View Full Version : Undergrad Research Project

05-04-2009, 08:33 PM
Hey so I'm kicking around some ideas for my "thesis" project and thought it'd bring it here for imput. I go to a university that doesn't have "declared majors", or grades for that matter, that allows for self guided research and interdisciplinary course studies. In the latter years we have the opportunity to do pretty much graduate research projects in the pursuit or our passions and our bachelors (I'm going for a Bachelors of Science with a focus now in oenology) with the support of an incredible faculty base. I've decided to do a summer contract with a synthetic chemist faculty member and, of course, I've decided to make it related to mead.

What I'm thinking of doing is researching a bunch of those vitners harvest yeasts that were recently released.

I'm thinking of doing three 5 gallon batches, one a traditional, one a melomel, and one a methelegin, and dividing them each into seperate 1 gallon batches using 5 different yeasts, the same 5 for each of the 3 varietals, to see what characteristics are imparted, what works, what doesn't work, whats good, what's not, etc.

Does anyone have experience in this field of research (yeasts, oenology) and if so is this a good way to go about it? What would you do differently? Any advice on previous research papers or techniques? How and where should I present my findings?

I'll be sure to keep you all updated as this progresses/evolves.

Medsen Fey
05-05-2009, 11:21 AM
It sounds like fun stuff.

I've not done any formal enology research, but from what I see in the studies I read, it is helpful to narrow your question down to something very specific if you want to perform studies of academic quality.

In those studies, the fermentations are typically done in duplicate or triplicate so the average of the result for each type of batch can be determined for comparison. This helps prevent single batch "flukes" from corrupting the data. In other words, if you want to compare the rate of fermentation of two yeasts, they'll mix up a total of 6 one-liter batches and use 3 each. Depending on what you aim to study with this project, you may need multiple samples of each type.

If you decide you just want to run a large yeast test, I for one, will be happy to see what you get from these yeast.


05-05-2009, 12:07 PM
BTW, one proposal for a massive group brew about a year and a half ago was suggested by one of our European Gotmeaders who has recently been mostly inactive -- we were planning to assess the fermentation kinetics and analyze the organoleptic properties of meads made using two different DSM yeast strains (they are a European fermentation product manufacturer). We were initially going to ferment batches at several different starting gravities, and then perform the assessments in a truly double blind fashion both 6 months after clearing, and then again a couple of years later. We were then going to move on to using their proprietary pectinase enzyme blend on several dark fruit melomels.

Unfortunately, the project never really got off the ground, although at least one of us ended up with a lot of really tasty high gravity, high octane traditional Orange Blossom mead as part of the effort! ;D

05-05-2009, 03:41 PM
I agree with Medsen--you need a very narrow question and a limited set of variables, or you'll be making mead for your thesis until you're 80. Open-ended questions tend to spiral quickly into huge projects; the hardest part of research is asking the right questions.

With that in mind, you could do something like "the effect of rehydration environment on the fermentation kinetics of Vintner's Harvest strain X". Just pick one strain unless you think you can handle more than that. Pick a variety of rehydration environments (GoFerm, plain water, 1.040 must, 1.110 must, etc). With some redundancy, that right there is already 12-16 batches and you're still only working with one strain and one master must. If this is a year-long kind of experiment you could repeat the above for another strain, and another, etc. But you'd want to definitely have a way to keep a constant temperature for all batches.

Just based on the claims that the rep made in the other thread, there are lots of things you could explore: rehydration environment, nutrient dose and composition (all DAP vs combo like Fermaid), nutrient addition schedules, nutrient loading when using fruit, etc. Is this funded through the university or are you going to have to buy all the ingredients yourself?

05-06-2009, 11:35 AM
Now why didn't I get to do this in college? Wait a minute... I did, but I just didn't get grades for doing it! ;D Sounds like a fun experiment. Good luck!


05-06-2009, 01:57 PM
Hey EG,

I'll PM you with some ideas. Having done several classes through UC Davis I can give you some very granular suggestions.