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The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations clg FIBKA

Honey for Mead

With a honey harvest just a couple of weeks from now Beekeepers should consider making a gallon or two of MEAD, just like Beekeeping the first thing people should do is purchase a book on winemaking which will include mead making. There are a number of these on the market; the book will give very helpful tips it will also give a list of the equipment needed to produce mead.

MEAD is an alcoholic beverage made by the fermentation of honey in water by adding yeast; it was possibly the first alcoholic drink known to man. The earliest documentary evidence suggest that a fermented honey beverage was drunk in India some 4000 thousand years ago.

Only a few essential items of equipment are necessary in order to start making mead these are quite cheap and are readily available from any shop supplying wine making items.

These will include a one gallon glass jar (demijohn) Air Lock and bung to fit the glass jar, about 4 ft. of plastic tubing for siphoning, one large plastic funnel, bottle cleaning brush, wine bottles, and corks. Chempro for cleaning and sterilising the equipment and yeast, these are readily available in packets for one gallon to five gallons. A packet of Campden tablets used for sterilising the wine and finally a packet of nutrient tablets.

Now you have to select a nice light to medium Honey (clover, or blackberry). Remember a top quality honey will give a top quality mead, never use a strong scented honey like heather or hawthorn these will take 3 to 4 years to mature, the lighter honey will mature between 1 to 2 years.

Mead can be either sweet or dry, 4.5 pounds for a sweet and 3 pounds for a dry. I suggest for a person starting off to use 4 pound of honey and you will get a medium mead and when you get a little experience and know how to use a hydrometer to measure the sugar content of the honey.

Make sure all equipment is well washed and sterilised. Next chose a recipe and study it well, make sure you have all the ingredients and now you are ready to proceed.

Put the 4 pounds of honey into a large saucepan, add 6 pints of water and mix well. Then bring it to the boil this will kill the wild yeast in honey. Just as it starts to simmer turn off the heat, skim off any froth that will come to the surface, cover with a clean cloth and allow to cool.

When the temperature has fallen to 21 Degrees Celsius empty the contents into a 2 gallon bucket, add the yeast nutrient, a half cup of strong tea (tanning) and the juice of a lemon.

It is kept in the 2 gallon bucket for one week stirring daily, after a week the contents are transferred to the demijohn, fill the demijohn to the neck only. Fit airlock and the put the remainder of the contents into a pint bottle and cotton wool is added to prevent the vinegar fly from attacking the wine.

After 4 to 6 week’s when the fermentation is complete as indicated by the cessation of bubbles escaping through the air-lock.

The mead should be racked off using a racking tube and siphoned off into a clean demijohn leaving the heavy sediment behind, top up with content’s of the smaller bottle and add 1 Camden tablet.

A solid cork is then applied and jar is put in a cool dark place and is racked again when a large deposit is at the bottom of glass jar.

After 12 Months the mead can be bottled and stored for a further 12 months by this time it will be drinkable and will continue maturing for a further twelve months.

David Lee

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