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.

Mead Making Reference Sheet


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.
Metheglin 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.
Cyser 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.
Hippocras A pyment with spices added.
Morat A type of melomel made with mulberries.
Rhodomel 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.

The above list was adapted from the Mead Made Easy web site, which is long defunct.

Internet Resources:

When first published in 1999, this page had a list of useful web sites. Fast forward to 2021 … every link is dead, so I deleted the section.


Absolutely Minimal


  • Honey
  • Water

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


  • Honey
  • Water
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Commercial Wine or Beer Yeast

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


  • 5 to 6 quarts honey
  • 5 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 15 grams white wine yeast

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.


  • 15 lbs honey
  • 2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp grape tannin
  • 5 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfite
  • 4 tsp acid blend
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
  • 24 cloves
  • Champagne yeast

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.

Action Date SG
Started mead 12/16/1998 1.092
Pitched yeast 12/17/1998 1.092
Racked, removed spices, 1/4 tsp K-sulfite added 12/26/1998 1.008
SG tested, no change since racking. Need to jump start 02/06/1999 1.008
Jump started with Lalvin KV-1116 02/14/1999 1.008
Fine with bentonite, 1/4 tsp K-sulfite added 08/??/1999
Bottle, 1/4 tsp K-sulfite added 11/??/1999


My original hardware section was very skimpy, not worth propagating to the new site.


Term Description
Acid blend A mixture of ascorbic and citric acids. Used for adjusting the pH of a must.
Airlock Used for locking the air out of your fermenter while letting the gases produced by fermentation escape.
B-Brite 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.
Carboy 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”.
Cetacean Belonging to an order of marine mammals, including whales and dolphins.
Cheesecloth 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.
Dry-hopping Tossing hops directly into the fermenter without boiling ’em up in water, i.e. dry.
Electrasol A dishwashing detergent. Kills bugs dead.
Fermentation Yeast eat sugar, burp CO2, and excrete ethanol. Any questions?
Fermenter 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.
Flocculate 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.
Gruit 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.
Hops 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.
Hydrometer Used to measure the specific gravity of a liquid.
IBU 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.
Mead An alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey. Also known as meathe in older tymes. From the Sanskrit `madhu’, which meant `honey.’
Must 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.
Pectin 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.’
Rack The act of siphoning the mead off a layer of sediment, leaving the sediment behind, which leads to a clearer mead.
Sediment Stuff that settles out of a mixture. The gunk on the bottom of the bucket.
Siphon 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.
Trub 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.
Wort 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 1999-2021 Bryan Fazekas
This page last updated: 27 December 2006