View Full Version : On the 6th Day

01-06-2010, 01:21 PM
I don't know what God did, but I know what my mead is doing....nothing!

Here's the facts:
Making a 1 gallon batch
42 oz of star thistle honey
Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast

I am trying to make a very light, dry 14% abv sparkling mead.

What I have:
7 gallon fermenter with spigot
3 piece air-lock

What I did:
I sterilized everything with a sink full of warm water and 1/4 cup bleach. I am severely allergic to the sulfite's the brewery store gave me to use as a sanitizer. I then rinsed everything off with 120 degree tap water.

I boiled my honey in a stainless steel pot with about a half gallon of spring water that is carbon filtered and ozonated.

I boiled for 15 minutes. I had no scum develop to be skimmed off.

I put the pot in a sink of cold water which brought the temperature of the must to 91 degrees. I then added 1/4 tsp of yeast nutrient (diammonium phosphate).

I made the yeast per the directions on the package, I microwaved 1/4 cup of the spring water until it was 101 degrees. This actually set while I was boiling the must.

Question: Should I have taken SG at this time? There was nothing in the new-bee guide about this.

I then pitched the yeast. I didn't realize at the time but think that I was supposed to pitch below 90 degrees.

I put this in the fermenter and topped up to one gallon. I then stirred this in the 7 gallon fermenter with a plastic spoon for 10 minutes to aerate.

Sealed it up and put it in the closet at 73 degrees.

The next day I realized that I needed a starting SG so I could figure out my alcohol content so I took a reading. The carbonation in the must made it kinda hard to read but I believe it was 1.100. The must was bubbling very steadily.

When taking my SG reading I use my hydrometer and the plastic tube it came in and a small child's cup to get the mead. I sanitize it all with the bleach and rinse with the 120 degree tap water. I hold everything in the bucket, get my reading and dump everything back in. I have read this is really bad to do but I won't have anything left if I keep taking it out.

3 days later went to check on must and noticed no bubble action. Took SG reading which was 1.098. It bubbled a few times when I put the lid back on so thought things were fine.

Next day no bubbling again. Took the airlock off and swirled the bucket for 5 minutes, sloshing it around as much as possible. Put the air-lock back on and no bubbles.
SG reading is 1.092 and took a little taste and it is freaking awesome! I love mead!

Anyway, would anyone care to comment on why they think I am not getting any action in the bubbler?

Also when should I add more nutrient? I am a little confused on this. My guess is that I am supposed to take my SG and subtract from .99 and divide by 3?


01-06-2010, 01:37 PM
Lack of bubbles is usually caused by a leak, even if you can't find it. Don't feel bad though, I panicked a bit when one of my first batchs wasn't bubbling as much as I thought it should be!

Your fermentation is progressing slowly, but it is progressing, bubbles mean little, SG means everything. What temp is this at right now? Makes a big difference sometimes.

You have the right idea for the 1/3 break, but most people just subtract from 1.000, which in your case would put you around an SG of 1.066 - don't worry, total precision with this is not an issue, as the yeast do not follow tidy schedules. Keep aerating as much as possible until that point, and I would add some more nutrient now as well as right at the 1/3 mark due to the slow ferment you're getting. Do you have anything other than DAP? It just adds nitrogen, and is great to have, but doesn't supply the rest of the nutrients the yeast need.

Also, just because someone else is going to say it anyways... next time you don't need to boil your must.

01-06-2010, 02:46 PM
Hi, GrasofGryffindor! Welcome to "GotMead?"!!

Let ask you a couple of questions before we proceed, so I can understand exactly what you did.

First, when you say you used 42 oz. of honey, is that liquid ounces (so you used a quart plus 10 ounces of honey)? There's a difference between the liquid volume measure of something as dense as honey, and its weight. So, if you did use 42 liquid ounces, since honey weighs on average about 11.76 pounds per US gallon, you would have used about 3.85 lbs.

Next, did you add water to bring the total must volume to 1 gallon, or did you instead add a full gallon of water to the honey, so then you ended up with more than a full gallon total volume? I'm guessing, from my calculations, that you did the latter, but I want to be sure.

Next question. How long was it between when you first added your dry yeast to the rehydration water, and when you actually pitched into the must?

Final question for now. Do you have any way of measuring the pH of your must?

I have some potential causes for your slow fermentation in mind, and answers to these questions will help us to converge on a most likely scenario.

01-06-2010, 03:00 PM
This actually seems about normal for a boiled, low nutrient must. When I started mead making about 14 years ago with translations of traditional recipes ( no nutrient, dap, etc.) It took a while for things to get going in the carboy.

01-06-2010, 04:46 PM
I actually used to brew back in the 90's and wanted to do it commercially but back then you had to own acres of land (because the laws were geared toward wineries) so life went on and in different directions. I was only recently inspired to look back into it and found that I can now open a meadery in my garage so I am getting back to it.

Back then it was simply boil, pitch and loosely cover in a 5 gallon bucket. 6 months later....liquid gold! Ah those were the days, anywho...

I had a jar (45oz) of honey, I drained off 3oz and that is what I used.

I put my must in my fermenter and added water to fill to my 1 gallon mark.

Yeast to water to must was about 15 minutes.

I do not have a way of testing ph right now, but upon tasting could not detect any bitterness. If that can be any way of measuring.

Thanks in advance for your assistance, I think this is going to be a beautiful batch!

01-06-2010, 05:45 PM
1/6/10 4:45 est temp is holding at 73 degrees

01-06-2010, 06:34 PM
OK, so for that amount of honey, and a fill to one gallon total, your starting SG was really more around 1.126 or so. Could you have had 20 points of drop in the gravity the first day, and then the change slow to a relative crawl since? Well, possibly, but it might simply be that there is enough CO2 in solution in the must that your hydrometer is picking up bubbles on the surface of its glass, and giving you artificially high SG readings because of that. If you don't already do so, try spinning the hydrometer as you drop it into the must and see if the equilibrium point might look to be lower as it turns. The spinning helps to keep bubbles from sticking to the glass.

Additionally, for this must volume you probably have only about 1/4 to 1/2 of the total nitrogen that your yeast could use -- it wouldn't hurt to add another 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of DAP, even if you don't strictly adhere to a staggered addition protocol. Also, supplementing with some Fermaid-K is a good idea, since that will bring other micronutrients and vitamins to the yeast that DAP alone can't provide.

Finally, one of the most common causes of fermentations that go like gangbusters for the first 24 to 48 hours and then slow dramatically, is a drop in pH caused by yeast activity, and lack of buffers in the must. You won't really taste this low pH, especially early on like this, since the acidity is masked by the sweetness of the must. A good pH measurement is the best way to see if this is your problem -- but lacking the measurement, you could simply add a half tsp. or so of potassium bicarbonate, potassium carbonate, or calcium carbonate (whichever one you can most easily get) per gallon of must, and see if the fermentation rate picks up within 24 hours of that addition.

01-06-2010, 06:43 PM
1/6/10 5:37pm

Yes I did have a ton of bubbles when I took my first SG reading. I spun the heck out of the hydrometer but bubbles were everywhere.

After my 5 minute sloshing today I noticed most of the bubbles are now gone. I have some of the DAP handy and will add 1/2 tsp this evening when I do another sloshing. I will try to put my hands on the other nutrients very soon and will post when I have them.

Should I have taken my first SG reading before pitching the yeast?

Thanks again,

01-06-2010, 07:01 PM
Yes, you should have. :)

01-06-2010, 07:01 PM
Actually, I don't know if you want to be aerating (sloshing) anymore. If you have really have gone from 1.126 to 1.092, you're about at the 1/3 sugar break. I don't know if the protocol changes for stuck fermentations. Wayne?

I tend to take a reading just before pitching. I don't know if it matters if it's before or after pitching, but I don't want to forget. When it's tucked away, I run here and double check the number on the mead calculator to ensure I'm in the right ballpark.

01-06-2010, 07:22 PM
1/6/10 6:10pm Update

Added 1/2 tsp DAP and stirred vigorously for 5 minutes.

Medsen Fey
01-06-2010, 07:29 PM
A good aeration may help if you are having a sluggish fermentation, especially if you aren't past the halfway point.

01-06-2010, 09:03 PM
A good aeration may help if you are having a sluggish fermentation, especially if you aren't past the halfway point.

Thanks for the clarification, Medsen. I just didn't want Gryffindor to oxygenate this.

01-06-2010, 10:26 PM
Given the symptoms that you've presented, I'd recommend that you try some bicarb or carbonate (as I noted earlier), since this sounds very much like a pH crash induced slowdown. Again, a pH test (even with relatively inaccurate pH strips) would tell us more.

01-08-2010, 08:55 AM
Question for WayneB...

I am kinda confused about this weight stuff. The jar the honey came in says 2 lbs 13 oz and I took 3 oz of that out. So my weight should be 2 lbs 10 oz or 42 oz. Which is what I used to calculate my recipe.

If I weigh it and it's 6 oz then it's 6 oz right?

01-08-2010, 09:37 AM
I think I understand the source of your confusion.

Honey is often sold by weight when packaged in smaller amounts, so the small half pint-sized jars that you find in most stores will be advertised as a 12 oz. of honey, by weight, even though they are only 8 oz. by volume. Effective marketing requires that you convince the customer they're getting as much as possible for the money and 12 is a bigger number than 8.

However when you buy honey in bulk (anything at or over 1/2 gallon is usually considered a bulk purchase), then it will usually be sold by volume.

Most of the recipes we develop and list here at Gotmead use volumetric measures for the honey, so make sure that you are working with volume, rather than weight, no matter how your honey is originally packaged.

It is also better to ultimately measure the SG of any batch of must; that will take all the uncertainty out of the process.

01-08-2010, 10:26 AM
Most of the recipes we develop and list here at Gotmead use volumetric measures for the honey, so make sure that you are working with volume, rather than weight, no matter how your honey is originally packaged.

Is that true? It seems to me that all the recipes I've seen list the honey in pounds.

Regardless, for future reference, listing honey in only ounces can be confusing, so pounds AND ounces or cups/gallons/etc. would probably be best.

01-08-2010, 10:34 AM
I have been looking at the calculator and there are lots of options. I would like to stick with something that isn't so confusing.

Would I be safe to assume the following:

1 gallon = 12 lbs
1/2 gallon = 6 lbs
1 quart = 3 lbs
1 pint = 1.5 lbs

I am wanting to start another batch and my honey supplier sells in these quantities and I am trying to figure out how to get to 14% using this calculator. I am following the tutorials but can't seem to get an amount of honey I need for 14%, it keeps changing the abv to 13.46.

01-08-2010, 11:37 AM
Is that true? It seems to me that all the recipes I've seen list the honey in pounds.

Sorry - that's what happens when I type without being fully awake! You are correct; I meant by weight but somehow my sleep deprived brain liked the way that "volumetric" looked as I typed it. :-[

Anyway, yes GrasofGryffindor, the conversions from volume to weight are good approximations (a US gallon of honey weighs close to 12 lbs, not exactly, and honey does vary slightly in moisture content which does influence the weight somewhat). For recipe formulation purposes those conversions are perfectly adequate.

01-09-2010, 09:02 AM
Is that true? It seems to me that all the recipes I've seen list the honey in pounds.

Regardless, for future reference, listing honey in only ounces can be confusing, so pounds AND ounces or cups/gallons/etc. would probably be best.

You're seeing honey listed in pounds because it is a way for people to estimate how much honey they need to purchase for a given recipe. Pounds is a sure way to get inconsistent results as honey does not have consistent sugar content from region to region, year to year, or varietal to varietal, just as the sugar content of other crops (grapes, etc.) changes based on rain, sunshine, etc.

Get in the habit of using a hydrometer to measure your SG before you pitch the yeast, and your batches will be much more consistent.



01-09-2010, 11:21 PM
I will be taking the long trip to the brewstore tomorrow and will be getting some ph testing strips. What do I use is my ph is too low? What would I use if the ph is too high?

I am asking now so I can pick up what I will need while I am there and spare myself another trip.

My SG is holding at 1.09 but my temp has dropped to 71 degrees.

01-10-2010, 04:08 AM
See Wayne's earlier post below here (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showpost.php?p=136710&postcount=7) for pH that is too acidic.

For a pH that is too high you'll want to get an acid blend, or if you prefer to make your own you can get malic, tartaric and citric acid to make your own, or mix and match as you desire.

01-17-2010, 10:51 PM
It's about time I got back. I am still waiting for fermaid k in the mail. But I was able to visit my good friends at American Brewmaster and was given some some high alcohol yeast nutrient. So what I did today was take my SG which is 1.086 at 73 degrees.

I added 1/4tsp of the nutrient and aerated the must with a new whisk and transfered the whole gallon batch to a glass carboy so I can watch.

I still cant tell if there is any action in the airlock.

I was able to get ph strips and it reads 4.0.

So was thinking to pitch some new yeast. What do you guys think?

Medsen Fey
01-18-2010, 10:20 AM
What is the lower limit reading of your pH strips?

You can try pitching another yeast (like EC-1118 ), but you'll want to create a starter with it and acclimate the yeast to your stuck must.

01-18-2010, 10:43 AM
The ph strips go as low as 2.8. I bought them specifically for wine.

I am getting action in the airlock now. About 18 seconds apart.

01-19-2010, 08:24 PM
Ok, the must is now bubbling once every three seconds. I am afraid to aerate this. Should I be?

Medsen Fey
01-19-2010, 09:04 PM
Aeration might actually help it a bit - what's the gravity doing?

01-29-2010, 10:06 AM
Ok, I had shoulder surgery and wasn't able to really do anything with this. I just checked the SG this morning and it is 1.000 and it is 76 degrees. I don't know why it is so hot I just have it sitting in my kitchen and it's 9:00 in the morning. There is about a half inch of lees in the bottom of the carboy. Is it time to rack or bottle? It is not very clear though.

Medsen Fey
01-29-2010, 10:58 AM
At 1.000 it might still drop a few more points, but you can rack it. It will likely be several months before it is clear.

01-29-2010, 11:01 AM
If I add water to this to bring the level up in the carboy will I be affecting the ABV? I lost about an inch when I racked it, because of the lees.

Medsen Fey
01-29-2010, 11:05 AM
Yes, adding water will dilute it, but you can calculate how much based on how much water you add. If it isn't a lot, it won't be a problem, but you'll probably need to rack it a couple of more times in the future so you may want to have a smaller container, or to make some other mead for topping up. There are several threads that discuss topping up.

02-02-2010, 09:05 AM
Would sitting this outside in the cold weather or refrigerating the must help it to clear faster?

Medsen Fey
02-02-2010, 09:46 AM
Would sitting this outside in the cold weather or refrigerating the must help it to clear faster?

Probably. It is certainly worth a try and doesn't cost much.

02-16-2010, 12:48 PM
It's been a very rough couple of weeks recovering from this surgery, but I was able to start some other batches. As of this morning here is what I have:

Star Thistle SG 1.002

Wild Flower SG 1.004

Orange Blossom SG 1.030

Wild Raspberry SG 1.000

Killer Bee (5 gallons) SG 1.024

My Star Thistle which has been the focus of this thread is clearing very nicely and the harsh alcohol, tart taste is finally starting to go away.

My question is that I used champagne yeast for all of these except for the killer bee (I used d-47) how do I back sweeten? I have been searching the posts for about an hour and all I can find is people who say that they did it but not really explaining how.

I am just thinking if I add a little sweetness I can take away some of the harshness in the taste.

02-16-2010, 12:58 PM
You'll have to stabilize it, I'd give advice but it's not something I do myself, so try searching that term, or with an "ing" on the end, I think there are some threads with that right in the title.Should help I hope!

02-16-2010, 01:02 PM
Unless you are confident that you won't like dry mead, (e.g. you don't like dry wines, you can't stand any cocktails less sweet than a cosmopolitan, or you've tried a dry mead and didn't like it) it might be a good idea to wait with at least one of the dry batches because the harshness will go away with age and you might find that you enjoy it.

Just as I'm finishing this I got an email notification that AToE responded, and knowing his love of dry meads, he just might be saying the same thing, so my apologies if that is the case.

EDIT: I guess I'm not the Nostradamus I thought I was.

02-16-2010, 01:28 PM
No, you're right Slowbie, I wasn't recommending that he wait and see how it turns out dry, but I should have!

I think a lot of people aim for sweet because dry tastes so rough for the first few months because there's no sweetness to hide the yeasty taste and other rough young meads tastes. You can always backsweeten it at 5 months, but you can't un-sweeten it!

02-16-2010, 01:34 PM
Ok did the search for stabilizing and found it was just adding sulfite's and sorbate. I am allergic to sulfite's so won't be doing that.

I like the idea of just sitting on it for awhile. I am thinking at 6 months I will tweak them if I need too.

I am guessing that backsweeting them would be adding ounces of honey to the mead and gently stirring it in. Then sitting on it some more to make sure all the fermentation is complete and if the taste is ok, bottle.

02-16-2010, 02:03 PM
Yes, that is correct. I'll bet you like it dry though, meads in my experience continue to taste sweet to me even when the hydrometer says there is little or no sugar left.

02-16-2010, 02:18 PM
Just curious, but in 6 months how do I get the bubbles back? It's kinda the reason I used the champagne yeast in the first place.

02-16-2010, 03:04 PM
That's a whole 'nuther process called sparkling, and can only (as far as I know) be safely done on a completely dry mead (which means these all might still be fermenting, especially that orange blossom which is very sweet. Could you please post those again with their original gravities as well and how long they have been fermenting so we can see if any are stuck?).

What you do is let this age and clear for a while then you're going to add a pre-measured amount of sugar/honey into the must right before you bottle. Some people at this time also pitch a new packet of yeast (don't use goferm on it though, just rehydrate it). Then you absolutely have to use a strong bottle, either a beer or champagne bottle, a regular wine bottle cannot take any pressure - what kind of bottle you use will depend on how much sugar you added, this is something you'll want to study extensively before attempting. Over a period of time after bottling the yeast will eat all the sugar you added, which will create CO2 and pressurize the bottle, thus giving you bubbles! (You have to either use crown caps or champagne corks wired down, or the cork will just shoot out)

It should be mentioned that this is perfectly safe if you know how much sugar to add for how much you want it carbonated (often measured in atmospheres) and what bottle to use, and you start with a completely dry mead so that the results are predictable. Otherwise you could get what are literally bottle bombs that can do serious damage to yourself and your property.

I'd recommend doing some searches on "sparkling" "bottle conditioning" and "priming" to get started learning about this. I've only done it a few times myself, so I'm no expert on it.

Medsen Fey
02-16-2010, 03:57 PM
Oskaar's thread (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10638) regarding Champagne carbonation. There are some other good threads in the Patron's area on the subject.

02-16-2010, 04:22 PM
1/1/10 Star Thistle SG 1.100 today SG 1.002 Champagne Yeast
1/30/10 Killer Bee SG 1.094 today 1.024 D-47 Still Bubbling
2/1/10 Orange SG 1.106 today 1.030 Champagne Yeast still bubbling
Wild Flower SG 1.106 today 1.004 Champagne Yeast
Raspberry SG 1.106 today 1.000 Champagne Yeast

Was planning on racking the raspberry, wild flower and star thistle to get them off the lees. Seeing how the orange and killer are still brewing I was going to give them a week or two more.

Medsen Fey
02-16-2010, 05:59 PM
You have one potential problem. The is Pasteur Champagne yeast, which only has an alcohol tolerance of 14-15% ABV. You've started these batches with gravity to generate about 14% ABV so you may or may not get carbonation if you add more honey. Most of these batches have not gone completely dry (with gravities below 1.000) so carbonation in this case is not a sure thing.

Ideally if you want a carbonated result, you use a yeast such a EC-1118 (Premier Cuvee) or DV10 and keep the ABV in the 12% range, and makes sure it goes completely dry. Then add the amount of fermentable sugar (by weight) to get the carbonation you want. This approach is safest and gives the most consistent, and predictable results.

The good news is that if it doesn't carbonate, you will be left with a sweet result.

02-16-2010, 06:03 PM
Well that is very cool and will definitely try that on my next few batches.

I was also wondering if i rack these can I filter them through some cheese cloth to keep the lees out or is there a better method?

02-16-2010, 06:07 PM
Cheese cloth won't catch much, unless you have some large fruit chunks. Most racking canes have a cap thing on the end that causes the fluid to be sucked from around the top of the cap, so you just rack from above the lees trying to avoid distrubing them, at least until the very end. Sometimes some gets sucked through, or there is still yeast in suspension, so you end up having to rack a few times (usually seperated by weeks or months) before you totally get rid of them.