Guest Post by Mead Extraordinaire, Matt Ponkey
In any project, the key to a successful outcome is proper preparation, and making mead is no different. Properly preparing both your ingredients and equipment can easily mean the difference between sweet success and bitter failure…literally. So here are some things to consider before you ever start your batch of mead:
Honey: The Main Ingredient
The first thing you need to do when making mead is determine what kind of mead you want to make, as there a many variations.
The simplest of these is a “Traditional” mead, which is a basic honey wine with the main and only real ingredient being honey. There are other variations of mead that I will get into later, however in every recipe, honey is your main ingredient.
Because it is your chief ingredient, it is important that you choose a high quality honey, as this is where your mead will get all of its flavor. The general rule of thumb for honey is the less processed (and therefore more opaque) it is, the stronger and more pronounced the flavor. Take into consideration the type of honey your dealing with, as there are many many variations, and therefore, many many flavor profiles.
Honey is usually named after the type of flower that the bees use to pollinate, and there really is no right or wrong type of honey for your mead, it’s all about your personal taste. Try to purchase your honey from local producers, as that is where you will likely find the highest quality, however if you live in an urban area and are unable to find a local producer, there are many websites that sell high grade honey.
Yeast – The Grunt Labor
Just as important to the flavor of your mead as honey, choosing the right type of yeast for your taste and mead type will make all the difference. The problem with yeast is there is no right or wrong answer, it’s all about your personal taste. Do some research on the internet and read what others have said about what types of yeast form what types of flavors. Some yeasts have a higher alcohol tolerance than others, while some can make your mead dry, others will add a sweet flavor. Your best bet is to read up on this before making a purchase.
Equipment: The Staging Ground
The easiest way to get the correct equipment for your first batch of mead is to buy a pre-assembled kit from a brewing supplier. This will ensure you have all the tools you need for your brew. I personally use Midwest Brewing and Winemaking Supplies. They have pretty much anything you could ever need, and their prices are competitive. If you want to patch together your own kit, you need the following basic equipment:
* Carboy or Food Grade 5-Gallon Bucket
* Sanitizing Agent
* Air Lock
* Distilled Water
* Yeast Nutrient
* Yeast Energizer
Extras: Make it Your Own
This is the part where you can get creative. Adding fruits and/or spices to your mead can drastically change its profile. Be certain that your yeast is suited for the type of fruit or spice that you are going to be adding. I won’t be detailing this part very much, because the combination’s are pretty extensive, but I have added some links at the bottom of this post for reference, and they contain some pretty solid information about things you can add in.
Research: The Key to Success
Whether it’s online or in print, researching your recipe and ingredients beforehand is the single best thing you can do to ensure the success of your mead. Below are some useful links:
* Wikipedia: Mead
* GotMead – Good reference for recipes
* The Compleat Meadmaker – The reference book I use
I have decided to make two different types, a Traditional style mead, and Melomel style mead.
Let’s get started!