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Learn How to Brew Mead from Honey
by staff writer

home brewed honey wine mead
Mead's history dates back thousands of years; it is one of the oldest known alcoholic beverages. The ease of production and the availability of ingredients made it a popular choice among nobles and peasants alike. If you are looking to start a new hobby, consider brewing mead -- your friends and family will be glad you did!

Traditional mead is made by fermenting a combination of honey, water, and yeast. The addition of other ingredients produces mead variants. These include cyser (mead with apples), pyment (mead with grapes), and metheglin (mead with herbs or spices). Other additives may be used to clear cloudy mead or to aid fermentation, but they are not required. Recipes can be easily modified to make your homemade mead unique.

Learning to Brew Mead

Sanitation is important for every step in the mead-making process. Bacterial growth can impart off-flavors to the mead or make it unsafe to drink. Use a commercial sanitizer or a solution of chlorine bleach and water on all containers and utensils that you plan to use. The sanitizing agent must be rinsed away thoroughly or it will kill your yeast and prevent fermentation.

Honey, water, and any optional ingredients (like fruit juice and spices) are combined to make must. The must should be vigorously mixed to introduce oxygen. There is some debate amongst mead brewers whether must should be heated before fermentation. Heating the must kills bacteria that could spoil your mead, but the heat may also destroy delicate essences in the honey. Once the must is prepared and reaches room temperature, it can be transferred into a fermentation chamber to await the yeast.

Activate your yeast per the manufacturer’s instructions and then add it to the must. A fermentation lock needs to be added to the chamber to keep oxygen out while allowing carbon dioxide to escape. The yeast will begin consuming the oxygen in the must as it multiplies. Once the oxygen is gone, the yeast will stop reproducing and begin producing alcohol. Alcohol will be produced until the yeast has metabolized all available sugars or until the alcohol content becomes high enough to kill the yeast. At this stage, the mead can be transferred from the primary chamber to a second fermentation chamber in a process called racking.

Racking separates the mead from the sediment that is created during fermentation. It is not uncommon to rack mead two to four times, because sediment will slowly accumulate during slow fermentations. This sediment can influence the final taste of the mead, so it is desirable to remove it periodically. Once fermentation has stopped completely, the mead is ready to be bottled. Slowly siphon the mead from the fermentation chamber into dark glass bottles. Once the mead is bottled, all there is left to do is wait.

Much like wine, mead needs to age before reaching its full potential. Freshly bottled mead is often described as having a "Listerine" aftertaste. This is normal and the taste will fade with time. Make sure to keep your mead sealed and away from oxygen and light while it is aging. After 6 to 12 months you will be able to enjoy your homebrewed, silky-textured honey wine.

Making mead is a craft that is easy to learn but difficult to master. With as little as $100 in equipment, you can start brewing quality mead a home. If you would like to try your hand at making mead before investing in equipment, visit Make Mead and learn how you can brew your first gallon of mead for less than $10. They also offer step-by-step mead brewing instructions, simple recipes, and advanced brewing information.