The key ingredients for making mead are raw honey, water, yeast, and time (for fermentation). While you might have already used raw honey to make mead, you might be wondering, can you use fermented honey to make mead?
Well, you can use fermented honey to make mead, but since it’s already fermented, it will have some distinct flavors that will alter the taste of your mead. There are a few things you’ll have to keep in mind and tips to follow if you want to use honey that’s already been fermented to make mead. Let’s find out what those are.
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What Is Fermented Honey?
Let’s first talk about what fermented honey really is and how it’s used.
Fermented honey is honey that has already undergone the fermentation process. This means that it still contains its natural yeast, bacteria, and enzymes that, with the addition of water, have converted the sugars in the honey into alcohol.
Fermented honey is always made from raw honey starting out. This is because raw honey hasn’t been pasteurized (which is the process of treating with heat to kill off microorganisms that can cause spoiling). It still has bacteria and yeast, which conduct the whole fermentation process.
The water content of raw honey is less than 20%. This isn’t quite enough for fermentation, so additional water is always a key ingredient necessary for fermenting honey.
You can ferment all kinds of fruits and vegetables in raw honey, from berries and bananas, to ginger and even jalapeños. Directly adding water isn’t needed because the microorganisms responsible for fermenting draw the water they need from the fruits or vegetables themselves.
It takes a more time for fermentation to complete because of this, but the end results are well worth the wait. People often enjoy their honey ferments spread on toast or dissolved into tea. They’re a great, flavorful alternative to plain honey, jams, or even maple syrup (which you actually can also ferment, click here to learn more).
More commonly though, raw honey can be fermented with water to make mead.
How Do You Ferment Honey Into Mead?
Before getting into using honey that’s already been fermented to make mead, let me describe how raw honey is used to make mead.
First, raw honey is blended with water to form what is called a “must.” So, must is basically a honey and water solution.
The must is then pasteurized to kill off any unwanted bacteria that can cause spoilage. Note that not all mead brewers carry out this step, as they believe it removes the honey’s natural flavors.
After that, yeast is added to the must. Remember that the mixture was heated to kill off all bacteria (good and bad), so adding yeast is essential for carrying out fermentation. As I mentioned before, yeast will convert the sugars in the honey into alcohol.
Additional nutrients and oxygen are also added to help the yeast thrive and move the fermentation process along.
Depending on how you want your mead to taste, spices, fruit, grains, hops, or any other ingredient that can impart flavor are also added.
Last is the fermentation step. The mead is left to ferment from anywhere between a few months to years before it’s ready for consumption.
Can I Use Fermented Honey To Make Mead?
Now that you have an idea of the general steps for how mead is made, let’s talk about if you can make mead from honey that’s already been fermented.
The key thing to note is that, since the honey has undergone fermentation, the naturally occurring yeast will already have caused the honey to develop its own flavors (which tend to be sour and a bit funky).
You can definitely work with the sour flavors and make a sour mead. People actually do make sour mead nowadays. Just follow the usual steps for making mead, as I described in the last section. Since you’re working with fermented honey, let me note that the most important step that you should not skip is the pasteurization step.
If your honey is already fermenting, that means that water has already gotten into it somehow. This then means that you have active microorganisms, wanted and unwanted, in the honey. So, be sure to heat up your must (bring it to a boil and let it cook for about 15 minutes) to kill off any existing microorganisms.
Overall, the results can go either way. You can get lucky and make something tasty, or you can end up with something that’s not very palatable.
There’s no harm in experimenting, as I always say, but the safest bet is to use regular honey (not fermented) and an added yeast you know is typically used to make mead.
Hopefully from this article you learned that honey (fermented, and more commonly, not fermented) is used with water and yeast to make mead.
If you have honey that’s already been fermented, you can certainly try using it to make your next batch of mead and see how it turns out. The main thing I recommend if you were to do this is to make sure you pasteurize it beforehand.