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Mead can be as simple or complex as you desire. Whether you want to brew mead up the Viking way or use more modern elements, there are plenty of ways to whip up 5 gallons of mead. In fact, making a mead recipe 5 gallons instead of 1 gallon is not that difficult, as the overall process of brewing mead is straightforward. So let’s not keep you waiting.
Here is the overview of a simple 5 gallon mead recipe for homebrewers.
An Introduction to Brewing Mead
Don’t know your mead from your ale or wine? Don’t worry. Mead hasn’t always had a place in the spotlight. For many years, mead was overshadowed by other alcoholic beverages and also called honey wine, which led to a lot of confusion among the masses. However, mead has been enjoyed by many ancient cultures throughout the world and comes with dozens of variations.
The kind of mead being discussed in this article is of a traditional mead recipe that uses honey, water, and yeast.
Those are the only things you technically need to make a delectable mead. However, you may want to jazz up the mead recipe with some other additions, including fruits, spices, and carbonation.
Generally, you first combine the honey and water. Then yeast is tossed in for fermentation. That is when the yeast converts the sugars from the honey into alcohol. Fermentation is a lengthy process, but once it is done, you will have mead. Unfortunately, your mead is not yet ready to drink. Following the first phrase of fermentation is racking and then a second round, which is when flavorings are added.
From there, the mead is bottled, aged a little longer, and then—at last—ready to drink.
Sit tight. You will learn the in-depth process soon enough.
Step 1: Gathering Equipment
Before you can begin making your mead recipe 5 gallons of deliciousness, you need equipment. The most important piece: a 6 gallon fermenter or carboy. If you have a traditional carboy, that’s excellent; most people choose a plastic bucket with an airlock lid.
You will also need:
- Sanitizing solution to remove all bacteria from your equipment. Do not skip cleaning and sanitizing everything you will be using for the mead. Even the faintest trace of bacteria could ruin your brew.
- Bottles and caps for when you bottle the mead. You can use growlers, standard bottles, or hinge-tops.
- Bottle capper for attaching caps
- Rubber stopper and airlocks to secure the lid on the fermenter bucket
- Siphoning system or racking cane
- Food-grade tubing
Step 2: Preparing Your Ingredients
Since mead requires only 3 ingredients, those ingredients better be of the highest quality. You want to make sure that the water, honey, and yeast are fresh.
For this 5 gallon mead recipe, you will need:
- 13-15 pounds (5.8-6.8 kg) honey
- 4-5 gallons of water
- 1 package of yeast, such as champagne yeast, Lalvin D-7 yeast, or similar
- 2 teaspoons yeast nutrient/energizer
The most important ingredient, however, is the honey. In the past, Vikings took great care of the bees that produced their honey, because they understood how precious of an ingredient it was. Because of this, they had high quality, flavorful honey that transformed into the boozy nectar we now call mead.
In other words, you want to use premium grade honey that is raw and unfiltered. This ensures the most flavor.
Second, the yeast. Depending on the kind of yeast you use, the flavor and body of your mead is going to be different. Some people prefer champagne yeast in their mead while others opt for wild strains of yeast.
Lastly, any kind of water is going to work for brewing mead, as long as it is fresh. Keep in mind that the presence of minerals and metals in the water could throw off the final result. If you want to get the cleanest mead, choose filtered water.
Aside from the 3 main ingredients, there are some things that can be added to the mead to make it taste better:
- Yeast nutrients or yeast energizers – a proper ratio of nutrients for the yeast that keep fermentation going strong
- Acids – these include tannic, malic, and tartaric and are use to reduce the level of pH in the mead, thereby enhancing the flavor
- Pectin enzymes – used to reduce the haziness of mead
Step 3: Primary Fermentation
You have gathered your ingredients, cleaned and sanitized your brewing equipment, and are ready to go. The first stage of brewing 5 gallons of mead is called primary fermentation. How much alcohol you get at the end of the brewing process is directly related to how much honey (sugar) you use. If you want a dryer mead, use less honey. Want something boozier? Get a little heavy-handed with the honey.
First, heat your honey and water in a pot on the stove. As soon as the honey dissolves, you are ready to go. Do not let the temperature get too hot—the mixture does not need to boil! (If you don’t like the idea of dirtying a pot, check out the optional route below.)
Pour the mixture into the plastic bucket. Use a large spoon to stir the honey water for about 5 minutes. If there isn’t 5 gallons in the bucket, add non-chlorinated water until it reaches the 5 gallon mark.
Next, stir in the yeast nutrients. Before adding the packet of yeast, stop stirring and let the mixture sit. Take the temperature of the water. It should be between 60-70 degrees F (15.5-21 degrees C) to activate the yeast. Pitch in the contents of the yeast packet then seal up the fermenter. Attach the airlock.
Optional: Warming The Honey
This is a route that many people overlook. You can skip the part where you warm the water in a pot on the stove by warming the honey beforehand. This helps with fermentation by liquefying any crystals of sugar in the honey. To do so: Submerge your containers of honey in warm water. Make sure no water gets into the containers.
Once your honey is warmed, you can pour the honey directly into the water in the bucket. The water should reach the halfway mark in the main fermenter.
The process afterwards—stirring and pouring in the yeast—is the same.
What to Know About Primary Fermentation
You can decide to follow the instructions on the yeast package or not. For instance, the instructions might tell you to rehydrate the yeast by adding it to lukewarm water before pitching it. Some people will skip rehydrating the yeast, because it can be a drawn out process. Others will recommend following the instructions to get the best result.
That option is yours.
Also, a single packet of yeast is enough for making 5 gallons of mead. Pour in the whole thing.
Step 3.5: The Waiting Game
The wait is the worst part about the first phase of fermentation. You want to know what is going on inside that fermenter. What kind of magic is unfolding? But you need to be patient. Place your container filled with not-yet-mead somewhere cool and dark.
Within a few days, you will hear a hiss of CO2 escaping through the airlock. Don’t be alarmed by the sound nor the sulfuric smell. It’s natural.
This will go on for about 1-2 weeks. Give the fermenter a shake once in a while—nothing too crazy. Shaking the mead will suspend any remaining yeast and keep it working while removing trapped gas. Once a few days pass without any gasses escaping through the airlock, you know that primary fermentation is over.
Step 4: Secondary Fermentation
During primary fermentation, the main goal is to get as much sugar converted into alcohol as possible. Yeast activity must remain stronger through the 1-2 weeks it takes for the 5 gallons of mead to ferment. The second round of fermentation is designed to make the mead taste better with a little bit of aging.
If you drink mead without secondary fermentation, you would find it far less smooth and appealing. To improve the quality of your mead, flavorings can be incorporated at this time. Common additions include peaches, blueberries, apple, orange peels and cinnamon sticks. Be careful not to go overboard with it!
Therefore, you give your mead an extra 2-3 weeks of fermentation. During this time, you may want to use a hydrometer to test the gravity. A specific gravity between 0.998 and 1.004 means that your mead is ready to be bottled.
Now, mead benefits greatly from aging. Some mead brewers will keep their mead in the secondary fermenter for about 7-8 months in a dark, cool place before bottling. Then, having bottled their mead, they exercise great willpower and let the mead age for another 4-5 weeks.
Step 5: Bottling Your 5 Gallon Mead Recipe
It’s doubtful that you plan on drinking 5 gallons of mead straight from the fermenter, so you will need to bottle it for safekeeping. As with the beginning of brewing making a mead recipe 5 gallons, you will have to clean and sanitize any equipment required for bottling. This includes the funnel, tubing, bottles, caps, measuring spoons, and so on.
If you want to make a “still” mead, then you don’t need to do anything but bottle it. Optionally, you can put your 5 gallons of mead into a keg.
To bottle your mead, you will need tubing, a bottle filler, and an auto-siphon. If you already homebrew beer, then this step should be familiar. Turn on the siphon then fill each bottle through the filler. Once you finish with a bottle, place the cap loosely on the bottle then continue on with the next bottle. This allows any carbon dioxide in the bottle to fill the head space instead of air.
After finishing with the bottles, seal the cap.
This is not required to make mead, unless you want a sparkling option. Carbonating mead happens two ways:
- Force carbonation. Using a keg or soda stream system, you can force your mead to hold carbonation. If you have the equipment for this already, choose this route. It is simple and effective.
- Bottling with yeast and sugar. You can add a bit of sugar to the mead before bottling or during fermentation. There is a downside to this, though. Too much sugar present at the time of bottling could cause an explosion.
Step 6: Enjoy Your Mead
You have taken the time to painstakingly mixture, ferment, and wait for your mead to age. Now for the best part: the drinking! Mead is delectable but may vary, depending on the ingredients you used. The mead you make this round will have a different appearance, sweetness, and finish than the next batch, especially if you use different ingredients.
You can also take a moment to set up an experiment. Taste one bottle of mead right away and put a few away for further aging. Compare the flavors to see which you like best then tweak your traditional mead recipe and make it your own.
Or you can get adventurous. Try making Viking mead recipes, such as Viking Blod.
All The Mead You’ll Ever Need
You came here looking for a mead recipe for 5 gallons. Now that you know how to make mead, as well as all the critical information to make it taste good, you’re ready to start brewing up some of your own. And if you have already tried to make a gallon of mead in the past, consider this 5 gallon mead recipe a challenge. Don’t be afraid to experiment—that’s what mead is for!
To make a mead recipe 5 gallons, you need between 13-15 pounds (5.8-6.8 kg) of honey. For a dryer mead, you may go as low as 11-12 pounds of honey. Keep in mind that you will be diluting the honey with 4-5 gallons of water, so if you want a sweeter mead, use around 15 pounds of high quality honey.
To ferment a 5 gallon mead recipe, you need about 1-2 weeks for primary fermentation. Secondary fermentation takes an additional 2-3 weeks. On average, 5 gallons of mead takes about 1-2 months to make, though some brewers opt to keep their mead fermenting for up to 8 months.
You need about 4-5 gallons of water to make 5 gallons of mead. Some of the water that you use to heat and dissolve the honey will burn off. Once you pour the mixture into your primary fermenter, you may have to add a bit more non-chlorinated water to reach the 5 gallon mark.
You only need about 5 grams or a single yeast packet to make 5 gallons of mead. If you are making less than 5 gallons of mead, use only 1/2 of a yeast packet.
Video Guide: 5 Gallon Mead Recipe
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