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Angelic Alchemist
10-07-2009, 03:28 PM
I'm trying to ferment a bucket of mead on a blend of herbs (anise, damiana, fennel, angelica root, peppermint, yarrow, elderflower) and the fermentation seems pretty darn sluggish. It's the second time I've done this. I had great results last time, though I did not manage to ferment to dryness like I'd wanted. Last time I got the must down to a FG odf 1.01 and it took FOREVER to get there! I started with an OG of 1.15 both times. We're using premire cuvee yeast plus a healthy dose of energizer. The pH and temperature are fine. I want lots of ETOH for maximum extraction of compounds from the herbs. I'm thinking about pressing the must off the herbs and then soaking what's left in vodka, then pressing out the vodka and blending it with the mead...but that feels like cheating to me. :confused:

So is the yeast just pooping out at 18%ABV? Are my herbs antiseptic? Should I go buy a fifth of stoli and call it a day?

akueck
10-07-2009, 04:04 PM
Standard response ;)

Could you post up the details of your batch(es) in bullet format or other easily-readable way? Be sure to list all additions, if/when you aerated, and any readings you have.

Angelic Alchemist
10-07-2009, 04:21 PM
18lbs local wildflower honey
3.5 gallons water
4oz Damiana
4oz Anise
4oz Fennel
1oz Angelica Root
1oz Peppermint
1oz Yarrow
1oz Elderflowers
OG = 1.15

Herbs were simmered in the water for 20 minutes. Honey was then dissolved into the mixture. After cooling, we pitched 1 packet of rehydrated premire cuvee yeast and 5tsp nutrient. The SpG dropped to 1.09 over the course of 2 weeks and then the fermentation stalled. I adjusted the pH with K2CO3 - nothing. I added another 5tsp nutrient - nothing. I pitched another packet of yeast - now it's going slowly.

wayneb
10-07-2009, 04:45 PM
Getting any yeast to chew through a must with an initial gravity of 1.150 to dryness is a tall order. In addition to the spec ETOH tolerance of the yeast you have to consider the punishment they take at pitch; the osmotic stress placed on the inoculum when you first pitch into a must this heavy really compromises the yeast's ability to perform to their rated tolerances. This is one case where a stepped acclimation to that heavily sugared environment is recommended - in other words, a multi-stage yeast starter is a good idea for a must as heavy as this.

Angelic Alchemist
10-07-2009, 04:49 PM
Understood, but I don't have this trouble pitching into musts of an equal OG without the herbs.

Oskaar
10-07-2009, 05:46 PM
Next time around, let the herbal tea (your simmered herbs) cool to room temperature before you add the honey. Heating drives off oxygen (simmering not as much as boiling) but when you're starting off with such a high gravity if you're not giving your yeast using a proper re-hydration nutrient (Go-FERM, etc.) a step up by giving it a bit of the must to cut it's teeth on before you dump it into that high gravity mush, then you're really asking a lot of the yeast.

Herbs do make a difference with their phenols, essential oils, enzymes and such so that would account for part of the pokiness.

Rehydrate with Go-FERM as per spec, add your must in an amount equal to 1/2 the volume of your rehydration suspension and allow to stand for another 5 to 10 minutes before adding SLOWLY into the must. If there is a large difference in the temperature of the yeast suspension and the must, repeat the 1/2 volume of must addition to the yeast suspension again in order to eliminate thermal shock.

Also, with herbal musts, add .5 gram of yeast hulls per gallon of must to the must in a suspension of clean H2O at a rate of 50 ml H2O/.5 gram yeast hulls.

Aerate liberally and add a mixture of Fermaid-K and DAP at a ratio of 7:3 in favor of the Fermaid-K at the end of the lag phase. Aerate liberally. Stir at least 4x/day when herbs, spices, plants and slow moving relatives are added to the must.

Cheers,

Oskaar

Angelic Alchemist
10-07-2009, 06:05 PM
Sounds like tempering eggs for a soufle. I like it! And I already have yeast hulls (expensive little buggers) from a previous splurge at the HBS.

Medsen Fey
10-07-2009, 06:23 PM
Have you thought about just adding the herbs to secondary?

Angelic Alchemist
10-07-2009, 06:55 PM
Have you thought about just adding the herbs to secondary?

Nope! But it's probably a good idea.

Dan McFeeley
10-07-2009, 07:03 PM
A good reason for additoin of herbs in the secondary is over extraction of tannins or other bittering agents present in the herb. Think of over steeped tea.

I think this is something you have to work out according to the individual herb. Ancient Orange works with the spices added at the start, others might not.

Arcanum
10-07-2009, 07:36 PM
In addition to what everyone else said, the rated alcohol tolerance for Premier Cuvée is "only" 18% according to the Yeast Table over there.
<---

That's a lot of alcohol. You're approaching distilled spirit levels of potency. There are only a handful of yeasts in the table that are rated higher.

AToE
10-07-2009, 07:47 PM
I just wanted to point out that it seems everyone is talking about this one having an OG of 1.150, but the first post says it was 1.115, which is not a very high gravity at all for a yeast like that. I think...:confused:

Way below the yeast's tolerance for ABV anyways, it should go dry easily.

wayneb
10-07-2009, 08:03 PM
Ah, I see that now. His first post says 1.115, but his post with the listed ingredients says 1.15, which if we add the trailing zero is 1.150. I expected the latter, because 18 lbs of honey in only 3.5 gallons of water is a pretty rich honey concentration. OK, Alchemist, which is it? ;D

Alright, I just did the math, and for typical honey with an 18% moisture content, 18 lb of honey into 3.5 gallons of water should yield a must with about 1.130 SG. That is neither of the above. So, what did you really do, sir?

Oskaar
10-07-2009, 11:03 PM
Ah, I see that now. His first post says 1.115, but his post with the listed ingredients says 1.15, which if we add the trailing zero is 1.150. I expected the latter, because 18 lbs of honey in only 3.5 gallons of water is a pretty rich honey concentration. OK, Alchemist, which is it? ;D

Alright, I just did the math, and for typical honey with an 18% moisture content, 18 lb of honey into 3.5 gallons of water should yield a must with about 1.130 SG. That is neither of the above. So, what did you really do, sir?

Thanks Wayne, this helps to remind me to not presume other people work brix in their head like I do. Basically I multiply by .6 X 30 brix(approx brix with 18 lb honey added to 3.5 gal H2O)

And before any of you jump up and say it's actually supposed to be .57 rather than .6, I know. It's quicker and easier to do the math with .6, and I'm not interested in exact numbers anyhow since even wineries are accorded a wiggle factor on the ABV % of about 1.5%.

Anyhow, bottom line is that 1.132 SG is still high gravity by definition, still introduces significant osmotic shock, and at anything over 1.12 SG you should double your yeast addition from 5 grams to 10 grams in a five gallon batch.

I stand by my previous post.

Flame away,

Oskaar

Angelic Alchemist
10-08-2009, 11:56 AM
Ah, I see that now. His first post says 1.115, but his post with the listed ingredients says 1.15, which if we add the trailing zero is 1.150. I expected the latter, because 18 lbs of honey in only 3.5 gallons of water is a pretty rich honey concentration. OK, Alchemist, which is it? ;D

Alright, I just did the math, and for typical honey with an 18% moisture content, 18 lb of honey into 3.5 gallons of water should yield a must with about 1.130 SG. That is neither of the above. So, what did you really do, sir?

HER first post -- I'm of the fairer gender, gents.

And I've corrected the numbers. My OG was 1.150. Typo. Oops.

The giant pickle jar in which I transported the honey home holds about 18lbs of honey. It might be more, but I seriously doubt it. Unless I wrote something down incorrectly in the paper log, my numbers are otherwise good.

I realize Premier Cuvee is rated to go to 18%, but I've had it go to 20% before when fed enough super ferment. I know, I'm a bit of a mad scientist. An aging diva does not a sane woman make.

I gotta learn this whole brix thing. It looks useful.

Arcanum
10-08-2009, 02:23 PM
HER first post -- I'm of the fairer gender, gents.

And I've corrected the numbers. My OG was 1.150. Typo. Oops.

The giant pickle jar in which I transported the honey home holds about 18lbs of honey. It might be more, but I seriously doubt it. Unless I wrote something down incorrectly in the paper log, my numbers are otherwise good.

I realize Premier Cuvee is rated to go to 18%, but I've had it go to 20% before when fed enough super ferment. I know, I'm a bit of a mad scientist. An aging diva does not a sane woman make.

I gotta learn this whole brix thing. It looks useful.

I'm sticking with my inexpert opinion that your yeast are just too drunk to ferment quickly at this point. Maybe try Flor Sherry or Eau de Vie next time.

Oskaar
10-08-2009, 02:56 PM
I'm sticking with my inexpert opinion that your yeast are just too drunk to ferment quickly at this point. Maybe try Flor Sherry or Eau de Vie next time.

It's pretty hard to find the Red Star Flor Sherry any more. Eau de Vie is ok, but it tends to come out pretty hot at that gravity.

QA23, K1-V1116, EC-1118, Uvaferm 43, DV10 will all handle this with no problem. Uvaferm 43 will come out hot if it's not managed closely.

I think the main reason your Premier Cuvee didn't handle this well was because of the nutrient addition at the time of pitch (DAP is not good for active dry yeast that are fresh out of the bag, and will kill more than it will help) and the apparent lack of aeration/oxygenation. Also with herbs as mentioned below, you need to keep the yeast moving daily. When I make herbed/spiced cysers, I'm after them at least four times a day to keep them from settling in one place and concentrating all that phenol that area.

Cheers,

Oskaar

Arcanum
10-08-2009, 03:21 PM
DAP is not good for active dry yeast that are fresh out of the bag, and will kill more than it will help

Interesting, I'll have to remember that.

Angelic Alchemist
10-08-2009, 03:34 PM
Interesting, I'll have to remember that.

Likewise. Very interesting. Though, I've never had EC-1118 go to 20% (but I've tried ;)). I guess my aeration was fair, though according to Oskaar I need to double my efforts. It's all good, I enjoy stirring the pot -- literally and figuratively. ;D

Arcanum
10-08-2009, 03:39 PM
Likewise. Very interesting. Though, I've never had EC-1118 go to 20% (but I've tried ;)). I guess my aeration was fair, though according to Oskaar I need to double my efforts. It's all good, I enjoy stirring the pot -- literally and figuratively. ;D

A lees stirrer attached to a power drill is a pretty effective way to quickly get lots of air into the must. If you're not careful it's also a pretty effective way to get lots of must all over the floor, but that's why we're careful. :)

It is also is a very quick way to trigger a degassing of the must.

Links: This (http://morewinepro.com/view_product/19688/100485?PHPSESSID=50f25fb72475b47a97) or this (http://www.northernbrewer.com/winemaking/wine-equipment/wine-fermenting-equipment/wine-mixing-degas/mix-stir-stainless-steel.html).

Angelic Alchemist
10-08-2009, 03:47 PM
A lees stirrer attached to a power drill is a pretty effective way to quickly get lots of air into the must. If you're not careful it's also a pretty effective way to get lots of must all over the floor, but that's why we're careful. :)

It is also is a very quick way to trigger a degassing of the must.

Links: This (http://morewinepro.com/view_product/19688/100485?PHPSESSID=50f25fb72475b47a97) or this (http://www.northernbrewer.com/winemaking/wine-equipment/wine-fermenting-equipment/wine-mixing-degas/mix-stir-stainless-steel.html).

I'm a fan of the method we use in India to aerate a pot of chai. We call it "pulling" -- basically it's pouring from about 3-5 feet above the receiving vessel. I guess I'm just old school like that.

Question: does aerating the must have any bad consequenses (ex. oxidation) that I need to be aware of, and how can those problems be avoided?

Oskaar
10-08-2009, 04:44 PM
I'm a fan of the method we use in India to aerate a pot of chai. We call it "pulling" -- basically it's pouring from about 3-5 feet above the receiving vessel. I guess I'm just old school like that.

Question: does aerating the must have any bad consequenses (ex. oxidation) that I need to be aware of, and how can those problems be avoided?

Aerating the must after the aerobic portion of fermentation will introduce more oxygen and eventually oxidation. During the anaerobic phase of fermentation it's my practice to stir slowly and not break the surface of the must. This is to keep the yeast in suspension for easier access to the remaining fermentable sugars. It also provides nucleation points, increases surface area and provides rudimentary fining of your mead as the dead cells drop out.

Slow daily stirring also helps normalize pH, temperature and yeast distribution throughout the fermentation vessel which prevents stratification of your must, hot spots, fast/slow pockets of fermentation, and buildup of bacterial colonies.

I do not like "boxing" which A.A. calls "pulling." When pouring from one container to the next you increase the likelihood of airborne contamination and mold infection, especially during pollen season, windy days, humid days, etc.

I'm a believer in traditions that work and don't represent a risk to my batch. I'll keep traditional practices when they are effective and are part of a consistent production process that yields excellent end product.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

Angelic Alchemist
10-08-2009, 06:53 PM
I do not like "boxing" which A.A. calls "pulling." When pouring from one container to the next you increase the likelihood of airborne contamination and mold infection, especially during pollen season, windy days, humid days, etc.

I'm a believer in traditions that work and don't represent a risk to my batch. I'll keep traditional practices when they are effective and are part of a consistent production process that yields excellent end product.

Again, good to know. Is pulling/boxing detrimental to a must even before yeast is introduced?

Oskaar
10-08-2009, 10:04 PM
Again, good to know. Is pulling/boxing detrimental to a must even before yeast is introduced?

Remember that whatever spoilage yeast may be trying to take hold are also assisted by O2, just as your selected yeast would be. I think aeration is fine before inoculating with the yeast, but I'm not keen on the pouring back and forth in the conditions I noted below. Will it ruin your mead, nope probably not. My advice would be to get a lees stirrer or whip degasser and do a couple of test batches side-by-side. If you have a lab that does analysis (like Scott Labs, Vinquiry, etc,) close take a sample of each must before aeration, after aeration and at various stages (say every other day) through the fermentation and have them tested. That should provide some very substantial information about the difference (if any) between the two methods.

I personally just don't like pouring my must out of the fermentation vessel and into another unless it's being controlled as in racking. Just one of my own personal peccadilloes.

Cheers,

Oskaar

wildoates
10-08-2009, 10:15 PM
It'd be okay to do with chai because you drink it right away (relatively speaking, compared to mead/beer) and any bacteria introduced to it wouldn't have a chance to do their naughty things.

/Pete has peccadilloes? Who knew?

Angelic Alchemist
10-08-2009, 10:27 PM
It'd be okay to do with chai because you drink it right away (relatively speaking, compared to mead/beer) and any bacteria introduced to it wouldn't have a chance to do their naughty things.

/Pete has peccadilloes? Who knew?

I don't even know what a peccadillo is. Sounds like the name of a species of chile to me. Oh, and I had to google "whip degasser" too. I see I've reached the gadget crusade portion of this hobby. Yeesh, they never stay simple for long, do they? Ah, it's just as well, I suppose I asked for it showing up here with all these odd questions.

wayneb
10-08-2009, 11:09 PM
To answer every question, there is a tool -- or a technique. The tools generally cost money, but are easy to employ. The techniques cost time, but once mastered, are with you forever.

wildoates
10-08-2009, 11:47 PM
Exactly, Wayne, and both have their place.

/more toys more toys

A peccadillo is a little idiosyncrasy or fault--something that might be a mite odd, but doesn't hurt anyone, so who cares?! Sometimes naughty, but always minor.

Angelic Alchemist
10-26-2009, 11:27 PM
Here's what we've done to try and save this one:

-racked the must off the herbs into a carboy

-soaked the herbs in a bucket with 3L of vodka to extract compounds

-added 2 campden tablets to the must in the carboy and left uncovered

-made a yeast starter with EC1118 that we'll pitch in 24h or so

We'll eventually rack and blend the two end results from this mess and call it a damiana liquor.

Prolific_Praxis
02-07-2010, 02:06 PM
Nope! But it's probably a good idea.

I learned during my big metheglin/herbal phase, that the best use of herbals/botanicals in my meads is in my secondary. I have used decoctions, extracts, absolutes, and just "dry hopping" in the secondary. There is something to be said about the alcohol extraction properties of mead and the tastes you will receive in secondary vs primary additions.