Mead Projects Page

Welcome To My Mead Brewing Page

Usually when I talk about home brew I'm talking about garage fabricated modifications for my, or someone else's, vehicle.  On this page though, it's all about real home brew - Mead!

Why Mead?

With archaeological evidence for production dating back to 7000 BC, Mead could very well be the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man.  This is probably because it's very easy to make being basically honey, water, and yeast mixed together and left to ferment.  Throughout history Mead has had different modifiers added and sometimes the recipes have been quite complex.  The recipes I'll be using will be rather simple, at first.  Just the basic millennia old mix of honey, water and yeast with a couple things to improve the basic taste and help the yeast.  Maybe later I'll experiment with different flavors and such. 

I've always had in the back of my mind to do some home brewing and I picked Mead as my first brew project for 2 very simple reasons.  One; whenever I go to the Arizona Renaissance Festival I end up spending $20 or more on little glasses of Mead, so I know I like it.  Two; it's supposed to be so damn easy to brew not even I can screw it up.

So without further ado, follow along as I fabricate something that's not related to Jeeps.

Mead Projects

I currently only have instructions for 3 mead projects.  They are:

5 Gallon Wildflower Mead, 3 April 2010
1 Gallon Orange Easy Mead, 20 April 2010
1 Gallon Raspberry Easy Mead, 12 May 2010

Each project can be accessed from the menu to the left.

3 April 2010

Here we go with my first batch of Mead.  I'm using the "Wildflower Express Mead" kit from Brew Your Own Brew home brewing supply store right here in Tucson.  Wildflower refers to where the bees get their pollen to make honey.  Other flavors Brew Your Own Brew sell are Mesquite, Orange Blossom and High Desert Dry Mead.

Label

The kit includes:
15 lbs wildflower honey (in 2 large plastic bags)
2.5 tsp. acid blend (to impart body)
2.5 tsp. pectic enzyme (to help clerify)
2 tsp tannin (help aging and flavor)
2 tsp yeast nutrient (yeast food)
2 yeast packets (Lalvin EC-1118)
3 campden tablets (to condition honey and water. Not used)

Contents of box

I started around 6:00 p.m. with washing all the equipment I was going to use.  Even though everything was new I wanted to make sure nothing was lingering from the manufacturing process.  I then sterilized everything with a one-step no rinse cleaner - which I rinsed.  About 7:00 p.m. I started putting everything together.

I began by putting the bags of honey in the sink and running hot water.  The hope was to make the honey easier to work with and flow better.

Honey in sink

I then poured 3 gallons of spring water in my 6.5 gallon pail, keeping one gallon in reserve for yeast mixing and topping off pail before sealing.

4 Gallons of spring water

Next it was time to mix in the honey.  The first bag of honey I thought I would be smart and clip a corner and let the honey flow out the bottom of the bag.  It worked pretty well except it left a lot of honey in the bag. After squeezing and milking the bag I ended up getting as much of what was left on me as in the pail.  The second bag I tried to open from the top in hope that when I was done pouring the honey in the pail I could rinse it out with some spring water to get every last drop.  Being 7.5 lbs of honey it is double bagged and heat sealed above the ziplock.  Long story short, I was able to open both bags and pour out the honey.  I was even able to get some water in the bag, slosh it around and get most of the honey out.  In the end I would much rather have had bottles.  They are easier to pour, easier to get all the honey out of (by mixing a little water in the bottle and shaking), and less messy.  I'm sure the price of the kit would have went up accordingly, though.  (sorry no pictures of the bag fiasco, I was busy)

After wrestling with the bags I stirred the mixture for a few minutes to dissolve the honey completely.  When I say a few minutes I mean a full 2 or 3 minutes.  I then added the acid, pectic, and yeast nutrient as per directions in the kit and stirred some more.

Pail of must

At this point the directions say to add the campden tablets and wait 24 hours before proceeding.  The tablets are used to release the chlorine in the water and kill wild yeast in the honey.  I used spring water (not tap water) so no chlorine, and I'm hoping the wild yeast will impart a distinct flavor.  It was a decision I made because I didn't want to wait.  Time will tell if I screwed up.

Next I prepared the yeast by putting it in a small bowl of lukewarm water for 15 minutes. While the yeast was starting to come alive (bubble) I added the tannin to the honey water and stirred some more. 

After waiting the 15 minutes for the yeast to activate I pitched it into the pail, added spring water to bring it up to an even 5 gallons, and stirred vigorously for 5 minutes.  The stirring ensures the batch is well aerated which helps the yeast turn the sugars into alcohol.  With all the stirring I did, I can see why some people opt for the mixing attachment that fits a home drill.

I then snapped the lid on the pail, inserted the airlock and filled the airlock with water.

Pail with air lock

Finished right at 8:00 p.m.  Not bad, two hours from start to finish, and that includes cleaning.

After about 30 minutes I remembered I bought a hydrometer and read the instructions that came with it.  Here are the readings I came up with;

Estimated original specific gravity (OSG) per instructions kit should = 1.100+

Actual readings I took: 1.116    
Reading on hydrometer 0.0032   
Correction @ 78* (air temp, but should be close) = 1.1192   
OSG, corrected.

I'm going to call it 1.119.

Back to top

4 April 2010

7:00 a.m.; After 11 hours of fermenting it's bubbling once every 3-4 seconds, steady.  Guess I haven't killed it yet.

_

The next step will be racking it to the secondary fermenter in about a week or so.

Back to top

13 April 2010

Well, I did the first racking today.  What a pain in the ass that turned out to be.  I couldn't keep the siphon going because gas would build up in the hose and break the suction.  I definitely need to get a couple of racking valves, one for the pail and one for the carboy.  I can see when it's time to rack from the carboy I'm going to have the same problem, again.

So, first thing I did was wash everything I was going to use, then sanitize it.  I then moved everything out into the kitchen.  I figured if I made a mess it would be easier to clean the floor than the rug.  Here we see the Ale Pail on the counter and the carboy below it ready to accept the mead.

Ready to rack

Next was to open the pail and check inside.  It looks pretty much like it did when I sealed it up a week and a half ago.  There's a ring around the pail but the most striking thing was the aroma.  It reminded me of when I was a kid in my grandfathers basement when he was making wine.  It actually smelt good.  My hopes are high I'll get a good batch.

Loking in the pail

I then put the racking cane in the mead, making sure the end of the cane didn't touch the bottom of the pail where it might suck up the lees.  The clip came in handy for this, since I was by myself.

Racking cane

Well, like I said the siphon was pretty tough to keep going.  Usually the best I could accomplish was a mild trickle.  After a minute or so it would get a gas pocket in the hose and the siphon action would stop.  I would then have to start it again.  I'm not quite sure where the gas bubbles were coming from; maybe it was a poor seal between the hose and racking cane, or probably it was just bad technique. The one good thing to come of it was I got to sample the contents quite a few times.  It does have an alcohol content, and I took a reading, which I'll get to later.  The taste while not refined wasn't all that bad.  I've paid to drink worse.

Racking

After quite a few attempts at keeping the siphon going I called it quits.  I broke out the funnel and slowly poured the contents of the pail into the carboy, being as careful as I could to keep as much of the lees out as possible.   This is about as far as I got before breaking out the funnel.

Racking 2

And here it is in a clear carboy for all to see.  There is still an airlock on it because it will continue to ferment for the next few months.  It's still very cloudy but as it sits it should start to clear up.  I'm then going to rack it back to the pail - which I will have a valve on, by then - let it settle, then rack it back to the carboy.  I'm going to do this extra racking step because I did such a crappy job this first time I want to get more of the lees out.  Plus I want to get a valve on the carboy before I start bottling and I need it empty to do that.

Racked

From what little was left in the bottom of the pail I did another hydrometer test.  This was a little cloudy so it's probably not very accurate, but at this point I'm not too concerned since I still have months to go before it's done.

Specific gravity = 1.080.

@ 78*  Correction = .0034

OSG 1.119 - SG 1.083 = .036

.036 x 125 = 4.5% ABV   Not too impressive, unless you consider it's only been 10 days and there's probably 4 months to go.

Back to top

15 April 2010

Ok, after doing some reading I’ve found a new way to figure ABV.  The Standard Gravity way I have been doing is fine, but there is a simpler way to go about it using a triple scale hydrometer.  Instead of using the SG scale I’ll be using the Potential Alcohol % by Volume (PAbV) scale.  I’ve set up a new page here which explains everything I’ve learned about  hydrometers, if you want to read more.  In this article, though, I’m just going to show my recalculated figures that I’ve already taken.

OSG

1.119 on SG scale = ~16.000 on the PAbV scale.

After first racking

1.083 on SG scale = ~11.5 on the PAbV scale.

 16.000

-11.500

  4.500% ABV

Back to top

4 June 2010

Wow, it's been a long time since I've updated this project page.  Probably because nothing much has been happening with this Mead - it's just been doing it's thing.

Back on 2 May I added water to the airlock but other than that it has just sat.  It quit fermenting (no more bubbles in airlock) about a week ago, and I was going to move it to my Ale Pail and let it sit for another week before I started bottling.  On 25 May I racked the whole carboy to my Ale Pail with that in mind.  Unfortunately the spigot on the Ale Pail leaks so my plan to let it sit for a week backfired and I had to rack it back to the carboy.  During the racking I took a sample to check the specific gravity - and give it a taste.  Here are the results:

Hydrometer reading = 1.011 @ 77 degrees.  The correction for 77 degrees is +.0025 which equals a final gravity of 1.0135.  So, comparing the original gravity we get:

1.1192 OSG               Initial Pot AbV  16.7

1.0135 FSG                 Final Pot AbV    0.8

0.1057                                    AbV   15.9

About 16% alcohol by volume - not to shabby.  Also, an SG drop of at least 0.09 means it is done fermenting and ready to bottle.

Before I put it in bottles I wanted to clear it up a bit since it seemed to be a little cloudy.  To help clarify it I bought some bentonite.  Bentonite is a type of clay that has a slight negative charge and when mixed with wine, beer, mead, or any other liquid, will attract the suspended minute particulates.  The bentonite, being relatively heavy, settles to the bottom taking the particles with it.  What you have left is a clear liquid.  Here are some before and after pics to show the difference:

Before Bentonite

Before bentonite

After Bentonite

After bentonite

In another couple days I will bottle this batch and be done with it.

Oh, and how did it taste?  Not to shabby.  I still need to let it age which will bring out more of the flavor, but so far I'm happy with it.

Back to top

12 June 2010

Yay, I bottled my first batch of honey wine!  Out of the starting 5 gallons I was able to bottle just a little under 4.5 gallons.  The other half gallon was lost to lees left in the bottom of the pail or carboy after each racking and samples taken for hydrometer readings.

The bottling process wasn't too bad.  I did buy a bottle filling wand which made the process very easy.  A bottle filling wand is a tube with a spring loaded valve on the end.  When you press the wand on the bottom of the bottle the valve opens letting liquid flow.  When you lift the wand the valve closes and you can transfer the wand to the next bottle without spraying liquid everywhere.  Once the bottles were full I used a manual corking machine to cork the bottles.  Sorry I didn't get any pictures of the bottling process but it takes two hands and diligence to get the job done and the kids were out of the house so I couldn't commandeer one to take photos.  I did get some pictures of the finished product, though, and here they are;

From the original Wildflower Mead batch I bottled the 3 one gallon jugs and 5 750 ml bottles to the left.  There was also one 750 ml bottle that was not quite full which I corked and put in the fridge.  On the right are 3 750 ml bottles bottled from the first Orange Easy Mead gallon.  Again, there was a partial bottle that I corked and put in the fridge.

Bottled mead

You can see the Wildflower Mead is just a touch darker than the Orange Easy Mead.

A closer look shows the Easy Mead on the left and very slightly darker Wildflower Mead on the right.  Remember, I didn't use any clarifying agent on the Easy Mead but I did use Bentonite on the Wildflower Mead.  Both bottles are crystal clear.

Bottles up close

Another couple shots.  No lees present in either bottle.  I should have wiped the water spots off before taking the picture, though. 

Top of bottles

Bottom of bottles

Back to top

13 July 2010

Well it's been aobut 4 weeks since I've bottled the mead.  In that time I've knocked back two bottles of the Wildflower mead and two bottles of the Orange Easy Mead.  The Wildflower mead has a bit of a tang to it that I hope will mellow out as it ages.  I believe it is caused by the tannin that was added at the beginning.  It's not bad (and after drinking 2+ bottles I should know), but I'm hoping when it's mature it will smooth out a bit.  We'll see.

The Orange Easy Mead, on the other hand, is great right now.  It's sweet, smooth and leaves no tang after taste.  I think it may have to do with the extra half pound of honey I used at the beginning.  My only regret is I only have one bottle left so I'm going to try and save it to see how it ages.  I have since started two more gallons of the Orange Easy Mead.  Like they say; go with what you like.

Bottom line, I'm very happy with the results and glad I did it.  Some things I learned:

- If I had it to do over I wouldn't have bothered with the 5 gallon batch and would have just started with making one gallon jugs.

- The right siphoning and bottling equipment makes life sooo much easier.

- And, a little more starting honey is better

Back to top

20 April 2010

I found an easy recipe for making mead at StormTheCastle.com and figured I'd give it a shot.  I made a list of ingredients, went to the store and was out in less than 15 minutes with everything I needed.  Here is the list of ingredients the recipe called for:

1 Gal. Spring Water
3 lbs Honey, unprocessed
One Orange
Box of Raisins
Fleischmann's Yeast 1/4 oz Envelope
Balloon

Here's what I used:

1 Gal Spring Water
3 lbs 8 ozs of Grad A, Pure Clover honey, Kroger brand. I have no idea if it's "processed," it didn't say on the bottles.  3 lbs 8 ozs because I can't read.
One orange I had rolling around in a drawer in the fridge.  I left it out to warm.
Raisins, found in the pantry.  Still in box.
Fleishmann's Rapid Rise, Highly Active yeast (I hope this shit don't blow-up).
Bag of balloons. It's amazing what you can find in a grocery store now-a-days.
Campden tablet, 1 ea.  Left over from a previous mead batch.
Yeast Energizer

Ingedients

Here's what I did:

1. I put the honey in a bath of warm water to soften it up.
2. I poured half of the spring water into another, almost empty, spring water container I had.
3. Pealed about half the rind off the orange and cut it into wedges small enough to fit through the neck of the plastic jug.  I don't know if you were supposed to peal the rind or not so I went half and half on this step.
4. Then I squished all the orange slices (minus half the peal) into the jug.
5. The recipe calls for adding 25 raisins.  I added around 30 raisins.  Hey, if 25 is good 30 must be better, right.  The raisins are for yeast food and are not supposed to impart any flavor.
6. I took the 3 lbs of honey out of the sink and poured it into the jug.  I added a little spring water to the honey bottles and shook them to get the last bit dissolved, and poured it into the jug.  Actually, I added 3 lbs and 8 ozs of honey because I didn't notice, until later, the larger bottle was 2 lbs 8 ozs, not an even 2 lbs.  Whatcha gonna do? Scoop it out?
7. I put the cap on the jug and shook it for a couple minutes to mix ingredients. (Try that, it's quite the workout)
8. Though the recipe doesn't call for it I crushed up one Campden tablet I had left over from a previous batch and added it to the jug.  The Campden is supposed to kill bacteria and wild yeasts.
9. Then I shook it some more to mix in the Campden powder.  (Feel the burn).
10. With the addition of the Campden I needed to let the mixture sit for 24 hours while it sanitized the liquid.  If I added the yeast now the Campden would kill it, too.

And here it sits. Water, honey, one orange, 30 or so raisins, and one Campden tablet.  Tomorrow I'll add the yeast and top it off with a balloon.

Done

Note: if you don’t use/have a Campden tablet you will need to clean everything best you can.  I would as a minimum rinse the orange and raisins and sanitize any utensils you use.  I think this recipe is pretty forgiving and you should be fine, just be aware and keep the area clean.

Back to top

21 April 2010

Well, it’s been 25 hours; time to add the yeast.  Following the instructions on the rapid rise, fast acting yeast packet, I warmed a few ounces of water to between 120 and 130*.  This wasn’t exact because I don’t have the proper thermometer for the job (gotta pick one up).  I used my calibrated finger (cleaned).    I added the yeast to the water and let it sit for 10 minutes. 

While waiting for the yeast to come alive I added less than a quarter teaspoon of yeast energizer to the jug and shook it up.  I didn’t want to add too much energizer because I’m already over budget on raisins and honey, and I’m using super yeast.  I don’t want the stuff to ‘splode.

The water temperature must have been close because the yeast seemed to like it.  After the 10 minute wait I pitched the yeast into the jug, put the cap on, and shook it for what seemed like an hour, but only turned out to be 5 minutes.  Did I mention that’s quite the workout?

After snapping the balloon on my finger three or four times I managed to stretch it over the neck of the jug.  At the last minute I scurried around looking for a pin and poked through the balloon 3 times.  It felt good.  Revenge for snapping my finger.  Look, it’s a jug with a balloon on it.

jug with a balloon on it

Next time I’m going to use funny shaped balloons.

After only 3 hours the balloon is inflated and it’s bubbling nicely.

Here’s an action packed video of fermentation in progress;

_

Note: I didn’t take any kind of hydrometer readings – on purpose.  This batch is going to be all about making a good mead as simply as possible.  Taste will be the final judge and alcohol content be damned.  Though, with all the honey, raisins,  and yeast foods I added I have a feeling the super yeast is going to kick ass.

Back to top

9 May 2010

It's been 3 weeks and the balloon finally deflated - time to rack it to a secondary container and get the Mead off the cake of lees that has developed.  I bought some fancy 1 gallon glass jugs so I'm going to put one to use.

Limp balloon

The first thing to do was sanitize the gallon jug, racking cane, hose, and new balloon.  I then pulled the balloon off the plastic jug, inserted the cane - being carefull not to disturb the lees on the bottom, and started the siphon to the glass jug.

Racking set up

I learned a new technique for siphoning; fill the hose with water, carefully slip it on the end of the cane, lower the end of the hose and let the water drain into a separate bucket.  The draining water will suck the mead out of the container and down the hose.  Once the water is out transfer the hose to the jug.  It makes a little mess so I wouldn't do it over a rug.

A quick note about racking at this point.  You want to keep airation to a minimum so just pouring the mead into the jug using a funnel is not the best approach.  I kept the hose at the bottom of the jug which minimized agitation and formation of air bubbles.

Here it is, racked and with a new balloon.  The balloon is just in case there is some residual fermentation going on.  Now it's just a matter of waiting 4 to 6 months while it clarifies.  I'll be putting it on a shelf, covering it to protect it from light, and trying not to mess with it.  The hardest part will be trying not to mess with it.

Done racking

As you can see it is still cloudy but as it ages it should clear and in a few months I will be racking it one final time into wine bottles.  At that point I will probably sample one bottle and put the other 3 away to age for a few more months. 

But what of the orange that was left behind, you ask?  Well, here it is:

What was left

You know I tried them.  First I tried an orange right out of the lees floating around the bottom.  It was a little bitter but you could taste the alcohol.  Not the best thing I've ever ate, but not the worst, either.  I wouldn't doubt that in some part of the world it's considered a delicacy.   I then rinsed them (what you see in the picture above) and tried them again.  Not as bitter and actually kind of bland.  Same went for the raisins.  In the end I didn't consider them worth my time and chucked them down the garbage disposal.

So , now we wait.

Back to top

14 May 2010

Here it is after settling for 5 days.  I think I'm going to rack it again in a few days just to get it off the cake of lees.

5 days after racking

Just a little more and I'll have enough for the urine convention. Yell

Back to top

4 June 2010

The orange mead project is progressing nicely.  All I've done since the last post was rack it one more time to get it off the lees.  It has just sat on a shelf with a towel wrapped around it to keep it out of the light. The balloon has been limp for a couple weeks so it should be done fermenting.  Also, it has cleared up nicely without adding any accelerators such as bentonite.

Here is a picture before I bottled it.

Clearing

Back to top

12 June 2010


I've bottled the mead!  See the 5 gallon wildflower mead post dated 12 June 2010 for the results.

Back to top

12 May 2010

Alright, now I'm just making shit up.   Going to try and make some raspberry mead.  I've had some at the Renaissance Festival but I really don't know how many raspberries to add so, I'm going to wing it.  Here are the ingredients I used:

1 Gal. Spring Water
3 lbs Wild Mountain Brand Honey
12 oz Raspberries
25 Raisins
Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast, 1/4 oz Envelope
1 Campden Tablet
1/2 Tsp Yeast Energizer
Balloon

Ingredients

A better shot of the honey I used:

Honey

The usual process:

1. I put the honey in a bath of warm water to soften it up.
2. I poured half of the spring water into another, almost empty, spring water container I had.
3. Washed the raspberries in tap water.
4. Put the raspberries in a plastic baggie and mildly squished them to release the juices.
5  Using a funnel I added the crushed raspberries to the jug.
6. Added 25 - 30 raisins.  Again, the raisins are yeast food and not for flavor.
7. I took the 3 lbs of honey out of the sink and poured it into the jug. 
8. I added a little spring water to the honey bottles and shook them to get the last bit of honey dissolved, and poured it into the jug. 
9. I put the cap on the jug and shook it for a couple minutes to mix ingredients.
10. I crushed up one Campden tablet and added it to the jug.  The Campden is supposed to kill bacteria and wild yeasts.
11. Then I shook it some more to mix in the Campden powder. 
12. With the addition of the Campden I need to let the mixture sit for 24 hours while it sanitized the liquid.  If I added the yeast now the Campden would kill it, too.

Another batch of flavored honey water. Tomorrow I'll add the yeast and top it off with a balloon.

Done with must

Note: if you don’t use/have a Campden tablet you will need to clean everything best you can.  I would as a minimum rinse the raspberries and raisins and sanitize any utensils you use.  I think this recipe is pretty forgiving and you should be fine, just be aware and keep the area clean. 

Back to top

13 May 2010

After waiting about 24 hours it is once again time to pitch some yeast.  So, following the instructions on the yeast packet, I warmed a few ounces of water to between 100 and 110*.  This wasn’t exact because I still don’t have the proper thermometer for the job (I'm going to get one today, damn it!).  I added the yeast to the water and let it sit.

Yeast

While waiting for the yeast to come alive I added about a quarter teaspoon of yeast energizer to the jug and shook it up.  About half way through waiting for the yeast to come alive I stirred it up a bit because it didn't look like it was doing anything.  After the 10 minute wait it looked like this.

Yeast alive

Except not as blurry.  It didn't seem to be bubbling as much as the other 2 types of yeast I've used but it was doing something - so I pitched it in the must.  I shook the jug for a few minutes and put a balloon on it.  Finished it off by running around looking for a pin again and poking some holes in the balloon.

Look, it’s another jug with a balloon on it.

Jug with balloon

I only had an hour before going to work but when I checked it before leaving the must was doing - absolutly nothing.  We'll see what it's doing tomorrow.

Back to top

14 May 2010

What was I worried about? I came home and it had some nice healthy bubbling action going on.

Inflated balloon

One thing I noticed right away is the fine grain of the raspberries seem to float higher than the oranges. I'm wondering if I added too many raspberries? Time will tell.

Raspberries

Here's the raspberry next to the almost done fermenting orange.

Raspberry and orange

I hope I have as much fun drinking it as I do making it, or I'm in trouble. Anybody have the number for Mead Brewers Anonymous?

All mead

Back to top

4 June 2010

I racked this bad boy to a glass jug about a week ago.  All I've got to say is, man this thing is red!    The balloon has been limp since a couple days after I racked it.  I'll probably rack it one more time and let it sit before bottling.

Here are a couple pics:

Racked

And sitting next to the orange mead, which is about a month older.

Raspberry and orange

Back to top

11 August 2010

I finally bottled the raspberry mead.  It looks a little dark, but it is nice and clear.  I guess I'll just have to wait and see what it tastes like.  I also transfered some of the original wildflower mead from gallon jugs to bottles since I was running out.

Here's the raspberry next to the plain wildflower mead.

Wildflower and Raspberry

Here's the whole batch I did today - 14 bottles. That should last a few weeks.

Bottled

I also bought some tags so I could keep track of what's what.

Back to top