Ask Wine Wizard

Is yeast extract the same as yeast hulls and yeast nutrient? And what is the best way to use it?


Bryce Eddings — Cape Girardeau, Missouri asks,

Dear Wine Wizard,

I am planning to brew my first mead this weekend. I will be using a recipe that calls for “yeast extract,” which I take to be the same as products I’ve seen called “yeast hulls” and “yeast nutrient.” Are they all the same?

Also, how worried should I be about my champagne yeast taking off in honey? I asked my buddy what he thought; he suggested a good shaking for aeration. If I do that and it doesn’t take off, can I add nutrients a few days later without fear of contamination.

Have no fear of the Champagne yeast failing to take off in your honey. As long as you dilute the honey accordingly, you’ll have a sugar solution that the yeast should happily ferment to dryness (in other words, minimum residual sugar) — or to whatever point at which you want to arrest fermentation with cold temperatures or sulfite additions. It ‘s always a good idea to add yeast extract, nutrient or hulls to a honey fermentation because honey lacks many of the essential nutrients that yeast need to survive. Though they serve a similar purpose, the above additives are not one and the same. Yeast hulls (sometimes called “yeast ghosts”) are essentially yeast skeletons. They’re the freeze-dried empty shells of yeast cells that have had the water and other liquid elements sucked out of them. Sounds a little gruesome, but yeast hulls provide extra nutrients that are critical to a fermentation. Yeast extract, on the other hand, is basically a concentrated slurry of dead yeast cells. It’s sold dehydrated or wet. This slurry is rich in vitamins, minerals, nitrogen and
Response by Alison Crowe.