We make mead

L to R: '11 Montepulciano, '11 Aglianico, '11 Mission, '10 Mead, '11 Fiano.

L to R: ’11 Montepulciano, ’11 Aglianico, ’11 Mission, ’10 Mead, ’11 Fiano.

My grape wines are under control. VA is off the reds which are ready for MLF (if it has not started its their own). The Fiano has settled and needs a final racking.

I also have small quantities of cider and “citrus-‘plus'” wine going. Since I have accesses to quality preservative-free apple juice year-round, I work on perfecting my sparkling cider. I am also making an experimental half-gallon of citrus “plus” wine after cutting some Tangelos during pruning. No reason to waste it. The “plus” is for a touch of orange zest and pineapple juice. Plus a few other things….

Cider and "Citrus 'Plus'" wine.

Cider and “Citrus ‘Plus'” wine.

There is one more ferment I want to carry through this winter: mead.

I’ve had good results with spiced sweat meads last year and have decided on a recipe I want to try on a larger scale. Twenty pounds of Orange Blossom honey will make a five-gallon carboy.

Last year, I made two gallons of mead with my son. We used two different honeys and made four-half-gallon lots, each a little different.

This year, my son has finals, so he sat this session out while my friend Jeff came over with his wife for mead making and dinner.

Interestingly, this year’s honey is not as floral as last year’s. It’s more nutty, more “malty”. I’m going to talk to the beekeeper if this is due to different weather from year to year or if he is collecting and blending from different hives each year.

Because of this difference, I tweaked the spice blend a bit, increasing the amount of orange zest (which I chose to make from a blend of different oranges for complexity).

This year's Orange Blossom Honey is less floral and more malty than last year's.

This year’s Orange Blossom Honey is less floral and more malty than last year’s.

I prefer to pasteurize my mead must because it lets me steep the spices and get a sense of where the mead is heading. Since the spices were not as prominent during the pasteurization as they were last year, I decided to open up the teabag and let the mead ferment with the ingredients.

Both are acceptable and each gives somewhat different results. The former allows a bit more control, though.

We finished the night with a very nice pot roast, a 2005 Paso Robles Syrah from Adelaida and a custard with last year’s spiced orange blossom mead. Everyone remarked how the ginger was distinct in the mead. So I also increased the ginger root this year, given the aromatic composition of the must.

I’m curious how this will carry through to the mead.

5 gallons of spiced mead must.

5 gallons of spiced mead must.

When finished, this lot should make 50 half bottles (375 ml) of spiced sweet mead.



Father, husband, physician, amateur guitarist, wine lover, wine writer, wine grower and wine maker trying to do it all within eye shot of downtown Los Angeles. http://www.shutupandmakewine.com http://twitter.com/Dr_Arthur_P
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5 Responses to We make mead

  1. MHearnsbishop@gmail.com says:


    Baldwin made a prize winning “orange champagne”, go knows what it was but perhaps this is a clue? http://books.google.com/books?id=xQUCAAAAYAAJ&dq=orange%20champagne&pg=PA136#v=onepage&q=orange%20champagne&f=false

  2. matt says:


    Thanks for the posting, had a couple questions if you don’t mind…
    -Does it matter what type of yeast that you use? If so, what type is preferred?
    -How strong does Meade usually get? I’ve tried a couple times but ended up with an estimate of ~3%, but probably was a little too much water. Not sure if just less water, different yeast, or other things that I could do to give it a little more kick.


  3. SUAMW says:


    You should use wine yeasts – they’re essentially the same as baker’s yeasts (S cerevisiae) but have been selected for alcohol tolerance and the production of specific aromatics (and not producing off aromas). I use Cote de Blancs from Red Star.
    Most yeasts give out around 16-18 % alcohol. I think that the other ingredients in honey can inhibit yeast so you may not reach that level but you’ll definitely go over 3% if you use the right recipe. That said, meads can take up to a year to finish.
    You want your must to be anywhere between 20 and 30 degrees Brix – depending on what kind of mead you are making.
    In general, I use 18-20 pounds of honey to make a 5 gallon batch of sweet spiced mead. Google “mead recipe”, there are tons of resources on the web.
    It is important to provide nutrients to the yeasts and to use real honey. A lot of the stuff in jars on store shelves is imitation honey.
    Good luck.

    • matt says:

      Wow, that seems like a lot of honey for 5 gallons. The recipe that I was working from called for 1 part honey to 9 parts water, but i think 18-20 lbs for 5 gallons is more like 40% honey, 60%. I was using a hydrometer and the pre-yeast alcohol potential was only 7%, less water, more honey! Thanks for the yeast info.

      • SUAMW says:

        Not sure what Parts mean. I’m making a sweet mead. You can get away with 15 pounds of honey for a 5 gallon lot. With a 55% sugar to alcohol conversion, you want at least 20 degrees brix for some body and “umpf”.

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