Debatable Brewers' Recipes: Lemon-Ginger Mead

(brewed June 16, 1998)

(preliminary recipe)

Ingredients (for five gallons):

Start the water boiling. Start the yeast packet in a clean (preferably disinfected) glass according to the packet instructions.

(You can disinfect many things by soaking them in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of plain bleach for each gallon of water. Soak everything for 15 minutes, then rinse it off in clean running water. Or you can use a commercial disinfectant such as Iodophor. Iodophor has the advantage of not needing to be rinsed after soaking, though it is much more expensive and harder to find than ordinary bleach.)

Zest the lemons (clean them, then cut the yellow outside bit off of the white pith) and juice them. Clean the ginger and grate it (we used a food processor).

When the water is boiling, put 1/2 gallon of it in separate pot, and add the ginger and lemon zest. Simmer this. Meanwhile, add the honey to the rest of the water, and bring it back up just to a simmer. Then lower the heat. The idea is to hold it at about 190 degrees F. for 15 mins. to half an hour. Add the lemon juice for the last bit of simmering.

Combine together the honey-water and lemon-ginger-water mixture, and dump it in a clean, disinfected, plastic fermenter. (Don't strain out the lemon or ginger.) Cool it to body temperature or cooler (we used an immersion cooler). Then pitch the yeast in. Put the lid on the fermenter and a disinfected water lock into the hole in the lid. Set the fermenter in a cool, dark place.

In a day, the yeast should have formed a big frothy head on the must (the honey-water liquid). After about a week or so, this should have largely subsided. When this happens, rack the must into a secondary fermenter.

To do this, get a bit of cheese cloth; about a foot square is good. Put it in a pan with some water and heat it to boiling. Meanwhile, find a new clean rubber band. Also get a hold of a clean siphon tube, or better yet tube and cane combination. And, of course, a glass secondary fermenter (plastic is okay, but glass is much better), with a rubber stopper and fermentation lock that fits the stopper. Disinfect all of this stuff. Take the cheese cloth, fold it into a six-inch square (in quarters), wrap it around the end of the siphon tube or racking cane, and rubber-band it a couple inches up from the end. (Make sure it is not too tight against the end). Then let this soak for just a bit more.

Get the siphon ready to use, sticking the cheese-cloth-end into the liquid in the primary. Carefully siphon off most of the liquid from the primary bucket into the secondary, trying to avoid picking up any of the chunky scrungy stuff on the bottom. Don't be to greedy about getting every last ounce. Put the stopper and water lock on the secondary, and put this some place cool.

(A hint about siphoning. I used to start my siphon by sticking my dirty, bacteria infected mouth on the clean siphon tube and sucking liquid up. Now what I do is fill the tube about 3/4 full of water, keeping the bottom end closed, and putting the top (unfilled) end into the mead (or whatever) I want to siphon. Then I just hold the bottom end down and run out the first bit into a glass until the siphon has only mead in it. Then pinch it off at the bottom, stick this into the secondary, and release. This starts the siphon every time, and doesn't risk infecting the mead in the process.)

When the liquid in the secondary is pretty much clear (not cloudy any more), it will be ready to rack again and then bottle. You won't need to use the cheese cloth for this racking; it was only used to keep the chunky stuff out of the siphon tube. Rack the mead into a clean container (such as the primary bucket), and then bottle it from out of this. (While it seems like you could bottle directly from the secondary, that risks picking up too much of the scum from the bottom, so it really isn't a good idea.)

On the morning after we made this, the batch had a specific gravity of 1.070.

This is a mutation of Digbie's Weak Honey Drink [Digbie], made with slightly more honey, and allowed to ferment out all the way.


Digbie, K, The Closet of the eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie, kt., Opened..., 1669, in Miscellany from D. Friedman & E. Cook

Tofi Kerthjalfadsson, guildmaster, BMDL Brewers' Guild.
pwp+ (AT) cs dot cmu dot edu