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Ryanbee
07-16-2012, 01:30 PM
Hi All,

Newb here. So today is day 3 of primary fermentation, and the sulfur smell is definitely on the rise...beginning to stink up the whole house. I'm a bit confused, as everything I've read points to stressed yeast as the cause...but at this point I've added the full 5-gallon dose of Fermax (5 tsp), and aerated very welll with a drill attachment three times already (once per day.)

Exact recipe:

10 lbs honey
zest/juice of 10 lemons
4 lbs diced peaches
2 qts 100% apple juice
50 golden raisins
16 packets English Breakfast tea
Poland Spring water (to 5 gallons)
Lalvin D-47 yeast
Fermax nutrient

Could it be due to high acidity, caused by the lemons and apple juice? What can I do to remedy?

Thanks,
-Ryan

Chevette Girl
07-16-2012, 01:50 PM
The two factors that catch my eye are the lemons and that you're using D-47 yeast... what temperature is your fermentation? D47 really hates warm temperatures and is best kept in the low 70's... if it's warmer than that where you're brewing, you may want to try sitting the carboy/bucket in a pan of water and put a wet towel or something over it, maybe aiming a fan at the towel too.

The pH could also be the culprit, although honestly I've put more lemons in less must and had no problems many times in the past (although not specifically with D-47), but every fermentation is different. Honey has its own acidity so we don't generally add acid blend or lemon juice at the start of fermentations like you'd do to make a fruit must more closely resemble a grape must. If you're going for lemon flavour, the zest alone will do if you ever repeat this batch, then if you think the mead still needs a little more zing, you can add the acid once the fermentation's died down (maybe freeze the lemon juice or the zested lemons?).

If you can check the pH, it would probably be a good idea, and if you're below about 3.4 you'll probably want to adjust it.

Edit: Oh! And welcome to the forum!

Ryanbee
07-16-2012, 03:34 PM
Thanks for the quick reply. The high temp in my kitchen has got to be the reason...as soon as I get home, I'm going to move it down into the basement.

Excellent info, thanks again!

Chevette Girl
07-16-2012, 04:54 PM
You will probably want to aerate the crap out of it once you get it cooled down too, just to dislodge the stinkies...

Ryanbee
07-16-2012, 10:28 PM
Roger that. Thanks again, I'll be sure and come back to this thread to post results.

Ryanbee
07-17-2012, 04:43 PM
Since moving the primary fermentor down into the nice cool basement last night, the sulfur smell has definitely gone down to almost nil. But so has the fermentation...this morning, the bubbles in the airlock were happening less than one per minute (down from about one per SECOND last night). Around noon they'd increased to about one every 10 seconds, and right now it's about one every 20 seconds. Should I be worried? This batch was only started less than 72 hours ago. Yet everything I've read indicates that it should take around a week for fermentation to slow down to around one every 30 seconds.

Could the yeast have chewed through the sugars in record time due to the high heat conditions? I guess I should probably test the SG, that will tell me if the yeast has stalled or if it really is fermenting out that fast....

dingurth
07-17-2012, 05:30 PM
Heat can certainly make fermentations go faster. Some yeasts will chew through it in only a couple of days, some take weeks or even longer, it can even vary batch to batch. I haven't had any experience with D47 though. Usually how things turn out for me is in the first 24 hours its slow to start, and then over the next 48 it gets really active. Then it will keep bubbling slowly but steadily over the next week or so. I usually wait until all airlock activity stops before thinking that I'll rack it over, and even after that I let it sit in the primary for a while.

Everyone on here will tell you though that airlock activity is a poor indication of fermentation. If I had followed that one minute or one and a half minute "indicator" I would have been racking long before fermentation was complete. Even if there is no airlock activity, the yeast could still be fermenting, and even if there was airlock activity, it could just mean that your mead is degassing rather than actually fermenting.

Your situation sounds fine/normal to me. The best thing to do is to get a hydrometer and use that to check for when fermentation is finished.

Ryanbee
07-17-2012, 07:55 PM
That's very good to know, thank you good sir. What SG do you recommend for racking? 1.010-1.020? My initial reading before pitching was 1.065, but I haven't adjusted for the (high) temps in the kitchen that day...live and learn.

dingurth
07-17-2012, 08:54 PM
Even adjusting for high temps, your OG won't go up that much. Your mead is likely to run completely dry with only about 9.5% abv with those numbers. Instead of trying to stop an active fermentation, you should let it finish out, stabilize, and then backsweeten. Alternatively, you can add some more honey (step feed) while its still going so you can have a higher abv. Like if you wanted it to finish at 1.01, you could add more honey every time it dips below that point. Then it will eventually stop when the yeast reach their tolerance level.

Chevette Girl
07-18-2012, 01:21 AM
I think I might be able to explain why your airlock activity decreased and then started back up again slowly... the cooler the liquid, the more CO2 it can hold, so suddenly it's not overstocked and doesn't need to blow it out the airlock, and likely moving it jiggled a fair bit of CO2 out of solution too, so now it's got room to do its thing and it slowly builds back up to its threshhold and starts bubbling again, but at a slower rate because the fermentation is slower with lower temperature.

Ryanbee
07-19-2012, 09:00 PM
That makes sense, Chevette Girl. It has definitely slowed waaaay down now. Only about a bubble every 1 to 1.5 minutes. Still, I'm going to wait until this Saturday to rack into secondary, which will be a full week.

Dingurth, if I step feed, how can I reliably calculate my final ABV? I have an idea involving taking an SG reading just before mixing in the new honey, then another reading right after, and adding the difference to my original starting SG. Would that work?

Also, should I be concerned about the roughly 1/4-inch layer of lees? From what I've read, there should be more by now...

I've stopped aerating at this point since the sulfur smell has completely disappeared. Nothing but yeasty-peachy goodness now. And what I've read indicates stopping after three days anyway. Agree?

Apologies for turning this into another one of basic newb panic-type threads, where the ongoing theme is "omg now my mead is doing [x], is that bad?!?'' ;)

dingurth
07-20-2012, 04:18 AM
Dingurth, if I step feed, how can I reliably calculate my final ABV? I have an idea involving taking an SG reading just before mixing in the new honey, then another reading right after, and adding the difference to my original starting SG. Would that work?


Yes, I believe that should work.


Also, should I be concerned about the roughly 1/4-inch layer of lees? From what I've read, there should be more by now...


The amount of lees you have can vary based on what yeast you are using, but especially with what other ingredients you have. With my JAOs, I've had between 1/4 and a 1/2 inch. With my cyser, I had almost 3 inches, and both used bread yeast. Again, hydrometer is the way to judge things. It would be weird if you didn't have any, but the way I see it, if you can get away with only a small amount of lees, but your hydrometer says its done, life is just easier. ;D


I've stopped aerating at this point since the sulfur smell has completely disappeared. Nothing but yeasty-peachy goodness now. And what I've read indicates stopping after three days anyway. Agree?

Most people stop aerating by the 1/3 sugar break. After that, you want to minimize the amount of oxygen that gets in your must and just let the yeast do their thing. It's not so much a set day thing as a hydrometer reading thing (see a pattern here? lol;)).

And don't worry, we're all learning as we go. I still panic sometimes and come here for help. Fortunately it's a good place to turn to.

Ryanbee
07-20-2012, 02:35 PM
Good to hear I'm on the right track :)
I ended up taking an SG reading last night, and it's at 0.998. So I may go ahead and rack to secondary tonight...unless it's possible that it may go even lower? My understanding was that right around 1.0 is usually rock-bottom.

dingurth
07-20-2012, 05:51 PM
Around 1.000 means that your yeast have eaten through pretty much all the available sugars and your mead will be dry. I haven't heard of anything that has gone lower than 0.98...

If you want to step feed, you should keep it in the primary. Racking to the secondary will leave behind a lot of the yeast that are in the lees, plus it can sometimes shock anything that's in suspension. Adding more honey then would probably result in a prolonged and slow continued fermentation. Alternatively, if you rack, you could just stabilize and backsweeten if you don't want it too dry, and then just let it age out.

And personally, I would keep it in the primary for now if I were you since it's only been just over a week. Even when fermentation is finished, I like to keep it in the primary anywhere between a month or two months. Some people do rack it off immediately, so it's up to you.

Chevette Girl
07-20-2012, 07:04 PM
Regarding step feeding, that's not quite how the calculations work... you also need to know exact volumes to figure out how much the additional honey you add will dilute the ethanol. I never have accurate enough volume measurements for that so I just feed it till it stops eating and then do a spirit indication test later. If you know your SG at room temp (should be your final gravity reading), take a known volume of finished mead, boil it almost dry and then reconstitute it with water until it's the exact volume you'd started with, check the SG (this will be higher because you've boiled all the ethanol out of it), and because the specific gravity of the ethanol removed is known, and the specific gravity of water you replaced it with is known, you can calculate the alcohol concentration by the difference in SG at a place like here (http://www.musther.net/vinocalc.html#spiritindication)...

Ryanbee
07-21-2012, 11:53 AM
Yowza. Maybe I'll just rack this batch and let it finish out at 9.5% :)
I think I'll do it today, which is exactly 7 days from pitching.

I do hate the smell of C-brite...but the smell of the must makes up for it!

Ryanbee
07-24-2012, 08:22 PM
When I racked to secondary, I added about 60 fresh leaves of lemonbalm from our garden. It smelled so amazing.

My question is about degassing: I've gently swirled it a couple times and watched the carbonation froth up and bubble out the airlock, just to make sure there's a nice blanket of CO2 in there, but should I continue doing that? My hunch is just to let it sit from this point.

dingurth
07-25-2012, 12:23 AM
Either/or. I know some people like to keep stirring until they can't see any more bubbles. Personally, I just stir it maybe once or twice once fermentation is done, then let it sit. It will slowly degas on it's own as it's aging so it's not too big a deal unless you keep it in primary the whole time I think. Otherwise if you keep stirring, you run the risk of oxidizing.

JSquared
07-25-2012, 01:44 AM
Actually mead is rather resilient and not so easy to oxidize so I wouldn’t stress on it. SNA and Temperature control are your biggest variable to control for happy and clean fermentation. Keep things clean and sanitized and you’ll be good to go.

Ryanbee
08-02-2012, 02:40 PM
Excellent, thanks guys. Looking forward to December, when it should be all cleared up and ready to go!

One interesting note: There's about 2" of lees in the carboy! I thought flocculation would cease after racking, since SG was at 0.998...but I guess not?

Ryanbee
08-02-2012, 08:55 PM
Can't figure out how to edit my previous post, although this one is actually editable...maybe because I used the quick-reply button? Anyway:

It's actually not 2" of lees. Optical illusion with the reflection of my carboard "pad" in the glass carboy :) It's more like a quarter-inch of fine lees.

Funny thing is, I definitely detect a very slight burnt rubber-ish aroma from the airlock...will I need to rack again to get it off the lees? I'm thinking I'll just wait a couple months and see if the smell goes away. Although, it would be a great excuse to run out and buy another carboy, so I can finally start on batch #2... ;)

yeoldtimer
08-03-2012, 07:47 PM
Regarding step feeding, that's not quite how the calculations work... you also need to know exact volumes to figure out how much the additional honey you add will dilute the ethanol. I never have accurate enough volume measurements for that so I just feed it till it stops eating and then do a spirit indication test later. If you know your SG water delivery phoenix (http://waterable.com/arizona/phoenix-az) at room temp (should be your final gravity reading), take a known volume of finished mead, boil it almost dry and then reconstitute it with water until it's the exact volume you'd started with, check the SG (this will be higher because you've boiled all the ethanol out of it), and because the specific gravity of the ethanol removed is known, and the specific gravity of water you replaced it with is known, you can calculate the alcohol concentration by the difference in SG at a place like here (http://www.musther.net/vinocalc.html#spiritindication)...

great advice thanks for the link

Chevette Girl
08-04-2012, 07:09 AM
Can't figure out how to edit my previous post, although this one is actually editable...maybe because I used the quick-reply button? Anyway:

It's actually not 2" of lees. Optical illusion with the reflection of my carboard "pad" in the glass carboy :) It's more like a quarter-inch of fine lees.

Funny thing is, I definitely detect a very slight burnt rubber-ish aroma from the airlock...will I need to rack again to get it off the lees? I'm thinking I'll just wait a couple months and see if the smell goes away. Although, it would be a great excuse to run out and buy another carboy, so I can finally start on batch #2... ;)

You can only edit your posts for an hour.

And yes, once things slow down, stuff starts dropping out and racking (and sometimes bottling :mad:) can encourage flocculation and settling.

I like to swirl with the airlock on until no more bubbles, a few times a day for a few days usually does it.

Burnt rubber aroma, huh? My best suggestion if it's only an aroma and not a taste is to splash the hell out of it, don't worry about oxidation. A very splashy racking can sometimes encourage the stinkies to leave. If it tastes like rubber though, then you have to look at other things...