By J. Šimkevičius
MEAD is an alcoholic beverage made by diluting and fermenting natural honey. Depending on how the honey is diluted (using water or juice), how the yeast is added to the mixture, what kind of spices are added and how the wort is prepared, the outcomes differ in taste and smell. The kinds are: One and a half mead is made by diluting a litre of pure honey with half a litre of water or juice, Double mead is made when a litre of honey is diluted with a litre of liquid. Triple mead, when two litres of liquid are used and Quadruple, when a litter of honey is diluted with tree litres of water or juice.
All of these kinds differ in the amount of alcohol, sugar and the duration of time needed to mature the beverage.
Natural mead is made using pure bee honey and diluting it with water without any additional substances.
One and a half kind of mead is really sweet and takes 5-10 years to mature. The older it is, the better, stronger and less sweet it is. Double mead is strong and sweet and it takes 2-4 years to mature. The Triple mead is light, it is 13-15% alcohol. It is semi-sweet and takes a year to mature. Quadruple mead is 12% alcohol and can be used after a couple of months of maturing.
Various spices can be added to mead, like ginger, clove, cinnamon, and valerian roots.
A mead made using fruit or berry juice is called Juice mead.
Depending on whether the mixture was boiled or not when preparing the mead, the outcomes can be saturated (boiled) or unsaturated.
Before making mead one should decide if they are making saturated/boiled mead or mead prepared without boiling. Usually mead is prepared by boiling the diluted honey, this is due to the fact that in 1938 famous Polish chemist, Professor Sikorski researched mead prepared by boiling and concluded that it is of high quality. Professor stated that boiled mead matures faster, has more alcohol and does not have a taste of honey or wax. Besides, the boiled mead can be done with a honey of lower quality.
A good container is extremely important when making good quality mead. Smoke from the fire should never reach the top of the container. The inside of the container should be enamelled, an aluminium container would work as well. Do not use iron, un-enamelled or zinc coated containers.
Honey is diluted with clear water that can be both cold and heated. As the substance is being boiled foam will emerge, that needs to be removed. If the liquid starts to boil to fast, foam too much or if the liquid starts pouring over the top, add some cold water. When the liquid stops foaming add the amount of water that has vapoured away and leave the container slightly heated over a fire for half an hour.
Natural mead, without any additional spices, is fermented in the following manner: For 100 litres of diluted honey use 100-150 grams of hop. It gives mead its smell and slight bitter taste also improving the process of fermentation and accelerates the purification of the drink.
To add a little hint of sour taste add a bit of milk or lemon acid (0,2-0,4%).
Pour warm diluted honey, around 25ºC, over yeast and keep them warm for 36-48 hours. When the yeast starts the fermentation process, pour them into a one litre glass container along with diluted honey. Over a period of 24 hours the yeast expands enough for 200 litres of diluted honey. When the yeast is prepared pour it into the diluted honey and mix well. After that add spices and hops. 100 litres of diluted honey requires: 20-30 grams of cinnamon, 10-20 grams of clove, 10-20 grams of ginger, 100-200 grams of fresh celery leaves, 30-80 grams of juniper berries, 3 sticks of vanilla, 20-50 grams of rose petals, 50-100 grams of orange peels. Put all of the spices in a bag and boil them in a small amount of the diluted honey and after that pour the mixture into the rest of liquid.
100 litres of diluted honey requires 100-150 grams of hops, they are prepared the same way as the rest of the spices.
Large glass containers or wooden barrels work best for fermentation. Do not use containers that were used for to keep liquids with strong smell. Fill the container in a way that the fermenting mead does not spill over the top. Containers that keep One and a half or Double mead should be closed with a piece of canvas or a cotton plug. Containers that contain Triple or Quadruple mead should be closed with fermentation airlock. Fermentation airlock keeps the mead safe from dust or insects that might ruin the beverage. It also shows the intensity of fermentation and allows to spot the exact moment when the fermentation is finished and the mead can be transferred using a tube.
The temperature of the room in which the brewing takes place is extremely important. It should be about 18-22°C. High temperature is detrimental to the mead as it creates more vinegar and lactobacillus, which result in souring. According to a famous Polish mead brewing expert Ceselski, 15°C is the best temperature for brewing nice tasting mead. Dry, odourless basement with constant temperature of 15°C is a suitable place for mead fermentation. The fermentation process is slower in the lower temperature, but the taste of the mead is more pleasant in the end.
After the fermentation is finished, the mead is transferred into clear containers. The top layer can be filtrated using filtering paper. If the mead is transferred too late, it can acquire an unpleasant taste of yeast. The containers are filled with mead without leaving any open space and capped using fermentation airlocks. Then the containers should be kept in a cool place to allow the mead to purify again. Once the mead settles down and purifies (the level of pure mead reaches the top of the container), the top layer should be transferred to the bottles. The leftover mead should be filtered through filtering paper and transferred to a new container so it can settle down.
The bottles with lighter (Triple or Quadruple) mead are hermetically sealed and kept in a cool place. Strong One and a Half and Double mead can be left in the barrels for a longer time.
When making fruit mead, fruit juice needs to be added to the prepared wort. For double mead, add 10-15 litres of juice for 100 litres of wort and for the Triple mead, add 5-10 litres of fruit juice.
Diluting the wort with fruit juice enriches the taste, smell and healing qualities of the mead.