View Full Version : What yeast for a mild honey?

04-21-2014, 05:02 PM
Hello everyone.

Let me introduce myself. I am a lurker. Before the internet (when I was a youngin), I would have been a wall flower. Strangely, I'd rather be a lurker. :)
So, I've been lurking for about a year now, and even though I haven't said anything, I've learned a great deal. So thank you to everyone for that.
I'm on my 9th mead now. Sadly I've only drank one of the 9 (a JAOM) so far.

I currently have two gallons ageing in wine bottles and 6 gallons in demijohns.
My 9 meads so far in the order I pitched them:
1: Sweet D47.
2: Dry D47.
3: Dry EC1118. At least, dry was the plan. I got the amount of honey wrong and now it's sweet.
4: Sweet EC11118. At least, sweet was the plan. I got the amount of honey wrong and now it's sickly sweet.
6, 7, 8: Semi-Sweet Wyeast 3787. I must have screwed up the SNA because they are still fermenting, 5 months later. And they are still cloudy. I think everyone is right, they will never clear.
9: JAOM. I pitched this one a few weeks before we moved house. We only moved 8 miles away and I transported it really carefully. None the less, it threw a hissy-fit and dropped its fruit even though it wasn't clear yet and was still fermenting. I then racked it off the fruit, which was probably the wrong thing to do. It's since cleared and I've racked it again, but it's still fermenting, three months after being pitched.

So on to the reason I stopped lurking. :) I need some direct advice. A friend of mine got me some raw Romanian honey. Her sister's boyfriend's family has a farm and they keep the bees for their own use, but sell the surplus (honey, not bees). It's been only lightly filtered so still has some fine wax floating on the top. All good so far, but it tastes very mild. Very (very) nice, but mild. I desperately want the taste of the honey to remain in my mead as much as possible. What yeast do I use? I've read a number of recommendations for yeast to use if you want to retain the flavour of the honey (mostly orange blossom), but these never mention how mild the honey was. So far my plan is to pitch at least one gallon with Wyeast 1388. Thanks to loveofrose for doing that research. :)
I feel that I stand a better chance of retaining the taste of the honey if I make a low ABV mead.
So, any other yeasts that anyone can suggest?


04-21-2014, 06:44 PM
Well, if I were trying to do what you're trying to do, I'd not be using 1388 in a traditional mead, if preservation of the flavor and aroma of a delicate honey was of paramount importance. I'd go with either of two yeast strains available from Lallemand that are known for preserving honey floral aromatics and flavors. I'd use either K1V-1116, or D-21. Depending on the average temperature of fermentation you expect to encounter, I'd choose one over the other. For warmer ferments (say above 20C) I'd opt for D-21 as it is more "neutral" than other strains in a warm mead must, producing fewer signs of temperature stress in the final result (less harsh phenolics). K1V has always been my yeast of choice for perfectly neutral results in lower average temperature situations. In fact, K1V can enhance a low temp mead fermentation slightly, by producing some floral esters as byproducts that tend to complement the natural floral aromatics of the honey.

Oh, and welcome to the ranks of active GotMead posters, BTW!

Medsen Fey
04-21-2014, 07:26 PM
1388 is a great yeast but I'd agree with Wayneb that it wouldn't be my choice to showcase a delicate honey. It is a good ester producer from what I've seen. For a delicate honey, in addition to the choices mentioned, DV10 is a very neutral yeast that I would consider. If you keep it slow and cool, your honey will shine.



04-21-2014, 07:52 PM
It doesn't matter. One of Schramm's suggestion is if you want to show off a variety of mead, ferment dry with a standard honey, and backsweeten with a your show honey.

If you want it dry and still retain the specific honey flavor, then yes - I would choose an ale yeast. 1388 is probably a good bet.

Medsen Fey
04-21-2014, 08:38 PM
If you feel the need to use an ale yeast 1056 and Nottingham may be more neutral than 1388.


04-21-2014, 08:46 PM
Schramm's suggestion seems like cheating heh. A friend likes adding honey to a finished wine rather than sugar. I guess the backsweetening idea is the same but I dislike the idea. I mean many brewers take pride in the ingredients they use for fermentables because they are of the greatest quality.. Oh well. I still don't know what to think about back sweetening with honey in general

04-21-2014, 09:55 PM
I concur with Medsen. If you feel that you must use an ale yeast, then 1056 is a more neutral choice than 1388. DV10 is also good, if you can keep the fermentation cool.

With regard to the issue of backsweetening vs. fermenting to a desired final gravity, I think we need to keep in mind a fundamental difference between mead and beer fermentations. With any fermentation based on the conversion of grain starches to sugars, there will always be a certain fraction of complex, mostly non-fermentable sugars left in the finished product. Some yeast strains are better able to tackle some of the complex sugars than others, which led to the concept of "attenuation" used to describe how much of the more challenging, complex sugars will be left behind in the finished beer. The art and skill inherent in beer production (from all-grain recipes, at least) is partly knowing how to mash to result in the mix of fermentable vs. unfermentable sugars that you desire.

With any honey must, all the sugars are fermentable so the theoretical "attenuation" for any mead fermentation is 100%, assuming that you don't osmotically stress the yeast by adding more sugar than they can handle throughout the course of fermentation, and you manage the pH and nutrients accordingly. We have found that many times, though you might expect a fermentation to stop at a given ABV (the theoretical ethanol concentration limit of the yeast), the yeast have other ideas and they continue to happily chew through significant amounts of remaining sugar, resulting in a much drier, much higher proof product than planned. The only ways to get an active fermentation to stop are chemically (stabilization using metabisulphite and sorbate, which doesn't always work), or by cold crashing (rapidly dropping the temperature to down near the freezing point). Sometimes a combination of the two are required. It is much more reliable to ferment dry to a chosen ABV point that you have selected in advance by starting your must at a pre-calculated initial gravity. Then, if you want the mead to have some residual sweetness, rack off the lees, stabilize at that point, and then backsweeten.

In general, for any given ethanol concentration, the sweeter the end product the more of the honey's original taste and aroma will be present in the finished mead.

04-21-2014, 10:46 PM
Nicely put Mr B.......

I'm probably gonna add your text to my blog...... so I can ram it down the throats of them beer makin' fools over at HBT who think that because they make some beer, they can "do" mead in the same way..........

Then complain when they get problems with 15 points of residual sugar in an 18% mead (I can hear them wining about stuck ferments and pH problems from here)


04-22-2014, 05:00 PM
Thanks guys.

A quick search seems to indicate that D21 and DV10 will be hard to come by for me, but I can get K1V-1116, 1056, Nottingham and 1388. And I've got enough of this honey that I can make several batches. So I'll go with the K1V and one other one, I think. Which would you choose between the Nottingham and the 1056, Medsen? Being in England, I can keep the fermenting mead reliably cool, but not reliably warm, so cooler fermenting yeast are better for me. Even if they do take a bit longer.

Medsen Fey
04-22-2014, 06:44 PM
I think the Nottingham can tolerate temp down to 57F a bit cooler than 1056. Nottingham can also get to 14% ABV.