Orange Spiced short mead – drinkable in 3 weeks

There are many different types and styles of mead – so many that it can be very confusing to the beginning mazer, as can all the different equipment needed. For a complete novice, it can be intimidating to know where to start – especially as on the whole, mead-making isn’t a hobby that yields fast results. It needs patience and planning; most meads aren’t drinkable much before 6 months, and the longer you age them the better they get.

The answer? Short mead – a type of mead that is brewed quickly for fast consumption. The mazer Jo Matteoli came up with one particular recipe that has become exceptionally popular on the internet due to all the ingredients being readily available in most supermarkets and yielding a good tasty mead in only 3 weeks with no specialist equipment needed.

The original recipe can be found here on the GotMead site (a very good resource for all mead mzers, novice and experienced alike), but I’ve modified the recipe slightly to make a smaller quantity.

Orange Spiced Short Mead

This recipe will make a total of 2 litres of mead, drinkable in 3 weeks.

Equipment & ingredients

Ready to start brewing.

You will need the following:

  • A clean plastic 2-litre bottle suitable for food use – an empty 4-pint milk bottle is just perfect.
  • 2 x 340g bottle/jars of clear honey
  • Half an orange
  • A dessert-spoonful of raisins (about 12-15), washed
  • Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
  • A balloon
  • Warm water
  • Yeast – I’m using Young’s all-purpose dried active yeast for wine and beer-making.

The first thing to do is to make sure everything is clean; any dirt or organisms on the equipment or in the fermentation bottle will thrive in your mead and contaminate it. This is one of the most important things to remember when brewing; the only thing you want to grow in your mead is the yeast! So you have to keep everything clean – and keep unwanted contminants out whilst it’s brewing. Normally this is done using an airlock, but for brewing such a small batch of mead we’re going to use a balloon.

Must preparation

Making the must

First, pour a couple of pints of warm water into your fermentation container, then add your honey. Put the lid on tightly, then give it a good shake to dissolve the honey into the water; this is the first stage in making the “must” which is what we’re going to ferment to turn into mead.

Now, take half an orange and cut it into small segments; add them to the must, along with your spices – a cinnamon stick or small pinch of powdered cinnemon, a small pinch each of allspice and nutmeg. You could add one or two whole cloves, but no more as a little goes a long way.

Honey isn’t very nutritious where yeast is concerned, so you also need to add the dessert-spoon of raisins – this gives the yeast a little extra to feed on. Wash them thoroughly before adding them to the must. Top up to the 2-litre mark with warm water, then add half a teaspoon of dried active yeast. I’m using Young’s all-purpose brewing yeast, but you should get good results with pretty much any wine or beer yeast – even baking yeast will do if that’s all you have. This is a pretty unfussy recipe that’s pretty much foolproof.

Must with balloon airlock

Must with balloon airlock

Cap the bottle then give it a thorough shake to aerate the must and give the yeast plenty of oxygen to work with. Now take the balloon and carefully prick 2-3 holes in the top. Uncap the bottle and stretch the neck of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle; this is going to be your airlock. The holes in the rubber allow carbon dioxide generated by the yeast to escape without letting in airborne contaminants.

Set it in a warm place and within an hour or two the balloon should inflate and a foam develop on the top of the must as the yeast gets to work and gives off carbon dioxide. If the balloon seems to be inflating too much, carefully add a couple more holes with a pin, being careful not to burst it. The foam will steadily subside over the next couple of days; set in a dark warm place and leave it to ferment quietly by itself. Check the balloon every so often; sometimes the rubber can perish and will need replacing. Over the next couple of weeks the mead will start to clear naturally; at the end of 3 weeks you should be able to siphon off a dark golden clear mead that’s ready for drinking straight away – or you can rack it into a clean bottle or demijohn and let it carry on maturing for another couple of months.

3 meads

3 meads - l to r: Orange SPiced short mead, Orange Blossom mead, Chocolate mead

 

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About arkadyrose

Genderqueer artist, singer, musician, writer, tailor, mead-mazer and doll crafter living in Walthamstow, NE London. Periodically develop obsessions with various topics; currently it's Paganini, previously Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great, but also fascinated by Ancient Egypt and Romano-British culture. Christo-Pagan.
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54 Responses to Orange Spiced short mead – drinkable in 3 weeks

  1. Petra says:

    Wait… CHOCOLATE mead?

  2. byrneeoinm says:

    Evening, folks. What sort of percentage of alcohol will this have after three weeks? Thanks.

    • arkadyrose says:

      Usually between 8-10% ABV, depending on what yeast you use. I’ve gotten up to 15% ABV using Young’s Superyeast.

  3. Looks interesting. I think I may try this idea. How does it fully ferment in just a few weeks though? The ingredients are the same as most other meads and they can take 9 months to be drinkable. Will it really work? šŸ™‚

    • arkadyrose says:

      If you try a Google for “spiced orange mead”, most results will be this recipe, with a few variations. It’s a “short” or “sack” mead that’s designed to be drinkable in only a short space of time, and yes – it’s perfectly drinkable in just a few weeks, mainly because you do it in small batches but pitching in a similar amount of yeast you’d use for a gallon, so it does finish fermenting much faster. If you leave it racked and bottled longer then it gets much smoother, but if you want something quick and easy – for an upcoming LARP event, say – then it works pretty well.

      • Thanks. I’ve just popped a batch in (I tend to buy pre-ready packs of yeast do I’ve used half a packet). Seems to be frothing away quite happily but my makeshift airlock isn’t inflating. Maybe I put too many holes in, not sure.

        Thanks for posting this recipie anyway. I’ll post and let you know how it works out for me šŸ™‚

      • arkadyrose says:

        I generally find just running the needle through the balloon – making just two holes – is all you need; more than that and it won’t inflate properly. Keep an eye on the balloon; CO2 causes rubber to degrade, so when the balloon deflates you’ll need to check it hasn’t developed a hole anywhere and needs replacing.

  4. scott says:

    Just racked this into secondary.
    Personally, I think there is too much orange. At the moment, the mead tastes…..strange and has a off orange smell.
    So looks like this will be sitting around for a while to mellow out some.
    A positive though! Started at 1070 and finished at 1000!!! 8% mead? yes please šŸ˜€

  5. MV says:

    When you rack it, do you put a balloon over the new bottle that the mead has been racked into, or do you close the bottle with a cap? After the first couple of weeks of fermentation, I’m thinking of racking the mead for at least two months before drinking it.

    • arkadyrose says:

      I put a balloon over the top as I find racking sometimes starts a little fermentation off again. I only cap when a fresh balloon has stayed uninflated for a week. Haven’t had a single demijohn (or bottle) explode yet thanks to just a little caution! šŸ™‚

  6. MV says:

    One more question – have you ever added sulphite tablets to the mead when you rack it? If yes, then what is the quantity per liter that you would use? I’m a little worried that since the orange is floating on top and is exposed to ‘air’, it might have gone off a bit…

  7. Karen Boyd says:

    I started a couple of batches based loosely on this recipe a week ago – one plain with just orange zest and a little mixed spice for interest, and one spiced one replacing a quarter of the honey with chopped preserved ginger, and adding a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves. They’re currently fizzing away cheerfully in a corner of my flat.

    • Karen Boyd says:

      … and over three weeks later they’re still merrily fermenting away and showing no signs of calming down. Should I just leave them another week or try to stop fermentation?
      FWIW I used a baking yeast as that was what was available.

      • arkadyrose says:

        Depends how strong you want your mead really; by now it should be about 10%ABV, if you leave it a week it’ll be about 12-13%. How long it takes isn’t an exact science – it can vary depending on the amount of sugar in the dried fruit and the orange juice, the precise variety of yeast used (most baking yeasts are a blend of two or three types, so you could have got one that gets REALLY ENTHUSIASTIC!! when there’s plenty of sugar) and even the weather. I’d be inclined to leave it another week unless you want to stop at a lower ABV.

  8. Skegg says:

    Would just like to say a massive cheers for creating this guide, I’ve always wanted to brew my own mead ever since tasting the lindisfarne mead the monks brewed on holy island years ago! It’s been 3 weeks and the balloon had been deflated a couple of days so I decided to syphon it out and have a taste and I can’t believe it’s worked haha so proud going to let it continue in it’s new bottle for a week or so and give it a proper tasting!

    Skal!

  9. sam says:

    How to I check the ABV? Do I need a hydrometer as well? Also does anyone know how to add carbonation or give it a sparkling like taste?
    Thanks!

    • arkadyrose says:

      You’ll need a hydrometer to calculate ABV. You’d need to take a specific gravity reading at the start and again at the end to calculate ABV. If you want a sparkling mead you’ll need to use a champagne yeast such as EC-118.

  10. Jamie L says:

    So I made two of these batches in early and mid February for my birthday party in late March, and they’re both coming along fantastically! I used the straight orange batch for the first one, and then I decided to switch it up and use a couple of apples for the second one to make a cyser.

    Good lord, they’re both turning out gorgeous. The orange batch is light and citrus-y, and the cyser has that unmistakeable apple mouth-feel that blends really well with the honey. But since I had to take out about half an apple’s worth of pieces over the fermentation process (the original two apples took up nearly a third of the half-gallon!), I’ll stick a fresh apple in there next week to get more of the apple taste back.

    Thank you for the reduced recipe! (I’ve also got a full batch of Joe’s Ancient Orange waiting in my room. Can’t wait for it to finish up after I’m done with these two batches!)

  11. Pingback: Make A Mean Mead: Honey Mead Recipes

  12. William says:

    Umm i have a question… I didn’t think about it but i modified the ingredients for 1 liter. But i stil put in a half teaspoon of breadyeast. Is it ok or should i do something.

  13. Chillzee says:

    Is it possible to brew a gallon of mead in around the same amount of time?

    • arkadyrose says:

      Not really – it may have finished fermenting, but it wouldn’t really be drinkable in my experience. The larger the volume of mead you’re brewing in a single container, the longer it’s going to take to reach drinkable stage. After only 3 weeks, a gallon batch is going to taste pretty raw. It’ll need another 2-3 weeks minimum to mellow, depending on how sweet it is.

  14. Chris says:

    HI, thanks for this post,I never made mead before and I think this is the good recipie to start.
    I therefor have few questions before starting:

    1: You explained that the raisins will help feeding the yeast, but what about the oranges and the spices? Are there really important to make a drinkable mead in 3 weeks or is is just for the taste? (Because I also wanted to try a mead without orange taste or even try differents fruits).

    2: In the last comment, you explain that making a bigger ammount would take few weeks more to reach drinkable stage (even if it may have finished fermenting). Do you just let the mead in the same bottle with the ballon for few weeks more when the fermenting is over or do you have to change the bottle and close it?

    3: I would like to bottle my mead once it is ready (just to keep it and I heard it could only get better with time). I wanted to know what is the process to bottle the mead. I read somewhere that I could do it like this: When the mead stop fermenting (the baloon stop inflating) I put the mead in an other bottle in the fridge (to kill the rest of yeast still alive) for few days and then i can bottle it. I have at my place a capper machine (for beers) would it works for mead?
    Is this method ok or is it totally wrong?

    Sorry for this long comment and thanks you for your answers.
    Sorry about the mistakes, English isnt my native language.

    • arkadyrose says:

      The orange is important both for the citric acid content and also for the fruit sugars. The spices are purely for flavour. You could use limes or lemons instead but they won’t have the same sugar content. You can make other fruit meads (melomels) but they won’t necessarily be ready in the same short period of time; some fruit meads need much longer than others for the flavours to emerge fully, and some fruit meads can taste very raw without maturing.

      My comments about larger batches assumed the brewer would be using demijohns or a fermenting bucket; a larger volume of liquid will take longer to finish fermenting. If you’re simply making it in lots of milk cartons then each batch should be ready in the same amount of time. What you’re describing is termed “racking off” where you siphon the mead off from the lees (the dead yeast that settles at the bottom of the brewing container) but you generally use an airlock (another balloon in this case) as secondary fermentation can still go on for a while.

      Fermentation stops when all the yeast is dead and the balloon is deflated; there will be nothing to “kill off”. You only need to worry about killing the yeast if you want a milder mead – the recipe yields a pretty strong mead (depending on the yeast used, I’ve had some batches that reached 14% ABV). If you wanted something around the 4-5% level you could refridgerate the mead after 2 weeks, but it would need further maturing to be drinkable and end up with a far sweeter mead.

      What you bottle the mead in is entirely up to you. As a general rule I bottle show meads and most metheglyns in clear glass wine bottles, darker fruit melomels in green glass wine bottles and braggot (beer-style mead brewed with hops and malt) and coffee mead in beer bottles, but that’s purely a matter of personal choice. If you have beer bottles and a capper then that’s perfectly fine for bottling meads that are likely to be drunk within a year. If you’re intending to keep it to mature in a bottle for more than a year you really need to use a proper wine bottle with cork however.

  15. Chris Webber says:

    Can I use Citric Acid and coriander instead of an orange?

    • arkadyrose says:

      No, because citric acid and coriander don’t contain any additional sugars for the yeast to feed on. The orange isn’t just for flavour and acidity; you need the pulp for the additional fructose. You could make a coriander metheglyn (spiced mead), but that won’t be ready in 3 weeks even with a small batch like this. FWIW, I’ve never needed to add citric acid to any of my show meads (straight mead with just honey, water & yeast) or metheglyns (spiced/herbed mead).

  16. Nate McConnell says:

    About what room temperature should we keep it in while fermenting? It just says warm place.
    Is there a too hot or too cold? What would be ideal?

    • arkadyrose says:

      I generally store mine in the airing cupboard, but anywhere between 10C-30C is fine. The warmer it is, the faster fermentation will take place. Basically, if it’s warm enough for bread dough to rise, it’s perfect for fermentation. šŸ˜‰

  17. Nikki says:

    A couple of quick questions

    1) Can I add fruit puree to my mead (such as strawberry or blackberry)?

    2) How would fruit impact the fermentation time?

    3) Is there a general weeks per gallon rule for fermentation? How can I tell when it is ready?

  18. Nikki says:

    Sorry, one more question! Does this mead need to be stored in the fridge when it is done fermenting?

  19. Love this recipe, especially the short turn-around time. Seems like everything else online requires 6 months of waiting — not much fun when you’re a beginner and not even sure if it’s going to come out. So I’m in Afghanistan where booze is in short supply, and cranking out my first bottles using this recipe (adapted for 1.5 L. water bottles, which are prevalent here). Was wondering if you’d found any fun variations on this that you could suggest. Thanks for the great recipe!

  20. Mark says:

    Good morning, your mead page was forwarded to me by a friend who has successfully made different meads using your recipe and tweaks of it. I am on my way out to get the ingredients to start making my own. So thank you for this info and also the additional comments and replies, which are fantastic and really helpful. My only question is the use of airlocks. I am going to follow the 2 litre recipe but do it in demijohns. Do you use balloons as it is easier to see when its stopped fermenting.? My amazing wife bought me two demijohns and airlocks for Christmas. We both love mead so her ears must have pricked up when i mentioned the 3 week recipe šŸ™‚

    • arkadyrose says:

      No, in my own brewing I use demijohns and airlocks; the initial recipe and set-up uses balloons as it’s an introduction to mead-making for someone who wants to try it out without wanting to splash out on a load of brewing equipment right at the start. If you already have demijohns and airlocks then you should certainly use them – although it’s easier to see when fermenting is done, the CO2 offgassed by the yeast does cause the rubber in balloons to degrade so you have to check the balloon often in case it needs replacing. Though you could have the best of both worlds if you have a one-piece bubbler-style airlock – just pop it over the top “cup” of the airlock and wait until it goes flat! If you’re using clear glass or plastic demijohns you can usually tell at a glance if it’s done or not though – when fermentation has finished, all the dead yeast will flocculate – i.e. settle to the bottom of the demijohn as sediment, leaving the mead clear. If the mead is still cloudy after sitting for 24-48 hours in a still place then it’s not done yet.

  21. mbeck614 says:

    Could I add more fruit for more flavoring into the mead in this recipe? If so, when should that be done?

  22. Sean Crossey says:

    Odd question but one that I hope will make you smile – have you found the interaction on this post has increased since the release of Skyrim, Game Of Thrones and Vikings? šŸ™‚

    • arkadyrose says:

      Well, Skyrim came out long before I started this blog. I’ve not really noticed much increase in traffic since “Game Of Thrones” started; I’ve had more traffic since a couple of archaeology blogs posted links to my recipes to tie in with “Vikings”, so I guess I’ve indirectly gained traffic! Mostly I get email from re-enactment and LARP folks. šŸ™‚

  23. Telvaren says:

    Hi Arkadyrose,

    Thank you for the wonderful receipe, please bear with the newbie questions!

    I have my first ever brew in my cupboard at the moment. It has been three weeks and the balloon (which I have replaced a few times just in case) is still completely inflated and still fizzing away. I used Youngs yeast, and the amount you said but just not sure what to do! It isn’t very clear yet either.

    Any advice would be greatly received.

    Tel

    • arkadyrose says:

      It sounds like the yeast perhaps took a little while to really get started, or perhaps the orange juice had a particularly high amount of fructose which the yeast is feeding on. It’s still in primary fermentation, so I’d recommend just tucking it away and checking again in another week or two. When brewing, to be honest the longer you leave it the better anyway – you’ll know when fermentation is done, as that’s when the balloon will go flat and the yeast will settle out.

  24. Reva Callaway says:

    I have one quick question…how do you sanitize the balloon? Or would it not need it, because it doesn’t actually touch the mead.

  25. Madalin says:

    Newbie question here: can I get away with using less honey? I’m asking because 680g seem to be a lot for a 2-litre bottle. Also, can I swap the orange for a grapefruit?
    Thanks!

    • arkadyrose says:

      No, you can’t; that amount of honey is specified because that’s the amount you’ll need. And I wouldn’t advise using the grapefruit – for a start, the flavour is completely different, it’s a much more sour fruit. It’s also larger than an orange with different amounts of fructose. If you’ve not made mead before then I wouldn’t recomment monkeying around with the recipe straight out the gate unless you actually have some experience of brewing and have some idea what changing proportions etc will do to the finished result.

  26. Gail says:

    We made 2 batches yesterday but there is no sign of any bubbling through the airlock a yet. There is some foaming in top of Barth batches. Sitting around 23 to 25’C. How long would it normally take for the fermentation to start. Thanks.

    • arkadyrose says:

      If there’s foaming, then fermentation’s already started; how long it takes for bubbling through the airlock depends on how airtight the seal is between the bung and the demijohn mouth, and around the airlock itself, and also on how much of a gap there is between the liquid and the top of the demijohn. If there’s a lot of headspace then it’ll take a while for the CO2 to build up enough to start bubbling through.

  27. Steele says:

    I’ve done a recipe similar to this but I didn’t have enough honey so I just used the 12 Oz bear honey I had and after a full day it hasn’t seemed to ferment and the balloon hasn’t started inflating, could you tell me what I might’ve done wrong?

    • arkadyrose says:

      Sounds like the yeast didn’t activate properly so the fermentation stalled. I’d suggest getting the yeast started by putting it in a jar with a teaspoon of sugar and half-fill with warm water (no more than blood temperature or it’ll kill off the yeast). Mix thoroughly then leave for half an hour until it has activated and there’s a froth on top, then pitch your yeast into the wort (the mix of honey, orange juice and water) before putting on the balloon. Some yeasts just need to be activated before adding, even when they’re branded as being “instant activation” – particularly if the yeast is a little old and has been hanging around in a cupboard for a while. šŸ˜‰

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