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View Full Version : First mead - ready to age, or stuck fermentation?



Anchorite
09-30-2008, 03:30 AM
Mead started on Tuesday July 22, 2008
Volume: 5 gallons
Honey: 24 pounds of "Wild Mountain Honey" - a dark honey
Added 3.5 lemons sliced up
Two cinnamon sticks
Approximately 6 cloves
Pitched two packets (5 grams each, I think) of Red Star champagne yeast.


I racked it once about a month in after the bubbles through the air lock had slowed to about one every minute. At that time I removed all the lemons and swapped out the cinnamon sticks and cloves with fresh ones of the same quantities (2 and 6 respectively).

A week ago I noticed it had dropped clear so now I'm preparing to rack again. The problem is, if the readings on my hydrometer are accurate, its SG is just under 1.09 and the ABV is at about 8%. Unfortunately I had no hydrometer when I started the batch, so I do not know the initial SG, but from what I have read the SG should get to 1.0 or slightly below by the time the mead is completely done fermenting. So my question is, is it finished, or do I need to get fermentation going again? Right now a bubble is going through the airlock perhaps once an hour, if that. If the pH test strips I use for my aquarium are accurate with mead, the pH is about 4.5. I also just sampled it, and it is drinkable with a slightly acidic, but pleasant taste. The alcohol is definitely there too, but weaker than most commercial things I've drank.

Thanks in advance for the help. :wave:

Anchorite
09-30-2008, 04:01 AM
Almost forgot, I also added 1 teaspoon of Diammonium Phosphate as a yeast nutrient when fermentation slowed a bit about two weeks after pitching. No other nutrients were added, I dehydrated the yeast in water without nutrients before I pitched it.

Pewter_of_Deodar
09-30-2008, 10:08 AM
My opinion would be that you used about half a gallon (6 pounds or so) too much honey for a 5 gallon batch. 3 lbs./gallon will generally result in a sweet mead.

One suggestion would be to do a second batch with half the honey, then mix the two 50-50. I have a batch of Ancient Orange that stopped at 1.05 or so that is just too sweet and a bit syrupy...

Good luck,
Pewter

Medsen Fey
09-30-2008, 10:18 AM
Welcome to GotMead? Anchorite!

Congratulations on becoming a mead-maker!

Unfortunately it sounds like your fermentation is stuck (or at least very sluggish)! By checking the gravity again in several days you can tell for certain if it is dropping or not. There are several factors that have lead to this.

1. High starting gravity - If you use the Gotmead Calculator (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16) you will see that 24 lbs of honey in a 5 gallon batch gives you a starting gravity of about 1.176 or so. At this high level the yeast are choked and sometimes have difficulty starting fermentation, but even when it starts it will be incomplete. Above about 200 g/l of sugar (a gravity of around 1.075) the yeast performance begins to slow down and you reach a point, as you go higher, where the total amount of alcohol produced will be less than it would be if you used less sugar to start with.

2. Lack of oxygen. Yeast need exposure to oxygen to generate cell walls that can withstand higher levels of alcohol. If you do not aerate or oxygenate your high gravity must, it will stick. Even if you aerate, it can still be problematic.

3. Lack of nutrients. One teaspoon of DAP is not enough for a high gravity traditional mead. It helps to read up (using the search tool) on SNA or staggered nutrient additions.

Many other factors can play a role including how you rehydrated the yeast, temperature of fermentation, and pH (though your pH seems fine) to name a few.

As for what to do next - well, it may not be easy if you are stuck. By my calculation, it you started around 1.176 and you are at 1.090 you have about 11% alcohol along with a fairly high sugar level. This means restarting will not be easy. Hightest has instructions for restarting a stuck fermentation (http://home.comcast.net/~mzapx1/FAQ/StuckFerm.pdf) that work pretty well.

I would try Uvaferm 43 for yeast to restart with and would create a starter and acclimate it to your must slowly before pitching. I would aerate the must well and plan to add more nutrients.

If you remain stuck, there are two other options. One is to enjoy the mead really sweet, or to save it for blending with other batches that are too dry in the future. I've done this with some early batches of mine that stuck, and it worked out great in the end. Don't fret over a stuck batch - remember there are only 3 kinds of meadmakers - those with a fermentation that IS stuck, those with a fermentation that is in the process of sticking, and those who lie. ;)

Medsen

Anchorite
09-30-2008, 04:09 PM
Thank you both for your help. Since there are no off tastes that I can sense, I think I will just enjoy it for what it is rather than risk adding off flavors to it in a failed restart attempt; although, I bet I could restart it and its tempting to try just for the practice. Maybe I'll split it up and experiment with some of it while I get a new batch going ;D
Thanks again :cheers: