Is mead better when fermentation is slower? Or is mead better when fermentation
is faster? Some people, in the name of tradition, answer that fermentation
must take time, whereas some other people prefer a faster fermentation.
Whichever prejudice one has, it should be admitted that trying and answering
this question using reasons other than "in the good old days..." or "I am
in a hurry" would be better. The final result must be the only judge.
- A low temperature (do not exaggerate) will slow down the fermentation
but it will also modify the balance between chemical reactions and the
proportions of various products (and therefore the taste).
- Agitation scatters yeast cells, so they are more efficient (ferment
faster). But this also drives off some volatile organoleptic compounds
one may prefer to keep in the mead [V2].
- Some strains of yeast are intrinsically faster than others. But differences
in the final result will depend more on other differences between yeasts
than on the difference of fermentation speed.
- If fermentation lasts too long, autolysis can take place and modify
- If fermentation lasts too long, the must will also spend some time
containing some sugar and little alcohol, which is a perfect environment
for the development of bacteria.
- Slowness of fermentation can also be a sign of bad health of the
yeast or of some handling mistake (see stuck fermentation in A problem?).
In such a case slowness is a bad sign.
- On the other hand, if fermentation is made faster by adding excessive
nutrients, mead will need a long ageing time to get rid of the nutrient
off-flavor. The few days of fermentation time spared this way will be reimbursed
later at a credit card rate.
One can therefore notice that there is a link between speed of fermentation
and quality of mead. But no over-simplification. In order to say whether
slow or fast fermentations are better, it is necessary to know the cause
of such a speed. Generally speaking, the speed itself is less important
than some cause that will modify both the speed and the quality.
May 28th 2002