Ragnar's Drink of the Month - Mead continued

It was pointed out to me by a couple of people that perhaps I went a little too fast with the article on vintning in the last issue. Looking back over it I am not sure. In my opinion all you needed other than that article was a willingness to "go for it". On the other hand perhaps people are hesitant to do so when money and alchol are on the line. So in this issue I will go over how to make a "longish" mead. So long as you follow these instructions by the middle of February at the latest this mead SHOULD be drinkable at war.

I also put in a bit of time and effort to get the cheapest prices for everything that I could. Three stores combined give the cheapest results. For ease in typing "Dutch Boy" is the Dutch boy store on King Street in downtown Kitchener. "Wine Art" is the Wine art store on Victoria just east of Lancaster. Finally "home Hardware" is the home hardware in the Fredrick Street mall (Fredrick just east of East Ave.) which has a homebrew section in the basement.

I will go through two methods, the first will be to brew 18L (4 Gallons), the second will only be 4.5 L (1 gallon). Choose whichever one you want.

At this point I will also comment on the honey. I don't know where in KW you would go to get honey. I buy mine from a place called Linden Lanes Apiaries which is about 35 minutes north of Toronto. In the last few days I have priced honey in supermarkets. For the record the average is about $4.40 a kilo. This shocks me as I pay $2.20 a kilo. If you find a good local source let me know.

METHOD #1 - Yield 18L of Dry Light mead

First you need honey, 5.2 kilos to be exact. So buy 6 (13.20). Then go to the dutch boy and pick up an 18L jug of spring water ($14.99), a second one is very helpful but not necessary. Next head over to wine art and get a #10.5 bung (with a hole in it) ($2.39), 2 packages of Malic acid ($2.98), one package of tartaric acid (1.49), one package of citric acid (1.49), a small package of campden tablets (1.29), a small package of nutrients (1.29), and a small package of tannin (1.29). Finally head over to home hardware and get a fermentation lock (0.99) and a package of wine yeast (0.50), and a length of plastic hose (2.50). I am assuming that you have at least 9 two litre plastic bottles at home. If you don't try and beg some from your friends. Now go home. As you can see this frist batch will cost you $44.40 plus $6.66 tax for a total of $51.06. From this you get 24 bottles (750 ml) of mead which works out to roughly $2.13 per bottle. Try finding a wine for that price in the liquor store, you actually pay more than that in tax alone on a bottle of wine.

Fill one of the two litre bottles with tap water and add 2 campden tablets. This is your sterilizer. With it rinse each of the other bottles, the lock, bung, and your 1 L measuring jar. Keep pouring the water out as you need ALL of your bottles. If you have a spare bottle keep the water as it can be reused for a couple of months. Pour the spring water into the pop bottles. Pour the honey into the 18L container. Add 8 L of the spring water (but heat it first if you can -- it makes the honey dissolve faster). Add to this 2 tsp of the nutrients, one of the packages of malic acid and 2 tsp from the other package, 8 tsp of the tartaric acid (should leave 2 tsp still in package), and 2 tsp of tannin. Add 8 campden tablets. Mix like mad until EVERYTHING is dissolved. At this point add enough spring water to almost fill the container. Mix again. Now draw off one litre into a pop bottle. Put the yeast into that pop bottle and shake it well. Wait 24 hours. Add the litre back to the main mix, top up the container with water and put the fermentation lock on. Place the whole thing somewhere warm (75-80 degrees is wonderful but 68-75 will do). Wait. Within a day or two you should see bubbles passing through the fermentation lock. That is good as it means that fermentation is under way.

When the fermentation has finished (i.e. no more bubbles) you must "rack" the mead. If you bought 2 containers of water empty the 2nd one now and use it to hold the mead, otherwise use the pop bottles again. Carefully remove the fermentation lock, and lower your (CLEAN!) siphon hose into the mead. The idea here is to take only the liquid and not the dead yeast and stuff that has gathered on the bottom. Siphon off all of the liquid into the pop bottles, trying not to splash it much. Now go clean out the big container. When it is clean pour the pop bottles GENTLY back into it. Top up any gap in the container with water. Add another 8 campden tablets and fit the fermentation lock back on. Wait three months. It is now probably mid to late May. Siphon the liquid out into the pop bottles again only this time simply cap the bottles tightly and leave them. Take all the bottles with you to war and drink them there. They almost certainly won't be drinkable before war. By the way, now that the mead is bottled you can return the water container for the $10 deposit (dropping your cost to $1.71 a bottle) or you can keep it for your next batch.

Now a few explainations and terms.

Primary Fermenter: The 18L container where the fermentation occurs.
Racking: The process of drawing of the liquid mead off of the sediment.
must: The unfermented honey/water mixture.

The transfer of the mead during racking must be very gentle as you don't wish any oxygen to get into the mead as that will sour the taste. The must is sterilized by adding campden tablets since honey contains many undesirable yeasts.

That covers method one. Now on to method 2.

Go to Zehrs and buy a gallon of apple cider ($4.99). Drink it. Next head over to home hardware and get the hose ($2.50), yeast (0.50) and fermentation lock ($0.99). Then to wine art for one package each of malic acid ($1.49), tartaric acid ($1.49), and citric acid ($1.49). A small package of nutrients ($1.29), small campden tablets ($1.29) and small tannin (1.29). You will also need a bung (#6.5) ($2.39). Also pick up 1.3 kilos of honey ($3.00). Head home. This shopping trip cost you $22.71 plus $3.41 in tax for a total of $26.12. Since this batch gives you 6 bottles (750 mL) this is $4.35 a bottle. A little more expensive but you have more left overs for your next batch. You will need 2 pop bottles for this.

Now clean the equipment just as in method one. In the one gallon jug put the honey and 2 L of water. (I am using tap water here in spite of its taste since it is another $4 on the cost to buy it and this is already very expensive). Add 1 1/2 tsp if citric acid, 1 1/2 tsp tannin, 2 tsp tartaric acid, 3 tsp malic acid, and 2 campden tablets, and 1/2 tsp of nutrients. Shake well. Add the yeast. Shake well. After this point the proceedure is the same as in method one.


At this point I will take a moment to point out that things don't always go right. I made a batch of mead identical to method one (only in a bigger size). It went fine. I made the must and starter one night, added the starter the next day and as I type (3 days later) it is merrily bubbling away beside me. Emboldened by my first success I went on to try some other things (a raspberry melomel). About half way into making the must I threw the recipie away since it wasn't working (I needed a larger container that I didn't have). So I went on with what I thought might work. I set it down to ferment last night and while I slept it blew the stopper out. I spent a while this morning futsing and fiddling and now it is happily burbling away (with a rather sinister tilt to it, I think it is just waiting for me to turn my back).

The point is that these recipies are not carved in stone. They are simply recipies that someone else liked the taste of. So if things aren't working try something slightly different. I have tried to explain the purpose of each part of the ingredients and why you do what the recipie calls for. At this point you know about as much as I do (aside from a few recipies).

Now I am getting a little tired of offering to set up learning nights and having no-one bother to show up but I will try again. If you want to try this and want someone there to hold your hand while you are doing it I will be happy to host a mead making night. We will start in the afternoon with a shopping trip and then brew away the early evening. The only problem is that you will need a car to transport you and your mead home. Contact me if you want to try it.