All Things Mead

MEAD, Glorious MEAD

Mead Yeast Sampler Experiment

Check out the Basic Brewing Radio Podcast episode.

Click here to listen: 09-06-2018 Mead Yeast Experiment  

Here's a glass of the 71B example a few days after bottling.

One of the most common questions I get from folks is what is the best yeast to use for mead. In an effort to do more than just repeat that 71B or EC-118 are the go to yeasts, etc. I thought it might be helpful to do a test comparing different yeasts. So, inspired by James Spencer's Hop Sampler format on Basic Brewing Radio™ I put together three one-gallon batches of mead from the same must but using Lalvin 71B, EC-118 and QA23 for my yeast selections. 

I chose these three because, at least in my experience, 71B and EC-118 are very commonly used in mead making and, in fact, make great meads. I chose QA23 since it is a Portuguese white wine yeast highly regarded in Sauvignon Blanc and other white wine production, and I thought it would make a nice mead. 

Official descriptions from the Lalvin website:


Lalvin EC-1118 is the original ‘prise de mousse’. It was isolated in Champagne and its use is validated by the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC). Its strong competitive character, its ability to ferment at low temperature, good flocculation and excellent alcohol tolerance, make Lalvin EC-1118 an excellent strain to be used in a wide range of applications (such as sparkling wines, fruit wines and ciders).


Lalvin 71B is a wine yeast for nouveau-style wines. It was isolated by Pr. Maugenet’s team at the INRA (National Agricultural Research Institute) in Narbonne, France. Lalvin 71B is known for making blush and semi-sweet wines and owes its success to its abilities to produce amyl ester (isoamyl acetate), reinforcing the aromatic profile of wines. Lalvin 71B also softens high acid musts by partially metabolizing malic acid (20%-30%).


Lalvin QA23, selected on soil types from the area of the appelation of Vinhos Verdes in Portugal. It offers qualities of fermentive security bound to a weak demand in assimilable nitrogen and O2. Lalvin QA23 is an excellent choice for wine styles like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Chardonel and Gewürstraminer.


Richard's Honey

On June 2, 2018. I put together a three-gallon must using 2.5 gallons of store-bought spring water and six pounds of Richard’s Honey, which is the honey I keep in stock, and that we use in our mead kits. It’s local, raw, of high quality, and makes a great mead. 

I added 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient (DAP) and 1 teaspoon yeast energizer to the must and broke this into three one-gallon fermenters. I pitched 5 grams — or a packet — of each yeast per gallon, and let nature take its course. Each of the meads was happily fermenting along within a few hours, and all of them finished as expected in about two weeks. I was surprised that the 71B was the least flocculant of the three. It took a couple more days to clear than the other two. I did not degas the meads. The meads fermented at room temperature, about 71º F. All three were treated exactly the same at all times. The original gravity was1.073. All three finished right at 1.000 for an ABV of 9.56%. (They actually finished a tiny bit lower. So maybe 10%). 


About 24 hours into fermentation.

After about two weeks active fermentation ceased, and they had cleared substantially, I racked them into secondary fermenters and allowed them to bulk age. On July 10, 2018, I stabilized them using a solution of potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate. The next day, I back sweetened each mead with 1 oz. of wine conditioner. I chose to do this to make the meads a bit more “real world.” I did not add any acid or finning agent to the meads at any time. 

Meads in secondary

After racking into a secondary fermenter.

Tasting notes (A.K.A. the bottom line): James and I agreed that we preferred the EC-118 mead, followed by the 71B and the QA23. The EC-118 was the sweetest and seemed to retain the most honey notes of the three. I was very surprised by this, and still wonder if that particular bottle got a bIt more of the wine conditioner due to an error on my part. Nonetheless, all three tasted fine. The QA23 was wonderfully fragrant but a bit harsh or astringent. As the meads warmed a bit, I found that I preferred the 71B as it gave the most complex and interesting flavors. I’m not sure I’ve personally reached any final conclusions. In other words, I would not hesitate to use QA23 again, even though it was my least favorite of the three in this example. They all finished beautifully, each with a nice golden honey-like appearance.

Next up: For the next Mead Yeast Sampler, I’m going to do the same experiment using different three beer yeasts. Stay tuned. -30-

 Dark Munich Barleywine (Braggot) 

Here's the recipe for an accidental barleywine that could as easily be tagged a braggot. This started life as three pounds of dark Munich malt and 10 oz. of 10L crystal malt that I pulled incorrectly for a customer. Since I didn't want to throw it out, I decided to make a small batch braggot out of it. I have decided that with the substantial hop character and that it drinks more like a beer than mead, it's really a barleywine. So there's the backstory. Now here's the recipe.

2.5 gallon brew in the bag recipe

3 lbs. Briess Dark Munich Malt

10 oz. Briess 10L Crystal 

1 oz. Green Bullet at 60 minutes

.5 oz. Challenger hops at 30 minutes

.5 Challenger hops at flameout

4 pounds of honey in primary fermenter

Danstar Nottingham yeast

12% ABV.

It's a really tasty beer, and if I can stay out of it, I'm anxious to taste it after it has been in he bottle for a few more months. The moral of the story: Don't worry. relax and have a barleywine. Cheers! 

Three Gallon Blueberry Mead

This morning, May 2, 2018, I bottled a three-gallon recipe of blueberry mead, also known as a melomel. It's based off of the three-gallon mead kit we offer for sale. Below is a picture of a sampling at bottling. (It's delicious by the way.) 

I put the mead together on January 31, 2018. Original gravity was 1.086 and finished at 1.000 for an ABV of 11.27%. On February 21, I racked the mead on to two gallons of locally grown blue berries, which I froze last summer. 

The fruit was allowed to thaw overnight in the fridge. I placed the fruit in a nylon grain bag in a 6.5 gallon fermentation bucket and crushed the fruit until I had a nice juicy mash up in the bucket. I mixed some potassium metabisulfite (Camden tablet) into a few ounces of water and added it to the blueberry must. I let this sit overnight to ensure any wild yeasts or bacteria where eliminated. They next day, Feb. 22, I gave this a good stir and racked the mead onto the berries. I left the mead on the fruit for 10 days, racking it back into a carboy. On April 12, I tasted the mead and found it to have nice flavor, but drier than I knew I wanted in the finished product. I let it bulk age until May 2, 2018. I stabilized the mead using a cocktail of potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite, and allowed this to sit in the carboy for a couple of days. I then racked the mead into a bottling bucket, back sweetened the mead with 6 oz. of wine conditioner, which is a neutral syrup with sorbate added and bottled. 

This is a nice example of how you can turn a simple mead into a melomel, and the technique for adding your fruit of choice would be the same. I like this mead quite a lot. If I were to make it again, I might like another gallon of blue berries to give an even more pronounced blueberry flavor. I did not add any acid to this mead as the blueberries are already somewhat tart. We'll enjoy this at our son's graduation party in a couple of weeks. 


Mead Kit



Three Gallon Ginger Cyser

Here's the follow-up video of the cypher we put together Sept. 18, 2017. The recipe is listed below. I did add approx. 1 ounce of ginger extract at bottling. It was not back sweetened. I used Brewer's Best carbonation drops to carbonate the cyser. I predicted it would finish at 9.4% ABV, but it came in slightly lower at 9.2% ABV.  It retains a bit of residual sweetness, and the ginger is subtle, present but not dominant. 

The cyser fermented out in about two weeks, and it was bulk aged in a carboy for 2 months. We bottled on December 6, 2017. Once again, thanks to James Spencer for his time talents and friendship.  Peace, Steve


A hint of fall is in the air. The leaves are turning. The mornings are crisp, and the squirrels are hiding their nuts, which sounds like a personal problem.  The summer fruits are coming to an end, but apples are coming on strong, and that means it's time to make cider or cyser! 

Here's our latest video. As with most things fermentable, there are lots of ways to to this from using fresh apples that you juice yourself, to making a mead and adding cut up fruit in the secondary. I like to go from fresh sweet cider. For this batch, my local organic co-op, Ozark Natural Foods, had a shipment of some really nice tasting cider arrive. So of course, I wanted to make something with wth. I chose to put together a three-gallon batch, using only 24 ounces of honey. At the moment, I plan to ferment it all the way dry, add ginger and bottle to create a sparkling ginger cyser. I may rack it onto fresh apples in the secondary, but that decision can wait for another day. 

Here's a video that my buddy, James Spencer from Basic Brewing, helped me shoot. I hope you enjoy it and can take something away to help you with your cider and mead making adventures. 

Here's the recipe. Keep in mind this is a natural product and so gravity readings may vary slightly from batch to batch. But to paraphrase a very wise man, don't worry, relax and have a cyser. 

For this three-gallon batch

Starting gravity: 1.070

Alcohol potential approx.: 9.4%


3 gallons of Organic Apple Cider (There will have some cider left over as the honey will displace some of the liquid, and you'll want to leave some headspace in the carboy.) If you use a larger carboy or fermentation bucket =, you can of course, use all of the cider. It will have a different alcohol potential, but that's OK. 

24 ounces honey (The better the honey, the better the mead!)

 1.5 teaspoon Pectic Enzyme

.50 teaspoon Yeast Nutrient

1.5 teaspoon Yeast Energizer

1 packet Fermentis Safcider Cider Yeast

1 oz. Brewer's Best Ginger Extract at bottling

Brewer's best Carbonation Drops at bottling (1 each per 12 oz. bottle)


Here's the Sorghum Orange Mead Video. 

Sorghum Orange Mead

Here's the recipe for the Sorghum Orange Mead. This is one of my all-time favorites. The recipe is written for 2.5 gallon, but easily could be scaled up or down to fit your needs. If you make this one, let me know what you think about it. Everyone I've shared it with pretty much go into a happy coma before they can speak again. 



Here's the video "A Tale of Two Meads." Hope you enjoy it. I had a great time sharing them with James at the shoot, and pleased I can share them you via the magic of Youtube. Cheers!


 The Pomegranate/Ginger recipe is the way. I'll have it up soon, but in the meantime here's the Cherry Mead recipe. I put it together in a three gallon and five gallon formulation.