View Full Version : Should I dump it and start over?

Nautical Mead
01-06-2013, 04:33 PM
First attempt at mead

My recipe is basic:

15 pounds of raw, unprocessed honey

5 gallons of water

LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient

LD Carlson Yeast Energizer

Cotes des Blancs White Labs yeast

I heated the water and dissolved the honey added the nutrient and energizer as per the label. I added the yeast and within 8 hours started seeing bubbles through the air vent. 24 hours later I was seeing a bubble every two seconds. After a week, I racked it into a glass carbon and the fermentation continued at the same rate for another week. Then, it slowed to about one bubble every 20 seconds. The initial SG was at 1.09 and after it slowed down, it was at 1.03, so it wasn't done. I tasted it, and it was very acidic. I had failed to test the initial ph, but now it was at about 2.5.

I went to my home brew supplier for calcium carbonate and was told calcium chloride was the same thing. I added it a little at a time, rechecking the ph. When I got to two tablespoons I began to smell a rat. The ph wasn't changing and now the must tasted salty. The good news is that fermentation has started again, but am I beating a dead horse? Is there some way to salvage this batch?

Thanks in advance for any response, even if it is only to ridicule.:)

01-06-2013, 05:03 PM
Whoever told you chlorides and carbonates are the same is definitely mistaken.

If the pH is still low, I'd see if you can find potassium bicarbonate. It will dissolve faster than calcium carbonate so you can get a more immediate measure of the effect on pH. It's easy to over-add the calcium version since it takes awhile to dissolve.

I'd say don't dump it yet. See if you can get it to finish, let it clear up, and taste it again. If it really is too salty you can always use it for marinade.

Chevette Girl
01-06-2013, 06:58 PM
Wonder if there's anything you could add that would bind it and make it precipitate out... I'm way too rusty on my chemistry to figure that out though...

I know I have mistakenly used the word chloride when I meant carbonate on one of my brewlogs (repeatedly, even) but I did catch my errors in a later post. But yeah, they're definitely not the same thing. I'm not sure what they'd even be doing with calcium chloride in a brew supply store anyway, no idea what it'd be used for, we use it at my barn to keep the arena footing from getting too dusty in the winter.

I had salt-contaminated sugar in a 6-gal batch of wild grape wine, I tried to get it to go to vinegar. Some of it did and I've been using both the stuff that did and the stuff that didn't as a cooking wine/marinade.

I wouldn't dump this, it should still ferment, and would be an awesome cooking wine if it ends up tasting too salty at the end... I bottled mine in plastic pop bottles and juice jugs so all it cost me was a year of carboy space (and all those hours sorting the little @#$@$ wild grapes)...

Nautical Mead
01-06-2013, 08:03 PM
Thank you for the replies.

I went back to my home brew connection today and he didn't have potassium bicarbonate but he recommended using gypsum to raise the ph. Understandably, I am a little gun shy of taking his advice without question. Is it a sound procedure to use gypsum to adjust ph?

CG, it is a swimming pool/home brew supply store, so that may be why they have an odd assortment of chemicals.

He believes that it will precipitate out over time without any other action. I will try that first and then maybe some fining agents. I was also thinking about adding some fruit that will go with a salty flavor, like watermelon.

The marinade idea sounds interesting, too.

If nothing else, I will invent a whole new genre of mead making. "Nautical Mead":o

Also, I have been using a book called "The Compleat Meadmaker" as my main source of information. In fact, the author is who led me to this site. To my uneducated head, it seems to be an extremely well done reference source. Is anyone familiar with this book?

Thank again for all the help.

Chevette Girl
01-06-2013, 08:46 PM
;D Many of us are quite familiar with that book. Very well-written. Do a search on here for its author, he's a member :)

...I disbelieve that it will precipitate out on its own if it dissolved in the first place... the calcuim ions and the chloride ions will stay dissolved forever without an incentive to become undissolved... and if the ions are dissociated because it's dissolved, a fining agent won't help.

Do they have calcium carbonate? I think it's also known as precipitated chalk ... I can't remember what gypsum's makeup is, but I use calcium carbonate myself, my brew place doesn't stock potassium bicarb either. Just wait a day between teaspoons before you add more, it does take a while for it to dissolve and you don't want to overcorrect...

"Nautical Mead. You've heard of salt-water taffee, right?"

01-06-2013, 09:33 PM
Gypsum is calcium sulfate. As far as I know, it will not directly affect pH (it is not a simple acid or base), but at least in grain mashes and beer worts it does affect pH through interaction with other chemicals in solution. (And I believe it is more important for pH stability than actual pH shifting--i.e. it's mostly a buffer.) I'm guessing that doesn't apply very well to honey musts.

I have calcium chloride for beer. I use it to increase the chloride concentration without adding sodium. The amount of chloride in beers affects things like hop perception. Gypsum is also used in beer for adding sulfates, which affect things like ... hop perception.

Nautical Mead
01-06-2013, 11:29 PM
I just tested the gypsum on a cup of tap water. Y'all are right. It does nothing for ph.

I guess my connection is good for equipment and supplies, and not for advice.

Gosh almighty, am I glad I found this site.

Thanks, again.

01-07-2013, 03:28 AM
WRT dumping
I've only had one mead I would have dumped.
As per suggestions here I sat on it for two years.
IMHO, it should still be dumped!
But low and behold my brother in law loves it!
(he was very happy with a case for Christmas)

Medsen Fey
01-07-2013, 09:50 AM
Gypsum is actually used to lower pH (making it more acidic) not to raise it. The gypsum doesn't directly move the pH, but the calcium ions interact with proteins, amino acids and other organic acids to displace hydrogen ions and the extra free hydrogen ions make the ph lower. So adding gypsum to a cup of water won't have much impact but adding it to a cup of wort or must will make a noticeable change. "Plastering" wine has been historical done in areas where the grapes have low acidity due to long hot growing seasons. Calcium chloride acts similarly to gypsum and will tend to lower pH not to raise it.

Usually, too much calcium gives a chalky taste, and it can be bound and precipitated. One way to do that after fermentation is done is to treat with cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate).

Nautical Mead
01-07-2013, 10:33 PM
I have been looking at this completely wrong. This is an educational opportunity. I can try all kinds of things on this batch and haven't really lost anything if it doesn't work out.

Didn't Thomas Edison say that first he had to learn 300 ways how NOT to make a light bulb? (I'm kind of hoping it doesn't take me 300 batches)

But, I can try anything I want. I can try fining, I can and will, try Medsen's idea of cream of tartar.

If anybody has any off-the-wall things they always wanted to try, let me know. I will do it and let you know how it turns out.

Let's call it Research.

Medsen Fey
01-07-2013, 10:47 PM
Just sweetening can be enough to cover off flavors.

Nautical Mead
01-17-2013, 10:09 PM
Sanny Claus made a late stop at my house today. He brought:

a Sper Scientific refractometer

a Martini Ph/temp/TDS meter



potassium bicarbonate

cream of tartar

calibration solutions for 4.01 and 7.01

UPS guy probably thinks I am building a bomb. For all I know, I might be. Truth is, I am not sure what to do with any of this shi...stuff. I haven't seen a bubble in 48 hours, so I think fermentation has stopped. The SG is still at 1.03 so I think that should be the first order of business. Get the ph up a little and put the yeast back to work.

Medsen, I think you said I should wait until fermentation is done before trying to use the cream of tartar to precipitate out some of the excess calcium. How much should I use?

If I plan to add honey before bottling, should I use the fining agents before that or after?

I really do appreciate all the help and encouragement.

Thanks, again.

Marshmallow Blue
01-18-2013, 09:22 PM
I feel like sometimes mead is an Apollo 13 ish adventure. You don't want to dump until your literally about to fly into the sun. Or somehow a colony of fruit flies has infiltrated your mead ( not speaking from experience, I just imaging you'd wanna dump after that). With my apple cider mead, I went to rack it and it was the most putrid smelling things ever. I said... Well that's going to be vinegar in another month, I should just dump it now to free up a carboy. I hung in there and it turned out okay. It should be pretty good in October. So hang in there, have a beer and journey on.

Medsen Fey
01-18-2013, 11:42 PM
I wouldn't add any cream of tartar for now. Check the gravity and if it has stalled, check the pH. After it finishes fermenting and after it clears, then you can taste it and decide if you need to attempt removal of calcium.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2

Chevette Girl
01-19-2013, 03:45 AM
Or somehow a colony of fruit flies has infiltrated your mead ( not speaking from experience, I just imaging you'd wanna dump after that).

As an aside... speaking from experience, even then it can still be good, hit it with sulphites as soon as you notice, then rack/strain it, and if there's no off flavour, you're good to go. Due to personal ick factor, I run it through my wine filter before bottling, at that point you're probably still looking at less insect content than your mass-produced grape wine (where they don't pick over their millions of grapes nearly as carefully as we might for a 5 gallon batch) or your sack of flour (which has a listed acceptable insect parts ppm even for human consumption).

Back on topic, Nautical, once you've calibrated your pH meter, check the pH, adjust as required, and we'll see if you can get it unstuck! 1.030's not bad (that's near where my JAO's finish) but might be a bit sweet depending on your taste.

01-19-2013, 09:40 AM
Fruit flies are a great source of protein

Nautical Mead
01-19-2013, 08:35 PM
TheAlchemist, that is what I call thinking outside the box! The world needs more of that.

I think I fouled up the calibration procedure for my new ph meter. I don't think I have everything that I need. The instructions talk about a rinse solution and a storage solution. I need to play with it a little to get used to it.

The refractometer gave me a reading of 10 Brix, so that seems to be about what I was getting with the hydrometer (1.03).

Anyway, just using test strips, I added enough potassium carbonate to raise the ph from 2.5 to 3.8. I also added a half dose of nutrient and energizer, and Voila!!! Two hours later I am seeing a bubble every five seconds.

At this point, all is right with the world. Still need to figure out how to get this ph meter to cooperate, but that just gives me something to do until the bubbles stop again.

Thanks again for all the help!

Chevette Girl
01-20-2013, 03:33 AM
I think one of your calibration solutions should be useable for a storage solution (you don't want the membrane on the meter to dry out once you've hydrated it), but as for rinsing... well, in university lab we used distilled, deionized water to rinse but with my (also miscalibrated) pH meter, I dip it in my sanitizing solution before use.