At last Gandalf pushed away his plate and jug – he had eaten two whole loaves (with masses of butter and honey and clotted cream) and drunk at least a quart of mead – and he took out his pipe

Quoted from: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Mead – By Hark3n
[CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Winemaking is my hobby. I have already made many different kinds of wine: oranges, brier, rice, flowers of elderberry, mango, apple, leaves of the walnut tree, tea, cherries, apricots, pineapple, ginger, etc.

A very special wine is mead or honey wine, which is also called “Drink of the Gods”. This page provides some information on how to make this precious drink.

Also included are a collection of proverbs and quotes about honey, bees and mead.

Ingredients for making mead

The most important ingredients are:

  • Honey (liquid gold)
  • Water
  • Yeast

Some other often used ingredients:

  • "Yeast food"
  • Citric acid or lemon juice
  • Tannin or some strong tea

Click here for detailed info on wine making

What you need for making wine

Firstly some essentials that are indispensable for making mead:

  • A big pan, stainless steel or aluminum, for boiling.
  • A big plastic bucket (preferably white plastic) with a lid, for the first, open, fermentation.
  • A big glass bottle with a "water lock" for the second, closed, fermentation.
  • A big funnel.
  • A transparent plastic tube of about 1.5 meter length
  • A tool for putting corks on a bottle
  • Wine bottles (0.7 liter)
  • Corks

Secondly some items that are not indispensable but which are certainly very useful if wine making is going to be a hobby and if you also want to make other types of wine:

  • A graduated beaker (1 liter) for measuring quantities of water
  • A small scale (kitchen scale or letter balance) for measuring weights
  • A skimmer
  • A strainer
  • A nylon sieve
  • Cloth
  • A hydrometer (instrument for measuring the specific gravity of liquids)
  • A glass measure cylinder (at least the same length as the hydrometer)
  • Indicator paper to measure the acidity (for pH range 2,5 to 4,5)
  • Labels
  • Capsules to cover the cork

Preparation (10 liter mead)

During the fermentation process, the yeast feeds on the sugar from the honey and forms alcohol and carbon dioxide. The ratio between honey and water is very important. With less honey you will make a "dry" mead with a slightly lower alcohol content. If you use more honey, the mead will be stronger, but often also sweeter because not all the sugars will be converted into alcohol. This is something you can experiment with. But remember that it is rather easy to make a dry wine sweeter (add some honey or sugar water), but it is very difficult to correct a wine that is too sweet.

There are different types of honey for sale. For mead I prefer to use a clear flower honey or summer honey. To make 10 liter of mead we can use 2.5 kilo of honey. If all the sugar would be converted this would result in a rather dry wine with an alcohol content of 10%. With 3 kilo of honey the alcohol content would be around 12% , and with 2 kilo of honey it would become a light dry mead of about 8% alcohol content.

Mix the honey with water and boil it slowly while stirring regularly to avoid burning the honey. Use so much water that the total volume remains a bit below 10 liter. Let it boil for a short while and then remove the foam that forms on top with a skimmer. Pour the boiling liquid through a cloth into the plastic container. Add 2 teaspoons of "yeast food" and 2 teaspoons of citric acid, and if you wish add half a cup of strong tea. Let it cool down to room temperature and then add the yeast. It is easy to use "super wine yeast", which can be directly added as a dry powder (with other types of yeast it is often necessary to make a liquid "yeast starter" which should be done 2 or 3 days in advance).

The first days there will now be a rather fast fermentation, often producing a lot of foam. Make sure that during this "open fermentation" the wine does not get contaminated with fungi or bacteria, so cover the container well with a cloth and/or lid. Don't forget to stir every day.

As soon as the fermentation slows down, the "must" should be transferred to a 10 liter size glass bottle. Add some water (boil first and let it cool down) to fill the bottle, but leave a small space on top because possibly more foam will form. Close the bottle with a "water lock".

The second "closed" fermentation is now visible because of the bubbles in the water lock. After a few weeks the yeast will have finished the fermentation and the liquid starts to become clear. If you have a hydrometer you can use this to closely monitor the fermentation (but remember that every time you open the bottle there is a risk of contamination). When the yeast has stopped working and all the sugar has been used, the density of the liquid would have gone down to slightly below 1000 (the density of water is 1000, but because of the alcohol a dry wine has a slightly lower density).

At the bottom of the bottle there is now a deposit of yeast. Carefully siphon the wine to another container without disturbing this deposit. Discard the deposit. Maybe this will have to be repeated after few weeks. When the wine has become completely clear it can be bottled. Make sure that the bottles are clean and sterile. I always sterilize them in an oven for 10 minutes at 120 degrees Celsius. Always use new corks.

Then design your own label to decorate the bottle. And the difficult part of course is to be patient enough to wait a few months to let the mead mature. In the meantime you can already start your next mead. You could start experimenting by mixing fruit juices in the must. Or try to give it a special taste with for example hop, thyme, cloves, or flowers of elderberry.

Try also Tej (Ethiopian honey wine).

If you have tips for making mead or you know a special recipe, please message me.

Honey and Bees

To make mead you need honey, and to make honey you need bees. Without the honey bee (Apis mellifera) there would be no mead. In tribute of this beneficial insect and its sweet product, many proverbs are used all over the world. Here are the proverbs I collected so far.

  • Sweet as honey.
  • A dead bee will make no honey.
  • Bees that have honey in their mouths have stings in their tails.
  • Every bee's honey is sweet.
  • From the same flower the bee extracts honey and the wasp gall.
  • He who would gather honey must bear the sting of the bees.
  • If a bee didn't have a sting, she couldn't keep her honey.
  • Its the roving bee that gathers honey.
  • No bees, no honey; no work, no money.
  • The bee stays not in a hive that has no honey.
  • Old bees yield no honey.
  • When bees are old they yield no honey.
  • The bee that makes the honey doesn't stand around the hive, and the man who makes the money has to worry, work, and strive.
  • The bee works all summer and eats honey all winter.
  • The bees make honey but cannot eat it; the sea-swallows build nests but cannot live in them.
  • When the bee sucks, it makes honey; when the spider, poison.
  • Where bees are there is honey.
  • While honey lies in every flower, it takes a bee to get the honey out.
  • A drop of honey catches more flies than a hogshead of vinegar.
  • A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.
  • Flies are caught more readily with a single drop of honey than with a cask of vinegar.
  • It's easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.
  • A fly follows honey.
  • Flies swarm where there is honey.
  • Flies will easily fly into the honey — their problem is how to get out.
  • Make yourself all honey and the flies will devour you.
  • Honey: Liquid Gold.
  • Honey lovers stick together.

Did you know that?

  • The expression "Honeymoon" owes it's origin to mead. It refers to a tradition in which for the first month (moon) of marriage a bride was given mead to promote fertility!

If you know any other proverbs or interesting facts about honey or bees, please send me a message.

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