This week we take a look at some alternative strategies for adding nutrients to your mead for proper fermentation. I also explain the TiONSA and TONSA 3 models which are implemented in BeerSmith.
Staggered Nutrient Additions
A key part of modern mead making techniques is the staggered addition of mead nutrients. Prior to the adoption of staggered nutrients, mead making was a very slow process, as it sometimes took up to a year for raw honey and water to fully ferment due to lack of nitrogen and other key nutrients.
The modern technique involves adding typically 4 nutrient additions at key points during early fermentation to provide the nutrients needed for a rapid and complete fermentation. Typically these are added at 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours and then at either the 7 day mark or 1/3 sugar break (when 1/3 of the sugars have been fermented).
Using this technique, fermentation even on a high gravity mead can be completed in as little as two weeks, and the mead can be aged out and consumed in about 60 days. Lower gravity meads can be completed much faster.
TiONSA and TONSA 3 Additions
The two most popular methods are TONSA and TiONSA. TONSA 3.0 which stands for Tailored Organic Staggered Nutrient Addition is the most recent incarnation. It uses Fermaid-O, which is an organic form of nitrogen as the main nutrient. This method was popularized by the Mead Made Right blog.
TiONSA is a slightly older method using the “inorganic” (and slightly cheaper) Fermaid-K nutrient. Some older nutrient schedules also use DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) as a nitrogen source. Using inorganic DAP or Fermaid-K can lead to a faster fermentation up front, but also can lead to potential off flavors and aroma, so most mead makers have moved to the organic Fermaid-O TONSA method now.
Calculating Mead Nutrient Additions
The long form equation for calculating the TONSA addition is:
Tot_grams_ferm_o = (Brix * 10 * batch_size_gals * yeast_factor)/50
where the yeast factor is: Low=0.75, Med=0.9 and High=1.25 depending on the strain of yeast you are using. This equation gives the total grams to add which is then divided into four equal additions to be added at 24, 48, 72 hours and at the 1/3 sugar break. You also may need to adjust for the percent of honey if using large fruit additions.
BeerSmith 3 or higher also will do this calculation for you. You can go to Tools->Mead Nutrients on the desktop or mobile version or access it from a Gold+ account under Tools->Mead Nutrients after logging in at BeerSmithRecipes.com. If you build a Mead recipe on the desktop version you can also go to the Starter tab in the open recipe for easier access as items like the OG and percent honey will be automatically calculated for you.
For the standalone tool you will need to enter your original gravity, percent honey and batch volume. From the recipe builder these are calculated from your recipe and ingredient list. After that it is simply a matter of choosing the method (TONSA or TiONSA) and then the yeast nitrogen requirements for your yeast strain. Most of the popular dry yeast strains are listed on the right in the calculator. For example the popular Lalvin 71B Narbonne yeast strain is a low nitrogen yeast strain.
The output from the program includes both the total and individual Fermaid-O or Fermaid-K additions as well as a description of when to add each, typically in four equal parts.
Using modern yeast nutrient additions, any beer maker can make great mead at home in as little as 30-60 days.