I've made one batch about 3 -4 months ago that I haven't tasted yet.
Unfortunately, I made it on a hunch. I've never actually tried mead before. I like honey in my alcohol - I like the honey bourbons on the market, and I like honey beer recipes, so I figured I'd try mead. Can't find anywhere local to buy it though, so I did a batch myself .
My fear is once I crack open that batch if I DON'T like it I won't know if I just don't like mead, or if I just didn't do a good job of making it .
Either way I learned a good bit in the process. First batch (just 1 gallon) was just pretty plain honey-only mead. I think in another few weeks I'm going to make another 1 gallon batch of vanilla metheglin with some cinnamon sticks added for flavor.
My process was from a VERY basic recipe I found online. Not sure how the results will be, which is why I want to do another batch "properly" to see how it turns out (this one hasn't aged enough to try yet).
Basically, you need: (from memory)
1 gallon spring water
1 box of raisins
3 lbs of honey (preferably unprocessed)
1 packet of yeast (recipe actually calls for bread yeast, though you can use better yeast if you have it)
Pour half the water out of the jug into a clean bowl (or another sanitized jug/bottle if you have one). Fill a large pot with regular tap water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to keep it warm (but not boiling). Sit the honey container in the hot water for a few minutes to make it more viscous. Now, pour the honey into the gallon jug. Out of the bowl/bottle you originally added the spring water to, add it back to the jug until you fill the jug, leaving about 1" of space at the top. Recap the jug, then shake vigorously for 5 minutes to aerate. Remove cap, then add 20-25 raisins and the yeast. Now, take the balloon and with a needle poke a small hole in it. Stretch it across the top of the jug. Sit in a cool, dry place. Within 24 hours the balloon should fill with air and the mixture should be fermenting. Let it sit this way for 7-10 days or until the balloon drops back down. Then take another clean gallon jug, a filter, and a strainer, and transfer the mixture into the second jug, straining it as you do. Once transferred, cap it off with another balloon (no need to poke a hole in this one unless it appears to be growing in size. Let it sit in 2nd jug for 3-6 months before finally bottling.
It's a very, very simple recipe. If you've got the most basic of equipment you can make things easier. Just use a regular glass gallon jug, a stopper, and an airlock instead of the balloon trick. Champagne yeast instead of bread yeast will help too.
What is the bare bones equipment neccesary for (safe) mead making? I know that the ingredients themselves are about as simple as you can get.
Like most wine, you really just need 2 fermentation chambers. The simple recipe I posted above uses plastic water jugs, which is workable and perfectly safe, but if you want to do it the "right" way, it's pretty cheap too. 1 gallon glass jugs typically run $5 each from a homebrew supply shop. The #6 stoppers about $1 each, and the airlocks about $2 each. You'd need two of each of those (for a primary and secondary fermentation), so about $15 there.
Aside from that, if you want to heat the mixture first (which can help the taste and clarity a bit if you do this and skim off the foam that floats to the top) you will need a stainless steel boiling pot, but many people already have those at home for regular cooking. A funnel, strainer, and siphon will help during the transfer between your two chambers too. Those are available from any general store or a homebrew supply, and should run $10-15 for those.
In short, the whole process is very, very light on actual equipment. The ingredients for a single batch will be about half the cost of all the equipment needed.
People have been making alcohol for thousands of years. It's not that complex. Heck my brother used to make homemade wine back in high school. My dad is a drywall worker and so my brother would just get one of the used empty buckets out of my dad's truck and wash it out really well. We had a lot of fruit trees in the back yard anyways, so he'd pick a bunch of blueberries. Throw the berries in the bucket, add in a few cups of sugar, a pack of yeast, and cover it with a tightly stretched t-shirt taped around the top of the bucket (which he kept hidden under the house). He'd poor it (filtering through the t-shirt) into some old bottles and/or mason jars after a week or two. Wasn't actually the most tasty stuff, but it was certainly alcoholic and let him and his friends have an easy source of alcohol available from common everyday items that were just sitting around the house . We're a bit older now - both well past the age needed to just buy our alcohol, but both of us still make a bit of wine here and there (using much cleaner processes now) .
A club member and myself shot some short videos on the last batch of mead he made. With his process your mead is ready to enjoy in as little as 3-4 weeks. Yea that's right. His orange blossom mead that was only 1.5 months old won 2nd place best of show in a recent mead competition. I will post the video link here shortly.
I am looking to try soon, we got a few makers in the brew club (The Lowcountry MALTS) that have connections outside with some local beekeepers. Some great Honey I have tasted from them. My Muscadine wine will be bottle ready about March and will start then. Any of you guys got stuff ready at first of the year should think about "The Domras cup" the Savannah Brewers League puts on each year. Loads of fun.