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jon667
07-12-2011, 11:52 PM
I started a batch of mead (14.5 lbs honey to bring to 5 gal., white lab sweet mead yeast, small bit of yeast energizer; OG= 1.095) about 13 days ago from a two day starter. It has slowly bubbled on since and is now bubbling about once every 20-25 seconds.
I finally summoned the courage to take a SG reading and low and behold...I've got piss poor fermentation. My OG was 1.095 and now I'm at 1.090.
I'm looking at almost 2 weeks and have less than 1% alcohol.
I tried a bit and it taste okay, like sparkling honey water.
What to do here?!

Potential problems: Low acidity? Only shook the primary once or twice the second day?

kudapucat
07-13-2011, 01:31 AM
I started a batch of mead (14.5 lbs honey to bring to 5 gal., white lab sweet mead yeast, small bit of yeast energizer; OG= 1.095) about 13 days ago from a two day starter. It has slowly bubbled on since and is now bubbling about once every 20-25 seconds.
I finally summoned the courage to take a SG reading and low and behold...I've got piss poor fermentation. My OG was 1.095 and now I'm at 1.090.
I'm looking at almost 2 weeks and have less than 1% alcohol.
I tried a bit and it taste okay, like sparkling honey water.
What to do here?!

Potential problems: Low acidity? Only shook the primary once or twice the second day?

Second stuck ferment question today...
Run a search on stuck ferments, there's a heap of information here.
You may have low pH, you may have other issues. Do a search, understand what a stuck ferment is, and then you'll be able to ask better questions.

fatbloke
07-13-2011, 06:11 AM
+1 with kudapucat.

Plus, it's a little annoying that new mead makers see both the wyeast and white labs sweet mead yeast packs (where stocked) and figure that's got to be the stuff to use.

Unfortunately, both have a reputation for being very finicky yeast to use (dunno if they're the same strain or not).

Don't know about the white labs one, but the wyeast sweetmead yeast has a tolerance of about 11% ABV, which is fine, but with an OG or 1.095 (taking 1.000 as dry), that would represent a possible 12.9% ABV.

Plus, what with honey musts being quite acidic anyway (the acidity is masked by the sweetness), and the fact that honey musts tend to swing quite wildly on the pH scale during the ferment, high acid/low pH is entirely possible. The "sweet spot" is about 3.4 pH and if it drops below about 3.0 pH there's a great possibility of a stuck ferment.

I'm thinking that if your pH is getting low, even having made a starter, there might not be enough nutrient in the must for the yeast colony to grow at any speed, hence the slow (non existent) fermentation.

so as kudapucat mentions, you can either try to treat it as a stuck ferment, though if your readings are correct, I'd just re-pitch some "better" yeast. K1V-1116 would be what I'd go for, as it's got a high tolerance, it's got the "killer" factor where it will become the dominant yeast, it's a low nutrient requirement yeast and has a wide temperature range tolerance.

Oh, and if you haven't already, then have a good read of the newbie guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14) as it would answer quite a lot of any questions you might have.

Either way, not to worry as it's not messed up really, just the inconvenience of not having progressed as you'd have liked it too

regards

fatbloke

jon667
07-13-2011, 12:18 PM
thanks for getting back.

I used WLP720 Sweet Mead/Wine Yeast (tolerance 15%).

I asked this question outside of the normal "stuck fermentation" just due to the amount of time that has passed (two weeks). This isn't like 3 days in, which seems to be most of the stuck fermentation posts I have seen.
If all the suggestions are the same, awesome!
However, I already added the recommended yeast nutrient so I hesitate to add more. I've got some lovely apricots I could add (a bit of nitrogen), would that be okay?
I gave it a healthy stir and will re-pitch in a week or two if I don't see improvement.

Thanks again

AToE
07-13-2011, 01:24 PM
"Stuck" actually generally means "permanently or at least for a loooooong time unless fixed" most of the time it's used, so yes, general suggestions for dealing with it will (hopefully) be effective.

That yeast is notorious, I wish I could just email the manufacturer and tell them to take "mead" off the label so people stop thinking it's a good yeast to use for mead. Heck, I'm sure it's a fine yeast if you know just how to work with it perfectly, but even many experienced mead makers get stuck fermentations with it.

Chevette Girl
07-13-2011, 11:31 PM
Plus, it's a little annoying that new mead makers see both the wyeast and white labs sweet mead yeast packs (where stocked) and figure that's got to be the stuff to use.

Well, what do you do when you're new at something? Look at the labels! No other yeast says it's good for mead, does it? And a lot of times the folks who work at the local brew shops don't make mead and so don't know any better when the novice asks what yeast is good... too bad it's not like it says on the tin!!

kudapucat
07-13-2011, 11:50 PM
Well, what do you do when you're new at something? Look at the labels! No other yeast says it's good for mead, does it? And a lot of times the folks who work at the local brew shops don't make mead and so don't know any better when the novice asks what yeast is good... too bad it's not like it says on the tin!!

I don't think he was blaming the newbees, more the ppl who called it that.
I too think it's really annoying that the only yeast labled mead is not the best, or in some cases even any good for making mead.
Especially calling it a sweet mead yeast, like the yeast guarantees a sweet mead!
And you're right about the brew shops, every single brewshop I have been to says EC-1118 is the best yeast for mead, and well, I haven't used it since my first batch ;-)

YogiBearMead726
07-14-2011, 11:28 AM
Kind of surprised that no one mentioned it yet, but a two day starter seems like quite a long time. Most starters are best used as soon as foaming is evident. Left for too long, and the yeast won't be able to cope with being dumped into a higher gravity/larger volume of must.

I do agree that White Labs Sweet Mead Yeast is pretty notorious for poor fermentations, but I don't think the two-day starter helped any. Next time, pitch as soon as fermentation has visibly kicked off.

Edit: Keep in mind that yeast will not reproduce indefinitely. Once they reach a certain number of divisions, that's all they'll do. So the yeast probably got acclimated to the starter and wasn't able to keep dividing to reach an appropriate bio-mass in the 5 gallon volume, hence poor/slow fermentation.

jon667
07-14-2011, 12:22 PM
Yogi,
thanks for the info!
I staggered the starter a bit, adding more honey/water on the second day, but I was definitely under the impression that a starter gets better with time and additional additions of mini-"must".
Next time I'll follow your advice and pitch as soon as i see foaming.

Chevette Girl
07-14-2011, 01:57 PM
I don't think he was blaming the newbees, more the ppl who called it that.
I too think it's really annoying that the only yeast labled mead is not the best, or in some cases even any good for making mead.
Especially calling it a sweet mead yeast, like the yeast guarantees a sweet mead!
And you're right about the brew shops, every single brewshop I have been to says EC-1118 is the best yeast for mead, and well, I haven't used it since my first batch ;-)

Well, sure it ensures a sweet mead when it stops halfway or doesn't go anywhere at all!! :) Maybe everyone who's ever had a problem with it should send an email like AToE suggests... (I've never seen it, I think Ottawa only has Lalvin for wine yeasts!)

Well, they're probably right about 1118 for the fact that you can dump it in almost anything and get it to ferment with or without a starter, and if they have the preconcieved notion that all meads are all high-grav starts and intended to finish very sweet, I can see why they'd suggest it, it probably is the best selection if that's what you're doing... except that's not always what we're doing... I have no complaints about 1118 myself but I'm starting to explore other options now that I've found a store that stocks more than 1116 and 1118 :).

And jon667, I think the trick with any starter is not to let it think it's done its job, you have to get it started, keep it going and then get it into the must before it thinks it's done, and delaying too long between "feedings" could give your yeasties the wrong idea and cause them to go dormant again... especially with this notoriously finicky strain. Never having used it, I don't know what its enclosed instructions are but it's usually a good starting point to follow the manufacturer's recommendations, one would HOPE they've done their research on how best to use their product!

Good luck with getting it to pick up and carry on!