Mead Made Easy


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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There are four basic bottle types used for bottling mead and other fermented beverages. They are: screw-top bottles, reusable cappable bottles, corkable bottles, and grolsch-style bottles with a rubber washer.

Screw-top bottles are becoming much more common in the wine world. You can buy screw-caps of your own, but make sure you know which size you need (28mm and 38mm are both common) and also that you know how to use them correctly. I don't, so I avoid them.

Plastic screw-top bottles (such as carbonated beverages are commonly sold in) are fine for short-term storage, but I won't keep mead in one for more than a day or two. When I do use them, it's to take a bottle to a party, and I generally fill it the night before.

Reusable, cappable bottles were typically beer bottles sold as returnables. They were sturdy and my first choice for bottling mead for long-term storage. Capping is relatively simple, and bottle cappers can be easily bought. But returnable bottles are a thing of the past. You can buy similar bottles at homebrewing stores.

Corkable bottles are standard wine bottles. They may have a lip which can also be capped, but most don't. Corking is another time-proven method, but corking requires a bottle-corker and you need to soak the corks so they can be compressed enough to get them into the bottle. I tried corking bottles once, and found it frustrating, but that was before “agglomerated” or “composite” corks. If you're going to cork bottles, I strongly suggest a floor-model corker which will give you the leverage and controllability you need to make corking bottles easy.

Grolsch-style bottles (also known as swing-top bottles) have a ceramic stopper with a rubber washer. They're simple and as long as the washer is good, they provide a good seal. They can also be re-sealed partway through, if you can't finish a bottle. The main drawback to them is they're more expensive than the other types of bottles.

#appendix #equipment

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