View Full Version : Kiss it goodbye? Too much acid blend, yeast nutrient

10-30-2008, 07:27 PM
First, the exact recipe:
17.5lbs Wildflower honey (local)
Premier Cuvee Yeast packet
Yeast Nutrient (1/4 cup)
Acid Blend (1/4 cup)
Irish moss (1oz)
(Unused, as yet - American Oak)

- Boiled ~2gal water to sanitize, cooled and placed in carboy for foundation, stoppered carboy.
- Rehydrated yeast in 1c ~100degF water.
- Rehydrated Irish moss in 1c boiling water.
- Boiled water, added honey. (Unsure of volume, but I ended up dumping out some of my foundation water because it was too much.)
- Scooped off froth for 15min.
- Added Irish moss slurry to boil, broke it up (it had caked) and turned off heat.
- Began chilling must using wort chiller.
- Realized I hadn't added the yeast nutrient or acid blend to the must, panicked (somewhat), checked my recipe ("At the end of the boil add the powder contents of the poly bag (tartaric acid, nutrients, etc.).").
- Added bags of yeast nutrient, acid blend.
- Must was chilled to ~80degF.
- Siphoned half the must into the carboy, poured the rest in.
- Stoppered and airlocked the carboy.
- Moved carboy to closet, wrapped it in a towel and closed it up.
Fermentation has proceeded, seems to be going well enough - there is plenty of airlock activity.
Also, I did sanitize everything I used in the brewing process excepting the kettle.

After a while, I realized I hadn't at all measured the acid blend or nutrients. I looked at the full-sheet guide the shop gave me - they provided a half-sheet recipe and a full-sheet guide - and, yeah, it was too much. They had specified 4-5tsp of acid blend - in the guide - for a 5gal batch of strong sweet mead (what we're aiming for). I knew there was far too much in that package I added. I called the shop today and the guy there confirmed that it was too much - over twice as much as called for. Both packages were 1/4 cup - 60mL - and the guide specified 4-5tsp - 20-25mL. There was no specification on the recipe or guide for yeast nutrient.

So, now that I have, definitively, too much acid blend and yeast nutrient in my must, what can I do? I know I can wait and see, but that seems like a poor idea - it may only get worse with time.
Is there something I can add that will make it less acidic/more basic without greatly affecting other parts of fermentation?
Anything I could add to drop some of the yeast nutrient out of solution? (eg. Make the yeast nutrient, somehow, non-soluble.)

The only thing I can think to do is to brew another 5gal must with the same recipe, split it into two 2.5gal parts and add half the original to each then proceed with fermentation. That would be rather expensive, but so would throwing the entire batch out. Is this a reasonable plan?


Medsen Fey
10-30-2008, 09:16 PM
Welcome to the forums Corcis!

Kiss it goodbye? Perish the thought.

Having overdosed a batch in a somewhat similar fashion once upon a time, I know the feeling. :-[

However, be of stout heart because mead can often survive our mistakes. Having doubled the dose of nutrients may not be such a big deal. Depending on what is in it, it can sometimes lead to a metallic/bitter taste or some yeasty tastes, but there is a good chance that it will be okay. If you can split the batch and dilute the effect, that certainly will make sure that it isn't a problem.

In the meantime, I would vigorously aerate the must at least 1-2 time per day until you get to the 1/3 fermentation point (the 1/3 sugar break). This will ensure the yeast take up and utilize the maximum amount of nutrients. You'll need to monitor the gravity - do you have a hydrometer? What was your starting gravity and where is it now?

As for the acid, folks around here generally recommend not adding any acid to the fermentation as traditional meads are prone to having the pH drop down to a level where the yeast don't function well (below 3.0). The good news is that you are using a Champagne yeast and they tend to be more tolerant of low pH (high acidity) and may be able to function through it. To know what to do, you will need to check your pH with a meter - borrow one if you need to, but I would recommend buying one if you make meads. Let us know where your pH is and folks here will be able to help you get it adjusted if necessary.

Hang in there!


10-30-2008, 10:39 PM
Thanks a bunch for the thorough reply.

As to the original gravity, I did test it. It came out at 1.132. Checking it tonight yielded 1.124 or so - I couldn't get an exact reading because the fizz on the mead was lacing up the hydrometer.
Aerated the must, as well. Thinking I might invest in a HEPA-filter equipped aquarium pump, as I do brewing as well, so it would be handy.

I will try to get a pH tester tomorrow. I am going down to the brew shop to (sheepishly) ask questions to the employee who does meads. I know they sell pretty much everything else I will need besides the honey (co-op has that in bulk).

Would you recommend repitching yeast? If so, should I put one packet in each fermenter or just one for the new batch? Should I do an Irish moss slurry as well? Post a pH reading before making another?

10-30-2008, 11:07 PM
Hi Corcis, and welcome to GotMead!

Medsen has given you some great advice to salvage this one. Let me throw out a few more ideas for your next batch.

Irish Moss: Totally unnecessary. It has it's place in beer making but does little or nothing for mead. It's a legacy of recipes developed by beer brewers before more modern methods of making mead were developed. It can also add a distinctive flavor that can interfere with the sensual pleasure that is mead.

Heat: Another legacy from older recipes. I think you'll find that most of the inhabitants of this site don't do any heating to their must at all. Heat drives off the subtleties of your honey, denatures some of the enzymes and in general, "blandifies" your mead.

Read some of the Brewlogs here in the forums. They are very detailed and can give you some ideas as to how to tackle your next one.

The very first batch I made, I boiled too. On the next batch, I didn't and it was 110% more flavorful and complex. Several years later I found this site and REALLY kicked things up a notch!

Good Luck and welcome to the obsess... uh, hobby!

10-31-2008, 04:25 AM
Yet again, thanks for the thoughtful and thorough responses.

I'll be sure to leave out the Irish Moss and heating - they were components of a recipe the shop put together and, upon a bit of thought, the shop is very slanted towards beer. Not that I've a problem with that. That is why I found them, after all.

I'm going to do a batch of Joe's ancient mead tomorrow and stash it alongside my carboys/fermenters.

As to my background in this stuff: I brewed a couple batches of beer, but am still getting the processes down. This is vastly different - especially without the boiling. The beer brewing will continue, though. I've got an IIPA, a pale ale, and a holiday ale to do over the next couple months; there's an oatmeal stout waiting to be opened right now.

10-31-2008, 08:05 AM
I brew beer and mead, and they have different challenges. For mead, the hardest part is good fermentation management, while for beer, it is the whole brewday process.

Dan McFeeley
10-31-2008, 11:16 AM
Just to add a bit more -- I'd suggest watching the fermentation carefully, and especially the pH reading. Yeasts will secrete organic acids during the course of fermentation, which will lower the pH. In a fermenting must with an already low pH from too much acid, this could lower the pH further, to the point where the yeasts will become sluggish and may even stall out.

It's probably going to be too acidic once it finsihes out. There's two remedies for this -- blending or aging. The English meads in Acton & Duncan's 1965 book on meadmaking had a lot of acid in them, and the recommended aging time for their meads was five years. Or, you can blend the mead, although it may still need aging.

Making up another honey must, blending and splitting the two is also an idea you can pursue, although I would suggest using a dark honey for the second batch you'll be blending with this batch. Darker honeys have more buffering agents, and will help stablize the pH in the acidic honey must.

10-31-2008, 11:25 PM
I got the stuff to make a second batch today, along with a pH test kit. I did up the second batch, split it into two plastic fermenters, then took hydrometer readings. Fermenter A came out to 1.134 and fermenter B came out to 1.126. Should I attempt to correct this somehow?
As to pH readings, I'll post them up tomorrow. I know the process for it - phenolphthalein is pretty commonly used in the introductory chemistry series at my school, so I am well-acquainted with it. Suffice it to say, without even having been to a party or having drank today, I'm already tired.

And yes, I aerated the must today.

Medsen Fey
11-01-2008, 03:52 PM
The test kits with the phenolphthalein are designed to measure the total acids, but what you are most interested in from a fermentation standpoint is the pH. To measure the pH you either need pH test strips or a pH meter. I find the test strips are more of a pain to work with and may not give the precision I want in testing, so I use a meter. You can get them on eBay for as little as $20 most of the time.

The acid test kits don't work well with meads. Honey contains substantial amounts of gluconolactone, which converts to gluconic acid as you do the titration which causes you to read a significantly higher number, and which makes reproducibility difficult. For a more thorough discussion do an advanced search on Gluconolactone with Dan McFeeley as author and you can find several threads that have some detailed information. Again regardless of what the total acidity is, it is the pH that has the major impact on yeast metabolism and function

When taking the hydrometer readings, you really do need to de-gas them well. You can shake them, stir them well and I have even read where people microwave them briefly to get the CO2 out so that you get accurate readings. If you have been aerating the batch well, with really good mixing, when you split the batch, you should get a consistent number between the two. It is possible that not all the honey was well dissolved so one batch may have wound up with a bit higher gravity. Please check the gravity today to see if it is dropping in both batches and let us know.


11-01-2008, 08:11 PM
I guess I could take a small sample of each up to school and hit up the Chemistry labs to check the pH on it. In the long run, a better solution's necessary, though.

I checked the specific gravity again today. Shook the samples up, took them pre-aeration. Fermenter A read 1.132 and fermenter B read 1.126. Eg, I haven't had any fermentation. The airlocks were quiet as well. I have a packet of Premier Cuvee, should I pitch it?

Also, I did up a batch of Joe's Ancient Orange Clove Mead last night as well. Smells good. Can't wait...

Medsen Fey
11-01-2008, 08:25 PM
I don't think I would pitch any more yeast until you know the pH. I suspect it is pretty low and will need adjustment. The good news is that a really low pH will also inhibit spoilage organisms until you can get it corrected, so that gives you time to get the sample checked.

11-04-2008, 12:35 AM
I got a pH tester tonight and checked the acidity of both batches.
Batch A came out to be 5.0pH, while batch B was fluctuating between 5.5pH and 5.6pH.


Medsen Fey
11-04-2008, 09:34 AM
Did you calibrate the meter with test solutions to make sure those readings are accurate?

11-04-2008, 01:35 PM
It came with one test solution (7.00pH) packet, which I did use the instructions I was given to calibrate it in. However, now that I look it up (on the manufacturer's site), it appears I may have done it wrong. The reading the meter was giving for the 7.00pH packet was 7.3pH. I held the Cal button as per the owner's instructions (not the manufacturer's) and thought it took. Apparently, though, I needed to hit another button for it to take that reading as a calibration reading.

Now, to find another calibration packet.

Dan McFeeley
11-05-2008, 12:24 PM
I can give you a short and simple explanation as to why acid testing kits aren't accurate in meadmaking.

The problem lies with the primary acid in honey, gluconic acid, and its lactone, gluconolactone. Both gluconic acid and gluconolactone are produced during the process by which bees convert flower nectar to honey.

Gluconic acid and gluconolactone co-exist in a pH dependent relationship, which is essentially a chemical buffering reaction that works only in one way. When acid is neutralized in honey, raising the pH, the gluconolactone reacts by changing to gluconic acid, thus lowering the pH and helping to maintain it.

You can see how this would affect the titration process used in winemaking acid testing kits. When you titrate toward the endpoint, the gluconolactone in the honey is changing to yet more acid, throwing off your readings.

The reaction happens quickly, so you'll never notice what is going in your test sample.

11-11-2008, 01:01 AM
Retested the pH on the batches.
A - 5.8pH
B - 3.5pH

Eesh. I'm wondering, should I try to acidify them *more* to keep the musts from getting severely degraded then combine them in a 12gal fermenter? Sounds like a terrible idea, but if I could make them more basic (towards 7pH), then repitch yeast later and only deal with one batch, it'd be lovely. I got a 12gal this weekend for cider, but that should only take a couple weeks.

Dan McFeeley
11-11-2008, 07:10 AM
Retested the pH on the batches.
A - 5.8pH
B - 3.5pH

Eesh. I'm wondering, should I try to acidify them *more* to keep the musts from getting severely degraded then combine them in a 12gal fermenter? Sounds like a terrible idea, but if I could make them more basic (towards 7pH), then repitch yeast later and only deal with one batch, it'd be lovely. I got a 12gal this weekend for cider, but that should only take a couple weeks.

You shouldn't have to do anything, in fact, batch A, when added to batch B should help stabilize it further.

Medsen Fey
11-11-2008, 09:52 AM
So where is the gravity on these batches now? Are they fermenting? Do they smell and taste okay?

11-12-2008, 09:55 PM
A - 1.110
B - 1.102
They did appear to be fermenting (otherwise there's no explanation for the sugar drop), though there has been no airlock activity when I checked. I did taste a bit of batch B, didn't taste bad in any way.
When I get the chance, should I just put them both in my 12gal fermenter? Seems like it would be the best course of action in the long run. If only I had another 5gal, I could do it all up tonight...

Medsen Fey
11-12-2008, 10:05 PM
I'm glad to hear that it is going. I would aerate it again to make sure the yeast are as strong as possible as you still have a long way to go. As you can see, judging a fermentation by airlock activity may not give you a true picture of where you are.