Mead making 101: an introduction

by Jim
Bottles of homemade mead

Mead is one of the oldest known types of alcohol, dating back to ancient civilizations across the globe.

In its simplest form, mead is the combination of honey, yeast and water.  If you combine those three things and wait for a few months you will have a delicious sweet honey wine.

I make most of my mead in one gallon batches.  I do this because I like to experiment with different recipes, and having small batches means I can try more varieties. Pictured above is a 5 gallon batch, and as you can see, that produces a LOT of booze, so I typically make 1 gallon batches and have several varieties available at a time.

I have been brewing mead for several years now, and so far most of them have been delicious.

Here is a basic 1 gallon recipe for a traditional mead.

Equipment Needed:

  • 1 gallon glass carboy (or food safe bucket)
  • Rubber bung (for sealing the air lock)
  • Air Lock
  • Sanitizing solution


  • 1 gallon spring water
  • 1 packet winemakers yeast
  • 3-4 pounds honey

Step 1: Sanitize everything:

Cleanliness is vital to mead making.  The environment that yeast needs to produce alcohol is also conducive to growing bacteria.  There are several different solutions for sanitizing your equipment, but I recommend a product called StarSan.  It is non-toxic in the concentration used to sanitize equipment.  Just soak everything in a StarSan and water solution for 10 minutes before you start.

Step 2: Add honey to fermenting vessel

Add your honey to the fermenting vessel.  If you are using a carboy with a narrow neck, warming up the honey by immersing the jar in some warm water will make it easier to pour into your carboy.

Step 3: Add water

Add your water to the fermenting vessel.  You want to leave a few inches at the top of the vessel empty to allow for bubbles to form without overflowing your container.  Now comes the hard part.  Mix the honey and water together until the honey is dissolved in the water.  This will take several minutes of shaking.  So I would recommend shaking it until your arms get tired, then continue to mix it for a few more minutes.

Step 4: Add Yeast

Add your yeast to the container at this point.  Some yeasts will need to be activated before being added to the honey water, others you can just add directly from the packet.

Step 5: Seal it up

Add water to your air lock and seal your fermenting vessel.  Within 5 – 8 hours (sometimes sooner) you will start to see tiny bubbles.  This is good, that is the co2 that the yeast produces when converting sugar to alcohol.

Step 6: Wait (this is the hardest part)

Put your mead in a dark place and leave it alone until the bubbles stop.  Once the bubbles stop fermentation will be finished.  Your mead is ready to drink now, but if you bottle it and store it for another few months it will age and get better over time.

There you have it, you now have a traditional mead similar to the kind that humanity has been drinking for the last 5000 years.

I will be posting recipes for mead making as I make them for anyone who is interested, but in the mean time GotMead is a good resource for aspiring mead makers.

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