How to make sweet honey wine

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Data ProtectionImprint A drink that was very popular in the past and is now enjoyed again and again, especially at medieval events, is mead (honey wine). As with other wines, mead is obtained from a sugary liquid through yeast fermentation. Only honey diluted with water is used instead of fruit juice. Making mead yourself is not difficult. Even if there are already numerous good instructions for making mead on the Internet, I will not miss the opportunity to publish my own experiences in the form of a recipe here.

I recommend that you do not rely on my description here, but also use a few other sources of information.

ingredients

Ingredients for filling a 5 liter fermentation vessel:

Mead

  • A 5 liter fermentation vessel
  • Rubber stopper with a hole
  • Fermentation lock
  • yeast
  • 1.5 kg of honey
  • 3.5 liters of tap water
  • approx. 3 g lactic acid
  • approx. 2 g yeast nutrient salt
  • 1 teaspoon of wheat flour

Cherry mead

  • A 5 liter fermentation vessel
  • Rubber stopper with a hole
  • Fermentation lock
  • yeast
  • 1.5 kg of honey
  • 2 liters of tap water
  • 1.5 liters of cherry juice or cherry nectar
According to these recipes, mead contains little sugar and tastes relatively dry compared to most other types of mead that can be bought.

I am lucky to live in an area with very soft water (water with a small amount of lime). This may have a positive effect on the taste of the mead. I do not know whether it is worthwhile to get water elsewhere instead of your own tap water at great expense. You can replace part of the water with fruit juice or you can put the pureed fruits directly into the fermentation tank without having to laboriously juice them. Many juices are only available as "nectar" in grocery stores, so they are diluted with sugar water. You should therefore pay attention to the highest possible fruit content. In principle, sugar water is not a problem. The yeast also converts the sugar into alcohol. But you should make sure that it does not contain any artificial sweeteners or flavors.

The honey doesn't have to be expensive. Especially if you are preparing mead for the first time, you should not spend a lot of money on honey, so that it is not so annoying if nothing comes of it. I've always used the cheapest honey I could get. At the various food discounters, the cheapest honey usually costs the same. However, there are strong seasonal price fluctuations. It is an advantage if the honey is liquid, as it can then be processed more easily. Pure yeast, yeast nutrient salt, lactic acid, fermentation caps, rubber stoppers and fermentation vessels are available in specialist shops. Tip: The Hornbach hardware stores have these items in their range all year round. If you want to order on the Internet, you can use the keyword Winery suppliesgoogling.

Most of the recipes I know recommend using purebred yeast, e.g. port, Malaga, Burgundy or sherry yeast. In theory, however, you can use any yeast. I now use cheap dry-baked yeast. This has hardly any effect on the taste. However, a high alcohol concentration can only be achieved with the appropriate purebred yeast, since alcohol is also poisonous for yeast. At a certain alcohol concentration, the yeast dies and fermentation ends or slows down. Port wine yeast tolerates a particularly high concentration of alcohol. If you want a particularly dry mead, you should therefore use port wine yeast so that the sugar from the honey is completely converted into alcohol. If you want a more sweet mead, you can use dry-baked yeast like I do.

There is no need to be economical with yeast. Since the yeast multiplies, the amount of yeast at the end of fermentation is largely independent of how much yeast was added at the beginning. The more yeast you take in the beginning, the faster fermentation starts. Once fermentation has started, mold and most bacteria have no chance: the yeast produces carbon dioxide as a metabolic product and thus displaces all other gases from the fermentation balloon - especially the oxygen that mold and most bacteria need to live. A purchased pure-bred yeast should first be pre-fermented for at least 2 days in a covered glass with naturally cloudy fruit juice at room temperature (20 ° C to 25 ° C). Otherwise, it can take up to 2 weeks for fermentation in the fermentation balloon to start, and mold can form that floats as a carpet on the honey-water. In order not to have to buy new pure yeast every time, you can keep the sediment from a previous batch in the refrigerator and use it again the next time. However, one should bear in mind that the purity of the purebred yeast deteriorates over time. If you value the special properties of purebred yeast, you shouldn't repeat this too often. If you are using cheap dry-baked yeast, you don't have to worry about it. Simply spread a pack of dry yeast on all the fermentation balloons and fermentation will be in full swing after 36 hours. Another tip is to tip a bottle of Federweißer into the fermentation balloon: Federweißer is a not yet fully fermented white wine that contains plenty of yeast. Of course, that only works in late summer, when you can buy feather whites.

The yeast needs a certain acid content to be comfortable. Honey does not contain acid. If you prepare a pure honey mead without fruit juice, you should therefore add a little acid. Lactic acid is said to be particularly suitable because, unlike fruit acid, it is not broken down during fermentation. If you add significant amounts of fruit juice, you can do without the additional acid. I have not yet tried making mead without any acid. Maybe that would work too.

The yeast nutrient salt supplies the yeast with all the essential minerals that are not present in sufficient quantities in honey. I got the tip to use black or green tea and cane sugar instead of yeast nutrient salt. This supposedly also contains all the minerals that are required by the yeast. I haven't tried it yet. What I've tried, however, is a cherry juice approach without nutrient salt. The result also tastes good.

The yeast also needs the opportunity to settle. Since honey does not contain cloudy substances, various recipes recommend adding wheat flour. Wheat flour is tasteless and gives the yeast the opportunity to hold on, so that it sinks to the bottom with the flour. If you add naturally cloudy fruit juice or add a little grated apple, you can do without the flour.

The rubber stopper and fermentation seal should ensure that the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast can escape from the fermentation container, but that no oxygen, no mold spores, no bacteria and no fruit flies can get into it. If necessary, you can plug the fermentation vessel with cotton wool instead of a fermentation seal.

Start

Thoroughly clean all tools, especially the fermentation vessel and the rubber stopper. Hygiene is important. When I first tried it, I soon had mold in the fermentation vessel. Perhaps that was because the fermentation vessel had been standing around in the cellar for a few decades without a lock and I hadn't cleaned it sufficiently. For cleaning you can use warm vinegar water, for example.

I usually use liquid honey. Not only is it cheaper, it is also easier to pour out of the jar than solid honey. If the honey is not liquid, it can be warmed up in a water bath to liquefy it.

After the liquid honey is ready, you can heat the amount of water specified in the recipe to approx. 25 ° C and then dissolve the honey in it. The heat makes it easier to dissolve the honey. Raising the temperature above 40 ° C damages the quality of the honey. In the case of cheap types of honey, however, you have to assume that the honey was already heated to 60 ° C when it was filled into jars. I use a large saucepan for mixing. After decanting into the fermentation tank, allow it to cool to 25 ° C (higher temperatures may damage the yeast), then add the yeast and, if necessary, lactic acid, yeast nutrient salt and flour. If you want to add herbs or spices, you can hang them in a tea bag on a string in the air balloon.

The fermentation vessel must not be completely filled, as foam can develop during fermentation. Especially when fruit juice has been added, a lot of foam is created at the beginning. Of course, this foam should not ooze out of the fermentation vessel. The recipe given here results in approx. 4.7 liters of liquid, so that there is still enough space in a 5-liter container. Rubber stopper with fermentation seal on it, done.

fermentation

The approach should be set up in a dark, not too warm and not too cold place. A fermentation temperature of 10 ° C to 25 ° C is recommended on the packaging of a malaga or sherry pure cultured yeast. Other temperature ranges may apply to other types of yeast. If you use a relatively small amount of cultured yeast, it can take up to 2 weeks for fermentation to start. To shorten this period significantly, you can use various tricks - see above. Occasional swirling of the fermentation vessel can be helpful in the first few weeks. The fermentation itself takes at least 3 to 4 weeks. After such a short time, however, the fermentation is not yet completely finished, so that a mead bottled this early usually tastes strongly of yeast and continues to ferment, similar to Federweisser. If you have the patience, you should leave the mead in the fermentation balloon for 6 to 12 months so that it can mature. You have to be careful that there is always enough water in the fermentation lock. Without the water in the fermentation lock, oxygen penetrates the fermentation balloon and can theoretically lead to alcohol being converted into vinegar by acetic acid bacteria. If fruit flies get lost in the fermentation lock, the water should be changed regularly.

After the fermentation has ended, the mead can be transferred to bottles. What kind of bottles you take is largely irrelevant. It looks better, of course, when you take wine bottles out of white glass. Resealable beer bottles are also very handy. I myself like to use PET returnable bottles for storage and only fill the mead into glass bottles shortly before use. If the fermentation is not completely finished, you should not use bottles with corks, so that you can occasionally release some pressure from the bottles. Never fill bottles to the brim, always leave a few centimeters of air so that the contents, which may expand with temperature fluctuations, do not burst the bottle.

When bottling, you should make sure that the sediment from the fermentation vessel is not filled into the bottles. So that not so much sediment is whirled up, you can use a hose to transfer it (available at a hardware store). To do this, place the fermentation vessel on a table or on the work surface of the fitted kitchen and insert one end of the hose - almost to the floor, but if possible not into the sediment. Then crouch on the floor and suck in some air at the other end of the hose. Air pressure and gravity now ensure that the mead flows from the higher fermentation vessel to the lower end of the hose. As an alternative to the hose method, you can first carefully pour the contents of the fermentation vessel into a large bucket, making sure that the sediment remains in the fermentation vessel.

If you want to take the trouble, you can filter the mead when you are decanting it. I've tried both normal coffee filters and professional spirits filters: Yeast and other suspended matter clog the pores of the filter after a short time. The filtering only works when the suspended matter has completely settled on the ground. In order to remove these suspended matter, I wait a few days until they have settled at the bottom of the bottles and then pour the mead again. After repeating this several times, the mead is reasonably clear (and then you can filter it without the filter clogging).

An alternative to filtering is the use of silica sol. The suspended solids are bound by the silica sol and settle on the bottom as a jelly-like layer. The clarified wine can then be drawn off. I haven't tried it yet because I want to use as few chemicals as possible.

Sulphurous

To stop fermentation completely and to increase the shelf life, the mead can be sulphurized. To do this, a little sulfur powder (potassium disulfite, E224) is added. So far I have not done it. I can't say exactly how long the mead can be kept without sulphurisation, but friends have told me that my mead is still edible even after several years or even gets better over time.

Methyl alcohol (methanol)

When I tell someone I know that I make honey wine myself, I often hear that I should be careful not to go blind. It is well known that unprofessionally produced alcoholic beverages can contain a high proportion of methanol. High doses of methanol are harmful to health. After doing some research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that there is no danger in the manufacture of mead in this regard.

Methanol is produced during fermentation through the enzymatic breakdown of pectin. The more pectin the juice, the more methanol is produced. Since honey does not contain pectin, no methanol can be produced. Fruit juices, as stated in the recipe above, contain pectin. However, the resulting amount of methanol is too small to cause serious health problems.

It only becomes dangerous when you make brandy, because when you are burning (= distilling) the methanol in the distillate is enriched if you don't do it properly.

swell

Warning notices

All information to the best of my knowledge, but I do not guarantee anything. So don't blame me if your mead doesn't taste good, goes bad early on, or is more harmful to your health than expected.

And one more thing: Alcohol is harmful to your health - especially in large quantities! This does not only apply to methanol.

And one more thing: alcohol can be addicting!

I still have one more: alcohol clouds one's consciousness. If you still have dangerous plans, e.g. driving a car or a sword fight, it is better not to drink mead.