Two of the most important steps in making mead (and often the most overlooked) are the cleaning and sterilization of your equipment. Prepare all containers, utensils, and tools before you start the brewing process. This will allow you to focus on each of the following steps without trying to multitask.
Many home mead makers treat cleaning and sanitizing as one step, but it is important to understand that each accomplishes a different task. Cleaning with warm soapy water removes dirt, debris, and oils that prevent sanitizing solutions from working effectively. Sanitizing kills bacteria and microorganisms that may impart off flavors or make your mead unsafe to drink.
Cleaning is pretty straight forward; all that is required is a quick scrub with warm soapy water to remove oil and foreign particles followed by a rinse with clean potable water. Many specialized products are available to sanitize your brewing equipment, but you can also use regular household bleach by mixing a ratio of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water. This concentration of chlorine is effective with 1 to 5 minutes of exposure. Stainless steal and aluminum should be rinsed with clean potable water (to prevent corrosion) and allowed to air dry.
My preferred sanitizing agent is ‘one-step’. It is an odorless sanitizer that acts quickly and requires no rinsing before use. Make sure to read and follow the directions specific to the sanitizing agent you choose.
Now that you have all of your equipment prepared it is important that you keep it sanitary. Kitchen towels are a common source of cross contamination. I do place my equipment on a clean kitchen towel after sanitizing, but a draining rack would be better. It is hard to stay away from towels completely, but make sure the same towel isn’t used for cleaning up the counter, drying your hands, and wiping down your equipment. and wiping down your equipment.