On the face of it, mead looks like the easiest fermented beverage to make. Really, how much can go wrong when all one is required to do is mix water, honey, and yeast? Well, ever seen a four-year-old try to just mix water, yeast, and flour to make bread? The problem with mead is that it’s at least as much about technique as recipe.
We’ve mentioned before that mead is nothing more than yeast, water, and honey. There are, of course, many varieties which include other fermentables, such as cysers which have apples and pyments which have grapes. There are also recipes with spices and herbs, which are called metheglins. But mead, in its most basic form, only needs those three key ingredients. And, let’s face it, might as well learn to walk before you run, right?
So, you've decided to make some mead. We proudly present Groennfell Meadery’s Advice So You Don’t Screw Up Your First Batch (or, GMASYDSUYB, for short).
1. Sanitize everything your mead is going to touch. EVERYTHING! Ideally you should use a no-rinse sanitizer. It sort of defeats the purpose if you sanitize your fermenter then put non-sanitized water in it.
2. Do not use bleach to sanitize. Bleach can lead to chlorophenols which taste like 1970s Band-aids smell. There are many food-safe, no-rinse sanitizers online and at your local homebrew shop. Use those.
3. There are hundreds of strains of brewer’s yeast available for homebrewing, some work better for mead than others. Almost all of them work much better than bread yeast. We have a favorite, but we don’t want to predispose you. There’s a great podcast about mead and beer yeast on Basic Brewing as well as our article on the subject. Also, while you’re at it, make sure to put in enough yeast so that it doesn't have to work too hard.
4. Did we mention sanitizing?
5. Oxygenate. Yeast needs oxygen to reproduce. We now oxygenate with a tank of oxygen. We used to oxygenate with a paint whip. Before that we oxygenated by shaking our bucket. However you do it, oxygenate the heck out of that must. Then, once fermentation begins, your job is to keep oxygen out. Otherwise, it tastes like cardboard.
6. Oh yeah, and did you sanitize? We mean EVERYTHING.
7. Remember that less honey per gallon means less alcohol and a shorter wait. More honey per gallon means higher alcohol (to a point) and potentially a sweeter mead. Learn more about that Here.
8. Use Yeast Nutrient! Yeast needs a variety of vital nutrients to survive and thrive; beer wort has almost all of them, mead must has practically none of them. Yeast nutrient has every single one. Nutrient is second only to oxygen for a healthy fermentation.
9. Other than that, so long as you sanitized, there’s nothing else to worry about. There are tricks to make it bubble and tricks to make it see-through. There are tricks to make it pink and tricks to make it taste like bananas. But none of these things really matter.
Did we miss something? Do you know a trick that we forgot? Post it as a comment!