take a picture of it. Depending on what you're looking for, I may be able to oblige you.

    Frankly though, pictures don't change much. Boil water, add honey, stir, let cool, add yeast, siphon into carboy, plug and store carboy. Pictures won't tell all that an exciting tale of the process.
     
  17. Kanster

    Kanster Guest

    I want to see a step by step process.
     
  18. MMAgirlie

    MMAgirlie Banned Banned

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    Not going to do it. For one, I won't be making mead for likely over a week. For two, most of the pictures I'd be taking would be of water boiling on a stove, and then water cooling on said stove. I'll take some pictures of finished carboys and maybe a glass of the finished product next week, but the process I'll leave up to your imagination.
     
  19. Kanster

    Kanster Guest

  20. Cuel And Lewk

    Cuel And Lewk Mr. Cool Hand Luke Ice

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    I gotta agree, a pictorial guide would make this thread go from awesome to awesomely complete.

    I'm in Texas so how am I going to buy this from you?
     
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