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I'm looking to experiment making a low-alcohol mead (i.e. under 8% ABV). In terms of buying a sachet of yeast I can see standard beer/cider/wine variants and obviously for brewing there are loads of special variants. But which would be most suitable for mead (and why)?

And - how critical is it? Would any standard brewing yeast work OK or are there some types which would not be recommended?

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I have used White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast for a hydromel before with some success. Since it has a fairly neutral flavor and is listed on White Labs' site as being good for honey ales, I figured it would do well with mead. It's also available at most homebrew shops. It may have a higher nutrient requirement, though, since it's intended for beer. As for ABV, that linked fact page says it is "high," which White Labs indicates as being 10% - 15%

Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale makes an outstanding mead pretty quickly at all ABV's (up to 19%, if you baby it enough), and is yeast used in the BOMM (Bray's One Month Mead) (I know, there are two BOMM links there, but it's worth it.). It's also one of the few yeasts that seems to be a great fit across all styles. It can be hard to find, so I typically purchase it from the Northern Brewer's website. I mostly use it for regular strength meads (12% - 15%), so it will have no problem getting you to 8%.

Aside from that, I've seen Lalvin EC-1118 (a champagne yeast with neutral flavors; good to 18%) and Lalvin K1-V1116 (lots of esters, good to 18%, treats honey well) both used successfully in hydromel recipes (and a lot of mead recipes, in general). DV10, another champagne yeast, might be also good candidate, but I haven't personally tried it. EC-1118 and K1-V116 are pretty widely available.

Basically, if the yeast makes a good mead, it should make a good hydromel.

Here is a list of yeasts that I've seen typically used in meads, in no particular order:

  • *Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale
  • *Lalvin EC-1118
  • *Lalvin K1-V1116 (often abbreviated "K1V"; sometimes listed as "ICV K1")
  • Lalvin D47
  • Lalvin 71B-1122 (abbreviated "71B")
  • Lalvin DV10
  • Lalvin D21
  • Lalvin RC-212 (it's a nutrient hog)
  • Red Star Montrachet
  • Red Star Côte des Blancs
  • Fleischmann's Bread Yeast (in JAOM only)

*Yeasts I think would be good for a most hydromels

That seems like a lot, but all of them bring out different qualities in mead.

Of course, if you're feeling really ambitious, you can email a meadery that you know produces hydromels commercially, like B. Nektar or Crafted Artisan Meadery, and ask them what yeast they use for theirs. A lot of commercial mead makers are more than willing to give some tips, since they typically started as homebrewers too.

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  • Thanks very much for the detailed answer. Very helpful. I've gone for Lalvin EC-1118 & Lalvin D47 (better for postage) and will probably try the 1118 first. I also got some nutrient which I gather is important. – Mr. Boy Sep 17 '15 at 11:18
  • Be sure to watch the temperature with D47. It a great yeast for mead, but over 68F, it starts to throw out plastic flavors. – valverij Sep 17 '15 at 13:41
  • Ta. My house is rarely quite that warm... typically 66-67 at most. – Mr. Boy Sep 17 '15 at 13:44
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    your house may not be that warm, but fermentation can raise the temperature well above ambient room temperature, inside the vessel. I personally use a 20 gal tote filled with water as a way to keep my temperature stable during fermentation, just place the carboy/bucket into the water till the primary fermentation is complete. – jsolarski Sep 19 '15 at 21:50
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Low ABV yeast is all yeast. It is the high ABVs that get tricky.

Do you want the yeast to do anything apart from making alcohol, then use a "clean" yeast, like SafAle S04.

If you want aromas and flavours, then... you have many options! Depending on what yeast you can get hold of, go to that company web site and read the information about the yeast.

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  • I think I just want to avoid anything that would add a very strong taste, or a taste that doesn't really 'go' with mead/hydromel. It rather sounds like any middle-of-the-road yeast would be fine – Mr. Boy Sep 17 '15 at 9:26
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    Avoid anything with the word "Belgian" or "Weiss" in it then! :p – Atron Seige Sep 17 '15 at 9:30

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