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View Full Version : SG Slow to Drop - Still in Primary



Oregon Wino
01-29-2011, 04:21 PM
First time making a 5 gallon batch of straight honey mead. Started with about 14 pounds of honey.

January 17th - Everything in the primary except yeast. SG 1.110

January 19th - Lalvin ICV-D47 Yeast added

January 29th - SG 1.090

I expected a bigger drop in SG after 10 days. Still bubbling, but slowed down a lot. Should I leave in primary or transfer to secondary glass carboy with airlock? I do have a couple packages of Lalvin 71B-1122 here if you think the D47 is reaching it's capacity...

Ideas? Suggestions?

wayneb
01-29-2011, 05:09 PM
Welcome to "Gotmead?" Oregon Wino!!

D47 should take an initial gravity of 1.110 to total dryness without any trouble, unless something else is going on.

I have two questions for you before I make any suggestions. First, do you have any way to measure the pH of this must? If the pH is too low (and this is a common problem in traditional musts), your yeast will stall.

Second, did you add any yeast nutrients to the mix?

Oregon Wino
01-29-2011, 07:51 PM
Just checked the ph and it is 9
Used nutrient at the start...

fatbloke
01-29-2011, 08:17 PM
Just checked the ph and it is 9
Used nutrient at the start...
Erm, I'm thinking that you might need to double check that pH

Because a pH of 9 is suggesting that it's so alkali as to be a fair way to water with a load of chalk in it or so damn hard as to be virtually unusable.

We have hard water here that shows as calcium deposits in the kettle after a while but even then it measures as something like 7.2 pH

If I just use tap water and then mix in my honey (about 3 to 3.5lb per imperial gallon/4.55 litres), the honey is acidic enough usually to drop it to pH 4 or there abouts.

Yeast does like an acid environment, but damn, pH 9 ? that might go some way to explaining a slow ferment.

If it does transpire that the pH really is that high, then I'd be thinking of adding some acid of some sort - my favourite for traditionals is a mix of 2 parts malic to 1 part tartaric. I'd have thought that your ratio of honey to water is about the same as what I get with the above quantities (I usually get a starting gravity of about 1.100 or so with the 3 to 3.5lb per gallon/4.55ltr).

Or was there something in the recipe that might have pushed this batch to be very alkali ???

regards

fatbloke

p.s. there's a pH range that I've read about in various threads, memory says it's 3.2 to 3.8 pH, so 3.5 is usually about right. I'd start with 1 tsp of acid and then check the measurements (after having confirmed that the pH really is as high as you think - distilled or just boiled water that's been cooled should give about 7 pH as a guesstimate marker)

Oregon Wino
01-29-2011, 08:35 PM
I think I'll check it again. I used Walmart Spring water, can't believe it would be that high.

Chevette Girl
01-30-2011, 05:45 AM
Hard water can sometimes be very alkaline, I had a lot of trouble keeping fish at my parents' place, and every time I tried to adjust the pH to something closer to neutral it would bounce right back up within a couple of days, but it was so long ago I don't remember exactly how alkaline it was.

And just for comparison, the pH of city water in Ottawa is around 8.1 (or at least it was when I was working at the filtration plant), they add lime to it specifically because it makes it taste sweeter. Hardens it about 4 grains too...

So it might be possible that a really tasty spring water could be very hard water and very alkaline... if the water's cheap, you might consider testing it (and the must) again, and of course make sure your pH meter is calibrated (or check your strips against distilled water, which should be 7.0 bang on)...

fatbloke
01-30-2011, 06:00 AM
I think I'll check it again. I used Walmart Spring water, can't believe it would be that high.
No, neither can I. I know that a lot of mead makers in the US do like to use bottled spring water - by it's very nature, spring waters are often soft water or fractionally below pH7 (somehting like 6.8 or 6.9 pH).

Which is why I suggested a retest.

CG's comment about water for fish is about right. We had to often add a few drops of acid to our tap water to bring the pH down a little for the fish. So if you have distilled water, or even just cooled boiled water, it should be pretty close spot on to 7.0 pH (neutral) with either test strips or a pH meter.

regards

fatbloke

Oregon Wino
01-30-2011, 08:29 PM
I retested and am embarrassed to say that I made a huge mistake. The reading of 9 is correct, but it is not a ph test I was using, it was a titratable acidity test kit. ph is still showing very neutral, around 7.2

SG dropped overnight and is now 1.080 although there is now very little foam on top.

Wondering if I should add another pack of yeast or wait and see what happens in the next few days.

wayneb
01-30-2011, 08:43 PM
What are you using to test pH? I ask because generally speaking, if you're relying on strips, they may not be very accurate (especially those that can read in the 7 to 9 range -- that's awfully high for a mead must, no matter what the water source).

Chevette Girl
01-30-2011, 09:42 PM
I'd recommend aerating the heck out of it for a couple more days, I don't know if you need more yeast seeing as how what you've got in there does seem to be doing something now... but if you do, I'd suggest you make an acclimated starter since your must seems to be hard for your yeast to deal with.

tweak'e
01-31-2011, 03:18 AM
January 17th - Everything in the primary except yeast. SG 1.110

January 19th - Lalvin ICV-D47 Yeast added

.....

hi all.
sorry to drop right in but just wondering if the two day wait before adding the yeast could have slowed down the start of the yeast?

Dan McFeeley
01-31-2011, 05:01 AM
Ditto on that, plus, it might be helpful to let us know how you added the yeast. Was it rehydrated? What was the temperature of the rehydrated yeast solution v/s temperature of the honey must?

--

Oregon Wino
02-01-2011, 08:00 PM
Update - I racked it at 1.080 into my glass carboy yesterday. Today, I'm at 1.075 but have nothing...no bubbles at all in the carboy, not even the tiny ones I have seen in my other batches of wine. I have an air-lock on but there is NO gas pushing the water in the lock. It appears that I've reached the end.

Question - As it appears it's dead, should I transfer it back into the primary, introduce another packet of yeast?

I really don't want to toss 14 pounds of honey!!!

Medsen Fey
02-01-2011, 08:10 PM
Racking is a good way to turn a slow, struggling fermentation into a stuck one as you leave a lot of active yeast behind.

Throwing in more yeast may not be helpful unless you've fixed whatever has cause the initial ones to have problems. If you need to pitch another yeast at some point, 71B won't be a helpful one to pitch. You'll need something good for restarts like Uvaferm 43, EC-1118, DV10, or something like that.

Why don't you start by providing the detail of your recipe including all additions and their amounts, and including the details of how you prepared the yeast, and what method you used to test the pH as has been requested. That will probably help folks here to get your fermentation on the right track.

Endeavor to persevere!
Medsen

Oregon Wino
02-01-2011, 08:44 PM
Here's the process I used...

14 pounds of blackberry and clover processed honey
Bottled spring water to bring to 5 gallons
6 tablespoons acid blend
1 teaspoon wine tannin
2 tablespoons yeast nutrient

Combined all above with 5 campden tablets on January 17th. SG 1.110

January 19th - Added package of dry yeast, D47

Kept temp of must right around 70 degrees and stirred daily.

January 29th - SG 1.090 light foaming, maybe a quarter inch throughout this time. Checked Acidity - 9. Later checked ph with test strip, showed right around area of 7

January 30th - SG 1.080. Foaming slowing down a lot. Aerating still daily. Good odor of yeast, just not much visible action.

January 31st - At suggestion of EC Kraus, added more nutrient and mag sulfate and put in secondary.

February 1st - SG 1.075. No action apparent at all.

Medsen Fey
02-01-2011, 09:18 PM
Okay, I think I see the problem. 6 Tablespoons is a HUGE amount of acid, and your pH is probably too low for the yeast to work. Check your pH strips in vinegar to see if they are giving you a proper reading, I don't believe your pH is 7.0

If the pH strips you are using are not in the range of 3-4.5, you are using strips that aren't designed for making wine. I'd get some, or get a pH meter (calibrated properly) and take a reading. You probably don't have to worry about spoilage in the meantime because it is going to be very difficult for anything to grow in this batch if the pH is as low as I expect that it is - virtually nothing will grow in battery acid.

What temperature are you maintaining?

Oregon Wino
02-01-2011, 09:47 PM
This is the recipe I was using: http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-mead-honey.html

Temp has dropped since I put in secondary. I'll warm it back up to 70

I'll get a better ph test kit tomorrow

Medsen Fey
02-01-2011, 09:58 PM
This is the recipe I was using: http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-mead-honey.html


I understand.
Unfortunately honey musts are different from fruit wines, and what works with fruit juice, doesn't always work so well with mead. I realize that this is a mead recipe, but it was put together by someone used to making fruit wines. Meads don't have a lot of buffering capacity so when you add a lot of acid up front, it can cause the yeast to stall due to the low pH.

You don't need a test kit - that is measuring titratable acid. You need either pH strips (designed for wine range) or a pH meter (and calibration solutions).

Oregon Wino
02-01-2011, 11:13 PM
Okay.... bummer.... I'll pick up ph strips or a meter tomorrow. I'll get some yeast as you advised to kick it up again if it comes to that...

wayneb
02-02-2011, 12:09 AM
While you're out shopping, pick up some potassium carbonate or postassium bicarbonate as well. Medsen is completely correct - that much acid blend in a honey must will skew the pH way down, most likely enough to staunch the performance of all typical wine yeasts. In order to save this must you will very likely need to neutralize the acid that is in there.

Note: You may require several TBSP of the potassium carbonate to neutralize all the extra acid in there. This may result in an excess of potassium salts at the end of fermentation that may make the finished mead taste ever so slightly salty. Still, that is better than a stuck, way too sweet finish. Another thing that you might consider if you don't want to risk the salt flavor is to blend equal parts of this must with some fresh must, to which you've added no acid blend. That might, in combination with less potassium carbonate, be enough to bring the pH back up to a point where your yeast will be happy.

BTW - That recipe was almost certainly "developed" by someone who never attempted to ferment it themselves. As Medsen noted, it is typical for wine recipes (or other fruit recipes) where there isn't enough natural acidity from the fruit to "spike it" a little with some acid blend. Back in the meadmaking stone ages (and I know all about that time - I was making meads back then!), we thought that acid blend was required since measurements of TA always came out low. However, we didn't at that time appreciate that the chemistry of mead is really fundamentally different from that of grape or fruit wines. Adding acid to most recipes is almost never required, since the finished mead will almost always have enough gluconic acid present from the honey to present a nice tangy sensation in the mouth. Acid blend should only be used when it is absolutely required, and only added after fermentation is done -- and only added to taste.

Oregon Wino
02-03-2011, 06:38 PM
Thursday, Feb 3rd update. ph is 3.2
After the 5 gallons warmed back up, it's now blowing one bubble through the airlock every 4 seconds.
I'm thinking this is a good thing although I haven't taken another SG reading as it's still cooking in the secondary.

Medsen Fey
02-03-2011, 07:04 PM
I'd strongly consider using some potassium bicarbonate and/or calcium carbonate to bring that pH to 3.4-3.5.

Oregon Wino
02-03-2011, 07:26 PM
I just added a teaspoon of Potassium Carbonate and had a hell of a reaction, kind of like shaking a bottle of beer and opening it, it foamed big time and shot out the top of the carboy...... what the heck???

Medsen Fey
02-03-2011, 07:30 PM
Dissolve in a tiny bit of warm water and pour in slowly next time and you shouldn't get a gusher.

Check the pH in an hour or two and you'll be able to see where it is.

Shadar Aman
02-03-2011, 07:30 PM
I just added a teaspoon of Potassium Carbonate and had a hell of a reaction, kind of like shaking a bottle of beer and opening it, it foamed big time and shot out the top of the carboy...... what the heck???

Acid base reaction releases CO2. Same thing that happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda.

wayneb
02-03-2011, 07:33 PM
Ahh... well it is likely that you have two things going on in there. First, CO2 naturally builds up to a saturation level in any fermenting must and whenever you introduce any dry crystals of any kind into the must, they serve as nucleation points where CO2 will be brought out of solution and will then bubble up out of the must. So we usually recommend that before you add any dry chemical to a fermenting must, that you dissolve it in a little cool water first. Sorry - we forgot to mention that this time! ;)

Also, the reaction that takes place when potassium carbonate is added to an acidic must releases CO2 as part of the neutralization of some of that acid. So, that's the other source of the CO2 that you observed as a mini mead eruption. The other thing that we forgot to mention, is that any chemical that will release CO2 when added to your must, should be added slowly.

Oh, and although Medsen said warm water, I always advise cool water for a carbonate or bicarbonate addition. Especially for bicarbonates, since potassium bicarb will dissociate into potassium carbonate and CO2 when it is exposed to temperatures above 120F. That reduces the acid neutralization potential slightly - and I figure that I want all the potential that I can get working in my mead, not lost to the air before it gets added. :)

Oregon Wino
02-03-2011, 07:57 PM
LMAO! Just a MINOR detail you forgot to mention!!!!!

Okay, got about 3 teaspoons in and had to top it off with a quart or so of water to bring it back up to the neck of the carboy, so am going to wait a couple hours to test the pH again...

Medsen Fey
02-03-2011, 08:20 PM
Given the large amount of acid you added, you'll probably be okay having added so much bicarbonate, but you don't really want to add that much at once in most cases. I probably wouldn't add more the 1/2 tsp at a time. You don't want to overshoot going the other way - you just want to nudge the pH up a little bit.

Oregon Wino
02-06-2011, 04:30 PM
Update! Okay, got the pH at 3.5 in the secondary and it's bubbling now like no tomorrow. The yeast must like it. I'll let it go for a while until the bubbling slows, don't believe there is any use in checking the SG right now. Thanks for all your help and suggestions, it appears to be working!

fatbloke
02-06-2011, 06:20 PM
Update! Okay, got the pH at 3.5 in the secondary and it's bubbling now like no tomorrow. The yeast must like it. I'll let it go for a while until the bubbling slows, don't believe there is any use in checking the SG right now. Thanks for all your help and suggestions, it appears to be working!
Excellent to read that it seems the problem is solved.....

As for not checking the gravity, if you have the fermenter open it's always worth while checking that, as it gives you some guidance as to how it's all actually progressing.

You'd be surprised how quickly some ferments are......

regards

fatbloke