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View Full Version : First mead, no foam. Not fermenting?



eddie_1987
08-16-2012, 03:22 PM
Hi everyone, I need your help! ;D I made my first mead this last monday, on 13/8/12. My problem (or at least I think it's a problem) is that it's not making any foam AT ALL.
I give you the recipe I used, it's a pretty basic one and I found it on the web:

INGREDIENTS

* 1 LITRE (0.25 GAL) WATER
* 500 GRAMS (1.1 OUNCES) HONEY
* 2 TEASPOONS OF LIVE, COMPRESSED BREAD YEAST


PREPARATION

1) I live in Argentina, and everyone here cuts off their products with any piece of cheap junk they can to minimze costs. I can't buy any clear and liquid honey that is PURE, because most surely I'll get 1/5 of honey and the rest is just corn syrup.
So I bought the solid one and I melted it. Then I boiled 1 litre of water, added the (now) liquid honey and boiled it for 5 more minutes, stirring slow and constantly, and removing the foam that came to the top of the pot.

2) When it cooled down to room temperature (around 18 C/64 F, it's still winter here), I added the bread yeast diluted in a pinch of warm water. I stirred it well, and put the mixture into a plastic 5 litres (1.3 gal) water carboy that I previously sterilized.
I made an airlock with a 1/2 inch plastic tube going out of the carboy, into a bottle half filled with water. I found it the best, simplest and safest airlock method. I sealed the cap of the carboy holding the tube, so nothing gets in or out. I also sealed the cap of the water bottle too.

I might also say that EVERYTHING I used to make my mead was meticulously sterilized.

According to the recipe (and a lot of videos I've seen on the web showing the process) that was it, and I should wait 24-72 hours for the fermentation to begin, in which case there "should" be some foam on top of the mixture. But again, that's my problem: THERE IS NONE!

There is a fine layer of "something" growing thicker and wider VERY slowly on top of the must, there's A LOT of sediments, it foams like alka seltzer when shaken (looks more like an efervescence foam than a beer foam) and there's plenty of airlock activity, but NO FOAM.

I don't want to open the carboy to check the smell and taste yet, because I'm afraid that the opening could contaminate the mead if everything else was ok.

Please excuse me for taking your time and wisdom, and thanks in advance.

eddie

vulcan500rider
08-16-2012, 04:04 PM
I'm a bit of a newbee myself, so take this with a grain of salt, but my first traditional mead didn't really foam either. The ones with fruit foamed EVERYWHERE, but the traditional was quite calm. That said, I would add something more for the yeast to eat. Throw in a handful of raisins and see how it goes.

dingurth
08-16-2012, 04:13 PM
The first thing I would do if I were you is smell it. I have no idea what might be growing on the top from your description, but if it doesn't smell bad (sulfur, rotten eggs, rubber) you should be ok. It should smell a lot like yeast or bread or the underlying sweetness of the honey. You shouldn't have to worry about contamination as an active fermentation is good at protecting itself.

I was really confused by your recipe until I realized that 500grams is way more than 1.1 ounces. Rather, it's 1.1 POUNDS, which makes much more sense.

Back to foam though. I've had meads with so much foam it was like an erupting volcano, and others that barely had any. The fizzing when you shake it is likely the mead degassing, and if it is, it means that you have definitely done a good bit of fermentation. Lots of airlock activity is a good way to see if your mead has started, but not necessarily a good way to see if it is still going after some point. For that, you should get a hydrometer.

With all that being said, I am a little surprised that you have so much activity. The recipe you did is what is called a "show mead"; just yeast, honey, and water. From what I've heard though, those usually take a long time. Maybe it starts normal but then takes a longer time to finish. Since I haven't done a show mead myself, I can't really speak to it.

eddie_1987
08-16-2012, 06:31 PM
Hello again, and thanks for the quick reply!

First of all, thanks for the info. I'm a little less worried now. I'm at work right now, so I have to wait until I get home to check the smell. Now let's get to the NEW questions I have! lol

1) Why are you surprised that I have all that activity? There's not supposed to be that much?

2) I don't know what a "show" mead is (I'm sooo new to this!). But in any case, if it is a "long-run" one, that takes a long time to finish; how long would I have to wait before I can rack it out and bottle it; to be "drinkable", or "decent" or "outstanding"? (assuming that everything is ok and it's not wasted).

3) Also, I heard some people say that almost every mead has to be bottled in high-pressure bottles, such as cider or champagne, because of the risk that it could explode due to its own gases.
On the other hand, I've seen people just putting it into normal wine bottles (750 ml). Is there anything I should take into consideration regarding this matter? Either way, I think I'm just going WAY TOO ahead of the facts.

Thank you people so much again!

eddie

vulcan500rider
08-16-2012, 06:37 PM
I'll let someone else comment on 1 & 2, but 3 is a fairly easy one. If fermentation is complete (I'd give it a few months before bottling at the very least), then there's no reason you can't use a regular wine bottle. However, if you add more sugar/honey to it when bottling (called back sweetening), or the natural ferment isn't complete, then the mead will continue to produce C02, which can make wine bottles into bombs.

FWIW, the few meads I've done so far have all gone into normal bottles, but they also bulk aged for a solid year before bottling, so there wasn't really much chance of continued fermentation.

snuesen
08-16-2012, 07:05 PM
Estimating your original gravity at 1.103, and not using nutrients, you do risk an incomplete attenuation. Meaning the yeast will stop working before expected. If you did bottle early and the yeast were somehow still active, that could be quite dangerous.
The best method, especially when starting out is to make sure the yeast take it dry (using your hydrometer), rack it off the sediment until it is quite clear, sorbate and/or sulfite it. After that consider it safe for bottling. Many people age their mead at least a year before bottling. Which brings me to my recommendation of making larger batches so you get more product for the amount of time that great mead takes :-)

eddie_1987
08-16-2012, 07:08 PM
Ok, I'll wait for the N 1 and 2 answers; but I have one last question (at least for now):

Assuming my mead is still ok and safe (not contaminated nor wasted), but just stalled; how could it be affected if I just pour in some nutrients?
I'm talking about a handful of raisins or something, I already said that in my country you can't buy any of these things, because you never know what is really worth the price and what is just cheap junk.

I know I'm starting to be a REAL pain in the crack, but I promise I'll behave and even help other newbies like myself, whenever I get to know what the heck I'm doing... :p

Thanks again!

eddie

dingurth
08-16-2012, 07:22 PM
1. In a mead where you only have honey, water, and yeast, there is not a lot of nutrients for the yeast to eat. Yes, they convert the sugars to alcohol, but just like any other living organism, they need other nutrients to be happy. Sometimes these are provided with other ingredients, such as raisins like vulcan said, or you can get packs or bottles of nutrients at a homebrew store or homebrew site. Without those nutrients, the yeast take a longer time to finish their business which is why show meads take so long and why I was surprised by your report. It certainly isn't a bad thing to have a lot of activity though, although sometimes it can make a mess. ;D

2. A show mead is just a mead that has only the three basic ingredients. The reason it is called "show" is because those meads depend a lot more on the honey and yeast being used for their flavor rather than being covered by other things like fruits and spices (so you are showing the quality of honey and yeast... at least I think that's it...). My initial thought would have been that those are the requirements for meads in a competition, but I know of at least some that allow any type of mead to be entered.

As for the time it will take... you have anything from JAOs that take 2 months to be drinkable, to some meads that I've heard of that take upwards of 2 years. The standard I've seen a lot of people use though is waiting at least 6 months (1-2 months in your first container(primary) and then 4-5 months in bottles or a bulk container(secondary) to let it all age the same) to let it age out a little bit. The only way to be certain of when its done is to use a hydrometer and take readings on how the fermentation is going, and when that is done, moving it to secondary.

3. Ditto what vulcan said. Also, the best way to make sure fermentation doesn't restart in the bottles is to treat your mead with sulphites and sorbates about a week before you plan to bottle. That will knock out the yeast and make sure that they can't restart even if there is enough sugar to do so.

*4. I would have thought Argentina would be a good place to buy things. Anyways, to answer your question, I need to ask you one: how long has it been since you started? Since you didn't have a hydrometer at the start, this will be hard to estimate, but usually you don't want to do anything to your mead after the 1/3 sugar break (when 1/3 of your available sugars have been used up by the yeast). If you are still on day one or two, you should be ok (although there are some yeasts that can plow through the sugar break in a few hours). Three or four days is pushing it though. I don't think it will necessarily be bad for you to add them, but if it's been that long, it may be a little too late/you won't want to aerate when add them. For a batch your size, about 10 raisins should do I think.

It seems like I threw a lot of mead jargon at you there, but fortunately, this is a good place to learn. :)

And don't worry, we are all newbees at some point. I would venture to say I still am even though I know a couple of things now.

snuesen
08-16-2012, 07:54 PM
A few raisins won't hurt, although if you're not incurring vast amounts of sulfide smell, it may not be an issue. Are you certain the honey you ended up using is pure?

Chevette Girl
08-16-2012, 11:27 PM
Show meads can appear every bit as vigorous as a traditional, they just tend to take a long time to get the last few gravity points chewed through, mine dropped about halfway in less than three weeks but it's been very slow since then (like, taking a year to get from 1.020 to 1.010).

Eddie, if you've got fizzing of any kind, it means your fermentation DID start and IS going, it hasn't stalled out. As others have said, some foam, some don't. And at 18C, your fermentation isn't going to be as quick as if it were summer, yeast is just like that, although this isn't entirely a bad thing, some people have found that a cooler fermentation leads to better flavours in the end product even if it takes a little longer to get to the end.

I highly recommend you get some basic supplies, especially a hydrometer, maybe some nutrients, energizer, wine yeasts, potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulphate (campden tablets), order online if you have to... while not strictly necessary, these all take the guesswork out of your meadmaking.

In order to avoid bottle bombs (bottling prematurely while there's still fermentation going on), you need to know where your specific gravity is and whether it's still changing. Still changing = bottle bombs.

And throwing a handful of raisins in there won't hurt anything, just make sure you swirl it around first to let some of the carbon dioxide out of the must so you don't end up with the Mentos in Diet Coke effect (which we call a Mead Eruption Accident or MEA).

Good luck with it, and don't hesitate to keep asking questions when you're unclear on things!

eddie_1987
08-17-2012, 08:19 AM
Hi everyone, thanks for the patience and the good advice.

I got home and checked the smell, and it was DELICIOUS. It smelled like mixing 30% cider 70% honey. So last night I threw in a handful of raisins, because it won't hurt and even might be neccesary at some point later. I'm getting my hydrometer this week, as well as all the other stuff you people recommended.

As far as THIS first mead is concerned, I'm leaving it be until it's time to rack/age/bottle. Once again, I have more questions (my problem with learning stuff is that it always leaves new questions lol!), so here they come:

1) From the original recipe, and a lot of people claiming the same, I thought that getting the mead sitting in the primary for about a month, then racking 2-3 times in a row; would be enough to get a somewhat "clear" and "drinkable" mead.
I'm not talking about "decent" nor "awesome", just something to give a try and get amped up for the 2nd batch. Is that even possible?

2) I can only buy "beer" yeast, because local homebrewing is getting a lot of market impulse, and wine making is usually a big companies thing. They don't sell wine yeast for less than 50 pounds or so. Here you can only get "bread" yeast (the one I used) and "beer" yeast (in homebrewing shops). I think they're pretty much the same, although.

Can I make my next mead with "beer" yeast? Are there any issues to it? Or will it just give a different flavor/texture/smell (more beer-like)?

3) Chevette Girl mentioned yeast nutrients. I'm thinking of keeping it as natural as possible, except for the fermentation stopper (that would be the metabisulphate?), so what kind of natural nutrients can I throw in? I was thinking of raisins, oranges, and even prunes. Would that be enough or do I NEED to use something else?.

I promise I'll quit annoying you people sometime soon. Thanks again!

eddie

dingurth
08-17-2012, 01:46 PM
Beer yeast should be fine. The only difference might be that it will have a slightly lower alcohol tolerance than a wine yeast; 8-12% rather than 12-16% depending on what type of strain you get. Bread yeast is actually a type of ale yeast and is supposed to get around 12% abv, but I've had it go as high as 14.5%.

When you have recipes that have fruits and other things added to the mead, nutrient addition is not as important because those other ingredients will add some of their own. So no, it is not strictly needed, but they do help especially with a traditional recipe.

Chevette Girl
08-17-2012, 02:36 PM
And the nutrients are naturally derived...

Racking doesn't force a wine to clear, it just gets rid of anything that settles out... it will clear on its own schedule, whatever that happens to be, racking has very little effect on it. Getting it to settle out is the trick, sometimes stirring it a lot in the early fermentation can make it clear faster, sometimes you need to add something to make it coagulate into bigger particles that will fall out of suspension more quickly... a lot of those are natural or naturally derived, bentonite (a type of clay) and gelatin (usually from animal bones but beer brewers use Irish moss for the same thing) are two I can think of offhand.

eddie_1987
08-17-2012, 03:34 PM
Ok, I think now I'm getting the big idea of how do these things work and interact with each other...
But does anyone know if a young, 4-weeks-old mead could be ready to drink, even if it doesn't get its full potential? Because the recipe I found said I could drink it at 4-6 weeks, and everyone here talks about 5-6 MONTHS. I think that's a heck of a difference.
I think I'm getting a bit confused... :S

Sweet Dragon
08-17-2012, 07:33 PM
I too am new to Mead making and I used a different recipe and I discovered a problem. :eek: It calls for 2 packages of sweet mead liquid yeast and I only added one do you think it will still be OK if I add the other one a week later?

Chevette Girl
08-17-2012, 07:48 PM
Eddie, what website did your recipe come from?

The fastest recipes we have here are Joe's Ancient Orange, a quick cyser and a quick pyment, and the Finnish Sima recipe... Joe's is drinkable at 8 weeks (although a heck of a lot better at 6 months) and the sima's good in a week to ten days, but if you're making a traditional mead, especially without nutrients, either you're going to have to kill it with chemicals in order to safely bottle it, or wait until it's completely done, which could take several weeks to a month for the fermentation, and then several more weeks or months to clear up so you'd want to drink it. The fresh alcohol can sometimes be really rough tasting, so some recipes (like yours and Joe's Ancient Orange) cover it up with a lot of residual sweetness, and sometimes they take a long time to clear.

The only ones I've found that finish fermenting and clear relatively quickly are the Joe's Ancient Orange (and variations on that theme) and some hydromels I've made, which are pretty dilute, maybe 750mg honey per 4 litres, tops, which were drinkable within 4-6 weeks, but again, better after 4-6 months.

Sweet Dragon, sorry I haven't used liquid yeast myself, but a few times I've skimped on the dry stuff I use and it took a while but eventually did kick off and do its job, it just took a little longer to get going. If your fermentation looks OK (making bubbles, looking fizzy), I wouldn't bother with the second package if you can't get it in for a week.

Medsen Fey
08-17-2012, 08:09 PM
I too am new to Mead making and I used a different recipe and I discovered a problem. :eek: It calls for 2 packages of sweet mead liquid yeast and I only added one do you think it will still be OK if I add the other one a week later?

If it is actively fermenting, you don't need to add more yeast. If you aerated it well during the initial stages, they yeast will be able to grow enough.

If you do have more questions about your batch, please start a separate thread and include the recipe details.

Welcome to GotMead!

Medsen

eddie_1987
08-18-2012, 01:11 AM
Hi everyone, thanks for all the replies :D

I got my recipe from http://conversor.blogspot.com.ar/2011/08/hacer-hidromiel-la-cerveza-vikinga.html it's obviously in spanish, but I can translate it if you want.
It says the fermentation process takes about 3 weeks, and that's it. After that comes the bottling, and put the bottle/s in the fridge 2-3 days to stop the fermentation. Then, it's supposedly ready to go.

Many users of that site also reported a strong, high-alcohol, cider-like mead.
But... Many others have reported a sweet, low alcohol, honey-tasting mead.

If they're using the same all ingredients and doing the same process, what could be the explanation for such opposed results? And also, let me know if that recipe is worth a try, or if I have to go with JMAO (which by the way hooked me all up).

And do you guys use a specific airlock? I was thinking of making my next airlock with just a tube cut in an "N" shape, with the water in the last corner; so I have the airlock working, AND also get to smell the mead without opening the carboy.
Is it ok to do it that way?

Thanks again for your advice.

snuesen
08-18-2012, 01:45 AM
Ambient temperature, how much yeast you pitch, fermentation vessel, mineral profile of your water - these are just a few things that will affect the final flavor of your mead. If the mead tastes good to you then it's not a bad recipe! There are many ways to go about it, the only guideline to follow is diligence, quality materials, and patience will almost invariably give you a superior product.

Here in the states we can get S-shaped airlocks similar to what you describe as well as another type called a bubbler. All for very cheap. If you feel comfortable with your design, there are certainly worse ways to do it. Otherwise, one would think that shipping wouldn't be too outrageous for such light weight

snuesen
08-18-2012, 02:04 AM
One other thing I notice on the website is that they use their mouth to start the siphon, which can be risky. I did it once out of necessity, and is not a death sentence by any means, but an instrument called an auto-siphon is a VERY useful tool if you don't have one yet. Much cleaner and much easier. I think ten to twenty $US ?

Chevette Girl
08-19-2012, 08:36 PM
Well, it seems from what you say that the others who have tried this aren't getting consistent results with this recipe. If it's sweet and low alcohol, that suggests to me that their fermentation didn't finish, and if it's strong and not sweet, it tells me that their fermentation completed, whether it was supposed to have stopped or not... Possible reasons for this? Well, for starts, operator error... I know enough French to kind of muddle through Spanish, and I'm pretty sure the written recipe on that link calls for 1.5 litres of water to 500g honey (which is something close to JAO's honey ratio) and you reported having used 1 litre to 500 g honey (which is a good bit stronger than JAO), although that might well have been what they said in the video, I'm useless with spoken Spanish :) Other reasons could be variations in the yeast, if it's live yeast cake, well, I've heard of bakers who've had inconsistent results with it and prefer the dried stuff...

Most of us who have done any wine or meadmaking in any formal sense will tend towards an initial mistrust of recipes based on a few things that catch our eyes, like using time increments to determine whether your fermentation's complete instead of making sure the specific gravity has stopped changing, "quick" recipes that don't use any kind of nutrients at all, or anything that's supposed to be fizzy and sweet and doesn't involve chemicals, even with permanent refrigeration, fermentation can still continue (although at a greatly reduced pace than at room temperature) enough to cause even champagne or beer bottles to explode (and I could be wrong on that last bit where your particular recipe is concerned, French is NOT Spanish;D). Just like any of us on this forum who've been making meads for a while and reading the forums will point at a recipe's request for acid blend or lemon juice and say, "Ah-hah, this recipe was developed by a winemaker, not a meadmaker!" because we now know that honey has its own acidity and doesn't need more.

The JAO recipe, which also sets off our alarm bells initially, has been tried many many times with pretty consistent results AND was formulated by someone who knows how to make mead using the modern tools and methods, and not just someone who once tried adding a certain amount of water to a certain amount of honey and didn't blow anything up and so shared the recipe with others (not that I'm slighting the people who made your website, I have no idea how much experience they have with wines or meads or how many times they've gotten consistent results )... And there are a few things built into the JAO recipe that are indicators of the state of your fermentation... if it's bubbling, it's fermenting actively. When it starts to clear, it's mostly stopped fermenting so the inactive yeast starts dropping to the bottom... when the fruit sinks, it's degassed and should be safe to bottle. But even then, some of us have experienced the odd continued fermentation with this recipe or its many variations, I've done it about 40 times and had two or three that got a little fizzy in the bottle. Usually it follows the time guidelines within a week or two, but every now and then it doesn't, something simple like temperature, which you may not notice the differences and you may not have all that much control over, may be responsible for a lot of the different results others were reporting with that recipe.

And if you're going to use a bent tube for an airlock, just make sure it's wide enough to permit bubbles getting through without pushing the liquid out first! (damn good idea, by the way, if you can't get a proper airlock for $2 like most of us can... I just use a few layers of plastic wrap and an elastic band when I run out of airlocks).

And snuesen, for the record, I have two (admittedly older) published books that recommend the mouth siphon start as an accepted method (although they do suggest swishing with vodka first and they do present other options, like filling your siphon hose with water before attaching it to your racking cane and letting the water start it). And I'm such a klutz I can't work my pump-style auto-siphon without either kicking up sediment in the carboy I'm siphoning from, or the other end of the racking hose popping out of the carboy I'm siphoning to... they're apparently not for everyone...

eddie_1987
10-29-2012, 09:59 AM
Hello again everybody! I'm back with some new questions.

First of all, let me tell you that my first batch of mead was a "not-so-bad-failure", because I bottled it after only 3 weeks (I didn't know that it takes at least 6 weeks to bottle) and the result was a sort of REALLY alcoholic "cider-like" wine. It was pretty tasty (I like sweet booze) but it wasn't what I expected.

Anyway, I decided to go with the JAO recipe, which I followed to the letter, but I'm getting the same problem I had with the previous mead: NO FOAM.

I know that it doesn't necessarily mean it's not working/fermenting, but nearly every photo of JAO I found on the web has that signature foam on top of it, and even the JAO recipe (from the very gotmead recipe's home page) calls for "major foaming", "first few days frenzy" and so on.
In my case, it's not making any foam, although it's bubbling from the bottom of the carboy and there's lots of airlock activity -by the way, I invested a few $ on the purchase of a proper airlock =D.

Here's the (original) recipe I followed:

* 1,6 kg (3 1/2 lbs) honey (I managed to get pure honey for this one)
* 3.8 lts (1 gal) water
* 1 large orange
* 25 raisins
* 1 stick of cinammon
* 1 clove
* 1 teaspoon of bread yeast (here in Argentina we don't have Fleismann's, so I used the best bread dry yeast I could buy)


I dissolved the honey in warm water, put it into the carboy, added the orange, cinammon, raisins and clove, and then shook the heck out of the jug (with top on, as Joe recommended lol). Waited until it was at room temperature and added the yeast. Installed the airlock and put in a dark place. 30 minutes later, it was bubbling like seltzer; after 4 hours there was no foam, and still there isn't any foam as I'm writing this. There's bubbling and airlock activity, but again NO FOAM.

Thanks for your time! And sorry for the inconveniences.


PS: I don't know if I have to post it as a reply to my original post or as a new one, so I'll post it in both places. If it doesn't go here, please re-locate it to its proper place.

eddie

Chevette Girl
10-29-2012, 10:22 AM
In general you don't want to ask the same question in two places on the same forum. I'd have probably started a new thread and then put a link back to this one, since the question is about a different batch but similar question. So I'm gonna go answer your brewing question on the other thread :)