How to Make Mead

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How to Make Mead

Mead is one of the world’s oldest fermented beverages dating back over 8,000 years. In its simplest form it is made by fermenting honey, water and yeast. However, fruit juices, herbs, extracts and other natural ingredients can be added to a more unique mead.


Sometimes it is referred to as “Honey Wine,” although it is technically not a wine. However, like wine, mead can range from sweet to semi-sweet to bone dry. It’s flavor and aroma are affected by the honey varietal used, the type of yeast and the preparation method.


Mead has a fairly high alcohol content--ranging from 3.5% to 20%+ ABV.


When making a mead you will need to decide:


  • Honey varietal(s) to be used - Higher quality honey will usually yield better results
  • Dry, semi-dry, or sweet?
    • Dry: 0.990 - 1.006,
    • Medium: 1.006 - 1.015,
    • Sweet: 1.012 - 1.020,
    • Dessert: 1.020 +
  • Alcohol % (short mead, traditional mead, or sack mead)
  • Yeast Selection
  • Additional Ingredients (fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices)
  • Nutrient Schedule




  • D47, 71B-1122 - Sweet/Semi-Sweet Traditional and Show Meads
  • K1-V1116, RC212 - Dry Traditional Meads
  • 71B-1122 - Berry Melomels
  • K1-V1116, EC-1118, D47 - Cysers
  • RC-212 - Dark Grape Pyments
  • EC1118 - Sparkling Mead Base
  • K1-V1116, D47 - Metheglins
  • WLP720 - Sweet Meads


Boil, Pasteurization, & No Heat Methods


The three methods for mixing the Must:

Boil Method

This is a tried and true method of preparing the Must and is favored by those who wish to make Mead based on historical or period recipes.


  • The Must is sanitized by the boil, reducing the chances of contamination.
  • Particles, such as bee bits, wax, pollen etc., are removed as scum.
  • The honey is thoroughly dissolved into the water.



  • The Must has to be cooled before pouring it into the fermenter, exposing it to possible contamination.
  • The honey may be burnt during the pour (as discussed below).
  • Some of the aromatics of the honey are lost.
  • Valuable proteins, enzymes and varietal characters are lost as they are boiled and are skimmed off with the “scum” that is being removed. This will detract from the final taste of the Mead and cannot be avoided using this method.


Pasteurization Method

Most yeast and bacteria cannot withstand high temperatures for a prolonged period of time. The hotter the environment, the less time it takes for the micro-organisms to be killed.  Pasteurization is the process of heating and maintaining a liquid at a temperature that will denature any bacteria present without the need for boiling.



  • The honey is thoroughly dissolved into the water.
  • Not all of the volatile components of the honey are lost
  • Cooling is achieved far quicker.
  • Denaturing of the proteins in honey results in Meads that clear more easily.
  • Particles, such as bee bits, wax, pollen etc., are removed as scum.


  • Some of the delicate varietal and floral characters of the honey are still lost.
  • You are cooking the honey and destroying some of the desirable complexities and beneficial enzymes and proteins.


Pasteurization Chart

123°F - 470 minutes
130°F - 170 minutes
135°F - 60 minutes
140°F - 22 minutes
145°F - 7.5 minutes
150°F - 2.8 minutes
155°F - 1 minute


No Heat Method


  • Not boiling the honey greatly minimizes the loss of any volatile components in the honey, resulting in a Mead that retains much of the true floral flavor and bouquet of the honey varietal being used.
  • You can pitch the yeast immediately since the Must is already at the correct temperature.



  • Slight potential for contamination, mostly from the water supply rather than the honey.
  • Harder to dissolve the honey. Most new Mead makers completely underestimate the stirring involved for complete dissolution of the honey into the water and as a result leave some unblended honey at the bottom of the vessel.
  • Stratification of the must can slow, stress or stall your fermentation and result in off flavors. Get ready for a good deal of shaking.




  • Filter or pre-boil water to remove chlorine
  • Campden tablets will remove chloramines
  • A Lees Stirrer (Wine Degasser) is a wonderful tool
  • Aerate must thoroughly. Just like beer, yeast need dissolved oxygen initially
  • Fruits will float to the top and will need to be pressed down daily to avoid mold
  • 3.75 oz. of honey = 1% of alcohol per gallon.




  • Honey does not have much in the way of nutrients, particularly if it has been boiled
  • Nutrients are necessary for a healthy fermentation
  • Without nutrients the mead could experience a number of problems such as stuck fermentation and Hydrogen Sulfide contamination (Rotten Egg Smell)
  • For a healthy fermentation yeast need oxygen, nitrogen, and micro-nutrients
  • The following are some of the commercial sources for the required nutrients:
  • DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) - Contains fermentable Nitrogen and phosphorus.
  • Fermax - contains diammonium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, magnesium sulfate, autolyzed yeast.
  • Fermaid K - supplies inorganic nitrogen (DAP), organic nitrogen (alpha amino nitrogen derived from yeast extract), key nutrients (magnesium sulfate, thiamine, folic acid, niacin, biotin and calcium pantothenate) and inactivated yeast. Preferred by Mead Makers!
  • Staggered Nutrient Addition

Method of adding nutrients in stages rather than all at once has the benefit of feeding the yeast throughout the fermentation.

Basic method involves:

⅓ Nutrient initially
⅓ Fermax at ⅓ sugar break
⅓ Fermax at ⅔ sugar break
Fermaid K
1 gram per gallon
½ after pitching yeast
½ between ½-⅓ of the way through fermentation

Nutrient Dosage



  • DAP - 1/4 tsp per Gallon. For a 5 gallon batch, dose the Must at a rate of 1/2 tsp a day for the first three days while aerating.
  • That way the DAP is mixed in and the Must aerated at the same time. 2 teaspoons per five gallon batch is plenty if a single dose is being made before pitching the yeast. Fermax - 1/3 tsp per gallon of must initially and at ⅓ & ⅔ sugar break.
  • Use both Fermax and DAP before adding the yeast, especially in lower color honeys. Initially, the nitrogen in DAP is absorbed very readily.
  • As the fermentation progresses use Fermax
  • The nitrogen from the amino acids (in the Fermax) is absorbed more easily further along in the fermentation than from ammonia salts (DAP).



  • To avoid stressing the yeast during their growth phase, it is important to provide them with the oxygen they need.
  • Aerate the Must a couple of times a day for 2 to 5 minutes for the first three days
  • WARNING!!! - There will be CO2 dissolved in the solution that will begin to bubble out when you begin to aerate the must.
  • To avoid this, gently agitate the liquid to expel the CO2 before you begin to add the oxygen. This is particularly important if you are using the shaking method.
  • This also applies to nutrient additions!!



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