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osirisob
03-09-2013, 08:28 PM
I've have a mead that isn't fermenting very quickly.

I pitched the yeast on Feb. 18th and the O.G. was 1.110. I didn't have equipment to test the PH back then. Today, 3/9, it is only down to about 1.080. Fermentation is steady, but ever so slow. I believed the issue to be low pH, and then confirmed it with a handheld pH meter. It is about 2.90.

I have three questions:

1. What should I use to bring the pH back up?

2. I have a packet of Wyeast 4632 Dry Mead (the same yeast I pitched back in Feb). I was thinking about making a yeast starter with it, and then pitching it when I get the pH under control to get fermentation to take off. Would this be a good idea?

3. I also have DAP and FermaidK on hand ... should I had them as well? I added 4 tsp of yeast nutrient when I pitched the yeast, so I think I am OK as far as nutrient goes - but I never added DAP to this batch. I have a diffusion stone as well, so I plan on aerating it once the pH is fixed for a minute or two.

I suppose my plan is to treat it like it is brand new when the pH is fixed.

I brewed this same recipe once before and just let it ferment out for a few months thinking it was normal, or that I pitched the yeast too hot, or that I screwed something else up since it was my first batch.

I cannot share the full recipe as it was a friends and I was sworn to secrecy, but I can tell you that it is a traditional mead, nothing special, and that I know why the pH ended up the way it did.

Thanks for any input.

akueck
03-10-2013, 12:04 AM
Definitely you want to bring the pH up. If you have potassium (bi)carbonate, that is the easiest way to do so. I tend to add it in 0.5 g/gal increments until the pH is around 3.3-3.8. If you don't have potassium carbonate, calcium carbonate will also work--it dissolves slower though so you have to wait longer between adding it and checking the new pH. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) will work in a pinch, but you should avoid using a lot of it due to the salty taste it will leave behind.

You shouldn't need to add more yeast. Once the low pH problem is corrected, the yeast you have should become active again.

Is this a 5 gallon batch? Your nutrient additions will depend on the total volume.

Some aeration once the pH is fixed is a fine idea. I'd not aerate anymore once the SG is below 1.070.

osirisob
03-10-2013, 02:47 AM
Thanks for the reply. I ordered some potassium bicarbonate; it should be here on Tuesday. :)

Yes, this is a 5 gallon batch. I added 4 tsp of nutrient to it when I put it into the primary carboy, but I have never added DAP. I was thinking about adding some when I fixed the pH issue.

I have a batch of Cyser going atm too, and with that I did a staged nutrient addition over 3 days. It is fermenting like crazy, though I need to do a gravity reading here just to be sure it isn't some fluke of the airlock. That one was odd b/c I had no airlock activity, opened it, found that it was definitely going. After the first additions of nutrients post-brew day it went nuts and has never stopped - though I am only one week in.

fatbloke
03-10-2013, 04:49 AM
There was a recent thread about which is the correct/best material for doing this (sorry don't recall whether it was here or over at homebrewtalk or elsewhere).

There was a document linked that mentioned the difference between potassium bicarbonate and potassium carbonate. From memory it was the potassium carbonate that was considered best but the bicarbonate version also worked. Part of the information was a link but part of it was (I think) some posts between Medsen and Hightest, and IMO very credible from some known knowledgeable people hereabouts.

Even if my memory is wrong its got to be worth hitting google just to see if clarification checks out which is best etc.

I have already got a small bottle of locally packed pH adjuster as I have to do something with my Christmas Pudding mead which is currently stuck, but my pH meter died on me so I'm just gonna hit it and see what happens (no other option right now). The pH/acid adjuster is potassium carbonate based.

BSC
03-10-2013, 08:55 AM
A Ph of 2.9 is very acidic, lemon juice is 2, standard domestic vinegar is 2.4 and grapefruit juice is 3. So you are a bit more acidic then straight grapefruit juice and less then vinegar. :eek:

Did the recipe call for citric acid? and how much went in if it did ?
Any chance that you threw in table spoons not tea spoons of the stuff?
I know I always have to read this abbreviation twice.

Potassium bicarbonate will neutralise the acid but so should precipitated chalk that seems to be more common.

fatbloke
03-10-2013, 09:19 AM
A Ph of 2.9 is very acidic, lemon juice is 2, standard domestic vinegar is 2.4 and grapefruit juice is 3. So you are a bit more acidic then straight grapefruit juice and less then vinegar. :eek:

Did the recipe call for citric acid? and how much went in if it did ?
Any chance that you threw in table spoons not tea spoons of the stuff?
I know I always have to read this abbreviation twice.

Potassium bicarbonate will neutralise the acid but so should precipitated chalk that seems to be more common.
If you follow some of the mead making brewlogs and other questions you'd know that to get a pH of about 3.5 to 4.0 you just need to mix the honey and water in the usual proportions (about the 3lb in the gallon). Its easy to forget that honey is already quite acidic but any taste of that is masked by the sugars.

Plus the changes in the gluconic acid during the ferment is what seems to swing the pH the most (not forgetting the dissolved CO2 as carbonic acid).

Hence its not regularly recommended that any of the fruit acids are used up front as their presence can contibute toward stuck ferments.

So it's always helpful to have acces to both a pH test facility and the best material to correct it if necessary. ...

PitBull
03-10-2013, 12:40 PM
Definitely you want to bring the pH up. If you have potassium (bi)carbonate, that is the easiest way to do so. I tend to add it in 0.5 g/gal increments until the pH is around 3.3-3.8. If you don't have potassium carbonate, calcium carbonate will also work--it dissolves slower though so you have to wait longer between adding it and checking the new pH. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) will work in a pinch, but you should avoid using a lot of it due to the salty taste it will leave behind.

Your yeast will like a pH of 3.8 much better than they will like 3.3. However, since honey lacks the tannins that grape wines possess, the lower pH will contribute the the mouthfeel of the mead. The lower pH will make the mead taste less "flabby", i.e., no bite. The addition of 0.5 g/gal increments that akueck recommends has also worked well for me.

I personally shoot for the 3.3 to 3.4 range for that reason. Of course having a pH meter helps to zero in much more precisely than with pH strips. If you do not own one, the meter is definately a worthwhile investment, and can be found for under $40. Most yeast will finish fermentation at that lower pH level.

osirisob
03-11-2013, 10:34 PM
There was a recent thread about which is the correct/best material for doing this (sorry don't recall whether it was here or over at homebrewtalk or elsewhere).

There was a document linked that mentioned the difference between potassium bicarbonate and potassium carbonate. From memory it was the potassium carbonate that was considered best but the bicarbonate version also worked. Part of the information was a link but part of it was (I think) some posts between Medsen and Hightest, and IMO very credible from some known knowledgeable people hereabouts.

Even if my memory is wrong its got to be worth hitting google just to see if clarification checks out which is best etc.

I have already got a small bottle of locally packed pH adjuster as I have to do something with my Christmas Pudding mead which is currently stuck, but my pH meter died on me so I'm just gonna hit it and see what happens (no other option right now). The pH/acid adjuster is potassium carbonate based.

Yeah, after I posted this I read around a bit and found a post by Madsen where he said he preferred potassium bicarbonate - though I am not sure on the date, so his preference might have changed. With both his recommendation and akueck I decided to go with it.

I did add some acid up front - I learned my lesson. Should have learned it last time, but I did not have a pH tester back then and figured I had may have pitched the yeast too hot.

PitBull - a pH meter has been purchased, which was why I knew this was a pH issue.

A few questions, though - I added 4 tsp of yeast nutrient when I pitched the yeast. It did not contain DAP; should I add some DAP to it when I fix the pH problem? It is a 5 gallon batch.

Also, how does one go about adding the potassium bicarbonate? Should I mix it with some of the must then add it back? Put the powder in and splash it around? Add it to a little bit of boiled water and pour it in? Also, should I measure the pH immediately after I add it or should I give it a few hours / day?

It is probably down to 1.079 / 1.078 at this point. It drops about .05 a week.

fatbloke
03-11-2013, 11:13 PM
Presume that there's lots of dissolved CO2 in there and do either - aerate/de-gas stir first then stir in the powder or take a bit of must out and dissolve the powder into it, though I'd still get gas out first as it will still cause nucleation points for possible foaming.

As for DAP ? If it's less than half way through I'd use Fermaidk or similar for a source of nitrogen if its passed the half way stage, then either boiled yeast or hulls (or FermaidO if you have it).

PitBull
03-12-2013, 07:17 AM
I did add some acid up front - I learned my lesson. Should have learned it last time, but I did not have a pH tester back then and figured I had may have pitched the yeast too hot.

Experience IS the best teacher. Unfortunately, it is also the most costly and painful way of learning (but often the most fun). The pH of mead's must can drop below 3.0 even without acid addition.

Ways to increase the mouthfeel are lower pH, acid additions, tannin (which also will help with fining), and oaking. All except pH adjustment should be done in the secondary fermenter. I have the results of a mouthfeel experiment in the Patrons section. The final round should be completed soon.


A few questions, though - I added 4 tsp of yeast nutrient when I pitched the yeast. It did not contain DAP; should I add some DAP to it when I fix the pH problem? It is a 5 gallon batch.


Also, how does one go about adding the potassium bicarbonate? Should I mix it with some of the must then add it back? Put the powder in and splash it around? Add it to a little bit of boiled water and pour it in? Also, should I measure the pH immediately after I add it or should I give it a few hours / day?

It is probably down to 1.079 / 1.078 at this point. It drops about .05 a week.

I simply open the primary fermenter and gently stir in the K-bicarb. At 0.5g/gal, it dissolves almost instantly with a very small, but quick, fizzing (i.e. no volcano). The gentle stirring/swirling will also help to keep your yeast suspended and give you a start on degassing. You may want to do that every few days. You should wait at least a few hours before testing to give it time to react. I usually test the next day to see if additional adjustments are necessary.

Do you know your starting gravity? At 1.079 you are moslt likely less than half-way, and may not be past the 1/3 sugar break. Nutrients containing DAP (including Fermaid K) shound not be added past the 1/3 sugar break. One big plus of Fermaid K is that the yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) concentration is published by the manufacturer and you can calculate the YAN of your must before you begin fermentation.

It's quite possible that you may not need any more nutrient at all. However, if you are certain that your nutrient contains no DAP, I'd stick with that. A little extra nutrient will not overdose the must. Otherwise, go with the yeast hulls or Fermaid O that fatbloke recommended.

WVMJack
03-12-2013, 11:46 AM
There is no reason not to add tannins and oak?; in the primary. Just like in winemaking. There is no problem adding fruit or other ingredients at the start. Some things dissve in water better so addind first is better. Some things needs alcohol to dissolve better so adding later is OK. Some things like fruit have elements that dissolve in both so adding in primary and letting it go through the entire phase of primary fermentation gets the most flavor out. WVMJ

PitBull
03-12-2013, 04:53 PM
There is no reason not to add tannins and oak?; in the primary. Just like in winemaking. There is no problem adding fruit or other ingredients at the start. Some things dissve in water better so addind first is better. Some things needs alcohol to dissolve better so adding later is OK. Some things like fruit have elements that dissolve in both so adding in primary and letting it go through the entire phase of primary fermentation gets the most flavor out. WVMJ
There is nothing "wrong" with adding tannin or oak to the primary. But the main reason to add mouthfeel ingredients to the secondary is a matter of control. Since both acidity and tannin contribute, it's easier to to determine the amount to tannin to add after the final acidity is reached. If you add tannin to the primary, it's much easier to overshoot. Adding ingredients to the secondary, step-by-step as needed, is much easier than trying to remove too much, and less time consuming. The same is true for acid blend.

The biggest problem with adding oak cubes to the primary is that full oak extraction takes 8 weeks or longer. Primary fermentation seldom exceeds 14 days, and is often completed in less than one week. One must add more oak to the primary to compensate for the short fermentation time (more expensive), or transfer it to the secondary along with the wine (more messy).

WVMJack
03-12-2013, 06:07 PM
Actually you should have an idea of how much you are going to need to add and maybe shoot low at the beginning if you are concerned about adding to much. As for oak in the primary, its easy to add oak powder like oakmor, or if you use cubes just strain them out and rinse them off and pop them into the secondary. There is a lot of discussion about how much time it really takes to get the oak flavors out, some professionals think most of the flavoring from oak come out in a few days not weeks or months. I like to start with oakmor in the primary, it sinks to the bottom, we rack and let it finish up fermenting, and when most of the yeast has fallen out add some oak stave, chips or cubes. Another thing I think meader should be getting into is the new tannin products like optired, optiwhite and some others used in winemaking that are really meant to purposely add mouthfeel and help in aging etc. wVMJ


There is nothing "wrong" with adding tannin or oak to the primary. But the main reason to add mouthfeel ingredients to the secondary is a matter of control. Since both acidity and tannin contribute, it's easier to to determine the amount to tannin to add after the final acidity is reached. If you add tannin to the primary, it's much easier to overshoot. Adding ingredients to the secondary, step-by-step as needed, is much easier than trying to remove too much, and less time consuming. The same is true for acid blend.

The biggest problem with adding oak cubes to the primary is that full oak extraction takes 8 weeks or longer. Primary fermentation seldom exceeds 14 days, and is often completed in less than one week. One must add more oak to the primary to compensate for the short fermentation time (more expensive), or transfer it to the secondary along with the wine (more messy).

Medsen Fey
03-12-2013, 08:03 PM
If you add oak chips or cubes in the primary the yeast tend to mute the effect of the oak and I find you need to add 2-3 times the amount that you need if added later (even if you transfer to secondary). Personally I like the integration I get when using oak in the primary.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2

PitBull
03-13-2013, 10:47 AM
Actually you should have an idea of how much you are going to need to add and maybe shoot low at the beginning if you are concerned about adding to much. As for oak in the primary, its easy to add oak powder like oakmor, or if you use cubes just strain them out and rinse them off and pop them into the secondary. There is a lot of discussion about how much time it really takes to get the oak flavors out, some professionals think most of the flavoring from oak come out in a few days not weeks or months. I like to start with oakmor in the primary, it sinks to the bottom, we rack and let it finish up fermenting, and when most of the yeast has fallen out add some oak stave, chips or cubes. Another thing I think meader should be getting into is the new tannin products like optired, optiwhite and some others used in winemaking that are really meant to purposely add mouthfeel and help in aging etc. wVMJ
Please note that my advice was given to somebody new to mead making and not as experienced as you. When learning, it’s easier to control one variable at a time. God knows, I’m still learning, and hope I continue to do so as long as I keep making wine and beer. My first few batches were merely “drinkable”.

I usually do not have a general idea if I’m going to need tannin (or less preferable, acid blend) added to my mead before I start. I prefer not to add any at all, so I shoot for the low end of the pH scale. But each honey variety, and individual batch for that matter, is different. So I decide after fermentation is complete if tannin is needed.

As for oak, there have been innumerable discussions here on the merits and demerits of oak essence, powder, shavings, chips, cubes, spirals, staves, and barrels. We all agree that extraction is far from linear, with the vast majority of extraction occurring early. StaVin, who claims to be the world’s leading supplier of oak products, states (about oak cubes): “We recommend a minimum contact time of 8 weeks to allow for the full integration of the oak flavors”. I’m surmising that the flavors released from the oak are not homogenous and different flavors are released at differing times during the extraction process. In this excellent article, “Finishing You Wine”, by Jack Keller (http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/finishin.asp) (stopping fermentation, oaking, fining, degassing, filtering, etc.) he states; “This typically takes 2-3 months for French Oak (chips) and 3-4 months for American White Oak (chips).” But then, I always say that it’s easier to be patient when one has 200+ bottles of wine in his basement.

I often recommend splitting batches. I’ll take a 6 gallon batch, add oak to 3 gallons, and leave 3 gallons un-oaked. It’s a great learning experience and gives two distinctly different batches, which is great when one is just starting to build “inventory”. This type of experiment can only be conducted in the secondary. When to add oak, and for how long, is merely a matter of personal preference and what goal one is trying to achieve.

And thanks for the heads up on the new products. I’ll have to look into them.

WVMJack
03-13-2013, 07:21 PM
I am no longer allowed on Mr. Kellers site, I have filled our wineroom with to many oddball wines that I now need approval before starting a new batch. One thing we started doing was when we make a batch of wine we take the fruit from the whole batch and after squeezing out the wine add 2 gallon of water at 1.100 and mix it into the leftover fruit, then press again and take 4 ounces of oak and soak until it clears making a very overoaked topper for other wines.

Back to the OP, secret recipe? I know a guy who had one of those, he was using pokeberries and thought they were elderberries, havent heard from him for a while but he did say in his last post that it tasted good :) WVMJ