One Week, Crushable, Evidence-Based Session Mead Recipe

What’s great about this short mead recipe?

  • Delicious and full of flavor as a traditional mead
  • takes minimal time: ~15 min to start ferment and <1 hour effort overall
  • honey to glass in as little as 7 days
  • versatile and adaptable to wide range of flavors
  • lower calorie – FG 1.000

The resulting mead is clean, tasty and sessionable. The use of S-04 yeast brings pomme (apple/pear) and honey characteristics which works well in traditional meads. The use of S-04 yeast is also forgiving, has low attenuation (high residual sweetness) and high flocculation (drops clear). This recipe works well with a wide range of honey profiles including many wildflowers.

This is intended to be a super easy and tasty recipe for veterans and beginners alike. The fermentation is straight forward and a fast. The S-04 dry yeast and nutrients are easy to find in home brew stores around the world and no specialty nutrients are required. The use of the large spring water jugs also saves a lot of cleaning time and requires minimal equipment.

Recipe: One Week, Crushable, Evidence-Based Short Mead, 4.5\% ABV, 4 Gallons

Specs:

  • OG: 1.035
  • Expected FG: 1.000
  • ABV ~ 4.5%

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of S-04 (English Ale Yeast)
  • 2 kg (~4 lbs or 1.4 liters) of honey (golden, late summer, wildflower works well)
  • 15-liter jug of (low mineral) spring water
  • 1.5 grams calcium chloride, 0.5 grams sea salt (optional)
  • 0.75 grams of gypsum (optional)
  • 2 grams of potassium bicarbonate (optional)
  • 2.5 grams of Fermaid-k/ Energizer
  • 4.7 grams of diammonium phosphate (DAP)
  • a 7-gallon wide mouth fermentor (or a second 15-liter jug)

Fermentation (~5 days, 62-68 F)

  • time 0 – mix all honey, water, and salts. You can add everything to a cleaned and sanitized 7-gallon jug and mix with a wine whip. Alternatively, empty water from one 15 liter jug, split ingredients evenly across the two jugs, and shake both jugs vigorously for a minute. Using liquid honey from glass jars (say two 1 kg jars of honey) is easiest for pouring. Once everything is dissolved make sure must is between 62-68 °F and then sprinkle yeast evenly on top. Add the rubber stopper (usually no. 10) and air lock. This step can be done in less than 15 minutes.
  • +15 minutes, swirl the yeast into solution.
  • +1 hour, add all nutrients, i.e. DAP and energizer. Swirl jugs or mix with wine whip. Keep between 62-68 °F
  • +24 hours to 4 days, keep temperature steady between 62-68 °F, and at least once a day swirl jugs or mix with wine whip. Smell the aroma coming out of the fermentor.
  • +day 4/6 – when fermentation has slowed noticeably take a gravity reading. It should be 1.000-1.004. At this point add fruit/herbs, if desired, using a large nylon bag.
  • ~day 4/6 + 24 hours – remove fruit/herbs 24 hours after adding (6/12 hours for hops)
  • ~day 4/6 + 48 hours – FG 1.000/1.002, rack back into the 15-liter jug (i.e. secondary). If using two jugs you can rack or pour the two half into one, rinse/repeat then rinse/clean/sanitize and save the extra jug.

Secondary

  • add 0.5 grams of ascorbic acid and 1 gram of malic acid in secondary during or after racking (optional)
  • add pectic enzyme if using high pectin fruit like strawberries (optional)
  • keep between 62-68 °F if gravity is not yet 1.000. If at 1.000 it can be keep colder or cold crashed if desired
  • add 2/3’s of a 2 stage clarifier immediately if a very fast turn around is needed, i.e. kieselsol and chitosan (may remove body, but it works fast). This will result in it dropping clear in as little as two hours.
  • Keep in secondary until the mead is reasonably clear (i.e. no protein chunks in suspension) or until fully clear if desired.

Bottle or Keg

  • Carbonate to 2.5 vol
  • The recipe yields 16.5 gallons plus any volume from the fruit. If you are using fruit, adding another 1.5 liters of water in primary will yield 5 gallons. If going for a traditional you will get 16 liters.
  • If bottling:
    • confirm FG is 1.000, if not wait until it is.
    • rack to a 15-liter jug and add mix in 135 grams of honey diluted 50-50 in warm no-chlorine water
    • bottle using a bottling wand, cap
    • place in an area of 62-68 °F for a couple of weeks
  • If kegging you may like to scale the recipe to 5 gallons, two options:
    • rack into keg, carbonate to 2.5 vol – keep it off-dry
    • rack into keg, add fruit juices or honey to taste, carbonate to 2.5 vol

A Short Note on Time Saving

This recipe is designed to work with minimal equipment and with a mind for time saving. One of the biggest time savers is reducing cleaning. Using virgin spring water jugs for primary and secondary means no clean up. Rinse and recycle when done. If using a 7-gallon fermentor you can leave the wine whip in as the top 1/4 sticks out, so it is easy to reattach back on the drill. The whip is also handy to weigh down bags of herbs and fruit. I also leave my hydrometer in the mead and just take it out every time I stir it with the wine whip. These save dripping mead everywhere and trying to clean and sanitize instruments every time they are used.

Short Mead Recipe Variations

This recipe works really well for dry traditional meads. However, it also works well with additional flavors and here are some tried and true variations on the recipes.

Add everything to secondary to maximize aroma, flavor and body. All whole fruit need to be frozen beforehand and thawed to the temperature of the must (62-68 °F by warming fruit on a stove-top or leave covered at room temperature for ~ 12 hours), and added in a sanitized nylon mesh bag. Similarly add any herbs/ zest to a nylon bag. If using the two-jug method avoid whole fruit and use fruit juices or variants with herbs.

The use of acid is not recommended in certain meads below. However, in others it does bring a mid-palate minerality, a perception of brightness, and can bring a clearer perception of fruit. If you prefer sour gummy candy over non-sour gummy candy than you will probably prefer the additional acid.

  • Oaked Traditional
    • 5-15 cubes of medium toast American oak
  • Strawberry with Rhubarb
    • 1.5 kg of strawberry
    • 0.5 kg of rhubarb
  • Strawberry and Rhubarb
    • 1.0 kg of strawberry
    • 1.0 kg of rhubarb
  • Raspberry Citrus
    • 1 kg of raspberries
    • zest of 2 lemons and limes (use a potato peeler for zest – bag it)
  • Raspberry “mini-Bomb”
    • 1.5 kg of raspberries
  • Tropical
    • 2 kg of favorite tropical fruit mix
    • or 2 liters of favorite (preservative free) tropical fruit juice, say mango and passion fruit
    • exclude any extra acid
  • Mojito
    • zest and juice of 5 limes (use a peeler for zest – bag it)
    • 15 x 8-10″ sprigs (tops) of fresh mint (no dirt, spanked, minimal stem)
    • exclude any extra acid
  • Thai-style
    • zest and juice of 5 limes
    • 15 x 8-10″ sprigs (tops) of fresh Thai basil (no dirt, spanked, minimal stem)
    • exclude any extra acid
  • Herbal Tea
    • concentrated 2/3 strength herbal tea blend (flavored rooibos works well)
    • steep in 1 liter of chlorine free water
    • make sure to steep at advised temp (usually 180 °F) and for minimal time (4-5 minutes)
    • let cool to must temperature before adding concentrate
  • Jasmine Green Tea
    • concentrated 2/3 strength jasmine green tea ~ 1.5 cups of loose-leaf
    • steep in 1 liter of chlorine free water
    • make sure to steep at 140 °F and for only 3-4 minutes
    • zest and juice of 3 lemons
    • you can cold steep some tea in the mead for 24 hours if you want extra dryness/tannin/body
  • Cream Soda
    • 2 kg of bright red, sour cherry
    • 1 vanilla bean split in half or 1 tbsp of vanilla extract in secondary
  • Dry Hopped
    • 2-3 oz of juicy/tropical new-world hops for 6-12 hours (note shortened contact time)
    • for example, 1.5 oz Citra, 1.5 oz Galaxy
    • use Cryo hops if possible
  • Tropical Hopped
    • 2 liters of tropical juice or 2 kg of fruit,
    • dry hop as above

Other variations: use the levels suggested from Grofennfell Meadery but add extra ingredients to this base at the end of primary.

Spring Water and Salt Additions

The recipe calls for the optional salt additions which are used to contribute to mouthfeel, body, and enhance the perception of sweetness. They are used in the same way you use table salt to flavor food. The table below describes the contribution of the salts to the water profile. The first row is a common spring water profile that you can replace with your own. The higher calcium with also add residual alkalinity and help with flocculation.

Yeast Variations

This recipe also works for US-05 dry ale yeast. US-05 is very clean, lets the honey shine through and has a yeasty/cracker profile. US-05 works well for the metheglin type variants, i.e. Thai-style Mojito, and hopped meads. Follow the instructions as recommended.

You can use a high amount of nutrients and stagger if you prefer, see off-flavor notes below. One way to stagger is split nutrients upfront and add up front and at 24 and 48 hours. Either way, the yeast are likely to chew up 0.01 gravity points in a day. You can also “round-down” and pitch a half of a yeast packet. This will actually speed fermentation. Use of a “wet” yeast such as WLP001 or Wyeast 1056 may cause sulfur as the pitch rate is several times higher.

This recipe is not recommended for wine yeasts which have very different nutrient requirements, temperature ranges, and fermentation preferences. I have preformed a side-by-side with EC-1118, a champagne yeast, with a low nutrient addition. The wine yeast will become phenolic early in the fermentation, then produce sulfur. Use the Tosna 3.0 nutrient protocol and use of Go-ferm with wine yeasts are recommended.

How to ruin the mead

S-04 is quite clean and expresses lots of honey-like and apple/pear esters. Smell the mead every day of fermentation to see how it is feeling. Here are a few possible off-flavors that you’ll be able to smell if you don’t follow this recipe exactly.

  1. Phenolic (more common) – smells like rubber, band-aid, burnt plastic, mothball
  2. Sulfur – smells like rotten egg, farts, or at low levels like a warm American lager beer
  3. Diacetyl – smells and tastes like artificial butter, sometimes caramel, butterscotch

You can get off-flavors if you do the following:

  1. forgot the nutrients or added too much yeast (sulfur, maybe recoverable)
  2. stagger the nutrients (phenolics, recoverable)
  3. letting the temperature drop below 60 °F or above 70 °F (phenolics, likely recoverable)
  4. adding acidic fruits during peak fermentation (phenolics, likely unrecoverable)
  5. adding more nutrients towards the end (phenolics, unrecoverable)
  6. use chlorinated tap water (phenolics, unrecoverable)

If you smell sulfur you probably forgot the nutrients or added too much yeast. Example 1), you are ill-informed and think raisins are nutrients or that nutrients aren’t needed. Example 2) you didn’t follow the recipe and added two whole yeast packets (in addition to sulfur this will slow fermentation). If you forgot all nutrients early on add them ASAP, say first 24 hours. If you added the nutrients don’t worry, the yeast will clean this up, and it is not likely to be noticeable in your final mead.

Light phenolics will noticeable during fermentation if you stagger the nutrients. If you stagger, phenolics will occur at high- and medium-nutrients levels. This will likely blow off and not be noticeable in the final product. Best to add all nutrients up front for S-04 yeast. You can add medium levels of nutrients and stagger, but the finish of fermentation might be sluggish, and you can end up with diacetyl. You also risk diacetyl with a low level of nutrients and fermentation will take up to two weeks. If you get diacetyl leave the mead in primary for a couple more days.

The sure-fire way to ruin the mead completely is by deciding it is not finishing up quickly enough and adding more nutrients towards the end. For example, if the mead is sitting at 1.004, and you are getting impatient, do not add more nutrients. This will ruin your mead and is not likely to clean up (unless you staggered). Best to follow the recipe, keep the temperature steady, and wait it out.

Another way to get phenolic juice is by adding acidic fruits during peak fermentation. Make sure only to add fruit once fermentation has slowed considerably <1.004. Make sure your fruit additions do not drop the pH below 3.0. If they will, make sure only to add fruit once FG is 1.000. Both the tropical fruit and rhubarb mead will get you close to a pH of 3.0 so don’t boost the level of fruit beyond the recipe, add extra potassium bicarbonate, or make sure the fermentation is complete before adding.

In summary keep to the recipe:

  • Keep temperature between 62-68 °F.
  • Use chlorine-free spring water
  • Do not add acidic fruits during peak fermentation
  • Use a high level of nutrients upfront
  • Do not add extra nutrients towards the end

What makes this an evidence-based recipe?

This recipe has been derived using evidence from many triangle tests and bench trials. Some experiments have been completed, some are ready for triangle tests, but more can always be completed. The recipe will be updated as new evidence arises. Here are the experiments that support the best practices for the recipe: