Pints for Prostates

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Mead

I made my first batch of mead the other night (2011-12-06)! Mead is a honey wine.
For a 1 gallon batch:
  • 1 quart of Orange Blossom Honey (3 lbs)
  • 1 packet of Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast
  • Juice from 2 organic oranges
  • 1 cup of strong, organic Darjeeling tea
  • 1 teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate (a yeast nutrient)
Lalvin 71B-1122

  1. Clean and sanitize everything (thermometer, bowl, spoon, stopper, bung, gallon jug, etc.)
  2. Heat 1.25 gallons of water in brew pot, to around 150 degrees.
  3. Take brew pot off burner and stir in honey.
  4. Heat 1 cup of water to 100 degrees and pour in sterilized bowl and add dry yeast (to rehydrate).
  5. Boil 1 cup of water and add two tea bags. When dark and strong, stir into brew pot.
  6. Squeeze two oranges and add to brew pot.
  7. Pour honey and water mixture (called “must”) into gallon jug.
  8. Pour yeast into jug.
  9. Add 1 teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate.
  10. Plug jug and shake vigorously to aerate.
  11. Pour sanitized water into stopper and insert into bung.


The process I used was a little haphazard and certainly not efficient. I was hurrying some and not being patient and calm. I made several mistakes:

  • I heated more than 1 gallon of water becuase I figured I might lose some in the initial boil. However, I didn't actually bring the water to a boil (maybe 150 degrees). Coupled with the 1 cup of tea I added, there was more liquid than could be put in my gallon jug. Therefore, the honey is dissolved in more water (read: not as concentrated), and not all in my fermenter.
  • I poured the must too close to the top, so when I poured in my yeast starter, it wouldn't all fit. I had to move my funnel over a sanitized bowl to catch what was in the funnel. I then had to empty some of the must and yeast into the sink to make room. Ah! Then I put the captured yeast into the jug. This means that I don't have as high a yeast count as I would have.
  • I don't know where my head was, but I put the must and yeast in the jug with the must still quite warm. As I was aerating I was thinking that the jug was hot. I measured the temperature and found that it was 120 degrees! That was too hot for the yeast. I should have targeted between 80 to 86 degrees.
  • When I poured the teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate into the jug, I did so using damp funnel. The granules stuck to the funnel. I poured a small bit of left over must in to wash it down.

Revised Process
Here is my revised process, based on the experience gained from my mishaps, and from the input from knowledgeable mead makers on the HomeBrewTalk mead forum (Thank you again!):
  1. Clean and sanitize everything (thermometer, bowls, spoon, stopper, bung, gallon jug, etc.)
  2. Boil half gallon of water in brew pot.
  3. Remove water from burner and stir in honey.
  4. Heat 2 cups of water in sauce pan. When water hits 100 degrees, pour 1 cup into sanitized bowl and add dry yeast.
  5. Bring remaining cup of water to boil.
  6. Turn off heat and add tea bags to steep.
  7. Squeeze two oranges into sanitized bowl. Pour the resulting juice, without any seeds, into the tea.
  8. Stir the tea and orange juice mixture into the brew pot.
  9. Stir and cool the must to 100 degrees.
  10. Pour must into jug using a funnel.
  11. Add cool water to jug to “top it off.” This will cool the wort even more. Remember to leave room for another cup of water for the yeast. The must should be just up to where the jug starts to get smaller; there needs to be some oxygen space in the jug. 
  12. When the temperature is 85 degrees, pitch yeast into jug using a funnel.
  13. Add 1 teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate directly into jug (without funnel).
  14. Plug jug and shake vigorously to aerate.
  15. Pour sanitized water into stopper and insert into bung.

The mead will ferment for at least three months. I’ll save some wine bottles and corks so that I can bottle the mead and let it clear up and condition. Alternatively, if it tastes decent at three months, Kim and I will just refrigerate the jug and drink it, and eschew any bottling efforts. If the mead does not taste good, or obviously appears to need more time to ferment, I’ll just leave for another month or two. Like wine, mead can hang around for years and tend to get better over time.

If I like the mead, I‘ll want to make more. Then I’ll have to decide whether to get more jugs from wine drinkers, or to buy a larger fermentation bucket so that I can make a 5 gallon batch.

Adding More Yeast
As of Thursday evening (2011-12-08), there were no visual signs of yeast activity in the mead. I know that mead has a longer lag time than beer, but I thought that after 48 hours I ought to see something. I decided to re-hydrate a packet of Red Star Montrachet yeast.
Red Star Montrachet
While I let the yeast sit in the bowl, I measured the gravity of the must: OG 1.080. I'll have to do some research to determine how typical that number is. I pitched the new yeast and put the jug back in the closet.

Update: The mead started to ferment more vigorously this morning (2011-12-10). There is foam coming out of the top of the stopper. I put a pan beneath the jug in case the foaming overflows. 

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