Brewing one-gallon batches of mead is easy and fun!
I'm Amber Pixie
I have been conjuring up weird brews and filling bubbling jugs in my kitchen for over fifteen years.
I am excited to share all of my experience with simple one-gallon mead and wine recipes with you here on Pixie’s Pocket.
You can also grab a copy of my book Artisanal Small-Batch Brewing (June 2019), with over 50 one-gallon recipes for ciders, beers, wines, and meads.
Read on for a basic overview of brewing a one-gallon batch of mead. We’ll cover:
- Equipment and Supplies
- Brewing Technique
- Bottling and Storage
Here are a few of my tried and true recipes:
Why I Brew My Own
Many years ago, I was given the gift of a taste of home-brewed mead of such sweetness and rich complexity that I was left dazed. Once I came to my senses, I knew I would have to learn more about brewing and figure out how to do it myself. This being the early days of the internet (get off my lawn!) I found myself digging into books and renaissance faire list-servs and asking my brewing friends for advice, and it has been a roller coaster of experience and experimentation ever since.
One thing that I learned early on is that no one agrees on methods of brewing – each brewer has their own way of making their wines and meads. While this can be intimidating when you begin the learning process, you’ll later realize that finding your own way is part of the joy of brewing. As you learn the basic techniques and get them down pat, you will naturally refine your own best methods!
If you have friends around who like to brew, start geeking out with them, or see if there is a local home-brew club that you can join. Check for a home-brew supply shop in your area, as that’s a great way to meet a group of folks that won’t get annoyed when you prattle on about your techniques and will afford you the opportunity to listen and learn from the methods of others. A group to share with will ensure that you’ll always be learning new things to try.
Suggested Equipment for Beginners
There are two ways to go with equipment as a beginner brewer. You can either go for the cheap and easy dorm room brew method and use plastic bottles and balloons or invest in a more costly complete brewing kit.
I understand why someone might choose to cut their expenses and use the cheap and easy brewing supplies rather than buying fancy equipment, especially for your first try. However, after trying both techniques, I prefer letting my brew ferment in glass jugs or crocks rather than thin, cheap plastic!
I suggest that you take the middle road with purchasing equipment. Acquiring a good set of homebrew equipment isn’t terribly expensive if you gather your supplies bit by bit, over time. Keep an eye on Craigslist or your local FreeCycle chapter – I often find wine bottles, beer bottles, and sometimes even discounted homebrew equipment from someone giving up the hobby! You can also get “free” gallon jugs by buying apple cider or cheap wine and saving the bottles.
Before you buy online, check and see if you have a local homebrew supply shop nearby. It’s worth it to get to know the staff, support a local business, and you can also get a better understanding of the various supplies face to face instead of through a screen
Starter Equipment List
- Gather all of your ingredients.
- Sanitize the gallon carboy, the airlock and bung, and the funnel – anything that will come into contact with your brew.
- Set a pot on the stove and pour about 2/3 of the gallon of water in. Get it nice and warm. It doesn't need to boil.
- Stir in your honey and nutrients of choice. If you are using raw, unfiltered honey, you may get a foam on the surface, which can be skimmed off if you wish. I tend to leave it, with no ill effect that I’ve noticed. The honey-water mixture is also called a “must.”
- Once you get the honey and water stirred and blended together, let it sit for another ten minutes or so to cool.
- While it is cooling, rinse your sanitized equipment. Use the funnel to pour the warm must into the gallon carboy. Top off the jug with the rest of the gallon of cool filtered water until the liquid is just about at the neck of the jug. Plug it with the bung and the airlock.
- Allow the must to cool down to body temperature – this can take a few hours so I sometimes just leave it overnight. Once it is cool enough to touch the glass jug on the bottom and not feel the heat, you can pitch the yeast. If you are using a packet of yeast meant for a five-gallon batch, use a half or a third in your gallon batch. Give the jug a good shake, and then re-cap with the airlock. You can store the rest of the yeast in your fridge in an airtight container to keep moisture out until your next batch (use within two weeks for best results).
- The airlock should begin bubbling within 48 hours after you pitch the yeast. It doesn’t go any faster if you sit and stare at it, but I’ve gotten good results from singing to my brews. Your results may vary!
- It’s a good idea to stick the fermenter in a place where it won’t get much direct sunlight, or wrap it in an old tee-shirt or clean dish towel to keep it in the dark. Every few days observe the airlock and count how many seconds it takes for the bubbles to emerge.
After about a month or so, you’ll notice the fermentation slowing down to a bloop or so a minute. Unwrap and peek at the jug every now and then – how does it look? When you notice that the liquid inside is clear, there aren’t as many bubbles around the surface of the liquid, and all of the yeast and trub has settled to the bottom of the jug, it is time to taste the mead and decide where to go from there.
- To take a taste, I’ll sanitize a clean straw and use that to get a taste of the mead (be careful and don’t backwash into the mead).
- Analyze the flavor. What do you taste? Bear in mind that this is a young mead, and any sharp, sour flavors will likely mellow out with aging. Is it too dry? Do you want something sweeter? If so, check out Back-sweetening, otherwise, go on to Bottling.
- If you want to make your mead sweeter, you can do so by a method known as back-sweetening.
- Start by making a simple syrup from honey or sugar. Add somewhere between a quarter and a half cup of your sweetener into a clean, sanitized carboy and rack the mead over onto it. Give it a few gentle swishes to encourage it to mix, but don’t shake it enough to aerate the mead.
- Put a clean, sanitized airlock on the newly sweetened mead and let it sit for another week or two, just in case the sugar kick-starts any residual yeasts back into gear. Once you are confident that the fermentation is done, prepare to bottle the mead.
How to Bottle Your Brew Equipment List & Techniques
One gallon of brew will fill 6-8 standard beer bottles and a swing-top bottle or two, or any combination that you choose.
Ageing, Opening, and Drinking!
I always love to taste the mead as it is going into the bottles so that I have an idea of what it might be like after some time in the bottles. Aging will always make a better mead or wine! I try to leave the bottles for at least a month before cracking one open to try.
If you open a bottle and there is a mess of foam spooting out everywhere, then you may have bottled too early or gotten something living in your brew – one way or another, that kind of activity means that you have to wait a good while longer before opening another bottle, or that you might have a bad batch. How do you tell if you have a bad batch? If it tastes like vinegar or something rotten, don’t drink it.
If your final product is still not sweet enough, you can always add sugar syrup or a splash of juice or even ginger ale to your glass. Enjoy your drink while you consider what you might do differently next time!
Enjoy learning! Enjoy brewing! Drink Safely and Responsibly!
Questions and Answers about Brewing Mead
Have a question about brewing? Leave a comment below or drop a line. I’ll answer you as best I can, or point you towards resources that might be able to help.