Can you use maple syrup instead of honey for mead?

Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with water and sometimes adding fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The sugar in the honey is what gets converted to alcohol by yeast during the fermentation process. So when it comes to making mead, honey is the key ingredient.

But what if you don’t have access to honey or want to experiment with a different flavor profile? Can you use a honey substitute like maple syrup instead? Let’s take a closer look at using maple syrup in mead.

The role of honey in mead

In traditional mead making, honey provides the sugars that yeast feeds on to produce alcohol through fermentation. Honey brings more than just fermentable sugars to the table, though.

The flavor profile of honey varies based on the floral source and can impart nuanced tastes to mead. Different types of honey have their own unique flavors that come through in the finished mead as well. For example, orange blossom honey contributes citrusy notes while avocado honey has a rich, buttery quality.

Honey also contains enzymes like invertase that help break down sucrose into fermentable fructose and glucose sugars. The makeup of honey provides ideal conditions for yeast to thrive and ferment.

In addition, honey has some antimicrobial properties that help prevent bacteria and wild yeast from taking over fermentation. So while honey provides food for yeast, it also protects against unwanted microbes in the mead making process.

Using maple syrup instead of honey

Maple syrup shares some similarities with honey that make it a potential stand-in. Both contain different sugars, enzymes, and compounds that contribute flavors.

Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. Through processing, much of the excess water is removed, concentrating the maple sugar content. It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Maple syrup contains several different sugars including sucrose, glucose, and fructose. These are all fermentable sugars that yeast can convert into alcohol. So in that regard, maple syrup checks an important box for mead making.

However, there are some key differences between the sugar composition of honey and maple syrup:

  • Honey contains a higher percentage of fructose while maple syrup has more sucrose.
  • Honey does not contain any minerals while maple syrup contains some minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Honey has lower water content and higher acidity than maple syrup.

These differences in composition can impact yeast fermentation and how the final mead turns out.

Maple syrup as a full honey substitute

When substituting maple syrup for honey in mead, you’ll need to use it for 100% of the sweetener needed. Replace honey in your mead recipe ounce for ounce with pure maple syrup.

One thing to keep in mind is that maple syrup has a lower sugar content than honey on average. Honey is about 82% sugars while maple syrup contains around 66% sugars. This means you may need to increase the amount of maple syrup to get the same amount of fermentable sugars as honey.

You’ll also need to take the water content of maple syrup into account for your mead recipe. Since it has higher moisture levels than honey, you may need to reduce the amount of additional water added so the yeast aren’t too diluted.

Maple syrup to complement honey

Although maple syrup has enough fermentable sugars on its own, you can blend it with honey in mead as well. This allows you to get some of the unique maple flavors while retaining much of the honey profile.

Replace 25-50% of the honey in a mead recipe with maple syrup as a way to complement the honey. The honey can provide more fructose for fermentation while the maple syrup contributes sucrose and its distinctive taste.

By mixing the two sweeteners, you get more complexity of flavors. The maple notes come through but don’t overpower the honey completely.

Potential issues using maple syrup for mead

While maple syrup contains sugars and flavors that make it a potential honey alternative, there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of.

Maple flavor overpowering mead

One concern when using a significant amount of maple syrup in mead is that it imparts a strong maple taste. The robust maple notes can potentially overpower more subtle honey flavors.

If you want the maple flavor to be prominent, this may be a good thing. But if you’re aiming for a more traditional mead taste, it could make the drink too much like maple wine.

One way to combat this is to use maple syrup as only 25-50% of the sweetener as mentioned above. You can also add spices, fruits, or grains that complement maple or help balance the flavor.

Issues with yeast fermentation

The composition differences between maple syrup and honey could potentially cause issues for yeast fermentation. Maple syrup lacks some nutrients present in honey that yeast need for healthy fermentation.

The higher water content and lower acidity of maple syrup can also create less ideal yeast growth conditions compared to honey. Furthermore, maple syrup does not contain the same enzymes as honey to help break down its sugars.

To avoid fermentation problems, you can supplement with additional yeast nutrient when using maple syrup. Adding a malolactic bacteria culture can also help metabolize maple syrup’s sugars. Adjusting acidity and water content as needed can further optimize the mead for fermentation.

Risk of contamination

Honey’s antibacterial properties help prevent contamination by bacteria and wild yeast during mead making. Maple syrup does not contain the same natural antimicrobial compounds.

When swapping maple syrup for honey, you may be at higher risk of contamination altering the flavor of your mead or preventing proper fermentation. Being very sanitary when making maple syrup mead can help avoid this issue.

You can also add campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite to inhibit wild yeast and bacterial growth when making the mead.

The effect on mead flavor

In addition to fermentability considerations, maple syrup also changes the flavor profile of mead compared to using honey.

Here’s how maple syrup mead can differ in taste:

  • Maple flavors come through much more strongly, creating a maple-forward mead.
  • The finished mead may have increased perceived sweetness due to maple syrup’s sucrose content.
  • Maple can lend a woodier, earthier tone compared to floral honey notes.
  • You lose out on the subtle flavor contributions of different honey varietals.

Whether these differences are desirable or not depends on your flavor preferences. The maple notes may complement certain fruits, spices, or other mead ingredients well.

Blending maple syrup with some honey can allow you to get nuances of each sweetener. You can also use maple syrup for bochet-style meads where the honey is caramelized, letting the maple stand out.

How maple syrup mead changes the fermentation process

Using maple syrup instead of honey doesn’t just change the final product; it also affects the fermentation process. Here are some ways using maple syrup alters mead fermentation:

  • The higher water content of maple syrup dilutes the starting must more, which can slow fermentation.
  • Yeast may ferment maple syrup’s sugars more slowly than honey, extending fermentation time.
  • Supplementing with additional nutrients is needed to support yeast through fermentation.
  • The less acidic nature of maple syrup creates a less antimicrobial environment.
  • The mead may need extra deacidification after fermentation to taste balanced.

These differences demonstrate why maple syrup is not a straight swap for honey in mead recipes. Some adjustments may be required to achieve proper fermentation when using maple syrup.

Other substitutes for honey in mead

Maple syrup is not the only potential alternative to honey in mead. Some other options include:

Agave nectar

Like maple syrup, agave nectar contains fructose and glucose sugars that yeast can ferment. It has a more neutral flavor than maple, making it easier to incorporate into mead without dominating. The sugar content is also comparable to honey.

Brown rice syrup

This syrup made from brown rice can add fermentable sugars for mead along with some nutty, earthy flavor notes. Combining it with a floral honey can create an interesting taste profile.


The thick, dark syrup left after sugarcane refining contains plenty of fermentable sugars. Its distinctive flavor is a double-edged sword, however – it can add richness but also overpower more subtle mead ingredients.

Fruit juices

Possibly the most common honey alternatives for mead are fruit juices like apple cider, grape juice, cherry juice, etc. This turns the mead into a melomel or fruit mead variety.

Fruit provides necessary sugars, but may need concentration and additive nutrients to work well. The fruit flavor becomes dominant in the final mead.

Key considerations when using maple syrup in mead

Based on the differences between maple syrup and honey, here are some key considerations when substituting maple syrup in mead:

  • Use 100% pure maple syrup, not «pancake syrup» which is mostly corn syrup.
  • Add yeast nutrient to provide necessary vitamins and minerals.
  • Consider adjusting acidity and water content as needed.
  • Watch fermentation temperature and progress closely.
  • Be prepared for a longer, slower fermentation.
  • Consider blending with some honey to balance flavor.
  • Add tannins if needed to provide astringency.
  • Ensure careful sanitation to avoid contamination.

While maple syrup contains sugars for fermentation, it lacks some of the compounds that make honey ideal for mead. With some adjustments to recipe and process, however, you can make maple mead succeed.

Maple mead recipe

If you want to experiment with making mead from maple syrup, here is a basic recipe to try:


  • 3 quarts (96 oz) maple syrup
  • 1 gallon (128 oz) water
  • 10-12 g yeast nutrient
  • 5-7 g acid blend
  • 1 packet wine yeast (like Lalvin D47)
  • Optional: spices, fruit, grains, or hops for flavoring


  1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup to dissolve completely.
  3. Let maple syrup water cool to room temperature.
  4. Transfer to fermentation vessel and top up with cool water to 5 gallons total.
  5. Add yeast nutrients and acid blend; stir to mix thoroughly.
  6. Add activated wine yeast and stir again.
  7. Install airlock and move fermentation vessel to a cool, dark area.
  8. Ferment for 4-6 weeks until hydrometer reading is stable.
  9. Rack to secondary vessel for clarity and aging.
  10. Bottle, age additional time if desired, then enjoy!

For a maple melomel, add 2-3 pounds of fruit like blueberries, cherries, apples, etc. along with pectic enzyme to the initial mix. For maple metheglin, add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc. to taste.

This basic maple mead recipe can be expanded and customized in many ways. Have fun experimenting with different flavor variations!

Frequently asked questions about maple mead

Does maple syrup have enough sugar to make mead?

Yes, maple syrup contains approximately 66% fermentable sugars by weight. This is sufficient sugars for yeast to convert into alcohol and make mead. However, maple syrup has a different sugar composition compared to honey that can impact fermentation.

How does maple mead taste compared to honey mead?

Using maple syrup instead of honey gives the mead a more pronounced maple flavor. It tastes closer to maple wine than a traditional honey mead. Maple imparts woodier, earthier notes compared to floral honey.

Do you need to add anything extra when using maple instead of honey?

It can help to add yeast nutrients when fermenting maple syrup instead of honey. Maple syrup lacks some of the minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and other compounds that honey provides to support yeast growth. Supplementing with a nutrient blend can aid fermentation.

Does maple syrup have preservatives that impede fermentation?

Pure maple syrup does not contain preservatives. Be sure to use 100% pure maple syrup. Some «pancake syrups» contain preservatives that could inhibit fermentation. Pure maple syrup’s composition is perfectly suitable for making mead.

Is maple mead gluten free?

Yes, maple mead made solely from maple syrup, water, and yeast is completely gluten-free. As long as you avoid adding any ingredients containing gluten, such as wheat, barley, rye, etc. the finished mead will be gluten free.

Can you use maple syrup to backsweeten mead?

Yes, maple syrup can be used to back-sweeten a mead once primary fermentation is complete. Maple syrup provides sweetness and maple flavor. Heat it to mix in thoroughly without fermentation restarting. Potassium sorbate can also be added as an extra precaution.


Making mead with maple syrup instead of honey results in a very different drink than traditional honey mead. While maple syrup contains sugars for fermentation, its flavor profile and composition make it not a straight swap for honey.

Adjustments to yeast nutrients, acidity, water content, and fermentation process may be needed when using maple syrup. But it can produce a tasty, maple-infused mead with the right techniques.

Maple syrup works best either as the sole sweetener in small batches or blended with honey in larger amounts. It brings distinctive maple flavors along with fermentable sugars to mead.

Taking the unique qualities of maple syrup into account allows you to successfully use it as an alternative to honey for crafting great maple mead.

Leave a Comment