What equipment do I need to start making mead at home?
You need a fermenting chamber and a way to seal that chamber off from outside invaders and sanitizing liquid. That's it as a minimum.
A glass jug or carboy is probably the most common fermentation chamber, whether the 1 gallon variety or the bigger 5-6 gallon variety. Glass is used by lots of people because it scratches a little less than plastic and scratches hold bacteria (which is what you're fighting against). That said, I use plastic BetterBottles(TM) for most of my fermenters.
To seal it off, most people use an airlock, which lets CO2 out, but doesn't let air or bacteria in. However, a sanitized piece of aluminum foil, pressed over the opening of the carboy can do the job too.
Lots of people will also use a brew kettle and boil (or just pasteurize their ingredients). That's used to boil water, which means your liquid will go into the fermenter in a sterile state. That hot water is also easier to dissolve your honey into.
Otherwise, making mead is pretty easy on equipment.
A few items listed in their equipment section:
- Primary Fermenter
- Secondary Fermenter
- Siphon Hose
- Rubber Stoppers
And a few other essentials...
Check the link for a full list & explanation of why each is important.
These instructions at Storm the Castle is what I used for my first batch of mead. If you have absolutely no brewing/winemaking experience (and thus none of the equipment so far... I would assume that is the case, since you are asking) you can follow it to make a batch with only equipment and ingredients found at your local grocery store.
That said, you will get much better results if you invest in proper equipment, and quality ingredients always produce a better product. That recipe is just a way to try to break into it, if you want to try your hand at meadmaking without a large upfront equipment purchase. If you are certain you want to take up meadmaking... just go ahead and get the equipment. I ended up getting proper equipment less than six months after trying it.
If you can find a brewing supply store locally, I would highly recommend going in and and checking if they have any starter kits. Usually there will be plenty of advice on hand as well. Or, if you prefer online, one place I've bought from before is Midwest Supplies.