View Full Version : Long lag time, or did I screw up?

04-02-2007, 05:03 PM
Hi all, I'm in the midst of attempting my first mead, and I'm not sure if I screwed up, or if there's generally a long lag time before I can see an active fermentation. Here's what went down:

- Mixed ~7lbs of honey in a carboy, topped up to 2.5 gallons.
- Added 3 campden tablets, shook like crazy for about 3 minutes. I didn't crush the tablets.
- Took a gravity reading, was 1.15. Wanted it a bit lower, figured I'd think it over.
- Sat carboy to rest.
- Waited 20 hours.
- Added 3 quarts of water, diluted to 1.090.
- Proofed Red Star champagne yeast, saw that the yeast was alive, then mixed in 1.5tsp yeast energizer, 3tsp of Fermax and pitched.
- Aerated by shaking again.

It's now about 18 hours later, and I still don't see any fermentation activity. Should I pitch more yeast, or relax? Generally when I brew beers I shoot for a 6-8 hour lag time, less if possible.

04-02-2007, 06:19 PM
Well, you may have screwed up -- but all is not lost! ;D

The yeast you chose has a pretty short lag time -- in my experience I get a solid fermentation going in as little as 4 to 8 hrs with that one -- so there is a chance that your yeast died as it hit the residual SO2 in your must.

The wait time after sulfiting a must is usually 24-48 hrs before pitching the yeast, since you need most of the resulting SO2 to leave the must before yeast will grow again. You waited , but perhaps not long enough. Also, you didn't crush the campden tabs so they may have taken much longer to dissolve and thus to release their SO2. As I said, though, all is not lost. Just wait another day or two and pitch another batch of yeast. You may want to stir up the must a bit before re-pitching, which will help any remaining SO2 to evolve out of solution, and will add some additional O2, which is actually a good thing at the start of fermentation since it fosters yeast budding -- more active yeasties is always a good thing! Also, add the Fermax to the must, not to the proofed yeast. You can give a freshly re-hydrated yeast too much of a good thing; too much ammonia will kill yeast rather than help it out. As I said, you're still in pretty good shape since your must currently has a good dose of Fermax in it, so you don't need to add any more.

04-02-2007, 06:29 PM

I came home from work today and found that it looks like my yeast are alive. There's a touch of white foam forming on top of the must (It's called krausen in beer terms, dunno what it's called in mead terms), and a touch of activity in the airlock. There's also a bit of lees/sediment at the bottom of the carboy. It wasn't there yesterday.

Think it's still worth pitching more yeast? I know stressed yeast work rather poorly long-term.

Also, when I aerate it for the next 24 hours or so, wouldn't I just be dissolving the CO2 the yeast produce? How would I purge the CO2 and add O2?

04-02-2007, 06:45 PM
I always allow the first 24 hrs of primary fermentation to proceed quasi-open air. That way I'm not trapping excess CO2 in solution, or in an air pocket above the must, early in the primary fermentation phase. By quasi-open air, I mean that I don't employ a fermentation lock even when I'm using a carboy as a primary tank, and more often I'll just allow primary to proceed in a bucket that has no lid - just a sanitized towel to cover in order to keep airborne nasties from dropping into the must. O2 is good IMHO until the cap (krausen) collapses, at which time you don't want any more O2 since the yeast has ceased reproducing and is going over to anaerobic fermentation. The Red Star champagne yeast is fairly low foaming, so you won't get a very thick, all-encompassing krausen layer like you're used to seeing with an ale fermentation, but there should be more than a "touch of white foam." I'd wait another 24 hrs. If the fermentation activity hasn't picked up in that time, then I'd make up another good starter colony of yeast in a separate container by re-hydrating, and subsequently "feeding" with about a quart of honey water solution at near your must's OG. Then pitch the entire starter once it has had a chance to really get going (which as I said, in my experience, should be within about 8 hrs for that yeast). That should eliminate any issues from stressed yeast, and you will benefit from a shorter overall fermentation time, too.

04-02-2007, 07:17 PM
I just shook the hell out of it and it gave off CO2 like when I shake my beer yeast starters.

Looks like I just stunned them. Thanks for your help, I'll be back when I have to rack to a secondary!

04-04-2007, 10:08 AM
Sigh....I know Charlie Papazian says RDWHAHB, but I'm still freaking out a touch.

At 6PM yesterday (48 hours after pitching yeast) I had about 5/8" of krausen on top of the must. As of 7AM today, it's fallen back a bit.

I know the only way to check fermentation is with a hydrometer, but does this seem normal? I've got a couple packets of yeast around - Would it be worth pitching one?

EDIT: YIKES! I swirled the carboy a bit to rouse the yeast, and it vented off so much CO2 that it blew the carboy cap with airlock off so fast it left a dent in my ceiling. I guess that means the yeast is working.....

04-04-2007, 07:48 PM
Yup - it's working! And you've done your yeast a favor by eliminating some of that excess CO2!! Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew!!! :cheers:

04-04-2007, 07:57 PM
Thanks - I guess I've been thrown off by the lack of krausen. It tops out at about 1/2"-5/8" and then falls almost all the way back into the must.

04-04-2007, 08:26 PM
ya mead is much different than beer, even during fermentation. someitmes there is no foam(krausen) at all, sometimes there is lots, just depends on the yeast and the rest of the must. so far all of my beers have made a sizeable krausen, i was actually surprised by my first batch of beer becasue i had made a few meads before it.