Friday, 27 June 2014

Mellow Belly Guest Post

Mead from Local Honey, by Daniel Wainwright.

I visited my mum recently and saw that she had cleared out some of my dads old wine making equipment from the garage. There was a demijohn and half a dozen wine bottles (complete with contents aged 30 to 40 years, the less said about those the better!). I've dabbled in home brewed beer for a few years now and with reasonable success. I usually stick to bitter and ale from malt extract (in a kit). Any way, recently I'd been thinking about making cider or mead. We usually have a glut of cooking apples in the  autumn and I wondered if I could put them to good use. After some research it seemed clear that cider from a single variety of cooking apple is not a good prospect. Back to my other option; mead. My interest was initially drawn when I was served mead earlier this year at a Coombe Abbey Medieval Feast and I very much liked it. The methods/recipes I found online seemed straight forward enough. I'd need a lot of honey but I figured there would be a local apiarist who could supply that[3]. So when I saw the demijohn at mum's I thought “Right then, I'm going to make some mead!”.
I've used a 'Basic Mead'[1] recipe as it's my first attempt. Basic mead is made with honey and water but no fruits, spices or other adjuncts. Yeast cannot thrive on honey (sugar) alone though. This necessitates the use of yeast nutrient (amino acids aka protein). The type of yeast for mead brewing needs to be able to keep working up to much higher alcohol concentrations than those typically used for ale. The recipe also calls for 'acid blend', this is a blend of citric acid and tartaric acid which should give the final mead a more balanced and slightly fruity taste.  As with all brewing, cleanliness is key to success. You don't want your time, effort and ingredients going down the drain because your brew turned rank due to contamination leading to bacterial or fungal colonisation. Yuk! So, make sure all the kit that will be in contact with ingredients is spotlessly clean and sterilised just before you start the brewing process. Keep things covered with clean tin foil or lids after sanitising to keep out dust and airborne contaminants. If possible, work in a clean, draught free area too. I acquired the sanitising chemical and brewing ingredients online[2].


  • 5 litres un-chlorinated water
  • 1.5kg Local Honey[3]
  • 1tsp Acid Blend
  • 1tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 packet Champagne Yeast

Brewing Kit

  • 5 litre stainless steel 'stock pot'
  • 2 demijohns with bungs and air locks
  • funnel
  • other 'normal' kitchen items


1. If like me you use dried yeast then it will need rehydrating/starting. In a shallow dish, dissolve 2 tbsp of the honey in 200ml of freshly boiled water. Cover with clean foil and leave to cool until lukewarm (just below 37°C , body temperature). Once cooled sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the honey solution and re-cover. After 10mins stir then re-cover and store in a warm place for at least 2hrs (I used the airing cupboard).
2. Boil 3.3 litres of water in the pot. If using tap water, keep boiling for 30 mins to get rid of the chlorine. If you've used bottled or otherwise chlorine free water just bring to a rolling boil then remove from the heat.
3. Add the honey slowly (you may need help here), stirring continually to ensure it dissolves rapidly and doesn't sink to the bottom and scorch on the base of the pan. Be very careful not to scald yourself and look out for delayed boiling over. Stir in the acid blend and yeast nutrient too.
4. Cover the pot with clean foil and leave to cool until lukewarm. With the aide of a sanitised funnel transfer the pot contents to the demijohn. Get your yeast starter mixture and give it a stir then pour it in too. Give the demijohn contents a swirl to help mix the ingredients. Place a bung with an airlock firmly in the neck of the demijohn. It shouldn't be full to the neck,  leaving space for the initial and hopefully vigorous fermentation. Put the demijohn in a warm place and wait.
5. Within 24hrs or so the fermentation should be well under way. A steady stream of bubbles should be coming through the airlock and a foamy head may have formed on the demijohns contents. Mine had a 'tide mark' up into the neck the following morning. It seems I was right to take the precaution of standing the demijohn in the empty 5 litre pot in case of overflow.
6. Once the fermentation is progressing, store the demijohn in a cool dark place and make daily checks. After about a month the bubbling should be slowing down and a layer of sediment forming in the bottom of the demijohn.
7. When the sediment reaches a depth of 2 to 3 cm the mead should be racked. This means carefully syphoning the liquid into another (sanitised) demijohn, leaving the sediment behind, and after topping up with clean water to the neck, bunging with an airlock again. It is important to minimise the meads exposure to oxygen. Don't be lazy about this step, leaving your mead on the sediment too long will spoil it's flavour.
8. Daily checks should continue. Each time the sediment builds up repeat step 7. If the liquid level drops below the neck then top up with clean water. If a couple of weeks go by without you seeing any bubbles through the airlock, the fermentation has come to an end. Patience though, this could take up to 6 months! Premature bottling could lead to a pleasant fizz or exploding bottles!
9. Finally then, using the same careful syphoning, transfer your mead to (sanitised) bottles and seal them up to age. As with most brews, the flavour tends to improve with ageing. Store in a cool dark place.

I'll probably be 'tasting' mine at bottling time, which could be around christmas, and then every few weeks after! All in the name of research, of course!

1. Home Brewing by Kevin Forbes. ISBN 978-1-90723-105-6
3. Mr Paul Kime, 311 London Road, Wyberton.

No comments: