Mead Made Easy

Second Edition

Mead Made Easy


Dave Polaschek


Tim Mitchell

Copyright 1994-1997, Dave Polaschek, All Rights Reserved

First Edition Published October 1994

First HTML Edition Published November 1995

Frontier generated Edition Published February 1997

Online Edition revised December 2001

Online Second Edition Published February 2024


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I'd like to thank the guys at Wind River Brewing and James Page Brewing. Without their help and encouragement I'd never have started on this book, let alone completed it.

I'd like to thank Charlie Papazian, since without his excellent Complete Joy of Homebrewing, I'd never have started brewing in the first place.

Everybody on the Internet The Mead Lovers Mailing List helped more than they can ever know. I'd especially like to thank Dick Dunn for maintaining the list, and Joyce Miller for compiling The Bee's Lees, an online recipe book, from recipes that were posted to the mailing list (some of which are included here).

Thanks to the long-dead Kenelme Digbie for collecting mead recipes in the late 1600s, the oldest surviving compilation of mead recipes I could find.

Thanks to Alex for indexing this when he probably should've been working on one of the many manuals he was supposed to be working on.

And finally, big thanks to Tim Mitchell, who served as my editor and kept me fully aware of the need to keep typing (“This sucks. Change it!”).

For the second edition, I'd like to thank my sweetie, who helped with the copy-editing and providing continuing support for my various hobbies.

#acknowledgements #about

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Mead Made Easy wasn’t a huge commercial success, but I sold all but five of the thousand copies I printed back in the 1990s, and recently had some people tell me it was still a useful book, even though it’s now out of date by more than twenty years. That led to me deciding to bring the book back, along with a number of updates I had made notes on during the intervening years.

As I write this, I have no plans to produce another print version, though has facilities for producing an epub. If you're interested in that, please use one of the contact addresses to get in touch with me.

One of the major additions is adding Dave's Notes to many of the recipes. I've also added recipes. With more experience and time, I think a lot of these recipes illustrate useful principles. A smaller, but perhaps more useful change was updating many of the links. Time moves on, and some websites die, while others are born. I’ve tried to link to the original sites I used back in the 1990s where possible, often linking to the Internet Archive version. But I’ve also tried to add new links where appropriate so Mead Made Easy can be useful for a few more years.

I've almost tripled the original bibliography. Turns out, there's been a lot of good writing about mead in the past three decades. I also have a friend who has been experimenting with kveik yeast and traditional Scandinavian farmhouse brewing which seems like it meshes well with my philosophy of brewing mead. And I think that was the real strength of the book. Brewing mead should be easy. Yeast can digest honey very easily, and the only thing lacking is the nutrients they need. Add those, either from fruit, malt, or commercial yeast nutrient, and yeast will happily turn honey into alcohol, and pretty quickly, too.

I hope you find it useful.


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This book is intended for anyone who wants to make mead. If you have experience making beer or wine, you can skip the chapters on the history of mead and brewing basics. There are complete directions on making mead quickly and easily, followed by sections of Notes for Beermakers and Notes for Winemakers. Each section will have at least one recipe with complete directions. Assorted advanced subjects get a chapter of their own and include meads which will take longer to age and require more patience. These are what many people think of when they think of mead, and are closer in character to what was commercially available when I initially wrote this book. Towards the end of the book there will be a bunch of recipes gathered from various sources.

Making mead should be fun and easy. If it's not enjoyable, why do it? I've tried to write this book with that in mind. Most of the recipes presented here are ones I've tried, and I'm a lazy brewer. I enjoy making good beers and meads, but believe that it shouldn't be hard work. I've been making mead for more than five years now, and haven't had a batch turn out badly. The biggest problem is waiting long enough for the drink to reach its peak flavor.

With that in mind, let's get on to mead.


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First, some mead history to get us started and tell you a little about how mead works.

Mead has been around for thousands of years. Honey was one of the first things to be fermented into alcoholic beverages, and mead is mentioned in the Bible, the Rig-Veda, the Aeneid and Beowulf. Mead was sacred to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. The Norse god Thor was once challenged to drink from a bottomless mead-horn, although for some reason they left this out of the comic books, along with the gory details of the dwarves forging horseshoes inside his head the next morning.

Mead is also made in other parts of the world. Global brewers and consumers of mead include the Australian Aborigines. Mead is one of many drinks historically made in Africa, and was brewed as a ceremonial liquor in the pre-Columbian Americas.

Honey has traditionally had life-giving and aphrodisiacal qualities. Aeneas' wounds were doused with mead in the Aeneid. (That had to sting.) The reward of a fallen Norse warrior was Valhalla, where his time was spent in mead-drinking and battle. And a `honeymoon' was initially a month when the young couple drank mead in order to be fruitful.

Early meads were simply honey and water, with spices or fruits added for variety and nutrients essential to the yeast. The mixture was left open to the air, or fruit peels were added, and wild yeast would start the fermentation going. Here in the new world, that's not optimal due to the different varieties of wild yeast. Other than that, it's possible to make meads in a very traditional style.


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Mead and other honey brews are classified as follows:

  • Traditional Mead – Honey, water and yeast. Nothing else. About 2.5 – 3 lbs honey per gallon of water.

  • Sack Mead – Same as a traditional mead, but with about 25% more honey, though not enough that it will smell like mead when opened. This makes for an upper limit of about 3.5 lbs of honey per gallon, and requires alcohol tolerant yeast.

  • Small Meads – Again, similar to a traditional mead, but these were made with much less honey, and as a result fermented and aged much more quickly. These meads were traditionally brewed by the peasantry. This is the easiest style of mead to brew, and many of the recipes in this book will be small meads.

  • Metheglin – A mead made with a mixture of herbs and spices called a gruit. The exact composition of a given gruit was a carefully guarded secret. The recipes were mostly held by brewers who were either members of the clergy or affiliated with the church. Gruits were also used in early beer-making before the introduction of hops, and few gruit recipes have survived to modern times.

  • Braggot or Bracket – Beer made with honey, or mead made with barley-malt. It has more honey than beer, and may be have either hops, a gruit or nothing added.

  • Clarre or Pyment – Made with a mixture of honey and grape juice. This may have evolved into claret.

  • Hippocras – A pyment with spices added.

  • Cyser – Honey and apple juice. This evolved into hard cider, and was likely the `strong drink' referred to in the Bible. It can vary from a cider-like taste to a taste almost like a sherry wine.

  • Mulsum or Melomel – Honey and fruits other than apples or grapes. Popular in Roman times.

  • Morat – A type of melomel made with mulberries.

  • Rhodomel – A mead made with rose petals.

  • Mead Brandy – A traditional mead was brewed and then distilled into a brandy-like liquor. Variations of this may well have included adding honey to other distilled spirits to sweeten the drink, as with Drambuie.

Throughout the rest of this book, I'll be lumping most of these styles together as meads, although a few recipes will be identified more exactly.

Few of these styles have survived into modern times, due to the rise in popularity of beer. The chief factor in the ascent of beer and the decline of mead was that the ingredients for beer could be cheaply and easily grown and combined. In contrast, the herbs and spices in gruits were comparatively expensive, and, as stated above, the recipes for gruits were often kept secret. Also, the cost of keeping bees and collecting honey compared unfavorably with that of producing barley malt or grapes. (A decline in the amount of forested areas for producing honey further contributed to its drop in production.)

The honey meads that you found in stores when this was initially written were most likely overly sweet drinks, many of which are made by the addition of honey to neutral grain spirits. There were a few brands of true mead available, but for the most part, the only way to have a good mead was to make it yourself. Thankfully that has changed in the decades since.

Enough history for now. On to brewing mead.


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First we'll go over the hardware you'll need in order to brew. Everything you need can be purchased at your local homebrewing store as a kit, or you can assemble most of it yourself, if you'd rather. Everything will be described in enough detail so that you should be able to figure out how to fashion all the equipment you'll need.

  • Fermenter – An airtight vessel with a hole where an airlock can be inserted. Typical fermenters are either glass bottles (bottled-water bottles are good for 5 gallon batches and are also known as carboys. 1-gallon jugs, of the type apple cider is typically sold in, are good for smaller batches,) or large plastic buckets with tight-fitting lids. The important thing to remember is that it needs to keep any wild yeast or bacteria that are floating around the atmosphere out of the brew you're making.

  • Airlock – Seals the fermenter and allows the gases produced during fermentation to escape. Relatively cheap airlocks (with a stopper to fit your fermenter) can be purchased at your local homebrew store, or you can make one yourself using a piece of plastic tubing and another jar filled with water.

bubbler-style airlock Two-piece airlock

Figs. 1 & 2: Types of airlocks

  • Bottles – For a 5 gallon batch, 3 cases of returnable beer bottles is enough. (Non-returnables won't stand up to repeated handling and you'll end up with broken bottles.) You can also use champagne bottles (you'll need 30 or so). Grolsch-style bottles work well too, and don't require a bottle capper. Some people have successfully used plastic 2-liter pop bottles, but the plastic will let some gases through, and the screw-on caps don't seal very well after the first time. For those reasons, I wouldn't recommend going that route.

  • Bottle-capper – This can be bought at a homebrew store near you.

  • Bottle caps – Gotta have something to keep the mead in the bottles.

  • Brewing pot – If you're going to be making a mead with fruits or spices in it, you'll want a pot to boil stuff in. I use a 3-gallon stew-pot, which works well for 5-gallon batches. You won't need anything much larger than 3 gallons initially. If you're not using fruits or spices, this'll still be handy for mixing things in.

  • Funnel – One with a filter or screen built into it is best, but any kitchen funnel will do. You'll be pouring into this from your brewpot, so that should give you an idea of how big it should be.

  • Tubing – You'll also want a supply of plastic tubing for transferring liquids about. I'd recommend having a couple 3-to-5 foot lengths of plastic tubing (if you discover you've bought a piece that's too long, cutting it shorter is easy. Making it longer, on the other hand, is a real bitch). One piece should be the same size as the hole in the stopper you're using in your fermenter (⅜” outside diameter), and the other piece should be larger (½” inside diameter or so) for siphoning the mead from the fermenter into bottles. If you're not in the US, the tubing to fit in the stopper hole will be about 9mm, and the other piece can be about 12mm. Best is to take a stopper with you when you go shopping.


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  • Boiling bags – Another thing you may want to invest in is some kind of boiling bag for fruits, herbs and spices. Cheesecloth will work well, or you can buy `hop-boiling bags' from your homebrew supplier. These make separating out any fruit-pulp or herbs much easier. Disposable boiling bags work great, and you can just toss them like used teabags when you're done. Most of the reusable ones I've seen are made of nylon or some other synthetic so they won't hold flavors from one batch to the next.

  • Bottling bucket – You may also want a bottling bucket, which will make filling the bottles without getting sediment (trub) from the fermenter into the bottles easier.

  • Bottle filler – This is a little gizmo that slips into your plastic tubing and has a valve on the end of it. When you press it down into an empty bottle, liquid flows in. When you lift it, liquid stops flowing. This isn't essential, but bottling will be less messy with it.

  • Hydrometer – This is highly optional for the beginner. A hydrometer is a device used for measuring the density (specific gravity) of a must (fermentables and water mixture) before and after it ferments. The specific gravity is simply the ratio of how many times heavier than water a given volume of the liquid you're measuring is. This, and a little math, will tell you how much alcohol was produced in the fermentation.


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The goal is to make mead. In order to do this, you need to dissolve honey, and any other ingredients, in water. When starting out I boiled everything, as this is the way it's done in the beer-brewing world.

We'll start out with a recipe for one of the first meads I made. This is a very tasty melomel, and is relatively trouble-free. The only downside is that it takes a relatively long time to reach the best flavor. I was drinking it about two months after brewing, but it didn't come into its full flavor until about six months later. I present it here because it does taste pretty good initially. If you can brew up a batch and taste it quickly, you can get an idea of what meads are like. If you can hold onto some of it for more than six months, you'll have a pleasant surprise, and a reason to try and hold aside more meads for longer periods of time. Also, it includes some hops. Hops help in the fight against bacteria, so there's less risk of anything going wrong, even if you're a little sloppy your first time.


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