how to make mead at home

Making Mead is a fairly simple process if you have access to honey and a good water source. However, as simple as it is, you still need to gain a certain amount of control to avoid undesirable flavours.   

Water; being a large component of your mead production, if you are able, collect rain water, it is best and most economical. Rain water can be filtered through a coffee filter then almost boiled raising it to 80°C.   

Honey in South Africa is wonderful for making Mead, it not only comes from a variety of plant sources it also comes from various areas with varying weather conditions giving distinct flavours and aromas to Mead. However there are just a few honeys to avoid for instance, Euphorbia ingens, Naboom, and Agave sisalana, Sisal. Always check the taste and aroma of the honey to be used, as the process of making Mead accentuates those flavours and aromas.   To achieve outcomes of your preferred taste keeping records of your experimentation is of paramount importance. Keep in mind too that everyone has their likes and dislikes. If your mead is not to your preferred taste don’t be too hasty to discard it as there may be someone who thinks it is wonderful.   

Another important factor for a successful ferment is good Yeast. There are a number of yeasts that can be used such as Instant Bread Yeast (Anchor yeast makes a good mead). Red and white wine yeasts also available are great for making mead. Brewers yeast, used in the production of Beer, is perfect for making honey beers being a top fermentation yeast, which will invariable cause your fermentation to froth.**   

Nutrients are required to enable the yeast to have food while converting the sugar into alcohol. Nutrients are available at most brew suppliers. For the mead maker that is also a beekeeper, Pollen straight out of the hive makes a superb nutrient.

You might also need tannin to give texture in your mead. Here simple Ceylon tea is fine.

It is good to have a fairly low pH (acidity) level of around 4, to start with. To help here the squeeze of a lemon can do wonders.   

Finally, choose the fermentation receptacle carefully. Glass is best, but when producing quantities larger than 50 litres, glass containers are not available. Plastic buckets can be used for the fermentation process, but as soon as the fermentation is complete the mead must be racked into a container suitable for aging as the alcohol will leach some of the plasticisers out into the mead. Wood (Oak) is a good option provided it has been previously used. Glass is always good. For the beginner stainless steel is prohibitively expensive.   

Sanitation is important. Use a no rinse sanitiser obtainable from a brewing shop.


a traditional mead recipe

other variants available

4½ litre demijohn, aiming for 12% Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

Ingredients  DrySemi-sweet Sweet
Honey1.5 kg1.75 kg2.3 kg
Water3½ litres3¼ litres3 litres
All purpose wine yeast5 ml5 ml7 ml
Tea bag111
Pollen nutrient20 g20 g25 g
Lemon juice50 ml50 ml50 ml

23 litre fermenting bucket, aiming for 12% Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

Ingredients  DrySemi-sweet Sweet
Honey7 – 8 kg9.3 kg12.5 kg
Water17 litres16.5 litres15 litres
All purpose wine yeast10 ml12 ml15 ml
Tea bag 112
Pollen nutrient80 g90 g100 g 
Lemon juice 75 ml75 ml100 ml   


  • Fermenter,
  • Measuring flask,
  • Hydrometer, funnel,
  • Air lock,
  • A bung with a hole and bung without a hole,
  • Wine thief,
  • Long handled spoon.


Following the directions make the solution in a tub large enough, at least 25 litres to dip all equipment being used. 

  1. Mix up your sanitiser.
  2. Place the yeast in 50ml water to hydrate.
  3. Make your tea with 100ml water, boiling for 10 minutes then cool.
  4. Place all your equipment in the sanitiser.
  5. Drain momentarily the equipment.
  6. Place your fermenter on a scale.
  7. Pour honey into fermenter to the desired mass.
  8. Add 50% of your water requirement and tea.
  9. Mix the water and honey. If using demijohn place your bung without a hole in the neck. Shake for about 5 minutes until the honey is thoroughly dissolved. If you are using a bucket you will need to stir liberally ensuring air is being incorporated.
  10. Add lemon juice, nutrient and remaining water, to about 20 mm below neck. Shake well and mix thoroughly.
  11. Take a sample with your wine thief and place into measuring flask. Insert your hydrometer and take a reading. Aim to have your starting Specific Gravity (S.G.) as follows Dry (1.090) Semi-sweet (1.106) Sweet (1.150) Take your reading at this level. Make a record of date, time and S.G.
  12. Add hydrated yeast. Shake or stir adding as much air in as possible. For about 5 minutes.
  13. Place bung with hole onto air trap. Place some sanitation fluid into the airlock. At this level
  14. In 12 hours check that the bubbling is going through at 40 bubbles a minute.
  15. Leave for 2 weeks. Check bubbling. If stopped, go to next step, otherwise leave for another week, etc.. It can go on for a long time.
  16. Take a sample with your wine thief and place in measuring cylinder. Place your hydrometer and take a reading. Dry (<1.000), Semi-sweet (1.010) Sweet (>1.020) Now rack into a new demijohn avoiding the lees on the bottom of jar. Leave for another 6 months and if clear, bottle and enjoy the fruits of your labour!