Anecdotal

Session Mead Recipes

This is an evidence-based session mead recipe template that makes remarkable tasting mead in minimal time and turns honey to great tasting mead in a week. The mead recipes are 4-4.5% ABV and are under 100 calories per serving. The yeast brings apple, pear, and honey characteristics which works well in traditional meads. The recipe is forgiving and has high perceived sweetness and high flocculation (drops clear). This recipe works well with a wide range of honey profiles including many wildflowers.

What’s great about this short mead recipe?

  • Delicious and full of flavor as a traditional mead
  • takes minimal time: ~15 min to start ferment and <1 hour effort overall
  • honey to glass in as little as 7 days
  • versatile and adaptable to wide range of flavors
  • lower calorie – FG 1.000

This is intended to be a super easy and tasty recipe for veterans and beginners alike. The fermentation is straightforward and a fast. All ingredients are easy to find in home brew stores around the world and no specialty nutrients are required. The use of the spring water jugs also saves a lot of cleaning time and requires minimal equipment.

Recipe: One Week, Crushable, Evidence-Based Short Mead, 4.5% ABV, 4 Gallons

Specs:

  • OG: 1.035
  • Expected FG: 1.000
  • ABV ~ 4.5%

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of S-04 (English Ale Yeast)
  • 2 kg (~4 lbs or 1.4 liters) of honey (golden, late summer, wildflower works well)
  • 15-liter jug of (low mineral) spring water
  • 1.5 grams calcium chloride, 0.5 grams sea salt (optional)
  • 0.75 grams of gypsum (optional)
  • 2 grams of potassium bicarbonate (optional)
  • 2.5 grams of Fermaid-k/ Energizer
  • 4.7 grams of diammonium phosphate (DAP)
  • a 7-gallon wide mouth fermentor (or a second 15-liter jug)

A note on the fermentation vessel

For the recipes involving whole fruit it is easiest to add everything to a cleaned and sanitized wide mouth 7-gallon jug and mix with a wine whip. You can use a 6 gallon bucket, but you won’t have enough headspace, so you will need to be careful when degassing. Alternatively, split all ingredients between two 15 liter jugs (see pictures) which will avoid all the cleaning. Using liquid honey from glass jars (say two 1 kg jars of honey) is easiest for pouring.

Fermentation (~5 days, 62-68 F)

  • time 0 – add all honey, water, and salts. Use a wine whip to agitate aggressively for a couple of minutes or shake both jugs vigorously for at least two minutes. Once everything is dissolved make sure must is between 62-68 °F and then sprinkle yeast evenly on top. Add the rubber stopper (usually no. 10) and air lock. This step can be done in less than 15 minutes.
  • +20 minutes, swirl the yeast into solution.
  • +1-12 hours, add first dose of nutrients: 1.56 grams of DAP and 0.83 grams of Fermaid-k/ Energizer.
  • +24 hours add second dose of nutrients: 1.56 grams of DAP and 0.83 grams of Fermaid-k/ Energizer.
  • +48 hours add second dose of nutrients: 1.56 grams of DAP and 0.83 grams of Fermaid-k/ Energizer.
  • +12 hours to 4 days, keep temperature steady between 62-68 °F, and at least once a day swirl jugs or mix with wine whip. Smell the aroma coming out of the fermentor.
  • +day 4/6 – when fermentation has slowed noticeably take a gravity reading. It should be 1.000-1.004. At this point add fruit/herbs, if desired, using a large nylon bag. Use the pectic enzyme at this point.
  • ~day 4/6 + 24 hours – remove fruit/herbs 24 hours after adding (6/12 hours for hops)
  • ~day 4/6 + 48 hours – two options:
    1. add 2/3’s of a 2 stage clarifier (i.e. kieselsol and chitosan) if a very fast turn around is needed (may remove body/tannin, but it works fast). 24-48 hours after adding clarifier rack to secondary or into a keg.
    2. rack back into the 15-liter jug (i.e. secondary). If using two jugs you can rack or pour the two half into one, rinse/repeat then rinse/clean/sanitize and save the extra jug.

Secondary

  • add 0.5 grams of ascorbic acid and 1 gram of malic acid in secondary during or after racking (optional)
  • keep between 62-68 °F if gravity is not yet 1.000. If at 0.998 it can be keep colder
  • keep in secondary until the mead is reasonably clear which usually takes 24 hours (i.e. no protein chunks in suspension). You can use a two-stage clarifier at his point if you didn’t use it in primary and its having trouble clearing.
  • if you shorten or have a floating dip stick you can secondary in the keg

Bottle or Keg

The recipe yields 16.5 liters plus any volume from the fruit. If you are using fruit, adding another 1.5 liters of water in primary will yield 5 gallons. If going for a traditional you will get 16 liters.

Regarding sweetness, S-04 will finish between 0.9983 to 1.000. At 1.000 this means that there is residual sweetness. Given the level of alcohol of 4.5%, the final gravity will eventually end up at 0.9983. This means that if the mead finishes at 1.000 the product has 0.0017 residual sweetness left in the mead. This residual sugar combined with the perceived sweetness from the honey and pomme is offers lots of perceived sweetness.

  • Carbonate to 2.5 vol
  • If bottling:
    • confirm FG is 1.000, if not wait until it is.
    • rack to a 15-liter jug and add mix in 130 grams of honey diluted 50-50 in warm no-chlorine water
    • bottle using a bottling wand, cap
    • place in an area of 62-68 °F for a couple of weeks
  • If kegging you may like to scale the recipe to 5 gallons, two options:
    • rack into keg, carbonate to 2.5 vol – keep it off-dry
    • rack into keg, add fruit juices or honey to taste (in steps of 30 grams of honey), carbonate to 2.5 vol

A Short Note on Time Saving

This recipe is designed to work with minimal equipment and with a mind for time saving. One of the biggest time savers is reducing cleaning. Using virgin spring water jugs for primary and secondary means no clean up. Rinse and recycle when done.

If using a 7-gallon fermentor you can leave the wine whip in as the top 1/4 sticks out, so it is easy to reattach back on the drill. The whip is also handy to weigh down bags of herbs and fruit. I also leave my hydrometer in the mead and just take it out every time I stir it with the wine whip. These save dripping mead everywhere and trying to clean and sanitize instruments every time they are used.

Short Mead Recipe Variations

This recipe works really well for dry traditional meads. However, it also works well with additional flavors and here are some tried and true variations on the recipes. In general, I prefer there to be two complimentary flavors as there are only a few flavors I prefer to stand on their own.

Add all fruit and herbs, etc., at end of primary to maximize aroma, flavor and body. All whole fruit need to be frozen beforehand and thawed to the temperature of the must (62-68 °F by warming fruit on a stove-top or leave covered at room temperature for ~ 12 hours), and added in a sanitized nylon mesh bag. Similarly add any herbs/ zest to a nylon bag. If using the two-jug method avoid whole fruit and use fruit juices or variants with herbs.

  • Oaked Traditional
    • 5-15 cubes of medium toast American oak
  • Strawberry with Rhubarb
    • 1.5 kg of strawberry
    • 0.5 kg of rhubarb
    • works well with US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
    • 0.75 grams of pectic enzyme (optional)
  • Strawberry and Rhubarb
    • 1.0 kg of strawberry
    • 1.0 kg of rhubarb
    • exclude the malic acid
    • works well with US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
    • 0.75 grams of pectic enzyme (optional)
  • Raspberry “mini-Bomb”
    • 1-1.5 kg of raspberries
    • works well with US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
    • exclude the malic acid
    • 0.75 grams of pectic enzyme (optional)
  • Tropical
    • 2 kg of favorite tropical fruit mix
    • or 2 liters of favorite (preservative free) tropical fruit juice, say mango and passion fruit
    • exclude the malic acid
    • works well with US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
  • Cream Soda
    • 2 kg of bright red, sour cherry
    • 1 vanilla bean split in half or 1 tbsp of vanilla extract in secondary
    • works well with US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
  • Mojito
    • zest and juice of 5 limes (use a peeler for zest – bag it)
    • 15 x 8-10″ sprigs (tops) of fresh mint (no dirt, spanked, minimal stem)
    • exclude the malic acid
    • use US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
  • Thai-style
    • zest and juice of 5 limes
    • 15 x 8-10″ sprigs (tops) of fresh Thai basil (no dirt, spanked, minimal stem)
    • exclude the malic acid
    • Use US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
  • Herbal Tea
    • concentrated 2/3 strength herbal tea blend (flavored rooibos works well)
    • steep in 1 liter of chlorine free water
    • make sure to steep at advised temp (usually 180 °F) and for minimal time (4-5 minutes)
    • let cool to must temperature before adding concentrate
    • use US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
  • Ginger-Lime
    • 1.5 oz of ginger powder
    • 4 oz of fresh minced ginger (add to a bag)
    • juice of 5 limes (about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup)
    • exclude the malic acid
    • use US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
  • Green Tea
    • concentrated 2/3 of strength of your favorite green tea ~ 1.5 cups of loose-leaf (Jasmine and roasted rice works great)
    • steep in 1 liter of chlorine free water in a French press
    • make sure to steep at 140 °F and for only 3-4 minutes, let cool before adding
    • zest and juice of 3 lemons and exclude any extra acid (optional, but add the extra acid if excluding)
    • you can cold steep some tea in the mead for 24 hours if you want extra dryness/tannin/body
  • Dry Hopped
    • 2-3 oz of juicy/tropical new-world hops for 6-12 hours (note shortened contact time)
    • for example, 1.5 oz Citra, 1.5 oz Galaxy
    • use Cryo hops if possible, but make sure to only add half the weight
    • works well with US-05 instead of S-04 yeast
  • Tropical Hopped
    • 1 liter (or 0.5 liters of two types) of favorite tropical juice (no preservatives) or 1 kg of fruit blend
    • dry hop as above

A Note on Acid Additions

The use of malic acid is not recommended in certain meads. However, in others it does bring a mid-palate minerality, a perception of brightness, and can bring a clearer perception of fruit. If you prefer sour gummy candy over non-sour gummy candy than you will probably prefer the additional acid in the traditional.

The ascorbic acid is added for reducing acidly but is added as an antioxidant. This will avoid oxidation when transferring and help with color stability. The use is similar to adding K-meta but is not intended to harm the yeast. This acid provides a rounded acidity and helps promote mouthfeel and a perception of fullness.

Recommended recipes to use with this base (add extra ingredients to this base at the end of primary):

Spring Water and Salt Additions

The recipe calls for the optional salt additions which are used to contribute to mouthfeel, body, and enhance the perception of sweetness. They are used in the same way you use table salt to flavor food. Let’s look at what each of these does.

  • Calcium chloride, (adds Ca, Cl): Helps with flocculation. Contributes body, fullness, complexity and boosts perceived sweetness of honey.
  • Sea salt (adds Na, Cl): Contributes body, fullness, and complexity and boosts perceived sweetness of honey.
  • Gypsum (adds Ca, SO4): Helps with flocculation. Contributes to dryness and a sharp finish. Leave out if you like a persistently sweet finish.
  • Potassium bicarbonate (adds HCO3, K): Contributes body and fullness. Helps buffer pH drops.

The table below describes the contribution of the salts to the water profile. The first row is a common spring water profile that you can replace with your own. The higher calcium with also add residual alkalinity and help with flocculation.

Here is why each of these are important:

  • Carbonate and Bicarbonate (CO3 and HCO3): Buffers pH drops to avoid phenolics from low pH. Levels in the 200-400 range provide mouthfeel similar to a club soda.
  • Sodium (Na): contributes body and mouthfeel. Levels in the 10-70 mg/l range are normal, levels of up to 150 mg/l are used to enhance malty body and fullness in beers, but levels above 200 mg/l are undesirable.
  • Chloride (Cl): enhances the mouthfeel, complexity and boosts perceived sweetness of honey in low concentrations. Levels in the 10-70 mg/l range are normal. Keep below 150 mg/l and never exceed 200 mg/l. Keep the Chloride to Sulfate ratio to at least 2:1.
  • Sulfate (SO4): Enhances bitterness and adds a dry, sharp, profile to the finish. Avoid if you want a lingering sweetness. High levels of sulfate will create an astringent profile that is not desirable. 5-50 mg/l is recommended
  • Calcium (Ca): Contributes to water hardness and lowers the pH. It is an important yeast nutrient and levels just over the 100 mg/l are desirable for optimal yeast flocculation. Keep in the range of 50 mg/l to 150 mg/l.
  • Magnesium (Mg): Contributes to water hardness. A critical yeast nutrient and amounts 10-30 mg/l range are desirable. Often found in nutrients so no need to adjust. Levels above 30 mg/l are undesirable.

Yeast Variations: US-05

IMHO, S-04, with its pear and apple esters, low attenuation, and honey like character is preferred for traditional short meads. However, US-05 dry ale yeast is also an excellent option. It is very clean, with almost no esters and a cracker/candy profile that lets the honey shine through. It is a more forgiving yeast that is more acid tolerant and there less chance of phenolics. US-05 is also a very faster fermentor and may knock an extra day of the fermentation. US-05 works well for the metheglin type variants, i.e. Thai-style Mojito, and hopped meads. It also works well for acidic melomels, such as the tropical, rhubarb and raspberry.

Pitch Rate with Yeast Variations

No matter what yeast you use make sure to pitch both US-05 and S-04 at the recommended 2-3 grams per gallon. The recommended pitch rate of ale yeast is higher than wine yeasts. I have found that a 2.5 grams per gallon pitch rate is desirable (see metadata below).

Use of a “wet” yeast such as WLP001 or Wyeast 1056 may cause sulfur as the pitch rate is several times higher and the yeast are not as well-fed and healthy. You need to provide a high to very high level of nutrients for wet yeasts (Fermaid-K 3.5g, DAP 6.7g total). Again make sure to stagger with Chico yeast variations. If you are using another yeast, strain your really not following this recipe. Ale yeasts YAN requirements differ but normally have a normal to very-high YAN requirement.

Not Recommended for Wine Yeasts

This recipe is not recommended for wine yeasts which have different nutrient requirements, temperature ranges, and fermentation preferences. I have preformed a side-by-side with EC-1118, a champagne yeast, and S-04 with nutrients up front and provided it with a low nutrient addition. The wine yeast will become phenolic early in the fermentation, then produced sulfur whereas the S-04 could handle the fermentation. For wine yeasts you need to stagger and often provide low levels nutrients, or use Tosna 3.0 nutrient protocol. D-47 and EC-1118 are good yeasts. Other wine yeasts often have a wine cooler like flavor which is very different from this ale yeast recipe.

Nutrient Variations: High-Nutrients

The metadata at the end of this article provides a summary of variations on nutrients and assumptions for this recipe using S-04. This recipe will ferment a few days faster is you use a high level of nutrients (Fermaid-K 3.5g, DAP 6.7g total). The mead will be dryer and have slightly more wine-like, and it will have less honey-like character. A low level of nutrients will result in a sluggish fermentation and potentially result in stick fermentation and diacetyl off-flavors. A medium (or a medium-high) level of nutrients for S-04 strikes the balance between preserving honey character and producing nice esters.

Nutrient Variations: Go-ferm

You can also add at least up to 5 grams of Go-ferm in primary before risking excess nutrient off-flavor. This will help speed up the time between 1.01 and FG, potentially knocking up to a day off fermentation. It also changes the esters slightly towards more apple and less of a pear/banana character. Use the manufacture instructions with dry ale yeast and pitch directly into the must. You can rehydrate but do not use the recommended amount of Go-ferm (1.25 grams per gram of yeast).

Nutrient Variations: Tosna 3.0 and Fermaid-O

Tosna 3.0 is not recommended as the fermentation will be sluggish (3+ weeks) and there will not be pronounced pomme esters. S-04 in particular seems to have difficulty metabolizing organic nutrients than other yeasts.

One way to use Fermaid-O (yeast hulls) is to substitute the first nutrient addition (day 0). The use of Fermaid-O for the first nutrient addition reduces the level of pear and apple esters compared to inorganic nutrients. It will avoid the slight phenolic smell after the second inorganic nutrient addition. If doing this make sure to also use Go-ferm (see above) and add both when mixing the honey, water, salts, and before pitching the yeast. Instead of the first DAP/Fermaid-O addition at 1-12 hours, add 2.68 grams of Fermaid-O.

Nutrient Variations: Wyeast Nutrient

This recipe also works well with Wyeast nutrient. This nutrient has between 0.5-0.8 percent the nutrients of a typical DAP/Fermaid-K regimes (preliminary and forthcoming).

Nutrient Variations: Staggering

S04 will produce phenolics on day 2 if using only inorganic nutrients (DAP/energizer), see off-flavor notes below. However, this phenolic character will blow off and will have little effect on the finished. S-04 is one of the few yeasts that can take all the nutrients upfront with only minor lager-like character in the final mead. However, staggering will help make the later generations of yeast more healthy and may help avoid phenolics cased by mistakes later in fermentation. Make sure all nutrients are in within two days and before the gravity hits 2/3 sugar break, a gravity of 1.012. Either way, the yeast are likely to chew up 0.01 gravity points in a day.

How to produce off-flavors

S-04 is quite clean and expresses lots of honey-like and apple/pear esters. Smell the mead every day of fermentation to see how it is feeling. Here are a few possible off-flavors that you’ll be able to smell if you don’t follow this recipe exactly.

  1. Phenolic (more common) – smells like rubber, band-aid, burnt plastic, mothball
  2. Sulfur – at high levels smells like rotten egg, at low levels like a warm American lager beer or muddled esters
  3. Diacetyl – smells and tastes like butterscotch, sometimes caramel or artificial butter

You can get off-flavors if you do the following:

  1. forgot the nutrients or added too much yeast (sulfur, maybe recoverable)
  2. use DAP within the first 24 hours (phenolics, recoverable)
  3. letting the temperature drop below 60 °F or above 70 °F (phenolics, likely recoverable)
  4. adding acidic fruits during peak fermentation (phenolics, likely unrecoverable)
  5. adding more nutrients towards the end (phenolics, unrecoverable)
  6. use chlorinated tap water (phenolics, unrecoverable)

If you smell sulfur you probably forgot the nutrients or added too much yeast. Example 1), you are ill-informed and think raisins are nutrients or that nutrients aren’t needed. Example 2) you didn’t follow the recipe and added two whole yeast packets (in addition to sulfur this will slow fermentation). If you forgot all nutrients early on add them ASAP, say first 24 hours. If you added the nutrients don’t worry, the yeast will clean this up, and it is not likely to be noticeable in your final mead. If you get diacetyl leave the mead in primary and raise the temperature a few degrees for a couple more days.

Light phenolics will noticeable during fermentation if you stagger using DAP nutrients (including DAP/ Fermaid-K/ Wyeast) with S-04 (especially at high- and medium-nutrients levels). This will blow off and not be noticeable in the final product. This is not a concern for US-05.

The sure-fire way to ruin the mead completely is by deciding it is not finishing up quickly enough and adding more nutrients that include DAP after a gravity of 1.012. For example, if the mead is sitting at 1.004, and you are getting impatient, do not add more nutrients (DAP/Fermaid-k or Wyeast). This will ruin your mead and is not likely to clean up. Adding Fermaid-O at this stage will help speed fermentation slightly but may not be metabolized this late in fermentation so may be noticeable in the final mead. Best to keep the temperature steady, and wait it out.

Another way to get phenolic juice is by adding acidic fruits during peak fermentation. Make sure only to add fruit once fermentation has slowed considerably <1.004. Make sure your fruit additions do not drop the pH below 3.0. If they will, make sure only to add fruit once FG is 1.000. Both the tropical fruit and rhubarb mead will get you close to a pH of 3.0 so don’t boost the level of fruit beyond the recipe, add extra potassium bicarbonate, or make sure the fermentation is complete before adding. S-04 is more susceptible to pH drops below 2.9 than US-05 but it can still happen for both.

In summary keep to the recipe:

  • Keep temperature between 62-68 °F.
  • Use chlorine-free spring water
  • Do not add acidic fruits during peak fermentation
  • Do not add extra nutrients after 2/3 sugar break and before day 2

What makes this an evidence-based recipe?

This recipe has been derived using evidence from many triangle tests and bench trials. Some experiments have been completed, some are ready for triangle tests, but more can always be completed. The recipe will be updated as new evidence arises. Here are the experiments that support the best practices for the recipe:

  • Great Canadian Short Mead Yeast Experiment
    • evidence that S-04 provided great aroma (apple/pear/honey) and taste
    • evidence that S-04 was low body – i.e. crushable
  • Acid Additions in TANG Cream Soda Short Mead 
    • evidence that small amounts of acid can boost perception of fruit and sweetness
  • Mead Water Chemistry: High Chloride to Sulfate Ratio
    • evidence that higher chloride-to-sulfate ratio is preferable
  • Mead Water Chemistry: High Mineral versus Low Mineral Content
    • evidence that a moderate level of salts are preferable
  • Using potassium bicarbonate to avoid off-flavors (forthcoming)
  • High, medium and low nutrients with S-04 (forthcoming)
  • Direct pitch, Go-ferm and staggering with S-04 (forthcoming)
  • 1 gram versus 2 grams per gallon pitch rate with S-04 (forthcoming)
  • Effect of kieselsol and chitosan (preliminary and forthcoming)
  • Effect of kieselsol and chitosan with fruit (forthcoming)
  • Acid in primary vs secondary with S-04 (preliminary)
  • TOSNA 3.0 vs TANG S-04 (preliminary and forthcoming)
  • EC1118 vs S-04 (forthcoming)
  • O2 additions with US-05 (preliminary and forthcoming)
  • High vs low pitch rate with US-05 (preliminary and forthcoming)

The fermentation characteristics and other evidence can be seen in the following metadata across these studies.

Metadata for S-04

All fermentations have SG between 1.030 – 1.034. “whip” refers to using a wine whip to degas, “shake” is aggressive degas, and “swirl” is swirling of jugs which is less aggressive. O2 refers to oxygenation method with the day being the use of pure oxygen with a diffusion stone, “shake” is a 2-minute shaking of a jug with 50 percent headspace, and “whip” refers to aggressive agitation with a wine whip to during mixing.

Metadata for US-05

All fermentations have SG between 1.030 – 1.034. “whip” refers to using a wine whip to degas, “shake” is aggressive degas, and “swirl” is swirling of jugs which is less aggressive. O2 refers to oxygenation method with the day being the use of pure oxygen with a diffusion stone, “shake” is a 2-minute shaking of a jug with 50 percent headspace, and “whip” refers to aggressive agitation with a wine whip to during mixing.

Tailored Additions of Nutrients With Go-ferm (TANG 2.0)

Want to avoid brine/ umami off-flavors, especially in short meads? This article proposes taking the YAN contribution from Go-ferm into account and avoid excessive minerals by tailoring the nutrients to your water profile.

A common complaint for short meads is that they can have a briny/ umami flavor. I have lost 1 gallon short mead batches to these off-flavors when using nutrient calculators such as the Meadmakr nutrient calculators. This is also a common compliant for many who have tried to replicate public recipes of the short meads published by Groennfell or Havoc Meadery and didn’t have Wyeast Yeast Nutrient.  But what makes these off-flavors more likely in short meads and in small batches?

From my experience, the umami flavor (think wet dog food/ aged cheese) is because the YAN contribution of Go-ferm rehydration nutrient is completely ignored in nutrient calculators.  The Scott Labs 2016 Handbook suggests that when using a dose of 25 g/hL Go-ferm adds 7.5 mgN/L. This is three-quarters of the YAN contribution compared to Fermaid-O. However, no current calculator takes this into account! Also, the combination of Fermaid-K and Go-ferm can add quite a bit of minerals to your water profile, which combined with a high mineral profile water can potentially result in mineral off flavors.

The extent of the biases induced by Go-ferm in nutrient calculators is a larger problem in short meads and smaller batch sizes, but still exists in larger volumes and higher gravity. This article discusses biases in nutrient calculators. It also provides a recommendation for a revised best practice for nutrient regimes when using Go-ferm. I call it Tailored Additions of Nutrients with Go-ferm (TANG). Basically, the biggest takeaway is that while it is often said it is hard to over-pitch, it is possible to overpitch if using Go-ferm with the recommended rehydration protocols.

YAN Overload Example: a 5 gallon 7% ABV sparkling dry traditional mead using the default Fermaid-O / Fermaid-K / DAP nutrient protocol for a yeast with a low nutrient need from the The MeadMakr BatchBuildr.  Recommended YAN is 99 as suggested in the Scott Labs Handbook. The MeadMakr Advanced Nutrient Calculator recommends 10 grams of dry yeast, and the following nutrients:

  • Go-ferm: 12.5g (79.4 YAN)
  • Fermaid-O: 8.5g (72 YAN)
  • Fermaid-K: 5.1g (27 YAN)

In this example, you can see the total YAN addition inclusive of Go-ferm is 178.4 YAN, 80 percent more than the recommended 99 YAN. Why would this matter? Well, if you took the nutrient calculator and try to have Fermaid-O provide the extra 99 YAN, any addition of Fermaid-O above 8.5g would give you a warning that it “risks adding yeasty flavors.” Go-ferm is mostly deactivated yeast cells so such a large addition of Go-ferm with this protocol would most likely add yeasty flavors.

This example could be further compounded if one tried to follow Groennfell’s recipes and pitched with 5 grams of yeast per gallon. In such a case you would rehydrate 25 grams of yeast using 31.5 grams of Go-ferm (using 1.25 g of Go-ferm per gram of dry yeast), which would contribute 198.5 YAN from the Go-ferm alone, 200 percent the recommended YAN. It is also a bigger problem in smaller batches, due to rounding up to a full packet of yeast, see examples below.

The Pitch Rate and ABV Biases:

The below figure graphs the recommended and actual YAN contributions which include the YAN contribution from Go-ferm. The recommended YAN and Go-ferm amounts are from the The MeadMakr BatchBuildr. The meads are a 6.5% ABV dry traditional mead, and a 14% ABV traditional mead finishing at 1.01, both with a low YAN requirement yeast. The nutrient regime is the Fermaid-O / Fermaid-K / DAP which is based on Travis Blount-Elliott’s white paper, but the values do not depend on the nutrient regimes using the protocols from The MeadMakr BatchBuilder.

yanGraph.png

You can see here that the problem of high YAN is larger in smaller batches, especially for one gallon batches. At one gallon batch sizes, for the lower ABV mead, the total YAN taking into account the contribution of Go-ferm is over three times the recommended amount, and has 100 more YAN than a two gallon batch.  At one gallon batch size, total YAN is twice as high for the higher ABV mead and again has 100 more YAN than a two gallon batch. This reflects two things:

  1. Pitch Rate Bias: introduced by not pitching a constant amount of yeast/Go-ferm per gallon (and using Go-ferm at 1.25 weight)
  2. ABV Bias: introduced by using the same amount of yeast/Go-ferm per ABV level

The Pitch Rate Bias is driven by not pitching a consistent amount of yeast per gallon and is what drives the downward and fluctuating total YAN by volume. The ABV Bias is driven by pitching a consistent amount of yeast for each ABV level and is what drives a constant gap between the recommended and total YAN even at high volumes of must. The total YAN is 90% higher than recommended at 12 gallons for the 6.5% ABV must, but only 40% higher than recommended at 12 gallons for the 14% ABV must. Hence, the Pitch Rate Bias is more of a problem for small batch sizes, but the ABV Bias is more of a problem for smaller ABV meads compared to higher ABV meads. 

The Pitch Rate Bias does not exist for the TOSNA 2.0 regime in the MeadMakr TOSNA 2.0 Calculator, but does still exist if you use the TOSNA 2.0 regime in The MeadMakr BatchBuildr if rounding up to full packets of yeast. Lets look at the TOSNA 2.0 regime and using 2 grams of yeast per gallon to see what we get.

yanGraph_tosna.png

Note that in the figure, the recommended YAN number comes from the MeadMakr BatchBuildr (since this article has been published the calculator changed the wording of “YAN recommended” has been changed to “YAN provided”). You can clearly see that the pitch rate bias is lost – the amounts of YAN are constant for each volume of must. However, since the pitch rate is the same for both the 6.5% and 14% ABV meads, the contribution of Go-ferm adds a constant amount of YAN to the total YAN for both meads. This can be seen by comparing the total and recommended YAN in  TOSNA 2.0 by ABV level.

t2_rec.png

The contribution of the YAN from the Go-ferm is a constant amount of YAN added to the YAN contributed from Fermaid-O. How different the total and recommended is by ABV can be seen from the below figure.

t2_excess.png

For a 4% ABV short mead, the total YAN is 90% higher than recommended whereas for a 11.5% ABV standard mead, the total YAN is only 30% higher than recommended.

The Pitch Rate and ABV Biases: TOSNA 3.0 (Updated April 2019)

Since this article was first published in October 2017, TOSNA 3.0 was released. TOSNA 3.0 comes with a nice new calculator but the main difference in terms of nutrients is that the pitch rate differs by OG. Let’s see what changed.

The below graph shows the YAN for two meads using TOSNA 3.0.The meads evaluated are a 6.5% ABV dry traditional mead, and a 14% ABV traditional mead finishing at 1.01, both with a low YAN requirement yeast. For the low ABV mead, the lower pitch rate means that less YAN is added from the Go-ferm and the excess total YAN from recommended drops from 71 percent to only 28 percent. The total YAN for the high ABV mead is the same, nothing changed since 2 grams per gallon is pitched for the starting gravity.

YANtosna3.0bygallon.png

Now we compare the total and recommended YAN in TOSNA 3.0 by ABV level. Notice that relative to TOSNA 2.0 regime in The MeadMakr BatchBuildr and using 2 grams of yeast per gallon, TOSNA 3.0 has YAN provided that is closer to the recommended levels. There are three big jumps in the curve when the pitch rate adjusts.

YANtosna3.0byABV.png

Since the YAN contribution from the Go-ferm is no longer constant in TOSNA 3.0, the excess YAN contributed from Fermaid-O. How different the total provided and recommended by ABV can be seen from the below figure. For a 6.3% ABV dry short mead, the total YAN is 27% higher than recommended (compared to 70% in TOSNA 2.0) whereas for a 14.1% ABV dry mead, the total YAN is only 4.8% higher than recommended (compared to 25% in TOSNA 2.0).

YANtosna3.0excess.png

Basically, compared to TOSNA 2.0TOSNA 3.0 reduces its ABV bias but also introduces a pitch rate bias. The pitch rate bias is due to the gravity levels at which the pitch rate adjusts, 1.110, 1.130, and 1.160.

Severity of the Biases

Lets stop and reflect for a second on the severity of the biases.

  1. The pitch rate bias is the largest for one gallon batches if rounding to full packets, and is clearly inconsistent with recommendations. Not rounding to full 5 gram packets or varying the amount of yeast steadily by starting Brix can easily fix this.
  2. The ABV bias from not taking into account the contribution of Go-ferm by ABV is really an argument about how much YAN to add (the appropriate Recommended/Provided YAN level), and is more debatable. Slightly higher nutrients than the recommended level is probably beneficial and prudent in meads (also smaller pitch rates, more oxygen additions, higher temperatures, or anything else that increases nutrient uptake), but for short meads with high pitch rates, the additional nutrients from Go-ferm may be detectable. Moreover, nutrients are expensive and an overload can encourage spoilage. Also, you want your yeast to clean up fermentation by-products (such as acetaldehyde) and too many nutrients may make your yeast lazy, and less prone to cleaning up.

So how much extra YAN should be provided? If meads are harder to ferment than wine, maybe 10-40 percent before excess mineral off flavors are noticed. Maybe this is also because mead makers use different fermentation practice: adding the extra oxygen, degassing, etc. I have pitched meads at exactly the Scott labs handbook guidelines with a YAN of 10*Brix*Gravity*NutrientMultiplier. Most turned out fine, some of the higher gravity meads slowed down around 12-13 percent ABV (for a 14 percent semi sweet trad using 71B). Let’s look at some possible alternatives.

Potential Alternatives

The 2017 Scott Labs Handbook recommendations a pitch rate of 0.95 grams/gallon up to 25 brix, 1.33 grams/gallon from 25-30 brix and 1.5 grams/gallon from 30+brix. They also say 1.9 grams/gallon for icewine. We can look at what this provides in terms of excess YAN compared to their recommended level.

We can also compare to a method that pitches yeast to pin down the desired excess nutrients. In this case the pitch rate in terms of grams per gallon can be given by the following formula.

grams/gallon=(Brix*(1+(percent excess)/100)-(YAN from Fermaid-O))/39.63

Where percent excess could be say, 20 or 40 percent. Let’s use the TOSNA 2.0/3.0 recommended amount of Fermaid-O and its YAN contribution and see what happens to pitch rates using this formula. Let’s also compare it to the Scott labs handbook pitch rate and the TOSNA 3.0 pitch rate.

pitch rates.png

As can be seen the TOSNA 3.0 and the Scott labs handbook pitch rate are the same below 25 Brix, so too is the excess nutrients. The main difference is that the Scott labs handbook pitch rate is below 10 percent excess nutrients for meads below 10 percent ABV. In contrast, maintaining a constant excess nutrients gives similar pitch rates, but falls to close to half a gram per gallon at around 8.2 Brix.

excess.png

Experimeads Evidence for Go-ferm Off-flavors

Pitch Rate: 1 gram versus 5 grams per gallon. This article found that all else equal, a five gram per gallon pitch rate combined with the recommended amount of Go-ferm resulted in significant off-flavors compared to a mead with only 1 gram pitch rate with the recommended amount of Go-ferm.

Water Mineral Profile

While water mineral profiles is an important topic in making beer, it is mostly overlooked in mead making. This must change. It is important to consider that your nutrients are building a water mineral profile and that the combined minerals from your water and nutrients should be taken into account.

Go-ferm andFermaid-K have minerals in the nutrient, whereas DAP and Fermaid-O do not (although, they naturally exist in the yeast hulls in Fermaid-O). Thus, in excessive amounts Go-ferm and Fermaid-K risk adding mineral or brine character depending on the mineral profile of the water. I have used all nutrient protocols with either spring water, 50/50 spring water and distilled water, and filtered city water to make meads. I found that the spring water gave me a brine flavor (especially in short meads) and the filtered tap water did not. The table below shows the mineral profile for an example of a typical natural spring water from Kingston, Ontario, Canada:

spring

In contrast, the Bicarbonate and Calcium levels of the Kingston, Ontario tap water are more than half of that of the spring water:

kingston

I also noticed that the spring water gave much better flocculation of the yeast compared to the filtered city water, something that I attribute to the higher calcium levels. The same nutrient additions to the above two water profiles will give very different mineral contents in the final product.

Just for fun, lets compare this to the Ozarka® Brand Natural Spring Water that Bray Denard prefers to use in his BOMM recipes.

ozark

Here I report the highest values in the 2016 water analysis. You can see that the water profile recommended for the BOMM is very light on minerals. In fact, the total dissolved minerals in the Ozarka® Brand Natural Spring Water is 20-120 ppm. This puts the water in the slight to moderate mineral content range. In contrast, the water profile of the Kingston Ontario City water is 120-140 putting it in the moderate to high mineral content range and the natural spring water that is sold in Ontario is 300 ppm, which has high mineral content.

The low mineral levels of the Ozarka® Brand Natural Spring Water may be why Bray adds potassium bi-carbinate to his meads – as there is less minerals to buffer against the PH drop compared to a higher bi-carbonate water. An interesting question: do you need to add potassium bi-carbinate (or potassium carbonate ), depending on the original carbonate levels of your water? Probably not if you have high mineral content water.

It is also notable that Sergio Moutela owner of Melovino Meadery and creator of TOSNA 2.0, uses reverse osmosis water in his mead making. While there has been little attention attached to water profiles/ building water profiles from nutrients, this is likely to be a topic explored in the future.

From my experience (and using Brays and Sergios success), when using Go-ferm or Fermaid-K you want water with lower mineral levels to avoid mineral off-flavors.

Experimeads Evidence for Mead Water Chemistry

High Chloride to Sulfate Ratio and High Mineral versus Low Mineral Content. These articles found that all else equal, for a sample size of a dozen participants, tasters were unable to significantly distinguish between a mead with a low mineral and chloride to sulfate ratio with a mead dosed post fermentation with higher mineral and chloride to sulfate ratio. However, most participants who correctly identified the odd mead out preferred the mead with higher chloride and mineral content.

Tailored Additions of Nutrients with Go-ferm (TANG 2.0) :

Tailored Additions of Nutrients with Go-ferm (TANG) is not a nutrient protocol, just a philosophy. My recommendation is to use TOSNA 3.0 and/or similar protocols, especially for ABVs above 6 percent. Just remember that when using Go-ferm and online calculators:

  • Avoid the pitch rate bias by tayloring your yeast pitch to the original gravity. Don’t round up. Use TOSNA 3.0 or Scott Labs Handbook recommendations on pitch rate.
  • If you deviate from these recommended pitch rates, take the YAN contribution of Go-ferm into account (especially in short meads).
  • Increase the YAN requirement of the yeast in a high temp, high oxygen, or low PH environment.
  • Use water with lower mineral content or watch the combined mineral content of the water and nutrients.

To calculate the YAN contribution from Go-ferm, pretend it is Fermaid-O with an effectiveness of 3 using The MeadMakr Advanced Nutrient Calculator. If the equivalent amount of Go-ferm in Fermaid-O gives a warning of adding yeasty flavors in the calculator reduce the amount of Go-ferm. If you want to do the calculations for other types of nutrients see the YAN contribution of common nutrients.

The reason I suggest the use of Go-ferm and/or Fermaid-K with Fermaid-O is because it is recommended by Scott Labs, the creator of these products. As stated in Scott Labs 2016 hand book:

“Fermaid O does not contain any DAP or supplemented micronutrients. For optimal results, Fermaid O should be used in conjunction with an appropriate yeast rehydration nutrient (GoFerm or Go-ferm Protect Evolution) to assure proper micronutrient nutrition of selected yeast from rehydration through completed fermentation.”

Hence you should use Go-ferm and/or Fermaid-K in conjunction with Fermaid-O to get some micronutrients.

Another option, as mentioned by Jeff at The Mead House Podcast when TANG was discussed on Episode 67, is to not use Go-ferm at all for low gravity meads. Osmotic stress to yeast only really kicks in at 1.104 OG or higher, so Go-ferm may not be totally necessary at lower gravity. This may work as the rehydrated yeast should already have a store of minerals and amino acids, needed for the quick fermentation of a short mead. However, I still recommend the use of Go-ferm even at low gravity. First, because Scott Labs recommends it and it is prudent. Second, I prefer to make an activated starter to ensure a quick start to fermentation and reduce the contact of nutrients with spoilage organism. This is particularly true for yeasts that have a low competitiveness factor.

What should the pitch rate be for a mead?  Groennfell meadery  pitches at 5 g per gallon. Ken Schramm of Schramm’s Mead pitches at 3-4 g per gallon. Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight meadery pitches at 1 g per gallon. TOSNA 3.0 varys the pitch rate from 1 to 4 grams per gallon depending on starting gravity. I usually pitch somewhere close to TOSNA 3.0  but also pitch at higher rates occasionally. But beware: there is very little validated evidence of how pitch rate interacts with recommended YAN to affect the presence of off-flavors. Over pitching may increase the risk of off-flavors since the dry yeast are already relatively well fed with nutrients.

Staggered nutrients

I generally recommend following a staggered nutrient regime. Use what TOSNA 3.0 recommends if using TOSNA 3.0. If deviating I would suggest not using a hard and fast rule for timing and amounts, but rules of thumb:

  1. For short meads, with high pitch rates, the fermentation is done very quickly (2-5) days. In this case, add all or most (~60-75%) nutrients upfront at pitch and the remainder at 12, and 24 hours.
  2. For standard/ sack meads follow the gravity readings closely. Rehydrate using Go-ferm, then stagger the other nutrients for the first few days and get the last one in before 1/3 sugar break, but especially before the 1/2 sugar break and well below 8% ABV.

The reason you need to be flexible is given by the following example. I have pitched the same yeast on two 1.120 OG musts, where one had grape juice and the other had whole currents. The grape juice fermented out twice as fast as the other and passed the 1/3 sugar break by the day 2, showing signs of yeast stress (smells of rotten egg – which I fixed right away by adding Fermaid-O and degassing). You would want to pre-emptively avoid this yeast stress by adding nutrients sooner to the pyment in this case compared to the current mead.

Oxygen, Temperature, PH:

Oxygen: The more additions of oxygen will delay/restart the lag phase and increase the yeast count, and result in more nutrient absorption. Make sure to stagger nutrients to insure that there is plenty of YAN/ micronutrients for the lag phases induced by the oxygen additions. From Scott Labs 2017 Handbook page 36: “When adding more oxygen to the must/juice, nitrogen is captured faster and more is needed when compared to fermentations taking place under anaerobic conditions.”

Temperature: The warmer the temperature, the faster the lag phase and fermentation so you may want to get your nutrients in sooner to ensure that there is plenty of YAN/ micronutrients. From Scott Labs 2017 Handbook page 36: “An increase in temperature stimulates the growth of yeast and fermentation rate, thereby requiring increased levels of nitrogen.”

PH: The lower the PH, the more stress of the yeast and the harder it can be for the yeast to absorb nutrients. From Scott Labs 2017 Handbook page 36: “At pH 3 only 70% of ammonia can be utilized compared with > 90% at pH 4. This can modify the handling of acidic whites or high pH reds.”

Oxygen, Temperature, PH YAN Multipliers: Ideally, we would have a multiplier formula just like Scott Labs have for the yeast requirement multiplier. Let’s look at the yeast multipliers.

  • For Low N requiring strains: 0.75
  • For Medium N requiring strains: 0.90
  • For High N requiring strains: 1.25

Going from a Low N to a Medium N requirement and a Medium N to High N requirement represents a 20 and 33 percent increase in the total recommended YAN. This range may be useful a benchmark excess multipliers for how to increase the nutrients/pitch rates in a high oxygen, high temperature, or low PH environments.

TANG example 1: Nutrients for a 5 gallon batch of my 8 % ABV lemon basil mead with scored 40/50 and 45/50 in the Winnipeg 2017 Pro/ Am Brew Challenge. Recommended YAN is 112.5 as suggested in the Scott Labs Handbook. The MeadMakr BatchBuildr  gives the following:

  • 10 g yeast
  • Go-ferm: 12.5g (80 YAN)
  • Fermaid-O: 8.5g (72 YAN)
  • Fermaid-K: 7.7g (40.5 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 192.5

TANG (here I use DAP because of the use of high mineral content spring water)

  • 10 g yeast
  • Go-ferm: 8.5 g (Contributed 58 YAN)
  • Fermaid-K: 3 g (Contributed 16 YAN)
  • DAP: 3.8 g (Contributed 41 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 112.5

In this case you can see how the rehydration in Go-ferm would have resulted in excessive YAN additions using the The MeadMakr BatchBuildr. Taking this into account and tailoring nutrients to the water profile by using DAP to not add more minerals earned me silver and a 45/50 score for a bottle conditioned bone-dry short mead.

TANG example 2: nutrients for a one gallon batch of my 6.5 % ABV dry traditional short oaked mead. Recommended YAN is 92.2 and The MeadMakr BatchBuildr gives the following:

  • Go-ferm: 6.25g (200 YAN)
  • Fermaid-O: 1.7g (72 YAN)
  • Fermaid-K: 0.76g (20.2 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 292.2

TANG (here I have water with low minearl content so use Go-ferm and  Fermaid-K)

  • Go-ferm: 1.65 g (52.2 YAN)
  • Fermaid-K: 1.5 grams (40 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 92.2 YAN

In this case you can see how the problem of YAN provided by Go-ferm is exaggerated in lower batch sizes. Taking this into account and tailoring my nutrients reduces the risk of off-flavors.

TANG example 3: nutrients for a 5 gallon batch of 6.9 % ABV mead from Groennfell Meadery. I have made several of the recipes following the guidelines put forth in “How we brew everything we brew.” This includes fermenting at high temps, pitching 25 grams of D-47, and putting all nutrients in at pitch. All the meads turned out great using TANG. I always use water with a low mineral profile from a low mineral profile spring water or a higher mineral spring water diluted with distilled water with only Go-ferm and Fermaid-K. Recommended YAN by Scott Labs Handbook is 99 YAN. The MeadMakr BatchBuildr with your own hih pitch rate would give you the following:

  • Go-ferm: 31.25g (198 YAN) – assuming you use Scott Labs Guidelines of 1.25g/g yeast
  • Fermaid-O: 8.5g (72 YAN)
  • Fermaid-K: 5.1g (27 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 297

TANG  (here I have low mineral content water so use Fermaid-K)

  • Go-ferm: 8.5 g (54 YAN)
  • Fermaid-K: 8.5 grams (45 YAN)
  • Fermaid-O: 8.5g (72 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 171 YAN

In this case you can see how high pitch rates and the use of Go-ferm can triple the actual YAN additions. Taking this into account and tailoring nutrients reduces the risk of off-flavors.

TANG example 4 (TOSNA 3.0): nutrients for a 3 gallon batch of 12 % ABV (1.09 SG) traditional dry mead using a yeast with a low nutrient requirement. 162 YAN is recommended by the Scott Labs Handbook. Note, if you select the Fermaid-O (TOSNA 2.0) regime in the MeadMakr BatchBuildr you get a different recommendation than the TOSNA 3.0.  Lets review both.

The MeadMakr BatchBuildr for low nutrient yeast, Fermaid-O/ TOSNA 2.0, with 10 grams of yeast and the following nutrients:

  • Go-ferm: 12.5g (132 YAN)
  • Fermaid-O: 9.7g (137 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 269

MeadMakr TOSNA 3.0 Calculator is 3 grams of yeast and the following nutrients:

  • Go-ferm: 3.8g (40 YAN)
  • Fermaid-O: 9.7g (137 YAN)
  • Total actual YAN: 177

In this case you can see that the overall YAN is highest for The MeadMakr BatchBuildr but still high for TOSNA 3.0. I recommend staying with TOSNA 3.0 exactly at the recommended pitch rates for higher ABV meads.

Conclusion

It seems that some calculators use the 1.25 grams of Go-ferm per gram of yeast pitched as a hard and fast rule. You either use Go-ferm or you don’t. However, why would some calculators ignore the YAN and mineral contribution from Go-ferm? If you want to avoid brine/mineral off flavors and help the yeast clean up any extra off-flavors (like acetaldehyde) you may want to keep the following tips TANG in mind:

  • Avoid the pitch rate bias by tayloring your yeast pitch to the original gravity.
  • Take the YAN contribution of Go-ferm into account (especially in short meads).
  • Increase the YAN requirement of the yeast in a high temp, high oxygen, or low PH environment.
  • Use low mineral content water or watch the combined mineral content of the water and nutrients.

There is undoubtedly a range of YAN that is a safe zone around the recommended YAN, conditional on your process, that ensures yeast health and reduces the risk of off-flavors. Keep in mind that even though you may not be noticing mineral and yeast off flavors, other off-flavors may not be as readily cleaned up.

This article shows some biases in calculators, but undoubtedly more research is needed. More research is needed to answer the following questions.

  • What are the nutrient taste thresholds for the different regimes by ABV levels?
  • What are the taste thresholds of water mineral profiles for different ABV levels?
  • YAN multipliers for the pitch rate, oxygen, and temperature ranges ?

This deserves full-blown experiments. Experimeads are currently in progress so stay tuned. The TANG protocal is currently a philosophy rather than a complete protocal. Use TOSNA 3.0, but if you deviate from the protocal, keep TANG in mind.

Assumptions

The following are used in the above calculations:

  • Scott labs handbook recommended YAN: 10*Brix*Gravity*NutrientMultiplier.
  • DAP 1g/L = 210 YAN
  • FERM K 1g/L = 100 YAN
  • FERM O 1g/L = 40 YAN (Effectiveness multiplier of 4 so 160 mgN/g/L equivalent.)
  • Go-Ferm 1g/L = 30 YAN (Effectiveness multiplier of 4 so 120 mgN/g/L equivalent.)