Mead Yeasts

Here are some comments from Dick Dunn about yeast varieties and mead.

An issue or two of the MLD ago, talking about off-tastes, long aging, and the difference in nutrients (yeast hulls/ghosts _vs_ the ammoni{a;um} type, I said that I'd had good results with both types of nutrients but had found the yeast to be important in determining whether I'd get a readily-drinkable mead or one that would require many months to age. Dolt that I sometimes am, I left it at that and didn't say anything about which yeasts gave me good or bad results...and various readers [gently] took me to task for this in email. OK, here's my results, and I *REALLY* hope other folks will respond to this with their experiences because I think the "suitable yeast" question is one that mead-makers have barely begun to explore.

Red Star "Prise de Mousse"--which has apparently been renamed "Premier Cuvee" (and I've had results consistent between the two) has been my overall best. It produces no off-tastes that I can detect; it ferments very fast and is fairly tolerant of rude/careless behavior (high/low temps, inadequate acid or nutrients, etc.) In my experience this is very attenuative. Don't use it if you're trying to retain any sweetness in the mead.

Wyeast mead yeasts - sweet (3184) and dry (3632) have given me mixed results. There have been no off-tastes in what I've tried so far, but they're both rather slow, and even the dry is not particularly attenuative. I've had some trouble with the sweet taking forever to do anything. Repitching (same yeast but from different manufacture lot) didn't help; I finally repitched with a different yeast. I have a guess that these yeasts aren't happy with low nutrient levels, because they've done much better with melomels. (The problems were with straight meads.) It could be pH sensitivity too; I haven't experimented enough to know but it just seems unlikely that anyone would market a mead yeast that requires a low pH.

I've used Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) in a bragot (malt/honey combination) and it turned out very nicely, ready to drink almost as soon as you'd expect an ale. It would be interesting to try this with just honey.

Red Star Champagne has done well for me in the past. I haven't used it recently. The characteristics I've seen have been minimal off-tastes and high alcohol tolerance...I've made some rather strong, quite dry sparkling meads with this one.

Red Star Flor Sherry has also given me some fairly strong meads, with some unusual character but not anything overtly objectionable, not the medicinal aftertaste. I've had to age some of these meads a bit. The yeast is usefully alcohol-tolerant.

Lalvin 1118 is consistently fast and highly attenuative, but I've gotten some of the "Listerine" character (I don't know what other folks call it). The off-taste is not that bad, and does age out, but it annoys me because I don't think it should be necessary.

I'm currently experimenting with other Lalvin yeasts--1116 seems promising, and a new one, D-47, looks good so far.

Red Star Montrachet I've only used twice, and each time I've gotten an extreme medicinal character that takes forever to go away. This is the basis for my earlier statement that I'd never use a "Montrachet" named yeast again.

I'm annoyed that yeast producers are so unwilling to part with any useful information about their products. For example, it was only with some con- siderable poking around that I got the (tenuous!) connection between Red Star's "Prise de Mousse" and "Premier Cuvee". I've heard claims that Lalvin's K1V-1116 is a Prise de Mousse, and other claims that it's a Montrachet. Whom to believe? I dunno! While I understand the interest in proprietary yeast strains, cautious labeling, and an attempt to distinguish brand-name products, when it comes to the point that customers can't tell what they're buying or what it will do for them, we're on the wrong side of the sanity-boundary.

Dick Dunn              
Mr Natural says, "Get the right tool for the job!"

"As of early 1999, I don't recommend Red Star "Premier Cuvee" any more.  It
appears that there has been a change in the yeast strain, at approximately
the same time as Red Star changed the packaging.  The result is that the
yeast has a rather strong tendency to produce the astringent/phenolic taste
(like a particular brand of mouthwash that mead-makers use as an epithet in
association with young meads).  One of the reasons I had liked Premier
Cuvee in the past was that it didn't produce this character--it produced a
very clean taste so that young melomels would be drinkable nearly as soon
as they could be bottled.  However, it seems to have changed--much to my
dismay, since I've now got 3 melomels that are going to require much
longer aging than I had expected or hoped."

Dick Dunn


Subject: Mead yeast

After reading your mead page (loved it!) and the yeast information provided,
we have come across some additional information on using the Wyeast sweet
mead yeast that you may want to pass along.
The manufacturer recommends using a yeast nutrient (such as fermax) in order
to prevent extremely slow fermentation (as reported in Dunn's? report).

We've used the yeast nutrient along with the sweet mead yeast and have
experienced robust fermentation.  Questions or comments can be sent to Mike
and Julia Beaudoin at the following e-mail