The simplest Mead to make, often called a Show Mead, or a Traditional Mead, contains nothing more than Honey, water and yeast. An example would be the following:
12 lbs Honey
Lalvin RC212 Yeast
Water to 5 gallons
This will produce a dry Mead with approximately 12% ABV. Why is it a dry Mead? The yeast has the potential to ferment up to around 14% ABV. Since there is only enough honey to produce approx. 12% ABV, the yeast will not stop eating the sugar before it is all gone. With no sugar left to sweeten the Mead, it will be dry. This kind of Mead is designed to showcase the unique flavor and aroma of the varietal of honey used.
You will notice that I used the word ‘simplest’ above, not ‘easiest’. There is a reason for that. Because there are no other ingredients to add flavors into a Show or Traditional Mead, any tiny “off” flavor caused by a mistake in the brewing process will be easily detectable, particularly if the honey used was very delicate. It is therefore sometimes better to start your Mead making hobby with recipes that have some additional ingredients that will help mask some of the undesirable flavors, at least until you have learned and practiced the basic brewing skills.
So what should you start with? This is the perfect time to introduce you to the easiest, quickest, most foolproof recipe you could ever ask for.
NOTE: This is a ‘foolproof’ mead, but is not an example of good meadmaking techniques. It will, however, produce a fast, tasty mead that will get you on your way. For recipes that include solid, repeatable, and most importantly, expandable fermentation techniques, grab a free membership in the GotMead Forums. And if you want to ‘hang with the big dogs’, the folks who really know their stuff, upgrade to a GotMead Patron membership for only $25/year and get access to the Patron Forums, where the award winning recipes and techniques get talked about.
Joe’s Ancient Orange and Spice Mead
A little caveat before we continue. This recipe flies in the face of just about all standard brewing methods used to make consistent and good Meads. It was created by Joe Mattioli to make a fast and tasty drink out of ingredients found in most kitchens. It is therefore perfect for the beginner, which has resulted in it being perhaps the most popular Mead recipe available on the internet. As Joe himself says “It is so simple to make and you can make it without much equipment and with a multitude of variations. This could be a first Mead for the novice as it is almost foolproof. It is a bit unorthodox but it has never failed me or the friends I have shared it with. (snip)…it will be sweet, complex and tasty.” Follow the instructions exactly as provided and you cannot go wrong. If you want to make larger batches, just scale up the recipe keeping all ingredients in the same proportion.
1 gallon batch
3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller, rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like – these are potent critters)
optional – a pinch of nutmeg and allspice (very small )
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast ( now don’t get holy on me— after all this is an ancient mead and that’s all we had back then)
Balance water to one gallon
Use a clean 1 gallon carboy
Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy
Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights –add orange (you can push em through opening big boy — rinds included — its ok for this mead — take my word for it — ignore the experts)
Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. ( need room for some foam — you can top off with more water after the first few days frenzy)
Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.
When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don’t have to rehydrate it first– the ancients didn’t even have that word in their vocabulary– just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not)(The yeast can fight for their own territory)
Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don’t use grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90’s – wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don’t shake it! Don’t mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except its okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.
Racking — Don’t you dare
additional feeding — NO NO
More stirring or shaking — Your not listening, don’t touch
After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that, you are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don’t need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet), likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn’t work out… you screwed up and didn’t read my instructions (or used grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away) . If it didn’t work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.
If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey— This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don’t knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make good ancient mead.
And there you have it. You have made your first Mead. Now come the steps that must be followed to make a good, and eventually a great Mead.