View Full Version : Completely dead

11-18-2008, 02:05 PM
This is my second time brewing mead after a long hiatus from the first, but I usually brew beer.
I followed a basic recipe for ginger mead I had written down that I forgot the origins of, and 24 hours after pitching the yeast absolutely nothing has changed. Here is the recipe and steps I did:

8.5 lbs of wildflower honey
~4 oz of ginger
5 campden tablets
10 tspn acid blend
5 tsp super ferment (nutrient)
1 tsp grape tannins
71b-1122 dehydrated yeast
water to 5 gallons

1. mixed the all of the ingredients except yeast and let it sit for one day.

2. rehydrated the yeast for 15 minutes in water at about 100 F.

3. pitched yeast and aerated by shaking for about 5 minutes. temperature was about 65 F

4. overnight I used no airlock on the carboy, but this morning I put one on to see if anything was happening. so far no bubbling at all.

5. I re-aerated the mead this morning and raised the temperature some. still nothing at all.

The main difference I see is that I used a lot less honey than most, so maybe I should add more. The recipe i think was for a lighter, drier kind of product. Even if this is the problem, it should be doing at least something though i think. I am actually very stumped. Usually with beer it starts bubbling almost immediately and this mead is completely static. I mean, there is absolutely nothing happening.

If anybody has input, I would be grateful.

11-18-2008, 03:03 PM
Acid up front is probably your problem.

Need a pH reading please.

11-18-2008, 03:11 PM
Hi kevdbubs and welcome to GotMead?

A couple of possibilities here.

Did you wait a full twenty four hours after adding the campden to allow it time to dissapate? If you add your yeast too soon the campden will inhibit the yeast.
Do you have any means of measuring pH? 10tspns of acid blend is a butt load and it may have lowered the pH to the point that your yeast can't take off. If your pH is below 3.2 you may be in trouble but it can be corrected. Modern practice is to not add acid blend until just prior to bottling, and then only to balance the flavors. It can actually stop your fermentation if added in primary. Tannins can also ad to the total acidity.
Are you sure fermentation hasn't started? Bubbles in the airlock are not a good indicator. Leaks around your seals will often let enough gas escape that there is never enough pressure to burp your lock. Can you see tiny bubbles in the must? Put your ear next to your fermenter. Do you hear a faint hiss?

Check all these things and let us know. There are some true experts here (I'm not one of them) but if you check these things and report back, somebody will have an answer for you.


11-18-2008, 03:31 PM
Yeah, I did think the pH might be off, but unfortunately I don't have a pH meter anymore. I've never used this acid blend stuff, so I don't know what effect that might have had. I guess I'll have to go buy a meter today and give an update on that later.

11-18-2008, 03:38 PM
I am sure that I waited at least 20 hours after the campden tablets were added. thanks for telling me that though, I did not know to actually wait that long.

I am pretty positive there is really no activity. I did check the seal and looked for any fermentation signs, and it still appears completely dead.

I am thinking it must be a pH problem, given how much acid blend and tannins I added, which I did not do before. and the fact that it really is completely static. However, I do not know how do adjust the pH because I've never had that problem before. I'll probably go buy a meter today and test it and then give an update.

Thanks for the input so far.

11-18-2008, 05:13 PM
If your pH is too low, it can be adjusted with potassium carbonate. Do a forum search (use the Search link under the header at the top of the page) for it and you'll find several good threads on the subject.

Dan McFeeley
11-18-2008, 05:54 PM
Ten teaspoons is a lot of acid blend. It might take a goodly amount of potassium carbonate to bring the pH back up to a level more suited for the yeasties, which in turn might leave a chemical taste in the mead.

You definitely need a pH reading -- meters are expensive, but if cost is a problem you can also try the pH paper strips. They're not necessarily the most accurate, but they'll give you an idea of a ballpark figure.

I'm guessing that the pH might be so low that it would be best to make up another batch of honey must, blend the two, check pH and adjust as needed. That way you'll need less potassium carbonate.

Hope this is helpful!

11-18-2008, 11:45 PM
So I checked the pH and it was around 3.2, which I figured (based on this forum) to be a little low. I added a few teaspoons of potassium bicarbonate and it went up to about 3.6. I also added two more pounds of honey (total of 10.5) and re-aerated and pitched new yeast. The guy at the store also recommended starting the must at a higher temperature, so I warmed it to about 80F before pitching.

Another thing I remembered is that I used half distilled water and half drinking water. I usually just use tap water with beer which works fine, but for some reason I did it differently this time. I found a thread about this, and it seems it shouldn't be that big of a deal. But who knows.

I guess I will just check in the morning and see what happens (hopefully something).

Thanks for the pointers so far.

11-19-2008, 11:38 AM
I checked it this morning and it is still lifeless. I checked the pH again and it is definitely not too acidic. If anything it now looks more on the basic side, but it is hard to tell because I am using papers. I think I will take some in to work and use an actual pH meter, but I'm thinking there must be another problem here. The only other thing I can think of is that I am not re-hydrating the yeast properly. I've always used liquid yeast, but I moved to a different city and all they have here is dehydrated. I followed the directions on the pack to a T, and it looked foamy and alive when I pitched it, so who knows. I am still stumped and don't really know what to try at this point.

Dan McFeeley
11-19-2008, 02:18 PM
Hmmm -- I'd suggest making up a big starter, using a strong vigorous yeast. Lalvin K1-V1116 and is often used to restart stuck fermentations.

11-19-2008, 02:38 PM
I think I'll take that suggestion. I am going to read the official pH on a digital meter tonight, and if that is OK, I will buy the yeast tomorrow and pitch it.

Also, is there a better way to start the yeast other than the way it's written on the package?

11-19-2008, 02:45 PM
Hi, kevdubs! Let me add my belated welcome to the "Gotmead?" community!!

You've certainly got a puzzler here. One thought that I had is really an integration of the pH idea and campden addition that you did as you initially prepped your must. If the pH was initially as low as 3.2, then the effective contribution of your sulfite addition to the "free" sulfite level in the must would have been extremely high. That may have provided enough of a "one-two" punch to keep any yeast from starting. Now that you've raised the pH to a much higher value, another pitching might get things started. It has been less than 48 hrs (by my estimation from the details that you've posted so far) between the initial campden addition and your pH adjustment/re-pitching, so I'd recommend simply waiting a bit for the free sulfite levels to decrease a bit, and then try pitching another re-hydrated yeast.

Since you are not used to working with active dried yeast, let me suggest that you change the rehydration process just a little, to demonstrate (or "proof") the viability of your yeast. Simply add about a cup of the must to your yeast after the recommended re-hydration interval (typically after 15 to 30 minutes). If the yeast are viable and there is nothing toxic in the must, your yeast should show very active signs of fermentation within an hour or two of that must addition. Then, if all looks well, pitch that proofed yeast mixture into the main must. What I'm suggesting here is not as extreme as a "large starter," as Dan suggests, but at least you can prove out your yeast's viability before pitching into the main batch this way.

Oh, and if you want to augment the printed rehydration instructions, search on the term "Go Ferm" here on the forum, and you can learn all about a yeast nutrient that is designed for use specifically during rehydration. It will give your yeast the best possible chance for success.

11-19-2008, 04:20 PM
Actually, picking up on what Wayne suggested I'll take it one step further and suggest that you use Go-Ferm in this instance since you'll need the extra kick to get that batch going.

I'd also suggest using EC-1118 as it is one of the yeasts that will actually metabolyze sulfites and not be inhibited from active fermentation even when the sulfite level is as high as 200 ppm.

So here's what I suggest you may want to do:

Get 2 packets of EC-1118 Active Dry Yeast.

Get an 80 gram packet of Go-FERM (you won't need all of it now, but I presume you'll be making more mead very soon)

Get an 80 gram packet of Fermaid-K (same as above)

Get all three at: http://www.morewinemaking.com

Rehydrate your yeast as per instruction with the following exception. Rather than 1.24 grams of Go-FERM per gram of yeast, use 1.5 grams of Go-FERM per gram of yeast. So in this case you would have 200 ml H2O with 15 grams of Go-FERM dissolved when the water reaches 111 degrees F.

As Wayne mentioned below, once your yeast has been properly rehydrated in Go-FERM you'll need to activate the yeast by an addition of your stuck must equal to 1/2 the volume of your yeast slurry (that would be 100 ml of your must added to your 200 ml yeast slurry) and let that stand for 10 minutes. WARNING This process can be very vigorous, so if your must addition to your yeast slurry starts to bubble up and rise, keep stirring it down until you cannot do so any further before you add it into the stuck must that is still in the fermenter. At that point you want to stir the must vigorously (to aerate) as you add the yeast slurry.

There are a couple of reasons that I'm recommending that you do this.

1. Any spoilage organisms that are in your must at this point have had time to get themselves motivated (even after the sulfite addition) and you want a vigorous yeast with an active competitive factor that can kick-ass on them.

2. You also want a yeast that can handle the low acid and get a strong start out of the gate to establish a strong presence in the must and rapidly multiply. EC is one of my favorite restart yeasts and I use it a lot in other meads as well.

Well, you have some choices to make so I'll leave you to them.

11-20-2008, 09:36 PM
Well, I was all set for my last ditch yeast pitch effort this evening when I got home from work and lo and behold it was bubbling at about 3 bubs/min! Not great, but its doing something at least. Is this normal? I am used to beer which usually takes off within a few hours of pitching at a much faster rate. And I remember last time I made mead (long time ago) it had no problem taking off. It's been almost exactly three days since pitching the first yeast.

Well, I already bought the yeast that was recommended in the last post by pbakulic, so I guess I'll save it in case it gets really stuck again. Or should I try pitching more to speed it up?

Also, my other concern is if there was any contamination by now. It sat for quite a while at room temperature doing nothing except being aerated several times. not too reassuring. but either way, at this point, i guess i'll just let it do its thing and see what emerges from this mess.

Thanks for all the great help so far.

11-20-2008, 09:50 PM
What was your starting gravity/Brix and what is it now? This will tell us whether you have a strong fermentation, or one in need of assistance.

Jered Talbot

11-20-2008, 10:05 PM
I think that your plan going forward is a good one -- with luck the rate of fermentation will pick up after another day or so. Typical mead fermentation rates aren't quite as fast as beer, but they still tend to be pretty robust. I still suspect that you had excess free SO2 preventing the yeast from taking off at first, and that was a function not only of the amount of Campden that you added pre-pitch, but also of the low pH of the must before you corrected it.

With luck you're fermenting with the yeast that you pitched, rather than a wild invader. Keep close tabs on it over the first few days of fermentation, paying close attention to the smell, and if it generally smells "right" for a fermentation then you're on the right track. Pitching the EC-1118 at this point should not be necessary, unless you are worried that this might be a wild yeast fermentation. The killer factor present in EC-1118 will eliminate most wild yeasts as it establishes its own presence in the must. So if you're excessively concerned about it, then pitch the 1118, after proper rehydration and acclimitization to the must. But if you're willing to trust the efficacy of your original strain, I'd leave well enough alone at this point!

Ahh -- I almost missed Wrath's post. He's right -- checking the brix or SG of the must periodically will tell you much more about fermentation kinetics than just monitoring airlock bubbles or krausen levels.

Good luck!!

11-21-2008, 10:03 PM
well i havent been able to check the SG yet, ive been so busy the last couple of days at work. But today when I got home is bubbling at about 1 bub/3-4 sec. The starting gravity was about 1.075. I guess thats kind of light for a mead, but thats ok. hopefully it will be dry. I think I will take your suggestion and hold off on the 1118 yeast since it is going pretty robustly now. and the smell SEEMS normal to me, but all I have to base it on is beer fermentation smell. but when I walked into my closet this evening it did have that distinct familiar fermentation smell, so i think that is good. i guess the true test will be when I taste it. I will probably try to take a reading tonight or tomorrow and trhen i can taste it some, but I might just wait until it slows some.

i had another question. can i add honey once the fermentation slows to try to boost the alcohol content further? i think my yeast has a 15% potential, and at 1.075 it might not get past 10 i think.

11-21-2008, 10:43 PM
Adding honey later in your fermentation (called step feeding) can cause stress to the yeast and lead to fusels and other off flavors if everything is not perfect.

It can be done, yes, but where this mead has had a stressful start already, I think I'd just let this one go to completion. Besides, building a higher powered batch is a great excuse to make another one!

11-23-2008, 01:59 PM
hehe good point.

so its been going now at about 1 bub/3 sec for a few days. usually do you rack mead at a certain time or just wait for the fermentation to slow?

11-23-2008, 02:09 PM
I usually rack to secondary when I'm within 10% of completion or lower (as measured by a hydrometer). Primary is for fermentation, secondary is for clearing, integration and partial maturation.

12-11-2008, 01:15 AM
Just thought I'd give an update on this. Its been going strong for about 3.5 weeks, and I just racked into secondary at 1.000. Tasted a bit bitter, but I think this might be the ginger after taste. I decided to add some good apple juice to fill the empty space at the top, and maybe add a hint of apple. The total I added was maybe 1/3 gallon. It is still very cloudy, and had decent activity before racking (1bub /20 sec). Overall, seems to be going well though. Thanks for all the help.
I started a gallon of pumpkin mead in the holiday spirit, using the aggressive yeast I had originally bought to restart the previous batch. The fermentation definitely had an explosive start, and is going smooth all around.