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View Full Version : What should I do - slow fermentation??? (first mead)



IncrdblHulk7
06-06-2007, 10:05 PM
I am getting the feeling that I should have taken the advice found on this forum!

I have been brewing beer and wine for a while now. My friends talked me in to trying a batch of mead.

Ingredients:
5lbs Wildflower
12lbs OrangeBlosson
Spring Water
RedStar Pastuer Champagne Yeast (one packet)
(6 Gallon batch)

I read all the info on the forums, but when I went to my trusty LHBS I got the following advice ...

* use Champagne yeast
* dont bother using nutrient (I never do)

I combined the honey (NoBoil method) and other ingredients last Friday 6/1. I aerated and mixed using my drill powered MixStir. I rehydrated the yeast in warm water prior to pitching. SG=1110 @ 70F

Fast Forward to the present ... about 6 days have gone by. I have opened the lid and taken reading and stirred. On 6/4 - SG=1104@72F. Tonight, on 6/6 - SG=1095@72F.

This seems REALLY slow! (I managed to brew beer on Sunday and it's fermentation has already finished!!!)

I am worried I screwed up with the yeast choice and lack of nutrient. What should I do? I have another packet of Champagne yeast - should I pitch it now? I also have some Yeast Nutrient that I bought for a wine I am making - should I use that?

Please, help me save my Mead! :sad1:

Oskaar
06-07-2007, 12:30 AM
Take some of your yeast nutrient (I'm assuming it's DAP) and add 3 grams to some clean bottled water and stir it in slowly. Then order some Fermaid-K from Morebeer.com (http://morewinemaking.com/product.html?product_id=15483) overnight, and dissolve 3 grams of it into some clean bottled water and very slowly stir this into your must with a lees stirrer (do a forum search with my name as the author) or a long handled spoon.

Your LHBS gave you some poor advice, unfortunately this is not uncommon at LHBS as you'll see situations like this a lot. You're headed for a dry mead since Pris de Mousse will end up at about 18% if properly managed.

Honey tends to be low in nutrient and adding nutrient helps. Darker honeys are higher in nutrient and will generally need less nutrient than lighter honeys. Wine yeast are manufactured to expect over 125 ppm of nitrogen content (YANC). Typical honey must without nutrient addidtion will have at most 50 ppm.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

wayneb
06-07-2007, 12:39 AM
Ahhh, the joys of making mead "the olde fashioned way!" Not to worry - you haven't gone so far that you can't turn back a bit and get it going faster. You've barely started to ferment, so all is not lost. Here's what you do... First, measure more than SG. You also need to get a handle on the pH of your must. While in your case the slow fermentation is almost certainly in part due to lack of yeast nutrients, you may also have to adjust the pH a bit as well. Honey-water solutions are often pretty low in pH, and wine yeasts generally don't survive in pH lower than 3.2. In fact, they start to get stressed around 3.3-3.4, so ideally your must is 3.4 or a little higher before you pitch your yeast. But proper nutrients, especially B vitamins and assimilable nitrogen, as in sourced from amino acids or organinc compounds like diammonium phosphate (DAP), are just as important as pH to promote vigorous fermentation.

So, check pH, and adjust if necessary (using potassium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate -- stay away from sodium compounds or your mead may have a "salty" taste when all is said and done). Then add the proper amount of yeast nutrients per a nutrient addition schedule. You'll find loads of recommended doses and addition schedules documented in older postings elsewhere on this site. Just make sure that your yeast nutrient has no urea in it (personally I think that's yucky stuff, although I know other folks use it); you are probably OK using the nutrient that you have for wine. Do you know what brand/formulation it is? But you will probably also have to supplement that with a little extra nitrogen (a little DAP). So, add the nutrients, then re-hydrate the second pack of yeast with a good yeast starter (such as Go-Ferm), and when it is properly re-hydrated, pitch it in the must. You may not actually need the help of a second pack, but since the yeast you already have in there has been stressed for about a week, it couldn't hurt to supplement with new, freshly rehydrated, healthy cells.

Try that, and give it another 8 to 24 hrs to get going. I think you'll be surprised at how big a difference a little nutrient and a little attention to pH will make! :cheers:

wayneb
06-07-2007, 12:40 AM
Hah! Oskaar beat me to it again!! Well, like he said.... ;D

IncrdblHulk7
06-07-2007, 01:11 AM
Just went down to the basement to do an inventory on the Nutrient that I have ... IDCarlson Yeast Nutrient - Food Grade Urea and Ammonium Phosphate

I thought the yeast only would tolerate 14% - again trusting my LHBS. But now that you say 18% - it makes sense why my LHBS told me that he always sorbates his and back sweetens with 1 lb of honey. Is that also a bad approach!

This sucks! I am so pissed! :angry5:

Would the current yeast be dead? Should I add more? Can it be a different type (one that only tolerate 14%)?

I am located in NJ - so over nighting from CA will be expensive. Dare I go to the LHBS lookin for the PH strips, DAP, and Fermaid-K!!!

lostnbronx
06-07-2007, 02:52 AM
Hulk,

First off, welcome to the Forums!

Is there another LHBS within a reasonable driving distance? You received bad advice from the first one, and in my experience, when advice like that isn't accepted or agreed to, the so-called expert who gave it can sometimes follow it up with a bad attitude. That can be uncomfortable at best, and a major annoyance at worst.

Overnight from CA is expensive, but this is kind-of an emergency, and your batch is in real jeopardy of stalling completely, and/or the yeast may become overly-stressed. I'm not sure the pH papers are really necessary just yet, but they're cheap enough, and handy just to have around -- especially if things don't pick up well after nutrient dosing (the lack of which is the real culprit here, I think). Catastrophic pH crashes in mead do happen from time to time, but they seem to be rare.

I think you should switch suppliers. This guy, while probably well-intentioned, did you no favors. If there's no one else close by, online sources, though a little expensive, can provide anything you need; while online communities like this one can fill in the knowledge gap better than a lot of LHBS owners can.

Please keep us updated!

-David

wayneb
06-07-2007, 12:21 PM
In general I agree with you, David, about pH crashes being rare, except if you're using water that is already on the lower pH side. I've had fermentations stall regularly when I used the well water I had available when I lived in northern VA, but the pH of the water was low to begin with. I'd recommend that if IncrdblHulk7 can get Fermaid-K and DAP locally, to do that right away. If not, then at least get 3g of the nutrient that you do have (which is going to be heavy on the nitrogen and provide not much else) into the must immediately, and then to order Fermaid-K from another supplier. You ought to have more than one LHBS in your area, I would think.

Regarding the need for additional yeast, or your desire to pitch another strain, I'd recommend that you stick with what you've got and just pitch another pack of the Pasteur Champagne, if the addition of nutrient doesn't get things started in the next 24 hrs. Oskaar is correct - this is Prise de Mousse, which is a bayanus strain of yeast. If memory serves, I think that some bayanus varieties have a "killer gene" that manufactures a protein that will inhibit the growth of some other yeast strains when they are mixed together (natural selection meets self preservation!!). So, even if you pitch something with lower alcohol tolerance, it might be sensitive to that protein and it just won't grow in a must that is already inoculated with it.

IncrdblHulk7
06-07-2007, 03:30 PM
I really appreciate all the advice!

Here is my game plan - please correct me if I am making more errors.

Due to a hectic work schedule - I wont be able to pay a visit to any of the LHBS in the area until Saturday. So, I am going to have to use what I have!

My plan is to go home tongiht a make a yeast starter out of the other packet of Champagne yeast that I have (yeast + 1/2cup spring water + 1 Tbsp priming sugar + airlock). Meanwhile I am going to mix in 3g of the IDCarlson Yeast Nutrient (Food grade Urea and Ammonium Phosphate) into my must. Once the yeast starter gets going - I will siphon my must on top of it (in a different primary container) - hopefully that will help get oxygen in there.

Question - how do you measure out 3 grams? Do you all use precision scales and dish? I have always done stuff in terms of tea spoons with other stuff.

Question - Would it be worthwhile to add DAP or Fermaid-K after I do the above (if I can purchase them on Saturday)?

Another Question - Lees Stirrer and the drill powered MixStir are the same thing? I have one to use with Degassing wine. When using it on Must to stir things up - does it also oxeginate things? I thought it would - but have heard differing opinions.

Oskaar
06-07-2007, 04:04 PM
Heya Hulk,

If you're going to make a starter just rehydrate your yeast with water per manufacturer's spec, then make up a honey must of about 1.110 or so AFTER the yeast has been rehydrated. DO NOT put sugar in with the yeast to rehydrate it. This is another common misconception about rehydrating yeast and can actually stress out your yeast and compromise both your starter and the ensuing fermentation. As an alternative you can use apple juice once the yeast has been rehydrated if you don't have an hydrometer (but since you're a winemaker I'm sure you do)

I use precision scales for measuring out my nutrient as the density of nutrients varies. If you don't have a scale go with 1/2 tsp of nutrient as a rough approximation, and I do mean rough.

No DAP on Saturday if you can get Fermaid-K since the yeast are not looking for the type of ammonia nitrogen found in DAP. At this point they're looking for Amino Nitrogen which is found in Fermaid-K or if you can get your hands on it Fermaid 2133.

Lees Stirrer and Mix Stir are pretty much interchangeable, even a whip degasser is fine in a pinch.

Take a gander at this (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=301&topic=4657.msg38385#msg38385) recipe and the associated information. It should help to answer a number of questions that you have and provide some helpful information.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

IncrdblHulk7
06-07-2007, 04:53 PM
Thanks again - the recipe link helped too!

I have never done a starter before - for a beer, wine, or mead. I probably should have in the case of some of the big beers I have done. But, none the less, they turned out good.

If I rehydrate the yeast and then make a seperate starter with Honey (SG=1110). Wouldnt that be as stressful of an environment as would be seen if I put it directly into my must (which is currently sitting at SG=1096). I always thought doing a starter gave your yeast something easy to chew on before being exposed to the must (hence my idea of sugar - albeit a bad one). I guess the one benefit of doing a honey-based-high-SG starter is to test the yeast's vitality. If this is the only reason, then I may forgoe that step and go right from rehydration to pitching into my stalled must.

And he is another side question for you ... Why is it necessary to rehydrate all dry chemicals and yeast prior to adding? Wouldnt they rehydrate when added directly? I have always followed the rehydration step - but I also always question why I am doing it?

WRATHWILDE
06-08-2007, 03:41 AM
As an alternative you can use apple juice once the yeast has been rehydrated
Hope that helps,
Oskaar


Just a quick note to Oskaar's post, if anyone is using Apple juice for a starter, make sure it is free of additives, and especially preservatives, which can kill your yeast.

Wrathwilde

Oskaar
06-08-2007, 03:59 AM
Thanks Wrath, that's a good point about preservatives and additives.



...snip

If I rehydrate the yeast and then make a seperate starter with Honey (SG=1110). Wouldnt that be as stressful of an environment as would be seen if I put it directly into my must (which is currently sitting at SG=1096).

No. What you're doing is creating a fresh colony of strong, healthy, rabid and ravenous yeast cells that are free of stress or any other issues currently at issue in your must. Your re-starter needs to be at peak operating efficiency in order to take on the old yeast that are there and establish itself as the new dominant colony.



I always thought doing a starter gave your yeast something easy to chew on before being exposed to the must (hence my idea of sugar - albeit a bad one). I guess the one benefit of doing a honey-based-high-SG starter is to test the yeast's vitality. If this is the only reason, then I may forgoe that step and go right from rehydration to pitching into my stalled must.

Sugar is not a good medium to rehydrate yeast in. Lallemand specifically states in their rehydration not to use sugar.


And he is another side question for you ... Why is it necessary to rehydrate all dry chemicals and yeast prior to adding? Wouldnt they rehydrate when added directly? I have always followed the rehydration step - but I also always question why I am doing it?


You're doing that for a couple of reasons.

1. Is to allow for complete dissolution of the additive without having clumps of it floating about in your mead throughout fermentation and aging. By dissolving completely in the water before adding you're also ensuring that the entire amount of nutrient gets dispersed quickly and evenly throughout your must and is highly available to your yeast for quick assimilation and metabolism. Also pitching the powder directly into the must will have a localized interaction with the yeast and other elements (protiens, enzymes, ions, etc.) and a fair portion of it will be bound by chemical reactions before it dissolves completely and becomes available in suspension.

2. You help to prevent "mead-canos" that is a volcano of mead shooting out of the mouth of the carboy and up to your ceiling. The introduction of powdery substances followed by stirring will liberate large quantities of CO2 in a very short time and they will excite themselves and your mead right out of the carboy in a hurry. Dissolving in water before introduction into the mead mitigates this pretty well, but caution and slow stirrin is counseled nonetheless.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

IncrdblHulk7
06-15-2007, 10:58 AM
Thanks for all the advice.

About a week ago, I added 3 tea spoons of the Yeast Nutrient that I had at home (the vial called for 1 teaspoon per gallon - but I just used 1/2 the dosage for my 6 gallons). I also added a fresh batch of yeast (same type as before). I was unable to make it to the LHBS to pick up anything else.

Current Status ... Fermenting ... the SG=1055@72F when I measured it last night ... things are still bubbling.

Does mead usually take this slow? or is this just the side-effect of my botched batch?