View Full Version : Totally lost!

01-03-2010, 12:34 PM
I am an experienced all-grain home brewer, so I am familiar with fermentation techniques for beer, but this mead fermenting is kicking my ass! It is my first batch of mead, and I have been getting advice from from some award-winning mead makers in my local area. Unfortunately, I think I am nearing drain-circling time for this mead. It is stuck at 1.054 SG, and not moving, despite multiple pitches. I would like to know how to move it back on track, or if I should cut my losses. The stuff has had so much nutrient added that...well if I knew I wouldn't be posting!

The original intent was for a peach melomel, adding frozen peaches to fully fermented mead, and backsweetening as needed.

Here is the full recipe and process steps to date (Thanks in advance!):

Brew Date 11/9/09

In a sanitized bucket, I beat 20 lbs Orange Blossom honey in one gallon of 70F spring water. Added 70F spring water to make 5 gallons; whipped to aerate.

OG = 1.152

Yeast hydration:
3 pkgs Lalvin 71B1122 Narbonne yeast (15 grams)
200 ml boiled spring water cooled to 104F, with
20 grams GoFerm

Pitched and covered with lid/airlock on bucket.

11/9/09 - 8 hours after pitching, whipped to degas; added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K

11/10/09 - whipped to degas; added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K
11/11/09 - whipped to degas; added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K
11/12/09 - whipped to degas; added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K

11/21/09 – (12 days after pitching)
SG = 1.100 Apparently stuck fermentation
pH = 3.5 (assume yeast no longer viable due to pH)
Added 1 tbsp potassium bicarbonate to raise pH

2 pkgs Lalvin 71B1122 Narbonne yeast (10 grams), rehydrated in
170 ml boiled spring water cooled to 104F, with 13 grams GoFerm

11/23/09 - whipped to degas; added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K
11/24/09 - whipped to degas; added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K

11/25/09 - SG = 27 Brix, corrected to 1.093 (7 point drop in 4 days); pH 3.9

11/29/09 - SG = 24 Brix, corrected to 1.070; pH 4.2; whipped to degas

12/19/09 – Slow activity; pH 3.5; SG = 1.055 by hydrometer; degassed and added ¾ tsp chalk to raise pH to 3.8; calculated ABV 12.9%

12/20/09 – whipped to degas; added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K
12/27/09 – pH 4.2; SG = 1.055 by hydrometer; no SG change in 8 days.

2 pkgs Champagne yeast (10 grams), rehydrated in
170 ml boiled spring water cooled to 104F, with 13 grams GoFerm
Degassed and added 30 seconds 0xygen through stone prior to pitch.

12/30/09 – No visible activity, although positive pressure in bucket noted.
SG = 1.054 by hydrometer. Added ½ tsp DAP and ¼ tsp Fermaid K.

1/3/2010 – SG = 1.054; pH 4.3; no indications of infection; does smell yeasty and must is murkey khaki color.

01-03-2010, 01:00 PM
You've gone from 1.152 to 1.054, which is quite a lot even though it's a less than you'd expect, but it's still quite possible that you're simply done.

I'm also not sure it's a good idea to be mixing different kinds of yeast, before you cleared the previous one out of there. If you want to restart fermentation to get a higher abv with a more abv tolerant yeast, I'd try to clear the batch first.

01-03-2010, 01:23 PM
I've had stalled fermentations pick back up when racking to another vessel. It could be a good time to off the lees and seeing if anything starts up again.

01-03-2010, 01:25 PM
Restarting with 14% ABV? It won't be easy.

01-03-2010, 01:28 PM
Well, my first piece advice is to NOT dump this down the drain!!

Even if nothing more were to be done to lower the SG, it can still be used for blending with other (dry) batches, etc, assuming it is properly cared for, no spoilage, etc.

Hopefully, the mentors will chime in with some expert advice on potential recovery options, but a couple observations on your batch so far:

A mead OG of 1.152 is extremely high, and this starting point is likely the largest single contributor to the issues you are experiencing. Your methods for preparation, etc. look fine. 71-B has an alcohol tolerance of ~14%, but due to the super-high OG, the yeast were likely "shocked" when pitched into such a high gravity must. The "stall" at around 6-7% ABV, may have been due to the PH level, but folks around here don't get to excited unless the PH drops to 3.2 or below. What temp. was this batch fermenting at?

Also, by the time you pitched the champagne yeast, you were already at 13% ABV (meaning the 71-B basically completed their job despite the stressful conditions), which is a tough start for any yeast.

If you want to have one more go at the current batch, I would recommend a turbo-yeast, and I would acclimate it to the current must via small additions of must to the yeast/starter mixture. Keep in mind, if this is successful, you will end up with a pretty high ABV, but a starting OG of 1.152 has a potential alcohol value > 19% anyway.

Another way may be to actually split this batch to reduce the current ABV% via the addition of new must to allow high-gravity yeast from being able to start up.

In any case, I wish you the best of luck! Don't give up! Mead is great!


01-03-2010, 03:17 PM
I'll echo a lot of what has already been mentioned. 1.15 is a pretty high starting gravity and you've gotten about 14% abv out of your 71B, which is about as far as you'd expect that yeast to go. Your second yeast addition will probably not do much since you added the yeast directly into the must. If you want to try and get this batch going again, you should look into some of the "restarting" instructions floating around (WayneB and Oskaar have posted or linked to them many times); basically you need to get your restarting yeast going in a separate batch and blend in the stuck batch in stages to minimize the shock on the yeast.

If you don't try restarting this one, definitely do not throw it away. You can easily blend it with a drier mead (after proper stabilization if you plan on bottling it soon thereafter) to cut the sweetness. Also good options are in-the-glass blending with other meads, wines, sparkling water, etc. Sweet mead mixed drinks can be quite a hit at a party. ;) Also, you might be surprised how this one turns out as-is after it clears and has a year or two of age on it.

You might also consider racking it onto your peaches now. The peaches will dilute the mead a little, and the moving around during racking might get things going again. Worth a try, and the worst thing would be to wind up with a sweet peach mead instead of a sweet no-peach mead. :)

01-03-2010, 03:48 PM
Welcome to GotMead?!

Don't dump. IMO, all mead under 6 months are drain worthy. Time heals all when it comes to mead. In a year or two, this will be an amazing mead (but it may still be a dessert). Mead isn't a short-term venture.

The good thing about 71B is that it keeps going and going... it will keep chewing through the sugars long after it "looks" done. You may notice the gravity continue to drop over the next few months but at a much slower rate.

What were you going for with this recipe? Did you want a sweet mead? Did you want a high ABV? Just trying your hand? What you want pretty much dictates the advice your given.

As I see it, you have a couple of options:

Option #1 Rack it, leave it under airlock and see what happens. Personally, I would go with this option. Put it away for 6-12 months and see what happens. I doubt you'll ever get this dry but I'm confident you'll get something pleasant.

Option #2) Call it done and stabilize it. I don't see much benefit to this option and there's really no reason I can think of to stabilize it now unless you have no way to bulk age without an airlock. But I'm in a "nothing ventured, nothing gained" mood. If this was my mead, I might feel differently. :)

For option #3) I'm sure the mentors can give better advice for raising the ABV with other yeasts. If I understand things right (and I may not), higher tolerent and turbo yeasts are designed for distilling and can throw off/unusual flavors. I don't know if this is an issue below 20% or so. If you decide to go this route, search the forums before picking a yeast.

Good luck!

01-03-2010, 03:50 PM
71b has gone about as far as it's going to go.
next time:
1. use the same yeast but start around 1.124. , you should finish around 1.02 @14%abv
2. use k1v1116 and you should finish around 1.03 @16abv

If I were you I would take akueck's advice and just rack onto the peaches which will dilute the sweetness a bit, give it some peach flavor, and maybe get the ferment going again.

Medsen Fey
01-04-2010, 11:39 AM
Welcome to GotMead OldGuy!

I'm sorry to hear this has been frustrating, but definitely don't throw this mead out. As long as it hasn't spoiled you may be able to use it with blending and get some excellent results.

As has been pointed out already, the 71B did what it was supposed to do - giving around 13% ABV. When you start at extremely high gravity it is quite common for yeast to poop out before they reach their tolerance level. Starting with that much osmotic pressures is very stressful for yeast.

On top of that, you are now asking for heroic action from the Champagne yeast (which one was that by the way?). It is difficult to restart a fermentation with 13% ABV, and doubly so when the gravity is still this high (13% residual sugar). The chances of successfully restarting this fermentation as it stands are low. If it does occur, it will not be a fermentation like you are used to. It will be a very slow, quiet process that may not even show visible bubbling - it will just have a gradual drop in gravity over the next couple of months. The best yeast for this kind of restart would either be UvaFerm 43, or one other the encapsulated Pro-Restart yeast. These would have the best chance to get the gravity down, and even then the gravity probably won't go below 1.020 at best so you are going to end sweet (just not as sweet as it is now).

If the Champagne yeast (or Uvaferm 43) does not get the gravity to drop you have some other alternatives you can consider. One is to keep it sweet and add the peaches. Then add acidity. When you get enough acidity to balance the sugar you will have something comparable to a peach dessert wine that will be very full bodied with a long sweet finish.

Another option would be to dilute this must down to about 10% ABV then repitch acclimated yeast to let it finish. This might produce a dry result, but you can always sweeten if back to taste later.

I hope this is of some help.

Endeavor to persevere!


01-05-2010, 05:18 AM
Thanks to everyone for the advice, and especially for the rationale supporting it. I believe I will rack it to a carboy and let it age for a year, and see what I get!