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The health food store near me has a sale on dark Agave nectar such that 1 kg costs less than their average 1 kg of honey (usually it costs slightly more than honey). I noticed on the nutritional info on the label that it's got roughly the same sugar content as honey, so in theory, I could use agave nectar to make mead, using the same proportions!

Before I attempt this though, I was wondering if anyone out there has already done this.

Is it as straightforward as I am thinking (basically, follow any regular mead recipe but substitute honey for agave nectar)?

Or are there any differences: differences in process / cooking / fermentation; differences in spices or seasonings added; any other possible differences I hadn't thought of...

All else being equal, would using agave nectar produce a significantly differently tasting mead than honey?

Can I even call it "mead" if it's not technially made of honey - should I call it something else?


Some quick research has shown that there is such a drink, called pulque. However, fermentation seems to be driven by bacteria rather than yeast. Has anyone here done this with yeast (since I imagine the right bacteria is harder to get)? Any tips or suggestions?


After a bit more research, it seems that substituting honey for agave in a mead recipe won't yield traditional pulque. I guess it would be agave wine, if nothing else. So maybe the only thing to do is to try it and see what happens!! Anyone have any tips / suggestions?

  • Definitely just go with it and update with what you find. Use your Hydrometer or Refractometer to get a typical starting gravity. Personally I would ferment at the lower end of the scale (so you can taste the agave characteristics vs the yeast). It's worth a shot to see how it comes out! – Kevin Colby Nov 8 '11 at 13:39
  • @Kelvin Colby: I intend to. Looking at my calendar it might be a couple weeks before I get around to doing this, but once it's done (and successful!), I'll post the recipe as the answer here. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 8 '11 at 14:22
  • Wouldn't it essentially be the base for a tequila, pre-distillation? – brewchez Nov 9 '11 at 23:43
  • @brewchez: I suppose... I don't know if that would be good or not... – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 10 '11 at 4:17
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I eventually got around to it, kept it very simple:

Recipe:

3.5L water 0.667 kg "Organic raw blue" agave nectar (I was looking for "dark" for a stronger flavour, but they didn't have any)

  1. Bring the water to a boil, and leave it there about 20 minutes to sterilize it.
  2. Let water cool to about 40-45C (the label on the agave nectar bottle suggested that the pasteurisation temperature was about 47C).
  3. Add agave nectar. It dissolves very easily into water and does not form a scum on the surface in the same way that honey does.
  4. Cool to a good pitching temperature.
  5. Transfer to fermentation vessel and add yeast (Lalvin EC-1118, a champagne yeast).

The starting specific gravity was 1.050. I ended with 1.004 (for a final alcohol content of about 6.0%), but it took 17 days to get there! And then about 5 days in the fridge waiting for the sediment to settle to the bottom (it was weird, most of the time the top 3rd of the jar was clear and the rest was murky, and then overnight the whole thing suddenly clarified). It's now had about 2 weeks since bottling just sitting in the fridge (this all started in mid-January).

So what's it like? The colour is a very nice, bright, and cheerful yellow. Very clear, not murky at all.

The taste is not sweet at all, a tiny bit bitter, in fact. There's a bit of a faint tang to it, one friend commented it was a very mild tequila-like taste (I am not sure about this, but I don't drink much tequila so maybe I just can't tell). It's also quite dry, but I don't notice that aspect of it until a few seconds after I've swallowed it. There's also a sort of an "earthy" after-taste - not the best way to describe it but I am not sure what other word would work better (maybe that's the "tequila-like" flavour?). It's a smooth flavour, nothing harsh about it.

Overall, it's nice. On its own, agave nectar ferments to a very mild flavour. If I were to do it again, I think some flavours would need to be added to it, possibly citrus, to make it a bit more interesting. It's been suggested that this stuff might go nicely in mixed drinks with something sweeter, but I'm fine just drinking it straight.

I consider the experiment a success! :)

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Consider the type of agave nectar you use carefully. Wikipedia has a summary of basic taste differences between light, amber, dark, and raw.

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I've done a couple of 1 gallon batches to see what it would do, and they came out decent. I've found that Agave nectar can be tricky to ferment, and it takes a long time. If you proceed as if you are making mead, you should get decent results. I also recommend a yeast nutrient. I found about 4 lbs. of raw, blue agave nectar per gallon works well. My first 1 gallon batch fermented very slowly for several months before I bottled it. It was pretty sweet, and had some tequila notes to it. I didn't check the gravity at any point in the process, and in retrospect I'm convinced the fermentation had stalled. For the second 1 gallon batch, I used amber agave nectar, and again 4 lbs. for a 1 gallon batch. The fermentation was very similar, in that it was slow and took months. The result was much drier than the first batch, but still quite drinkable. It didn't have the tequila notes of the first batch and more resembled a white wine.

So, I went and made a 5 gallon batch. I used not quite 20 lbs. of raw blue agave nectar. I boiled the water to kill off any organisms and mixed in the agave when the water had cooled down to about 140°F, and transferred it to the fermenter after it had cooled overnight. Initial gravity was 1.069. I started out with Lalvin K1-V1116 yeast, but it stalled after a couple weeks. I added a pack of EC1118 and made a nutrient from bread yeast, lime peel and a teabag, all boiled for 20 minutes. The fermentation re-started, and was more vigorous than the previous 2 batches. After a couple weeks, the fermentation had slowed, but not stopped, so I transferred it to a secondary fermenter. I continued to see a bubble every 30 seconds or so out of the airlock for a couple more months, and it finally stopped another month later. My final gravity was 0.99. The result was similar to the first batch, but not as sweet. I'm very happy with the results, and everybody I've let try it wanted a bottle. I'm going to let some of this batch age and see if it improves.

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Agave nectar is a heat processed root-starch that isn't all that different from HFCS. There's a fair bit of discussion about it's healthy credentials. It's not the same as what's used to make tequila which is made from the juiced leaves.

That being said I bet it'll ferment just fine. It'll probably offer a slightly different profile than honey does, but if you're flavoring your mead it might not be that different at all.

I've used agave in relatively small quantities in wine before without problems.

Good luck. I'm sure we'd all love to know how it turns out.

  • tequila is made from the heart of the plant. the leaves are cut off – MStodd Feb 23 '12 at 22:30
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One thing I have begun to experiment with is a double fermentation of my apple cider into a more potent agave fermented cider-wine. I start off with the the traditional cider making of my apple cider. Then when it has stopped fermenting I add more sugar (agave) and the fermenting continues. This increases the alcohol percentage from 7%the to anywhere up to 12%.

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