View Full Version : Fermentation Question About Wyeast 4632 Dry Mead

02-19-2013, 03:23 PM
I am pretty new to mead making, and to home brewing in general.

I have made one batch of mead before, and I just got my second in the carboy (6 gallon glass). I used the same recipe for each, but changed the type of honey I was using for the second batch (the type I used before was not available).

My first batch turned out great after a year, so I have no complaints, but I wanted to learn more about what is going on with my fermentation, which is why I didn't put this in troubleshooting.

The recipe I used is a friend's, so I cannot divulge too much about it. I can tell you the following, though:

15 lbs honey - California Orange Blossom - first was a lighter variety
2 tsp yeast nutrient
Wyeast 4632 Dry Mead (http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/cider-mead-sake/mead-making/mead-ingredients/wyeast-dry-mead.html)
Tap water - boiled and then chilled

The first time I made mead I boiled the honey, but this time I followed a different method outlined in "The Complete Meadmaker" and merely brought a gallon of water up to 150 degrees and added the honey, let it sit for 10 minutes at that temperature, and then combined it with refrigerated water. I am going to use the no-heat method for my next batch.

The first batch I made was very quiet in the carboy. It formed a slight foam on the top, but nothing significant at all (the must still showed through the foam in most areas). The most activity I got out of the airlock was a bubble every 2-3 seconds. This died down within a few days to a bubble every 10-12 seconds--then to one every minute. The best way I found to determine continued activity was to watch the surface of the mead for little bubbles jumping out of the must. I can best describe this as effervescence -- like bubbling champagne. I also did gravity readings, and it fell consistently - albeit slowly. I roused the yeast every few days.

Still, the mead turned out fine, but I thought I had done something wrong since the fermentation didn't reach a fevered pitch. Like maybe I didn't get enough oxygen into the must, or maybe the PH balance was off, or maybe I pitched the yeast too hot. Both times I pitched a little over 80 degrees.

-- I still have not tested the PH, but I know all my beer brews fine. And I understand PH is way more important for mead / wine, I just don't have the equipment to test it.

I've read that the Wyeast 4632 Dry Mead has "low foaming with little or no sulfur production."

Long story short, this new batch is ending up the same way. Its been a little over 24 hours and I am getting little to no activity (though it is getting slightly more intense). I see the same bubbling effect, and while I am getting airlock activity, it is nothing to write home about.

Next time I will get a PH reading so I can rule it out.

Anyways, I was looking for any thoughts / insights you lot have about what may be occurring - and if it is worth worrying about since the mead ended up great anyways. For all I know, it is perfectly normal for the yeast I used.

Oh, I forgot - initial gravity for this batch was 1.110 - I didn't get one for the first one, but I did bottled it around 1.005. I honestly think it was probably around 1.110 - I left it in the glass carboy for three months. (I couldn't stand to wait for it to lower any more).

02-19-2013, 04:10 PM
Your efforts to understand whats occurring is laudable, but its hard bordering on the impossible to explain it all.

You've got the obvious i.e. that the sugars and nutrients are being consumed and converted by the yeast, fine. Yet that doesn't explain why with meads, especially traditionals, that you get some rather odd stuff, like the pH swings (connected to changes in gluconic acid/gluconolactone) or why such a tiny change as different heat levels can remove some of the aromatics (some are more volatile than others and driven off by heat)or cause little or excessive foaming (how much natural proteins may or may not be present, some having been removed when they rise in the foaming scum during heating or other processing of the honey) etc etc.

There is some scientific stuff kicking around yet compared to wines, beers and spirits, its decidedly limited. Each tiny change means a different range of reactions in the ferment.

Even different water sources can apparently make a big difference....

02-19-2013, 07:21 PM
Don't sweat the airlock. How much CO2 goes through that thing depends on lots of variables (ambient temp, total volume, as well as actual fermentation rate). What really matters is the SG. As long as that is dropping, you've got fermentation. And 24 hours isn't too bad for a lag time.

02-23-2013, 05:16 PM
When you said that you agitated the primary every few days, that makes me a little suspicious. Most recipes I've seen (and the successful batches I've made) tell you to leave it alone and trust that the yeast will continue to chew on the nutrients you provided. Perhaps by swishing the carboy regularly you are unintentionally letting the yeast flocculate too early? Who knows.

If you have the basics set (which it sounds like you do), then it will work. Some yeasts are a bit slower than others, though perhaps those "mystery" portions of your friends recipe are to be considered.

Chevette Girl
02-24-2013, 01:44 PM
Actually, mezmiro, stirring will NOT harm your yeast, in fact it gets them back up into suspension so they're not just working from the bottom, and it also knocks out some of the CO2 that builds up in the must. And in the initial part of the fermentation, the yeast need oxygen so a lot of splashing around is a good thing.

Some folks in the Patron's section have been doing experiments with stir plates to see what happens with constant aeration in the early stages and constant degasing in the later stages of the active ferment and the results are promising. The time when you want to just leave it alone is once it's in secondary (once most of the sugars are gone and you've let it settle out and racked it off whatever lees will drop).

Osirisob, as long as your fermentation is going steadily, I wouldn't worry about the rate at which it bubbles, as has already been said, airlocks are a lousy way to track your progress, trust your hydrometer... giving us your SG readings is far more useful than relating bubble rates. And some musts foam, some don't, and some go really nuts and some just putter along, they can all turn out really nice meads. Some folks find that a longer, gentler ferment preserves a lot of the more delicate aromas and flavours that could get blown right out the airlock in a violent fermentation.

The only concern I would have about your procedure is that early in the fermentation, the yeast need access to oxygen and I don't know about you but I have a lot of difficulty whipping air into the must when it's in a carboy, using a bucket for the active fermentation makes aerating it a whole lot easier. Yeast can be very forgiving though, I had some really bad habits early on in my meadmaking career (adding acid up front, never aerating or stirring, leaving stuff sitting on the lees) and still turned out tasty products. It's just a lot more reliable and reproducible when you treat your yeast right ;D