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alkjones
08-19-2016, 04:11 AM
Mead Mages

Good morning from sunny London (pah!).

I'm a long time lurker here (around 18 months) and a first time poster. I have a problem that I'm hoping you can help me with - around half of the time mead that I attempt to make in a 2 gal bin refuses to start fermenting. Those that do start do so after about 24 - 36 hours (which frankly I find far more stressful than I should). If i make a 1 gal, I'm usually OK, but its 50/50 if I make it in a larger quantity..

My Recipe / method - a version of JAOM, which, when it works, is absolute nectar:


3.178 KG (7 x 454 jars) of waitrose cheapest honey
Two large cinnamon sticks
2 cloves
35g jumbo raisins and cranberries (roughly chopped)
juice, pulp and grated rind of two oranges
Lalvin D47
5 x tsp of Tronozymol (as per instructions on packet)
filtered (brita) water to 10 ltr / two gallons


Method

Sterilise everything - I use milton sterilising fluid (it was good enough for my kids bottles when they were babies..) and rinse with hot water
boil orange juice, pulp and rind with raisins / cranberries / clove / smashed cinnamon sticks in 1ltr water to get all the oils & juices flowing. i.e. make fruit and spice 'tea'.
microwave the honey for 30 ish seconds just to loosen it up in the jar.
add honey to 2 gal bin. add fruit / spice 'tea' to two gal bin and stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir / whisk.
add filtered water in 1.5 ltr increments ( as that's what fits in my water filter) and stir / whisk after each jug full until i reach 2 gal.
hydrate yeast as per instructions on packet. i use a sugar thermometer to get water temp. i use warm water straight from the tap. spinkle, dont stir. wait 15 mins. add to must. dont stir. temp of must is around 35c at this point. The yeast has been bought this week, stored in the fridge and warmed for two hours (by being in the back-pocket of my jeans) before hydration.
seal it up, add airlock and stare at the damn thing for a day, willing it to start working.


The last time i made this is was absolutely delicious after about two months - no one was more surprised than me, but it did take a day to get going. I made my current batch Wednesday night and it was doing nothing by last night. I added another hydrated packet of d47 (having spent most of the day at work yesterday researching the absolute best way to pitch yeast) but when I got up this morning the air lock was still depressing inactive. i gave the bucket a slap backwards and forwards on the counter and got maybe three seconds worth of CO2 out of the airlock, but then nothing else. If I take the lid off and have a smell, i can tell there's a tiny amount of gas in there, but really not that much - certainly not enough than could be described as 'regular' fermentation. There is a small amount of foam and all the fruit is floating on the top.

so.

Thoughts

The PH is wrong. Whatever it is, it's not a sufficiently healthy environment for the yeast when it's added, and the yeast can only sloooowly make it such through the fermentation process. This time however, the PH is so wildly screwed that most of the yeast is dead or, at best, struggling, and adding more will simply result in more dead / dormant yeast. The must is too acid or too alkaline and it just can't take off.
The yeast is mostly dead. I'm doing something to the yeast to really piss it off or I'm buying dead yeast 50% of the time.
The water is to 'heavy'. I live in a seriously heavy water area, and the brita filter cant filter out enough of the crap that's in my water supply.
%other%. unknown unknowns. I'm making a stupid mistake somewhere because I'm a know-nothing bozo.


Notes
I followed this recipe last time and it was delicious, right out of the secondary racking. As far as i can tell the only differences between then are this batch are:

I was coming to the end of the tronozymol so after i had added in 5tsp, i tipped the rest of the packet in, making it probably around 6.5 tsp. I used a tsp measuring spoon. I couldn't find it this time and used an actual teaspoon, with each spoonful being a semi-heaped amount so i think this time there is LESS nutrient in there for the yeast.
I only added the rind of ONE of the oranges before.



I'm going to buy a PH meter and some K bicarbonate to see if that helps , and ive just ordered some go-ferm for next time (as I suspect this £20 batch is going to have to go down the sink. grrrrrrrr) , but i'm really out of solutions. It is SOOO frustrating that I just can seem to get consistency..

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers
Alastair

alkjones
08-19-2016, 05:58 AM
UPDATE
I hassled my wife to give the bin another slap on the counter this morning, and loads of gas, again maybe 3-4 seconds worth came out...then nothing. So it IS fermenting, just very very very slowly, and not at a sufficient rate to build up enough pressure to escape through the air-lock without agitation....

Guesses as to why it's now being so lazy? I'm thinking PH.....

Cheers
AJ

Squatchy
08-19-2016, 09:07 AM
What temp is your water when you are rehydrating¿ When you pitch, the temp of the must and the temp of your slurry need to be within ten degrees of each other.

alkjones
08-19-2016, 09:10 AM
What temp is your water when you are rehydrating¿ When you pitch, the temp of the must and the temp of your slurry need to be within ten degrees of each other.

Hi - thanks for responding.

The temp of the water I used to rehydrate on Thursday was 41.9C.

Temp of the must was 36C.

Thanks
Alastair

PapaScout
08-19-2016, 10:54 AM
Are you using a hydrometer to mark it's progress? Sounds like it's fermenting. Lack of bubbler activity could just be a leaky bucket seal so the gas escapes in other ways.

alkjones
08-19-2016, 11:06 AM
Are you using a hydrometer to mark it's progress? Sounds like it's fermenting. Lack of bubbler activity could just be a leaky bucket seal so the gas escapes in other ways.

I'm not - its on my shopping list along with the PH and the K..

I did wonder that too....I'll check it out......

Thanks for responding..

bmwr75
08-19-2016, 01:15 PM
36 C must temperature is 97 F, which is way hotter than I ever pitch in yeast slurry into. My musts are typically room temperature, 65-73 F, and I slowly temper the yeast slurry with must until it is below 83 F before pitching.

Also, I always use potassium carbonate to buffer the pH of the must. Usually about 1/2 tsp per gallon.

Lastly, I degass after pitching twice per day using a sanitized plastic spoon by stirring the must vigorously. Have only made one batch of JOAM and I know it says to not degas, but you are using D47, not bread yeast per the JOAM recipe. So, try degassing twice per day until the SG reaches about 1.030 and then leave it alone under water filled airlock.

Swordnut
08-19-2016, 01:52 PM
Its the temperature most likely. You have to wait until the must really cools down to room temperature at least (e.g. 21 degrees Celsius). A little lower is best but at least get the warmth off.

alkjones
08-19-2016, 01:55 PM
36 C must temperature is 97 F, which is way hotter than I ever pitch in yeast slurry into. My musts are typically room temperature, 65-73 F, and I slowly temper the yeast slurry with must until it is below 83 F before pitching.

Also, I always use potassium carbonate to buffer the pH of the must. Usually about 1/2 tsp per gallon.

Lastly, I degass after pitching twice per day using a sanitized plastic spoon by stirring the must vigorously. Have only made one batch of JOAM and I know it says to not degas, but you are using D47, not bread yeast per the JOAM recipe. So, try degassing twice per day until the SG reaches about 1.030 and then leave it alone under water filled airlock.

bmwr75 - thankyou for replying.

OK. several things there for me to note. Thank you very much.

Q1 - Do you add anything to the hydration water before adding the yeast or is it just warm water? - I read a three page post about what people do with yeast before pitching. I suspect it was on this site somewhere..
Q2 - Do you add K without measuring PH or do you take a measurement and add accordingly ?

Cheers
Alastair

bernardsmith
08-19-2016, 03:12 PM
I too suspect that the problem may be a poor seal rather than a lack of CO2. You COULD test whether CO2 is being produced by lighting a match and observing if it extinguishes when you place it just inside the mouth of the carboy. Many folk though prefer to use a bucket lightly covered with a cloth as their primary fermenter. This has the advantage of allowing you to aerate the must during the most active part of the fermentation and that also enables you to remove much of the CO2 as it builds up. The yeast benefit from O2 and a build up of CO2 inhibits fermentation. When the gravity drops to about 1.005 that is the time to rack (transfer) your mead from the bucket to a carboy sealed with bung and airlock. Now, air is your enemy and the tiny headroom between the top of the mead and the bottom of the airlock will be packed with CO2, thus acting as a kind of blanket to prevent any air from transforming your ethanol to ascetic acid (vinegar).

Squatchy
08-19-2016, 03:12 PM
If you have access to Go-ferm that's the best way to rehydrate your yeast. If not then use plain tap water. You probably read my post about rehydration. I personally don't add the k unless I'm getting close to 3.2 with my meter. I feed with Fermaid-O and that does such a great job at buffering I find I never need to buffer when using it. You may find you need to. Especially since you add the entire orange up front. It's a good practice to not add any acid adjustments until fermentation is over. Often (most times) meads are fine without any adjustments. If you do need to make an adjustment it's best to do that after your yeast has at least become semi clear.

bmwr75
08-20-2016, 09:00 AM
bmwr75 - thankyou for replying.

OK. several things there for me to note. Thank you very much.

Q1 - Do you add anything to the hydration water before adding the yeast or is it just warm water? - I read a three page post about what people do with yeast before pitching. I suspect it was on this site somewhere..
Q2 - Do you add K without measuring PH or do you take a measurement and add accordingly ?

Cheers
Alastair

A1 - I've used GoFerm many times, but lately have just been rehydrating per the instructions on the yeast packet and that has never failed me.
A2 - I have a pH meter, but have used it once I think. So, yes I add K-bicarb without measuring pH.