Does Mead Go Bad?

Mead or honey wine is a traditional Polish drink made from fermented honey, a host of fruits and spices, yeast, and water. Sometimes, mead is made with hops or other grains. This drink has a distinct pale to deep yellow color and an alcoholic content of 3.5% to more than 20%, depending on the brew. This drink can be carbonated, naturally sparkling, dry, sweet, or semi-sweet. Does mead go bad?

Since mead is an alcoholic beverage, it should have self-preserving properties. But just like most drinks, mead will start developing a funky flavor if an opened bottle has been stored for a long time. That’s because mead is a fermented drink. It needs stable temperature and the right humidity level to retain its quality. This is the reason why storing the drink properly is important if you want to extend the shelf life of this drink.

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How to Store Mead?

If a bottle of mead has been stored properly and it’s unopened, mead can last for decades in storage. It’s a fermented drink so its quality won’t degrade as long as the container is not leaking. In fact, the flavor of the drink will become even more robust during storage.

An opened bottle of mead is best stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and sources of heat. We do not recommend storing a bottle of mead in the kitchen where the temperature fluctuates. There is a good chance that the bottle will explode if left sitting in a warm room. If you are storing mead at room temperature, be sure that it’s sealed or unopened.

Leaving a leaky bottle of mead sitting at room temperature will lead to oxidation. When the mead is exposed to air, it will start losing its fizzy quality. Eventually, the drink will lose its flavor too. If left exposed to the elements for longer periods of time, the drink will take on a funky, bitter flavor. It could also turn cloudy or take on an odd color.

Opened bottles of mead are best chilled in the fridge. The chilly temperature will preserve the drink without altering its fizzy quality. However, the bottle should be sealed even when it is kept in the fridge so the drink won’t turn flat.

Shelf Life of Mead

When an unopened bottle of mead is kept at a cool, dry, and dark place, it will keep for at least 5 years. Some people even keep the mead unopened for 15 years to “age” the drink and got fantastic results. Most swear that the drink tasted even better when it’s been aged for decades. This is possible as long as you don’t open and seal the bottle regularly. Just keep it unopened to age the mead.

The shelf life of an opened bottle of mead is quite short, about 3 to 6 months when kept at room temperature. The shelf life of the drink becomes even shorter when chilled in the fridge. Since the drink is fermented with yeast, the chilly temperature could affect the drink’s state of fermentation.

Ideally, you want to consume the drink a week or two after it’s been opened for optimal flavor. However, if you are using mead for cooking, the slight changes in taste won’t be much of an issue. Freezing is not recommended when storing mead. The freezing temps will alter the mead’s flavor. The drink will also lose its fizziness.

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How to Tell if Mead has Gone Bad?

Mead will develop a funky taste once it has gone bad. It could take on a bitter taste. The problem with improperly prepared mead is that the drink could become contaminated and “infected” at some point. If you are making mead at home, always check for signs of the pellicle or odd tendrils forming on the surface of the drink. Infection is often caused by using dirty equipment during the brewing process.

If the bottle of mead has been leaking or if the cork has dried out to the point that the brew becomes exposed to air, err to the side of caution and toss the drink. If the drink is giving off an odd or rancid aroma, it has gone bad.

Storage Tips

If you are making mead at home, always prepare your brew with clean equipment. If you don’t, the drink could turn moldy or develop an infection.

If you want to extend the shelf life of opened bottles of mead, we recommend investing in a wine pump. This device will suck the air out of the wine bottle, allowing you to stretch the shelf life of the wine for a bit longer.

If a bottle of mead is sealed with a cork, it’s best to store the bottle on its side. Contact with moisture will extend the cork’s life.

Summary

Does mead go bad? Mead is a delicious, refreshing drink that can be enjoyed any time of the day, no matter the occasion. But just like any drink, you have to store the mead properly to prevent spoilage. If you made a huge batch of mead or you bought bottles of it at a discount, keep all the storage tips we’ve outlined above in mind to extend the drink’s shelf life.