How to Make Your Own Honey Mead

With three ingredients and some patience, you can brew this 'drink of the gods.'

person in sweater pours honey mead into wine glass

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Mead is experiencing a resurgence in the United States and, if you want to try it, you can whip up a batch at home.

Produced from a mixture of honey, water and yeast, mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to humankind. Long before wine and beer, there was mead.

History of Mead

boiling water in stainless steel pot on simple stove

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The first archaeological evidence of honey mead was around 7000 B.C. Literature aficionados might remember mead as the drink of choice of the Danish warriors in the classic tale "Beowulf," and in fact, mead was often referenced as the hero’s drink of choice in other literature as well.

In Greece, mead was thought to be a holy drink or ambrosia—the "drink of the gods"—and was believed to have mystical properties. In Europe, mead was used as medicine and mixed with various herbs and spices to combat certain ailments.

Its popularity waned in areas where grapes were readily available with which to make wine and as beekeeping and honey production became less common, but it has since been making a comeback as an alternative to wine.

How to Make It

complete setup for making honey mead at home

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Channel Your Inner Mead-Maker and Bottle Your Own

Start with some very simple ingredients: honey, water, and yeast. Of course you’ll also need some tools for home-brewing your own mead, such as a brewing kit, a large plastic pail, glass carboys, a big pot, and a mead-making book to answer all of your questions (which will inevitably arise).

Make sure all of your tools have been sanitized completely. This means either boiling them in hot water or washing them with a special wine-making sanitizer or bleach mixture, then rinsing them. The reason sanitizing your tools is so important? Even the smallest amount of bacteria can spoil an entire batch of mead.

adding honey from glass jar to pot of boiling water off stove

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

To make a six-gallon batch of mead, boil 1.5 gallons of water in a large pot, and then add about 1.5 gallons of honey to it once it's off the stove. (Some people suggest adding the honey directly to the pot of boiling water, but others argue that this method will ruin any floral accents of the mead.) At this point, you can also add fruit or herbs to flavor your mead differently. You can add cut-up fruit directly to the mixture or put herbs in a muslin bag before adding them to the batch.

person takes temperature of mead mixture in long tube in kitchen

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Add three more gallons of cool water—either filtered or spring water so it doesn’t have chlorine in it. Measure the temperature of the water and add the yeast when it’s between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Just as in baking, if the water is too hot or too cold, then the yeast won’t activate and the fermenting process will not occur. Some mead-makers also suggest adding yeast energizer to boost the nutrient content.

Using a hydrometer at this point will help you decipher the alcohol content of your mead. Then stir lightly to mix it up, and seal the top. If you’re using a plastic pail or a glass jug, you’ll need an airlock on top that lets air escape once the fermenting process has begun, which will start about 24 hours from the start of the process.

calendar with large cooking pot showing the fermentation schedule

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The mixture should ferment for about a month, at which time you can begin the process of “racking” or siphoning the mixture into a second container, leaving sediment in the bottom of the first container. Then cover again with an airlock, and let the mead sit for another month or even longer. This time, you can siphon the mead into bottles and cork them.

It may seem daunting at first, but as any do-it-yourselfer knows, even the most complicated tasks are only a YouTube video away. Here's a video to help you navigate the mead-making process:

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What does mead taste like?

    It depends on the production process and the type of honey used, but generally it's like a medium-sweet wine, with a texture similar to sherry but a distinctive honey taste. So, the better the honey, the better the mead.

  • How is mead classified?

    It is a type of wine, except that it uses honey as the sugar source for fermentation, rather than grapes.

  • What's the alcohol content of mead?

    It varies from batch to batch, but it's generally somewhere between 8% and 20% ABV (alcohol by volume). This puts it closer to wine than beer.