Making Mead, Nectar of the gods, at home

making mead at home with honey and yeastMy friends are probably cheering right now.  I’ve finally quit talking about making mead and started doing it.  I couldn’t find many mead ingredient kits, so I had to research recipes and put the ingredients together myself.  My friends know I usually research something to death and this was no exception.

For something with so few ingredients (really it’s just honey, water and yeast), I learned it can be quite complicated.  First, there are scores of different varieties of honey.  Wildflower, Clover,  and Orange Blossom are just what comes to mind.  Each contributes different flavors to the final product.  I decided to patronize a local beekeeper, Jim Garrison, and use his mostly wildflower but part clover honey.  Next, I had to choose a yeast strain.  I found a number of recipes referred to IC-D47 and, after reading about its characteristics, decided it was perfect for a beginners first batch.  There is even a choice to be made about water too.  I chose Crystal Springs Spring water, but lots of folks use tap water with great success.

Now, you’d think it was over.  It wasn’t.  I had to decide how to process the honey.  I could boil or pasteurize it, but I read this releases volatile components of the honey that will affect the flavor of the mead.  I could sulphite it, but I just hate doing that.  I was all set to pasteurize when I listened to a podcast at Basic Brewing that convinced me not to process it at all.  Being as this is a predominant wildflower honey, and will thus have some strong flavors, I hope I didn’t make a mistake.   That podcast also pointed me to a phenomenal resource page, Hightest’s Honey Haven, which gave me a lot of advice and instructions.

My twitter followers got a play by play this morning, but he’s the recap:

  1. Heated 1/2 the water to about 115 degrees F.  This was easier said than done.  At one point my water was over 150 degrees F.  A digital thermometer is a must for brewing.
  2. Added the honey to the water and stirred it vigorously to dissolve it.
  3. Added the honey-water mixture to the remaining water in the fermenter.
  4. Added 1/2 of the planned yeast nutrient and mixed it well
  5. Aerated the must with my gas paddle (an awesome invention) attached to my cordless drill
  6. Waited until the temperature dropped to 80 degrees F.
  7. And waited
  8. And waited some more
  9. Finally put the fermenter in a water bath and got it to cool down
  10. Took my readings (specific gravity 1.1, ph 5, temperature 78 degrees F)
  11. After about an hour, added the rehydrated yeast to the honey-water mixture and sealed it up

All in all, it took about 4 hours, but I was able to do some other things in between.  Of course the majority of the time is spent santizing before, waiting for the must to cool, and then cleaning up.  As I sit here 7 hours later, I’m preparing to take the next test sample.  Wish me luck.

8 hour sample SG 1.102, Temperature 75 degrees F, pH 5.