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Telkey
04-05-2013, 04:35 PM
Good afternoon,

Here is my backstory.

Recently a friend of the family passed away, as an avid brewer of beer and wines he left behind a treasure trove of equipment all in very good condition. Myself coming from a family that produced their own hobby batches of wine and beer decided that I would purchase the equipment and try my hand at making beverages with an alcohol content, I like drinking them so why not make them! :D

I decided my first batch would be a traditional mead, water, yeast, wild flower honey and some nutrients.

Here is my issue. I started the must on March 31, 2013, the contents of which are:

15.5 lbs of wildflower honey
spring water to equal the 5 US gallon mark
15 tsp of malic acid
7.5 tsp of tartaric aid
1.25 tsp tannin
5 tsp of energizer nutrient mix
10 crushed campden tabs
1 package of Lalvin EC-1118

Now I did not heat process the water or honey, and I did combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the yeast in my primary. 24 hrs after mixing the initial ingredients I made a yeast starter of 1/2 cup of warmed water and some of the must, waited 20 minutes, the temp of the starter had come down to 70* and I pitched it into the primary which is a 10 gallon pail with snap on lid and no airlock.

The stats of the must at that point were:
SG - 1.108
Temp - 68*
Ph - 3.4

I have stirred the mix 2 times a day since April 1 and decided today to test the SG of the mix. To my surprise it is still sitting at 1.108 with a temp of 66* and Ph of 3.3. There is still a nice yeast smell similar to that of a rising bread dough, the taste is still quite pleasant.

Why is it stalled, or did it even start the fermentation process?

I have some film on top of the must, but I am unsure how much of that is just aeration bubbles that have remained suspended due to the must or if it is actually the yeast.

I hope this is enough information to possibly assist with my apparent conundrum.

I should also add that all equipment was initially washed with hot water and soap and rinsed thoroughly with hot water and prior to use sanitized with a potassium metabisulfite solution, as well any equipment that touches the must is sanitized with the same solution prior and post use.

Thanks :D

Trevor

akueck
04-05-2013, 07:10 PM
Hiya!

Well the most likely problem here is pH. You added a ton of acid up-front, and that's not really necessary. [it appears in many old recipes from before we understood mead and therefore treated it like grape wine.] Try adding 0.5 g/gallon of potassium carbonate and see how much the pH moves. Keep adding (and checking) until you get to at least 3.5 and no more than about 3.8. That should get things moving.

EC-1118 is a hardy yeast and will probably ferment at your current pH, but it will be slow and painful.

Telkey
04-05-2013, 07:30 PM
;D

Beauty, thanks for the info, I will go grab some potassium carb now

Telkey
04-05-2013, 09:01 PM
Well I got the must up to a 3.6 and made a new starter ec-1118, waited for it to start bubbling up good and threw it in and life is good.

fatbloke
04-06-2013, 01:54 AM
Another thing I noticed that may not have helped a great deal......

The campden tablets. I don't know whether in Canada they'd be potassium metabisulphite or sodium metabisulphite but if you didn't give the must like 24 to 48 hors plus, and a few stirs to help the sulphite dissipate, then that would be another cause of the must not starting.

Sulphites don't actually kill yeasts but they do stun then, hence you were starting to smell something happening after 2 days but the yeast was still lagging which isn't a surprise with the sulphites and low pH akueck already alluded too.......

Telkey
04-06-2013, 10:35 AM
Thanks for the info fatbloke. The Campden tabs I have are potasium meta, I am just about to go down and give the must a good stirring and take a gravity reading see how it is progressing. :)

Telkey
04-06-2013, 11:08 AM
Wow! What a difference just a .3 change in Ph made.

I walked up to the primary and could see the shadow of the krausen through the opaque primary walls. When I popped the top I was hit with a strong burst of CO2 and the slight astringency of alcohol. The krausen was thick and white with tan patches. I tested the gravity before I stirred and got a reading of 1.098. That's a big change in 14 hours after days of no movement.

Life is good :D

akueck
04-06-2013, 02:59 PM
pH is a log scale, so that "little" 0.3 difference in pH is actually a factor of 2 for the acidity (i.e. the concentration of hydrogen ions). :eek:

Next go-around, skip those up-front acid additions. If your finished mead needs more acidity for flavor/balance, you can add it then without having to deal with cranky yeast.

Telkey
04-06-2013, 03:22 PM
Here are some pics, everyone likes pics.

This first pic is 14 hours ago, sad yeast
http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m267/telkey/20130405_130036_resized_1.jpg

This pic is from this AM, happy yeast
http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m267/telkey/20130406_074147_resized.jpg

Chevette Girl
04-07-2013, 11:44 AM
Looking good! Although for the record, I've had some brews which went along just fine that never looked any more foamy than your sad yeast picture :D

Fatbloke brought up a good point with the campden tabs, your brewlog does say you waited 24 hours but after ten tabs for a 5 gal batch, it might not have been long enough. Typically we use one tablet per gallon.

Telkey
04-07-2013, 12:29 PM
Thanks ChevetteGirl, I thought it sounded like a fair bit of potassium metabi., but being fresh to the mead game I just went along with it, now I know there will be two major changes for the next brew batch. No acid until I want to adjust taste, and 1 campden tab per US gallon will suffice.

So just a quick update, because I am that kind of guy. I decided to poke my head in the primary this AM and have a peek. The foam had gone flat and the surface had many bare spots, no bubbles or foam, but you could hear the whole works fizzing like a fresh bottle of pop. So I degassed, and took a Ph reading, again, the Ph had dipped to 3.3, so I bumped it back up again and its sitting at a steady 3.7 now, within 45 minutes of degassing and adjusting the Ph, life was coming back to the bucket.

Oddly enough though, gravity had not changed from the day prior and I was still sitting at 1.098, I would imagine that the adjusted ph and degassed and re oxygenated must will have a great effect on things.

Telkey
04-08-2013, 08:39 PM
Update.

Got home this evening and popped the top, an overwhelming blast of CO2 and the smell of alcohol gave me an indicator that things were moving along nicely.

pH now reads 3.5, and the gravity has dropped to 1.076, I was quite pleased. So I degassed the batch and could not believe the amount of C02 held in suspension, it was fizzing quite loudly and the foam cover that grew also dissipated just as quickly.

The plan is to take it down to the 1.020 mark and rack it off to finish and clear, then back sweeten.

As it is now the taste is almost that of sparkling light apple drink, I attribute that to the addition of the malic acid.

fatbloke
04-08-2013, 10:13 PM
Ah, now see your last post now has a tiny one worthy of mention......

Like.......why rack at 1.020 to allow it to finish ? by doing that you'd likely be leaving behind most of the yeast colony and setting yourself up for a stuck ferment.

If its fermenting fine, then great, let it finish.......

Once it stops bubbling, you want 3 identical gravity readings, each one taken 2 or 3 days apart so the 3 readings are taken across a week. Get that and presume it finished and only rack it then.

It likely won't taste good but a lot of young meads aren't much, then think on your next step from there........

Telkey
04-08-2013, 10:38 PM
That's great advice, thanks fatbloke.

I will let it finish off and then move it. As I have read all over on this site back sweetening to get the level of sweetness is the way to go.

Since I am nearing the 1/3 point should I stay away from the aeration and just give gentle stirs to degas from this point out?

Telkey
04-09-2013, 08:42 PM
This stuff is going crazy!

It has dropped from 1.076 last night to 1.054 this evening. There is a discernible alcohol taste forming and a pile of CO2, the top of the must really has no foam to speak of just the constant fizz of gas being released.

Everything I have read says that the Lalvin EC-1118 is capable of 18% ABV, however with my starting gravity being 1.108 I should expect it to finish up at around 14-15%.

Telkey
04-11-2013, 09:53 PM
And it is still dropping, this evening the SG is at 1.014. I feel it should be slowing down soon and once it gets to where it wants to stay for a couple days I will rack it off to the glass secondary.

The colour is a nice straw yellow, and the flavour has turned into that of a very young white wine with a bit of sweetness and acid balance.

I will be looking to back sweeten before I bottle, and was curious if I should do so with the same type of honey I made the mead with originally or mix it up and add a different flavour honey in there? Personal opinions and experiences very welcome.

Telkey
04-13-2013, 12:13 AM
Well the gravity is now reading 0.98, and according to the mead calculator that puts me at the 16.4% ABV mark. I have moved the contents of the primary to an airlocked secondary and the airlock is lifting to release pressure about every 4 seconds.

I had a quick taste of the contents and would have thought it would be quite a bit drier than it is, however I would say it is similar to a semi sweet sparkling wine at the moment, I would liken it to Baby Duck , is this normal at such a low gravity?

I am not concerned with the fact that my mead is well on it's way to the 18% mark, but I find it odd that it would go so high considering my starting gravity was 1.108.

fatbloke
04-13-2013, 06:38 AM
A ferment will go as far as about 0.980 which I believe is the physical cut off when measuring with a standard hydrometer as it gives a measurement that shows there is no more sugar to ferment.

Now to think that 1.108 is high, suggests that you are or have been, a beer person and this is an early foray into mead making.

If you read around the various mead forums, you'll often find some examples of hideously high starting gravities e.g. 1.120 to 1.150 aren't infrequent.

Yet it seems people will insist on using poor technique i.e. they think that if they want, say 18% or so ABV, but also medium to sweet, they'll mix the must to say 1.150 which allows for the 133 point drop which equates to 18% and still give them enough residual sugar for some sweetness.

Yet they don't see that isn't such a smart idea, because the higher the sugar level the more likely the yeast will get stressed and cause problems like off flavours or stuck ferments or with traditionals specifically, pH swing issues etc.

You have actually done your batch pretty well i.e. not too higher start gravity, it must be well balanced with nutrients etc and not have had too much by way of pH swings/drops, for the yeast to have got it to 0.980

I'd have thought that even if you just added a bit of honey it wouldn't ferment much further anyway.

Its likely releasing some of the dissolved CO2 as it starts to settle/flocculate.

Oh and 1.108 to 0.980 is 138 points which suggests that its already in the 18% zone. So if it tastes good then let it finish clearing and age it for 6 months and see what its like then.

Swordnut
04-13-2013, 10:55 AM
I like drinking them so why not make them! :D


Sounds legit.

And I have by accident (was looking for a fining agent) stumbled upon something that might lower acidity if your PH is too high. I've added dried and powdered egg shells to my must in secondary as a fining agent. I'm pretty positive it did little to nothing what I intended to do. It's calcium so in theory would absorb impurities and its charge is the opposite of yeast so I theorized it would attract dead yeast whilst settling to the bottom as fermentation died down.

So it may have had a fining effect but not strong enough to be an effective fining agent at least.

However, calcium can lower the acidity to an extent where even cleared meads might start fermenting again. This is also just theory yet so I'll test it in future batches (by adding only fine powdered egg shell to a totally stabilized bottled mead and see if it carbonates without nutrients).

I'm a noob so I'm positive I'm not the first one to think/discover this. The possible side-effect of lowering acidity wasn't my idea either.

I'm all for 'natural' ingredients, avoiding chemicals and the like (I know I know, everything is a chemical but you get what I mean :p).

Telkey
04-25-2013, 11:26 PM
Just a quick update on this batch.

I am sure that the old hats here have seen and heard it before, but this batch its turning out quite well if I do say so myself, and a couple others agree.

I have racked it off the lees once already, the buildup on the bottom of the secondary was thick, I used the second racking as a chance to degas as well as take the mead off the lees.

After the second racking and a week in the glass carbouy the mead has started to clear, at the moment it is the colour and clarity of an organic apple juice. The taste is somewhat sweet, not overly, but the sweetness is present and the finish is crisp and clean.

I siphoned off a glass full and left it in the refrigerator to crash and let the yeast settle and then my wife and a couple of friends each tried a small amount, everyone was shocked and amazed that I made something that tasted as well as it did with some honey, water and yeast.

Once it gets to bottling stage I will post pictures of the final product.

Thank you all for your help and advice, it is appreciated.

T.

Telkey
05-13-2013, 11:36 PM
So it is clearing nicely, I figure another few weeks and it will be ready to bottle. The tiniest bubbles of C02 are still suspended in the mead, I do not have a drill attachment so I have just been shaking the carbouy vigorously every few days and it loosens some more bubbles out of solution, however it is clearing nicely. The taste is amazing, not what I was expecting at all after reading about all of the "hot" young meads out there.

Anyhow, here is how it looks now.

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m267/telkey/20130512_174535.jpg (http://s106.photobucket.com/user/telkey/media/20130512_174535.jpg.html)

Kelvin
05-14-2013, 01:37 AM
I'm gonna go with Alkuek's first post... You went too far too fast. Just start out simply then see what you need to do. Yes, it's ok to put some yeast nutrients in but don't over do it. I'm gonna stand by my original forum and practical experience.... Just make sure you figure your honey, water, temps and yeast to decide what you kind of mead you want. Yes, fine, put some nutrients on for the first sugar break, but after that just let it go. I have never had a bad batch. Just keep it clean and do what you are supposed to do during each phase and you'll be fine.

You don't need to go crazy to make mead. Yeast, Honey, Water, Nutrients are good for the first few days but not always necessary. Either way, let it go and see what you get. That's how I like to do it. It always turns out well.

Obviously, if you are trying to do some sort of commercial mead then things would be different, but for home made and drinking mead my motto is "KISS" Keep It Simple Stupid.

Kelvin
05-14-2013, 01:38 AM
So it is clearing nicely, I figure another few weeks and it will be ready to bottle. The tiniest bubbles of C02 are still suspended in the mead, I do not have a drill attachment so I have just been shaking the carbouy vigorously every few days and it loosens some more bubbles out of solution, however it is clearing nicely. The taste is amazing, not what I was expecting at all after reading about all of the "hot" young meads out there.

Anyhow, here is how it looks now.

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m267/telkey/20130512_174535.jpg (http://s106.photobucket.com/user/telkey/media/20130512_174535.jpg.html)

Nice looking glass of mead there....

Telkey
05-18-2013, 11:11 AM
Here it is today. Bottled and tastes pretty fantastic. I pushed the cork a little deep on a bottle so we chilled it off and drank it last night. It is not too dry, quite crisp, no nasty burning alcohol flavours, and the finish is crisp and clean, doesn't linger.

I am going to attribute a lot of the success to the water and honey I used. The water is natural spring water that comes out of a rock on the side of a mountain, it is tested to be safe to drink, but at the same time is free of nasty minerals, chlorine, flouride etc. and the honey is from a local apiary.

My wife was shocked and amazed, and now that the obligatory bottles have been earmarked for their respective new owners, she has insisted I make another batch of the same. Luckily I kept a detailed ingredients list, with times, gravities, etc.

Anyways, here is what it looks like in a bottle (as if you have not seen it before)

I would like to thank everyone that has helped with information from the beginning.

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m267/telkey/20130517_132449.jpg (http://s106.photobucket.com/user/telkey/media/20130517_132449.jpg.html)

And my attempt at an artsy type photo, the apple tree was just in full bloom and the grass was green, all natural, and clean, just like the drink.

http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m267/telkey/20130517_150830.jpg (http://s106.photobucket.com/user/telkey/media/20130517_150830.jpg.html)