Making Mead

2013 February 3
by Chris Vernon

Last week our local beekeeping association ran a mead workshop. We’d never made mead before and only tasted it a couple of times. Mead, or honey wine, is an ancient fermented drink made from fermenting honey and water. It uses quite a lot of honey, so typically beekeepers use honey that might otherwise go to waste, such as the cappings. Cappings are the thin layer of honey soaked wax that’s cut from the surface of the honey frames during extraction.

Mead or Honey Wine

Mead fermenting in demijohn.

The process we followed was straightforward. Into a demijohn we put around 3 litres of water (mostly filtered and boiled rainwater, but topped up with some tap water, not ideal). We then added ~100ml of ‘starter’, a yeast solution that had been pre-prepared for us, ~100ml of lemon juice and approximately 1 kg of honey. The starter was Lalvin D-47 yeast, water, honey and lemon juice prepared a few days earlier. The water wasn’t quite warm enough for the honey to dissolve, it just sat in the bottom of the demijohn.

Once home we sat the demijohn in a sink of warm water and gave it a stir, this was enough for the honey to dissolve. On went the airlock and for two days nothing much happened. On the third day, the yeast had got into its stride with CO2 being produced and bubbling through the airlock every 30 seconds or so.

Apparently we should now wait several months until fermentation has completed before racking into smaller bottles and leaving to age. Watch this space.


When is a mead not a mead?

Whilst looking around the Internet for mead, the first things Google found for me were Cornish Mead Wine from the Cornish Mead Company and Lindisfarne Mead. Neither of these products sound like mead to me, as they are based on a fermented grape base, making these products pyments:

Pyment in modern usage refers to a fermented beverage made with grapes as well as honey; it can be considered as a grape mead or a honeyed wine, depending on the relative amount of fermentables from each source. Red or white wine grapes may be used.

My understanding of mead is that only honey, water and yeast are traditionally used. Maybe ‘mead’ is just an easier term for marketing these pyments as few people know what pyment is?

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Peter permalink
    February 4, 2013

    So, Chris, did you use cappings for your 1kg of honey? And won’t 1 kg of honey make quite a weak mead (say 7% abv)? And finally, why did you use rainwater?


  2. April 1, 2013

    How are the bees?

  3. December 31, 2014

    How was the mead?

    I thought I was going to make a TV appearance this year and swotted up on the Asian Hornet, so I wrote a page on Vespa velutina. Let’s hope it’s arrival is delayed.

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