Mead is a wonderfully flexible drink that can be made with virtually any type of honey. When choosing the best honey for mead, you have lots of options and room for experimentation. You can choose strong, mild, sweet, floral, pasteurized, or raw honey for each batch of wine. Here are some of my top suggestions of the best honey for mead that can help you decide how to customize your honey wine for yourself.
I’ll be recommending raw unprocessed honey for each choice today. I believe that by using raw honey and avoiding a heat process when making your mead, you’ll create a medicinal concoction that is loaded with extra minerals, vitamins, and flavors that are often lost when heated. Some raw honeys are so enriched with healthy yeasts that they can spontaneously ferment by simply adding water and covering with a cloth, which is both the simplest and most elegant mead-making method.
Best Honey For Mead
This honey gets its flavor from orange tree flowers, which gives it a light citrus taste. Its light amber color will create a beautiful golden mead that shines on its own. This honey is a favorite choice for those looking to create winter holiday blends, which often feature citrus flavors. You can add an orange peel as well as warming spices such as clove, cinnamon, and allspice to impart a beautiful flavor into this mead. Overall, this honey will produce a balanced mead – not to dry, not too sweet. Not too fragrant, not too dull. This makes orange blossom honey an excellent option for the beginner mead maker, or for someone looking to create a honey wine that will please all pallets.
This raw wildflower honey is produced by bees that graze on the flowers of the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Because the bees are gathering pollen from a diverse array of plants, there are plenty of enzymes and vitamins in this batch that are as supportive of your health as they are tasty. Because wildflower honey contains several different nectars, it can often be a pleasant surprise to see what dominant flavors and notes will emerge in the mead making process.
Buckwheat honey is a dark variety rich in Iron and antioxidants. Its earthy flavor is similar to maple syrup. It may be too strong to be used exclusively for mead but blends well with one part buckwheat honey to 3 parts of another variety. Many mead makers like to add flavors that will enhance the richness of this honey such as oak chips, vanilla, or even blueberries.
This honey is known for being less sweet and more nutrient-dense. This study found that adding buckwheat honey to a cup of tea substantially boosted the level of antioxidants in the body. It also may be helpful in treating wounds, reducing cholesterol, and soothing a cough. While you won’t be using your honey for these specific uses when making mead, it does make it the perfect choice for someone looking for a more medicinal brew.
Clover is a popular plant, making it an ideal sustainable honey for mead makers. It’s the most popular honey to use for this drink because of its balanced and clean flavor. It stands well on its own as an unflavored mead and is also the perfect base if you’re looking to add additional flavors. Clover honey is an ideal choice if you’re using fruit to flavor your mead. The gentle clover flavor will not overpower the subtle sweet taste of the fruit.
This honey is a great option for those looking to create an artisanal, sustainable, farm-to-table product. Since it is extremely local wildflower honey, you will literally be able to taste the Texas terrain in your mead. This can add a narrative to the mead that makes it more than a product but elevates it to a story. A story best shared…well, when drinking mead! The main flower nectars in this honey are Indian Blanket, Scabiosa, and Clover. It is not diluted with water and creates a thick, rich, and sweet honey that will take your mead to the next level.
How To Make Mead
Mead is a very simple fermented beverage. It uses honey to produce alcohol and is much easier to brew than beer. Here is some information for getting started with a very straightforward mead setup.
What Ingredients and Materials Do I Need?
2 one gallon jugs, 1 rubber stopper, 1 airlock: These can be bought together or as separate items. They serve as the primary containers for your mead’s fermentation process. You can just let the mead ferment the entire time in one jug, however, most brewers prefer to siphon the mead into a second jug to remove the dead yeast and create a smoother beverage.
Siphon and Tubing Kit: These materials allow you to safely transfer your mead into other containers. Insert the siphon into your container and the liquid will automatically fill the auto-siphon. Pump the racking cane 2 or 3 times to begin tilling the tubing. It will begin flowing on its own when all of the air has been pumped out of the tube. You can practice with water first to get the hang of this method and make sure to follow the specific instructions from your manufacturer.
Stock Pot: Make sure your stock pot is large enough for the amount of mead you want to make. For example, if you’re planning on making 1 gallon batches, get at least a 2 gallon (8 quart) pot.
Bottle Brush: Brushes are designed for bottles that are great for reaching those tricky spots and making sure you don’t have build-up in your containers after multiple uses.
Hydrometer: This will help you to monitor the alcohol content of your mead.
1 quart or 3 lbs of honey: You can use 3 pounds of honey for each gallon of mead you produce. Once you’ve tried this ratio, you can increase or decrease the amount you use depending on personal taste and experimentation.
3 quarts of un-chlorinated water: A store-bought spring water will be fine for this process. I personally use my Berkey purification system to filter all of my water for fermentation.
Brewing Sanitizer: You will need a no-rinse sanitizer to clean all of your supplies in each stage of the mead-making process. Sanitation is one of the most important parts of this process and will help protect your investment.
How to Prepare Your Tools
When sanitizing your tools, you will use a no-rinse brewing sanitizer. Before you use the no-rinse sanitizer, make sure to thoroughly clean and rinse your materials. The sanitizer is not a substitute for soap so make sure not to skip this part. I also like to put my (dishwasher-safe) items into my dishwashing machine using high heat for another layer of cleanliness.
Star San is a very popular brand of no-rinse sanitizer that mead, wine, beer, and kombucha-makers alike have applauded. You can dilute one ounce of the sanitizer per 5 gallons of water. It is easiest to make this in a large 5-gallon bucket and submerge your supplies within it. If you don’t have a bucket available, you can use your kitchen sink.
Make sure to leave your materials submerged for at least two minutes before beginning the mead-making process. When you’re done, you’ll see bubbles on your items, since this is a high-foaming sanitizer. Don’t worry, these are perfectly safe and should not be rinsed away. Lightly dry your items once you’re done and you are all set to begin putting ingredients in your containers!
Mead Recipe (For 1 Gallon of Mead)
I won’t recommend heating your honey mixture in this recipe because I recommend raw unfiltered honeys in this article. Heating the honey will change its flavor and natural biome. Instead, I recommend adding Campten Tablets which help to prevent wild yeast, bacteria growth, and oxidation in wine. Use 1 tablet per gallon.
- Wash your materials with soap and water
- Sterilize your materials with a no-rinse sanitizer
- Pour 3 quarts of water into your 8 quart pot
- Add 3 pounds of mead honey
- Add .5-1 campden tablets
- Add 1 teaspoon of champagne yeast
- Thoroughly mix all ingredients together
- Using a funnel, fill the fermentation jug bottle with the mixture
- Take a reading with your hydrometer if you want to calculate the final alcohol content of your mead. You’ll likely get a reading around 1.060 – 1.120 at this part of the process.
- Close the container with your cap and airlock
- Place in a cool dark area at room temperature until the air bubbles stop coming out of the top of the airlock. This process can be about 2-4 weeks.
- When the bubbling has stopped, sanitize your second jar.
- Siphon your mead into the second jar. Be careful to leave the dead yeast at the bottom of the container so it doesn’t transfer to your second container.
- Add any flavoring agents, such as fruits or herbs, to the second container.
- The mead will be ready to bottle and drink in two years, however, the longer you age it the better it will get.
Here are some types of wines to consider experimenting with when making mead. Additionally, you may want to create honey blends to find just the perfect flavor for your batch of mead.
- Acacia is lighter yellow honey produced from the black locust flower. One of the sweetest honeys. This mead will leave a slight sweet flavor, even in a dry mead, and is a great choice for blending with other varieties.
- Alfalfa honey is a light amber color and a popular table honey. It has a slightly floral flavor with a spiced finish. This is a good honey to use when you will flavor your mead since it won’t overpower or conflict with additional flavors.
- Blueberry Blossom makes a dark rich honey with a tangy nuanced blueberry flavor. This honey is great on it’s own or blended and is quite balanced in richness.
- Buckwheat honey is a dark variety rich in Iron and antioxidants. It’s earthy flavor is similar to maple syrup. It is too strong to be used exclusively for mead but blends well with one part buckwheat honey to 3 parts of another variety.
- Clover honey is incredibly popular in the United States and very easy to find in the store. This honey is a great base for adding additional flavors. It also makes a very smooth and clean traditional mead.
- Eucalyptus honey has a slightly herbal smell and taste that can develop in complexity when aged. It does well when fermented on its own, as well as with mild fruits.
- Mesquite (or desert blossom) honey has a strong earthy woody flavor with a slight tang of sweetness. This is a great honey for fermenting in its pure form. It also makes a great base when adding spicier flavors such as clove pods or even chilis to your mead.
- Orange Blossom honey is another popular choice that has a slight floral and citrus note. Aging an orange blossom honey mead with an orange peel will bring out the honey’s natural flavors. It’s also a great choice for a winter holiday mead when fermented with orange, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.
- Tupelo honey is an incredibly sweet honey with fruity and floral notes. It is popular in the southern U.S. and is a good local option for those who are making mead in that region.
- Wildflower honey comes from any area where bees are able to gather flower material from uncontrolled areas. Different regions will produce different consistencies and flavors of honey due to their wildflower compositions. No two batches are ever the same from wildflower honey – and this is a good thing if you’re making special one-of-a-kind
What Kind of Honey Is Best for Mead?
The best kind of honey for making good mead is raw, unprocessed honey. This is because the yeast will feed off of the sugars in the raw honey and turn it into alcohol. Honey that has been pasteurized and filtered will not ferment properly. If you are concerned about the environment – which I assume most mead lovers would be – then it is best to use organic honey.
Organic unprocessed honey from your local farmer’s market or apiary, if available, is ideal because it contains pollen! This gives your mead a boost of nutrients which will help your yeast grow and your mead becomes clearer. A local varietal will be fresher, more affordable, and packed with more nutrients.
Honey is considered “raw” if it has not been heated above 113 degrees Fahrenheit, as stated by the National Honey Board: The “raw honey” category refers to honey that has not been heated at high temperatures in order to increase its shelf life.
Raw honey is typically very thick and crystallized, but the pollen grains are completely intact. Pollen is sensitive to high temperatures (113°F) and will often stick together at this temperature if not stirred frequently.
In order to afford a high-quality type of honey, buy in bulk from a local producer.
Types of Mead
Mead falls into two main categories: flavored mead, and unflavored mead. Deciding what variety you will make will help you to decide which honey is best for the blend.
Unflavored Meads: Unflavored meads are made with only honey, water, and yeast. You can make your mead to be sweet, dry, semi-sweet, or semi-dry. This is a great option if you are learning how different honeys taste, since there are no flavoring agents in the way of the flavor. It will also help you learn how sweet you like your mead. As previously mentioned, start by using 3 lbs of honey per gallon of mead, adjusting from there.
Flavored Meads: These meads are infused with fruits, herbs, spices, beer, or a mixture of these ingredients.
Melomel is a honey wine made with fruits.
- Cysers: mead and cider
- Pyment: mead and grapes.
- Morat: mead and mulberries
- Rubamel: mead and raspberries
Metheglin is a honey wine made with herbs and spices. Modern blends of metheglins favor sweet spices rather than herbs to produce a comforting and warming drink. This is a popular wine to make as a winter holiday blend using flavorings such as cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Barks can also be used, which can add a tannic layer to the mead.
Braggot is a mead blended with barley malt. These two flavor palettes create a balanced taste of floral notes, spice, sweetness, and bitterness. It can also take on roasted and chocolate tones which compliment the honey well.
As you can see, mead making can be a complex or simple process, depending on your preferences. For those looking to experiment and create new fun flavors, adding different fruits and spices is a great way to push the boundaries of the brew. And for those who are purists and love the clean straightforward flavor of mead, there are many honey options that will produce unique batches depending on the blossoms and regions they hail from.
Make sure to document the different honeys you experiment with (as well as the amount of honey) so you can recreate batches if desired. And most of all, remember to give a moment of gratitude to the fantastic creatures that produce this delicious honey and allow us to make this tasty ferment. Much love to bees worldwide!