Author: experimeads

Mead Water Chemistry: High Chloride to Sulfate Ratio

In this experimead, a high chloride to sulfate ratio treatment is tested for its flavor and aroma contributions in a dry short mead. The salts were added to a 7% ABV cherry and apple, bottle conditioned, short mead. The salt additions were added after fermentation. Triangle tests are conducted to see if participants can correctly identify the difference between the two meads. Correct respondents also provided feedback on the differences perceived in the two meads.

As far as I know, this is the first triangle test of water chemistry in meads and also the first to evaluate water adjustments after fermentation. The only other research on this topic, which I highly recommend reading, is the article “Influence of Water Chemistry on the Fermentation and Flavor Profiles of Traditional Mead” by Aaron Kueck. Aaron, tested water profiles both before and after fermentation and the flavor impact. What I find fascinating about this study is that the final water chemistry does not perfectly correlate with the initial water profile. It raises interesting questions on how nutrient additions build the water profile. Moreover, it confirms my suggestions (see TANG) that a soft water profile is preferred with meads.

I decided on this recipe since I had friends asking for more of the cream soda mead. I modified the recipe compared to the previous cream soda mead mainly by using US-05 yeast and adding some apple juice to provide depth. I used 2 kg of frozen Polish fermentation cherries, and used the TANG nutrient profile. After fermentation I added Costco Vanilla extract, additional acid, green tea, and a small amount of maltodextrin and bottle conditioned to 2.3 vol. Some of the bottles were treated with the water adjustments at the time of filling and some were left as is.

Recipe: 7%, Cherry Apple Short Mead, June 30th 2018, 5.5 gallon

  • 5.5 Gallon/21L
  • OG = 1.053
  • FG = .994
  • 1 lbs Dutch Gold orange blossom honey
  • 4 lbs Dutch Gold raspberry blossom honey
  • 3 lbs Toba wildflower honey
  • 1.5 lbs Organic Costco wildflower honey (Brazil and Canada)
  • 2 kg of Poland sour cherry
  • 1 liter of fresh organic Ontario apple juice
  • 4 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 6.5 tsp of malic acid
  • 6.5 tsp of acid blend
  • 2 packets of 11.5g US-05 packets


  • Recommended YAN by The MeadMakr BatchBuildr is 165 YAN
  • 18.85g Go-ferm (115 YAN)
  • 9.7g Fermaid-K (50 YAN)
  • 2g Fermaid-O (20 YAN)
  • Total Actual YAN: 185 YAN

At pitch

  • Made an activation starter using yeast and all Go-ferm for 3 hours
  • Mixed Honey, juice, cherries added loose, and added spring water (profile below– used the larger green spring water from Costco)
  • Added rest of nutrient to must (all upfront)
  • Started at 62 f


  • +6 h blasted for 3 min with pure 02
  • +12 h bubbling like crazy. Dunked the bag in several times. 70f
  • +36 h Dunked the bag in several times. 73f
  • +48 h degassed for last time, left for holidays


  • +9 Days- At semi FG of 1.000, degassed, transferred to carboy, added Vanilla and acid. Added clarifier.
  • +11 Days- dropped perfectly clear, tasted amazing. Added 8oz of green tea to add tannin/body.
  • +12 Days- fermentation restarted. Nooo!
  • +3 weeks – Fermentation done for good. Final-FG was 0.994. Tasted ok but not as good as before fermentation restarted. The flavors were all there and it had a clean fermentation profile, but the flavors were not as melded as batches with D-47.


  • ~2 months: bottled using 50g of maltodextrin, 1/2 cup of honey, using a calculation of 2.5 vol at 80f.


The treatment was a water chemistry modification. The calculations were completed using John Palmers water profile calculator. The original profile of the spring water was as follows.


For each liter of the treated mead, 0.1 grams of Gypsum CaSO4*2H2O and 0.25g of Calcium Chloride CaCl2*2H2O were added. The salt contributions to the mead was as follows.


This resulted in a final water profile (excluding from nutrients, etc) as follows:


The original Chloride to Sulfate ratio was close to 1-1 and the levels were low. The treated water profile had a higher Chloride to Sulfate to Ratio of 5/3 and levels associated with the NEIPA style. A high Chloride to Sulfate ratio is often used in these beers to promote a rounded malt flavour and emphasize the juiciness of hops and esters. In contrast, a higher Sulfate (SO4-2) ratio is often used to increase the perceived hop/bitterness character of a beer in IPAs. Both the ratio and the level are generally understood to be important.

Initial Tasting Notes

This is an good mead. The mead came out really clean. No esters or phenolics were present. However, partly due to the lack of yeast character, the creaminess of the cream soda mead that I had got from using D-47 was not there. It took some time for the favors to integrate, but they did after a few months.

When I originally dosed the meads (pre-refermentation) with salts for myself in a bench trial, I tried several ratios and though that the high chloride water profile added more creaminess, fruitiness and integration of the flavors. I found that the high sulfate samples emphasized the dryness and tannins in the mead, the opposite of what I was going for. I wish I had tried just upping the chloride and not adding any sulfate.

Next time I would not add the green tea, since the tannins weren’t needed at the degree of dryness that it unfortunately ended at. I think I would try a more expressive and fruity yeast next time like US-04. However, it still drinks with a good degree of body and is crushable.


Triangle Tests 

Tests were evaluated when the meads were 4 months old at a local Oktoberfest blast with the Kingston area home-brew club, KABOB. Blind participants (other than myself) were asked to identify the odd mead out in a triangle test. The meads were poured 50-50 between in two groups of cups that looked identical except for a marking on the bottom of one set of cups. Randomly, half of participants were given two cups with the treatment, half were given two cups without treatment (as well as the other mead). Participants were asked their experience level with meads, how blown their palate was, and a their status as judges and home/professional brewers. If participants were correct, they were asked to say which mead they preferred and provide some comments on overall impression, aroma and flavor characteristics of the meads.

There were 17 participants, of which I was the only BJCP beer judge and mead judge. I did think the difference between the baseline and treatment was quite obvious. Out of the 17 participants, only 6 were able to identify the odd mead out. Of the 6 that identified the odd-mead out, 5 preferred the mead with salt additions. Here is a summary of the results:


More experience with meads was associated with higher success in the triangle tests. Those with less blown palates was correlated with being able to identify the odd-mead out.


Again, I was the only mead and beer judge. Females who participated fared better than average and experienced home brewers did worse than average.


Importantly, out of the five that correctly identified the odd-mead out, four preferred the mead with the salt treatment. Tasting notes are described below.



This was an interesting triangle test. Like the other experiments, while the p-value of the ability to correctly identify the meads was not significant, I found it more interesting that most who correctly identified the meads preferred the meads with the salt additions. Chloride additions are now part of my arsenal.

Peer Review (From Modern Mead Makers Group)

Seth Clearwater: “Thanks for looking into this — I’ll be curious to see where this goes. One thing about salt additions from the beer world: those are almost always added in the mash/sparge stage and NOT after fermentation. I would suggest playing with these additions at both stages to see if you prefer one or the other.

In the referenced AHA presentation, the author seems to link phenols/fusels with water chemistry, but he doesn’t provide any reasoning behind that connection. His tasting notes for the meads indicate some phenolics, but I wish he would have indicated which phenols as that class of compounds is incredibly broad. My understanding is that fusels and phenols are much more associated with fermentation temperature and yeast health than water salts (beer brewers use a nearly infinite range of water profiles and none are specifically associated with phenols). I’m not disputing his report that his judges preferred the softer water meads, but I would have preferred him to leave it at that rather than try to tie in fusels/phenols.”

Jon TalkingtonI would have used a traditional mead using 1 type of honey for your experiment not a melomel. There’s nothing to hind behind in a traditional. You have too much going on in the ingredients list. IMHO”

Peter BakulicAgree with Jon. A dry, low ABV trad.”

Tom Repas agreed with Jon and Peter that it would’ve been best to perform this test with a traditional mead.

Authors Response


Thanks fellows. I agree completely that the experiment should be performed on a dry traditional. I used this mead since I had it on hand and I wanted to see if salts would impact the fruitiness and honey character in a short mead with fruit. 

In fact, I hope that the experiment is repeated on several meads. Like beer, I expect, if salts do matter, the optimal levels and ratios will likely depend on the style of mead. My hypothesis is that a dry traditional would benefit the most from improvements in mouthfeel and favor emphasis from a similar salt addition to that used in the experiment. Further, a sweet traditional may benefit from a higher sulfate to chloride ratio if its cloyingness is wanted to be toned down.  

In the future, I plan to experiment with salt additions in conjunction with nutrient profiles. The resulting water profile is likely to be greatly influenced by the nutrient protocol. 

How to Conduct a Mead Triangle Test

This article describes how to conduct your own mead triangle test experiments. This includes recommendations on experiment design and details on best practices. Tools such as surveys and statistical models are provided.

Mead Triangle Tests

What is a Triangle Test?

A triangle test is a method to discriminate meads and is used in sensory science. The test can be used to test for overall differences in meads,  changes in processes or ingredients, or selecting qualified participants.

How to implement a Triangle Test?

During a triangle test, a taster is presented with three meads, where two of the meads are the same and one is different. The taster is instructed to identify the odd mead out and record the answer. If the taster is correct, they may be asked to fill out a questionnaire. There are two common ways to present the triangle tests to panelists.

One way, as shown by the pictures below is to put stickers on the bottom of the cups. The lone symbol will be the odd mead out. If you follow this method make sure that the cups are opaque, or at least that the stickers cannot be seen unless the cups are listed. The advantage of using this method is that it is harder for someone to bias the results if they state their preference. It also makes it easier for half the people to get one mead and half the people the other. Merely place sticker 50-50 on the cups and randomly assign the cups. The main disadvantage is that it is a pain to put the stickers on the bottom of the cups.

Another way of conducting the triangle test is to use three different colored cups. For example, you could use a blue, red, and purple cup. High quality 8 oz party cups are often available in a variety of colors and can often be found at dollar stores. You can also use different colored solo cups as used by For this method, the odd mead out is added to one color and the other mead is poured in the two remaining colors. The advantage of using this method is that it is easier to pour. The main disadvantage is that someone can  bias the results if they state their preference, since everyone can see the colors and the correct answer is the same for everyone. It also means that everyone will get the same mead out, a potential problem if the triangle test is to be considered randomized.

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Collecting Data in a Triangle Test

Data is collected in how many tasters identified the odd mead out. Data may also be collected on aroma and flavor differences, preferences, off-flavors, and lots of other potential qualifiers. The survey below is an example of a survey given in the Acid Additions in TANG Cream Soda Mead experiment. The survey can be downloaded here.

Using this survey, Part 1 asks participants for their name, judging status, experience level with mead and their degree of palate fatigue. Participants are asked to identify the odd mead out and write that down in part 2. Once it is written down (it doesn’t matter what they write, left, center, right etc.) they can check to see if they are correct. This can be done my getting them to lift the cups to check the stickers at the bottom (if using that method).  If they were correct in identifying the odd mead out, they are asked to fill out part 3, on preference, and aroma, flavor, and overall descriptors. The check box on the right allows for a numerical score of their perception of the quality of the mead.


The sensory analysis can be reported for only those who go the triangle test correct, you may also report the people who got it wrong, as well as an aggregate measure. A very interesting data point is for those who got the test correct, which mead is preferred.

Data Analysis

The p-values were calculated from a one-sided tests using the bi-nominal distribution with a null of 1/3, the same as used by The p-value calculator comes from and can be found using the web link. It is as simple as plug-in the number of participants and the number of correct answers. The number of expected correct answers, is a third of the total number of participants. In a triangle test, the probability of a correct answer by chance is 1/3. The probability of choosing an incorrect answer by chance is 2/3.

In addition to the information on how many got the odd mead out descriptors can be recorded and tabulated. List all descriptors used. Try to show how may times a descriptor was used. You can use a table or column for aroma, flavor, overall.

The evaluation of the meads using the check boxes, for perception of overall quality, aroma, off-flavors, etc provide readers of the study a reference point on the quality of the mead being evaluated with an ordinal ranking. Note that inexperienced panelists often have a tendency to score around the mean.

Check boxes for panelists level of experience with meads and palate fatigue are udeful for the understanding which factors make panelsist more likely to be correct. For example, 1 may be no experience with meads, and 5 may be very experienced mead tasters. Averages, standard deviation, median value can then be tabulated. This helps provide a comparison of results across studies.

Optimal experiment design

There are a number of things to consider in designing your experiment to ensure the results are not biased, and get ample data. The following should be considered. If not, it is important to acknowledge these points as conditions on your results when they are presented.

  1. Only one variable should be changes for each triangle test experiment.
  2. Try to have the participants blind to the parameter changed. Do not tell them what you are testing for.  If people knew the parameter of interest, you should report this with your results.
  3. All triangle tests should be conducted at the same time, under the same conditions. Parameters such as serving temperature, cup sizes, disturbance of the bottles prior to pouring, and pouring conditions should be held constant. A brew club meeting or a judging event works well for this purpose.
  4. All three samples should be presented to the participants immediately after pouring or as similar a time from pouring as possible.
  5. The odd meads out should be randomized by participant. For example pouring from two kegs and half people get two of one sample and the other half randomly get two of the other sample.
  6. If possible the order of the meads tested should be randomized. There are six possible order combinations for samples A and B: AAB, ABA, BAA, BBA, BAB, and ABB.
  7. Make sure the participants are instructed to take their time, and that they will be asked about descriptors if they correctly identify the odd mead out. You should be as consistent as possible in your instruction. Report your instruction with your results.
  8. Supervise the tasting. It may be prudent to ask that a moderator is called over when the participant is ready to make a guess if you are using stickers.
  9. You should have at least 15 participants for the p-values from the triangle tests to have any validity. Plan to have more than 30 participants to make your study as strong as possible. If there are less participants, the weight of interest will be placed on the qualitative descriptors.
  10. Don’t tell participants if they got it correct, or the parameters of the study untill all the panelists have submitted their guess.

Finally, keep in mind that these are recommendations on best practices. Even if something goes wrong, or you cannot control a parameter of the study, your results may still be of interest. Just make sure to state whether any of the above factors were different for any of the participants so that the results can be interpreted correctly.


Making an Activated Yeast Starter for Mead

It is considered best practice to rehydrate all dry yeast rather than pitching directly into a mead must (see for example the BJCP Mead Exam Study Guide). Another method not mentioned in the BJCP Study Guide* is an activated starter. This involves rehydrating yeast with a rehydration nutrient and step feeding with must and waiting until the yeast has been able to absorb the rehydration nutrients. This differs from a traditional starter in that the intent is not to grow the yeast population, but to encourage healthy rehydration and preparation for the must. An activated starter is the first step in making mead and should be ready as soon as the full mead must is prepared.
             Activated starters are considered best practice, and used by many award-winning mead makers. An activation starter can improve yeast count and viability to encourage a stronger and cleaner fermentation. See variants of the method mentioned on Mead Made RightMead Makr Batch Buildr, and known to be used by Ken Schramm. As stated in the Scott Labs Handbook 2017: “Proper yeast rehydration is one of the most important steps to help ensure a strong and healthy fermentation.” Alternatively if the micro-nutrients were merely added to the must “competitive microorganisms would use a significant amount of them and others would be chelated by polyphenols” (Scott Labs Handbook 2017, pg 40).

The advantages can be summarized as follows:

  • proper rehydration increases yeast cell count
  • proper rehydration nutrient reduces osmotic stress to improve yeast health
  • gradual tempering the temperature reduces shock stress at pitch
  • gradual tempering the starter gravity reduces osmotic shock stress at pitch
  • allows time (about three hours) for the yeast to absorb the rehydration nutrients in a less-stressful, less-competitive environment

What you will need

  • Appropriate amount of rehydration nutrient (recommended amount of Go-Ferm or Go-ferm Protect is 1.25x the weight of dry yeast)
  • 2x Jars – one for the honey must and another for the yeast activation starter (Try to get the widest jar possible for rehydration to maximise surface area)
  • Clean, chlorine free, water at 110°F (44°C). 20 ml per gram of Go-Ferm (125 ml total for a 5 gram packet of dry yeast, and 6.25 g of Go-Ferm).
  • Honey – enough bring the starter close to full must gravity
  • Sanitizer
  • Thermometer
Making a Activated Yeast Starter

Preparing two activated yeast starters

Starter Size

The size of the activated starter depends on the mead that you’re making, approximately 300-600ml per 5 grams of yeast is a good start.

10 Easy Steps to make a Mead Yeast Activation Starter

  1. Let your dry yeast come to room temperature before rehydrating
  2. Sterilize everything you are going to use everywhere
  3. Dissolve Go-Ferm (or Go-Ferm Protect) in your clean, chlorine free, water at 110°F (44°C). Use a thermometer.
  4. Wait for the temperature to come to yeast pitching temperature, 104°F (40°C) for most wine yeasts or lower for ale yeasts.
  5. Gently sprinkle the packet of yeast evenly over the solution. Swirl/stir gently only if any dry yeast clumps.
  6. Prepare the starter must (200-400 ml per 5 grams of dry yeast) at the desired must gravity, shaking aggressively to aerate and mix honey and water.
  7. After 20 minutes from sprinkling yeast, gently swirl/stir the solution to submerge any remaining dry yeast.
  8. After 5 more minutes (and definitely before 30 minutes from sprinkling yeast), spoon in a small amount (1/4 cup, ~59ml, for 5 grams of yeast) of starter must to the yeast slurry. Do not allow the temperature drop exceed 18°F (10°C). Atemperation steps below 10°F are prudent.
  9. Keep adding the same amount of starter must (1/4 cup, ~59ml, for 5 gram packet) every time yeast activity picks up, every 15–20 minutes or so, until all the starter must is used. Again, do not allow the temperature drop exceed 18°F (10°C).
  10. Now make your full mead must, so that after at least three hours you can pitch your activated yeast starter into fermenter as soon as the full must is mixed. The activated yeast starter should be as close a possible to the temperature of the must. If the must is below 55°F, the starter should be within 5°F before pitching.


Activated Yeast Starter

Activated Yeast Starter

Note 1:

Go-Ferm dissolves better the warmer the water. An alternative to step 3 is dissolve the Go-ferm in near boiling water, 1/3-1/2 the total amount of water needed. Once dissolved, use the remaining water at room temperature to bring the temperature of the slurry as close to rehydration temperature. This saves time waiting for Go-Ferm to dissolve and arrive at rehydration temperature.

Caution 1:

The recommended dosage rate is 1.25 grams of GO-Ferm per gram of yeast. However, Go-Ferm contains vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Over use of GO-FERM with other organic nutrients such as Fermaid-O/Fermaid-K can lead to unami (think wet dog food) or brine flavors.  See TANG nutrient regime for more details on avoiding this.

Caution 2:

Have your activated starter ready to pitch as soon as the full mead must is prepared. This helps give your yeast a head start over indigenous organisms. This is especially true for yeast with a low competitiveness factor. For this reason, wine makers are advised to “add the yeast slurry to the bottom of the fermentation vessel just as you begin filling the vessel with must/juice” (Scott Labs Handbook, 2017 pg 7).

Caution 3:

Never use distilled (or reverse osmosis ) water if you are not using Go-Ferm. In this case it is best to use harder water of approximately 250-500 ppm. In fact, if you are not using Go-Ferm, the steps are different and this article does not apply to you.


Scott Labs Handbook 2017, Scott Labs,
* The BJCP does recommend using a variant of the above described method, but only for restarting stuck fermentations.

M2A: Ontario Cyser

I got apple cider at a farmers market in January, fresh pressed the day before. One of the advantages of buying cider late season is they often contain more cider appropriate apples: aroma, sharps etc. The cider I used for this was mostly desert apples, but definitely had some of the later season varieties. I also added Granny Smith apples with their skins for acid and tannin. I made 6 gallons, used three gallons to made a clone of Kurt’s apple pie from Moonlight Meadery, put one gallon on a vanilla bean, and left the other as is. All got oak cubes. The Kurt’s apple pie was very good but ended up with more notable cinnamon than vanilla. The one gallon that sat on the vanilla bean, really smoothed out, and helped bring out the apple quality. You don’t notice the vanilla per say but you would notice if it is missing, which is exactly the problem with the plain cyser. Despite the cyser finishing at a FG of 1.01, the oak tannin really dried it out and brought out the perception of alcohol in the cyser without the vanilla.


  • 18 lbs honey
  • 17 liters of sweet cider
  • Added petic enzyme as per instructions on pack
  • 3 lbs Granny Smith blended in a food processor
  • 4x 5 gram packets of Lalvin 71B-1122


  • Target FG: 1.015
  • Actual FG: 1.010
  • Recommended 242.1/2 = 121.05 YAN using The MeadMakr BatchBuildr
  • Fermaid-K: 1.5 tsp ~ 4 grams (YAN)
  • DAP: 2 tsp ~ 10 grams (YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: ~ 110
  • Fermentation Temperature 62f.


  • Split the juice between two six gallon buckets
  • Put the blended apples in a mesh bag in one bucket
  • Fed 1/4 tsp Fermaid-K and petic enzyme immediately
  • Made a 1.5 liter activation starter for 2.5 hours which showed lots of activity
  • Split starter between the two buckets
Starter before pitch

Starter before pitch


  • + 24 h – Aerated with wine degasser and 1/4 tsp DAP 1/8 tsp Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
  • + 36 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP each bucket, 62f
  • + 48 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP and Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
  • + 56 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP each bucket, 62f
  • + 72 h – Aerated with wine degasser and added 1/8 tsp DAP and Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
  • + 5 days – Added 1/8 tsp addition of Fermaid-K each bucket, 62f
  • Shook every couple of days and got lots of CO2 from the one without fruit.
  • +2 weeks – strained apples out of bag and had a baseball size clump of skins left. The one with fruit on top started bubbling aggressively once fruit was removed.
  • Shook every couple of days and both bubbling for a while after being shook.2017-02-06 21.33.35.jpg

Secondary Fermentation:

  • + 1 Month – transferred to 5g carboy. Read 1.008. Added 0.5 liters of water to top up carboy.
  • +5 weeks still degassing, some apple pieces floating on top. still cloudy so added 1/4 tsp petic enzyme.
  • + 7 weeks – transferred to tertiary. Still cloudy.
  • + 10 weeks added two stage clarifier – finally cleared within a few days
  • + 11 weeks –  transferred to a three gallon carboy and two one gallons, and a half gallon carboys. The half gallon got some sediment. Read 1.010!?
  • +12 weeks – added a vanilla bean to 1/2 gallon, three gallon, and the one gallon. Put 1/2 tbsp cinnamon  in a tea bag in the 3 gallon carboy, and 1 tsp of cinnimon in a tea bag in 1/2 gallon.


More futzing:

  • + 4 months – bottled from the 1/2 gallon, got two bottles of the half vanilla bean and back of cinnamon. Presence of alcohol, no floral-musk character, strong vanilla almost too much. Checked the other vanilla meads. Left some in a glass and let sit out for an hour, it really opened up and the apple and cinnamon came out more and the alcohol turned into warming alcohol at the back-end. Apple vanilla nose come out more clear and mellowed out. Tasted off-dry.
  • +6.5 Months – took out vanilla bean and cinnamon from 3 gallon carboy. Added oak (two cubes American, one French, been soaking in vodka for 3 months) to vanilla, 3g carboy.
  • +6.75 Months – tested the vanilla cyser but couldn’t taste the vanilla. Had the intense floral /musky smell of the honey.
  • +7.5 Months took a 750ml bottle bottled from the 1/2 gallon to a local mash-up. Tasted ok, but lacking acid. Some muskiness was still there and it is quite off-dry tasting so hard to notice apple much. More vanilla than anything.
  • +8 months – tasted the larger carboy. Most of the alcohol nose is gone, vanilla is coming though, medium bodied. Tannins are coming through and the vanilla is there but no as much as the cinnamon. May not want it to sit on the oak too much longer. It looks more dark then the other batches. Could use some acid to brighten it up.

Futzing with acid:

  • + 9 months  – Did a tasting of the spiced 1/3 gallon batch and found that 17.5-20g per 100 ml of acid blend was the preferred acid level. Made a big difference, and really brought out the apple character. Added 21 g of acid blend to the topped 3 gallon carboy. Withdrew some mead, mixed in acid, and dumped back in. Tasted great, but the vanilla and the cinnamon were hints and not as forward as hoping. Put 6 grams (5 acid blend, 1g citric) into the two one gallon carboys.
  • +9.5 months – bottled all the meads.


Submitted the vanilla cyser as a cyser and the Kurt’s apple pie clone to GTA brew slam, Canada’s largest homebrew competition, when the meads were 10 months old. The cyser won second place and it scored 41/50 by two judges including Gordon Strong. Complete scoresheets. I submitted the vanilla cyser as a cyser since the vanilla was not a distinct flavor in the cyser. The vanilla cyser tasted much better than the oaked cyser, despite not much vanilla character coming through. I really helped smooth and round out the aroma and flavor profiles. It also helped cut through some of the alcohol nose that was merely amplified by the presence of oak in the cyser.

The Kurt’s apple pie clone was one of my favorite meads. Despite the cinnamon not being intense in the carboy, it really came out after a month in the bottle. The cinnamon lingered as noted by two judges, it tended to dominate, not amplify the apple character. It only scored a 35/50 and a 37/50 by two judges at the same competition. See full Kurt’s apple pie scoresheets.  Next time I would add two vanilla beans, and pull out the cinnamon earlier.

I made a couple of mistakes with this mead, and I would not follow what I did as instructions. I should have oxygenated the meads with pure 02 as the wine whip was insufficient. I would have also liked the meads more if they finished out a little sweeter, maybe 1.015. The alcohol became present later in the fermentation, and it could have needed more organic YAN. As I have mentioned elsewhere this was an earlier batch of mead for me and I was still using a wildflower honey that had such an intense floral character that it came across musky. I now would use a golden or white wildflower honey – or would do a 50/50 blend of orange and raspberry blossom varietal honey. It also could have used some rehydration with Go-ferm or substituted most of the DAP with Fermaid-O.

Another thing is that I decided how much acid to use using a 1/2 gallon batch of Kurts apple pie, then scaled up and added that amount to all the batches. In retrospect I should have added malic acid. The citric acid came across a bit sharp and stood out from the apple – malic character. I should have also determined how acid I needed by testing each spin-off batch separately. The traditional cysers needed less acid than the spiced cysers, and adding the same amount per gallon to each batch overdid it for the traditional. Finally, when determining how much acid I wanted to use, I should of cut it by 75% from by preferred – or confirmed my preference the next day. Tasting all the different acid levels at once blew my palate and lessened by sensitivity at testing. I would have added less after the fact.










M2B: Pyment, Maxed Sack Concord

You know you are a meadiac when your walking down the aisle at the grocery store and think “I could ferment that.” Well that’s what inspired this recipe. I found organic concord grape juice on sale and decided to get three liters. I had an extra packet of K1V-1118 when I was putting together the Great Canadian Short Mead Yeast Experiment and decided to start this at the same time. I was so concentrated on the experiment, I totally neglected the mead. By no means is this a recommendation on the recipe, but maybe evidence on how sometimes you get lucky?

Recipe (if I can call it that):

  • 5 grams K1V-1118
  • 6.5 g Go-ferm in starter
  • 0.5 grams potassium bicarbonate
  • 900ml hogans white honey that tasted super sweet and sour
  • 3 liters organic Concord grape juice




  • Rehyrated yeast using Go-ferm adding must every 15 minutes for 1.5 hours
  • Added grape juice and honey to carboy
  • Added 3.5 grams Fermaid-O (all up front!)
  • Aerated by shaking for 1 minute


  • 24 h – blew air lock onto the floor, put back on and shook to degass
  • 48 h – added 1 gram Fermaid-K, Aerated heavily, gravity 1.112
  • 52 h – degassed
  • 72 h – aerated heavily, added 1 gram Go-ferm, tasted super sweet and clean, more wine but lots of concord 1.086
  • + 9 days  – 1.032, tasted sweet, clean and nice and concord like. Couldn’t taste the alcohol.
  • +10 days – 1.022


After Fermentation:

  • +21 days – 1.010 super hot and alcohol, but otherwise clean. Racked to a glass carboy.
  • +5 weeks – amazing! Concord juice wine, sweet, clean with alcohol in taste. So much aroma and flavor. Added oak (two cubes American, one French, that had been soaking in vodka for 3 months)
  • +5 months – bottled 6 x 375ml bottles


This is a funny drink – like wine that reminds you of the grape juice box you had from your younger days. That said, it is delicious. There is a tonne of flavor and aroma and it is almost candy like in the way it drinks. I would have left it slightly sweeter, maybe a FG of 1.015-1.020. Despite how much I neglected this mead, it turned out quite well. I also added quite a bit more YAN than necessary, but it didn’t seem to be a problem as there was no off-flavors detected. I was really happy at how well the mead turned out. I will be using K1V-1118 again!

Won third place at Brew Slam, Canada’s largest home-brew competition. See the detailed feedback on the scoresheets. Gordon Strong was a judge at the best of show table when the mead was picked for third. After the mead judging, Gordon kept this mead, and the coffee mead (I think he might of sweetened them up a bit) and gave a presentation on the BJCP and on evaluation techniques. The whole time he was carrying this pyment and told the head judge don’t let anyone touch it – as he was judging beers. Can you tell I was happy?


Sour Mead Experiment

In this experimead, three different forms of souring are tested in standard meads. This includes Kombucha, probiotic pills (lactobacilius), and a ginger bug. The meads are evaluated in a oaked, 12% ABV, blueberry blossom honey, traditional, sparkling mead. The meads are quite distinct so judges are presented a flight and asked to provide feedback on the aroma and flavor differences perceived in the meads.

The inspiration for the base recipe for this experimead is the Sour Orange Blossom Mead from Gold Coast Meadery. I oaked the mead, used 50-50 amber blueberry blossom and golden wildflower honey, and used the TANG nutrient profile. After fermentation I added acid to traditional and bottle conditioned to 2.3 vol.

Lets talk about the sour cultures.

Ginger Bug: a relatively unknown culture in brewing, but it is AMAZING. You can make it quite easily and is mostly lacto and yeast. It is often used to ferment sparking lemonade, ginger ale, and root beer. It’s the real stuff. It tasted like lacto in a ginger candy solution. I built up this starter for a month. Google the recipe. I also used it to ferment out apple cider with fantastic results. The ginger shines though clearly.

Kombucha: I made Kombucha using an equal blend of green, white, and black tea. I use white sugar, and follow the standard recipe. I often only let my kombucha get to 70-80% fermentation since after that I find the Acetobacter usually kicks in too much which most people find off-putting. For the culture, I pulled off my kombucha jug at around 70 percent completed. It is nice and tart without too much acetic acid.

Probiotic pills: I dumped several probiotic pills into a one liter soda stream bottle with filtered tap water and a TBSP and a half of golden brown sugar. I let it sit for 5 weeks and it tasted clean, sweet, soured brown sugar-water. I also added three probiotic pills when I pitched the starter. I don’t recommend this method, but it worked. I now just add 500 million cells per gallon rehydrated in a go-ferm addition at 95f. Pitch and wait 2-3 days for the PH to drop before pitching the yeast.

Recipe: 12%, TANG Soured Traditional Mead, November 2017, 4×1 gallon

  • 0.92 gallon/ 3.5 L
  • 0.375 liters Raw Hogans Golden Wildflower Honey
  • 0.375 liters Amber Blueberry Blossom Wildflower Honey
  • 2.4 lbs honey total
  • 3 g of US-05 yeast
  • 75-25 distilled-filtered tap water




  • OG- 1.09
  • Tar. FG-0.998
  • ABV-12%

TANG nutrients:

At pitch

  • Mixed honey and 2.5 liters distilled water, shook for 1 minute to mix
  • Aerated 0.45 seconds with pure O2
  • Added 1 liter of sour starter
  • Topped up to 3.5 liters using filtered tap water
  • Add 0.25G Fermaid-K
  • Shook all four to mix well
  • Add three medium toast American oak cubes that had been boiled for 5 minutes
  • Rehydrated 1 packet of US-05 (11.5 grams) with 6 grams Go-ferm, added 3 tsp brown sugar after 30 minutes
  • Pitch ¼ yeast starter after 24 hours – traditional immediately

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  • +12 h – Added 0.3g Fermaid-K – no sign of fermentation, 64°F . Swirled.
  • +24 h pitched the rest of the starter. Traditional going to town, 64°F
  • +36 h swirled, 64°F
  • +48 h – 0.8 g Fermaid K, 0.5 g Fermaid-O , 64°F
  • +60 h swirled, 64°F
  • +72 h 0.5 g Fermaid-O , swirled, foamed up quite a bit, 64°F
  • + 84 h – 2 weeks swirled morning and evening
  • +1 week- Traditional at 1.036. Clean, super sweet, and yummy 🙂
  • +3 Weeks- still off gassing quite a bit, bubbling when swirled.

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  • +1 Month – the musts have dropped clear. FG 0.998. Tasted and smelled of raw sweet honey, bubble gum, red berries- current and pomegranate. Super clean. Near clear – shook it one last time. 60°F
  • +4 Month – Bottled to 2 vol., using mesquite honey as priming sugar. Added 0.2 grams/ liter of 50-50 malic-tartaric acid to the tradtional.


At bottling they all tasted amazing!! The blueberry-honey character dominated and is supported in the background by the pomme-honey golden honey. They are all very clean, with lots of perceived sweetness. The acidity was present from the soured meads. The traditional was very complex, but rich, and I noted that it needed some acidity to compliment the rich blueberry honey flavor.


The meads were evaluated when they were 6 months old. Eight panelists participated in the evaluation. The meads were all presented during at the same time during a mead-up. Everyone received all fours meads. 2oz of each mead were poured for all participants. The meads were evaulated in a flight using four different colored 8 oz party cups. All panelists were instructed to fill out the following score sheet:


There were eight participants in total. The evaluation took 30 minutes. Two of the panelists knew the treatment, the other half were blind.


The following table presents the average of the values for the check boxes. level

Overall, people generally tended to score in the midrange of the metric. The probiotic souring was evaluated highly, particularly for taste, technical merit, and overall perception. The kombucha had no perceivable acidic acid. It scored the highest for the aroma, but fell in the mid range for the other statistics and the lowest overall. The ginger bug scored on the lower end of the scores, but was very unique and faired better in overall scores. Finally, the traditional did relatively poorly on aroma, but was the preferred for body, and rated highly for taste, and technical merit.

The following table presents the standard deviation of the values for the check boxes. The higher tannin and “funk” for the kombucha spit participants on their preferences. A few participants raved about it afterwards, whereas other attributed its characteristics to off flavors. This can be seen by the highest standard deviation in all metrics. The traditional had the lowest standard deviation in aroma and technical merit. The ginger bug had the smallest standard deviation for overall merits, with most people finding it desireable.



The following table presents the descriptors of the overall/ tastes section. The number of times a descriptor was used is listed next to the word. Only the traditional mead had the terms honey and enjoyable used more than once (twice to be precise). While the exact words were different, there is direction in the object being described. The traditional was described as a more classic profile. The probiotic was tart and people used descriptors associated with dry and tart beverages. The ginger bug was more complex, with generally positive descriptors. The descriptors for kombucha was a bit more dispersed.


The aroma descriptors had more unity of terms compared to the overall/ tastes section. The traditional mead had sulfur descriptors from half of the participants. I have a low sulfur threshold and wonder if it was just from this bottle, as it was not noticed in other bottles. The probiotic aroma descriptor emphases its honey and stronger character. The descriptors for kombucha had estery used twice. The ginger bug also had notable honey character, with some alcohol and a breath of terms that suggests complexity.


The flavor descriptors had the most unity. The traditional mead had honey-sweet, low acid, and low alcohol used twice. The probiotic flavor descriptor emphases the lactic acid which gave it a dry, almost herbal-citrus profile. The flavor descriptors for kombucha had mentions of estery again, with a notable sour-sweet feature mentioned by 5 of the participants. The ginger bug also had notable honey-sweet character, again with some alcohol and lower-light amounts of acid.


The interesting feature of these results is that the souring methods, are not merely adding forms of acids, but also adding a breath of other flavours. The kombucha and the ginger bug were very different despite the common base. The lactic acid of the probiotic pills seemed to emphases the base mead in the aroma, but seemly went a bit over board on the degree of sourness.


I enjoyed this experiment since I learned lots about making sours. Mainly, souring is a cool set of tools for the modern meadmaker. I do regret no letting the sours work away at the must more than 24 hours before pitching to get more sour character. For the probiotic pills, the opposite is true. As mentioned at the start, unstead of doing the starter, I would just recommend adding 500 million cells per gallon rehydrated in a Go-ferm addition at 95f. The key to any sour is getting the acid-sweet balance correct. The interesting thing about this mead is how dry and clean it can come out. The honey characters shine, without any actual sweetness, other than perceived. If I was to boost the FG to 1.002, the evaluation and descriptors would of been very different. Also, blueberry honey can be difficult to work with in traditional, as it is very rich. This is what allowed the extra acidity to provide the counter balance and cut through the richness. That said, I would recommend orange blossom over blueberry in a traditional anyday.


Acid Additions in TANG Cream Soda Mead

In this experimead, the use of acid blend is tested for its flavor and aroma contributions in a dry short mead. The acid is added to a 5.5% cream soda, bottle conditioned, short mead. Triangle tests are conducted to see if participants can correctly identify the difference between the two meads. Correct respondents also provide feedback on the differences perceived in the two meads.

The base recipe for this experimead starts with the Psychopomp Recipe Clone from Havoc Meadery. I modified the recipe according to my taste. I uses 2 kg of frozen Polish fermentation cherries, and used the TANG nutrient profile. After fermentation I also modified the recipe by adding Costco Vanilla extract, and bottle conditioned to 2.3 vol. Some of the bottles were given acid blend additions and some were left as is.

Recipe: 5.5%, TANG Cream Soda Mead, Aug 28th 2017, 6 gallon

  • 6 Gallon/23L
  • OG = 1.038
  • FG = .998
  • 6 lbs Raw Hogans Golden Wildflower Honey
  • 2 kg of Poland Sour Cherry
  • 5 tbsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2.5 tsp of acid blend
  • 5 packets Lalvin D-47 yeast


TANG nutrients:

  • Recommended YAN by The MeadMakr BatchBuildr is 78.7 YAN
  • 8.5g Go-ferm (45 YAN)
  • 4g Fermaid-K (17.6 YAN)
  • Total: 62.6 YAN
  • Note: I reduced the YAN since the fruit provides some nutrient

At pitch

  • Made an activation starter using 5 packets Lalvin D-47 yeast the 8.5 g Go-ferm and for 3 hours
  • 5 ish gallons water in bucket (one gallon distilled and rest spring – used the larger green spring water from Costco which I used for secondary)
  • Mixed in 6 lbs Raw Hogans Golden Wildflower Honey
  • 2 kg of Poland Sour Cherry
  • Added 4 g Fermaid-K to must
  • Fermented started at 64 f after two hours of pitch


  • +12 h not bubbling yet, at 72 f.
  • +24 h opened up and bubbling like crazy. Dunked the bag in several times. Had to press down the lid down to get the co2 to stop sneaking out around the side. Smelled great. Like sweet sour cherries.
  • +36 h 78f opened up and bubbling like crazy. Dunked the bag a few times. Smelled great. Like sweet sour cherries.
  • +3 days – degassed, dunked cherries. Done fermenting, looks like degassing. Temp at ~78f moved to top of box of bottles to make room for the cyser.
  • +~7 days – removed fruit and let sit at 78f


  • +2 Weeks – transferred to carboy, added Vanilla and the must dropped clear within a couple days.
  • +2.5 weeks – bottled at 2.3 vol with little foaming. So many bottles! Added acid to most bottles at a rate of 1/8 of a tsp per liter.

Initial Tasting Notes

This stuff is great. Despite the high fermentation temperatures, the mead came out really clean. The phenolic of the yeast were present, but it added a malty character. It tastes better than a cream soda, but you can drink it all day, because it is dry. I had originally left some without vanilla and acid, but it was kind of boring. Cherry doesn’t taste like cherry without acid. I ended up opening up the remaining bottles and adding the vanilla and acid. The batch also went really fast. I was happy with it and made a lot so gave most of it away. I will be making this recipe again!

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Triangle Tests 

Tests were evaluated when the meads were 2 months old at the Toronto Brew Slam Competition Canada’s largest homebrew competition. Participants were given a score sheet that asked participant to identify the odd mead out. Participants were asked their experience level with meads, how blown their palate was, and a their status as judges and home/professional brewers. If participants were correct, they were asked to say which mead they preferred and provide some comments on overall impression, aroma and flavor characteristics of the meads.

There were 15 participants, of which 13 were BJCP beer judges and 3 were BJCP mead judges. Gordon Strong was among the participants and was able to correctly identify the meads. Out of the 15 participants, 6 were able to identify the odd mead out. Of those that identified the odd-mead out, all preferred the mead with the acid addition. Here is a summary of the results:


There again seemed to be some discrepancy between being able to identify the odd-mead out and experience level with the meads. Also, the evaluations were done during the second break on the second day of the competition (after IPAs were evaluated) so those with less blown palates (Palate=1-3) seemed to be able to be correlated with being able to identify the odd-meads out.


Similarly, mead judges were more likely to identify the odd mead out, as well as home brewers. Being a beer judge actually made it less likely to be correct – possibly due to the correlation of being a beer judge and having a blown palate.


Most importantly, the six correct participants provided tasting notes of the meads. They all identified acid as the characteristic difference. Acid seemed to provide more berryness, more complexity, mouthfeel, cleanness, and brightness.




It was a lot of fun to do this triangle test, and it was great to get so many BJCP judges. There is not much of a familiarity of short meads, and showing off a 5.5% dry mead that people liked was a novel experience for most participants. While the p-value from the ability to correct identify the meads was not significant, I found it more interesting that those who correctly identified the meads all preferred the meads with the added acid. Beer judges are often looking for bitter-sweet balance and the acid-sweet balance that are so important in meads and ciders are often foreign to them. Acid is more than ever an important part of my toolbox.

Peer Review 

Sean Kerry, PhD. Participant in study

I’ve participated in a few of Stephen’s triangle tests and structured mead tastings. I can attest to the rigour of his method and his data collection process. The high quality of Stephen’s base meads are the result of his attention to fermentation process, staggered nutrient additions, and yeast health. With regard to this experiment, the effect of acids in other alcoholic bevarages (see Cook’s Science, May 2017) has previously been substantiated. The experiment has demonstrated that acid blend additions can result in flavor enhancements in meads and melomels, particularly as it relates to the perception and character of the fruit.


M3A: Basil With A Hint Of Lemon, Short

I really enjoy the refreshing quality of short dry meads. When I was in Nova Scotia early in 2017 I went to a farmers market where a farmer was selling honey and said that she only kept a few lives on their wild blue berry, wild cherry, and apple farm. I bought a 6 pound bucket and make this wonderful traditional short mead.  I bottled some as is and split the batch and did five variations. This included a gallon each of  1 pound of whole frozen blackberries and currents in secondary. I also made a mojito mead, a dry hopped mead with 1oz each of Amarillo and Cascade, and a lemon basil mead.  I only made a half-gallon of the basil and mojito meads, so four 12 oz bottles. The berry meads were jammy/ fruit skin flavor that overpowered the delightful honey character. They also needed acid, and I found myself adding acid blend to the glass to brighten them up.  This was not what I was looking for and I won’t do fruit in secondary again for short meads. The metheglin’s on the other hand were amazing! For both the basil lemon and mint lime meads, the herbal flavors and citric acids accentuated the honey character. Here is the recipe for the traditional short mead and the basil lemon metheglin variation.

Traditional Short, 7.5%, US-05, 5 gallons, June 24th, 2017

  • 4 gallons of water, spring water with the following profile:


  • 5 gallon glass carboy
  • Rehydrated 12g US-05 in 8.5g of Go-ferm (Contributed 54 YAN)
  • Feed starter for 1 hour
  • 6 lbs of wild flower honey from Nova Scotia, wild blue berry, wild cherry, and apple.
  • 1 lbs of Hogan’s golden honey
  • 1 liter of filtered tap water in starter


  • OG-1.059
  • Tar. FG-0.998
  • Act. FG- 0.994
  • ABV-7.5-8%

TANSM Nutrient Protocol:


  • +18h – degassed, .5g Fermaid-K, foamed over but had sanitized before
  • +24h – degassed, 1 g Fermaid-K, 1.5 g of DAP, foamed over but had sanitized before
  • +36h – degassed, 1 g Fermaid-K, 1.5 g of DAP, no foam over – gravity read 1.039
  • +48h – degassed, 0.5 g Fermaid-K, 0.8 g of DAP, foam over but had sanitized
  • +3 days – degassed, foamed up but not over.
  • +4 days – degassed, foamed up but not over. 1.022 tasted amazing!! Sweet was balanced. Not too yeasty. Smelled of sweet honey, cherry, apple
  • +3 weeks – degassed, no big foam up. Still quite hazy. 0.994!! Clean but really dry.

After Fermentation:

  • +3.5 weeks – Transferred to secondary. Got five gallons. Filled two in 1.9 liter glass mason jar with dregs.
  • +3.75 week – Added juice of one lemon and four basil sprigs to the 1.9 liter glass mason jar. Sprayed the basil leaves with star-san, gave them a good spanking.
  • +3.75 weeks+24 hours – removed basil which as all brown and gross.
  • +4 weeks –  added clarifier
  • +6 weeks – Bottled 4x 375 ml at 2.5 vol using table sugar
  • +7 weeks – Tasted bottled traditional and most of the ale yeast flavour is gone. Little honey coming through, thin and watery.
  • +9 weeks – Traditional tastes great. Fruity and light, but still not fully carbonated.  

Won silver at the Winnipeg 2017 Pro/ Am Brew Challenge (at three months). Rated 40/50 and 45/50 by the two judges.  Scoresheets.

In retrospect, should have added a tad more lemon juice and some rind. Either that or some citric acid, just to help it pop a bit more. The mead finished with a really low gravity, 0.994, so even though I gave it 2.5 volume, the mead only slightly carbonated and I suspect it conked out around 0.998. I would of preferred using honey to prime next time. It would also be more accessible if I was to backsweeten with a sweet mead to say 1.002, to appease those who are dry snobs. Sometimes its hard to tell how to finish a short mead at bottling, since I expect to get more acid from the carbonation. Now, I almost always add some citric or acid blend to my short meads to help them pop a bit.

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