Once considered ‘the drink of the gods,’ mead is simply a fermented honey drink. It’s sweet and aromatic, and can even be bubbly if you want. It was a popular drink in medieval times, lost popularity for a while, but has been coming back in style over recent decades. Since mead can be made at home, by practically anyone, it is a common farm-to-table drink.
Mead is surprisingly easy to make. The only ingredients you need for homemade mead is honey (of course), water, and yeast. You’ll want to add in some extra ingredients to experiment with flavors, though.
If you’ve ever made homemade cider, beer, or soda, then you probably already have a pretty good idea of how to make mead.
Besides those ingredients, you will need some special supplies: an airlock and a container for fermenting. Don’t worry though, because these things can be found at hardware stores, or if all else fails, on Amazon.
Gathering Your Materials
As I mentioned, you will need an airlock and a fermenting container. If you already have those things, then great — you can skip this section. If you don’t have them, don’t worry, because they’re easy to get a hold of and are easy to use.
(Check out my “How to Make Hard Cider” article for more in-depth details on what materials are necessary!!)
This is the fermentation kit I usually recommend. It’s basic, easy to use, and gets the job done. Some people prefer fermenting in bigger jars or even barrels, but I find that those just lead to you making more mead than you can possibly drink.
What Yeast Should You Use?
There are more kinds of yeast than you might think there are. For instance, bread yeast and fermenting yeast are not the same things. If we’re only talking about fermentation yeasts, there are beer yeasts, wine yeasts, and champagne yeasts, and they all do different things!
Champagne yeast creates pretty bitter, dry flavored meads. It also helps with creating small, champagne-like bubbles.
This will give your mead a slightly more beer-like flavor, which makes it popular among beer drinkers who want to try something new. Beer yeasts aren’t as strong as champagne yeasts and will leave in more sweetness and honey flavor, making this the better choice out of the two. Still, the choice is yours.
Last but not least is wine yeast. I recommend wine yeast for making meads. Since meads are similar to wines, the yeast helps bring out the honey and fruit flavors, while also keeping your ABV (alcohol content) nice and high.
Is Mead Beer or is it Wine?
Mead isn’t beer or wine, but is found in the middle of the spectrum. While beers are made with hops or grains and wines are made with grapes, mead is made with honey. It’s sweeter than other alcoholic drinks and can be flavored with spices, fruits, and even grains or hops.
Usually, mead has a higher alcohol content than beer, so you often drink it in smaller portions. This makes it more similar to wine.
Homemade Mead Recipe
Probably, the most important ingredient when making homemade mead is yeast! Using yeast can be a bit confusing since it works on an atomic scale and we can’t really see it in action too clearly.
However, just knowing the basics about how yeast works is enough to make the whole mead-making process about 10x simpler.
Yeast reacts with sugars, or glucose to be more exact, and creates alcohol and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is what will give your mead a bubbly texture, similar to champagne or soda. So, when you pour the yeast into your super sweet honey water, the yeast will eat up some of that sweetness and create a more dry-tasting, alcoholic drink.
Usually, to make your drink really bubbly, you will need to do an extra step at the end, but we’ll get to that later.
You Will Need…
- A fermenting kit that includes a jar, a stopper, and an airlock
- A packet of yeast (bread yeast won’t work)
- Enough water that’ll fill your jars with about 3 inches of room to spare
- About 2 cups of honey or honey to taste
- A funnel
- A stove-safe pot
- Flavor ingredients of your choice (such as orange slices, lemon slices, berries, flowers, raisins, cinnamon, or any other ingredients that you think would add a nice kick to your mead)
- A baster, siphon, or auto-siphon
Step 1 – Sanitize everything! Fermenting in a dirty container can lead to bacteria build-up and mold. Even using a slightly dirty spoon or funnel can lead to mold formation, so sanitization is key.
To sanitize your materials, put them into a pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes. Make sure that they are completely covered by the water. Don’t do this with plastic though, because it will just melt. For those items, mix 1 tsp of bleach for every gallon of water and use that instead.
Step 2 – Heat water on the stove until it starts to simmer. Once your water is nice and hot, you can add in your honey and stir until the honey is completely dissolved. Don’t let this mixture boil.
Step 3 – Meanwhile, add your extra fruits, spices, and/or flavorings into the empty jars. Then, evenly pour the honey and water mixture into your jars so that they’re even. (The honey and water is usually referred to as ‘must’ by professional mead makers.)
Step 4 – Add in some cool water to top your jars off. Don’t fill your jars up all the way, but just add in enough cool water until your jars only have about 1.5 inches left of headspace. Afterward, mix everything around for a few seconds.
Step 5 – Add in the yeast. Yeast will die in hot water, so make sure that your must is lukewarm or room temperature before adding in any yeast. Once the yeast is resting on top of the liquid, put the top on and shake it up. You really want the yeast to be evenly dispersed throughout, so you may have to shake for a good 5 minutes or more.
Step 6 – Put in the airlock and stopper. Once you put the airlock and stopper on (using the instructions that came with yours for any additional steps), you can let your mead sit in a dark, cool spot in your house.
Your mead has to ferment for at least 5 weeks, sometimes even 6. You’ll know your mead is done when there aren’t any more bubbles forming, and the water in your airlock isn’t moving.
After following all those steps, you can taste your mead. If you want it to be sweeter, you can add in a non-glucose sweetener. By adding in sugar with glucose, the remaining yeast will eat it and create more alcohol, making your mead even less sweat.
If you want it to be dryer, let it ferment for another week or so, then taste it again.
For more bubbly mead, you’ll have to add in some brown sugar dissolved in water for the yeast to eat up and make CO2 with. Since this will also lead to a dryer taste, you’ll probably want to also add in a non-glucose sweetener in addition to this. Once you add in the brown sugar and water mixture, let your mead sit for another 2 weeks.
Waiting another 2 weeks can seem pretty frustrating since by now you’ve already been waiting over a month for your mead to be done, so if you’re feeling especially impatient, there are two other methods of carbonation that you can try:
- The Dry Ice Method – Just drop a few chunks of dry ice into your mead and let the ice melt. This will release CO2 into your mead and make it carbonated. The carbonation this produces is not very strong, though. So, you may have to use a lot of dry ice.
- The Seltzer Method – Using a seltzer maker will speed up the carbonation process for sure. However, if you don’t already have a seltzer maker, this can be a bit of a big investment for you. Check out our article on the best soda water makers before you buy one.
Once your mead tastes how you want it to, you need to separate it from the extra ingredients you added in, and from the dead yeast particles that have settled at the bottom of the jar.
So, either before or after you decide to carbonate your mead (if you choose to do that), you’ll need to use either a baster or a siphon or auto-siphon to separate the liquid from the solids.
Making mead is a great way to get creative while creating something that can be enjoyed by you and your friends and family (as long as they’re 21+ here in the states). There are so many different types of mead that you can make that have a huge range of flavors. From blackberry mead and orange mead to sunflower and dandelion mead, there’s a lot to do with mead-making.