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Smoky Mountain Reign
01-26-2012, 03:03 PM
I'm working on a basic mead recipe and concerned that the starting fermentation rate is too slow. I have made several country wines before and blueberry mead but this is my first attempt making a starter yeast culture before pitching. Summary:

Day 0, mixed all ingredients in 7 gallon bucket except the yeast and covered the bucket with a clean cloth. Made a starter batch of yeast by mixing 1 cup of wort with 2 cups of spring water in a open, zip lock baggie. The baggie was warm to the touch, not hot, so I added the yeast. Baggie was brand new but I did not sanitize. Heavy foaming observed within 3 hours.

Day 1, 24 hours later pitched the starter yeast. OG = 1.092

Day 2, low to moderate foam on surface. Primary fermenter still covered by cloth only. No change in OG.
Day 3, low to moderate foam on surface, small bubbles rising visually confirmed. Gravity = 1.088
Day 4, low to moderate foam on surface. Gravity = 1.084. Primary fermenter still covered by cloth only.

The recipe states to ferment 4 or 5 days until hydrometer reads 1.030 - 1.040 but I am way behind schedule. Was my improvised batch of starter yeast done improper? I'm leaning towards adding a booster shot of Wyeast nutrient but even considering adding another packet of yeast. Better yet, should I do nothing and let it continue slowly but surely?

Thanks for the help!

RecipeFor 6 Gallons Of Mead:
* 15 Pounds of Honey
* 2.5 Tablespoons Wyeast Energizer
* 7 Tablespoons Acid Blend
* 1 Teaspoon Wine Tannin
* 6 Campden Tablets
* Water To Total 6 Gallons
* 1 Pkg. Lalvin ICV-D47 Yeast

brian92fs
01-26-2012, 04:10 PM
In my experiences, that does look slow.

A couple of thoughts:
1) The gravity is still dropping, so that's good. It's not stuck, just slow. I recently had a batch with D47 (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18971) that took 1.5 months to finish

2) The acid addition isn't needed. Older recipes used to call for this. It's better to hold off and add it if needed after its aged for a bit. This could also be causing some problems. Have you checked the pH? D47 is know for slowing down if the pH drops to low. IIRC, it'll start to have trouble at 3.2 and below.

3) The campden tablets up front shouldn't be needed with a traditional. How long did you wait after adding them and before pitching the yeast? If you didn't wait at least 24 hours, this could be causing the problem.

4) A starter really isn't necessary. It usually won't hurt, but you can get the same (or better) results by re-hydrating with GoFerm then pitching.

mmclean
01-26-2012, 04:20 PM
Hi there Smokey,

Welcome to GOTMEAD?

First there is some info missing/unclear in your OP.

Was 1.092, the starting O.G. of the must?

When/where was the campden tablet used?

Did you aerate the must before pitching the yeast?

What is your fermenting temp?

What is the pH? Adding the Acid Blend at the start of the fermentaion can drive the pH down and stall or hinder the yeast. It is an out dated practice and not recommended.

Chevette Girl
01-26-2012, 05:51 PM
If all ingredients except yeast were mixed up 24 hours before pitch, the campden tabs shouldn't be a problem, but yeah, next time, they're unnecessary for a traditional, I don't even use them for most fruit wines.

You're probably OK for nutrients, but I didn't see any mention of aeration, I'd get a sanitized whisk or something and whip the crap out of it for a little while every day, that might get it to perk up. I've had the odd batch where there were signs of fermentation but the SG didn't start dropping significantly until after two or three days.

Smoky Mountain Reign
01-26-2012, 06:21 PM
Thanks for the responses.

* 1.092 was the starting gravity.
* The campden tablets were grinded between 2 spoons and added day 0 by sprinkling on the surface of the must and stirring with a long handle spoon. The tablets were the last ingredients added other than the yeast.
* Tablets were added at 9AM on Sunday morning and the yeast was pitched at 6 AM Monday morning before work. Technically, that is only a 21 hour wait.
* I did not aerate the must before pitching yeast. Since the starter was already in liquid form and foaming, I just poured it on top and didn't even stir it.
*I don't know the temperature of the must but the temp of the air in the room where I ferment is 68 - 73 F. I assume the must temp to be similar.
* I don't have anyway to monitor the pH but I now see the importance of this information. I'll swing by the brewshop and see if they can help me.
*I'm a little pissed/disappointed that I used an outdated recipe that calls for acid blend. I didn't know about this site and all the suggested recipes when preparing. It wasn't until I started googling troubleshooting advice that I stumbled accross it. I'm a believer now :-)

In the event the pH is < 3.2, how can I raise it? I'll confirm first.

Smoky Mountain Reign
01-26-2012, 06:32 PM
CG,

OK, I took a plastic coat hanger and cut it in 2 places so that I basically have a long stemmed J hook. It fits perfectly into an electric drill and great for whipping and degassing some of the 28 day wine kits I've experimented with from my local brew shop. I'll check the pH and give it a good mix and see if I can get this fermentation a little more explosive.

brian92fs
01-26-2012, 06:51 PM
I use potassium bicarbonate to raise the pH. Got if from my LHBS. There's several other options, but that's what I use because its convient. For a 5 gallon batch, I'll usually add it 0.5 or 1.0 gram at a time and test pH again a few hours afterward. Keep repeating till you get to where you want to be.

For pH testing, I used test strips for awhile. They're not very accurate, but you can get a general idea of where you're at. You LHBS probably has them.

For aerating, a drill mounted lees stirrer works very good. Here's an example (http://morewinepro.com/view_product/19688/100485) of what they look like. Mines all plastic and I got it for about $20. Your LHBS probably has one. I run the lee stirrer on a drill for 5 - 10 minutes to aerate the must. Then run it for 30 - 60 seconds once or twice a day until I hit the 1/3 break.

Apathetik
01-27-2012, 01:37 PM
For aerating, a drill mounted lees stirrer works very good. Here's an example (http://morewinepro.com/view_product/19688/100485) of what they look like. Mines all plastic and I got it for about $20. Your LHBS probably has one.


I got mine from Lowes for $6. It thought it was a paint stirrer, but I have used those before and when I saw this guy sitting on the shelf I knew he was a must aerator.

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=160975-995-34355&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=3087677&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=req&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

brian92fs
01-27-2012, 03:07 PM
I got mine from Lowes for $6. It thought it was a paint stirrer, but I have used those before and when I saw this guy sitting on the shelf I knew he was a must aerator.

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=160975-995-34355&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=3087677&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=req&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

Depends on what you need it for. The "official" lee-stirrer version is designed with blades that fold allowing it to fit through the neck of a carboy. If you just need it to stir up must in a pail, I suppose either style would work.

Smoky Mountain Reign
01-28-2012, 10:43 AM
Day 6 No foam on the surface of must but slow trickle of small bubbles rising. Gravity is 1.074.

Last night I swirled the must with a long handled spoon since I did not previously aerate. I also checked the pH last night with a color strip and I approximate pH to be 3.0 so I need to boost it with potassium carbonate. What pH should I target? For now I am assuming ~ 3.3 - 3.4?

chams
01-28-2012, 11:08 AM
3.4 or above seems to make my yeast happy.
Swirling won't oxygenate much but it will degas some CO2 which is good.
I see your OG was 1.092 so you could still give it a healthy frothy stir to get some air in there.

Smoky Mountain Reign
01-29-2012, 07:45 AM
Slow but steady progress. Its day 7 and I still only have a clean cloth covering the primary bucket. Hoping that the extra oxygen may do it some good. However, I don't want to risk it so I plan to put the lid and airlock on this afternoon. I sampled a bit and it taste great so I think I'm on the right track

Day 1 SG = 1.092
Day 2 SG = 1.092
Day 3 SG = 1.088
Day 4 SG = 1.084
Day 5 SG = 1.080
Day 6 SG = 1.074 (pH @ 3 so slowly stirred in 6 grams of potassium bicarbonate and 0.5 tsp of Wyeast nutrient)
Day 7 SG = 1.068 (pH still < 3.2 so slowly stirred in 3 grams of potassium bicarbonate)

Smoky Mountain Reign
02-05-2012, 05:55 PM
Day 13 SG = 1.034 so I went ahead and racked from primary to secondary as the recipe suggested. Racking really recharges the fermentation too since I'm seeing lots of small bubbles again.

I filled up a 5 gallon glass carboy and half of a 1 gallon jug. Will the 1/2 filled jug be OK? I'm concerned about the void and the air but I don't have anything smaller.

mmclean
02-05-2012, 06:19 PM
I will put left over mead like that in a couple of 32oz. juice jars( I save the ones my black currant or tart cherry comes in). Save those for tasting and topping off.

Smoky Mountain Reign
02-06-2012, 08:41 AM
MMclean, how do you vent your juice jars? I considered putting the half gallon content into a couple of my wife's quart canning jars with a lid and screw on top. Do you think unscewing the top every day or two to offgas would work?

Thanks!

mmclean
02-07-2012, 06:43 AM
You can cover with plastic wrap and a rubber band. Gas can leak out but air can't get in.

Smoky Mountain Reign
02-09-2012, 10:39 AM
So the extra 1/2 gallon of traditional mead secondary fermenting in the 1 gallon jug...I picked up a 2 liter wide mouth glass container from my LHBS last night. I transferred the mead over and there was still an air void. On a whim I pulled up JAOM recipe and added 1/2 tsp of powdered cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of powdered clove, a pinch of nutmeg, 12 raisins, and a whole orange sliced into eights. The age of the mead at the time was day 16 and SG was 1.020. If it works, great! If not, I'm only out 1/2 a gallon. I'll let you know in 60 days.

I'm not sure what to expect especially since I added powdered cinnamon and clove. Time will tell!