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View Full Version : A few questions about my first batch (help!)



HumanBlockhead
10-08-2011, 08:27 PM
I'll start with my recipe....

Yeast: Lalvin 71B-1122(5g) pitched 8/20/11

hydrated per instructions provided by mfg.
Nutrient: Go-Ferm (6.25g)

used according to instructions provided by mfg.
Honey: 15 lbs
Water to = 5 gal. (US) total.
Sulfites: (5) Campden Tablets, crushed. Added to must after introduction of yeast (8/20)
Fermaid-K (1 tsp) added 9/23

Average temperature during ferment approx 68-72F


OG (calculated using gotmead.com calc): 1.115
this correlates with my first potential alcohol reading of 15%


Current Gravity: somewhere around 0.99x
about 2 weeks ago, but I checked it after a glass or 2 of wine. I neglected to write down the gravity.

The mead was racked 9/16, as I've seen a bit of discussion on the forums discussing "off" flavors from sitting on the lees for too long.

Here's my main question:
I've noticed (within the past week or so) a layer of white bubbles on the surface of the mead. They were not there previously, and this being my first batch of fermenting anything, I'm wondering if this is normal. With the gravity being so low, I would think that the yeast has reached the limits of it's alcohol tolerance, and the available sugars.

Or... have I unwittingly infected the mead?

In either case, I appreciate the collective wisdom of the forum, and look forward to any help you can provide.


Here's a picture of the bubbles:
(the white ones on the right are the concern, the brown ones to the left have been there all along)
http://i154.photobucket.com/albums/s253/humanblockhead/Mead/P1320317.jpg

AToE
10-08-2011, 08:50 PM
You're probably fine (as long as it doesn't smell like vinegar), it is probably just yeast - BUT you have a LOT of headroom there and that's a problem for both oxidization and spoilage, because most spoilage organisms require O2. So you're going to need to rack into a smaller container, or find a way to top it off to just around the beginning of where the neck gets narrow (I'm finding recently that synthetic corks work fantastically for this purpose).

One mistake (other than the headroom thing) - you added the sulphite AFTER adding the yeast. Sulphur's use is mainly to kill things, so if you're using it you add it, then wait 24 hours (it dissapates) and then add the yeast (also, it's really completely unnecessary unless you have some fruit in there that you're worried about being contaminated... but hey, sulphites are better than the old technique of boiling!). LUCKILY, wine yeasts have a very high tolerance of sulphur... as you've seen here by them not only surviving, but surpassing their rated ABV tolerance!

Good work though, you've done a better job than the vast majority (myself included) of first timers do!

HumanBlockhead
10-08-2011, 08:58 PM
Thanks, AToE. I've been contemplating the headspace thing, I should have thought ahead and made a few gallons of must to top off after racking. Live and learn... I'm contemplating re-sulphiting (as I didn't sulphite in between rackings... I figured I'd kill my yeast)I'll probably get a 3 gal carboy from the LHBS, rack into that and perhaps share the "extra" gallon with my family as a pre-winter treat.

AToE
10-08-2011, 09:10 PM
Oh don't worry, the headspace thing is a problem to manage even for those with experience from time to time! Adding some more sulphites might not be a terrible idea, but I'd hang on and see what someone more experienced than myself recommends for amounts, because there is such a thing as too much!

The good news too is that if it is still fermenting at all, the CO2 produced will help protect it.

EDIT: oh, and don't be discouraged if this is horrible for the next while - it's high ABV and very dry, both of those require a lot of age. You'll be absolutely blown away by the transformations this will go through given time.

Soyala_Amaya
10-09-2011, 10:01 AM
Your other option would be to mix up some honey syrup (raw honey with as little warm water as possible to make it stirable) and use that to top off/backsweeten. You've got it REALLY dry right now, and unless you know you like dry wines, most people tend to prefer a sweeter mead, just on a day to day basis. It'll dilute it a bit, lowering the ABV, and make it not take QUITE as long to age...but I still recommend at minimum of 6-8 months before sharing, and 1-1.5 years is MUCH better!

Edit: WELCOME TO GOTMEAD! May you have fun in your new addic...hobby. :)

HumanBlockhead
10-09-2011, 10:05 AM
You've got it REALLY dry right now, and unless you know you like dry wines...
I was aiming for a dry wine ;) ,and I was planning on aging for around a year or so.

Chevette Girl
10-09-2011, 10:21 AM
You're right in assuming that at .999 your yeast are out of food, and at 15% they've probably done about all they're going to do since that yeast is rated for 14% on the yeast table... Otherwise I'd recommend making up some honey water to top up with and hope they finish it, but I wouldn't bet on it in this case. Your plan to get a 3-gal carboy sounds good! Looks like you're only short maybe a half gallon, so if you want to experiment, you could also get a 1-gal jug and either try backsweetening it with some honey water to see if you might like it sweeter, or spicing it up with something (cinnamon, vanilla, your favourite spice combination) or any other thing you can think of to try. (bwahaahaa, this is how it begins!) ;D

james93711
10-09-2011, 01:46 PM
when your hydrometer reads 1.000 its as thin as water? i want my apple mead to be sweet, im not interested in getting as much alcohol content as possible i just want a sweet smooth mead. its bubbling like crazy right now, i love that lalvin 1118 it doesnt foam much at all so i hardly have any head space. thinking im gonna test it and maybe rack it when its bubbling once every 3-5 seconds and when i get a somewhat low hydrometer reading. it smells so good and i dont want that batch to go south, as long as it has as much alcohol content as a cheap bottle of wine ill be happy ;D

james93711
10-09-2011, 01:50 PM
is using potassium sorbate a bad idea to stop the fermentation?

Medsen Fey
10-09-2011, 02:23 PM
Usually potassium sorbate (even when added with sulfite) is not reliable for stopping an active fermentation, especially with a yeast like EC-1118. If you want to sweeten, make sure it is finished and give it time to clear and let as many of the yeast drop out ast possible. Then add sorbate and sulfite to stabilize. You need both; sorbate alone is not sufficient to prevent renewed fermentation and if you use sorbate alone, lactic acid bacteria can convert it into a geranium odor that will ruin your batch. Once it is stabilized, you can add more honey to get the sweetness you like.

HumanBlockhead
10-14-2011, 08:12 PM
Thanks to all for the advice. I just finished racking into a new 3gal carboy. I had 1+ gal left, and the majority of that was racked into an extra 1gal bottle I had lying around.

I must confess... I sampled a small glass. I can see the potential this batch has. It just needs to age a year or two. Despite having 15% ABV, you can tell the ethanol is there, but it's not too overpowering. Ignoring the obvious yeast scent, it has a very nice aroma. ;D

:clock:

fatbloke
10-15-2011, 06:08 AM
Thanks to all for the advice. I just finished racking into a new 3gal carboy. I had 1+ gal left, and the majority of that was racked into an extra 1gal bottle I had lying around.

I must confess... I sampled a small glass. I can see the potential this batch has. It just needs to age a year or two. Despite having 15% ABV, you can tell the ethanol is there, but it's not too overpowering. Ignoring the obvious yeast scent, it has a very nice aroma.
That's sounding like you now follow the term "Alcohol hot" in younger meads. Brilliant.

Damn, that sounds bad, I mean that a lot of younger meads can taste like that, or worse, even absolutely hideous, but ageing it really does seem to make some miraculous changes to them. I always marvel at the changes, it's as if it's a different brew, even though I know it's the same stuff.......

Good on your efforts. Sounds like it should be a "good 'un" once ready to drink....

Heathenlegions
10-17-2011, 08:04 PM
The picture you showed us lookes EXACTLY like how my mead looks right now.. with that thin line of sediment on the outer surface and same type of bubbles. I also have the exact same amount of headspace. Mine started (yeast pitched) just two weeks ago.
Look with a flashlight closely into the must from the top, do you see little moving then dissapearing bubbles? That's my little and only sign of hope (fermentation) ,hehe.

HumanBlockhead
10-18-2011, 08:34 PM
The picture you showed us looks EXACTLY like how my mead looks right now.. with that thin line of sediment on the outer surface and same type of bubbles. I also have the exact same amount of headspace. Mine started (yeast pitched) just two weeks ago.
Look with a flashlight closely into the must from the top, do you see little moving then dissapearing bubbles? That's my little and only sign of hope (fermentation) ,hehe.


@Heathenlegions- I just wish I had 2 gal of must in the freezer to take care of my headspace issue. That said, I'm now at 4/5 original volume, this has been a learning experience.

And as far as evidence of fermentation... the hygrometer is your best friend. The bubbles let us know something is happening, but the hygrometer gives the best feedback. :)

nestowa
10-18-2011, 11:13 PM
Thank you, all of you on this thread, I am sooo extremely new at this and all the information here has been great!