A Simple Mead Recipe: Bottled!

Wildflower MeadIt’s been nearly two years since I started this batch. I added acid and oak chips to my simple mead recipe in making this still, dry, lightly oaked mead.

It fermented out to a specific gravity (SG) of 0.996, and I didn’t sweeten. Since the original gravity was about 1.082, I’m calling it 11% alcohol by volume. The pH was 3.0, and titratable acidity (TA) was 4 g/L, as tartaric. I should mention two things about the TA. First, I’m getting some inconsistent results using my new apparatus that determines TA by measuring the amount of CO2 given off by a base neutralizing an acid. I’ll have more to say about this in another post. The other thing is that TA measurements of mead are tricky, and are best thought of as upper limits rather than precise values.

So how does it taste? That Lady of the House and I really enjoyed it. Oak is discernible and pleasant, but it plays a supporting role not the lead. Aroma is muted, and I think that’s a characteristic of the honey. I don’t have any on hand for a direct comparison, but I remember meads from heather and clover honey having stronger aromas.

Would boiling have improved this mead?

That gives me an idea. If wildflower from Miller’s Honey has a weak aroma, then it may be a candidate for boiling. This is just one batch, and each year’s wildflower honey probably differs from those of previous years, so I’m not ready to make such a blanket statement. It’s something to keep in mind, though.

I experimented with boiling and found that it weakens a mead’s aroma, but may give it more body and a smoother taste. Is it worth it? That depends on a lot of things, including personal taste, but if the aroma is going to be unremarkable anyway, this might be a good trade off.

About the Label

For me, making a label starts with nice artwork. Sometimes I use my own photos, but more often I use the work of another artist. Gary Cooper (no, not that Gary Cooper) was kind enough to allow me the use of his photo for this label. Gary’s collections of classic Hollywood photos is terrific, and my only problem was deciding which one I wanted to use – thanks Gary!

There’s only room for so much text, so I try to be informative and to the point. I include a name, “bin number” (there must have been one of those Aussie wines in the house when I started that) that identifies the batch, starting and bottling dates, and relevant measurements.

And now, the easy part

The most relevant measure is, of course, how it tastes and I’ll be doing a lot of research on that in the months (and years?) to come – cheers!



Was this helpful?

If you got something out of this article, why not spread the word? You can click any of the icons below to give this page a +1 or share it on your favorite social media. Everyone likes a pat on the back - even me!

23 thoughts on “A Simple Mead Recipe: Bottled!

  1. Aaron

    The wildflower honey by me is significantly darker than clover – not quite as dark as buckwheat honey, but pretty dark.

    I’ve used clover honey in both my meads, only one of which has been bottled yet. I like it as a base honey, but look forward to experimenting with different ones at some point.

  2. John

    I think it’s interesting that you left it dry. I have tested and tasted mine a couple of times now, and it is quite dry. It finished bubbling a few days ago, and this is the longest any of my wines has gone on the lees. Should I consider racking now? How many racking/waiting sessions do you think I should undergo with this batch, and at what intervals? I’ve been reading your blog for roughly a year now, but bear in mind that I am still a newby to wine making. I have already Bentonited the batch, as well as sulfited and sulfated it. I usually just drink the wines young (as soon as there is no sign of further fermentation) but I wonder if there are advantages to be had to waiting awhile. Can you spell those out for me if so, particularly with this batch of methyglyn? Thanks, Erroll. You are appreciated! Also, remember our emails? I wonder if you’d like to think about that now?

  3. Erroll Post author

    Hi Aaron,

    The wildflower honey I used was dark, and at the time I thought the mead would turn out to have more color than it did. A mead has four or five parts water to each part honey, though, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at how it turned out.

    There are all sorts of different honeys I want to try too!

    Erroll

  4. Erroll Post author

    Hello John,

    The great thing about making your own wine is that you can make it just the way you like it. Nobody should make their wine dry because I do. If you usually make your wine sweet, then I would encourage you to leave a portion of your batch dry just so you know what that’s like. Let a few of those bottles age to see if they age differently from the sweet ones. Yep, that means letting a few of the sweet ones age too. There’s nothing wrong with drinking young, but what if you like aged wine (or dry wine) and just don’t realize it?

    I make most of my wine dry, and sweeten if I need to (because of some problem with the wine) or if I think it would improve the wine. That last one can be hard to know, but the more you do it the better you’ll be able to predict. Finally, I sweeten some every now and again just to make sure I’m not missing something.

    As for racking, its best to rack when needed – no more and no less. The problem with that advice is that it’s useless to someone new to the hobby, so that’s why you have schedules. So I would say, if its finished fermenting and there is some sediment, then rack now. It will almost certainly throw more sediment, so you will need to rack again. Wait at least a month (because you can rack too often), but no more than two months. After that the racking should become less frequent – instead of one to two months, figure on three to six months. Each time you rack, keep track of how much sediment there is. You want to be able to spot “lighter than normal” and “heavier than normal” sediment for whatever you happen to be making. When it stops throwing sediment, you can bottle.

    Does that help?

    Erroll

  5. John

    Yes, Erroll; that helps tremendously. Thank you! I have often wondered the purpose of racking, waiting, and repeating. As you know, I am self educated on the subject of wine making, and 100% of my educational resources are web-based and free – with a minor role (?) being played by trial-and-error style experience. One byproduct of this fact is that there are gaping holes in my education like this one about racking. I still have a problem with waiting months and months before drinking my wines, but patience is a virtue. I will take your advice to heart, as always. And as always, thank you for giving it.

    I might add that I have one further question. When I rack, should I use Bentonite treatment each time? Could it possibly get any clearer than it is now? Yet you say it may throw sediment still, so that means there has to be suspended particulate in the wine now… yes? Would additional Bentonite treatments prove useful, and if so why rack and wait? Why not simply Bentonite a few times and rack once? I realize I must sound naive.

    – John

  6. Erroll Post author

    You’re welcome John, glad I could help.

    Just use bentonite once. After a single use, there shouldn’t be much for it to work on so there would be no (or very little) benefit. The reason sediment keeps falling is that the individual bits, that settle out as sediment, are of different shapes, sizes, and weights (or even just more near the top of the carboy than the bottom) – some just take longer to settle out than others. Everything I’ve read about fining agents says they can be overdone. I don’t know what wine treated with too much bentonite, or any fining agent, is like because I’ve never tried it. It makes me wonder if it might start pulling stuff out of your wine that you want to leave in, like color, flavor, and aroma compounds.

    Erroll

  7. John

    That’s an interesting thought, Erroll. I have to wonder, by extension: if one leaves the wine on the lees containing “spent” Bentonite for an extended period of time, would that also have an adverse effect on the flavor profile? Also, in pondering the subject I wonder if Bentonite – being a clay, after all – would impart an earthy, unpleasant note to the wine. Would the wine taste like someone put mud in it?

    Therefore, I conclude that you must be right in using a cautionary note for fining agents. I will stick to a strict regiment of Bentonite use – which means usually one treatment but can also mean two or three, according to Jack Keller’s site where in some of his recipes he calls for multiple applications of fining agents. Thanks again!

    – John

  8. chad

    Hello there
    I am looking for some insight on bulk ageing. I have some 12 month old “simple mead” in a carboy, if I rack off a bottle or two for a party and leave the rest to age, will oxygen harm its flavors/ruin it over time?
    Thank ya kindly for all your informative tips throughout…
    Enjoy The Day!
    chad

  9. Erroll Post author

    Hi Chad,

    Yes, if your carboy is not topped up then your mead is at risk of oxidation. If its ready to bottle, then bottle all of it and enjoy some at your party. If not, then let it be.

    Erroll

  10. dusitn

    I just made my first batch of mead last night and waas hoping you could answer a few questions of mine. When should I rack for the first time? i left 3-4 inches of headspace at the top of my 11.3 litre carboy, is this too much? The average temp in my house is 65-70 degrees, will my mead still ferment. I had some extra must so pitched it with my leftover yeast in a 2 litre pop bottle with a balloon breather on top, do i need to worry about the plastic chemicals getting into my mead. It has now been about 18 hours and my breather is bubbling every 15 seconds or so, with lots of small bubbles visibly rising to the top of my carboy. does that sound bout right?

  11. Erroll Post author

    Hi Dustin,

    I usually rack after the mead has finished fermenting. For me that’s between two and four weeks. If it’s not finished by four weeks, then I’d rack anyway to separate the fermenting mead from the lees.

    Head space will only harm your mead after it is done fermenting. In fact, I often ferment in a plastic bucket fitted with a non-airtight cover (to keep out dust and bugs).

    Each yeast strain is different, but every yeast I know of will ferment well in the 65-70 degree range.

    Since the 2-liter pop bottle was made to contain a sugary acidic beverage for human consumption, I wouldn’t think it would do any harm to ferment in it (I’m not a chemist – just thinking it through logically). I’m not a fan of the balloon method, though, airlocks and bungs are cheap – buy some.

    I think you mead is bubbling along nicely.

    Erroll

  12. dusitn

    Really appriciated your help with my first questions, and now I have another. I hope you dont mind me using you as my Mead Help Line. I told you it had been 18 hours and my breather was bubbling about every 15 seconds, it has now been approximately 48 hours and the bubbling has reduced to about every 20 seconds. I’m worried my mead is getting stuck or fermentation is stopping early for some reason. please tell me I didnt waste all that honey!

  13. dusitn

    I have been reading a lot on this site and have noted much discussion on the topic of sulfites. Just making my first simple mead, do i need sulfites? if so when should i add?

  14. Erroll Post author

    Hi Dusitn,

    Your mead is still bubbling nicely. Wait for it to finish, then take another specific gravity (SG) reading.

    As for sulfite, the usual practice is to add them before pitching the yeast and then at every other racking. It’s ok to skip the initial sulfite for a straight (no fruit) mead. That’s because the initial sulfite is meant to suppress microorganisms in fresh fruit. The follow up doses control oxidation, so when the time comes to rack keep notes on your sulfite additions and keep to a schedule of adding sulfite at every other racking. I’ve written about measuring sulfite, and that post might help with how much to add and how to add it.

    Erroll

  15. dusitn

    Erroll
    Glad to hear my mead is still doing what it ought to.
    I do not have a hydrometer, how crucial are SG readings? Can I tell when my mead has finished fermenting without one? Why do I rack and put the airlock back on if it has already finished fermenting? Can’t I bottle at this point? If at all possible I would prefer to skip adding sulfites, is there a way around this?
    My constant pestering and need for hand holding isnt going to cause you to refuse me help at anytime is it? (I hope not as I want to try and make your chocolate mead, which means you could expect to hear from me for two years!)

  16. Erroll Post author

    We were all beginners once.

    You can measure the alcohol content of your mead with a hydrometer by comparing original and final readings. You can also tell the difference between a mead that has finished fermenting and a mead that has stuck. You can buy one online for about $6, or you can buy one locally to avoid shipping charges, but one way or another you should buy one.

    When used properly, sulfites do no harm, reduce the risk of spoilage, and protect against oxidation. Why wouldn’t you want to use them?

    When your mead is finished fermenting, and you will be able to tell by using your hydrometer, it will have a layer of sediment or slurry at the bottom. Racking separates the mead from this sediment – we call it lees. More sediment will drop after the first racking because yeast and other solids are still suspended in the mead. You can speed up the process by fining, but even so it will not be ready to bottle right after it has fermented out.

    Patience, grasshopper!

    Erroll

  17. dusitn

    Erroll,
    I racked my mead a few days ago and added sulfites when i did so. it is still fermenting nicely, i was just wondering if i should be adding sulfites every time i rack, or if once is enough. Also, im of the mind that i should rack based on the amount of lees on the bottom, regardless of how it is fermenting. can i rack too much? approximately how long will it take before i should bottle? before i should drink? My initial recipe was not very precise, about 12 litres of water, about 3 litres of honey and most of a pack of yeast. just to give you some idea of what ive done. when i racked i added about 3/4 tsp metabisulphite. I tasted it when i racked it and it tasted quite sweet, with a slight bitter, and was quite bubbly or carbonated. just wanted to give you and update so maybe youd give me and update.
    Thanks
    Dustin

  18. Erroll Post author

    Hello Dustin,

    It looks like we have a few different things to talk about. Let’s start with sulfite. The usual practice is to add 1/4 tsp sulfite powder to a 5-gallon (about 19 liter) batch before pitching the yeast, at every other racking, and just before bottling. It sounds to me like you added 3/4 tsp of sulfite powder to a 15 liter (about 4 US gallon) batch. Is that right? If so, the dosage is high – about what you would add after racking a 5-gallon (19 liter) batch five times – and I would not add any more until bottling time.

    As to racking, you’re right that it’s best to do it based on the lees that collect at the bottom rather than a fixed schedule. Many recipes use schedules because they’re easier to explain (and to follow). You can rack too much, because you’re exposing your mead to air every time. After your first racking, you should have it under an airlock. I would say rack when it drops lees, but no more than once a month. You should see the racking become less frequent over time because the heavier sediment has already fallen out.

    You need to be sure that fermentation is finished, and your mead is stable, before you bottle. Your hydrometer can tell you if it’s finished, and by “stable” I mean either dry (a specific gravity less than 1.000) or stabilized with sulfite and sorbate. It’s also nice if the mead is clear and finished dropping sediment. So if the mead is clear, dry (or has been stabilized), and you see no lees or change in SG over two months, then you can bottle.

    I know it can be hard to wait, but mead does age well. If you can stand to wait a year, you will be rewarded. It’s rare for me to open a bottle earlier than three years. In the end though, your mead is ready when you think it’s ready – if you taste it and it tastes good then don’t let me or anyone else tell you not to drink it!

    Thanks for the update, and I hope this helps
    Erroll

  19. dusitn

    Erroll,
    Its been about 8 or 9 weeks now since i started my mead, and it is starting to taste like wine. i have two different containers with the same mead fermenting in them. one is an 11 litre carboy and the other a two litre pop bottle. the mead in the pop bottle seems to be much further along. does this make sense since its a smaller quantity? also, my mead in the carboy is still quite bubble to drink and there are still alot of visible bubbles floating to the top. i take this to mean it is still fermenting, should i be concerned that its been 9 weeks and is still very bubbly? it is further along than the last time i racked it. also, my house is quite cold, around 60-65 so i wondered if that could play a factor in the slow fermentation? glad ato hear any thoughts you might have.
    Dustin

  20. Erroll Post author

    Hi Dustin,

    From what you’ve said, I think there are two possibilities: one is that your mead has fermented out, and you are seeing dissolved CO2 escape. The other is that your mead is stuck or fermenting slowly. I got the feeling that you didn’t want to get a hydrometer when I suggested it the last time, but that’s what you need right now.

    If the specific gravity (SG) is low enough (below 1.000) and is stable (same reading a week or two apart), then you mead is finished. If the SG is still falling, then your mead is fermenting slowly. If the SG is above 1.000 and stable, then your mead is probably stuck. You won’t be able to tell the difference by just eyeballing it.

    Most any wine yeast available to home wine makers should have no trouble fermenting at 60F.

    Erroll

  21. dusitn

    Hey Erroll
    So i got a hydrometer and my mead is still well above 1.00 and and is slowly getting closer, is there anything i can do to move it along a little quicker?
    My two litre batch went right down to 1.00 and has been bottled and when i tasted it it taste like wine. no idea why the big one is being so stubborn, hoping you can help.
    Dustin

  22. niv

    you can try to use some more exotic honey like avokado honey that gat a lot more aroma and stronger taste.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>