Mead tools: the hydrometer

We’re going to start a series on mead making tools of the trade that you haven’t seen in your kits. The reason why they’re not in your kits is that you don’t *need* them to make your first, single gallon of mead. But as you branch out, you may find some of these tools either indispensable or really handy.

Standard hydrometer
Standard hydrometer, available in local homebrew stores and online.

We’ve crafted a recipe for you that gives you a sweet mead with an ABV of about 14%. We know that your mead will have that much alcohol because of the first tool of the trade: the hydrometer. A hydrometer measures the sugars in your liquid. You take a reading of your must (which will be high in sugar) then your wine after the sugar has fermented. The difference will tell you how much sugar has turned into alcohol.

If you’re working from a tried-and-true recipe, then whoever crafted the recipe should be able to tell you what the ABV (alcohol by volume) of the final brew will be — as long as you follow that recipe exactly. If you use a different yeast, you could end up with different alcohol strength. A yeast like ours (Cotes de Blanc) will ferment up to about 14%, a champagne yeast can blow right by that and deliver an 18% ABV, and some beer yeasts won’t manage past 8%.

If you start experimenting with mead, then a hydrometer will be a “must have” in your mead making tool kit. Sugar is crucial to fermenting, and the hydrometer will be the tool to let you control it. A hydrometer runs between $5-$10, and will be available at your local homebrew store, and many places online.