The Mysteries of Mead

Welcome to the age old Art of Making Mead. This is the First Net edition of the Mysteries of Mead . This represents the first time that I have written down my recipes for the "Great Masses" . As I tell all my Apprentices I will not tell you everything , but I will give you all the information that you will need and a good general recipe for making Mead that should work well for you . If you have questions about making Mead ; Please fell free to send us mail at the E-Mail address listed  below . In the future we will try to answer these questions on this page.

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For those of you who don't know ;  Mead is an Alcoholic beverage made from honey ; similar to wine . In it's simplest form Mead is made from Honey , Water and Yeast  and could possibly have been the first alcoholic beverage consumed by man . It is possible that in olden times early man could have found a fallen bee hive filled with water which had fermented into Mead.

   Mead itself has a written history of five to six thousand years , but research suggests that man has enjoyed a close relationship with Mead for at least ten thousand years. This written History Pre-dates wine by a significant  margin . Mead is an alcoholic form unique unto itself .

     In the earliest ages of written history we can read tales of Ambrosia , "The Food and Drink of the Gods" .  Ambrosia is generally believed to be a type of Mead that was made with Goats milk . If one were to use a large amount of goats milk , the mead became a thick porridge like substance which was referred to as the "Food of the Gods"  if made with smaller amounts of goats milk it was a sweet Mead ; "The Drink of the Gods" . The exact recipe for Ambrosia was lost almost five thousand years ago , but when we try to recreate Ambrosia we discover that the beverage has a flavor that is totally unique and vaguely reminiscent  of chocolate .

    Well now that you have had a brief look into the History of Mead , let's talk about how we make Mead. To start with you'll need some basic equipment.  I prefer to brew Mead in Glass so I will list brewing containers that are Glass . A 6.5 gallon carboy already with a started batchYou will need one seven (7) gallon glass carboy ( 6.5 or 6.73 will do or 7.19 or any of the other containers that are not quite an even number of gallons ) and one five (5) gallon glass carboy . Also at least one drilled rubber cork size no.  6.5 or 7 . ( Available at your local brewing store) One piece of Plastic tubing ( Food Grade) one quarter inch inside diameter (three eight's outside diameter) and about thirty-eight to forty inches long , this should be clear and not the opaque stuff. One Large Funnel and finally two large grocery bags , an empty glass juice jar ( One Quart will be fine) and a stirring rod (This can be as simple as a three eight's or five sixteenths wood dowel about thirty (30) inches long .) You will also need to make or buy a hose for racking (To transfer liquid from one container to another while leaving the sediment behind ) . You can make one of these hoses very  simply ; buy a length of one half inch (outside diameter) food grade hose about six (6')foot long ; plug one end with a dowel or piece of plastic . about an inch from the plugged end make a "V" cut in the side of the tubing wall (this will allow the sediment to be left behind ) cut a piece of five sixteenths dowel about twenty six (26) inches long ; use four or five rubber bands to fasten the plugged end of the hose to the dowel (make sure your "V" cut is facing away from the dowel ) . At the other end affix a brewing  hose clamp or a shut off valve .A Floor Corker Best investment James Ever Made Eventually you will want to pick up a corker and an hourglass type fermentation lock . You may also want to pick up a small scale and a mortar and pestle .

    Now that you have acquired all the equipment you will need to get started , making mead itself is relatively easy . You'll need to start with a good recipe , and some good information . First ; here's some general information that you may find interesting or useful .

       The Term Mead means "Honey" so if you say "teach me to make a Honey Mead" , you are basically saying "Teach me to make Honey ,Honey "  Mead is always made with Honey ; so a plain Mead is just "Mead " If you flavor your Meads there are specific names for the Mead. First ; a Mead made with fruit is called a Melomel . (except a Mead made with Grapes which is a Pyment or a Mead made with Apples or Pears  is a Cyser [same as cider]) A Mead made with spices is called a Methoglyn and a Mead made with medicinal herbs is a Hippocras .  A Braggot is a Mead mixed with beer or ale . These are most of the major forms of Mead ; however there are a couple of other minor forms that may be worthy of note. Myritis a mead made with fruit or wine and myrtle berries and Rhodomel a mead made with roses .

     Here I think it important to mention that in the ancient  world the people believed in many Gods. To the Greeks Dionysus was the God of Wine and Pleasure , but to the Norse , Bacchus was the God of Mead  and to the Egyptians ; Osiris served as their God of Life , wine and Pleasure. Mead was traditionally drank from a Mazer cup ; which was a very large (from a quart to several gallons) ornate cup . In a future article I will write more on the history and traditions of Mead .

 All right ; so here's the part you have been waiting for the actual Mead recipe .  The recipe for a natural Mead ; with no flavorings follows ; many fruit Meads would be different depending on the acidity of the fruit .
( A natural Mead has no acidity ; so my personal preference is to add a bit in the form of Malic acid , however ; never add more than an ounce and usually half an ounce is enough.)
 
 

    For a Five gallon Batch size.
 Always start with 15 lb. of Honey
                                2 ounces of Yeast nutrient ( ammonium phosphate)
                                Half an ounce of Malic acid . (substitute 1/2 to 1oz Citric)
                                2 ground or Dissolved Vitamin B Complex tablets
                                1-2 ounces of Irish moss
                                6 tea bags (for tannic acid) or add half an oz. Tannic acid
                                2 packages of yeast                             

 Fill the balance of your carboy to the four and a half Gallon mark with   water                             

    For Sweet Meads add 3- 6 pounds of honey after 7 to 10
                                        days  of fermentation.
 

     When making Mead Always start with fifteen pounds of honey ; depending on the yeast ; twelve to fifteen pounds of honey is the maximum amount  that can be totally digested by the yeast . In other words fifteen pounds of honey can be transmuted into alcohol by the yeast . This means that when you add one to fifteen pounds of honey to a Must ( the term for the mixture of ingredients that make up Mead before it is brewed) it produces a "Dry" Mead . Fifteen to Eighteen pounds of Honey produces a Semi- Sweet Mead ; Eighteen to Twenty-one pounds of honey produces a Sweet Mead and twenty -one to Twenty-four pounds produces a Very Sweet or "Sack Mead". The types of Mead which I usually produce are "Sweet Meads"

     No Matter what type of Mead you want to make never start with more than fifteen pounds of honey . The reason for using only fifteen pounds to start with is , that more than fifteen pounds of honey in a five gallon batch acts as an antiseptic in the Mead and less than fifteen pounds produces a "Weak" or inferior Mead . So the Mead will brew much faster with fifteen pounds of honey to start than a greater quantity. After seven to ten days of brewing the Honey will be sufficiently reduced to be able to add the rest of the Honey and not slow down the reaction. (Three pounds for Semi Sweet ; Six pounds for Sweet ) [nine pounds for "Sack" or sickeningly sweet ]If you are adding fruit or fruit juices  to your must the amount of honey may be lessened . In a future article I may give specifics for specific types of fruit Mead .

       Now for the details of making the Mead.  Start with a seven gallon carboy , mark the outside of the carboy at the four and a half gallon mark . (Use a Black permanent marker )  Place your funnel in the top of the carboy  ; make sure it fits when buying the funnel .Pour in your fifteen pounds of Honey ( Never use honey in crystallized form ; either heat it until it dissolves or dissolve it in water. ) James Starting the Mead

     Pour in either half an ounce of Malic acid or one half to one ounce of either "Citric acid" or "Acid Blend"( acid blend is a blend of three acids including citric and malic) "Never use more than one ounce of Malic Acid !" [ Usually when adding more than half an once of Malic acid the Must will become too acidic ; anyone who's ever had a "War Head" knows what I mean.] Next add two vitamin B complex tablets to your Must . ( Yeast needs Vitamin B to produce rapid growth .) These should be dissolved in water or ground up with a mortar and pestle . Add one to two ounces of Yeast Nutrient ( Ammonium Phosphate ) Yeast Nutrient is nessicary to add key nutrients to the Honey that have been lost in the modern Honey extraction process.

     Add one to two ounces of Irish Moss to the Must . ( Irish Moss acts as a clearing agent and also provides more surface area for the yeast to reproduce on . ) I am a "Naturalist" and I just dump the Irish Moss in ; however some people will tell you that it should be boiled before you add it to the Must.

      Next ; Open six tea bags and dump the tea leaves into the Must . Or you may choose to add one half ounce of tannic acid to your Must. Fill the balance of your carboy to the four and a half gallon mark with water . when you finish the Must should be warm to the touch , but not hot ! Now it is time to "Toss" or "Pitch" your yeast . Approximately a half hour before you are ready to add your yeast ; take your yeast out of the refrigerator and allow it to warm up to room temperature . ( always keep your yeast in the refrigerator ; it will last upwards of a year if refrigerated; if not ; it only lasts for a month or two at best. ) I suggest either a Montrachet or a Cuvee Yeast from Red Star . ( Available at your local brewing store.) I have recently switched to using Cuvee Yeast ; although I used Montrachet for years .  Cuvee seems to clear better ; finish with a better taste and "Clump"(the ability of the Yeast to settle out of the must and "Hold" together when the bottle is moved.) it also clears better .

         To "Pitch" your Yeast just open the packages and pour it into the Must . Now take your stirring stick and stir the Must until all the honey is dissolved in the Must . Let set for a few minutes and watch for honey that still has not been dissolved . Make sure that all the Honey is dissolved in the Must .

      Now take your drilled rubber cork and insert your thirty-eight inch long ,  quarter inch inside diameter food grade tube into the hole . Insert the rubber cork loosely into the top of the carboy . ( In other words ; "Don't shove it in tight.) now fill your quart glass juice jar about one quarter full of lukewarm water. Place the other end of the tube in the juice jar that is partially full of water .

    Take one of your two grocery bags and slit it up the side and cut a round hole in the bottom so that the bag will fit over your carboy .(Make sure and place it under the over flow tube [which acts as a fermentation lock])use two pieces of tape and tape the bag onto the carboy ( This is to prevent light since light tends to mutate yeast .)  Finally take the uncut bag and Place it over the top of everything The end result(Just at the very top of the carboy; this is to prevent stuff getting on your ceiling should the cork blow out of the carboy due to a clogged over flow tube .) This is also the reason your cork should be "Set" but loose ; so your carboy doesn't blow up should a blockage occur in your over flow tube. After seven to ten days rack your must off the sediment ( if you have a second seven (7) gallon carboy , you may  use that or if it is not going too strongly you may rack into your five (5)gallon carboy  ) add the rest of your Honey ; three (3) to  Six (6) pounds of honey . Fill the rest (if any)of your five gallon space with water and stir the honey into solution . Make sure the honey is dissolved. Rack every month or two until ready for bottling . Bottling should occur at about the four to six month time frame .
 

    Well I hope this article helps you in your Quest for Great Mead !
 

     Until We Meet again ; "May The Wisdom Of The World Be Yours !"
 

                    In Service to the Dream

                                               James The Wise    -------------------  Brewmaster
 
 

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