Homemade mead is a fermented beverage made from honey, water, and yeast. Our honey mead recipe can be sweet or dry and also offers you several flavoring suggestions.
Fall makes me think of pumpkins, apple cider, and mead! Mead can be made simply with just honey, water and yeast, or you can add fruit, herbs, and even pumpkin!
What is Mead?
All homemade mead is made from a similar honey mead recipe because mead is simply a fermented beverage made from honey, water, and yeast. It is one of the oldest fermented beverages known to man.
Additions of fruit can make mead sweeter or drier, depending on the amount of honey used. The type of yeast can also play a role here. When herbs are added to mead it is then called a “metheglin.” No matter what you add (or don’t add) to it, mead can be produced in as little as two weeks in a very warm environment, or as much as 8 weeks in a cold room.
Are you ready to dive into this honey mead recipe? Let’s go!
Homemade Mead: A Honey Mead Recipe
Yield 1 gallon
Many recipes you'll find for mead yield very large amounts, but I've scaled it back to one gallon. For beginners, this is much easier to handle.
- Simmer ½ gallon water until warm.
- Add honey: 2 pounds for a dry mead or 3 pounds for a sweet mead. Stir until dissolved.
- Simmer (don't boil) for about 30 minutes, skimming off any scum that forms. Remove from heat and let cool to about 100°F and pour into a gallon glass bottle.
- Add any extra ingredients you may want. See below for ideas.
- When the temperature is below 90°F, add the yeast. One package will make 5 gallons of mead, so use between ⅕ of a package and ½ a package. I typically make two gallons at a time and divide the package between the two.
- Cap the bottle and shake well. Add more water to fill the bottle, making sure to leave 3-4 inches of headroom at the top. Take the top off and add an airlock. These are available at your local homebrew store or online here.
- Once the airlock is in place, set the bottle in a cool spot for about 6 weeks.
Within 12 to 24 hours, you'll notice bubbling and foaming in the top of the bottle. This is normal. If you add fruit or herbs, this may bubble into the airlock and get stuck. This is normal too, but you'll want to clean it out well and reset it. A clogged airlock could lead to an explosion.
After six weeks, check the airlock. It should have stopped bubbling, or the bubbling may have slowed to once every minute instead of every few seconds like it will do in the beginning. When the bubbling stops, it's time to bottle it.
Bottling Your Homemade Mead
As stated above, when the bubbling stops, it’s time to bottle your mead.
1. Pour the mead out of the bottle into a strainer to remove any fruit or herbs. Pour the strained mead into another bottle and cap tightly. (Loose caps can lead to explosions or leakage.) The mead will continue to ferment for a while, producing a sparkling beverage.
2. You can put the mead in a refrigerator for a week or so. This will cause the yeast to slow and settle to the bottom.
3. Open the bottle and decant the top of the mead, down to the sediment on the bottom, into another bottle. Your mead will now be still, or (mostly) non-sparkling.
Dry or Sweet Homemade Mead?
This is up to you. I prefer a dry champagne, but a sweeter white wine, like a Riesling. When I make this honey mead recipe, I prefer the sweetness to be somewhere between the two.
To get a sweeter mead, add more honey (3 cups or more), and use a yeast made for sweet wines (Lalvin 78-B Narbonne is one of the best you can use). There are others available, just check with your local home brew supply store.
To get a dry mead, use a lesser amount of honey (like the 2 cups mentioned) and stick with the champagne yeast.
You can also make a dry mead, and add more honey or sugar after bottling. To do this, you’ll need to stop the fermentation process (described above) and then add the additional sweetener. If you don’t, the additional sugar will feed the yeast, causing more carbon dioxide and this may cause your bottles to burst.
Another idea is to add a non-caloric sweetener such as stevia.
Ideas for Flavoring Homemade Mead
Plain mead is a nice treat on its own, but you can flavor this honey mead recipe to make it even better.
You could start with apple cider instead of water. This is called cyser. Herbs such as lemon balm, lemongrass, rosemary, hibiscus, vanilla, rose, and even hops can all be used. For this size recipe, use ½ cup dried herbs or one cup fresh herbs. I made one with chamomile and rose one year that had a very unique flavor. Light and delicate, but potent.
Fruit is another option for flavoring mead. Try blackberries, blueberries, wild grapes, persimmon, rhubarb, spiced apple, or even lime or grapefruit. Elderflower, maple, or spiced pumpkin are some other interesting possibilities.
Additional Tips for Homemade Mead
Anytime you ferment something, there is always the possibility of failure. This honey mead recipe is pretty foolproof, but something could always go wrong.
Make sure your equipment and bottles are sterilized. This will prevent bacteria from forming. Filtered water is also a must. Tap water can contain all sorts of nasty things. Fruit that hasn’t been cleaned could also cause problems. And be sure to keep an eye on your airlocks so they don’t get clogged.
If you sniff your mix while it is brewing and you smell rotting fruit, don’t worry. It’s not rotting, it’s working! If it still smells bad after it’s done, leave it a few weeks in the new bottles. Raw and “green” mead will smell strong. Once it sits for a while, the smell should mellow out.
If you see mold, or worse, maggots, compost it. There is no help for that batch. And if it smells like vinegar, have you added tea? Some mead makers will add tea for the tannins. The smell could be something similar to kombucha brewing. It may not be bad, but it could be. You may want to have an experienced mead maker test this batch out.
Mead made this way will have some alcohol, usually around 15%. Not a lot, but more than other alcoholic beverages. Be aware of this in case you want to give it to someone with sensitivities to alcohol.
Have you ever tried making homemade mead? If so, tell us about your experience!