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What is the best yeast for honeyshine?

Making honeyshine, also known as mead, is an ancient fermented beverage made from honey, water, and yeast. Choosing the right yeast is crucial for producing a high quality mead with the desired characteristics. The yeast is responsible for converting the sugars in the honey into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation. With so many yeast strains available, it can be challenging for the beginner to know where to start. This article will examine the key considerations when selecting yeast for mead and review some of the most popular strains.

What is honeyshine?

Honeyshine, or mead, is likely one of the oldest fermented beverages in the world. It is made by fermenting honey mixed with water, and sometimes flavored with fruits, spices, or herbs. Mead ranges considerably in terms of sweetness, alcohol content, carbonation, and flavor profiles. From dry, still meads to sweet, sparkling melomels made with fruit – there is tremendous diversity to explore.

While mead predates wine, beer, cider and other ferments – it is experiencing a modern resurgence as both professional meaderies and homebrewers rediscover the joys of fermenting honey. The possibilities are nearly endless when making mead, constrained only by the imagination of the mead maker.

Key factors when choosing honeyshine yeast

Selecting the right yeast strain for your mead is one of the most important decisions a mead maker can make. The yeast will influence the aroma, mouthfeel, clarity, dryness, sweetness, and alcohol tolerance of the finished mead. Here are some key considerations when evaluating yeast strains for mead:

Alcohol tolerance

One of the most important factors is the alcohol tolerance of the yeast strain. Most meads reach alcohol levels of 12-14%, so the yeast must be able to survive and thrive in that range. A yeast with too low an alcohol tolerance may die off before fully fermenting the sugars in the must. On the flip side, a highly alcohol tolerant strain is needed if making an 18-20% ABV traditional mead.


Flocculation refers to the yeast’s tendency to clump together and settle out of suspension when fermentation is complete. Flocculent strains result in clearer mead, while low flocculation leads to cloudiness. A moderately flocculent strain is ideal for most mead styles.

Nutrient needs

Honey lacks many key nutrients needed by yeast. Some yeast strains have higher nutrient demands and will require supplementation to avoid stalled or sluggish ferments. Understanding the nutritional needs of the yeast and providing adequate nitrogen, vitamins, and minerals is key.

Temperature tolerance

Yeast produce different flavor compounds at different temperature ranges. Selecting a strain suited to your desired fermentation temperature can help achieve your intended flavor profile. Ale yeast generally prefer cooler temps while wine yeast do better warmer.

ABV tolerance

The final alcohol content directly relates to the yeast’s alcohol tolerance. A yeast with a tolerance of 9% ABV will stall out around that gravity, leaving residual sugars. For high gravity brews, choose a yeast with a high ABV tolerance.


Phenolic compounds like esters can give fruity, spicy or clove-like flavors. German wheat and Belgian yeast produce more phenols than clean fermenting wine or champagne yeast.

Sulfur production

Some yeast strains produce more sulfur compounds during fermentation which can give rotten egg flavors. Choosing low sulfur yeast prevents this off-flavor.

Fermentation rate

The speed a yeast ferments at affects the final profile. Faster fermenting yeast leave fewer residual sugars for backsweetening. Slower yeast can also improve the body and mouthfeel.

Killer factor

Some yeast secrete toxins that kill other non-killer yeast strains. Using a killer yeast minimizes the risk of contamination by wild yeast taking hold in the must or mead.

Popular yeast strains for mead making

Now that we’ve covered the key selection criteria, let’s look at some of the most commonly used yeast varieties for making honeyshine:

Lalvin 71B-1122

This wine yeast is an excellent all-around choice for most mead styles. It has a 14% alcohol tolerance, medium flocculation, and emphasizes floral and fruity flavors while minimizing sulfur compounds. The 71B strain leaves some residual sweetness which suits semi-sweet mead styles.

Lalvin D47

Another wine yeast popular with mead makers is Lalvin D47. With a tolerance of 15%, it ferments very dry and leaves little residual sugar behind. Known for producing tropical fruit and citrus flavors, D47 is great for melomels and other fruit-infused meads.

Lallemand Belle Saison

This highly alcohol tolerant Belgian ale yeast can handle ABVs up to 20%. Belle Saison leaves a very dry finish making it perfect for drier traditonal meads. It also contributes spicy, earthy notes from phenolic compounds.

Wyeast 4632 Dry Mead

As the name implies, Wyeast 4632 is designed specifically for dry meads with its 18% alcohol tolerance and high flocculation. It ferments bone dry, even with higher starting gravities. If you want a crisp, clean and very dry mead this yeast strain is an excellent choice.

White Labs Sweet Mead Yeast

Formulated for semi-sweet to sweet meads, White Labs Sweet Mead yeast stops around 10% ABV leaving plenty of residual sugars. Combined with its low flocculation and mild flavor profile, it’s great for sweeter mead styles.

Mangrove Jack M05

From a mead-specific yeast brand, Mangrove Jack’s M05 strain is tolerant to 14% ABV. It leaves a clean flavor profile letting the honey character shine through. M05 is on the moderate to low end for flocculation.

Additional considerations for yeast selection

In addition to strain characteristics, there are some other factors to weigh when choosing your mead yeast:

Yeast nutrition

Be prepared to provide nitrogen, micronutrients, a staggered nutrient schedule, and other supplementation for healthy fermentation.

Pitch rate

Use an appropriate cell count based on starting gravity and volume. Underpitching leads to off flavors and poor fermentation.

Fermentation temperature

Select a strain suited for your ambient temperature or have a plan to control it.

Mead style

Think about the overall flavor profile and sweetness level you want when selecting yeast. The strain choices vary greatly between dry traditionals compared to sweet, fruity melomels.

Yeast health

Ensure the yeast is fresh and viable for best results. Old or mishandled yeast can result in a stuck ferment.


In summary, while many yeast strains can ferment honey into mead, choosing the ideal strain for your specific mead style and preferences is key to producing the best results. Prioritize factors like alcohol tolerance, flocculation, nutrition needs, ester/phenol production, and flavor profile when selecting your mead yeast. With the huge range of yeast varieties now available to homebrewers and mead makers, you’re sure to find the perfect strain to create your ideal honeyshine.