View Full Version : Question about hydrometer reading.

11-13-2009, 03:45 PM
Hello all, I am a long time lurker but new poster.
I just made our third batch of mead, and I have some concerns.
First of all, I started this batch similar to my other two.

app. 5 kg (11 lbs) of honey, in two gallons of water heated to a boil, then removed from heat. Another gallon of water added after removing from heat.
Large Orange sliced
6tbsp earl grey tea
5 tbsps of bee pollen
split vanilla bean
1 pkg Lalvin 1118 prepared and then added when must was at an appropriate temp.

the SG before the yeast was at about 16%, but the must was still quite warm. I'm not sure about the temperature exactly, but app. 100F

I aerated very well in the bucket, put a clean t-shirt type material over the top and tied it tightly.

The last two batches of mead started at 18% before the yeast, so first of all, this batch started lower. And now, on day 6, the reading is only at 15% or JUST about at 1.09.
My other two batches quickly went down to the 10-8% within the first 9 days. This one, although bubbling sweetly and just as active looking as the others, is not doing this.
Perhaps my initial reading was wrong? The temperature throwing it off possibly?

The only big differences between this batch and the last ones were-
this time round I added two tiny cloves and had less bee pollen than before, and I did not have the 900 g of mixed fruit that I used last time. But the method was just the same and honey/water ratio. it is just as noisy and seems very active as the others so I'm not sure why this batch has such a slower to fall hydrometer reading.
Any help would be appreciated. :)

oh, *sidenote, I have dried sweetened cranberries, would these be a good idea to toss in as a additional food for the yeast? The other batches of mead I added WAY more bee pollen.

Medsen Fey
11-13-2009, 05:00 PM
I would suggest first to double check you hydrometer reading, and to degas the sample well to make sure you get a clear reading. If the potential alcohol is 15%, the gravity would be about 1.110. If the gravity reading is actually close to 1.090 that corresponds to about 12% potential alcohol. So we need to which it is - if you are at 15%, there is a problem, but if you are at 12% then things are a little slow, but not terrible.

A lot of things will affect the rate.
1. temperature - if this batch is fermenting at a cooler temperature it will be slower. What is the temp currently?

2. pH. A low pH slows yeast down (even EC-1118 ). When you use fruit in a mead that tends to keep the the pH up in a healthy range, so doing this batch without fruit may have allowed the pH to drop. If you can check it, that would be helpful to know.

3. nutrients. The amount of pollen you've added works out to be about 4 grams per liter (if you've got 4 gallons in your batch). That is a little on the low side, but shouldn't cause EC-1118 to be really sluggish at this stage. Having fruit additions certainly makes sure there are more nutrients for the yeast, so this batch has a lot less in terms of nutrients, but I doubt that is causing a big problem here.

4. yeast preparation. How did you prepare the yeast? did you pitch them into the must when it was 100F? If so that can damage the yeast and cause them to take a long while to build up to steam.

5. aeration. The yeast need oxygen to grow and divide. Have you aerated it since pitching? If not, I would do so.

Let us know what the gravity is when you recheck and folks, will be able to help you keep this moving.

And Welcome to GotMead!


11-13-2009, 05:40 PM
The temperature of your sample will mess with the hydrometer reading as well. Is the reading you gave the one straight from the hydrometer or a corrected one? As the temperature goes up, the density of the liquid will drop. So the same sample measured at two temperatures will appear to have different SG readings. There are temperature correction charts available, I usually flip to one in a brew book.

11-13-2009, 05:45 PM
Thank you for your response ,
Well, I just checked it again and it is a 1.110 This is higher than it was yesterday. Yesterday it was closer to 1.100 (1.102)
It makes no sense. And I found my starting #, it was at 1.122

Both batches of mead are in the same place, the temp is about 20 C .

There is a scummy foam on top of the mead , just as ones previous, and as I was checking the hydrometer, bubbles were coming up, moving the hydrometer about, It sounds like a bottle of bubbly champagne, so it seems odd that there is not a reading to back up the very healthy looking activity.

I pitched the yeast at app the same temperature of the water that the yeast was started in... they were both about 100 degrees. My other batches were pitched at about the same temp as well, though I know that does not guarantee the same results.
The same night, the mead was bubbling away and developed the frothy layer that is there now, so it seemed to me that the yeast had taken off quite well.

I added some dried cranberries a few days ago, about 15 (I forgot to add this into the message, I apologize), should I add more?

The Ph makes sense, but I am unable to get any test papers, as hubby is on 12 hour shifts right now and therefore I can't get to a store to get any. Something to have on hand next time for sure.

I have not re aerated it again since last saturday when we first made it. The person who we had made mead with before and whom I had always gone to with my questions (he makes a fantastic lot) had said that for the first week, do not stir or disturb, just skim the scum off the top to allow air to reach it. And then after the week is up, put it into the carboy for secondary fermentation. I was following rules in hope there would be less chance for messing up :D lol, apparently this did not work.

I noticed that when I first put the hydrometer in the mead, the reading was slightly lower, and then it actually rose up slightly after it had been it for a few moments while I was writing and studying it? Is there a chance that the hydrometer is not working? It certainly wasnt doing this to my last batch.

Medsen Fey
11-13-2009, 06:00 PM
Usually when I rehydrate yeast in 104F water, I stir them in and it cools off the mixture rapidly down into the 80s by the time I pitch. By pitching into 100 degree F must you may actually kill a bunch of the yeast you pitch, and it is better to pitch at a cooler must temperature. If you kill off a large percentage of the yeast it takes a few days for them to grow back up again and that may be part of your problem here.

I suspect that pH is part of the issue as well. The fact that is visibly bubbling but going so slowly makes me very suspicious that this may be to blame. If you have some potassium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate or cream of tartar, you might be able to use them. FayLee even uses egg shells, so you probably have something you can work with.

You definitely need to open the container and aerate it. The yeast will need oxygen to grow and divide properly. You might also move it to a slightly warmer area - 73F or so. That may help them pick up steam.

Edit - as bubbles form on the hydrometer they can push it up a bit, that is why I suggest taking a sample out and degassing it to get an accurate reading. You can test you hydrometer with some distilled water if you have it (tap water will do in a pinch). The gravity of plain water should be 1.000 (at the calibration temp of the hydrometer).

11-13-2009, 06:08 PM
Thank you, I will take out a sample. How do I degas it? Just let it sit a bit? My bucket has a cloth across it and is tied, so air is getting to it, though I have not been stirring. does this make a difference? Should I still get in there and stir like crazy? :D Also, are there any tips for using eggshells in regards to preparing them and amount to add?

Medsen Fey
11-13-2009, 06:24 PM
To degas you can shake it vigorously until it stops bubbling.

If you fermenter is open, you're getting air in there. Swirling or stirring might help a little.

As for the egg shell, this is something I've only recently learned about, so I cannot profess any great expertise, but essentially they are about 95% calcium carbonate. So if you take an egg shell and remove the membrane and clean it out, then you can crush it and pitch it in. You can weigh the amount - I'm not sure what a typical egg shell weighs, but if you wanted to add 4-8 grams I don't think you'll harm the mead, and if low pH is the problem, as the egg shells gradually dissolve, it may help the yeast get moving.I've not done this myself as of yet, but I can see no reason it won't work. Again, without knowing the pH this is guess work, and if you want to move it to a warmer temp, and give it more time before trying egg shells that would be fine.

Just to be on the safe side, you might add some more nutrition for the yeast - a bit of fruit if you like, or you can take a a tablespoon of yeast (bread yeast, brewers yeast, or wine yeast -whatever you have) and boil it in a little water and pitch it in. Those killed yeast will provide food for the ones that are fermenting and might help you along.

I hope some of this helps.


11-13-2009, 07:08 PM
Thank you so much!
I will definitely add some fruit, the sweetened cranberries, as I have no other fruit available for the next little bit.
As for warming it up, I have very few choices available. The warmest place in our home is the kitchen, which is quite unsuitable. Not only will my three teenaged/adult children trip over it while rummaging for food, but my toddler and baby would be far too likely to do damage- or dive in as well, LOL. Add in the dog and two cats.... kitchen just is not a good idea.
The bedrooms are all chilly, we are going through some major issues with trying to keep this house warm. We bought it only recently and the warm air just goes right out the windows. (yes, we do need some new windows)
There is the furnace closet, it is not super ventilated, but it might be warmer... I was concerned about gasses from the mead building up right next to our gas furnace.
I will degas and check the hydrometer. I had no idea what that meant, so much to learn! hehe

11-13-2009, 08:15 PM
Okey doke...
So I took the mead out, put it in my cylinder thingy for testing. I shook it up and when the bubbles cleared, it read at JUST about 1.100 closer to 1.102. Today is day 6. Mead temperature, 21 degrees celcius.
Starting date, the mead was probably close to 30 celcius-definitely warmer than room temperature anyhow. And at that time, the reading was at 1.122-1.123

Definitely no noticeable alcohol taste of course and VERY sweet.

11-14-2009, 01:55 PM
You might also want to check to make sure those cranberries aren't treated w/ sorbates.

That would kill/severely inhibit your fermentation

11-20-2009, 06:35 PM
Hey all!
I was wondering how exactly one goes about adding yeast energizer? I am transferring the mead from the primary to the secondary, and other than the dried cranberries, there wasn't much for food. (no fruit other than the orange)... it has been slow, but active and I am wondering if it would be good to add an energizer to this. If so, do I just put in the desired amount and stir gently? I know that care is to be used about adding air into it.
I have not used an energizer before, I found that large amounts of berries seemed to work, but this one has been a bit silly.

11-20-2009, 06:44 PM
What was your starting SG and what is the SG now?

11-20-2009, 07:04 PM
Please post your exact recipe in the following format:

Title: Name of Your Mead (If you have one) & the date you made it
Yield: Number of gallons you made
Ingredients: Vertical Listing of ingredients (like in a recipe book)
Yeast type: Brand, strain and amount of yeast you used
Yeast rehydration: How the yeast was rehydrated along with amount and type of rehydration nutrient used if any
Process: If you need to thaw frozen stuff, chop, peel, fricassee or otherwise prepare ingredients prior to mixing the must
Must preparation: What you did to make the must and what the starting gravity/brix reading was
Management: Readings, treatments, racking and environmental control go here
Aging: Bulk, bottles kegs, etc. etc go here

Without this information we are really just guessing what we're dealing with, and how to help you.



11-20-2009, 07:17 PM

Day 1
app. 5 kg (11 lbs) of honey, in two gallons of water heated to a boil, then removed from heat. Another gallon of water added after removing from heat.
Large Orange sliced
6tbsp earl grey tea
5 tbsps of bee pollen (as a nutrient)
split vanilla bean
1 pkg Lalvin 1118 prepared and then added when must was at a temp of close to 100 F (I couldnt get it to cool and I had three teenagers trying to use the kitchen)...
1.122-1.123 SG starting

Day 6
1.100 closer to 1.102 I posted here with questions about the slow drop.
(Temp was only 20 C but there is no where warmer in the house to keep it , other than the kitchen and its not possible there with five kids and a dog.)
Added a large handful of sweetened dried organic cranberries

Day 10

Today, day 12..... haven't checked it yet, but I have yeast energizer that I purchased on suggestion from the brewing place near by. I wanted to get it into the secondary earlier, but found out there was a split in our hose and this was the first day my husband had off work so that we could make the trip out to get a new hose/syphon.
Just checked, it was 1.072

11-20-2009, 08:05 PM
Can you get us a pH reading? It may be that the pH is too low, but I doubt it for the EC-1118, still it may be contributory.

Also, at this point the energizer may help to kick up the fermentation temporarily but down the road it may actually cause problems with your yeast. The energizer generally contains DAP which will basically force your yeast to reproduce but not provide them with long term nutrient to help them reproduce in the best possible manner.

At this point I'd suggest that you add .5 grams of yeast hulls/gallon of must and aerate to see if your yeast takes off. If not, I'd recommend repitching with more EC-1118 that has been rehydrated in Go-Ferm as per manufacturer's spec. You will find all kinds of information on how to rehydrate here in the forums.

Finally, I'm moving this thread into your original thread with the recipe posted, that will help us keep this all together in one package. Generally it's better when you have a thread on a mead in progress going to keep all questions in that thread. That way we know what we are dealing with and such.



11-20-2009, 09:10 PM
Thank you, and I apologize, I guess it would have been best to keep it in the same thread.
And I have to admit: I was refreshing my post and did not see your post below it, I guess because the post was merged.
I had all my equipment sterlized and was waiting, not sure how to proceed, so I ended up adding 3/4 tsp of energizer and then putting it into the 11 litre carboy.
Because I was refreshing I didnt see that it had been added to my other post and thought there was simply no more suggestions.
I added the energizer, put it in the carboy and it is bubbling... I am guessing that I will need to add nutrient then?