Project:Mead brewing

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Notes on Bugs', Olfin's and SamLR's mead brewing experiments.

Exp.1: Honey expense and concentration

First foray into mead brewing. This experiment is intended to determine:

  • Whether using cheap vs. expensive honey makes an appreciable difference to the taste using our setup
  • For each honey type tested, how much honey is ideal?


For this first experiment, the simplest possible recipe seemed appropriate: honey, water and yeast.

Based on a simple recipe found online, (LINK?) approx 340g honey/litre water is expected to produce a moderately sweet mead. This is 1 jar/litre, which we'll standardise on for now, and test concentrations around this.

At each of those concentrations, we'll test two honeys:

  • Morrisons Value Clear Honey (340g/jar) (£0.67/jar - £1.97/Kg)
  • New Zealand Honey Co Pure Beech Tree Honeydew (340g/jar) (£2.49/jar - £7.32/Kg)

We have two dimensions: Honey type and quantity of honey:

Honey Type Concentration (Jars/litre)
Morrisons Value 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2
Beech Tree Honeydew 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2


We bought eight one litre bottles of Sainsbury's Indian Tonic Water to use for fermentation vessels and one bottle of Gordon's Gin to help us drink the tonic. One evening and three people saw just over four litres of G&T drunk, freeing the bottles for use in SCIENCE! and leading to minor stomach pain and disorientation in the experimenters. It was noted that tonic water contains approx 83mg/litre of quinine and that the oral therapeutic dose is 600mg/kg every eight hours, so even this heroic effort should avoid the nausea, vomiting, sight loss, paralysis and erectile dysfunction associated with quinine overdose. Thank the FSM. After emptying, bottles were rinsed with tap water and allowed to dry.

One jar of honey was dissolved into tap water warmed in the kettle (50-60 degrees, judged by dead reckoning) to a total volume of 500ml.

Into each container:

  • 300, 400, 500 or 600ml of the honey mixture (equivalent to 0.6, 0.8, 1.0 and 1.2 jars, respectively)
  • 0.5 tsp Dove Farms dried bread machine yeast
  • Warm water (tap water, heated in kettle) to a total volume of 1 litre

Bottles were shaken to mix, then left at room temperature to ferment with loosened caps.

Beech Tree Honeydew meads and Sainsbury's Value meads were set up on the afternoon of 26-04-2011


0.8 and 1.0 foamed noticably within the first hour or two, before the others. This is probably because they were warmer. Better temperature control would be nice, but it should all even out over the brewing time.

All meads bubbling away nicely on morning after setup. Noticably more, darker and denser scum on top of the Honeydew meads.

20110521 All meads have stopped bubbling and have (mostly) settled out. Smell mostly of honey with a bit of an edge, no noticable alcohol smell.

Future Work

If the difference in perceived flavour of the honeys is appreciable, then it is desirable (for reasons of cost efficiency) to determine if a blend of the cheap honey and the expensive, yet more flavourful honey might produce perceptually similar results to using the tasty honey exclusively. To this end, an experiment to determine the optimal blending ratio should be conducted.

It should be noted that the results of the above experiments are only valid for one particular type of yeast. Further research into the impacts of yeast varieties needs to be conducted.