Register Now!

Wine Making & Grape Growing Forum > Wine Making > Meads > Does anyone use wild yeasts to make mead?


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 07-27-2017, 01:36 PM   #1
BernardSmith
Senior Member
 
Dec 2011
Posts: 2,379
Liked 766 Times on 559 Posts
Likes Given: 423



I am interested in experimenting with wild yeasts to ferment my honey meads over the next 12 months. Trying to capture and then propagate yeasts from , for example, plums, from raw honey, from inchet and kitel (gesho), from figs and so forth. *** Just begun to capture these yeasts (since Sunday) and so the colonies I have in mason jars are far too small at the moment to know if they are even viable (though I used a scant pound of raw Brazilian wild flower in a gallon of water for this honey experiment and when I agitate the carboy that this is in I do get a very large amount of gas) . Anyway, is there anyone else on this forum interested in experimenting with wild yeasts rather than lab cultured varieties? Methinks that IF (and that is a very big if ) I can find a viable and tasteful fermenting culture that this might result in quite uniquely flavored meads.

*** There seems to be at least two ways that folk cultivate wild yeasts - one is to work with colonies of yeast as I am. Another more "scientistic" approach (not more scientific IMO, but an approach that has the appearance of being more scientific) is to use petri dishes to isolate and select cultures that you grow on agar and so ensure that you are dealing only with yeast and not a mix of yeast and other bacteria and fungi or mold. This second approach means that you might be able to cultivate very specific strains of yeast the equivalent of 71B or D47 and the like, whereas capturing yeast on the skins of fruit may mean that the colony is made up of a very diverse community of yeast whose make-up may change in light of the amount of sugar and or alcohol and or acidity etc that they are exposed to...

 
Reply With Quote
Old 07-28-2017, 04:30 PM   #2
MDH
Junior Member
 
May 2014
Posts: 20
Liked 5 Times on 4 Posts
Likes Given: 1


Isolating yeast isn't the same as using wild fermentation.

With wild fermentation, you are carefully monitoring must conditions to maintain a relatively low pH (ideally, less than 4.0, though most grapes are already beneath this level), a balanced gravity (not too low, or too high) and anaerobic conditions at all times during the ferment.

The idea and principle of such a fermentation is that there are thousands of different yeasts and bacteria alive within the ferment, but those the most adapt to the conditions they are subjected to will overtake and complete the ferment successfully.

Isolating a single strain and fermenting with it counteracts this: If the strain you have isolated isn't well adapted to the medium you are fermenting, you will eventually have to supplement nutrients or conditions that it needs to actually thrive.

One thing you can do is crush some fresh, unwashed fruit and put it into a ziplock bag with a bit of water. If the fruit is not acidic, add acid before doing this. Then, carefully push all the air above the fill-line in the bag out and seal it. There will be enough dissolved oxygen within the bag to allow yeast to grow sufficiently, and a strong fermentation should begin within several days.


AkTom Likes This 
Reply With Quote
Old 07-28-2017, 05:00 PM   #3
BernardSmith
Senior Member
 
Dec 2011
Posts: 2,379
Liked 766 Times on 559 Posts
Likes Given: 423


Thank MDH, I am not trying to isolate a single strain. That does not interest me very much. I am focused on growing colonies that I find on fruit and the like. What I am isolating is the fruit itself (so I have some cultures from plums in one mason jar and some cultures from figs in a separate jar. Not sure the advantage of using a ziplock vs mason jar.
But on a more scientific level I am not sure why I want to inhibit all oxygen. I am trying to propagate the yeast not at this time make a mead. Don't daughter cells need O2? I realize that this O2 will also encourage other non yeast bacteria but won't the level of alcohol the yeast produce inhibit the growth of those bacteria? And again, at this point I am not interested in fermenting anything. I am trying to grow the population of wild yeast - so it's not very clear why I want to crush the fruit. My thinking at this point is simply to create a sugar solution whose gravity is pretty close to the gravities I aim for when I am fermenting mead (I like session meads about 6 % ABV)

 
Reply With Quote
Old 07-28-2017, 07:42 PM   #4
MDH
Junior Member
 
May 2014
Posts: 20
Liked 5 Times on 4 Posts
Likes Given: 1


You aren't inhibiting all oxygen. As I mentioned, there is enough dissolved or fine bubbles of oxygen within the crushed fruit to allow sufficient growth. For the actual ferment of mead itself, the carboy's headspace should also provide enough oxygen for the first several days after you pitch the living jar or bag into it.

Having a limited supply of oxygen during the actual ferment is essential because of course, you want lots of yeast and bacteria to produce alcohol, and some of the acids that esterify as it ages - but on the other hand some of the other microbes in a wild ferment will use air, sugars/ethanol and nutrients from autolyzing yeast/bacteria to produce very strange smelling and tasting compounds you definitely don't want - and to answer your question, no, ethanol does not inhibit all of them.

So, it is better to have yeast performing the ferment at a slightly slower pace, than to have oxygen available during all times during the ferment in order to build a high number of cells, and end up providing a space in which some non-saccharomyces strains and bacteria will form a pellicle and do things you don't like. It's also of course delicate balancing act, as if you don't have enough oxygen at the beginning, you have a new set of risks, such as a bacteria that can create new cells by substituting oxygen with something else (or derive it from a sugar) and will outperform the yeast.

Regarding the ziplock: A ziplock is merely a simpler version of, say a mason jar (like you are using) with an installed airlock. It will allow gas to build in such a way that it signals an alive ferment, without allowing air in. A ziplock can be disadvantageous when you forget to allow the gas out (for pretty obvious reasons).


balatonwine Likes This 
Reply With Quote
Old 07-29-2017, 07:52 PM   #5
BernardSmith
Senior Member
 
Dec 2011
Posts: 2,379
Liked 766 Times on 559 Posts
Likes Given: 423


But you are stages ahead of me. I am simply trying to propagate the colony of yeast on the fruit. At this stage I am totally - 100 percent disinterested in fermenting anything. I am simply allowing the yeast to eat sugars and provide them with nutrients in order for the colony to bud and grow. The "actual fermentation" will begin once I have enough suitable and viable yeast and after I have decanted any and all liquor above the yeast and after I have washed the yeast and that I assume will take several feedings and decantings...

 
Reply With Quote
Old 07-30-2017, 07:24 PM   #6
MDH
Junior Member
 
May 2014
Posts: 20
Liked 5 Times on 4 Posts
Likes Given: 1


The problem with your approach, is that a wild culture occurs in stages: First you start with non-saccharomyces yeast and higher pH bacterial strains. Then finally, saccharomyces strains take over. When they run out of simple sugars to consume or can no longer tolerate the alcohol content, other strains such as brettanomyces or mutations of saccharomyces take over.

What this means is that if you wait until you have a wild culture that has fully performed and finished a ferment, and then pitch it into a new ferment, you may unintentionally end up fermenting something largely, or almost entirely with the "last microbe standing", the last one to dominate your ferment in large numbers, which could not be what you want.

I would recommend you crush some fruit in a 18-20 brix medium of honey and water, at a pH below 4 and in a warm room. When a fermentation is very active, add it to the carboy of mead at similar specs - pH <4, reasonable S.G., etc and allow it to ferment out at a decently warm temperature. When your S.G. runs very low, chill and rack the mead (if your wild strain is low flocc definitely use a clarifying agent), and sulfite it sufficiently to prevent secondary before bottling.


 
Reply With Quote
Old 07-31-2017, 07:46 AM   #7
BernardSmith
Senior Member
 
Dec 2011
Posts: 2,379
Liked 766 Times on 559 Posts
Likes Given: 423


My approach - and where I am in the process is very similar to the following:
http://mutedog.beer/blog/harvesting-yeast-from-honey
http://mutedog.beer/blog/how-to-harvest-wild-yeast

The key difference is the next step as most folk who work with wild yeast seem to be brewers and not mead or wine makers. Since I routinely make one gallon batches (I like the freedom that single batches afford me since I can treat every batch as an experiment or a learning experience) making a less than enjoyable single gallon of a mead is not a terrible loss...

 
Reply With Quote
Old 08-07-2017, 10:48 AM   #8
BernardSmith
Senior Member
 
Dec 2011
Posts: 2,379
Liked 766 Times on 559 Posts
Likes Given: 423


Just checked the gravity of the batch of Brazilian honey must with my refractometer. On 7/23 the must had a gravity of 1.032; 7/31 the gravity had dropped to 1.025 and this afternoon (8/7) the gravity was at 1.019 so it is certainly slower than lab cultured colonies but there seems to be enough yeast (and other beasties) to drop the gravity 13 points in 14 days.

 
Reply With Quote
Reply
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Wine Making Forum Replies Last Post
Wild grapes, what should I make? jackadam General Wine Making Forum 3 03-01-2017 08:40 AM
Honey for mead, can I make my own??? marie79 Meads 6 07-19-2012 12:14 PM
Hi, Anybody out there make Mead? MarsD Introductions 10 05-09-2012 02:49 PM
Going to make mead,,,,, help pwrose Meads 22 10-02-2010 01:10 AM
Time to make more mead masta Meads 3 03-14-2005 09:04 PM


Forum Jump