Interested in making your own mead at home? Since ancient times, mead has been made using two ingredients – honey and water. However, it is a fermented drink meaning that yeast is also required. Different yeast strains should be considered depending on your desired flavor or sweetness.
The best yeast for mead is champagne or wine yeast, such as D-47. D-47 yeast produces a well-rounded mead, liked by many. Various types of yeast can be used to make mead, chosen based on the flavor profile, alcohol percentage, and carbonation you want. Baking yeast cannot be used for mead.
While the main ingredients required for making mead are honey and water, yeast is used to quicken the fermentation process. Selecting the correct yeast for the flavor profile and carbonation you want in your mead is essential.
How Do You Pick Yeast For Mead?
Alcohol tolerance, sweet vs. dry mead, and fermentation temperature ranges are factors to consider when picking out the ideal yeast for your mead. There are some popular choices, but ultimately the yeast you choose should fit the requirements you have for your mead.
Alcohol Tolerance And Flavor Profile
There are some aspects to consider when picking a specific yeast to make your mead. Firstly, how tolerant to alcohol is the yeast? Some yeasts are more or less tolerant of alcohol. This helps decide what percentage of alcohol will be in the final product.
For example, champagne yeast has a high alcohol tolerance. This means that the finished mead will likely have the alcohol content you want, often not too sweet.
Secondly, the flavor and sweetness of the mead should be considered. There are two main categories of mead: dry mead and sweet mead. You can control the flavor profile and sweetness level when you make mead at home with your own ingredients. This is primarily done by choosing the correct yeast strain and fermentation process.
Different types of yeast will bring out more variety in the mead’s flavor and sweetness/dryness. Essentially, the amount of sweetness in the mead is connected with the amount of honey left after fermentation. The honey is very concentrated, and the natural sugars in it get fermented by the yeast. When this happens, all the sugar in the honey is consumed, or residual sugar is left.
The yeast fails when some sugar is left (making the mead sweeter). However, this can be used to your benefit if you want a less dry mead. Many wine yeasts cannot withstand the high level of alcohol in certain meads, which results in some sugars remaining and causing the mead to be sweeter.
One example is the Lalvin 71B-1122 Narbonne strain of yeast which does not withstand alcohol very well. Using this type of yeast would develop a sweeter mead. This type of yeast also results in a mead that is ready to drink quickly. This is a factor you could consider when choosing a yeast strain.
Ideal Temperature For Fermentation
When you select a yeast strain, there will be information on its preferred temperature range. For example, the recommended Lalvin D-47 win yeast has a fermentation temperature range between 59 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is the temperature range in which it ideally works the best. However, suppose you cannot consistently create the environment to keep your mead in this temperature range. In that case, it probably won’t result in a successful final mead.
For beginner mead makers, yeasts with a more extensive range may be best to give some space for trial and error. Whether it’s a hot or cooler fermentation environment, the yeast should be able to ferment the sugars in the honey properly if it has that temperature range.
Still Or Sparkling Mead
Another aspect to consider is how still or sparkling you want the mead to be. When yeast is chosen that ferments so that some sugar is left, there is less carbonation. Therefore, sweeter meads are usually still. Dryer meads are usually sparkling more naturally.
Types Of Yeasts To Use For Mead?
The type of yeast you use will influence how dry or sweet the mead is and its general flavor profile. There are ale yeasts and wine yeasts that can be used for mead.
Ale yeasts have been used for mead, especially when you want a lighter mead. Beer yeasts can also work. White wine yeast appears to be the better type to use specifically for mead. One of the best recommendations on which yeast is best for making mead is the Lalvin ICV D-47.
It is a low-foaming yeast that helps to accelerate the fermenting process. It is known as an excellent choice for making mead but should also be used with yeast nutrients. It is a suitable choice for medium to dry meads.
Another type of yeast could be used in champagne yeast, like the Lalvin EC-1118 strain. Its alcohol tolerance is slightly higher than the recommended Lalvin D-47. It doesn’t interfere too much with the honey/sugary flavor profile. It is also low foaming and a quick fermenter.
Red wine yeast is a good option for mead with darker fruits, such as cherries or blackberries. The advantage of this type of yeast is that it matures quicker than white wine yeasts in mead. A recommendation is the Lalvin 71B-1122 red wine yeast.
Baking yeast is a type of yeast that shouldn’t be used for making mead. It won’t work well because it is designed for fast carbon dioxide production. Brewer’s yeast which you may find at health stores is also not a type of yeast that can be used in mead.
The specific type and strain of yeast should be chosen based on the sweetness, flavor, alcohol level, and carbonation that you require in your mead. White wine yeast and champagne yeast are both excellent options for making mead. However, red wine yeast and ale yeast can also be used.
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