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View Full Version : Fast Fermentation or is Fermentation Stopping?



caps_phisto
09-16-2008, 09:20 PM
Here is my recipe and process

Ingredients:

2 Lbs Raw, Filtered, Wild Honey
45 Blueberries (Frozen, Unsweetened)
1 tsp Bread yeast (Fleischman's)
Aprox. 1 gallon of water

Process:

1. Wash blueberries thoroughly and place in carboy
2. Bring 1 quart of water to 140F.
3. Slowly pour in honey and stir so it doesn't burn
4. Bring must up to 145F and keep at that temperature for 8 minutes (pasteurize)
5. Add 1 quart cool water to carboy.
6. Allow must to cool.
7. Add must to carboy.
8. Cap carboy and shake vigorously for 5 minutes.
9. Add cool water to top off carboy.
10. Pitch yeast at 75F.


9/6/2008 - Minimal Activity
9/7/2008 - Vigorous fermentation (more than 1 bubble per second)
9/8/2008 - Vigorous fermentation continues
9/9/2008 - Fermentation now at 1 bubble per second.
9/10/2008 - Fermentation now at 5 bubble per second.
9/16/2008 - Fermentation now at 24 bubble per second.

So my question is:

Is my fermentation slowing prematurely, going faster than normal, or is it "just about right"?

Thanks in advance

Oskaar
09-16-2008, 09:45 PM
Hey Caps,

We need to see your Original Gravity and current gravity to really help you out. It would also help if you could tell us what it is you're looking for in the finished product. Many times what people think they're going to get, and what they get when they modify a recipe without taking into account different factors based on the recipe formulation, can be very different than what they really want.

We're here, let us know!

Cheers,

Oskaar

caps_phisto
09-16-2008, 10:10 PM
OG: Around 1.075 - the hash marks were hard to read through the glass
CG: I'm going to guess somewhere around 1.00 - my meter sank straight to the bottom of the carboy.

I am going for a blueberry mead.

The finishing process:

1 quart water
1lbs unsweetened frozen blueberries
Mead

Pasteurize the mead as above 145F for 8 minutes to kill off any yeast remaining in mead after clearing.
Boil down/reduce blueberries and strain.
Rack mead over blueberry infusion.

Hopefully I will get a mead on that dry/sweet line that has a mild blueberry flavor. Color would be a nice light purple or lightish blue.

Anything in the alcohol range of 9-11% would be preferred.

Thanks again!

wayneb
09-16-2008, 10:45 PM
Let me recommend that you don't do a pasteurization. You will lose much of the subtle aromas and flavors that make the mead special, even if you only heat to 145F. I'd instead either use a combination of sulfite and sorbate, or filtration, or several cycles of cold crashing and racking, to ensure that all the yeast are gone before you do your blueberry addition.

That said, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you get if you don't eliminate the yeast before adding the blueberries. Even fermented in secondary, they will add a significant blueberry presence. I also would not add any water, as your OG was rather low for a base mead and you don't want to dilute the mead down to the point where it won't keep well.

caps_phisto
09-17-2008, 06:33 AM
I'd rather not use chemicals like sulfates and sorbates in this mead. I'm trying a more "natural" approach. Should I try a lower temperature or does that not matter? How would I get just liquid from the blueberries for flavoring. I am not really looking for a secondary fermentation. What do you mean be "keeping"? If I add the water how will the mead "spoil"? Is it a time based thing? Like a beer without hops?

Also any clues to my original question given my gravities....? This AM the mead is fermenting at 1 bubble per 31 seconds, which is a pretty good jump from last night when it was 1 bubble every 24 seconds.

Thanks again!

wayneb
09-17-2008, 10:31 PM
Re-read Oskaar's reply. We can't assess the health of a fermentation simply from bubbles in the airlock. The only reliable way to see how things are going is to check specific gravities.

And yes, low ABV meads are more susceptible to spoilage, since they don't have enough alcohol in them to make them "self-preserving," nor do they usually have bittering agents such as hops that either naturally inhibit microbial activity or take the pH down to a point too low for spoilage organisms to take hold.

Oskaar
09-18-2008, 12:52 AM
I'd rather not use chemicals like sulfates and sorbates in this mead. I'm trying a more "natural" approach.

Well, from a natural perspective:

1. Sulfites are naturally occuring elements. The human body produces sulfites, and sulfites are produced as a natural byproduct of fermentation. Ironically it is the people whose bodies do not produce sulfites that are generally sensitive to them. Produce can be certified as organic even when elemental sulfur (another naturally occuring element) is used to prevent microbial, pest, fungal, mold and other pathogenic organisms from ruining fruits, vegetables, etc.

2. Honey does not naturally heat (past hive temperature), pasteurize or boil on it's own, at least I've never heard of such a thing and I have to admit that I'm no expert on beekeeping.

Which is more natural?

On Gravity. You'll find that folks here are very willing to help anyone who is willing to help themselves. I understand this is new to you and that you want to keep it natural, we've all been there. Realize that we're trying to help but you're giving us a moving target. I see that you indicate your original gravity was about 1.075 which gives you a potential ABV of about 9-10%. You indicated that when you went to read your hydrometer for the current gravity that it sunk all the way to the bottom of the vessel. It sounds like your fermentation is close to complete or getting there, but we aren't getting a real reading, just a guess. Right now you're on track for a thin, hot, minimally blueberry influenced mead with a short shelf life and not a whole lot of body.

I asked what you are looking for in this mead your answer was:



I am going for a blueberry mead.

Ok, that was pretty obvious from the recipe. How about a little more information like, "A sweet blueberry mead" or "A dry blueberry mead" or "Hell I don't know, I just pulled this recipe outta my ass and I'm winging it" any of those answers would be more helpful.

You state 45 blueberries in your recipe, how much did that weigh, did you crush them, did you blend them into a slurry, were they frozen and defrosted, did you leave them whole and drop them in? This all matters.

The people here are very willing to help, but we need better and more specific information in order to do so. Please let us know the particulars, granular detail is appreciated and expected.

Cheers,

Oskaar

caps_phisto
09-18-2008, 05:51 AM
Ok, well a little more detail then:


Ok, that was pretty obvious from the recipe. How about a little more information like, "A sweet blueberry mead" or "A dry blueberry mead" or "Hell I don't know, I just pulled this recipe outta my ass and I'm winging it" any of those answers would be more helpful.

My answer beyond "blueberry mead" was:


Hopefully I will get a mead on that dry/sweet line that has a mild blueberry flavor. Color would be a nice light purple or lightish blue.

Anything in the alcohol range of 9-11% would be preferred.

So I guess my ultimate goal would be a mead that is neither too dry, nor too sweet. Kind of in-between. Also the "...out of my ass" definitely applies :laughing7:

What I mean be "natural" isn't really the methods employed but rather the ingredients that are used. I was hoping to not have to use any "additives" in this one.

As far as my hydrometer is concerned, it is just about as tall as my 1 gallon carboy (the vessel in which this mead currently sits) hence dropping straight to the bottom producing no reading. What would be recommended to get an accurate reading?

Thanks again!

EDIT: Forgot to mention what exactly happened to the blueberries. They were mostly "whole" when I dropped them in. I washed them while they were frozen and therefore breaking of the skin of the blueberry was limited.

EDIT2: Ultimate Goal, Expanded Version

1. Has to be very "drinkable" (to my taste), and therefore I have the low ABV
2. Has to exhibit the "flavor" I have chosen, in this case blueberry
3. Has to be "cheap". What I mean by that is money wise. I'd like to get the most bang for my buck and also try to keep it under 30USD to produce.
4. Has to be "simple". What I mean is the process. I don't want this to be overly complicated.
5. Shelf life for this mead once finished would be 3-5 months, tops.
6. Has to be "reproducible". This goes along with "simple". If the process works for blueberries I would go for a different fruit next subbing out the blueberry.
7. Has to give me something to keep my pallet wet while making larger/more complicated meads.

What I was really looking for was a simple to make, cheap to produce/reproduce, mead that is meant to be consumed "young", and leave me with something to drink without what I call a "dry-spell". I just don't like waiting for meads to finish... ;D. Also I come from a family where pretty much we celebrate weekends, not specific weekends mind you, just weekends. I'd like to not have to purchase my beverages anymore and would rather this recipe provide me something to keep me in the celebrating mood.

Hopefully this has answered your questions...

Oskaar
09-18-2008, 11:03 AM
Good information, that helps dial it in more and gives us a good idea of how to help you out a bit more.

You can add more fruit to the secondary when you rack from the primary fermentation vessel (your one gallon carboy/jug). Generally you'll want to crush your fruit pretty well and then rack on top of it. The reason is so that the fruit flavor and character infuse easier into the melomel you're making. It's also a good idea to use a grain bag in the secondary, you may also use one in the primary if you so desire. I don't use a grain bag in the primary because I want the cap to form since it is beneficial and important to shape the overall character and flavor of the melomel.

One of the main reasons we ferment up to about 12-14% ABV is because it will inhibit bacterial/spoilage yeast and other nasty infection flora that can gain a foothold and spoil your mead at lower alcohol levels. Also to me most wines/meads at lower alcohol levels than 10% are generally not as full of character, flavor and structure as they would be at higher alcohol levels.

The issue of additives is one of personal choice as a meadmaker and has advantages and disadvantages, just like heating your honey does. I think it's important to be aware of the additives and their benefits/detriments and maintain a balanced view. I generally don't use sulfites unless I'm making wine or a very dark melomel (blueberry, blackberry, etc) where I want to maintain color and character. Without sulfite over time (and this is true for most aged meads, wines, etc) there will be oxidative browning. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does affect the character, color and overall flavor profile. So my advice would be to check out more posts on the forums and try several different approaches before deciding on a style. It's kind of like surfing. If you go out there and try to tell the wave what to do, you're meat on a stick, but if you can see the flow of the wave and party within it, you're in for a hell of a ride.

Cheap, well I understand that. However much you can reasonably throw at ingredients is going to govern your final product. It's a matter of settling on a budgeted amount, and accepting what the end product will be. You can't make good mead out of bad ingredients, so your wallet will decide where you land on the scale. My advice here is to get good honey from a local beekeeper or a good honey supplier. There are several here in the boards and listings on the National Honey Board of others.

Producing mead, good mead that is, over and over is a matter of good recipe formulation, good ingredients and establishing good production techniques that you follow consistently. There are a lot of posts about that here on Got Mead, so I'd suggest warming up that forum search tool and going to town. Read up on sanitation, fermentation management, cap management, oaking, etc. which by your most recent post I'm guess you've already begun to do.

Weekends, well, we're both on the same page here. My family will party at the drop of a hat, or just about anything else for that matter. Making mead and sharing it with your family and friends is about the biggest payoff I can think of, especially when they love what you make. All the contests, ribbons, medals and accolades in the world don't really touch the feeling you get when your loved ones love what you make.

Cheers,

Oskaar

caps_phisto
09-18-2008, 08:00 PM
Ok so here is the next update.

I decided to go ahead and rack over to a blueberry slurry. I used 2 cups (on the heavy side) of frozen unsweetened blueberries.

Exact process:

1. 2 cups blueberries into sauce pan.
2. Heat and stir blueberries until just about a boil.
3. Remove blueberries from heat and continue to stir about 5 minutes.
4. Run slurry through a strainer to take out the bigger "bits"
5. Rack mead over slurry.

I also tested the mead while racking, just to go ahead and get a taste. It was extremely dry, but tasted quite good. I taste tested before and after adding the blueberries and the taste changed slightly at the end. Before blueberries it just was a nice dry wine taste, not being a big wine drinker (beyond mead) I couldn't say exactly what else. After the addition of the slurry the initial dry was still present but it finished sweeter and left a pleasant blueberry after taste.

So far it is a little dryer than I could have hoped, but I don't know if that is because it has not fully cleared and perhaps some of that would be more attributed to yeasts still in the mead. So far there is no action in the air lock.

I tried to take readings on the mead as far as specific gravity but before and after the addition of the slurry the hydrometer sank straight to the bottom.

I'll keep you posted.

wayneb
09-19-2008, 12:24 AM
Since your hydrometer bottomed out, your mead very likely fermented to total dryness. That's not necessarily a bad thing for a melomel where you add all the fruit to the secondary. After you've racked off of the berries, try to let the mead age for some time in a carboy before you decide if it needs backsweetening. Often some of the floral and fruity character from the honey disappears for a while after the vigorous fermentation in primary, but upon aging those characteristics return. That will leave you with a dry beverage that tastes "sweet," although there may be no fermentable sugar left in it.

caps_phisto
09-19-2008, 07:26 AM
Well, woke up this AM to find that the mead had very little action in the airlock. I am unsure if any fermentation was done last night. I will say this however, I have a substantial amount of lees in the bottom. After 1 night of secondary fermentation I now have almost 1 full inch of lees in the bottom of my 1 gallon carboy. Is that because of secondary fermentation or is this mead just clearing itself ridiculously fast?

Thanks again!

Tyred
09-19-2008, 08:52 AM
It's possible that the mead is clearing but for lees that thick I would assume that there is additional fermentation going on. You must also take into account the blueberry slurry. It will be difficult but you may be able to see a difference in the layering at the bottom of the fermenter. There may be a darker layer of blueberry slurry covered by a light layer which would be the yeast dropping out. How clear is the mead now ?

Do you have any idea of what the current temperature of the mead is ? If the temperature is too low that may cause most of the yeast in suspension to drop.

I don't think that fermentation would have stopped as (from memory) bread yeast is tolerant up to about 12-13% alcohol.

caps_phisto
09-19-2008, 09:35 AM
The lees is significantly darker than the lees from primary fermentation. I have no layers to compare as I racked it for secondary fermentation and have cleaned out the primary fermenter (I am a little anal on cleanliness of my equipment :icon_salut:).

The mead seems slightly clearer than before secondary fermentation but not much, perhaps it is just the color change due to the blueberries. I still can't read or shine a light though it.

Current temp of the mead is my room temperature, it fluctuates as I am on the third floor of an apartment building. Usually between 60-70 degrees F.

At this point I think secondary fermentation, if it did occur, may be finished. I did get a chance again to watch the airlock for a longer period of time just before leaving for work (and after my post). I had 1 bubble in the airlock about every 4 minutes or so.

Thanks again!