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View Full Version : Bubbling has slowed--good or bad?



Razor
06-14-2009, 02:24 PM
Hello all, I'm brewing my first batch of mead--it's technically a melomel. The recipe called for 15lbs honey, 12.5lbs cherries crushed, and 1/4 oz of both almond and vanilla extract. The directions had me dissolve the honey in spring water @ 150F. I then added it to a 5 gallon bucket--sanitized--on top of the bagged, crushed cherries and a couple gallons of spring water. The SG was 1.090, but I took it at 70 degrees instead of 60. I pitched Lalvin 1116 yeast when the must hit 80 degrees. During the first few days, the airlock bubbled vigorously. I opened the container for the first four days to aerate the must and 'punch down' the fruit cap. I started this 6 days ago, on the 8th. The airlock is no longer vigorously bubbling; it bubbles once every 5-6 seconds or so. Since it's only been 6 days, I don't think it's bubbling slow because it's almost time to rack it. I'm curious if perhaps the fruit near the top is restricting airflow to the airlock, or something else. I was meticulous with my sanitation, & I'm writing this on my phone on break at work so I can't measure its current gravity until later. It's in a dark room with a room temperature hovering around 68 degrees. Is there more information you guys need, or have I listed enough for you guys to speculate about whether or not I should be concerned with the airlock's bubbling rate?

afdoty
06-14-2009, 03:28 PM
I was meticulous with my sanitation, & I'm writing this on my phone on break at work so I can't measure its current gravity until later. It's in a dark room with a room temperature hovering around 68 degrees.

Hard to say without the latest SG. Do you have a way to measure the PH, too?

wildaho
06-14-2009, 05:24 PM
Bubbles, especially with a bucket, are never a good way to gauge fermentation. Too many chances for leaks, etc.

A hydrometer is your best friend when fermenting. They are cheap and your best method to see how well your must is doing. Based on your SG readings, you'll know whether to look at other things, like pH, or even racking times.

And six days is not unheard of for a fast ferment, especially if you've used nutrients and aeration. This one started at only 1.090 so it could easily be done! See WildOates thread on her Pumpkin Mead for a great example of a great managed, fast ferment.

Razor
06-14-2009, 06:39 PM
Hard to say without the latest SG. Do you have a way to measure the PH, too?

I waited to respond to this until I got home, so I could get you guys my current SG--it's 1.010 at the moment, which--if I'm not mistaken--means it's closer to where I want it, but not quite there yet. What would be a good reading to indicate it's ready to move into its secondary fermenter? And is the current drop (1.090 to 1.010) a good amount over six days? It seems to me like the fermentation is going strong, but I'm not sure! And I don't have any PH strips, though I'm sure I could find some at a local store.


Bubbles, especially with a bucket, are never a good way to gauge fermentation. Too many chances for leaks, etc.

A hydrometer is your best friend when fermenting. They are cheap and your best method to see how well your must is doing. Based on your SG readings, you'll know whether to look at other things, like pH, or even racking times.

And six days is not unheard of for a fast ferment, especially if you've used nutrients and aeration. This one started at only 1.090 so it could easily be done! See WildOates thread on her Pumpkin Mead for a great example of a great managed, fast ferment.

I read somewhere that bubbles weren't a good way to gauge fermentation; but I'm still a novice, and I see a lot of people gauging their progress based on bubbling (i.e. people saying it's ready to rack when it bubbles once every 30 seconds). So it's been hard for me not to at least look at the airlock and wonder. I suppose I should rely more on my hydrometer; that'd be a good habit to pick up at this early novice stage.

Medsen Fey
06-14-2009, 07:25 PM
I'm still a novice, and I see a lot of people gauging their progress based on bubbling.... I suppose I should rely more on my hydrometer; that'd be a good habit to pick up at this early novice stage.

I couldn't say it any better!
If you have a vigorously bubbling fermentation you can take some comfort in know that something is going on, but when the bubbling slows down or stops, without a gravity reading it is hard to tell where you are at.

In your case, the fermentation has progressed nicely. 80 gravity points in 6 days is a fast fermentation. 8-10 gravity points in a day is "typical" for a healthy fermentation, so yours has gone fairly speedily. That's just fine. Given the fruit in this batch, I think I would probably go ahead and rack, but it you want to wait until it is finished that should also work fine.

The K1-V1116 should take this batch quite dry with a gravity below 1.000 when in is finished.

By the way, I don't think you need to worry about the pH here. The batch is working well. Most melomels don't have pH issues because the fruit provides enough buffering substances to keep the pH in a healthy range. Watching the pH becomes more important with traditional batches.

I hope this one turns out great.

Medsen

Razor
06-14-2009, 07:44 PM
I couldn't say it any better!
If you have a vigorously bubbling fermentation you can take some comfort in know that something is going on, but when the bubbling slows down or stops, without a gravity reading it is hard to tell where you are at.

Understood; I'll keep this in mind for this batch, and future batches--this has been fun, so I intend to do make it a regular hobby.



In your case, the fermentation has progressed nicely. 80 gravity points in 6 days is a fast fermentation. 8-10 gravity points in a day is "typical" for a healthy fermentation, so yours has gone fairly speedily. That's just fine. Given the fruit in this batch, I think I would probably go ahead and rack, but it you want to wait until it is finished that should also work fine.

The K1-V1116 should take this batch quite dry with a gravity below 1.000 when in is finished.

I'm not opposed to racking it now, or when it's finished; I will say I used that specific yeast because the local homebrew store indicated it'd be a good yeast to use for a sweeter batch of mead. Since this will take it quite dry, I suppose I should rack it now. Would you recommend a different yeast for future batches that are sweeter, or would you recommend using this same yeast but racking it at a higher gravity? Also, for reference, at what SG reading is it technically finished?



By the way, I don't think you need to worry about the pH here. The batch is working well. Most melomels don't have pH issues because the fruit provides enough buffering substances to keep the pH in a healthy range. Watching the pH becomes more important with traditional batches.

Gotcha. I think I'll be trying a more traditional mead next, so I'll read up on pH a bit before I start it.

Edit: I spoke with a guy at my local homebrew shop; he recommended racking it into the secondary tonight, and said that when the ferment finishes a couple months down the road, I should add potassium sorbate and then 'back-sweeten' the mead with some honey. Is this normal for sweet meads? Or does the yeast selection play a significant portion in how the mead turns out in the end? I'm also concerned that if I rack today--instead of, say, a couple weeks down the road--that the cherry flavor might suffer (since I'd be racking off the cherries). Any advice about that?

wildaho
06-14-2009, 09:44 PM
I'm not opposed to racking it now, or when it's finished; I will say I used that specific yeast because the local homebrew store indicated it'd be a good yeast to use for a sweeter batch of mead. Since this will take it quite dry, I suppose I should rack it now. Would you recommend a different yeast for future batches that are sweeter, or would you recommend using this same yeast but racking it at a higher gravity? Also, for reference, at what SG reading is it technically finished?

Edit: I spoke with a guy at my local homebrew shop; he recommended racking it into the secondary tonight, and said that when the ferment finishes a couple months down the road, I should add potassium sorbate and then 'back-sweeten' the mead with some honey. Is this normal for sweet meads? Or does the yeast selection play a significant portion in how the mead turns out in the end? I'm also concerned that if I rack today--instead of, say, a couple weeks down the road--that the cherry flavor might suffer (since I'd be racking off the cherries). Any advice about that?

Getting a sweet mead has little or nothing to with when you rack. It's more a factor of adding sufficient honey to exceed the alcohol tolerance of the yeast. The Mead Calculator (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16), combined with the Yeast Table (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=625&Itemid=42), is a great way to design your recipe (at least for residual sweetness).

Every yeast starts to die off when it has produced enough alcohol that it begins to poison itself. The amount varies by yeast strain and will vary from about 12%ABV to around 18%ABV depending on the strain. Starting with enough honey to exceed that tolerance is one way to get a sweet mead.

In other words, to get a sweet mead with the 1116, you need to add enough honey to provide a Potential ABV (PABV) that will exceed the 18% tolerance of the yeast. That would require a starting gravity of around 1.140 in this case.

Another method of making a sweet mead is to allow it to ferment to dryness and then adding sulfites and sorbate to prevent the yeast from reproducing. This is called "stabilizing". After it has been stablized, you can add honey back into the mix without worrying about your must starting to ferment again. This is called "backsweetening". Note: if you add more honey without stabilizing and the alcohol tolerance has not been met, chances are you will kick off the fermentation again. Also, use the ONE-TWO punch of both sulfite AND sorbate rather than just the sorbate alone.

A great place to start on your research is the NewBee's Guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14). It will answer a lot of questions and honestly, I'd trust it more than the advice of your LHBS guy. Sounds like he is well versed on beer but needs to brush up on current mead making methods. His recommendation for using 1116 for a sweet mead would require A LOT of honey! D47 or 71B would probably be better choices. Also his advice of "when the ferment finishes a couple months down the road" off as well. Your ferment is almost done now! Aging is a different story though...

:cheers:
Wade

Razor
06-14-2009, 09:58 PM
Getting a sweet mead has little or nothing to with when you rack. It's more a factor of adding sufficient honey to exceed the alcohol tolerance of the yeast. The Mead Calculator (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16), combined with the Yeast Table (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=625&Itemid=42), is a great way to design your recipe (at least for residual sweetness).

Thanks for the explanation; I'll play around with the mead calculator and yeast table.




Every yeast starts to die off when it has produced enough alcohol that it begins to poison itself. The amount varies by yeast strain and will vary from about 12%ABV to around 18%ABV depending on the strain. Starting with enough honey to exceed that tolerance is one way to get a sweet mead.

In other words, to get a sweet mead with the 1116, you need to add enough honey to provide a Potential ABV (PABV) that will exceed the 18% tolerance of the yeast. That would require a starting gravity of around 1.140 in this case.

Another method of making a sweet mead is to allow it to ferment to dryness and then adding sulfites and sorbate to prevent the yeast from reproducing. This is called "stabilizing". After it has been stablized, you can add honey back into the mix without worrying about your must starting to ferment again. This is called "backsweetening". Note: if you add more honey without stabilizing and the alcohol tolerance has not been met, chances are you will kick off the fermentation again. Also, use the ONE-TWO punch of both sulfite AND sorbate rather than just the sorbate alone.

So it's not hopeless at this point; it's just going to have to be stabilized and back-sweetened? Sounds like I have ample time to read up on this, while I'm waiting on the current batch to progress. Would back-sweetening drastically change the flavor, or just sweeten the mead?



A great place to start on your research is the NewBee's Guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14). It will answer a lot of questions and honestly, I'd trust it more than the advice of your LHBS guy. Sounds like he is well versed on beer but needs to brush up on current mead making methods. His recommendation for using 1116 for a sweet mead would require A LOT of honey! D47 or 71B would probably be better choices. Also his advice of "when the ferment finishes a couple months down the road" off as well. Your ferment is almost done now! Aging is a different story though...

I have looked through that a couple times, and it seems trustworthy and well-written; I suppose I've had a case of taking in too much information from too many sources in too little time. Thanks for the yeast recommendation; I'll keep it in mind, and read up more on it so I know exactly what yeast to get for the next batch.

At this point, would you guys recommend leaving it in the primary fermenter until the airlock is bubbling once every 30 seconds like the NewBee guide suggests? Or would the cherries have already imparted their flavor to the point where I can add spices to the carboy and rack it into there?

Edit: I read on a homebrew wiki that non-fermentable sugars--such as Splenda--can be used for back sweetening; would that be the "cheap man's" back sweetener, or would that do much the same job that additional honey would do?

wayneb
06-15-2009, 10:32 AM
Hi, let me add my 2c. ;D Sweetening with Splenda, or with complex sugars such as lactose, has been tried by other folks and some of them report good results, but I have tried a few meads that were treated that way and I don't like the "artificial" nature of the sweet taste that they impart. BTW, the lactose isn't artificial tasting as much as it is "weak," so it takes a lot of lactose to make anything taste sweet. Bottom line - I prefer meads that have been backsweetened with the same sugar source that was used in fermentation - with honey.

As far as when to rack, you are correct that you probably have all that you're going to get out of the cherries at this point, so racking now wouldn't lose anything. Additionally, if you rack carefully you will leave behind most of the yeast, since a majority of the active cells drop out of suspension once fermentation slows and actually are setting on the top of the pile of lees. Racking late in fermentation could help to stop fermentation before all the sugars are gone, but that doesn't always work. In fact usually early racking will stop fermentation when you don't want it to, and won't stop it when you'd like it to! (I work for a guy named Murphy!) ;)

Medsen Fey
06-15-2009, 12:54 PM
Stabilizing and backsweetening is a fine way to make a sweet mead, and it allows you to add the honey (or other sugars) in a little bit at the time so you can get the exact level of sweetness you want. I do this often.

As for the Splenda and other artificial sweeteners - I don't like the flavors and aftertastes they leave. I don't like them is sodas and other diet drinks, and I don't like them in my mead. My waistline would probably appreciate me cutting the sugars out, but my palate is clearly running things around here! ;D

Razor
06-15-2009, 02:56 PM
I decided to rack earlier this morning, based on what I've read here and what I've heard from others in my local area who have made mead before. I'm hoping I didn't oxidate the mead due to my inexperience with racking, but I did manage to leave behind most--if not all--of the yeast. I haven't seen a single bubble from the airlock since it went into the carboy, so I'm guessing it's either done or close to being done.

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions; I'm going to read a lot more on these forums, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot.

Medsen Fey
06-15-2009, 03:03 PM
The de-gassing that occurs with racking will often stop the bubbling for several hours while the CO2 builds up in solution again so don't be surprised if it starts bubbling a bit later.