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I've been brewing ales for almost two years (extract plus specialty grains), and I want to try my hands at making a mead. What should I expect to be different in the brewing process? Will there be a violent initial fermentation? Is it more sensitive to temperature changes? Is the honey more likely to burn to the bottom of my brew pot than malt is?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The best resource for mead making is Ken Schramm's book The Compleat Meadmaker. It covers almost all you need to know about mead and is an excellent book.

There current state of the art in mead builds on the information there and can be found in this pdf condensing the info from the Meadmaker of the Year panel at the National Homebrewers Conference.

The main points are:

  • honey does not need to be boiled
  • nutrients need to be added at multiple times during fermentation
  • degassing during fermentation helps
  • patience is a virtue as aging can be six months to many years
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Great! So my plans for making mead as Christmas presents for my family back east this year will have to wait. Thanks for the link to the pdf and Ken Schramm's book. –  Bill Sep 16 '10 at 16:16
    
Well, if you make it now, chances are your relatives are going to get a damn fine mead for Christmas 2011! –  Bil Sep 16 '10 at 19:05
    
If you sweeten the mead at the end you can shorten the aging time, the sweetness covers some of the harsher flavors that mellow out with time. Just be sure to add potassium sorbate so fermentation doesn't restart. Of course if you want a dry mead then you have to wait. –  Mattress Sep 23 '10 at 14:50
    
You can bottle it by then, but tell them they can't open it now! –  Erik Olson Sep 20 '11 at 1:23
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AFAIK you don't really need to brew/boil the honey, just dissolve it in warm water.

You will probably want to add some yeast nutrient to your must since there aren't a whole lot of minerals and other things yeasties like to eat (other than sugar) in the must to begin with.

There will probably be a somewhat violent initial fermentation, though maybe not as violent as beer ferments, I wouldn't worry if you don't see one, as long as it is fermenting you're fine.

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Agreed on no boil and the use of yeast nutrients/energizer. –  brewchez Sep 15 '10 at 19:37
    
No boil, but I assume I need to reach pasteurization temperatures to kill off all of the nasties which could be living in the honey and the water, right? Something like 161 degF? –  Bill Sep 17 '10 at 16:43
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Honey won't have any nasties living on it since it naturally never goes bad (bee's don't have fridges). If you want to be paranoid you can pasteurize, it certainly won't hurt, but if you pitch with a decent starter you should be fine. –  Mattress Sep 22 '10 at 20:19
    
You need a pressure cooker or ionizing radiation to kill anything that survives in honey. Pasteurization will not harm endospores. –  S. Albano Sep 28 '13 at 3:25
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Sandor Katz, author of several books on fermentation (mostly food items) has info on his website http://www.wildfermentation.com/, just search for "mead".

His book "The art of Fermentation" also covers a selection of alcoholic drinks. The book is quite a good resource, keeping an eye on the bigger picture of fermentation, which may help you with equipment and fault finding/background knowledge.

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That dude is awesome. I got a chance to attend a fermentation workshop he put on and it was great (although it was much more about fermented food than booze). –  Graham Oct 18 '13 at 14:07
    
can't agree more. he is a god. –  dax Oct 18 '13 at 16:37
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