The first thing to do before you start buying ingredients is to sit down and plan your Mead. This is perhaps the most important part of the whole process (aside from the need for careful sanitation – see Chapter 12) since it is here that you will list all of the ingredients needed to produce a quality Mead. Before you rush into your new hobby, take a moment to consider what it is you are looking to do. Think about what type of Mead you imagine making. If you run before you walk, you may find that you either miss the mark completely, creating something far removed from what you had hoped for, or make an undrinkable swill. The three most important questions to ask yourself are:
- What type of Mead am I going to make?
- How strong do I want the Mead to be (how high the ABV will be)?
- What type of honey am I going to use?
When you can answer these three questions, all other variables will pretty much fall into place. For example, if you are going to make a Melomel (a Mead made with fruit), you will need to decide what type of fruit, and how much you will use. If you are going to make a strong Mead with around 16% alcohol by volume (ABV), you will need to select a yeast that can tolerate that level of alcohol (see Chapter 9) and calculate how much honey you will need. So, before doing anything, try to answer these basic three and you will have a good start toward your goal.
The next big question to answer is: Why?
Why do you want to make the Mead you have planned? This simple question will lead you to make some very important changes, and perhaps result in a Mead more like the one you had imagined.
- For example, why did you choose the fruit that you are using?
- Is it just because you have a ton of it laying around?
- Or is there some particular aspect of it that you imagine will be delicious in a Mead?
- What honey will go well with the additional ingredients without either overwhelming them (a Buckwheat honey will dominate the subtle flavor of strawberries), or disappearing behind them (Clover honey will be very hard to detect in a Braggot)?
By understanding your reasons for selecting your ingredients, you can match them better to compliment each other, creating wonderful layers of flavor and aroma. You can then gather the correct amounts, choose the right yeast, and start making the Mead you want.
You should now have decided what type of Mead you are going to make, and what type of honey you will be using, and what the additional ingredients will be. Next, you need to determine the amounts of each to use.
What size batch will you be making? A lot of NewBees start with 1 gallon jugs since they are easy to obtain, and are great for experimenting without spending huge sums of money. The next most common size is a 5 gallon batch due to the fact that most home brewing containers are of that volume. Note that adjusting a recipe up from a 1 gallon batch to a 5 gallon batch is as simple as multiplying the ingredients by 5. Same thing for 6 gallons, 6.5 gallons etc. etc. (Note that the volume of honey in a recipe is included in the total volume. So if a Show Mead recipe is scaled for 5 gallons, this means the total volume of the honey and the water is 5 gallons).
Next, how dry/sweet do you want it? Here at GotMead, the commonly accepted final gravities for each level of dry/sweetness are:
Dry: 0.990 – 1.006
Medium: 1.006 – 1.015
Sweet: 1.012 – 1.020