Mead has been enjoyed by different cultures for hundreds of years. It may actually be the first thing humans fermented. There is joy in making your own mead right at home, and knowing that many have gone before you in perfecting and exploring this timeless craft.
At the heart of any mead recipe is the honey. You can add fruit, herbs and other ingredients to experiment with different flavors as the ancients did. But at its core, mead is really just fermented honey, water and yeast.
The Vikings utilized wild yeast to make most of their meads. It’s probably why they used lots of in season fruit and wild flowers, as those are great sources to glean wild yeast. You can do this too, although using wild yeast can be unpredictable. For our recipe below, we’ll be using Champaign yeast for a stable, consisten brew.
A little about sourcing your honey. You can use store bought honey if you’re in a pinch. But I prefer to source locally raised honey. I think the flavor is better and its unfiltered so you get all the benefits of raw honey. And we’re supporting small local business, which is an important thing to do. Honey can be expensive in large amounts, but think of it as an investment – both for you and for the local beekeeper you’re developing a relationship with. Often, when buying in bulk, you’ll be able to find good deals if you’re patient.
Okay, enough chatter. Ready to start?
Basic One Gallon Mead recipe
- 2-3lbs honey
- 1 gallon distilled water
- 8-10 organic raisins
- 1 orange
- 1/2 packet Red Star Premier Champaign yeast
The rule of thumb with any fermentation is to wash and sanitize everything before usage. This ensures that no renegade bacteria will ruin your lovely ferment. I use Star San to sanitize my equipment.
A note on the amount of honey – 2lbs of honey will give you a dry mead. 3lbs will result in a sweeter mead. For one gallon, I usually use 3lbs but experiment with both and see what you like.
Slice your orange in quarters, then add to the bottom of a clean 1 gallon glass carboy. Then add your raisins. Raisins are not for flavor but rather to add tannins to your mead.
Mix all of your honey with about half of the water. No need to heat it up to do this. Stir and let the honey dissolve. Then pour into your carboy using a funnel. Add the rest of the water, leaving about 2 inches of space at the neck.
Pitch your yeast. Half a packet of yeast is enough for one gallon. You can store the rest of the packet in the fridge.
Put a lid on the carboy and give it a good, vigorous shake. Then replace the lid with an airlock and store in a cool, dark corner for 3-4 weeks.
After 3 weeks you’ll notice a thick layer of debris at the bottom of your carboy. This is called the lees and is essentially spent yeast. At this point I like to rack my liquid off the lees into a clean carboy using a siphon and plastic tube. I also like to taste test it to make sure it’s sweet enough. The longer your mead ferments the drier it’ll be, so if you want a sweeter mead this would be the time to add a little more honey. Or not. It’s completely up to you.
Replace the airlock and let your mead sit for another couple months before bottling.
5 Gallon Mead Recipe
- 12-15lbs honey
- 4 gallons distilled water
- 2 oranges
- 20-30 raisins
- 1 packet Red Star Premier Champaign yeast
To make 5 gallons of mead, you’ll need a 5 gallon carboy. You’ll need two if you want to rack after the primary ferment.
Follow all the steps we used for the one gallon mead recipe. Note that 12lbs of honey will result in a drier finish. I go with 15lbs for a semi sweet delicious mead. 18lbs will result in a sweet wine.
I enjoy mead when it’s green and still bubbly. You’ll often read that you should let your mead sit for at least a year before trying, and there is truth in this. The longer your mead sits the more clear and refined it will be. The taste does enhance and change over time.
But there is no hard rule when it comes to enjoying mead. I like to set aside a little mead when its young and green and still a little hazy with yeast. Then I’ll bottle the rest for later.
It’s your mead. Enjoy it however you wish.
Want to kick your mead up a little bit? Try this Spiced Pear Mead recipe.