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Earendil
06-08-2008, 04:17 PM
I have a mead that I racked four days ago (6-4-08) and it has thus far been inert since racking. I'm beginning to think I may have a stuck fermentation and I'm hoping someone can give me some perspective. The details:

≈ 17# organic Pumpkin Blossom Honey
Filtered water to make 6.5 gallons (OG: 1.110)
2 packets Lalvin EC-1118
1-1/2 tsp Fermaid K
3 tsp Yeast Energizer

When pitched (5-4-08), the must was OG: 1.110, pH was 4.12. I did not use the 1/3 sugar break rule, as I did not know about that at the time; I was using Schramm's 'Compleat Meadmaker', which suggests shaking once at the beginning and then locking and leaving alone. My fermentation environment is usually 60˚ to 65˚.

Initial fermentation (reproductive) was strong at ≈45 to 70 bbls/min; it then settled down to 35-45 bbls/min and remained there for about 3 weeks. Then it dropped to about 10-15 bbls/min. At this point, its SG was 1.016 and its pH was 3.85. Over the next week or so, it dropped to about 4 bbls/min. I racked it for the first time on 6-4-08. The yeast appeared to have flocculated well, though the must was (and is) still far from clear. At that time, SG: 1.008 and pH: 3.90

Since then, it has yet to bubble once; nor has it clarified appreciably, though there are a number of 'blooms' of very tiny bubbles on the surface of the must.

I'm beginning to wonder if I have a stuck fermentation and, if so, what (if anything) I should do about it. Or maybe I'm just not being patient enough. It tastes great, wonderfully floral, and appears to have an ABV of about 13%. Truth to tell, I'm having a hard time keeping my hands off of it, though obviously, it needs aging, time for the alcohol to integrate, etc.

All suggestions/comments/insights will be gratefully received and carefully considered. And in any case, thanks for the time and energy you put into reading and considering this!

Thanks!


Eärendil

undyingfutility
06-08-2008, 04:36 PM
I must say, wonderful detail in your post. It seems all too often that someone just says "Help, stuck!" and then everyone has to ask for the recipe / technique. But I digress.

It sounds like you did just about everything right. Since you're using EC-1118, you should be able to get the mead down to dryness. I anticipate the problem came in the aeration / nutrient level. Since you added everything in the beginning and only aerated once, I'm guessing that the yeast didn't get a chance to build up a large enough culture to get the fermentation all the way to completion. Personally, I wouldn't fret too much, since I like my mead a little bit on the sweet side, and 13% is nothing to scoff at.

wayneb
06-08-2008, 05:53 PM
Eärendil, I agree with undyingfutility. I would not worry about getting that last few points of gravity down. I also wouldn't call anything within 8 points of 1.000 as "stuck," although it can happen that a mead already that far to completion will stop fermenting entirely after you've racked it. Many of the yeast cells still actively fermenting the must, will settle to the top surface of the lees that late in fermentation, so you may have just left a lot of your active yeast behind in racking. It is also possible that the fermentation may spontaneously pick back up again, as 1118 is known to do after periods of dormancy. Since the must has not yet cleared, I wouldn't write off the fermentation as over yet. And as you've observed, you already have a very drinkable beverage there, so you may be happy with where it now sets despite the fact that it didn't "finish."

Earendil
06-09-2008, 04:14 AM
Thanks to both of you; I agree that my best bet, at this point, is to gracefully (and hedonistically) accept what comes. This is really my first time that a must has just ceased all activity like that, so I was curious as to its causes and cures. Thanks for the words of meadmaking wisdom.

Also thanks for the info on EC-1118; I didn't know this, though I have had 71B-1122 come back after a period of apparent inactivity. My first mead was a metheglin with borage and lemon-thyme and wildflower honey. Not having any experience, I just let it go, allowing it to ferment for over 5 months before racking. It would cease activity, be dormant for awhile and then start back up. It turned out reasonably well with a nice honey flavor but it's very dry and will probably take another year or two to come into its own.

Again, Many Thanks and Best Wishes!


Eärendil

Medsen Fey
06-09-2008, 09:22 AM
Hello Earendil,

If you allow it to warm up a bit, say to about 70-72 F, the yeast may perk back up again and consume that last bit of sugar. Of, course if you are happy with the way it tastes now, then it is certainly okay to leave it alone. However, with EC-1118, I would probably be inclined to stabilize it before bottling.

Earendil
06-10-2008, 01:44 PM
If you allow it to warm up a bit, say to about 70-72 F, the yeast may perk back up again and consume that last bit of sugar. Of, course if you are happy with the way it tastes now, then it is certainly okay to leave it alone. However, with EC-1118, I would probably be inclined to stabilize it before bottling.



Medsen,

This (stabilization) would to keep the yeast from becoming active in the bottle? Is EC-1118 particularly prone to this? I'm interested in finding out more about the characteristics of different kinds of yeast. Do you know of a good online resource for comparing yeasts? (There's probably an excellent one on this site, if past experience is any indicator, but hey; I'm a gregarious guy and sometimes prefer to ask. I'll check though ...)

I normally like sparkling meads (though I've made a few still ones) and wouldn't be averse to this being one of them. On the other hand, I wouldn't like it too sparkly, nor would I wish to court the exploding-bottle syndrome. I always use 12 oz. swing-top bottles and would, I think, be safe to 2 or 3 atmospheres, but one doesn't wish to tempt fate ... well, not too much anyhow!

On the other hand, I'm not at all unhappy with its current place on the sweet-dry spectrum and wouldn't be unhappy if it didn't attenuate much more. If I were to sparkle it, I'd probably add a bit of priming honey (mmmm!). Any thoughts on this?

Eärendil

wayneb
06-10-2008, 04:19 PM
Hi again, Eärendil!

Since Medsen's apparently dropped offline for a bit, I can respond to your questions. As far as finding the characteristics of yeast strains, yeah -- we'd rather that you search the site. ;) It gets a bit repetitive to go over all that stuff many times over. However I can tell you that EC-1118 is a bayanus strain yeast, notorious for being exceedingly robust, and often used for bottle inoculation in "methode champenoise" sparkling wines. That means you might find that although your batch is apparently stable for the moment, if there is any residual sugar in there, that fermentation can restart at almost any time, even after bottling.

Regarding addition of more honey for priming... unless you know how much residual sugar is in your mead at the moment, it can be risky to bottle that way since you might have too little, just enough, or too much sugar for the amount of sparkle that you are looking for. In the worst case, if too much fermentable sugar is present when you bottle, then bottle bombs are possible.

However, if you do stabilize with metabisulfite and sorbate, then you will end up with a still result, albeit at the level of sweetness that you selected when you stabilized it.

Although the constraints can seem annoying at times, this really gives you ultimate control over the final characteristics of the mead that you will produce. You can even create a sparkling semi-sweet result, if you're willing to achieve the sweetness with a non-fermentable sugar such as lactose, or a non-nutritive artificial sweetner such as aspartame, or if you have the time, experience, and facilities to do it via remuage, disgorgement and dosage you can do it the way the French Champagne houses do it. Can we tell you which would be the "best" way to go? I'm afraid not, as that definition of best rests entirely with your point of view, and your taste.

Let us know what you decide! And if you'd like, one or more of us would be more than happy to have a sample to provide you with additional feedback! :cheers:

Medsen Fey
06-10-2008, 05:04 PM
Oskaar (and others) have made some good posts on the topic of sugar for sparkling meads (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=412&topic=5316.0). If your current batch is bottled in swing tops, I believe it could potentially exceed 3 atm if it were to reactivate and go completely dry (with a gravity below 1.000) so I would exercise caution. Any mead that has not exceeded the yeasts' tolerance for alcohol and which has residual sugar can potentially restart - especially if it warms up.