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Sebastian Haff
01-03-2012, 03:28 PM
Hello,

I started my first batch (is that the right term?) about 5 weeks ago (11/23/11) and I'd like to run it by you guys to make sure its on track. I followed the beginners recipe for "Medium Sweet Orange Blossom Mead" in Ken Schramm's "The Compleat Meadmaker." The recipe calls for 5 gallons of water, 15 lbs of honey and Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast. I followed the instructions (heated the must to 160 F for 10 mins, then mixed in 3 gallons of cold water and added the yeast and energizer & nutrients. I then poured the must through a funnel into a carboy and capped it with a fermentation lock), and then let it sit for 2 weeks. It had a gravity of 1.141. It bubbled like crazy for the first two weeks and a lot of sediment built up on the bottom. I racked it and let it sit for another 2.5 weeks. After the first racking the gravity was 1.090, and I could see that it was still fermenting. I racked it a few days ago (12/31/11), removing a lot of sediment from the bottom, and it currently has a gravity of 1.075. For much of the second two weeks the surrounding temperature was around 55 F.

Now there is no noticeable fermentation. The must is much lighter than it was, but it is still opaque. It looks like a darker yellow/golden lemon juice. What do you think? Is it on track, I just need to give it a few months to age and clear? Do you think the 55 F temp killed the process? Do you think I oxidized it too much when I poured it into the carboy? I would really appreciate any advice you can give me. Thanks

Mars Colonist
01-03-2012, 04:10 PM
I racked it and let it sit for another 2.5 weeks. After the first racking the gravity was 1.090, and I could see that it was still fermenting. I racked it a few days ago (12/31/11), removing a lot of sediment from the bottom, and it currently has a gravity of 1.075.

Just curious why you racked it before it was finished?? 71B-1122 is alcohol tolerant to about 14%. Youll drop about 108 gravity points.. so expected final is about 1.033. That sediment was mostly your yeast cake....

A number of people dont heat the honey anymore as not to drive off volatile aromatics from the honey (it already happens during fermentation, why help make it worse), and honey is largely devoid of moisture and nutrients and largely inhospitable to spoilage microbiota. 55F isnt ridiculously cold, but it will stunt the fermentation rate... best to keep it stable (2F) and largely in the mid-upper 60's.

One option is to pitch more 71B, but if you are already at 1075 from 1141, your ABV is already at 8.6% and Im thinking the yeast wont be all that happy and youll get a stuck fermenation and possibly some off flavors. Champagne yeast might be a fix, but if it does go to the full alcohol tolerance of 18%, it will finish off dry, probably around 1.002-1.004.

Lawpaw
01-03-2012, 04:12 PM
Cold won't kill the process unless you freeze it, but it can stall things. 55 is a little low for 1122, I'd try warming it up to around 65 if you can.

1.141 seems high for only 3lbs. Honey per gallon.

Did you aerate the first few days?

Check pH if you can. Traditional mead has a tendency to drop too low in pH stalling things. If you can't check pH, and warming to 65 doesn't help, you may want to add a little potassium carbonate. I've started putting that in my step nutrient additions.

For future reference, I wouldn't rack until fermentation is nearly complete. All that sediment is your yeast. In fact it may be helpful to gently twist the carboy back and forth a little everyday to get more back into suspension.

Mars Colonist
01-03-2012, 04:34 PM
1.141 seems high for only 3lbs. Honey per gallon.


I think he only used 3 gallons of water rather than the 5 gallons called for...

Sebastian Haff
01-03-2012, 11:39 PM
Oh no, so that yeast layer was important! My understanding was that the yeast at the bottom was all dead and damaging the must. Well thanks for letting me know, I'll wait much longer before I rack next time. So, as far as fixing this batch (again, is that the term?) goes, you would recommend using champagne yeast? I already have several packets of 71B, should I use one of those and see if it works, or just go straight to champagne yeast?

I don't have any ph strips but I should be able to get my hands on some. I've raised the temperature of the must so that should help. I believe I used round about 4 gallons of distilled water. It depends on how much space 15 lbs of honey takes up, because I did fill a 5 gal carboy to within a few inches of the top.

So what would you recommend now? Test the ph and add more yeast? I've been told that I should add Irish moss, does that make sense at this point? Thanks

wildoates
01-04-2012, 12:26 AM
No on the Irish Moss. It's not at all needed! I don't even use it in my beer. :)

Have you read through the newbee guide yet?

Mars Colonist
01-04-2012, 01:38 AM
Oh no, so that yeast layer was important! My understanding was that the yeast at the bottom was all dead and damaging the must.

The term for the cake is "lees (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lees_(fermentation))". The dead yeast term is "autolysis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autolysis_%28wine%29)", it takes quite some time after the fermentation is done to be damaging.. on the order of several months. The aging term "sur lie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lees_%28fermentation%29#Sur_lie)" is actually to make use of autolysis for flavor complexity in wine and champagne.


Well thanks for letting me know, I'll wait much longer before I rack next time. So, as far as fixing this batch (again, is that the term?) goes, you would recommend using champagne yeast? I already have several packets of 71B, should I use one of those and see if it works, or just go straight to champagne yeast?


"Batch" is the proper term. As far as a fix, Im gonna have to defer to someone else for this one. The sachets are cheap compared to the honey. I have no idea of the growth rate of a sachet of yeast in 8%+ ABV or how that would affect certain yeast ahppiness. Personally, I would go for more 71B, but I cant tell you what to expect. Ive just read Champagne yeast to be a last resort for things gone wrong.


I don't have any ph strips but I should be able to get my hands on some. I've raised the temperature of the must so that should help. I believe I used round about 4 gallons of distilled water. It depends on how much space 15 lbs of honey takes up, because I did fill a 5 gal carboy to within a few inches of the top.


I haven't found pH strips to be very accurate/helpful at all, but that is just my experience. If you use them, I believe you want the pH around 3.4; 3,0 or so is a bit difficult for most yeast to be happy growing in. Also, distilled water doesnt have beneficial minerals your tap water or spring water might have. I would say use spring water or carbon-filtered tap in the future. 15# of honey is about 1.25 gallons (12#/gallon, 3#/quart). You filled to within "few inches of the top"?.. level up in the neck, or (assuming you have a ribbed carboy) around the top glass rib? Top of the top rib is around 5.25 gallons total. Sounds like you got ~3.75 gallons water in there, but if Im using the calculator (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745) right, Target SG 1.141 and #15 honey gives a total target volume of 3.83 gal, and 1.25gal of that is honey, then you only added ~2.6 gal water... and your carboy would only likely be filled ~3/4 full ("full" being in the neck, almost to bottom of the stopper). Depends on what you mean by "top".



So what would you recommend now? Test the ph and add more yeast? I've been told that I should add Irish moss, does that make sense at this point? Thanks

Irish moss is a fining agent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fining_%28wine%29#Fining) that works on proteins and used primarily for malt based fermentations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chondrus_crispus#Uses). Not needed in mead.

Chevette Girl
01-04-2012, 03:03 AM
The 71B yeast is one of the few yeasts we commonly use that start to autolyse relatively quickly and is not recommended for sur lie aging, but the timeframe I've heard is that you want to rack it no later than about 6 weeks after pitching, although I suspect that at the relatively low temperature your must was at, you probably would have been OK for a few more weeks because it would slow the autolysis process the same way it slowed your fermentation...

If you haven't been aerating it, give it a good splashy stir, it won't hurt it at this point, and also try warming it a little before you add more yeast. If that doesn't do it, my recommendation is to take another packet of 71B and rehydrate it according to the instructions (if I recall correctly, 1/4 cup of 105F water for 20 minutes) then put it in a sanitized jar and add 1/4 cup of your must. Once it's started bubbling, add another 1/2 cup, give it an hour, add a cup, and keep doubling it like this until you've got a nice big jar of happy thriving yeast colony, then aerate it as best as you can (a sanitized whisk should do), and then pour that back into your carboy and give it a good stir every day for a week. This is called an acclimated starter and gets the new yeast acclimatized to the sugar and the alcohol content when you're trying to restart a must. Just tossing a fresh packet straight in probably won't get good results.

And as Wildoates suggests, give the Newbee Guide a good read if you haven't already.

Good luck with it, and welcome to the forum!

Sebastian Haff
01-04-2012, 05:24 PM
Ok, I'm so glad to learn that all hope is not lost. I will try a acclimated starter and pitch 71B. If the starter fails I will fall back on champagne yeast. I'll peruse the newbee guide and go from there. Thank you all for your advice, especially your long detailed responses. I understand the process a lot better now. Time to go fix some mead!

Chevette Girl
01-05-2012, 08:05 PM
especially your long detailed responses. I understand the process a lot better now.

I'm glad our collective tendency towards overexplaining things is appreciated...;D