View Full Version : Raspberry AOM fermentation faked me out; can I fix it?

09-02-2010, 12:08 AM
Hi there,

I have made a handful of batches of fruit wine and skeeter pee. I made one batch of Joe's Ancient Orange that was most fabulous (with Red Star) in May, and this is my second AOM, to which I added raspberries. 1 gal recipe:

June 28
3.5-5 lbs honey (this was when I thought 16 oz of honey was 1 lb, so I'm not sure if my notes referred to actual or intended amounts)
1 orange, sliced
handful of raisins
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
some nutmeg
1 pint raspberries

I pitched K1V-1116, which failed. A day or two later, I pitched Fleishmann's. I didn't take an initial SG (I know, I know, but it's a PITA for 1 gal, and the first one was so easy with no SG, so I lazied out of the SG reading).

I had some troubles with the bubbling pushing raspberry mush up into my carboy neck, so there was near constant swirling for several weeks to keep the must floaties from clogging up my neck and airlock. I also moved from NC to PA (in July) in this process, keeping many gallons of fruit wine, a peach mel, and this stuff in my car under a cloth to keep the sun off. It was one day of driving. But the fermentation seemed to go as prescribed.

Problem: Today I go to bottle it (my oranges fell and everything!) I rack, it smells lovely, then I take my S.G. It's 1.128. I taste. It's very sweet, bit of berry flavor, but the SG indicates it didn't even ferment. There is no (or very little) alcohol-y essence like I noticed with AOM batch #1. So the question is can it be fixed? I believe that it went through a full fermentation, but either I started with some ungodly SG of 1.150 or the fermentation faked me out.

Right now I left all fruit lees at the bottom of my carboy with a few inches of mead, and put temporary caps on that, my bottles and on my wine thief with the hydrometer still in there. I hope I can salvage this somehow! Pour it back and try to restart ferment?

Thanks for any suggestions!

09-02-2010, 12:12 AM
I should note that I was consistent with my stupidity about volume/weight of honey. So, my first and very successful AOM was also made with what I thought was 3.5 lbs, but what I believe to actually have been 5 lbs. 6 weeks later, I started the above mead. So, I don't think too much honey up front would have been the sole issue. For both batches, I used 3 pints of local honey plus another 1/2 lb of Sue Bee dark stuff.

09-02-2010, 11:25 AM
Hi, Lindsay. Welcome to "GotMead"!!

Let's see if we can help you to figure this one out. First I have a question; did you measure the initial SG before you pitched your yeast? I know that you don't have to when making Joe's recipe, but if your quantities were off then not knowing exactly what you were starting with may be the root cause of your problem. Next, are you sure that you used exactly the same amount of honey in both batches?

Here is why I'm asking -- 3.5 lbs of honey into a 1 gallon total batch volume will yield a specific gravity around 1.120, which bread yeast will be able to tackle, and which K1V-1116 would blow right through without a hiccup. However, 5 lbs into a one gallon batch volume yields a starting gravity more like 1.160, which would stop bread yeast in its tracks, and would be a challenging ferment for any wine yeast, even K1V. So, careful measurements are really important.

Now, given that a gallon of honey weighs approximately 12 lbs, and there are 8 pints in a gallon, each pint would weigh around 1.5 lbs. You say that you used 3 pints plus 1/2 lb in both batches... well that's closer to 5 lbs than to 3.5 honey per batch, and I think you just got very lucky with the first batch that you did and your Red Star yeast was definitely working overtime! It is amazing that any yeast did more than an incidental attempt at fermentation in any must that heavy with sugar.

So, can you do anything with what you've got now? I'm afraid that your chances of getting fermentation restarted in this batch are pretty low, even though you've only got about 4.5% ABV in there at the moment. This would still present a challenging must (with the combination of ethanol and sugar) for any other yeast to attempt to ferment. You can search on the term "stuck fermentation" and you'll find a few discussions about how to build up an acclimated starter from some new yeast that you can then attempt to pitch into the batch, but re-starts of stuck batches are always problematic affairs.

If I were you, I'd instead make a batch of traditional mead that goes fully dry, and then blend it with the results of this attempt. In my opinion that would have the greatest chance of yielding something that would be a pleasing result.

09-02-2010, 06:20 PM
What about diluting it and repitching? If you cut the SG down to about 1.090-1.100, you could get yeast to ferment that even with the ~3.5% abv you'd be starting with.

09-03-2010, 09:26 PM
Ahh, blending sounds fairly easy, actually. I have a batch of Peach mel going that I racked yesterday. It's regular peach melomel, though, not based on an AOM (my first batch of traditional style), and I believe it is supposed to take much longer. It's still quite cloudy and is about 2 months old. I just bought some blueberry blossom honey and was going to start another batch of AOM with that and some blueberries thrown in. I guess I can wait a month or so to blend it with this raspberry.

So to save this batch for the remaining month or two, do I rack it all back into a carboy, then? Should I let it sit on the lees? It's several inches of lees and orange and such. Or should I rack it into a clean carboy and top with water, then take an adjusted SG? And should I add Campden at this time? I would for wine, but properly done AOM doesn't need it, and I'm not sure about this.

Thank you for the suggestions!

09-03-2010, 10:17 PM
*scratches head*


09-04-2010, 08:51 AM
Sorry, I'm usually on the winepress.us forums, and they call Joe's Ancient Orange Mead AOM for short.

09-04-2010, 12:48 PM
Round here folks usually call it JAO. ;)

09-04-2010, 02:26 PM
Round here folks usually call it JAO. ;)

Sorry to hijack but mmclean that statement combined with your avatar made me laugh out loud. It's perfect........now get me a sarsparilla, I'm thirsty! :)

09-08-2010, 11:39 PM
To get back to your questions, lithigin (sorry, I've been busy with other things of late), I'd leave the current batch bottled as-is until I had a dry batch ready to blend with it. Less handling means less exposure to oxygen (a good thing this late in the game), and also less likelihood of introducing a spoilage organism. Once your dry batch is ready, I'd rack these bottled sweet results into a carboy along with the dry batch until you have next to no airspace in the carboy, then allow the result to age a bit until the flavors all meld before bottling the final result. Extended aging of any JAO on the lees isn't a good idea, since the bread yeast won't be neutral tasting as it autolyzes. However, the K1V that you pitched would be OK for extended lees aging.

But watch those bottles carefully. This batch might just spontaneously re-start fermentation on its own, which could possibly result in bottle bombs if you aren't careful. I'd store the bottles in a very cool place (the fridge, if possible) until it comes time to blend the batches.