Getting Started: Brewing Equipment Needed

  • Stainless Steel Stockpot: Try to get one that can carry 16-20 quarts (15-19L). It is also advised to purchase one with sturdy handles that are attached to the actual pot itself.


  • Thermometer: Try to get a glass thermometer because they float upright in your must so you can read it easily. Just be careful when losing it because if it breaks while in your must then the whole batch is ruined. A good idea is to get a thermometer that ranges from 50 degrees F to 200 degrees F in increments of 10 degrees F or less.


  • Hydrometer: This instruments reads how much sugar is dissolved in the solution using specific gravity. “Pure water at a temperature of 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) has a specific gravity of 1.000. Adding sugar makes the density of the solution-and therefore the specific gravity-rise. When this occurs, the hydrometer floats higher in the solution changing where its scale will be read” (Schramm 28).


  • Plastic fermenter: The plastic fermentation buckets ranges from 5-8 gallons. There should be a hole on the top of the lid for the stopper and airlock. The reason plastic is desired because plastic fermenters won’t break or melt when the hot honey is added. However, if the interior is scratched then there is a potential for bacterial growth.


  • Glass carboy: The carboys come in 5-10 gallon glass bottles that do not scratch easily but if dropped, can break and ruin your batch as well as harm you. This is why some people use rubber carboy handles to ease the lifting and transferring process. Plastic carboys like Better Bottles are made from clear, stain resistant, non-porous PET plastic that’s impermeable to oxygen. Just be careful when cleaning to prevent scratching.


  • Airlocks: These locks provide the barrier that prevents contaminating bacteria or wild yeast from entering the fermenter and mead while allowing carbon dioxide to escape from the actively fermenting mead. The two most common are the Bubbler Air Lock and the Three-Piece Airlock. The Three-Piece Airlock is generally used for primary fermentation because if there is an overactive batch that foams all the way to the top of the fermenter to the airlock, it is easier to clean the separate pieces. In addition the Three-Piece is resistant to “suck-back” where negative pressure in the fermenter causes the third piece to suck down on the gas tube. With the Bubbler, the “suck-back” will draw all the airlock fluid into the wort. The Bubbler is used in the secondary fermentation because it allows a more accurate visualization of carbon dioxide escaping. If you don’t feel like purchasing an airlock or if you’re from the ghetto, insert a hose into the rubber stopper in your fermentation bucket and place the other end into a sanitized jaw filled with fluid (this method is most helpful when you are making a large batch or if your batch has vigorous fermentation). Another tip is to purchase an airlock brush to clean the fermentation residue out of the airlocks.


  • Drilled Rubber Stoppers: This is used to adjoin your fermenter with the airlock. Stoppers No. 6 and 7 work well with 5 gallon carboys. If you are using carboys of a different size consult with the homebrew shop about the stopper size you need.


  • Siphon Hose: You need clear, food-grade vinyl tubing with a 5/16 inch and 3/8 inch inner diameter. It is best to get one that is six feet long so there is leeway when re-racking. It is good to replace the siphon every 6 months to ensure sanitation.


  • Racking Cane: This is a “clear, hard plastic food-grade tubing bent at an angle near one end. The siphon hose fits snugly over the end and the cane is lowered into the mead to be racked, to provide you control over siphoning. This allows you to avoid the sediment pack or fruit residue…” (Schramm 29).
  • Sanitizer: I prefer Star San for the sanitizer. You can buy it in any hombrew shop or website. I tend to buy the 32 oz because I know I will always need this. If you have a deep kitchen sink (preferably two), clean one sink thoroughly (and I mean scrub all that food residue) and then use the drain stopper. Add the Star San and fill that sink with water. You then have a basin designated to sanitizing your equipment.


  • Cleaner: After re-racking your mead, there will be a thick layer of sediment in your carboy. PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) is an alkali cleaner which if left overnight in the carboy, will require no scrubbing the following morning. It is also advised to purchase a carboy brush, preferably 24” long and bent at a 90 degree angle to reach all the corners of the carboy’s interior. There are also brushes that attach to a drill bit to ensure a faster more efficient cleaning method.


  • Bottle Tree: Although you won’t need this when brewing your mead, you will find this useful when it comes time to bottling. Buy one that comes with a carrying handle on top. It makes drying your bottles easier and more efficient.


  1. GotMead
  2. Northern Brewer

Getting Started: Bottling Equipment

Here is a link to the page of shops suggested to purchase brewing equipment.

The following list was found in Ken Schramm’s The Complete Meadmaker:

  1. Bottle Filler: This stops the flow of mead into your bottles as you fill them. They use a valve to cut off the flow, closed either by spring or gravity.


2. Bottle Cappers: There are two different types of cappers-the Bench Capper and Lever Capper. Bench cappers sit on a bench, table, or floor, and press the cap down onto the bottle using a single handle. They are easier to use only wen the bottles are uniform in size. Lever Cappers have two or three claws that squeeze the cap down. However they do not work well on bottles with large diameter necks.

Lever Capper Lever Capper

3. Bottle Brush or Bottle Washer: All bottles should be cleaned prior use. A jet bottle washer attaches to the spigot above your sink and channels the water flow into a copper pipe with a valve. A bottle is pressed upside down over the pipe to release the jet of water. But if you have really dirty bottles then a bottle brush is more suitable.



4. Bottles: 5 gallon batches of mead fill about 53 12oz bottles or 25 750ml Champagne-style wine bottles. American sparkling wine bottles are great to recycle as mead bottles because they will accept a crown cap and can withstand the pressures that build up in a sparkling mead. Avoid using regular wine bottles because if your fermentation is not complete it can result in glass breakage.

Sanitized bottles with some foam

Sanitized bottles with some foam

5. Bottle Caps: Crown caps are the easiest and most economical choice. They come uncrimped.

6. Siphon Pump: Used to transfer beer from kettle to carboy, or carboy to carboy.


However I if you choice to use the corking method rather than capping, then you need the additional following:

  1. Italian Double Lever Corker


  1. Corks: Using corks will allow some oxygen to seem into the bottle, a process that is called micro-oxygenation. This can benefit the flavor of the mead. 


Getting Started: When to Bottle?

It is very important to know when it is the appropriate time to bottle your mead. Because mead ferments slowly, it is possible to bottle mead that still ferments while in the bottle. The mead can become a “sparkling mead” and the fermentation can create enough pressure to cause the glass to break. So please be cautious when bottling.

There are many different methods to determine when your mead is done fermenting.

  • 8 weeks method: Wait a minimum of 8 weeks before you bottle your honey. This method however varies with the type of honey used, amount of honey, and the ingredients used in the recipe. Hence, I recommend other methods first before resorting to this.
  • Airlock method: Once the airlock stops bubbling, wait an additional 2-3 weeks to bottle.
  • Flashlight method: Take a flashlight and shine it through the mead. Check for the clarity of the mead-if there are any particles floating or bubbles traveling in your mead, then it is NOT ready to bottle. Also check if the top and bottom of the mead is clear. If there is still some dead yeast that has settled at the bottom, even after re-racking, then it is still NOT ready to bottle. FYI: this method is not useful for melomels because they tend to be too dark.
  • Chemical Method: Fermentation can be stopped manually through the addition of certain chemicals. Potassium sorbate can be added just before bottling to prevent any additional fermentation from occurring BUT it will not stop an already active fermentation. Potassium metabisulfite (Campden Tablets) prevents wild yeast, bacteria growth, and oxidation in your mead.
  • The Specific Gravity Method: This is the most scientific and accurate method to determine if fermentation has stopped. This requires an original gravity (OG) reading and a present gravity reading. When the specific reading falls to about 0.1 of the original reading, then it is time to bottle. Another way is to multiply the OG by the rate of the attenuation of your yeast (which is on the yeast packet) and subtract that result from the OG. That number is your target gravity (TG). Then take a current gravity reading of your mead. If that gravity reading is the same as the TG, then it is time to bottle.


  1. Target/Final Gravity Question
  2. To Bottle or Not To Bottle?
  3. Mead-Lovers FAQ
  4. How to Halt the Ferment of Mead

Storing Mead

“Store mead in a cool, dark place.” – (insert reference of choice)

Is that it? After all that meticulous brewing, does it all boil down to one final simple step? In a sense yes it does. But despite the step’s simplicity there are other factors to consider that can ruin the quality of your mead that you’ve worked so hard for.

A general rule of thumb is to consume your mead within 3 days after opening. If you’ve recorked it then you have about a week before spoilage. However there is no set timeframe of how long a mead can last before its flavors are altered. Afterall each mead depends on the quality of the honey.

When using corks, place the bottles upright immediately after bottling for two days to let the cork harden. Then place them on the side to keep the cork wet to prevent the cork from shrinking and drying out. If that occurs oxygen can enter and ruin your mead. If you waxed over the cork bottle then you can store it upright. For still meads, place the mead in a 55-70 degree F setting.

blog pic

Growing Hops


  • Type of plant: Humulus lupulus: A perennial twining plant with annual vines that produce flowers called cones. When planting you use a rhizome (piece of root taken from a mature plant).  You cannot grow hops from seeds!
  • Season: spring-beginning of summer. Hops are a perennial plant.


  • When to Order Hops

Farms harvest the rhizomes in March and April. Some stores will allow you to pre-order them.

Links to order hop rhizomes:

  1. Adventures in Homebrewing (Begin shipping in April)
  2. Freshops (For domestic US shipping only)
  3. MoreBeer (Rhizome Pre-order sale)
  4. Northern Brewer (Can’t ship to HI, AK, WA, ID)
  5. Northwest Hops (Very early shipping, usually late-february to mid March)
  6. Williamette Valley Hops 
  • How to Store Hops Before Planting

Upon receiving the hops, refrigerate them (not below freezing temp) and ensure that they are well-ventilated.

  • Picking a Location

Southern exposure is the ideal choice because hops need 6-8 hours of sunshine a day. But if that’s not possible then east and west exposure will work but the cones will not be as large. The soil should be light-textured and allow for drainage. You aerate the soil by turning it over several times.  Typically the pH is 6.0-8.0. You should fertilize the soil liberally before planting. Ensure that the soil is rich in phosphates, nitrogen, and potassium. The soil should contain 20-30% organic matter like compost or dehydrated cow manure. Zymurgy advised to apply 5 lbs of fertilizer per 100 square feet once in the early spring and then 6 weeks later. Choose a place with a lot of space. Hops can grow up to 1 foot/day. Also make sure that there is protection against strong winds because they may break the vines.


  • How to Plant

Plant hops in the spring so you avoid the winter frost. Rhizomes can be planted vertically or horizontally but it is advised to place the root side of the rhizome faced down. But if there are buds already starting to show, ensure that they are kept pointing upward. Place the rhizomes about 4 inches deep. You can cover the soil with straw or light mulch to inhibit weed growth and help retain moisture in the soil. This part of the plant that is under the soil is called the crown and the vines shoot off the crown.

For mixed variety plants, give 5 feet between plants. You want this distance because hops roots grow very quickly and take control of the field they’re in unless you separate them and trim the roots each season. You trim the roots by taking a spade and cutting around the rhizome to trim the roots back about 1 foot. This is done in spring. For identical varieties give 3 feet distance between plants.

  • Taking Care of Your Hops

Hop vines (aka: bines) can grow as tall as 25 feet so it’s preferred to plant next to an arbor, fence, post, or trellis. You can also place a stake in the ground, tie a string or twine to a hook and make a line. Try to use a plastic twine/string since it is less susceptible to rotting caused by the sun and moisture. When the bines are 1 foot in length you can begin wrapping the bine around the string/twine and it will continue to grow from east to west around the twine (this is why hop vines are called bines!) Do not do this during a cool or cloudy day because the shoots are brittle at that time and may snap. Instead wait for a warm sunny day (particularly in the afternoon) since the shoots are more pliable then. Remember that year after year you will want to reinforce your trellising because it may have weaken from the weather, environment, or just by time.

Mag, from Perm’s Brew Pick and More designed this growth system. For other inspirations just google “hops trellis”.

In dry climates or a very hot summer the hops may need to be watered daily. But too much watering can cause the rhizome to rot. During the first year, the young hops have a small root system so they require frequent watering. 

It takes about 125 frost-free days before the bines produce flowers. Healthy bines will produce about 1-2lbs of dried flowers.

After the first year of growing the hops, the initial shoots should be pruned off because they are not very strong. The second pair of shoots that spring up are the sturdier second growth. After choosing 3-4 bines from the second growth, prune the other bines at the stem of the base so that all the nutrients are directed into going to the 3-4 main bines.

  • Diseases to Watch Out For

Pseudoperonospora humuli (downy mildew) is the main disease to watch out for. The mildew occurs in spring. The bines will look brittle and spikey and will stop growing. Curled underleaves with a silvery upper surface and black underside is another sign of mildew. When you see these leaves you must remove them immediately lest the mildew spreads. Crown infection can lead to crown death and plant death. Bud infections will lead to poor plant vigor. Vine infections will spike the growing point. Downy mildew is caused by having too much moisture trapped in the leaves. Therefore using sprinklers are a bad idea, rather use drip irrigation so that the water is going directly to the roots while the foliage remains dry. Prevent mildew by stripping leaves off the bottom 3 feet of the bine. However rainy weather can also cause mildew and that is a factor hard to control. Thus some growers use a fungicide (anything containing copper hydroxide) to provide protection against mildew. Hop varieties more susceptible to mildew are Cascade and Williamette. Nugget and Pearle hops are hardly at risk for mildew.

Verticillum wilt (wilt) damages hops because it reduces water and nutrient flow throughout the entire plant.  A sign of wilt are leaves with dull green tissue alternating with yellow bands. Remove the leaves immediately to prevent the spread of infection. You can also use fungicides with copper hydroxide to prevent wilt.

Verticillium wilt (Verticillium albo-atrum ) on common hop (Humulus lupulus ) - 5394163

Phorodon humuli (hop aphid) are translucent pale green bugs that reproduce very quickly and are usually spotted on the leaves underside. Once the eggs hatch they will spread to all parts of the bines. Hop aphids appear in cool weather. Remove the aphids by using an insecticidal soap or any other organic insecticide. However take care of noting the waiting time required by most insecticides. For example Diazinon requires a 14 day waiting period between spraying and harvesting. A more natural alternative to insecticides are using ladybugs- the aphid predator. MoreBeer suggests refrigerating the ladybugs so that they will be forced to use energy to stay warm. After a day release the hungry ladybugs on the bines. Or you can plant Golden Marguerite flowers that attract ladybugs.

Tetranychus urticae (spider mites) come out during the warm weather. Barely visible to the naked eye, a sign to watch for are fine white webs under leaves and small freckle-like spots on the top of leaves. Defoliation and red, rust colored cones are other signs. Since spider mites like the warmth, they will affect the top of the bines first and then work their way down. The insecticide used for aphids will also work for spider mites. Or a more organic way is to buy praying mantis as spider mites are their natural prey.



  • Harvesting Time

Harvest around late August/September. The first harvest usually yields very little because the plant is trying to first establish a crown and root system. Hops do not reach their peak harvest until the second year. Test its ripeness by squeezing a cone by your fingers. If the cone is damp, very green, and stays compressed after squeezing then it is not yet ready to harvest. The cone is ripe when it dries out and it re-expands to its shape. There will also be more lupulin (yellow powder) in the cone and will be very sticky. The hop aromas will also be more pronounced. Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Fuggle, and Saaz varieties ripen faster than Cascade, Willamette, Nugget, Bullion, and Spalt.

When you harvest, cut the string/twine and guide the bines to the ground. The bines will begin to dry and the sap will return to the roots for winter storage. You can then pick the cones off. If the hops don’t ripen at the same time then harvest each cone as it ripens.

After harvesting cut the bines back 3 feet. The winter frost will kill off the bines, and after which you can cut the bines further back and cover them until spring.

  • Drying Hops & Storage

Hops are 70% moisture when ripe, but only 10% when dried to the equivalent of commercial hops. Use a food dehydrator and dry your hops for several hours. They are ready when you split the hop and it is dried on the inside.  It will feel papery and the petals will break off in the end.  You can also dry the hops in the oven at very low temperature (It should not exceed 140 degrees F). Or you can place the hops on a screen and let them dry OUT of direct sunlight and in an enclosed area to keep bugs out. Another common technique is placing the hops in a brown paper bag and allowing them to dry there for a week or two.

If cones are not properly dried, they become moldy, wilted, or even rancid and cannot be used for brewing. Take care not to overdry hops to the point where the petals and stem shatter in your hand when you open the cone. You will lose the hop’s Alpha Acid Content (the level of bitterness ). Familiarize yourself with the Alpha Acid Content of your breed of hops and depending on that level, you may want to use store bought hops designed for their alpha acid content.

After drying, store the hops in an airtight container (to reduce oxidation) and place them in the freezer or refrigerator (depending on how soon you plan on using them). Most suggest using a ziploc plastic bag and filling that bag to the top with hops to ensure no oxidation.

  • Testing Alpha Acid Content

You can send your hops to a lab that will test for the alpha acid content. However this usually costs between $20-$30. The following links are labs that will do this:

  1. Brew Laboratory
  2. Siebel Institute of Technology (located in White Labs in San Diego)

Dr. Leonard Perry from University of Vermont released a guide on how to perform a home test to check the alpha acid content of homegrown hops. He uses phenolphthalein as the indicator.

Additional Resources

Hops: Organic Production (free digital pdf from National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service)

HopsTV (link to Youtube Channel for

Hop Varieties for Beer Brewing (Includes the alpha acid content linked to each variety)

How to Grow Hops (Offers a list of hops and their desired growth location)

Instructions on How to Grow Hops (Midwest Supplies PDF)

Managing Powdery Mildew of Hops in the Northeast (PDF from the University of Vermont Extension Program)

Small Scale and Organic Hops Production (free pdf from Adventures in Homebrewing)

The Two Spotted Spider Mite in the Northeast Hopyard


BeerSmith Growing Hops in the Garden

Brewing Techniques Hops in the Garden

Hop Downy Mildew 

MoreBeer Growing Your Own Hops

Zymurgy In the Backyard

Getting Started: The Racking Process

Racking is defined as transferring mead from one fermenter/carboy to another. It is important to rack the mead in order to filter out the spent yeast, to separate mead from fruits and herbs, and to clarify the mead.

Racking Steps:

1. Sanitize empty carboy, stopper, airlock, siphon hose, and racking cane. (Tip: We use the dishwasher to store the bottles and fermenter during brewing to free up some counter space in the kitchen)


2. Position the fermenter on a tabletop/counter and the empty carboy on a chair or floor to let gravity move the mead.

3. Attach the hose to the racking cane and begin siphoning your mead from the fermenter to the empty carboy. Pay attention to the bottom of the racking cane to ensure that no spent yeast is being siphoned.

IMG_6064 IMG_6061

4. Use your hydrometer to measure the specific gravity. The must should have fallen to about 1.030 or less.

5. Place the stopper and airlock and return the mead to the cool, dry place.