View Full Version : A Racking mistake

08-17-2012, 02:56 AM
My Recipe is as follows;

Traditional Medium Mead

- 6 kg Dialium Honey (African Tamarind)

- 4 gal (US) water

- 4 tsp yeast nutrient (Fermax)

- Lalvin D-47 Yeast

- OG : 1.095

- Current Atmospheric Temp : 76-91 F

Started on 28th June.

Everything was going smoothly as of the start date. Bubbling in the Airlock was 1 every 5-10 seconds.

Around the end of the 1st week of fermentaion (approx. 6-7th of July) there was a sulphur like smell coming from the air-lock. Surfed the forums and realised it could be any of the many reasons given. I wasn't worried too much since the smell wasn't very strong and it wasn't overpowering the overall flavour. It also wasn't regular. There were days where there was no scent and there were days where you could get a hint of it.

On the 10th, activity in the airlock decreased to 1 bubble every 45-60 seconds. I figured it was time to rack. Afterall it was coming to the 2 weeks mark described in the book's recipe. I racked it on the 11th.

FIRST MISTAKE : I did not take a hydrometer reading before deciding to rack. Only after racking did I do it.

SECOND MISTAKE : I do not own an auto syphon. I have a hand syphon which splashed the mead in the second carboy around a lot.

The result of this is that now my racked carboy's airlock has activity of 1 bubble every 3-5 hours. (Yes I sat and waited). My current Gravity is only 1.08! However by tasting, the alcohol level feels like my previous JAO batch which was a 7.5 %. It definitely has fermented but from the hydrometer readings doesn't look like much.

Steps I have taken :

1) Submerged half of my primary carboy in water to try and bring the outside temperature down. (This was before racking)

2) Copper-ing while racking. (the Secondary carboy now no longer smells of sulphur at all.

3) Blanketed the Secondary carboy with CO2 using the dry ice and water method. This now seems useless after splashing it with my hand syphon.

It is obvious that my mead did not finish fermenting, judging by the hydrometer. I calibrated the hydrometer in water (reading of 1.000) and it read fine.

I am now wondering if I should :

1. Leave it alone in the fermenter. I took a reading yesterday and it still read 1.08.

2. Whip up a new batch of yeast to dump it in. In this case do I oxygenate it again and use the same amount of nutrients or just pitch the yeast?

Thanks in advance.

08-17-2012, 04:05 PM
Not really a mistake you didn't get SG before first rack.
A splashy rack is actually often recommended if you have sulfur smell so that's not necessarily a mistake in this case either. And the copper helped get rid of it too probably.
Are you sure you're reading the hydrometer correctly? Your latest reading might be 1.008? Which would be ~12%ABV.

08-17-2012, 08:10 PM
Was there much lees when you racked? If you racked off a lot of the yeast, you may need to add more to continue the fermentation. If the yeast were still in suspension (very cloudy mead, not much lees), then you might have enough already. Definitely aerate to get the yeast going. I would also suggest another 2 tsp of nutrient.

Chevette Girl
08-17-2012, 08:32 PM
As Hepcat says, the splashing probably did more good than harm. And we usually report our SG readings to three decimal points to avoid confusion like 1.080 vs 1.008. If it's 1.008 then it's still got a little bit to go or it may have stuck there, if you're happy with that, then just give it some time to age, and stabilize it before you bottle.

Another thing, the bubbling happens when the must can no longer hold the carbon dioxide, and racking shakes a lot of that out of the must (think about a messy pour of soft drink or beer), so it may take some time for the yeast to build up the CO2 to the point where it wants to bubble.

Decreasing the temperature for D47 is always a good idea (might have been the source of the stink), but it won't make your fermentation go faster, it will actually slow it down.

If it is indeed 1.080, then you might want to get another pack of yeast, and I'd advise making an acclimated starter for it when you repitch. Oxygenate the heck out of both your starter and your must, but I wouldn't add more than a teaspoon of nutrients to the must, if your previous yeast didn't do much, they probably didn't eat all the nutrients either.

08-21-2012, 01:42 AM

If I've notated the image of my hydrometer correctly then the last reading after racking to my understanding is 1.080. I actually had hope for awhile thinking I did make a mistake, but I remembered the green colour band where my reading was...:(

Chevette : What is an acclimatized starter? I thought to follow the instructions behind the yeast pack was sufficient? I have stored the lees with a bit of mead from the racking in a pot and kept it in the fridge. Should I bring that to current temperature and activate the yeast in that. Is that what you men?


Akueck : There was very little lees at the bottom of my plastic carboy. I think only enough to collect in indents of the container (the moulded leg bits). As you can see in this image I had to put a torch behind the carboy to show some sort of opacity or else it would just be dark.


Hepcat : It's definitely not 12% Alc just by taste alone. (If such a thing is possible). I'm wondering if the viscosity of the honey can alter my hydrometer reading. In the forums and around the net I know viscosity is used to describe the body of the mead and sometimes honey. Could it also mean the density in this case? My mead although has fermented still has concentrated bits of dark stuff? Maybe?

Overall I think I'm gonna wait a month or 2 and then if the reading is still 1.080 I'll pitch another batch of yeast.

Sorry for the late reply and thanks in advance for the help.

Chevette Girl
08-21-2012, 09:19 PM
Well, it's possible that if you've got undissolved honey, your original SG is actually a lot higher than your reading...

Acclimated starter: start by rehydrating the yeast and waiting the recommended time as per the packet... then add an amount of must to double the volume (same amount as your rehydration water), wait until you can see it bubbling again, then double the volume with must again. Repeat until you've got a good amount of starter, then pour it into your carboy. And if you've got extra must in the fridge, yes, warm it up to room temp before using it in the starter.

And if you started this in a bucket, you might want to put it back in the bucket so there's room for all the must and the starter AND it's a lot easier to aerate and stir...

The reason you want to do an acclimated starter is because there's already alcohol in the must and you want to introduce your new yeast to it slowly so it's not shocked by it, or the amount of honey or nutrients. The original yeast made the alcohol so it should be OK with it because it was a gradual buildup.

Haah, that's the exact same model of hydrometer as my first one that came in my winemaking kit! (I know this because I still have the paper from inside it taped to the cover of my wine log book after it got broken).

Oh, and as far as I know, the SG reading won't be affected by viscosity, it's the density that it measures, the only thing viscosity might affect would be how long it takes for it to come to rest once you plunk it into your test tube.

08-22-2012, 02:32 AM
Chevette : Thanks for clearing that up. We (my wife and me) have decided to take weekly readings and if there is no change we'll pitch new yeast in a month's time. Do you think I should change my yeast or stick with the same one? I have Red Star Pasteur Champagne and Red Star Premier Cuvee. Looking at the characteristics now, I should have used The Premier Cuvee with better temperature tolerance but I wanted to be as close as the book's recipe. Anyways thanks again.

Well it is my our first hydrometer, hopefully it'll last. It's so hard to get equipment here.

Chevette Girl
08-22-2012, 09:56 AM
I'd either go with the original yeast again or the champagne yeast, I know the Lalvin champagne yeast (EC-1118 ) is one of the better ones for restarting a stuck ferment, I suspect the Premier Cuvée should be up to the task, although I've never used that brand myself.

Oh, and if you still have all the lees from the bottom of the primary ferment? I'd highly recommend pouring off some of the clear liquid to save for topping off and thoroughly aerate the gunk that's left and stir it back in to your carboy, as much as will fit. There's probably a goodly amount of yeast right there that might be able to finish the job once you warm them up.