The Esoth Meadery
This was my second go at making mead - first turned out well, but I think the quality improved a lot this time. I made a few changes and also upped the batch size from 1 gallon to 5 gallon. I am using a slightly modified version of Joe's Ancient Orange. Making mead is fairly simple, at least compared to beer, and I already had the appropriate equipment from homebrewing beer. The primary fermentable in mead is honey - this is the sugar source that the yeast will convert into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Almost all of the CO2 is allowed to escape the glass carboy through a sanitized air lock in this recipe, but you can find carbonated mead. When I make beer, most of the CO2 escapes in the same way, but is added back in during the bottling process by adding a bit of simple syrup for the yeast. This normally takes a couple weeks (or you could skip the yeast in this process and just inject CO2 if you're kegging). Perhaps I'll try adding carbonation to my mead next time.
Anyway, so basically all we have is some honey water with spices and fruits (used mostly for flavor, not fermentation - although it will ferment a bit). I dissolved a whopping 18 lbs of honey into warm water. FYI, 18 lbs of honey is expensive. This was poured into the carboy with more water added to top it off to 5 gallons. I have a degasser that hooks up to an electric drill to make sure the solution is mostly even throughout the carboy. I added 5 sliced oranges, about 2 cups of raisins, 6 cinnamon sticks, and 6 cloves. Joe's recipe calls for bread yeast but I really don't care about emulating the ancients - I just want good mead. So I used a champagne yeast (and a bit of yeast nutrient) to make it a little more dry and a lot clearer than what bread yeast would do. Original gravity was on target at 1.100 (will need this later to calculate ABV).
Three months later the oranges sank to the bottom and it was time to bottle. The smaller circles are actually the raisins covered in a yeast sediment. There is also a lot of sediment on the bottom and some crusted near the top of the carboy - perfectly normal. I decided to just bottle these in regular "beer" bottles so I could distribute to people in smaller batches, so you see I'm in the process of drying them out. The most common concern in making any alcohol is sanitation. You want everything the liquid will come in contact with to be subjected to a sanitizing solution so that the only biological process going on is what your yeast is doing. The yeast will tend to overpower any wild yeast or bacteria that might get into the container, but it will produce off flavors. So we sanitize everything - the carboy, the plastic tubes, the pump, the bottling bucket, the bottles, the caps, the bottle drying rack, etc. The second most common concern is the attraction of wild beasts that enter the environment looking for an ethanol fix.
Fortunately that creature appeared to only have one leg and was easily vanquished. Anyway, there is a lot of stuff floating around this carboy that I would rather not get into the bottles so I siphon it to a bottling bucket first. The mead still ends up a bit cloudy (which is fine) and the occasional piece of orange pulp is probably going to seep in (also fine) but for the most part it is free of debris.
Pretty poor quality cell phone pic, but you can see I snuck a glass while moving to the bottling tank. No matter what you make it will always look darker in your carboy where it is all together and less light ultimately passes through. You can see it was kind of a dark orange in the carboy but ended up pouring more of a straw yellow. The stuff floating on top are raisins which have bloated up to become grape shaped again (and coated in yeasty gook).
Before anyone asks, I have not tried eating any of the fruit that is left over. If it were merely honey wine infused fruit I'm sure it would be delicious, but this is actually fermented fruit that is dusted with a yeast sediment which would give it a nutty flavor and probably a very odd texture.
The only part left now is putting it into bottles and capping them - a long, annoying process that isn't particularly interesting to see in picture form. Also the final gravity was about 1.020 so this mead is about 10.5% ABV, a bit on the low side for wine strength but definitely wine strength (the last beer I made was also this percent, which is somewhat on the high side for beer - and one of the reasons the style is called a barley wine). I ended up with about 40 bottles, so about 880 fluid ounces. That's ~26024 mL, or about 34 wine bottles worth of mead. I brew for the enjoyment of the process (the hobby) and the satisfaction of enjoying my own creation (I guess the yeast had a pretty big role to), but I did recoup a lot of the ~$100 investment in ingredients in a sense. Almost all of that cost was honey, although cinnamon sticks are pretty damn expensive too.