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Making Wine With Honey (Mead)

By Ed Kraus

One of the most interesting types of wines you can make is honey wine - traditionally known as Mead. Making honey wine is an incredibly fascinating experience. There are so many styles and variations to choose from that just about anyone can find a recipe that perks their interest.

Shop Wine Making Supplies There is also a lot of room for some creative fun and experimentation as well when making wine from honey. For example, you can mix the honey with different varieties of fruit, or you can add herbs and spices to the mix. You can make honey wine with just plain honey. You can also use a little bit of honey in other wine recipes to add an herbal finish to the wines flavor.

Also, different honeys have different subtle flavors. This in itself can dramatically change the overall character of a given honey wine. The critical difference in these various types of honey is the source of nectar the bees use for producing it.

For example, there are honeys that come from various blossoms such as that of: oranges, clover, apples, raspberries and wild flowers. There are also honeys that come from other plants such as alfalfa and buckwheat - each having their own distinct character. So as you can start to see, honey is a very versatile tool with which to make wine.


Where To Find These Honeys

Typically you can find wild flower or clover spun honey at your local grocery store. All the other honeys mentioned above can usually be found at health food stores or at a gourmet food grocer.

Depending on your area, raw honey may be available from a local beekeeper. This will certainly be your cheapest option and quite often your freshest.


Types Of Meads

Mead's origins runs deep into history. It has been intertwined with many cultures through the course of time. It was very present during the Roman Empire, in Greece as well. It became even more popular during the Middle Ages. The Celts of Wales and the Abby Monks of Belgium where both known for their production and consumption of various styles of Mead.

Through the ages Mead has come to be categorized by certain distinguishable features. Usually based on the ingredients that accompany the honey or how the honey was used. Here is a short list of the most popular types: 

MEAD - Made with honey only. This term is now used generically to collectively refer to all types of honey wines such as those listed below.

PYMENT - This is grape wine that has the addition of some honey. Typically this would be around 2 to 4 pounds of honey to 5 gallons.

CYSER - This is mead made with apple juice (cider). Typically around 2-1/2 gallons of apple juice is used to a 5 gallon batch.

MOLEMEL - This is mead with some fruit added. For example, a raspberry spun honey might have 3 or 4 pounds of fresh raspberries added as well.

METHEGLYN - This is mead made with herbs and spices. A short list of what might be used is: cloves, ginger, juniper berries, cinnamon, orange or lemon peel, peppermint, woodruff ...

HIPPOCRAS - This is a Pyment as listed above, only with herbs and spices incorporated into the recipe as well.


Basic Mead Recipe

You can find all of the ingredients and necessary tools for making wine with mead available at EC Kraus.

Here is a very basic recipe for making Mead to get you started. You can also use this recipe as a base line for creating other styles of Mead later on.

Shop Wine Yeast For 5 Gallons Of Mead:
* 13 Pounds of Honey
* 2 Tablespoons Yeast Energizer
* 6 Tablespoons Acid Blend
* 1 Teaspoon Wine Tannin
* 5 Campden Tablets
* Water To Total 5 Gallons
* 1 Pkg. Lalvin ICV-D47 Yeast

* NOTE: If unprocessed honey is being used, it would be best to first cut the honey with water then heat it on the stove to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 5 minutes. This is to allow the pollen, wax and bits of bee to float to the top so that you can skim them off before using the honey in a recipe.


Basic Process

1. Mix together all the ingredients listed above, EXCEPT for the wine yeast, in an open container (primary fermenter). Be sure to crush and dissolve the Campden Tablets. Cover with a light towel and let sit for 24 hour.

2. After 24 hours, add one package of Lalvin ICV-D47 Yeast and allow to ferment 4 to 5 days or until your hydrometer reads around 1.030 to 1.040 on the Specific Gravity scale.

3. After 4 or 5 days, carefully siphon the Mead into a Secondary Fermenter so as to leave most of the sediment behind. This is called "Racking". The Secondary Fermenter should be some type of food-grade container that allows you to attach an Air-Lock to it.

4. Allow the Mead to ferment another 2 to 3 weeks under air-lock, or until the hydrometer reads .998 or less on the Specific Gravity scale. Now the Mead needs to clear. This usually takes at least and additional 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes as long as 2 months.

5. Once the Mead has completely cleared, siphon it into a clean container and add a second dose of Campden Tablets at the rate of 1 tablet per gallon. It is then ready to be bottled and aged.

For a little more information on the fermentation process and how to avoid any common pitfalls, see the article,
"The Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure" 


More Mead Recipes

Wine Making IngredientsCyser:
* 9 Pounds of Honey
* 2-1/2 Gallons of Apple Juice
* 2 Tablespoons of Yeast Energizer
* 4-1/2 Tablespoons of Acid Blend
* 3/4 Teaspoon of Wine Tannin
* 5 Campden Tablets
* Water To Total Batch to 5 Gallons
* 1 Pkg. Lalvin EC-1118 Yeast

Blackberry Melomel:
* 11 Pounds of Honey
* 4 Pounds of Chopped Blackberries
* 2 Tablespoons of Yeast Energizer
* 4-1/2 Tablespoons of Acid Blend
* 1/2 Teaspoon of Wine Tannin
* 5 Campden Tablets
* Water to Total Batch to 5 Gallons
* 1 Pkg. Lalvin K1V-1116

Metheglyn:
* 15 Pounds of Honey
* 15 Cloves
* 2-1/2 Ounces of Grated Ginger Root
* 5 Ounces of Elderflower
* 2 Tablespoons of Yeast Energizer
* 5-1/2 Tablespoons of Acid Blend
* 1/4 Teaspoon of Wine Tannin
* 5 Campden Tablets
* Water To Total Batch to 5 Gallons
* 1 Pkg. Lalvin ICV-D47 Yeast


If You Like Your Mead Sweet . . .

You can sweeten your Mead by adding more honey, or sugar. But, three things have to happen first:

1. The fermentation needs to be completely finished and the Mead needs to have been given a couple of weeks to clear. The Mead should also be check with a hydrometer to verify that it is done. It should read between .995 and .998 on the Specific Gravity scale.

2. You also need to carefully siphon the wine off any sediment into a clean container. Otherwise, this sediment will be stirred up again when you mix in your honey for sweetening.

3. Potassium Sorbate needs to be added to the Mead as a stabilizer. Otherwise, the fermentation will eventually start up again when the additional honey is added.

It is important that all three of the above happens before adding a sweetener of any kind, otherwise you may get sediment occurring
in the bottom of you wine bottles, or worse yet, re-fermentation may start up in the bottles.


Related Article:
 "Making Sweet Wines"


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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.