Mead or honey wine is a fermented alcoholic beverage made of honey, water, and yeast. It can have a wide range of flavors, depending on the source of the honey, additives including fruit and spices, the yeast used for fermentation, and the aging procedure.
A mead that also contains spices or herbs is called metheglin. A mead that contains fruit is called melomel and was also used as a delicious way to store summer produce for the winter. Mulled mead is a popular winter holiday drink, where mead is flavoured with spices and warmed. Many meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original honey, and some can even be considered as dessert wines. Drier meads are also available, and some producers offer sparkling meads like champagne.
- 1-quart container
- Stirring utensil
- Fermentation vessel—preferably a glass carboy—with an airlock and a rubber bung (can usually be found at a brewer's supply store)
- Siphon and tube
- Glass bottles
- Sanitize all of your equipment (see notes).
- If desired, create a starter culture by mixing the fruit juice and yeast. Place into a 1-quart container fitted with a rubber stopper and airlock. Keep at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 1–2 days until the mixture is bubbling. This starter culture will cause the fermentation below to begin with vigor and may prevent the mead from failing to ferment.
- Heat the water in a pot over medium heat, and slowly stir in the honey until completely dissolved. There is a common disagreement among mead makers as to whether you should boil the mixture or not; Boiling will alter the flavor but will enhance the clarity of the finished mead.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and cool to 170°F (76°C).
- Stir in the raisins, and transfer to your fermentation vessel. Cool to room temperature (about 68°F/20°C).
- Rehydrate the yeast if you did not make a starter culture. Transfer the yeast mixture to the honey mixture in the vessel, and attach the airlock.
- Place the vessel in a cool (68°F/20°C), dark place. After about a day, the airlock should start to allow bubbles to escape, which indicates beginning fermentation. The raisins will rise to the surface of the mixture. Avoid stirring or agitating the mixture, as it may cause the liquid to rise up and spill out of the airlock.
- Let the mead ferment for 4–6 weeks.
- If desired, "rack" the mead to allow the mead to clear faster: carefully siphon it into a second carboy with a sanitized tube, avoiding the sediment to prevent cloudiness and avoiding splashing to prevent incorporating excess oxygen. Attach an airlock to the second carboy.
- Ferment for another 3 months or until all signs of fermentation have stopped (usually when the airlock doesn't produce any bubbles for a long period of time—typically over 30 seconds between bubbles) and your mead has cleared enough to read a newspaper through it.
- Rack the mead once more.
- Bottle the mead by sealing in sterilized bottles using airtight caps or quality corks. If the fermentation is not complete, pressure will build up inside the sealed bottles and cause them to explode.
- Age the mead in the bottle for at least 6 months (or longer) before drinking.
Notes, tips, and variations Edit
- Mead should be made in sanitized equipment to ensure food safety. Potassium metabisulphite is a common sanitizing agent. Those who are allergic to sulphites can use other sanitizing methods. Failure to remove all traces of this chemical from the equipment may result in poisonous or otherwise undrinkable mead.
- It is imperative that sterile conditions be maintained while the carboys are open to avoid infection.
- The mead needs to age, usually for one year, and anywhere up to five or more. Bulk aging can be done done in a tertiary carboy.
- Excessive racking will promote oxidation, resulting in an undrinkable mead.