Mead Making: The Basics

W&DBKA Skep Talk: 10 January 2024

This is the handout made available at the above skep talk.  It aims to give you enough information to decide if mead making is something you want to do, before you go out and buy the equipment and ingredients.

Turning Water (and other ingredients) Into Wine:  The yeast organism feeds on the sugars in the honey. As it consumes the sugars it increases in numbers and produces ‘waste’ products: alcohol, carbon dioxide (CO2) and dead yeast cells, the last can taint the wine if not removed (see Basic Steps below).  This is a guide to the process – not a recipe.

Mead Variations:

Cyser (apple juice & honey), Pyment (grape & honey), Melomel (infused with fruit or flowers), Methelglin (fermented in presence of herbs or spices).

Basic Equipment

  • Measuring jug(s)
  • Funnel
  • Siphon tube: with sediment trap and tap
  • Food grade bucket
  • Two one-gallon demijohns
  • Air / Fermentation lock
  • Bung/bored cork for demijohn
  • Solid bung / cork for demijohn(s)
  • Campden tablets
  • Sodium metabisulphite
  • Wine bottles (6 per gall) and ‘corks’


  • Honey (3-5lbs)
  • Hot water
  • *Acid (*Citric Acid or Tartaric Acid or Malic Acid or a combination)
  • Tannin (I prefer powder to liquid version)
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Yeast
  • NB. Recipes recommend amount of each ingredient required. Yeast packet explains how to re-hydrate and add the yeast plus the ideal fermenting temperature.

Basic steps

  • Sterilise equipment at each stage with a sodium metabisulphite solution
  • In a bucket, dissolve honey, acid, tannin and nutrient in boiled water from a kettle, a Add Campden tablet to kill unwanted yeast spores present in honey). Leave 24hours.
  • Add yeast, decant into demijohn and fit airlock.
  • Allow to finish fermenting.
  • Move the demijohn ready for the next step.  Allow the sediment to settle before the next step.
  • **Rack into a clean demijohn, top up with boiled water, add a Campden tablet and bung tight. Tablet kills off any remaining yeast… hopefully.
  • **Rack again as recommended by the recipe.
  • Store for recommended time. Store in a dark place OR wrap demijohn in newspaper to stop delicate colour being bleached out by light.
  • Bottle and store for (and drink after) recommended time.
  • (**Rack = siphon the liquid into a clean demijohn leaving the sediment behind.)

Optional Equipment

  • Starter bottle for yeast
  • Heater element
  • Hydrometer (to measure specific gravity of the must) which will accurately show if the sugars have all fermented.  If used before fermentation will give an indication of the final strength of the wine.  See your wine making publication for more insight into using a hydrometer.

Find Home Brew Suppliers on the Internet. They will readily answer your questions and give you advice. Nearest actual shop (to Wokingham and District Association)is The Home Brew Shop in Farnborough (also do mail order): currently sell reusable tops for screw top wine bottles.

Recipe Source Publications

  • The Boots Book of Home Wine and Beer Making. Ben Turner. ISBN 0 7234 0794 0
  • Mead and Honey Wines, A Comprehensive Guide. Michael Badger MBE. ISBN 978-1-7845-195-9 Northern Bee Books
  • National Honey Show Publication No.8. Producing Mead for Showing and Drinking. Dinah Sweet. PDF download.
  • BBKA News Special Issue Series. Practical Mead Making. Dinah Sweet.
  • Honey Wine and Beers. Clara Furness. ISBN 0-907908-39-X. Northern Bee Books.
  • Making Mead. Brian Acton & Peter Duncan. ISBN 978-0900841 07 1. Amateur Winemaker.