Mead Making Reference Sheet

This reference sheet was created for and presented to a beekeeper's group in Pittsboro, NC in June 1999. I gave a short presentation on mead making and used this sheet as an aid.

Styles of Mead *

Type Description

Traditional Mead

Honey, water and yeast. Nothing else. About 2-1/2 to 3 lbs honey per gallon of water.

Sack Mead

Same as a traditional mead, but with about 25% more honey, though not enough that it will smell like mead when opened. This makes for an upper limit of about 3-1/2 lbs of honey per gallon, and requires alcohol tolerant yeast.

Small Meads

Again, similar to a traditional mead, but these were made with much less honey, and as a result fermented and aged much more quickly. These meads were traditionally brewed by the peasantry. This is the easiest style of mead to brew, and many of the recipes in this book will be small meads.


A mead made with a mixture of herbs and spices called a gruit. The exact composition of a given gruit was a carefully guarded secret. The recipes were mostly held by brewers who were either members of the clergy or affiliated with the church. Gruits were also used in early beer-making before the introduction of hops, and few gruit recipes have survived to modern times.


Honey and apple juice. This evolved into hard cider, and was likely the 'strong drink' referred to in the Bible. It can vary from a cider-like taste to a taste almost like a sherry wine.

Mulsum or Melomel

Honey and fruits other than apples or grapes. Popular in Roman times.

Braggot or Bracket

Beer made with honey, or mead made with barley-malt. It has more honey than beer, and may be have either hops, a gruit or nothing added.

Clarre or Pyment

Made with a mixture of honey and grape juice. This may have evolved into claret.


A pyment with spices added.


A type of melomel made with mulberries.


A mead made with rose petals.

Mead Brandy

A traditional mead was brewed and then distilled into a brandy-like liquor. Variations of this may well have included adding honey to other distilled spirits to sweeten the drink, as with Drambuie.

* from the Mead Made Easy web site

Internet Resources:

Reference URL

Mead Made Easy (on-line book)

The Mead Maker's Page (definitions & recipes)

Mead Hall (discussions, recipes, & resources)

Mead FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Bees Lees (collection of recipes)

Beekeeper's Reference (Reference Information)


Absolutely Minimal


Mix together and pray for a friendly wild yeast to make a home. Will ferment until the sugar is all eaten by the yeast, or until the yeast produces too much alcohol. (Yeast, if given enough sugar, will eventually produce enough alcohol to poison its own environment and kill itself off)

"Modern" Minimal


Mix together and wait. Will ferment until the sugar is all eaten by the yeast, or until the yeast produces too much alcohol. Far more likely to ferment to completion. Use hydrometer to determine remaining sugar at any point.

Traditional Mead

Source: John Gorman (, Mead Lover's Digest #19, 17 October, 1993


Hydrate the yeast and dissolve the yeast nutrient separately in warm water for 30 minutes. Mix the honey with first hot and then cold tap water in a large open container to about 5 gallons. Splash or spray the water to oxygenate the must so that the yeast will multiply. Pour the must into a glass carboy, then pitch in the hydrated yeast and dissolved yeast nutrient, dregs included. Use a blow off tube for the first few days and then switch to a water trap. In a month or so, the alcohol will kill the yeast before it runs out of sugar. If not, and the mead turns out too dry, add some more honey. It is ready to drink as soon as fermentation stops. Mead will sometimes clarify in ninety days. If you choose to bottle the mead before it is clear, it will clarify in the bottles, leaving an unsightly but delicious sediment. Use bentonite (clay) to quickly clarify a mead any time after fermentation stops. Boil 12 ounces of water in a saucepan. While simmering, slowly sprinkle and stir in 5 tsp of bentonite. Cover and let stand for 24 hours. Add during racking. It may be necessary to rack and bentonite twice. The result is crystal clear.


Traditional Meads have an alcohol content of 12-15%.

Always use yeast nutrient and plenty of yeast for a strong start. The fermentation will take off with a bang and the rapidly rising alcohol content will quickly kill off any wild yeast. There is no need to sulfite, heat, or boil the must. Why ruin good honey? I have never had a bad batch of mead, except when I added acid blend.

Bryan's Metheglin

Author's note -- the following was the state of a batch of metheglin in progress at the time this paper was written.


Brought 5 quarts water to nearly a boil and let cool to 175 degrees F. Used to dissolve the honey. Added remaining ingredients (except yeast), and additional water to make 5-1/2 gallons volume. Made a starter with yeast and pitched it the following morning.




Started mead



Pitched yeast



Racked, removed spices, 1/4 tsp K-sulfite added



SG tested, no change since racking. Need to jump start



Jump started with Lalvin KV-1116



Fine with bentonite, 1/4 tsp K-sulfite added



Bottle, 1/4 tsp K-sulfite added




This lists some basic hardware required for mead making, along with some nice to haves. Please note that these lists are minimal -- a LOT more hardware can be used.

Hardware Description

Essential Hardware


Triple Scale Hydrometer

Used to determine the amount of sugar in the must, and can be used to determine potential alcohol.

Siphon Hose

Used to siphon (rack) the mead off the sediment.

Recommended Hardware


Racking Tube

Stiff plastic tube used in racking. Actually goes into the carboy or fermenter, and makes the siphoning easier.

Bottling Tube

Stiff plastic tube with springloaded gate on one end. Makes bottling simpler and less messy. I have bottled TWICE without one -- never again.


Term Description

Acid blend

A mixture of ascorbic and citric acids. Used for adjusting the pH of a must.


Used for locking the air out of your fermenter while letting the gases produced by fermentation escape.


A sanitizing solution. Kills bugs dead.

Barley malt

Malted barley.

Bottle capper

Used for putting caps on bottles.

Blow-off tube

A plastic tube, one end going into the stopper in your fermenter, the other going into a container with some water. It lets extra foam and such blow off from the fermenter, while still working as an airlock.

Bottle filler

Used for filling bottles. It's typically got a spring loaded valve on the bottom of it so it doesn't pour mead on your floor.

Bottle, Grolsch-style

A type of beer bottle with a ceramic lid attached by a wire thingie, sealed by a rubber gasket.

Bottling bucket

A bucket. Used while bottling. It's used as an intermediate container between the fermenter and the bottles, so you don't have to worry as much about siphoning sediment into your bottles.

Brewing pot

Something vaguely pot-like that you boil stuff in. Bigger than three gallons is good. Stainless steel is best.

Carbonater, The

A handy little cap that screws onto two-litre plastic pop-bottles, and has a ball-lock quick-connect on it that works with CO2 systems. It's a pretty swell way to carbonate up 2 litres of mead or other beverage to see if you want to carbonate more of it. When I get around to finding the address of the company that makes it, I'll add a link to them here.


A three, five or six-and-a-half gallon bottle that probably used to hold bottled water. Carboy comes from karabah (I bet I mangled the spelling of that), which means "jug".


Belonging to an order of marine mammals, including whales and dolphins.


Cloth normally used to squeeze the watery stuff out of cheese curds without squeezing cheese all over the kitchen. Handy in general for filtering solids out of liquids.

Chore Boy

A metal scrubby thing you usually use for getting the spilled goo off the top of your stove. It'll work as a filter.

Di-ammonium phosphate

(NH4)2PO4--it's something that yeast need to grow strong and healthy bodies.


Tossing hops directly into the fermenter without boiling 'em up in water, i.e. dry.


A dishwashing detergent. Kills bugs dead.


Yeast eat sugar, burp CO2, and excrete ethanol. Any questions?


Yet another bucket, except when it's a carboy.

Fermenter, primary

Almost always a bucket. Sometimes open to the air. Sometimes sealed with an airlock. Early stages of fermentation happen here.

Fermenter, secondary

(Optional.) Almost always a carboy. Never open to the air. Always sealed with an airlock. Later stages of fermentation happen here. It's used because in the early stages of fermentation, stuff will settle out. If the brew is left sitting on that stuff for a prolonged period, funky flavors will get into the brew.


To form flocculent masses, which are clumps like wool, according to my dictionary. It's typically used to describe what happens to the yeast when it quits partying and settles out of the must.


A mixture of herbs and spices that was used for flavor in early beer and mead brewing. Gruits were replaced by hops, because the recipes for gruits were closely held secrets, whereas it's hard to keep plants a secret.

Hard cider

Fermented apple squeezin's. Yee-Haw!

Hop-boiling bag

A smallish (well, smaller than your head,) bag made of some kind of mesh. They come in either cotton (disposable) or nylon (reusable) varieties. It's like a teabag in that you can pull the chunks out and not have to strain.


The flower of any plant of the genus Humulus. Used for preserving beer, due to their anti-bacterial properties, and also for bittering it. They look kinda like pine-cones before they get processed into the pellets you buy.


Used to measure the specific gravity of a liquid.


International Bittering Units. They measure how bitter a brew is, which you shouldn't worry much about since you'll be making mead, not beer.

Internet mailing list

A keen way of exchanging information between geographically distant parties. Computer and modem required.

Lovibond, degrees

A measure of the color of a brew. Higher numbers are darker.

Malted barley

See barley malt.


An alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey. Also known as meathe in older tymes. From the Sanskrit `madhu', which meant `honey.'


A mixture of fermentable sugars, typically from fruits, and water.

Neutral grain spirits

Ever Clear. Wee-Haw! It's alcohol with only as much water as is required by the laws of physics. About 192 proof.

Peak flavor

Good taste. Fermented beverages are icky straight out of the fermenter and need some aging to taste good.


A carbohydrate found in fruits that tends to clump up and make jelly after you boil it.

Pitching yeast

The act of tossing yeast into your fermenter. It sounds technical, which is probably why brewers say `pitching' instead of `tossing.'


The act of siphoning the mead off a layer of sediment, leaving the sediment behind, which leads to a clearer mead.


Stuff that settles out of a mixture. The gunk on the bottom of the bucket.


Pulling liquid up a tube, down the same tube, and into another container. One practical application is transferring mead from a fermenter into bottles. Another is getting gasoline in your mouth. The first is more pleasurable.

Sodium phosphates

Nax(PO4)y--Many are good at killing bugs dead.

Specific gravity

The ratio of the density of a given liquid to the density of water, and like that. It's a way to measure how much stuff you've dissolved in water. Typically sugars, in our case.


Sediment. Especially dead yeasties and fruit skins. The leftovers in the bottom of the fermenter. Looks kinda like baby diarrhea.

Wild yeast

Saccharomyces that haven't been hanging around man long enough, so they're not much good for baking bread or brewing beer, wine or mead.


Beer before it's any fun. A mix of malted barley, hops and water.

Yeast hulls

The dehydrated skins of dead little yeasts. Contain all the essential nutrients to make more yeast.

Yeast nutrient

Things that build strong yeasts twelve ways.

Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas