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Thread: How do you get started making mead?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default How do you get started making mead?

    First thing you should do is go to the Newbee Guide
    and read. It does a step-by-step walk through of everything you need to know to make mead. Say 'Thank you, Angus'.

    Then, try Joe's Ancient Orange Mead, it's nearly foolproof! Say 'Thank you, Joe'.


    Make a gallon, see if you like it. Mead is pretty simple, and don't let the fact that we cover every subject under the sun here scare you.

    Just jump in, join the rest of us crazy people, and have fun. And as Charlie Papazian says, 'Relax, sit back, and have a homebrew!'

    Vicky Rowe - Your Friendly Neighborhood Meadwench
    Last edited by webmaster; 02-11-2014 at 06:56 PM.
    Wassail!

    Vicky Rowe
    Owner & Webmistress, Gotmead.com
    Executive Director, American Mead Makers Association
    http://www.mead-makers.org
    Making Mead since 1995

  2. #2

    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    Advice for Newbees
    There are a lot of variables in making mead... but there is one thing every new brewer needs - A hydrometer!!! They are relatively cheap, usually under $10. A Hydrometer will save you, and us, a lot of headaches and guess work about the state of your mead. One with a gravity reading of 1.16 to .99 is sufficient. The next most important item is a good high temp thermometer, one that goes to 220 (f) is sufficient. This will help make sure you are rehydrating your yeast at the correct temperature, and not killing/shocking them by pitching them in must that is too hot or too cold.
    Keep a detailed log of every aspect of your batch. If you are unsure of just exactly what you should be keeping track of - download my custom brewlog (you must be a Registered Member).
    The best way for us to help you with your batch is for you to document your recipe and procedures by starting your own 'new topic' in the Brewlog section of the forum. When you have questions about your batch just add them as new posts to your brewlog thread. This serves you... as well as us! You'll have a complete history of your batch, tips and advice from us, and we will know at a glance the areas that might be causing your troubles.

    To Answer Your specific batch related Questions we need the following...

    What was the Original Recipe?
    What type of yeast did you use?
    On what Date did you pitch the yeast?
    How did you rehydrate the yeast?
    What was the Temperature of the must when you pitched the yeast?
    Exactly what steps did you take while making the batch?
    Did you aerate/oxygenate the must during the first 3 days?
    Did you use any nutrients?
    What was your airlock activity like?
    What is the temperature of the room you ferment in?
    Did you sanitize ALL of your equipment just before making the batch?

    What do you need to get started?

    There are many Winemaking Kits out there, here is an example of some good beginner kits. I'd personally suggest the Brewing Intermediate Kit with Glass Carboys.

    Some other Items that will make your brewing easier...

    A lees stirrer - this attaches to your hand drill to aid in stirring/aerating your batch
    A High Temperature Thermometer
    A Carboy Drainer - makes drying carboys painless.
    A Fermtech WineThief - for monitoring progress with your hydrometer

    Wrathwilde's Quick and Easy Mead Brewing Tips

    How to figure out how much honey you need.
    For a 5 gallon batch one pound of honey equates to approximately 1% of alcohol potential. So know your yeasts potential. If your yeast can go to 16% then for a dry mead anything under 16 pounds of honey should take you to dry. Note that the less honey you use the thinner (less full bodied) your mead will be.
    If you want a mead that is just a little off dry then 16 to 17 pounds of Honey should do. If your looking for your mead to finish semisweet then 17 to 18 pounds of honey will be required. If you want a sweet or dessert style mead then 18 to 20 pounds of Honey will be required. Basically what it comes down to is your yeast’s alcohol tolerance = the number of pounds of honey you should use to end up with a dry mead. Plus 1 pound for off dry, 2 pounds for semisweet, 3 to 4 pounds for sweet or dessert style meads. Remember these are ball park figures, always check against your hydrometer for actual alcohol potential.

    Sanitize everything that will come in contact with your Mead just before starting your brew session. I use 1 cup of bleach and fill my plastic primary with water, I let all my smaller equipment soak for about 15 minutes then I triple rinse them and set them aside in a clean drying rack.

    To rehydrate my Yeast
    I use 1/4 tsp of Goferm added to 75 ml of 110 (f) bottled spring water and stir well. When the temperature drops to 104 (f) I add the yeast and stir well. I then let the yeast hydrate for the recommended 15 minutes. I use a Pyrex measuring cup that has been sanitized & triple rinsed to rehydrate my yeast in.

    First Steps in the Plastic Primary

    Mixing the Honey
    There are no compelling reasons to boil your must when using honey from commercial sources... unless you are following a period recipe for an SCA brew competition.

    Using Nutrients
    DAP and Fermaid K are additional nutrient sources that I highly recommend you use. They will benefit your yeasts greatly and help protect against stuck fermentations. I recommend 1/4 tsp of each for every gallon of must. To keep things simple... add 1/4 tsp of each when initially mixing your batch and a 1/4 tsp of each (until you reach a total of 1 1/4 tsp each) each time you stir/aerate your batch during the first three days. For those of you who are more advanced, additions are best made at the tail end of the yeast lag phase, the 1/3rd sugar break and 2/3 sugar break.

    Aerating / Oxygenating your must
    Your yeast need plenty of Oxygen to reproduce... but only during the first three days. This can be accomplished by stirring the heck out of your must twice a day. This is where a Lees stirrer comes in very handy, a good 5 minute high speed stir using a power drill, forward & reverse directions, should be sufficient.

    Keep your plastic primary covered and airlocked the first three days, open it only to stir/aerate.

    At the end of three days transfer your must to a 6 gallon Glass Primary.

    Using a freshly sanitized and rinsed funnel and Carboy, pour your must from your Plastic Primary to your 6 gallon glass primary. Place a drilled stopper and airlock on the carboy and let ferment. You will notice that your airlock activity will be going like gangbusters for several days (as long as your room temperature is in the 65 to 75 (f) range. You will also notice a layer of sediment (lees) form on the bottom of your carboy, this is basically yeast that has fallen from suspension and nothing to be concerned about. When you rack the mead to your 5 gallon Carboy you want to try and leave as much of the sediment/lees behind as possible. When your airlock activity drops to 1 blip every 15 seconds then it is time to rack to a 5 gallon glass carboy. Remember when you syphon/rack you want to minimize exposure to air so always fill from the bottom with your transfer line submerged.
    After Transferring to your 5 gallon Glass Carboy
    Your airlock activity will slow considerably for a couple of days after you rack, don't worry... it's perfectly normal. When your airlock activity seems to have stopped completely take a hydrometer reading, take another the following week. If there has been no change your fermentation phase should be done. I recommend keeping your airlock on for an extra month and then replacing it with a solid stopper. With your fermentation complete now comes the hard part... waiting for your mead to bulk age. I recommend a minimum of 6 months before bottling, drinking.
    References you might find helpful...

    Angus has done a terrific job compiling brewing information for the NewBee, see his contributions here.

    Lalvin (Lallemand) yeasts are very popular with the GotMead crowd two good sources of information on their yeast strains can be found here...

    Good descriptions of Lalvin yeast strains here.
    Cross reference chart of Lalvin Yeast Strains here.
    The best place to find Lalvin Yeast is morebeer.com
    For a compilation of Oskaar's Mead Advice see my Oskaar in a Nutshell thread.

    How to read the gravity scale on your hydrometer...
    A lot of hydrometer scales show the reading in thousands but most written brewer notations are decimalized, they are equivalent.
    990 = (.990)
    1,000 = (1.000) (distilled water @ 60 (f) (also
    10 = (1.010)
    20 = (1.020)
    30 = (1.030)
    40 = (1.040)
    50 = (1.050)
    60 = (1.060)
    70 = (1.070)
    80 = (1.080)
    90 = (1.090)
    1,100 = (1.100)
    10 = (1.110)
    20 = (1.120)
    30 = (1.130)
    40 = (1.140)
    50 = (1.150)
    60 = (1.160)
    70
    = (1.170)

    Cheers,
    Wrathwilde

    If you have further questions email me - wrathwilde@gotmead.com
    If you have found this information helpful - Please take the time to subscribe

    Last edited by webmaster; 02-11-2014 at 06:59 PM. Reason: Updating Links

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    Thanks Wrath, this is good info.

    NewBees, one more thing. If you look up ^, you'll see an item on the forum menu called 'SEARCH'. Use it. You'll likely find that the question you're asking has already been answered. It will also lead you to myriad yummy stuff on how to make mead, what types of mead to make, and all sorts of gory details on the making, drinking, aging, storing and showing of mead.

    Use the Search. Both here, and on the top menu (all the way up the page, on the right) for the site. You'll be glad you did.

    Vicky Rowe - site owner and friendly neighborhood Meadwench
    Wassail!

    Vicky Rowe
    Owner & Webmistress, Gotmead.com
    Executive Director, American Mead Makers Association
    http://www.mead-makers.org
    Making Mead since 1995

  4. #4
    The Honey Farmer Gotmead Visitor

    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    I started making mead because people would rather drink honey than eat it. Who woulda thunk it
    Dennis

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    I hear differing opinions regarding pail vs glass carbouys a lot. I've also heard that using bottled spring water is a good thing vs standard old tap water. These all make sense to me. I've been talking to a few people (beer brewers) lately who say that you can use the 5-gallon plastic jugs the water comes in for the fermentation process.

    Has anyone used these type of bottles for mead brewing and if so, how did it work out for you?

    Admittedly, I'm so new my ears are still green, but I would think you could just pour out the water you're heating for the must then pour it back into the main jug once it's prepared and ready to go.

    Unfortunately, I won't be able to brew my first batch won't be until I get home from the Middle East this spring, but I'm anticipating a very rewarding new hobby once I get there. For now, it's been a blast just researching and planning.

    Thanks to everyone on this site for providing me with so much information to read up on.

  6. #6

    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    I'm sure that there will be a few detrators to this statement, but I would say absolutley do not use a 5 gallon plastic water carboy as a fermenter. I have 3 and all of them are formed, for a lack of a better description. This creates plenty of places for organic material to get caught up and become very difficult to clean out. Then you can start growing a nice bacteria colony in it. Another reason is, for a finished mead this would be in my opinion a poor place to store mead long term, to permeable to O2. And 3rd, all of mine have giant openings on them and I would probably have to search high and low for a bung.

    I like to primary in a plastic bucket, becasue of the ease of mixing up my must, after primary it goes into a glass carboy. I have no experience with the better bottles on the market now. Until I have a horiffic carboy accident I am staying with glass, and that would still depend on how horrific the carboy accident is. If I only bleed enough for a 2 or 3 day stint in the hospital, I am staying with glass. 4 days I will consider a change.

  7. Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    i worked with a guy who had mentioned that he had made his own mead one time a few years ago and that him and a friend had found a bottle that had been stashed in a shed a few days before. they drank it and said it was excellent. he gave me the website and now here i am.

  8. Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    Quote Originally Posted by rob43
    Unfortunately, I won't be able to brew my first batch won't be until I get home from the Middle East this spring, but I'm anticipating a very rewarding new hobby once I get there.
    A cousin of mine was stationed in Iraq last year. He is an avid homebrewer, doing mostly all grain beer batches, but when he was in Iraq where no alcohol is available, he had to improvise. He got honey and raspberry jam from the mess hall, and made mead. According to his account, the wild Messopotamian yeasts fermented the must pretty aggressively.

    Long story short: you don't have to wait until you get back to make some mead.

    ps I'm trying to get in touch with him so I can share his recipe and techniques with you all.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    That's what I love to get.. a simple answer to a simple question. Thanks very much for the input. It makes a lot of sense now that I think about it a bit more. I'll definitely be using glass for the fermentation process. I did like the idea about using a bucket for the mixing and prep part of it though.

    I know I could go ahead and start a batch while I'm here, but I'm getting short these days and it'll be better to just wait until I get home so I can do it right.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    OK, I couldn't do it. I just COULDN'T wait until I got home to start brewing. I scrounged up a glass bottle (3 liter, not 3.75 which would be a gallon) and I'm trying to brew me a batch of JAO. I dropped the amounts by approximately the right amounts and now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope for the best.

    Changing measurements may throw me out of the succsss range on this mead, but at least I'm doing something. I'm sure under the circumstances that Joe will forgive. Besides, it's bubbling and foaming like nobody's business already. The airlock was obviously a problem since I'm in a dry country so I had to umm... improvise a bit. You don't want to know what I used as an airlock for this thing. LOL

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    Rob43,

    Absolutely we DO want to know what you used! Inquiring Mazers want to know!!!

    Field expedient fermentation! Sounds like a new field manual in progress!

    Keep your head down and come back safe.

    David
    3rd ACR - Desert Storm.
    David Baldwin
    Michigan Meadery LLC

    www.michiganmeadery.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    New user name but it's still me. I think this one fits me better considering my current circumstances. Thanks Vicky!!

    A new FM (Fermenting Manual?) in the making.. LOL

    OK, It's not as field expedient as some of the things I learned during that little jaunt back in '91. I was at sea during the storm on an Aircraft Carrier. Sailors will ferment anything they can get their hands on if they have a place to hide it.

    When I was up north in '03/'04 with the National Guard we used to ferment fruit into a decent (enough for us at least) jungle juice just by using those big water bottles and mashed fruit from the chowhall. Hide it on top of the tent or shelter and over time it'll ferment up nicely. Ok, so none of us went blind drinking it. LOL

    This time around since I'm a civilian (and not getting shot at when leaving the base), I snagged a local bread yeast and am using that. Of course you can't exactly go into a store in a muslim (spelled D-R-Y) country and ask for an air lock. I didn't feel like trying to get one mailed to me (I'm too short at this point) so I improvised by hitting the PX for a box of condoms. Non-lubed and turned inside out (in case of powders) it fits nicely over the bottle opening. I had to use a rubber band to secure it in place so it won't pop off as it inflates and it looks a bit obscene at times, but it's working so I'm not complaining.

    The bottle is only 3 liters and I wasted some vinegar to get it, but with minor adjustments to the total ingredients, I think I may get something interesting in the end. I just hope it doesn't come out too pithy. I used the whole orange and had to cut it into about 10-12 pieces to fit through the bottle opening. If it does, I suppose I can always back-sweeten it a bit to mask that part. As long as it's not rotten it'll get drank so I doubt it'll end up as a total reject in any case. Besides, it let me get started brewing a mead which I've been itching to do since I found this site. If this works out I'll be thrilled, if not, it still helped pass the time so I won't be disillusioned in the slightest (though I will be a smidge disappointed). I'll start a new batch when I get home this summer anyway. IOW, I'll "ruck up" and move on.

    "Forgive me Joe, but I had to do it."

    Better a brave attempt than sitting on the sidelines doing nothing.

    Of course I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

  13. Default Re: How do you get started making mead?



    I can just imagine what that
    (carboy/"airlock" set-up)
    must look like.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    Ooooh, I'm sure you can imagine what it looks like if you try real "hard".

    Burping it every once in a while actually leaves me feeling a little dirty for some reason.

    Well, I'm off to Thailand tomorrow. Two weeks of router training coming right up. I'm going to see if I can find any unique honey sources while I'm there too of course. Their wine industry is just starting to get recognition on a large export scale so I'm putting feelers out for any potential mead brewing efforts in the area as well.

  15. Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    Thank you, Angus... And thank you, Joe... And thank you, Vickie (for running the website)... and thanks to all others who have contributed to the site. As a one-batch newbee, gratitude far outstrips knowledge, and I think that's as it should be.

    Tex

  16. #16

    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    And welcome to you Texas, I think you'll find that we are a friendly bunch here... As soon as you taste you're first batch, the more you are going to appreciate your next batch! Especially after you've learned what the gurus here have to teach.
    Wild In Idaho
    Mead, like life, is a journey and not a destination. So stop and savor the flavors along the way!


    "Gawd, I hate drinking mead and posting in the forums."

    Nothing currently fermenting!

  17. #17
    Join Date
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?

    Hey, Sandman

    What ever became of this first Desert batch? I couldn't track it down....
    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: How do you get started making mead?



    Here's a recipe for prison hooch. No, never been there except as an MP, But I did hear about this:

    1 # 10 can pineapple
    2 doughnuts
    2 C sugar
    Cover and hide from the CO's for 3-4 weeks. Enjoy.



    DD


  19. #19

    Cool

    I like your brewlog and want to download it, but I don't know how.. duh... heheh.
    Author of the Amazon kindle book The Clan and the Crown, also search 'Darter Elfgard' and 'Lux Halfhand'.

  20. #20

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by webmaster View Post
    First thing you should do is go to the Newbee Guide
    and read. It does a step-by-step walk through of everything you need to know to make mead. Say 'Thank you, Angus'.

    Then, try Joe's Ancient Orange Mead, it's nearly foolproof! Say 'Thank you, Joe'
    Thank you Angus! Thank you Joe! Thank you Vicky!

    Got my hubby and brother homebrew starter kits this last Christmas. Listening to them go on and on about what they were doing got me curious. I have more patience than they do and like sweeter stuff than they do, so i thought i'd give mead a try. My hubby stumbled on this site in his meanderings on the internet, so i've been poking around reading everything and figuring stuff out. Saw Joe's recipe and because i didn't want to compete (okay compete more) for kitchen space with my hubby's brewing stuff i figured i'd give it a try. I used a Cara Cara pink orange but forgot to get raisins so that's the only thing i "changed" in the recipe. I started it on 2/26/10 and peek under the towel i have over the box that the one gallon jar is in once daily to make sure that its still bubbling away nicely. Looking forward to drinking it!

    Thanks again!

    Pam W

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