12-Step-Mead-art - 6/15/08
"The Twelve Step Method to Making Mead (Mankind's Oldest Fermented Beverage)" by Master Rurik Petrovitch Stoianov.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
The Twelve Step Method to Making Mead
(Mankind's Oldest Fermented Beverage)
by Master Rurik Petrovitch Stoianov
Greetings, and welcome to the satisfying experience of making your own mead at home. This guide will lead you, step by step, through the process of mead making.
First, a brief history and explanation of just what mead is and has meant to mankind throughout the ages. The true definition of mead is a wine fermented from honey and water. There are many variations of mead.
1. Mead - Honey and water, fermented
2. Metheglyn - Honey, water and spices, fermented
3. Cyser - Honey, water and apples, fermented
4. Melomel - Honey, water, and any fruit other than apples, fermented
Mead has long been believed to be the oldest fermented drink known to man. It was made by Brewmasters and peasants alike. It was served in the lowest huts and hovels to the highest royal tables and was enjoyed and relished by all. The making of mead in the Middle Ages was somewhat haphazard, due to the lack of knowledge about sanitation and the crude equipment. Therefore, the quality of the final product was unpredictable. Today we are able to better control the process due to the modern conveniences and materials available. Our knowledge of proper sanitation, the fermentation process, and how various conditions effect the product have given us a greater advantage over our ancestors.
What I will be presenting in the following pages is actually a metheglyn. Throughout the directions, you will find hints and warnings, guidelines and cautions which lead you into the creation of a magnificently delicious wine. Follow them to the letter. Read all the instructions, from start to finish, before you even BEGIN to gather your equipment. If, after you have read this, you have any questions regarding your attempt to try making mead or simply need something contained herein further explained, feel free to call me.
Good Luck and Happy Vinting;
2 clean 1 gal. glass jugs (carboys)
Hemostat (surgical clamps)
Siphon hose (surgical tubing)
Hot water (from tap)
Bottles (with corks, caps, or screw on caps appropriate to the bottle)
Large Kettle (stainless steel or enameled - never copper or aluminum)
Long handled spoon
INGREDIENTS for gallon recipe:
3-5 lbs honey
1 gallon water
1 1/2 cups strong tea
1 cinnamon stick
1 crushed nutmeg
1 pkg. Active Dry yeast (does 1-5 gallons)
3 tbl sp lime, lemon, or orange juice
3 tbl sp sugar
SOME HELPFUL HINTS
If you prefer a very dry wine, try using only 2 lbs. of honey per gallon. For a medium dry mead use 3 lbs/gallon. For a sweet mead use 5 lbs/gallon and for a very sweet mead use 7 lbs/gallon.
The only equipment that you must buy at a wine making supply store are the fermentation locks, accompanying corks and clarifier. Take your carboy with you to make sure you get the right size cork as they come in a wide variety of sizes.
For the beginner, use apple juice (1 gallon) jugs as your carboy. You can get them at any grocery store.
For your yeast, go to the baking section of the grocery store and get "Active Dry Yeast." It can work as well as the specialty yeasts from the Brew Store and is somewhat cheaper. I have gotten wonderful results with it. DO NOT USE "RAPID RISE" YEAST.
WASH YOUR EQUIPMENT !!!!!
Sanitation is essential to making a quality mead. A water temperature of 140 DEG. or greater is sufficient to sanitize your equipment. Adding a small amount of household bleach and dish soap to the water will insure adequate cleansing. RINSE WELL!! Use this step on anything that comes in direct contact with your product (i.e. Kettle, sieve, siphon hose, stirring spoon, carboy, bottles, etc.) Of course, boiling water will sterilize if you wish to take the extra time and effort, but this is not absolutely necessary.
Measure out your water and place it in the kettle, allowing at least 4 inches of room (make allowances for your honey quantity) to the top of your kettle. If your kettle can not accommodate this, using only one gallon of water, get a bigger pot. Naturally, the larger your pot - the bigger the batch. (Be sure to have an appropriate carboy capacity). After filling with water, make a note of where the water level is. Bring the water to a high boil.
Slowly add the honey, stirring constantly as you pour. Allowing the honey to sit on the bottom will cause it to caramelize, which will create problems later in the process. Caramelization is actually burning the sugar. This will give a scorched flavor to your mead. Continue stirring until the honey is completely dissolved.
Once the honey is dissolved, add the spices, tea and citrus juice. NOTE: you must always use whole spices. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER EVER use ground spices. They are absolutely impossible to filter out and will give a powdery feeling in the mouth when you taste your mead.
When making your tea, use 2-3 tea bags per 1 1/2 cups of water. Tea contains tannic acid which is a natural yeast nutrient and will help to increase the alcohol content. The same is true for citrus juice, which contains citric acid. Always use fresh squeezed juice instead of store bought. Your choice of juice is completely up to your personal tastes, any citrus juice will do. The cloves, allspice, and cinnamon can be added as they come from the store. The nutmeg, however, must be crushed or cracked. Use a nutcracker as you would on a walnut. The spices listed are my personal favorites, but you should feel free to experiment with other spices and herbs as your own tastes lead you. The spices will float at first, this is expected.
Bring the contents back to a high boil. As it starts to boil a thick foam will be created on the top. This is why you had to leave room at the top of the pot. When the foam builds, use your sieve (wire screen not a colander) to collect and remove it. The foam may rise very rapidly so you may have to move quickly. As you collect the foam you will also catch the spices. Empty the sieve into a large bowl until you get ahead of the foaming.
When you manage (sometimes it can be difficult) take the sieve and the bowl to your sink. Pour the contents of the bowl back through the sieve over your drain to retain the spices. Rinse the spices in the sieve with hot tap water and replace them into the pot. Continue this process until the foaming stops. Boil until your original water level (which you noted at the beginning of the process) is achieved. If the foaming has not diminished to a thin ring around the edges of the pot by this time - add 2 to 3 cups of hot water and allow it to continue boiling until you get back to the original water level. Keep doing this as long as the foam continues to be thick and excessive.
Congratulations! You've made it past the very active stage of mead making. Now it is time to remove it from the heat, relax, and let it cool. When you can touch the outside of the pot without scorching your hand, but it still feels very warm, it is time to put your mead into the carboy. This is when the siphon hose, hemostat and funnel come into play. First and foremost, your hose needs to be of surgical quality never try to use anything like a garden hose. In order to create a siphon, you must remember that the end of the hose that goes into what you are trying to siphon has to be well above the end it comes out of. A minimum of 2 feet is recommended. Therefore, your hose needs to be about 4-5 feet in length. This takes into consideration allowances for the hose to go from the bottom of the pot, up to the top, over the edge, back past the bottom of the pot, down at least 2 feet plus enough to reach into the carboy (which should be set on the floor in front of the stove). If the hose has a little extra in the pot, much the better.
To start your siphon, place the funnel in the top of the carboy and put your sieve inside of the funnel. Make sure your funnel is large enough to do this. Clamp the hemostat at the output end of your hose. When you are set, remove the clamp - but keep it ready. Suck on the hose as you would a straw GENTLY. Watch your hose! When you see the liquid approach your mouth, quickly clamp the hose shut before the liquid reaches your mouth. Remember, it is still quite hot and if you are not careful you could severely burn your mouth.
Next, position the end of the hose at the funnel and release the clamp. All this must be done well below the bottom of your pot. Allow the liquid to flow. If it does not, start your siphon over. You must allow room at the top of your carboy. When the fermentation starts, it will foam much like it did when you first started to boil. Once your carboy is full, let it cool to room temperature. The larger the carboy, the longer the cooling time. A 5 gallon carboy will take about 12 to 24 hours. Set your fermentation lock in place during the cooling process. This is to keep out contaminants that will ruin your mead.
Once your mead has cooled to room temperature, it is now ready to have the yeast added. First you must start your yeast. To do this dissolve 3 Tbl Sp of sugar in 1 cup of tepid water, not hot. Hot water will kill the yeast before it even gets started. When the sugar has dissolved, add the entire yeast package. Stir until it has dissolved. Let it stand but keep an eye on it. Be sure that your container has plenty of room to the top, for only after a few minutes foam will start to rise. When it has a good head on it, add it to your carboy. Replace the fermentation lock and shake the carboy gently to stir the yeast into the mead. Place your carboy somewhere that is about 3 feet off the ground (this is to facilitate a later process) and in a relatively cool, dry, and shadowed place. Let the carboy stand undisturbed for the next 2 to 4 weeks.
As the fermentation takes place, gases will be expelled through the lock. It will be very rapid at first and will slowly decrease. As the time goes by (in the 2nd to 3rd week) you will also notice that a layer of dregs will form on the bottom and the top will start to become clearer. Remember - Do not disturb your carboy especially at this stage. Your mead will continue to clarify in this manner. When fermentation has slowed to a nearly insignificant pace (i.e. the gasses passing through the lock will only cause a bubble to pass through the water about every 20-30 minutes), it is ready for the first racking. It will be fairly clear all the way to the bottom.
In order to rack your mead you will need the following: Siphon hose, hemostat, large container (2nd carboy), funnel, and filter. Place the 2nd carboy on the floor in front of the first. Put the funnel in the top and place the filter in the funnel (Mr. Coffee filters work very well for this, however, you will need quite a few of them so have a liquid proof waste pail close at hand). Now you have to be very accurate. Remove the fermentation lock and cork from the first carboy. Very carefully put your siphon hose into your mead. it should be clear enough to see your hose. Let it down slowly until the end reaches about 1 to 1 1/2 inches ABOVE the layer of sediment. DO NOT put it into the sediment - you want to leave that behind. You will not be able to get all the liquid out. This is unavoidable. Once the hose is properly in place start your siphon as before.
You have to attend this part of the process with your undivided attention. As the mead flows into the filter it will start to pool up. When it gets near the top of the filter, clamp off your hose and allow the filter to drain. You will notice that a small circle at the bottom of the filter will appear, coincidentally where the funnel spout is. When this occurs drainage will slow down. To fix this, gently pull one edge of the filter to move the circle away from the spout. You can do this 2 to 3 times per filter, then change the filter when it is empty. Continue in this manner until all but the bottom layer of liquid has been filtered. Your siphon should cut itself off by then. Remove the hose, funnel and filter and place the lock and cork on the 2nd carboy. Store it the same way you did the first carboy.
It is now time to add a clarifying agent. There are two prominent types. The first is called "Sparkloid" and the second is "Bentonite". They are used the same, but I have found for mead the "Sparkloid" works much better. To use it, boil 1 cup of water, place it into a heat resistant cup and add 1 tsp. of clarifier per gallon of mead. Stir constantly until all the "Sparkloid" is dissolved and you have a creamy liquid. Now, using your funnel, (after rinsing it from the racking) add the clarifier liquid to your mead. Shake the carboy gently as before to mix it up. Let your carboy sit undisturbed for 2-3 weeks.
After 2-3 weeks your mead will look crystal clear with a layer of sediment on the bottom as before. Now follow the same careful procedure as you did to rack your mead from the yeast dregs, into a clean carboy.
You are ready to put your mead into individual bottles. Since this recipe does not produce a carbonated drink DO NOT USE CHAMPAGNE BOTTLES with plastic corks. You will not be able to open them short of drilling. Be sure your bottles are cleaned as you have for all your equipment. Also make certain that the bottles will have a secure seal to keep air out and your mead in. Using your siphon hose and hemostat (you will not need a funnel or filter or to keep the hose from the bottom of the carboy) Fill your bottles, one at a time. Be sure to fill them up to where the cork or cap will come down to. This will minimize the air in the bottle. Seal your bottle immediately after filling it. Store your filled bottles in the same type of area that you set your carboy. If you used natural corks, be sure to lay the bottles on their sides so that the cork is kept wet and soft to avoid drying out and cracking - ruining the quality of the seal. Your mead is now ready for drinking - Enjoy!!
Digby, Kenelm. The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelm Digby, Kt. Opened – Pub. 1671
Gerard, John. Gerard's Herball or Generall Historie of Plants – Pub. 1597
"The Complete Anachronist" – Issue #5: Handbook of Brewing – Pub. 1983
"The Complete Anachronist" – Issue #120: Making Medieval Mead, or Mead Before Digby – Pub. 2003
Copyright 2008 by Steven G. Harrett, 2307 NW 121st Ave., Gainesville, FL 32609. <rurikps at cox.net>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.