View Full Version : Fermentation not starting - orange spice melomel

01-21-2013, 01:48 PM
Hello! I'm sure the answers I need are here in the forums, but I'm not sure which issue is my primary problem, and so I was hoping to get some experienced opinions sooner rather than later, so that I will be less likely to lose by batch!

I am making my first mead, but I have experience making wines from kits. I researched as much as I could about meads before starting a batch. Here is what I have, started at 8:00 pm EST last night:

Orange-spice melomel (inspired by Joe's Ancient Orange but I changed things, see notes below)

6 gallon batch
22 lbs. white clover honey (Sue Bee brand)
spring water to make 6 gallons
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
5 sticks cinnamon
3 tsp yeast energizer (LD Carlson brand, label ingredients in order are Diammonium phosphate, Springcell, and Magnesium sulphate, no percentages given)
6 navel oranges, zested and peeled, all parts except white pith added
1 packet Lalvin ICV D47 yeast, 5 grams, rehydrated according to package directions

Beginning S.G.: 1.130
Beginning temperature: 72 F
pH: roughly 6, used roughly titrated chemistry pH strips as my wine strips don't measure high enough.

Mixed the yeast in a separate cup with 105 F water according to package to rehydrate. Added all the honey and about 2 gallons of 150 F water to the carboy and stirred, using a drill-mounted mix-stir. Added the balance of spring water to make 6 gallons and stirred. Checked S.G., at 1.130. Added cloves, allspice, and cinnamon sticks and stirred. Added yeast energizer and stirred. Added orange zest and about 2/3 of the peeled orange slices before I ran out of room (oops). I removed 25 oz. of orange spiced honey water for use to sweeten hot tea (recipe bonus!). Added the rest of the orange slices and stirred. Rechecked S.G., still at 1.130, clogged my wine thief with orange pulp, fun. Checked pH, was a pretty purple dot on the wine pH tester(higher than 4.4), so rechecked with full range chemistry strips, at about 6. Added rehydrated yeast, stirred well. Capped the carboy with an orange cap and airlock and stuck it in its corner.

Measures this morning at 10:30 am EST:
Temp: 62 F (no heating apparatus on the carboy)
No fermentation activity
Stirred the must and checked pH, still 6.
S.G. 1.134 (up either from temperature difference or sugars in oranges)
Tastes fine, like orange honey water.

Additional notes:
I did not pasteurize the honey. I figured if it was sold in the big box store it's already had enough done to it.

The honey amount is high, as I am trying to make a dessert mead. I thought about backsweetening, but I was hoping to not have the new honey added cause the hazing effect I've read of, and I wanted to have the tastes blend without years of aging.

Though I have Fleischmann's bread yeast, I used Lalvin D47 because I had read negative opinions about the flavors imparted by the bread yeast. I am sensitive to the yeast taste in the wines we make, and so I thought the Lalvin, designed for fermenting, would be less likely to impart the yeast taste. Since it dies out at 12-14% abv I thought it would be okay.

I rehydrated the yeast according to the Lalvin package directions, adding only warm (105 F) water, choosing to not make a yeast starter since I was already adding the energizer in the must and was worried about the effect.

I did not use raisins, but used the yeast energizer as a (hopefully adequate) substitute. I don't like raisins, and did not want to risk their taste coming through.

I zested and peeled the oranges to remove the bitter pith (don't like that either). Bitter finishes in wine are yucky for me, I just can't get over them, and every sip compounds the effect.

I have not added heat to the carboy, since this yeast says it works from 59 F to 68 F, and my heating belt will bring the temp up to 72-74 F.

My main worries are: 1) Is there enough yeast for 6 gallons of high-gravity must? 2) Is the gravity too high to ever start fermenting at all? 3) Do I need to increase the temperature, and if so, to what? 4) Will the yeast energizer work to nourish the yeast, and is there enough, or is there something else I should add? Do I need those nasty little buggy raisins?

I do have an extra carboy right now, so if I need to split the batch to add water and lower the gravity I can do that.

Thank you in advance for your input! I know it may be early still for worries, but I don't want to wait too long if there is something I need to do right away.


Yo momma
01-21-2013, 02:13 PM
Your fine
Be patient.....Sometimes the yeasties are slow to react. give it a day and see then.

Fisk Jaegaren
01-21-2013, 02:31 PM
5 grams is a bit small of an amount to start a 6 gallon batch, most 5 gallon recipes call for 10 grams to start with, this batch having a high gravity may call for the use of a yeast starter. You can make a starter over the next couple of days and re-pitch. Aerate by stirring every other day or so, check your sg at this time. A slow continual drop should be expected, high gravity and the temp being in the lower range for this yeast and the small initial starting amount may all play into the equation.

I started a 4 gallon batch last night around 7pm, I already have airlock activity, will aerate and check sg tomorrow.

I have 5 batches of mead under my belt in the past year and have been fortunate enough to take part in making a few more with a brew master from a local micro-brew, the knowledge he's shared with me is worth it's weight in Tupelo honey!

Marc F.
01-21-2013, 08:27 PM
I'm a bit worried about your pH.

6 is very near neutral (7.2). If I recall correctly most "brews" are around a pH of 3.3 - 3.5 range. Maybe you need to add a little acidic something.

Experienced brewers help needed here!!! I'm just a newbie.

01-22-2013, 12:34 AM
I'd wait until tomorrow. If nothing is happening then I'd add a little bit of acid (NOT much, just enough to drop the pH to ~5) and add more yeast. 1.130 is pretty high and 6pH is very high, they might not have been able to take hold, but they are tough little critters those yeasts, so they may pull through.

Chevette Girl
01-22-2013, 01:11 AM
1.130-1.134 may be a little on the high side for the yeast you chose (and yes, a temperature drop can account for a raise in SG).

If it doesn't show signs of fermentation within a few days, I'd get another packet or two and do an acclimated starter (rehydrate as per directions and then add an equal amount of must to double the amount every time it gets fizzy again (usually 20 min for second addition, half an hour for third, an hour or more for subsequent additions). I would do a gallon of starter for a 5-6 gal batch, and I'd keep the temperature at low 70's while developing the starter... as much as D47 likes it cool, the cooler the temperature, the slower the ferment, you do sometimes have to be patient with that yeast :)

I would not add any acid at this time, once the yeast get started, they will tend to acidify the must on their own and you don't want them to drop it too low.

Medsen Fey
01-22-2013, 08:23 AM
CG is right - you don't need to add acid. The yeast can tolerate a near-neutral pH and they will lower the pH on their own.

What you are seeing is a long lag phase brought on by temperature shear, a relatively low temp, and a modest-sized yeast pitch. While D47 can certainly function at this gravity, you get things going faster with high-gravity batches if you pitch at least 2 packets of yeast ( I often use 3)

Secondly, if the temperature difference between the rehydrated yeast and the must is >15 a lot of yeast will be killed and it will take longer for the survivors to grow enough to make fermentation visible. This problem is easily remedied by adding a portion of must equal to the rehydration liquid and giving it time to start bubbling before pitching.

It usually takes yeast longer to get going with must temps that are near 60F. That isn't a bad thing, just a fact.

So at this point, you can acclimate another packet or two of yeast and pitch them, or you can just wait and aerate it well.

01-22-2013, 02:55 PM
Thank you everyone! There is still no fermentation activity today in the mead, and all the levels have remained the same. I'm stirring it a couple of times a day, and it still tastes and looks okay, it's just not fermenting. But my cab is bubbling away and my girls say the house smells like wine everywhere! I am going to go ahead and add more yeast, thanks to and according to your suggestions, since the amount is likely too low and I did not account for the temperature acclimation. I'll remember to treat it like acclimating fish into a new tank next time. I will let you know as soon as I see evidence of life...

01-22-2013, 04:54 PM
We had a 300 gallon salt water tank (yes that's huge) while growing up, and I remember trying to acclimate the fish and coral, getting everything just right took a while.
I never even considered thinking about the yeast the same way. I mean I acclimate them, and say I'm aclimating them, but something never clicked and reminded me of the fish. Thanks for mentioning that; now I'll always think of the fish and hopefully acclimate the yeast even better.
Must have had a brain fart.

01-22-2013, 05:41 PM
Oh yes, we know fish too. We have four tanks, though none salt water. My daughter's "pet" is a 30" turushuqui doradid catfish. He knows her by sight and the sound of her voice, and comes up to be pet on his head when she passes by. So as soon as I thought of yeast as fish, I said "well, now that makes sense!"

Marc F.
01-22-2013, 06:15 PM
I had multiple aquariums in my life. :)
All non-salt water and tiny little fish like neon-tetra's, goldfish and guppies.

I can see the comparison with the fish and the yeasties. I shall acclimate my yeast before pitching.

Thank you for that. :happy8:

01-23-2013, 09:55 AM
Success! I added a warming belt to the carboy, and mixed up another yeast starter, this time acclimating them to the mead and the temperature difference over the course of 3 hours. I also added 1/2 tbsp of additional energizer to the starter to give them a bit more food. By the time I was ready to add the starter to the carboy there were tiny bubbles already rising up the carboy, so raising the temp from 61 F to 64 F was enough to wake up fermentation. I added the second starter, and 1 1/2 more tbsp of energizer (so now there are 3 tbsp of yeast energizer total added, more than package recommends, but I wanted to give them more food and not drown them again in honey). Last night it was a bit bubbly, and this morning it's bubbling very happily, at a temp of 70 F. Thank you to all of you for your advice!

Fisk Jaegaren
01-23-2013, 11:23 AM
It's the little things that make it all work! :book1: Ken Schramm's book, The Complete Mead Maker, is a great resource to have on hand, mine is on the counter with every single batch I make!

01-23-2013, 09:59 PM
If you hadn't noticed, the folks who lurk here abouts are awesome people with allot of knowledge, advice and just good humor. Always willing to help us new to the hobby....

01-24-2013, 02:49 PM
Naughty mead exploded out of the airlock last night, even after removing the heating belt hours before, left a river across my floor. It looks and smells like a fraternity house party in that carboy. It's not behaved and civilized like my wine at all...

Marshmallow Blue
01-24-2013, 03:00 PM
Naughty mead exploded out of the airlock last night, even after removing the heating belt hours before, left a river across my floor. It looks and smells like a fraternity house party in that carboy. It's not behaved and civilized like my wine at all...

Something on a smaller scale happened with my strawberry raspberry melomel. I had strawberry goop bustin' out of my airlock and a whole soft strawberry got stuck in curve of the airlock (S shaped). I didn't have any issues after that and now it's pretty tasty.