Experimeads

Kieselsol and Chitosan in a Traditional Mead

In this experiment, the use of a common two stage clarifying agents, Kieselol and Chitosan, is tested for its flavor and aroma contributions in a 4.5% ABV, carbonated, dry traditional mead fermented using S-04. The mead was fermented in one batch, then split between two identical secondary vessels and one was given the clarifying treatment. Other than the clarifying treatment, all other variables were identical. Triangle tests are conducted to see if participants can correctly identify the difference between the two meads. Respondents also provided feedback on the differences perceived in the two meads.

This is a sister experiment to the Kieselol and Chitosan in fruit mead. In that experiment, the use of the fining agent resulted in a significant deterioration in the flavor and aroma. However, that mead contained fruit, whereas this experiment is done on a traditional mead. Moreover, while the fruit mead was also relatively clear before adding the clarifier, the treatment for this traditional mead experiment was added directly after racking into secondary and the mead was still very hazy.

I wanted to do this test because I had observed the effect of fining agent on my meads. I made the same strawberry rhubarb mead a couple of times in the last year. Each time I added the fining agent, I noticed a major reduction in flavor and subsequently stopped using it. I wanted to do the test to see if it really did make a difference.

Kieselsol and Chitosan works really, really well at clarifying meads. It can even be added right at the end of primary when the mead is all hazy and full of gunk, and will drop the mead clear in little time, allowing for clear mead in secondary with very little lees. It is also been stated that fining agents “improve the color, odor, flavor, stability and mouthfeel of the finished product – along with many additional, subtle, benefits.” However, despite all these potential advantages, are we losing anything other than unwanted particulates when using Kieselsol and Chitosan?

In an article in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, Marín et al (2020) provides a literature review pertaining to the use of Kieselsol and Chitosan in wine. The studies surveyed analyzed the chemical composition of the wines after treatment. Regarding white wines, researchers have found significant loss in flavanols, medium-chain fatty acid ethyl esters, and terpenes (such as rose-oxide, linalool, citronellol, and geraniol) at common dosage rates. Moreover, Milheiro et al. (2017) find reduction of volatile phenols in headspace.

Chitosan has also been documented to reduce both tartaric and malic acids. Due to white wine’s lower phenolic levels, removal rates are higher than red wines, reaching as high as 30% and 20% for certain acids and flavanols. Treatment removes acids by acting as a polycation; binding anions from organic acids (Bornet and Teissedre, 2007). In at least three studies, decreases in titratable acidity or increases in pH were documented due to the significant removal of tartaric and malic acids (Castro-Marin et al., 2018; Quintela et al. 2012; Colangelo et al. 2018).

Finally, there is mixed evidence on showing that Kieselsol and Chitosan may result in perception of astringency, even at low levels (again, see Marín et al (2020) for a complete review). These findings all suggest potential effects on flavor – not as neutral as commonly assumed. Moreover, the conclusion of Marín et al (2020)’s literature review study was that despite notable effects in chemical composition, there has not yet been any sensory analysis studies to date on the effect of Chitosan treatment in wines. Hence, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first sensory evaluation study of the treatment effect on traditional meads (let alone wines).

My hypothesis was that treatment would reduce flavor and acid levels. This is based on evidence summarized in Marín et al (2020) and found in the experiment on the effects of Kieselol and Chitosan in fruit mead. However, I also expected the effect to be less noticeable compared to the fruit mead, since there may be fewer compounds to drop out in a traditional mead.

Recipe: 4.5%, Dry Traditional Short Mead, Nov. 2020, 16.5 liters

  • OG = 1.034
  • 1 liter of 2020 dark, last harvest, wildflower Honey from Nith Valley apiaries
  • 0.5 kg of creamed, organic, raw, Peace River honey
  • 15 liter spring water
  • 7 gallon Fermonster fermentor
  • 1.5 grams of calcium chloride
  • 0.5 grams of Himalayan sea salt
  • 11.5 gram packet of S-04
  • 0.5 grams of ascorbic acid
  • 1 gram of malic acid

Treatment:

  • Chitosan 1% at 8.3ml per gallon (2.18 ml/grams per liter)
  • Kieselsol at 2.5ml per gallon (0.66 ml/grams per liter)

Nith Valley late season darker honey tasting notes:

  • Low floral
  • Low perceived sweetness, not overtly honey like
  • Muddled caramel, minerality
  • Low acid
  • Low mixed herbal/woody, some foamed milk (alfalfa)

Nutrients (calculated using The MeadMakr BatchBuildr):

  • Recommended nutrient level is 78 ppm YAN for medium level
  • Actual: 73 ppm YAN (medium level, scaled up due to high pitch rate)
    • Fermaid-K: 2.3 grams (contibuted 13 ppm YAN)
    • DAP: 4.3 grams (contibuted 60 ppm YAN)

At pitch

  • Mixed honey, water, salts.
  • Sprinkled yeast on top of must

Fermentation Notes

Regular temperature, pH, gravity and aroma tests were taken. The table below summarizes the observations.

  • +time 0, Mixed honey, water salts. Sprinkled yeast on must. Must is 64.6°F, pH 7.0.
  • +2 hours, fed all nutrients upfront with 2.3g of Fermaid-k and 4.3 g of DAP.
  • +1 days, active fermentation, 66.6°F
  • +2 days, degassed. Smells like apples. 66.1°F
  • +3 days, degassed, 66.5°F , 1.012
  • +4 days, 66.2°F , 1.002, smells of pear, apple.
  • +5 days, 65.6°F, fermentation slowing, smells like honey, apple. 1.000
  • +7 days, 65.6°F, FG 1.000. Racked into secondary. Added ascorbic acid and malic acid.

Secondary

  • Added 1st stage clarifier to one jug immediately, then swirled gently
  • +2 hours later added 2nd stage to one jug, swirled gently
  • The next day, treated mead dropped clear.
  • Bottled after another week to 2.5 volumes (primed with honey).

The untreated meads was still slightly hazy when bottling. The treated mead was clear.

Water profile 

The mineral profile of the spring water, contribution of the salt additions and the final water profile was as follows.

Initial Tasting Notes

At bottling, I was a bit disappointed with the character of the mead. They had a mild lager-like aroma. There was some nice apples esters and fermented honey character, but they were slightly muddled by the slight sulfur. I attribute this to not using Go-ferm, and just replying on aerating with a wine whip instead of by shaking or using pure 02. That said, the mead was intentionally fermented this way in a side-by-side with an identical batch using EC1118 (forthcoming, but as a preview, the EC1118 batch was much worse). I debated whether to continue with the experiment, but thought that it might be interesting to see the effect in the presence of an off-flavor.

Triangle Tests 

Due to Covid-19, and in consultation with statisticians, every participant was sent two bottles and completed up to five triangle tests. Participants were sent four or five experiments and knew that I was testing something around nutrient regimes, clarifying agents, and acidity levels. The bottles were labeled experiment A, B, C etc as well as being labeled as treatment or baseline. Every participant was also sent enough identical red solo cups.

One scoresheet was filled out by each participant for each experiment. Participants were asked their experience level with meads, how blown their palate was, and their status as judges and home/professional brewers. Experience was given a value from one to five where one is first time having a mead to five being well-experienced. Palate was given a value from one to five where one is having had nothing to drink yet, and five was that they’ve already had too much (like just drank an IPA and sitting in a brewery). Participants were asked to say which mead they preferred and just select one if they couldn’t tell the difference.

There were 6 participants, each completed five triangle tests, so there were 30 triangle tests completed overall. We had a good selection of mead experts and mead enthusiasts. There were two BJCP certified beer judges and two BJCP mead judges.

On average, people were experienced with meads and their palate was not tired. All had some experience with meads and off flavors. Basic summary statistics on the self reporting of participants experience and palate when taking the triangle tests:

All responses were collected when the meads were 6-8 months old.

Results

There was a significant difference between the two meads. In 19 of the 30 triangle tests, participants could identify the odd mead out! The null that the results were from random guessing is rejected with 99.99 percent confidence. However, participants were split on the mead that they preferred. The null hypothesis of equal preference between the meads is unable to be rejected. Here is a summary of the results:

My wife and I did five triangle tests and each got three right, mine the last three once I noted the difference in acid levels and hers the first three. One person got all five triangle tests wrong, two got all five triangle test correct. While participant fixed effects were significant, no time fixed effects were significant. Most participants commented that the meads could be distinguished from each other relatively easily, where others said it was difficult. What people described as the difference between the two meads is summarized in the table below. Note, the participant who got all five wrong, did not provide tasting notes. The participants and the percent of correct answers is shown in the table.

In general, the tasting notes are more varied than the experiment on the effects of Kieselol and Chitosan in fruit mead. The baseline mead was described by three participants as being more acidic, whereas the mead with the treatment was only described as being more acidic by one participant. In contrast, one participant described the treatment mead as being bitter, whereas another described baseline as dryer. The treated mead was described as having better balance by three participants, all of whom preferred the treated mead.

Regarding aroma and flavor intensity, two participants noted that the mead without treatment had more aroma and flavor, and another participant said it had more honey aroma. This contrasts with only one participant that said the treatment had more honey flavor.

Note that the one participant who got all five triangle tests wrong did not provide a preference at the time of submitting feedback and when asked to pick, randomly picked baseline. Moreover, the first participant was relatively split on the preference, but did settle on the baseline because they preferred the higher acid and intensity of the aroma and flavor. Even in the most generous case, three preferred the treatment, one only mildly preferred the baseline, and the other preferred the baseline.

It’s hard to make head and tails from the tasting notes. My interpretation, based on my triangle tests, was that the acidity of the baseline mead was perceived to be too high by some participants due to the added malic acid (0.25 grams per gallon). This is consistent with the three comments on better balance for the treated mead. In contrast, the two participants who liked the baseline mead commented that they liked the higher acidity level. Moreover, the treated mead had notable lower aroma and flavor. As the aroma was a combination of the lager-like character and the floral/honey intensity, those who didn’t like the lager-like character might have preferred the mead with suppression of both characteristics.

Conclusion

One of the most interesting outcomes of the experiment is that the meads were significantly different. Thus, treatment with Kieselsol and Chitosan is again shown in sensory analysis to not be neutral. This aligns with the scientific evidence on the reduction of acidity and flavor compounds when treating with Chitosan.

Relative to the experiment on Kieselol and Chitosan in fruit mead, the traditional mead had more particulates when the fining agent was added. For the fruit mead, a perception of bitterness was noted in the treated mead, that was not as commonly mentioned in this experiment. I do wonder if these are related. Perhaps, a hazy mead is needed for all the Chitosan to drop out and not leave any bitterness? More testing is needed.

Finally, I have successfully used the fact that Kieselsol and Chitosan can drop acid out of a mead. After this experiment was completed, I made a mojito mead. However, either the limes were much more acidic or had much more juice than the previous times I made the mead because the acidity ended up being too high. I was able to fix this by treating with Kieselsol and Chitosan and racking off the original keg. Then I added more mint to bring back the aroma, and voilà, it fixed the high acidity.

In the past, I recommended the two stage clarifier be used at the end of primary to speed the turn around time, for example for the Short Mead Recipes. Now, this comes with a caution of lower flavor, aroma, and acidity.

References

Bornet, A., & Teissedre, P. L. (2008). Chitosan, chitin-glucan and chitin effects on minerals (iron, lead, cadmium) and organic (ochratoxin A) contaminants in wines. European Food Research and Technology226(4), 681-689.

Castro-Marín, A., Buglia, A. G., Riponi, C., & Chinnici, F. (2018). Volatile and fixed composition of sulphite-free white wines obtained after fermentation in the presence of chitosan. LWT93, 174-180.

Castro Marín, A., Colangelo, D., Lambri, M., Riponi, C., & Chinnici, F. (2020). Relevance and perspectives of the use of chitosan in winemaking: a review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1-15.

Colangelo, D., Torchio, F., De Faveri, D. M., & Lambri, M. (2018). The use of chitosan as alternative to bentonite for wine fining: Effects on heat-stability, proteins, organic acids, colour, and volatile compounds in an aromatic white wine. Food chemistry264, 301-309.

Milheiro, J., Filipe-Ribeiro, L., Cosme, F., & Nunes, F. M. (2017). A simple, cheap and reliable method for control of 4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol in red wines. Screening of fining agents for reducing volatile phenols levels in red wines. Journal of Chromatography B1041, 183-190.

Quintela, S., Villarán, M. C., De Armentia, I. L., & Elejalde, E. (2012). Ochratoxin A removal from red wine by several oenological fining agents: bentonite, egg albumin, allergen-free adsorbents, chitin and chitosan. Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A29(7), 1168-1174.

Peer Reviews:

The methodology comments from the referees in the high versus low nutrient level experiment also pertain to the method used for this article. This includes: 1) Justin Angevaare, PhD, Statistician, author of p-value calculator and award-winning homebrewerhttps://onbrewing.comand 2) Chris Kwietniowski, award-winning home brewer, participant. 

Additional peer reviews to follow.

Peer Review 1: Justin Angevaare, PhD, Statistician, author of p-value calculator and award-winning homebrewerhttps://onbrewing.com

Not so much at the crux of this experiment, but did the participants pick up on the lager-like character you mentioned at all? I see you felt aroma – including this lager-like character – was lower in intensity in the treated mead.

  • Response: Thank you for making me go and double check. Yes, one participant mentioned it was more like a beer in balance. I lengthened the tasting notes to copy over everything that was written.

Can you be anymore specific on the sulfur you mention? Like low H2S?

  • No really. There was no rotten egg or matches, just tasted like a bud-light.

How do I read the tasting notes table? At first I thought it was 1 participant per line, but you had 6 participants listed and 7 tasting notes.

  • Response: The table has been updated to show the participant and the number of times each participant got it correct. This is much easier to read, and thank you for prompting this.

Kieselsol and Chitosan in Fruit Meads

The haze craze is off to the races in juicy IPAs, but the opposite is still true for meads. A crystal clear mead can be the difference between a medal and a flop at competitions. A wide range of fining agents are in the arsenal of a mead maker. Most fining agents work by attracting positively or negatively charged particulates suspended within the mead. This causes suspended particles to precipitate to the bottom of the vessel. A common practice is to use a positively charged agent, such as gelatin or Chitosan, followed by a negatively charged agent, primarily Kieselsol. The treatment will bind with proteins, yeast, polyphenols and other negatively-charged particles, and is especially effective. Chitosan has the advantage that it does not require tannins to work properly, allowing its use in meads, white wines, ciders, etc. Most home brew and wine making stores sell Kieselsol and Chitosan together, sometimes under the brand name Super Kleer.

Kieselsol and Chitosan works really, really well at clarifying meads. It can even be added right at the end of primary when the mead is all hazy and full of gunk, and will drop the mead clear in little time, allowing for clear mead in secondary with very little lees. It is also been stated that fining agents “improve the color, odor, flavor, stability and mouthfeel of the finished product – along with many additional, subtle, benefits.” However, despite all the advantages, are we losing anything other than unwanted particulates when using Kieselsol and Chitosan?

It is common to find comments, for example from my local home brew store, that Kieselsol is not recommended for red wines as it can strip color. Moreover, within mead making circles, the use of some fining agents such as gelatin have been commented to strip tannin. However, it is unclear, at least to me, if Kieselsol and Chitosan does the same. See an excellent GotMead podcast with Tom Repas for information on use of fining agents in secondary and the ability of gelatin to strip tannin. However, there is little hard evidence on adding Kieselsol and Chitosan in meads.

Interestingly, the common advice on Kieselsol and Chitosan seems at odds with the current literature on wines. A recent article in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition provides a literature review when pertaining to wine. In summary, researchers have found that red wine color loss is only found at dosing rates that are four or more times higher than the maximum dosing rates used by home brewers. Thus, the risk to color loss may be overblown. However, researchers have found that there are significant loss in flavanols, medium-chain fatty acid ethyl esters, and terpenes in both red and white wines at common dosage rates. Moreover, Kieselsol and Chitosan have been documented to reduce both tartaric and malic acids. Finally, there is emerging evidence that Kieselsol and Chitosan may result in perception of astringency, even at low levels. These findings all suggest potential effects on flavor. Maybe this fining agent is not as neutral as commonly assumed?

Are we losing anything else in our path to clarity? Clearly, this needs to be clarified. 

In this experiment, the use of a common two stage clarifying agents, Kieselol and Chitosan, is tested for its flavor and aroma contributions in a 4.5% ABV, carbonated, dry cream soda mead fermented using D-47. The mead was fermented in one batch, then split between two identical secondary vessels and one was given the clarifying treatment. Other than the clarifying treatment, all other variables were identical, and the batches were from the same ferment. Triangle tests are conducted to see if participants can correctly identify the difference between the two meads. Respondents also provided feedback on the differences perceived in the two meads.

My hypothesis was that the treatment may remove mouthfeel due to the reduction in particulates, but at the low dosage would not affect color. I had some suspicion that it would affect aroma/taste.

Recipe: 4.5%, Dry, Cream Soda Mead, Nov. 2020, 15 liters

  • OG = 1.034
  • 1 liter of 2020 golden wildflower Honey from Nith Valley apiaries
  • 0.5 kg of creamed, organic, raw, Peace River honey
  • 15 liter spring water
  • 7 gallon fermonster fermentor
  • 1.5 grams of calcium chloride
  • 0.5 grams of gypsum
  • 0.5 grams of Himalayan sea salt
  • 10 grams of D-47
  • 2 grams of ascorbic acid
  • 3 grams of citric acid

Treatment:

  • Chitosan 1% at 8.3ml per gallon (2.18 ml/grams per liter)
  • Kieselsol at 2.5ml per gallon (0.66 ml/grams per liter)

Nith Valley honey tasting notes:

  • Moderate floral
  • High perceived sweetness,
  • Honey comb, honey like, bees wax
  • Citrus

Nutrients (calculated using The MeadMakr BatchBuildr):

  • Low nutrient profile recommends 65.2 ppm YAN
  • Actual: 82 ppm YAN (medium level, scaled up due to high pitch rate)
    • Fermaid-K: 2 grams (contributed 13 ppm YAN)
    • DAP: 5 grams (contributed 69 ppm YAN)

At pitch

  • Mixed honey, water, salts.
  • Shook jug for two minutes to aerate
  • Sprinkled yeast on top of must

Fermentation Notes

Regular temperature, pH, gravity and aroma tests were taken. The table below summarizes the observations.

  • +time 0, Mixed honey, water salts. Sprinkled yeast on must. Must is 62-63°F. Swirled after 1 minute.
  • +1 hour, fed with 1g of Fermaid-k and 2 g of DAP.
  • +1 day, fed with 1g of Fermaid-k and 2g of DAP. 64°F
  • +2 days, degassed. Fed with 1g of DAP. 64°F. 1.024
  • +3 days, degassed, 64°F , 1.012
  • +4 days, degassed, 64°F , 1.002, added ~2 kg of polish sour cherries in a mesh bag warmed to 65°F
  • +5 days, removed fruit, hardly any color left in fruit mush. 1.000
  • +7 days, racked into 2 x 8 liter jugs. Added half a vanilla bean split down the center, 1 gram of ascorbic acid, and 1.5 grams of citric acid to each vessel. Mead dropped relatively clear quickly.

Secondary

  • After two weeks, added 1st stage clarifier to one jug then swirled gently
  • 24 hours later added 2nd stage after 24 hours to one jug, swirled gently
  • Bottled after another week to 2.5 volumes (65 grams of honey).

The meads were both pretty clear before bottling. It was not possible to tell which was more clear in secondary.

Water profile 

The mineral profile of the spring water, contribution of the salt additions and the final water profile was as follows.

Initial Tasting Notes

At two months old, I tasted both meads, and they seemed different. The baseline mead was really nice. It had bright fresh cherry flavor and mild vanilla. I would have liked more vanilla intensity to make it taste like a cream soda and less of a cherry mead. The fermentation was clean and had little fermentation characteristics apart from some mild malt-like yeast character. However, the mead with the clarifying treatment was slightly bitter and less well carbonated. I figure the low carbonation was due to less residual yeast in suspension. I let them sit for a while so that they both fully carbonated.

Triangle Tests 

Due to Covid-19, and in consultation with statisticians, every participant was sent two bottles and completed up to five triangle tests. Participants were sent four or five experiments and knew that I was testing something around nutrient regimes, clarifying agents, and acidity levels. The bottles were labeled experiment A, B, C etc. as well as being labeled as treatment or baseline. Every participant was also sent enough identical red solo cups.

One scoresheet was filled out by each participant for each experiment. Participants were asked their experience level with meads, how blown their palate was, and their status as judges and home/professional brewers. Experience was given a value from one to five where one is first time having a mead to five being well-experienced. Palate was given a value from one to five where one is having had nothing to drink yet, and five was that they’ve already had too much (like just drank an IPA and sitting in a brewery). Participants were asked to say which mead they preferred, and just select one if they couldn’t tell the difference.

There were 6 participants, each completed five triangle tests, so there were 30 triangle tests completed overall. We had a good selection of mead experts and mead enthusiasts. There were two BJCP certified beer judges and two BJCP mead judges.

On average, people were experienced with meads and their palate was not tired. All had some experience with meads and off flavors. Basic summary statistics on the self reporting of participants experience and palate when taking the triangle tests:

All responses were collected within the same month. Tests were evaluated when the meads were 6-8 months old.

Results

There was a significant difference between the two meads. Out of the 30 triangle tests, 20 could identify the odd mead out! The null hypothesis that the results were from random guessing is rejected with near 100 percent confidence. Moreover, all participants preferred the mead that was not clarified. The null hypothesis of equal preference between the meads is rejected with 96.8 percent confidence. Here is a summary of the results:

I did five triangle tests and got the first two wrong. It wasn’t until I noticed the flavor intensity that I got the remaining correct. Another participant got the first few correct, and the remaining incorrect. Most other participants’ incorrect responses were seemingly random, and no time fixed effects were significant. Some participants commented that the meads could be distinguished from each other relatively easily.

What people described as the difference between the two meads is summarized below. The mead that did not have the clarifier was described as more vibrant, fruitier, and better balanced. In contrast, two participants described the clarified mead as being bitter and another described the perception as astringent. That is fascinating, as astringency was noted to occur in some previous wine studies. Moreover, three participants noted muted flavor, blander and being more watery. One participant commented that they thought the treatment was additional fruit added. Thus, there does seem to be perceived differences in the level of flavor and aroma, which is consistent with some previous studies. Surprisingly, the findings align with results in the abovementioned scientific studies, and there was quite a bit of consistency in feedback across participants.

Conclusion

I was really surprised by how different the two meads were. I often use Kieselol and Chitosan for a quick turn around time in short meads. Likewise, I also use it in relatively clear standard meads to make sure there is no dust of yeast in the bottom of bottles over time for competitions. It always does the job of clarifying.

Now, I have more clarity that mead clarity using Kieselol and Chitosan may not be worth the price. The loss of fruit character was significant. Astringent and bitterness was added. It’s also interesting, that the often cited reduction in color intensity was absent. However, this is all consistent with some recent studies for wine.

A couple of things to note. The meads where relatively clear when I added the clarifier. I would not usually add the clarifier for such a mead if it’s for my own personal use. However, I would use it for a standard strength mead to avoid yeast dust. It would be interesting to repeat the experiment for a standard strength mead. I also use the clarifier at the end of primary since it can knock the mead clear. I wonder if the impact would be similar for a treatment at the end of primary for a much hazier mead, as there maybe more positively charged particulates to help any residual Kieselol to drop out. More testing is still needed for this. Perhaps a bench trial to see what the threshold is.

The same treatment in a traditional mead was evaluated at the same time (forthcoming). Interestingly, participants were able to detect a significant difference; however, preference was split. This may suggest that the issues may pertain to fruit meads, although it could also be due to the fact the there were more particulates in the traditional mead. 

In the past, I recommended the two stage clarifier be used at the end of primary in a really hazy mead to speed the turn around time, for example for the Short Mead Recipes. Now, this comes with a caution for relatively clear fruit meads. 

Peer Reviews:

The comments on methods from the referees in the high versus low nutrient level experiment also pertain to the method used for this article. This includes: 1) Justin Angevaare, PhD, Statistician, author of p-value calculator and award winning homebrewerhttps://onbrewing.comand 2) Chris Kwietniowski, home brewer, participant. 

Additional peer reviews to follow.

Peer Review 1: Tom Repas, Master Beekeeper, owner of Canyon Rim Honey Bees, AMMA MeadCon speaker, award winning mead maker.

Excellent write up! Interesting results!

  • Responce: Thanks Tom. I have greatly benifited from your service to the mead community. Thanks for everything you have shared with other mead makers.

Oh and if I said a fining agent had potential for removing tannins that would’ve been gelatin (not Kieselsol or Chitosan). If I said something different on that podcast then I must have misspoken.

  • Responce: Oops. A previous version of this article had incorrectly stated “… in a recent GotMead podcast, Tom Repas commented that this clarifier should be used with caution as it can strip tannin but can also be used to strip excess tannin.” This has been corrected. I recommend anyone to check out this podcast as it is a wealth of information.

Peer Review 2: Ryan Dunlop, PhD, BJCP certified, award willing homebrewer, and statistics wizz.

…. shouldn’t the preference test be two sided?

For the “can we tell them apart?” question, one sided makes sense because you don’t care if you choose wrong more often than random chance. With a good design, you know that that is still random chance.

If either could be better than the other, I think two sided is better because you have two ways you can “have one more preferred than the other”. Otherwise you are kind of assuming that you know one is preferred and if the data show the opposite it’s just random chance. 

  • Responce: I agree. Previously, a one-sided test was used to test the preference of one mead over the other. However, since the direction of the preference cannot be known a priori, this has been changed to a two-sided test. Also, thanks to Justin Angevaare for confirming the test should be two-sided.

Sour Mead Experiment

In this experimead, three different forms of souring in meads are tested. This includes kombucha, probiotic pills, and a ginger bug. The sours were pitched in an oaked, 12% ABV, blueberry blossom honey, traditional, sparkling mead.

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 an 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.

Let’s 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. Furthermore, 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

STARTERS.png

Specs:

  • 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

2017-11-06 20.29.10.jpg

Fermentation

  • +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.

2017-11-20 15.01.11.jpg

Secondary 

  • +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.

Bottling

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.

Evaluation

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:

score

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

Quantitative 

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.

sd

Quantitative 

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.

overall.png

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.

aroma.png

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.

flavor.png

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.

Conclusion

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.

Great Canadian Short Mead Yeast Experiment

This is the experimead that started it all. The experiment tested 12 yeast strains in short meads (8.5% ABV). The meads have been evaluated using triangle tests and scoresheets by experienced home brewers and BJCP certified judges at Canadian home brewers clubs across Canada.

The experiment will test various yeast strains in their use in short meads (8.5% ABV- shortish). The meads will be evaluated using triangle tests and BJCP-type scoresheets by experienced home brewers and BJCP certified judges at Canadian home brewers clubs.  Kingston (KABOB), Toronto, (GTAbrews+professional brewers), Vancouver (VanBrewers), and Ottawa (AJ+crew from GotMead?) all participated in the experiment.

This experiment has two main goals:

  1. Test body of various yeast strains for improved mouth feel.
  2. Test ester profiles of various yeast strains for improved taste and aromatics.

Side goals:

  1. Do triangle tests for “identical” yeasts (US-05 / WLP001/ WY1056, etc)
  2. Find meads that are clean and fast (test all meads before 8 weeks)

Experiment yeasts and their use in previous tests

Dry Ale Yeasts:

  • US-05 (used by Golden coast meads, Colony Meadery, etc)
  • Lallemand Abbaye (dBOMM 2015)
  • CBC-1  (dBOMM 2015)
  • Safbrew T-58

Ale Yeasts:

  • WLP001 (BB 2016)
  • WLP002 (BB 2016)
  • WLP041 (BB 2016)
  • WY1056 (BBR 2007)
  • WY1388 (BBR 2007; BB 2016, BOMM 2015, dBOMM 2015)

Dry Wine Yeasts:

References of the yeasts in previous experiments:

1h

Experiment Parameters:

  • Batch size 1 gallon
  • Target OG: 1.064
  • Target FG: 0.996-1.000
  • Target ABV: 8.4-8.5%
  • Water profile – see table

water.png

  • Honey: 1.52lbs, Using Hogan’s white honey. Clover, alfalfa, etc.
  • 0.5 grams, approx. 1/8 tsp KHCO3
  • YAN Provided: 175 (excluding Go-ferm)
  • Go-ferm: 12.5g (~525 YAN, with effectiveness of 3)
  • Fermaid-O : 3.5g (148 YAN, with effectiveness of 4)
  • Fermaid-K: 1g (27 YAN)
  • Dry Yeast Weight: 10-11.5g yeast

48h

Procedure:

  • Rehydrated/ add yeast in Go-ferm. Added 1 tbsp of must every 30 minutes till reached 500ml after about three hours. All starters were bubbling away at time of pitch except for the 041, 1388 and 002. For Wyeast smack packs, smacked and added half of the go-ferm at 2 hours.
  • Fermented in 4 liter plastic spring water jugs, leaving 500ml for air at top. Pitched Fermaid-O and KHCO3 at time 0. Aerated worts by shaking for 1 minute at time 0 and 30 seconds at 24 hours.
  • Fermentation temperature: 65-68f
  • Added Fermaid-K after 24h.
  • Degassed all jugs by swirling for 1 minute at 12, 36, 48, 72 hours and at 1 week.
  • Cold crash at 3 weeks for 3 days, added clarifier, waited to precipitate out, then bottled.
  • Carbonate using carbonation tabs to 2.3 vol.
  • Do triangle tests and judging within 6-8 weeks.

Experiment Execution and Initial Impressions

The wine yeasts went to town immediately and fermented much faster than the ale yeasts. The ale yeasts were also much more likely to foam up. During degassing, 1388, US-05, 001, and 1056 had lots of foam.  Here are the details of the fermentation speed and floculation by yeast type:

data

Upon bottling, I tasted all the meads and made some notes. There was a notable off-flavor from the nutrient present in some of the meads and I was hoping that the priming and some extra cold crashing would take care of most of that.

One of the interesting features, was the ale like flavor that came through on many of the ale yeasts. It tastes like a lager would smell if you let it go warm and sit out. Not a fruity ester, or particularly enjoyable. Interestingly, I found 001 to be slightly cleaner than US-05, and 1056 had noticeable fruity character. That character seemed to subside by the time of the triangle tests.

Initialnotes.png

Another interesting feature was that Wyeast was noticeably darker than the meads made with the other yeast sources. Meads made with Wyeast smack packs are not gluten-free since they use beer wort to activate. This was true of the 1388 and 1056:

2017-05-30 19.10.13

1056 vs US-05

Getting to the experiment and evidence.

Experiment Evaluation

Kingston (KABOB), Toronto, (GTAbrews+professional brewers), Vancouver (VanBrewers), and Ottawa (AJ+crew from GotMead?) all participated in the evaluations. The participants included mostly BJCP certified beer and mead judges. There were also experienced home brewers and two professional brewers. All triangle tests were preformed at two months from pitch, plus of minus a week. Participants performed triangle tests for pairs of meads. The triangle tests recorded whether they got the answer correct and which they preferred. Then all participants were asked to fill out a score sheet.

Here were the instructions given to the organizer and sheet to record the triangle tests (summarized below): Instructions

Instructions:

Begin by completing triangle tests # 1-6 in any order. I there was time/mead left over complete the optional triangle tests # 7+.

Pour approximately ½ to 1 ½ ounces per opaque cup (Red solo cups used). Pour the whole bottle into cups in one go and avoid the yeast at bottom by keeping at least 2 ounces in bottle (use leftovers for the optional tests). Place the appropriate sticker on the bottom of the cups. Give each participant three cups (two of one, one of the other; giving half two of one and vice versa maximizes participants.). Ask participants to identify the odd one out.

Record if they get it correct and which they prefer. Use the correctly identified column to record how many people correctly or incorrectly identified the meads. Use the preferred meads column to record the preferred meads of all participants. Put a bar for those who correctly identified the meads, and an asterix for those that did not.

See the first row for an example consisting of six people participating in a mock triangle test. Four correctly identified, 2 did not, and half preferred each, but the two who incorrectly identified preferred the right column.

Then ask them to complete the survey. Make sure they indicate which they preferred and if they got the triangle test correct on the left margin of the survey for each pair.

Once all tasting are complete you are free to open the “answers” envelope. Please return all score sheets and the triangle tests results by mail. Participants are welcome to take pictures if they want to record their preferences.

Picking which meads to pair off was hard. I mainly use D-47 and US-05 for short meads so was really interested in potential improvements. I was also really interested in comparing yeasts used for commercial purposes. Here is a summary of the triangle tests:

trilist

Here is an  example of the ScoreSheet, which is summarized by the picture below:

scoresheetexample.png

Triangle Tests

The results of the triangle tests are summarized in the table below.  Not all home brew clubs conducted the same tests and the number of participants differed by home brew club, so the number of participants differ by triangle tests. Overall, participants were able to significantly identify the meads in 6 of the 10 triangle tests using a significance of 0.05. Two of the four that were not significant only had three participants, and the other two had p-values close to or under 0.1.  Of those who correctly identified the meads, two has significant preferences. 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 brulosophy.com. The p-value calculator came onbrewing.com and can be found using the web link. Lets consider some triangle tests of interest.

D-47 and US-05  are the main yeasts used by most commercial meaderies for short meads. I interchange these yeasts in my own home brewing of short meads depending on the character I am looking for. Out of 17 participants, 10 were able to correctly identify the odd mead out. With a p-value of 0.027, this suggests that this was not merely a random choice. Out of the 10 that correctly identified the meads, 60 percent preferred the D-47. This does not significantly differ from random choice of preference. Overall, this suggests that most people can tell then apart, but the participants are more or less split on preference.

tritests.png

1388 and 001  are two ale yeasts that were able to be significantly distinguished. Out of 18 participants, 15 were able to correctly identify the odd mead out, with a corresponding p-value of 0.000. 60 percent of those who correctly identified preferred 1388 over 001. This does not significantly differ from random choice of preference. Similarly 7 of 8 participants were able to distinguish 1388 to D-47, but participants were spilt on preference. One participant was indifferent, hence the 0.5.

All 6 participants correctly identified and preferred 1056 to Cote. 5 out of 8 could distinguish US-05 to 1056, with a p-value of 0.088, but just 3 out of the 5 preferred US-05 to 1056.

71b was close to significantly identified from 1118 by 7 out of 13 participants (p-value=0.104). Of the seven that correctly identified, 6 preferred 71b to 1118 (p-value 0.063).

Overall, the results from the triangle test suggest that a lot more meads were able to be distinguished than in most beer triangle tests from http://brulosophy.com/. However, of those that correctly identified the meads, most were split on preferences. Interestingly, those with BJCP mead certification, myself, and AJ from Ottawa has nearly 100 percent correct responses. While I cannot provide an exact breakdown, since I did not record who got it correct for everyone, there was a clear divide. This may be due to experienced Mazers knowing common mead flavors and the fact that the meads showed their quality quite clearly due to the white honey and the dryness of the meads.

Participants Tasting Notes

The following tables describe the aroma and flavor notes from the participants. Bold letters indicate descriptors that were used more than once.

Malty was used several times to describe the aroma and flavor of D-47. Apples and cider, with low honey character dominated descriptions of the aroma and flavor.

aroma

EC-1118 were described as funky by several participants. Low to no honey character was present. Cote was sour, with sulfur and vomit like character in aroma. Many described Cote as having better flavor but was still perceived to be sour with citrus, and little honey character.  71b was said to have fruity esters for aromas, with a wide array of fruit descriptors, although tropical, orange were commonly perceived. In taste 71b was described as a white wine, with citrus character.

Of the dry ale yeasts, T58 was not very well received. Descriptions of esters, heat, and green apple dominated. CBC1 was quite well received. While honey character was low, there was descriptions of green apple for the aroma and tart, fruity, cider and white wine like character in the taste. US-05 was described as clean, clear honey notes, and very cider like by many participants. This matched the flavor descriptors of cider like, white wine and floral.

flavor.png

Interestingly, US-05 was perceived quite differently than its wet yeast 001 and 1056. 001 had much clearer honey character, described as pleasant and floral in aroma and flavor. 1056 was perceived to be much more fruity. Berries, blueberry, light honey and grape dominated the descriptors of 1056. The honey character was clearer for 1056 in flavor with some green apple, and a balanced amount of acid.

002 was described as fruity, floral with apple in the aroma. The flavor of 002 has clear honey notes, and found to be fruity, similar to an orange wheat beer character.  041 was evaluated by far less participants, but was described as clean and fruity. Finally, 1388 was described as low floral, beer like and bland by many participants. Similar notes came across in the taste with slight fruit, and white grapes.

Authors notes: I thought the overall quality of the meads were quite low. There was a distinct nutrient character that came across as a strong umami/brine character. This was mainly due to the high level of nutrients that were used. Toronto in particular had it bad since their evaluation was only a few days after having it shipped to them. Due to bottle conditioning, almost all participants from Toronto noted yeast character in their flavor profiles, which was not noted by most other participants.

Participants Overall and Mouthfeel Scores

One of the difficulties of having a large number of yeasts to evaluate in triangle tests is having a picture of overall ranking.  After all triangle tests, participants were asked to fill out the score sheets which contained five boxes for the quality of the overall impression and mouthfeel.  To provide a picture of overall ranking, these boxes were converted into numbers from 1-5 so all of the meads can be compared.

In the score sheet, all participants were asked to rank the meads from “gross” to “recipe?” using five check boxes. Note that the observations differ due to sample, and non-response. Moreover, the sample used is for all responses, (unlike for the preference data in the triangle tests) due to the inability to differentiate those who correctly identified the meads in the score sheets (something I need to add for next time). The perception was asked after each triangle test. Due to this participants may be influenced by the counterpart in the triangle tests. The number of observations, mean, standard deviation, min and max for the meads are reported in the following table.

overall

Interestingly, the overall scores give a different ranking than what may be inferred from some of the data above. 001 was a clear winner with 3.1, followed by CBC1 with 2.9. 1388 and 002 tied for third with 2.8. Both US-05 and 1056 scored 2.7. The white wine yeasts were all close to the bottom of the ranking with 71b and Cote being quite low.

For mouthfeel, all participants were asked to rank the meads from “thin” to “rich-thick” using five check boxes. Converting these check boxes into numbers from 1-5, the meads can be compared by overall mouthfeel. The number of observations, mean, standard deviation, min and max for the meads are reported in the following table.
mouthfeel

Interestingly, 001 come out on top for mouthfeel with an overall score of 3.3. Despite Cote being scored last in overall score it came second in mouthfeel with 3.2, although the sample size was lower.  D-47 and 1056 has scores of 2.7 and 2.6, respectively.  1056, 1118, 1388 all came in lower at 2.4, followed closely by 002 with 2.3. T58 scored the lowest with 1.9 but again had a small sample size.

To summarize, 001 and CBC1 came in quite high in overall impression and mouthfeel. Much of the mouthfeel would be coming from the carbonation and sensations of thickness in the meads. 1056 and US-05 came in the mid-range for overall score mouthfeel.  The meads were made with a light honey and at 8.5 percent, designed to quite bland to be able to better differentiate the meads. Hence were not really expected to produce significant honey flavor or mouthfeel. Even in the presence of nutrient off-flavors, many of the meads did quite well and ranked consistency across mouthfeel and overall impression.

Discussion of Experiment Design and Execution

The execution of the experiment lacked in a few regards.

The nutrient level was designed to be high (175 YAN), but ended up being much too high. All meads ended up suffering from nutrient/mineral off flavors.  This is my biggest regret in hindsight. I attribute this to two reasons. First, the traditional advice is to calculate the YAN using Fermaid- K, Fermaid-O or DAP. If the yeast are rehydrated in Go-ferm you can ignore its YAN contribution. However, given the pitch rate in this experiment, the Go-ferm ended up providing most of the YAN (525 YAN). This is an extreme example of why the YAN contribution of Go-ferm should be taken into account (see my article on TANG, a revised nutrient schedule for short meads).

Despite my best intentions, the pitch rate differed by strain. I tried to match the grams of yeast based on a pack of US-05 which was 11.5 grams. Only after the fact I realized that the yeast cells in Wyeast and White labs are less than half the yeast cells than for a pack of dry yeast. Oops! This may be compounded by the fact that the viability of the wet yeasts may be different, with likely less nutrient storage. I based the high pitch rate on the assumption that you cannot over pitch yeast, but it turns out you can if you use Go-ferm at 1.25g per gram of yeast. In retrospect, I should have pitched half of the packet of US-05 and stuck with my use of only a pack of dry wine yeast. In particular, I wonder if the low yeast cells in 001 helped clean up some of the nutrient off flavors compared to the other strains.

There is a lack of evidence on the appropriate water profile for short meads. However myself, and other authors such as Bray Denard have noticed that this has an effect on the overall quality of the meads. In other batches that I have used the same water profile, I found that there was a mineral quality to the short meads that took some time to come out. I have used soft tap water and distilled water in many of my short mead batches and have found that the Ca level makes a difference. Now I use TANG, a revised nutrient schedule for short meads that takes into account the starting water profile. An experiment on water quality is already underway.

While effort was placed to have the meads evaluated early, I have noticed from my own experiments that bottle conditioning versus force carbonating makes a big difference. For example, I made a sparkling coffee maple mead that scored 36 and 40/50 at the VanBrewers competition, but only scored in the high 20s – low 30s when I sent it to two other competitions. The difference was that I force carbonated the mead for the VanBrewers competition but bottle carbonated the mead for the other competitions. Moreover, in my experience, bottle conditioning can really change the mead, which can take at least three months to really turn around for the better.  If I was to repeat this experiment again, I would have evaluated the meads after at least three months, or force carbonated the meads. Bottle conditioning also increases the risk of mishandling as the shipping of the meads created notable off flavors for Toronto in particular that evaluated the meads quickly after shipping.

Conclusions

Overall, I found these results to be quite surprising. 001 was a clear winner in overall score but 60 percent of participants preferred 1388 to 001. The tasting notes from the California ale strains (001, US-05 and 1056) differed quite a bit. The wine yeasts did quite poorly in overall score, even though D-47 had 60 percent of the correct responders in the triangle tests prefer it over US-05.

It also surprised me how much these meads changed over time. At bottling many of the ale yeasts tasted like beer and had a lager like quality to them. However, when evaluated after two months many of this beer character had cleaned up, and there was much more mead – cider quality to them. Over time the nutrient off-flavor also dissipated, even though there was still a slight umami flavor to them.

I also realized that it is a lot more work to have more than two meads to evaluate. It is a lot easier to only evaluate two meads in a triangle tests. However, it then becomes very difficult to account for more than two different meads. This experiment has raised lots of questions for me. I am planning future experiments in nutrients, water profiles, bottle priming sugars, sours etc. Stay tuned for more experimeads!

I want to thank all those that participated in the experiments. A special thanks to the members of KABOB, GTAbrews, VanBrewers and AJ from GotMead for all the work it took to run the tastings. Also a special thanks to AJ and and Bray Denard for the referee reports. Thank you kindly.

Peer Review

Reviewer 1, Bray Denard https://denardbrewing.com/

A very nicely done experiment. You really went all out on testing. In a review process, reviewers ask questions to which the experimenter responds. As such, I have a few questions:
1. Did all of these meads have the same level of nutrient overload? If not, how did this contribute to liking the mead? Do you think this compromised the experiment?
2. Overall Impression of the top 3-4 yeast is really close numerically. Almost no difference (overlapping error bars). Is that really reflective of reality or a limitation of the method?
3. Where are the Abbey yeast results? 
4. Would you want to drink your favorite leisurely at the time of the experiment? Not just good, but enjoyable. 
5. Do you plan to age further?
 
These days, I see yeast as part of a tool set. You need to use the right tool for the right recipe. For instance, the reason I like Wyeast 1388 is because it is neutral. It doesn’t add much of anything. This way, I get a pure honey flavor without yeast esters mucking with the true flavors. For an off dry to sweet mead (lots of honey), that works really well. For a dry/short mead, a bit of help is needed to balance the flavor. I think this reason is why 001 is preferred for your experiment. It seems 001 adds a nice ester to balance the mead a bit. It’s not that it accentuates your honey at all, it’s that it produces a honey-like ester to compensate. 
 
If you had done the experiment with a heavy flavor Acacia honey instead of a light honey, all of the numbers would be different. Esters would compliment or compete. Perception would be altered. As we say in science, your experiment only finds what you look for and misses all else. It’s for this reason that I now only do experiments with the things I actually want to drink. No more cheap honey and bone dry meads in experiments for me!
 
Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the fine work you did here, but I think the taste test results are not as important as the ester profiles and mouthfeel. Now the real testing begins. You can use your finding here to make recipes specific for each yeast to really make them shine. I know I’m interested in trying quite a few combos!

Authors response to Reviewer 1

Thanks for the feedback. Excellent points. Let me first address your questions. 

1. Did all of these meads have the same level of nutrient overload? If not, how did this contribute to liking the mead? Do you think this compromised the experiment?
Yes, all the meads had the same nutrient additions and the Go-ferm in particular was the major source. However the pitch rate differed for the wet yeasts, so they may have had a easier time cleaning up the excessive nutrients.
2. Overall Impression of the top 3-4 yeast is really close numerically. Almost no difference (overlapping error bars). Is that really reflective of reality or a limitation of the method?
Overall scores are really close, yes. I can test the difference in the means, but would like to take into account the location of the tasting, since Toronto participants scored the meads much lower on average and not all meads were tested at all locations. This is why the overall number should be taken with a grain of salt. 
3. Where are the Abbey yeast results? 
The problem with 13 meads, was that the 13th didn’t fit in a case of 12. I also thought it was gross at bottling, so never sent it around. Also, 041 broke on the way to Vancouver and Toronto never got around to testing it. 
4. Would you want to drink your favorite leisurely at the time of the experiment? Not just good, but enjoyable. 
I designed this recipe off a short traditional mead that I medaled with at the VanBrewers competition. I really like a traditional dry short mead and make sure to have some on tap. However, I take your poke seriously. I would not normally use white honey for dry traditional, but a nice varietal or a golden honey source. In the future I plan to make my experimeads very close to well scoring recipes that I really enjoyed. I choose a good quality white honey to highlight the ester profile, but completely agree that you should be testing around your prior preferences. 
5. Do you plan to age further?
Nope, all the mead was evaluated except for a bottle each of 001 and 041 that I have left over. If the experiment was repeated, I would test at three or four months as this is when I find that most bottle conditioned meads turn around. This experiment was really about quick turn around, but the flip side is if I cared about fast turn around I should have forced carbonated!

Reviewer 2, A.J. Ermenc, GotMead?

 http://gotmead.com/blog/gotmead-live-radio-show/

I was happy to be a part of the Great Canadian Yeast Experiment. I had never participated in triangle tests before and was pleased to confirm that my own senses are actually sensitive enough to pick up on some subtle differences, even if my lack of experience with tasting was less able to describe the differences I perceived. I was surprised how different these batches came out tasting and smelling, just because of changing the yeast. I think this kind of experiment is something each meadmaker, winemaker and beer brewer should try on their own or with a group at least once, even if just to see for one’s self the yeast differences we all read about. I definitely see the value of testing like this with specific honeys, fruits, and combinations to dial in what is best for each batch and the process would definitely be of value for anyone making meads and wines commercially.

Authors response to Reviewer 2

Thanks A.J.! It was also fun to organize the tests. I agree that every mead maker could learn something by splitting a batch and trying out different yeast. I encourage every mead maker to do it at least once on a favorite recipe. For the record, I would like to mention that A.J. got every triangle test correct! She also had great descriptors for each of the meads and was one of the first persons to mention D-47 as malty.