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Twofox
06-23-2010, 08:38 PM
Hi all, new to the boards here, but I've been brewing ale for awhile now.

The wife and I started making meads a couple months ago. We each have one going with wlp720 sweet mead yeast and for the first month or two, they did great, then slowed way down to about 1 bubble every 2 mins.

We'll use her's as the example since mine is a strawberry melomel and already racked to fining.

Her's started out at 1.111 and after about 2 months is at 1.042 or so. The question is, can that be finished? I've seen some recipes that state they end at 1.050, etc. It tastes ok, seems to be done, but should we just let it sit and finish or rack and start aging?

(It's a show mead 2.5 gallons with 7 pounds of mesquite honey)

Jord
06-23-2010, 10:16 PM
As I've come to learn from some of the more knowledgeable folks around here traditional (or show) meads tend to suffer from pH problems and lack of nutrients that can cause the fermentation to stall. Do you have any way to test the pH of the batch? A small addition of a form of carbonate could be all you need to get the fermentation going again. I'm sure others will chime in with more detailed information.

AToE
06-23-2010, 10:18 PM
As long as you're aging under airlock you might as well rack, the yeast won't know what kind of container it's in. ;) I've heard that yeast does tend to "stall" (finish higher than it should have given it's rated ABV tolerance) so it may well be done. Of course, that's not high ABV at all, so the danger of a restart is pretty high - I would stabilize with sulphite and sorbate or let it age for a good long time before bottling.

Medsen Fey
06-24-2010, 09:12 AM
If you will provide the full details of the recipe, including nutrients and any other additions, fermentation temp, aeration, etc., folks may be able to give more suggestions. If you have a way to measure the pH that would be a good idea.

PamW
06-24-2010, 12:37 PM
Hey all, its The Wife mentioned in this thread.

I've been keeping notes regarding the show mead I started.

Start date 4-8-2010 using the no-heat method outlined in The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm. Cleaned and sanitized everything that came in contact with the must.

Mixed 7 lbs. mesquite honey with distilled water to 2.5 gallons in a glass carboy w/rubber stopper and S shaped airlock filled with Star-San solution used for sanitizing. Added WLP720 yeast @ 74 degrees. Ph 3.70, OG 1.111, Brix 26. No fermentation noted after 16 hours. Added 1 tsp nutrient and aerated w/lees stirrer. Active fermentation noted 20 hrs after nutrient added, 36 hrs after pitching yeast.

Daytime temps are 75 degrees, lowering to 73 at night.

5-15-2010 SG 1.059, Ph 3.39, Brix 14.5. Added 1 tsp calcium carbonate to raise Ph to 3.82 after racking to a different carboy. Day/night temps are still consistent.

Starting in June, the fermentation has slowed to aprox 1 bubble every 2 to 3 minutes.

6-21-2010 SG 1.045, Ph 3.94, Brix 11. Day/night temps are still 75/73 (despite outside temps being over 100 for most of June) Tried a taste and the honey flavor hits first, but is overpowered by the hot alcohol almost immediately. From what I've read, this is typical of a young mead.

All readings were done with a refractometer that measures brix and abv.

I've read that if the SG doesn't change over a week's time that the fermentation is finished even though bubbles are still coming through the airlock. Is there another way to tell when a fermentation is done that I'm not finding?

Thank you all!

wayneb
06-24-2010, 12:56 PM
The best way to tell is once you note that SG hasn't changed for a week or longer, rack off of the lees (into another carboy, ideally leaving as little headspace as possible) and check SG in another week or so. If it has still not moved, it is likely that the majority of your yeast have given up and fermentation is effectively over.

HOWEVER - whenever there are unfermented sugars left behind in a "finished" mead, if you don't stabilize the mead with sulphite and sorbate or by sterile sub-micron filtration, there is always a potential for a fermentation re-start. Yeast can go dormant for days, weeks, or even months and for reasons not entirely predictable they can come out of dormancy and start to ferment again. If this happens after bottling you can end up with over-pressurized bottles of sparkling mead, often referred to around here as potential bottle bombs.

ONE OTHER NOTE - the White Labs and Wyeast strains of "Sweet Mead" yeast are notoriously variable in performance. Sometimes they ferment way past their rated ethanol tolerance, but more often they stick at points far short of that predicted target. When you use one of them (as you did), YMWV ("will vary"), even between identically made and managed batches! ;)

Welcome to the "Gotmead" community, By the Way! ;D

PamW
06-24-2010, 01:16 PM
Thank you very much for the welcome and the information! I'll test again next week (and the week after, and the week after) and go forward once the SG stabilizes.

I was planning on fining with gelatin after stabilizing with sulfite and sorbate, then racking into another glass carboy. I was also planning on bulk aging under an airlock at about 62 to 65 degrees and then bottling after 3 to 4 months just to be sure I don't end up with any bottle bombs. My DH, Twofox, nearly had a few of those with one of his ales and I found it a bit scary. Am I on track with my fining and aging plans?

In the meanwhile, my first batch of JAOM turned out fantastic and I learned the lesson of "not making a larger batch". The current batch of Joe's is a 3 gallon and should be ready in early August so I can bottle for Christmas presents.

Medsen Fey
06-24-2010, 01:25 PM
Watching for stability of the gravity is the best way to confirm that a mead is finished, however you may need to watch for a month or more to be certain it is not still dropping ever so slowly.

Your mead isn't finished, it is stuck/sluggish. The early racking may have left a lot of active yeast behind and may be in part causing the slow fermentation. Generally with a traditional mead (the term "show mead" is reserved for meads without nutrients or other additives) I let them finish before racking to reduce this problem. Also, your yeast are probably hungry if you only gave them 1 tsp of nutrient in a 3 gallon batch.

That yeast strain should take this batch close to dry if it ferments to completion as it has an alcohol tolerance near 14-15%. At your current point you have about 8.5% ABV. If you are happy with it at this level of sweetness you don't have to worry about encouraging the yeast and can let it sit and clear. You will want to stabilize with something like sorbate and sulfite to prevent it from restarting fermentation later on (like after it is bottled).

If you are not happy with it at this level of sweetness you can try to encourage the yeast by feeding them. I would suggest something like Fermaid K which contains autolyzed yeast along with DAP as an energizer formula - dosed with at least 3 teaspoons, and I'd aerate it well to try to encourage the yeast to reproduce and get going.

I hope that helps.

And Welcome to GotMead!

Medsen

wayneb
06-24-2010, 01:26 PM
Your plan is good, but you probably won't get much additional benefit from a gelatin fining. I'm a big proponent of letting meads clear on their own. Unlike with beers where you might have loads of misc. proteins (from the grains) that you're trying to clear, with a traditional mead you're just waiting for the remaining yeast to drop out once they've gone dormant or been dispatched by the sulphite. Patience has its inherent rewards for mead, because not fining will leave you with a little more of the honey aromatics, and that will make for a more satisfying mead once all is said and done.

PamW
06-24-2010, 02:12 PM
Thank you Medsen for the additional information and the welcome!

I was wanting a fairly sweet mead and I'm not terribly interested in a high ABV at this point in time, so I'll let it go as is until the SG levels out. After the sorbate and sulfites have done their work, I'll rack it again. What are the most common adverse effects of letting a sluggish fermentation continue? The one taste I had on 6-21-2010 started off nice, but the hot alcohol really killed any other tastes that might be lurking. No hint of a yeasty taste even.

The only reason I added any nutrient in the first place was because after 16 hrs there was no sign of fermentation beginning. I'm guessing I might have panicked?

My next attempt at a true show mead will be from mostly mesquite honey from a local beekeeper and I'll be using the 71B yeast mentioned so often on here.

Thank you Wayne for the additional encouragement regarding patience. Mesquite honey has a wonderful scent and I'd like to keep as much of that as I can. I've been telling friends that this should be ready to try about this time next year. I might extend that to Christmas time next year even.

thanks!

Twofox
06-24-2010, 05:17 PM
/bows to all and thanks them for the weclome! :cool:

d.j.patterson
06-25-2010, 11:09 AM
PamW,

As others have mentioned this yeast varies widely in it's performance. I made an Orange Melomel using it and it took over 60 hours to start. :eek: I went into a panic as well.

For your mesquite show mead, I would recommend ICV-D21. It enhances the mesquite character nicely and performs extremely well at 73-75*F. It is available from morewine.com See my brewlog entitled Taste O' Texas Traditional for more info.

Actually an even better idea is to become a patron and see Oskaarz Sweet Petite Mesquite recipe. Oskaar's recipes and yeast info is worth the cost of patronage by itself.

This recipe is so far my absolute favorite. Best of luck to you.

PamW
06-26-2010, 04:59 PM
D.J.

Thank you for the info! I'm beginning to understand why there isn't much info out there regarding the yeast I used. Lesson learned, more research/reading needed on my end of things and don't always believe what's on the packaging (or the beer brewers at the LHBS). Becoming a Patron is going to have to wait a little bit, but is on the 'schedule'. 60 hours to start?!? I would have been frantic.

Now I'm torn between the info Oskaar put out regarding the 71B and the D21 you mention. Oh heck.. when the time comes I'll just confiscate the kitchen space and do one of each!

Thank you all for the terrific info! Off to test weekly and practice my patience in ignoring it between tests.