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Jungle_Jim
09-09-2016, 11:54 PM
I started a 1 gallon batch of blueberry melomel today. Recipe as follows:

4.5 lbs honey
3 lbs blueberries
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp yeast energizer
1 tsp acid blend
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1/4 tsp wine tannin
1 crushed campden tablet
According to my hydrometer i have the following readings
SG= 1.154 @ 68 degrees
ABV= 24%

The batch calculator says it should have 19.57% abv.


Does that look right to you experienced people?

I plan to use Lalvin EC118 tomorrow, after 24 hours has passed since i introduced the campden.

Thanks,
Jim

Stasis
09-10-2016, 06:28 AM
The batch calculator on gotmead is giving me 1.175 SG or 21.6% abv.
Go to batch calculator here and do the following: http://gotmead.com/blog/the-mead-calculator/
1. change volume to 1 gallon US and check the box at the top left corner
2. change sugars 1 to 4.5lbs honey and check the box
3. change sugars 2 to 3lbs blueberries and check the box
4. SG and abv are unchecked so that is the area which will change. the rest are fixed by checking the boxes. Sg should be 1.175 and abv 21.6%

That starting SG is very high, even for Ec1118 which is possibly the hardiest yeast out there. Your chances of a stalled ferment are HIGH.
Adding acid blend up front could very well be a mistake. This practice has been abandoned and many people are actually doing the reverse and adding a ph buffering ingredient to counter the acids in the must, making the must less acidic.
Wine tannin is seldom used but this should have no bad effect on the must. Try some batches with and without wine tannin to see what you prefer
OPTION 1: You could either treat your yeast very well by doing:
- overpitching yeast to make up for stressful conditions
- waking up (rehydrating) the yeast in good conditions: temperature, rehydration nutrient like goferm
- creating a starter. This is unusual for dried yeast but would probably help in such a case
- aerating the must
- step feeding nutrients
- crossing your fingers and hoping

Ideally you would have step fed the honey instead of front-loading it so the yeast are gradually acclimated to the sugars and alcohol levels.
I am aware that those pointers might not make sense to a new mazer. Sorry for that but explaining all of it in full detail would take pages of text. Making it seem complex (and it is, but once you get some batches under your belt you'll see it's easier than you might think) also drives the point that making a high gravity mead is not the easiest thing to do

OPTION 2: You can increase the volume of this batch by adding water until it is at least around 1.5 gal. at this volume the SG is 1.117 and the abv is 15%. If the yeast chomp through all the honey and you see it's going to turn out dry you could start step feeding if you want a higher abv mead. I wouldn't go for a high abv mead though if I'm still starting out. Your chances of creating fusels are high in a high abv batch if you're still starting out and it might take ages to age those defects out. Increasing the batch also makes the batch less acidic which counters, in a way, the acid addition. Making this batch end sweet could be a bit of a challenge but we'll get to that in due time

darigoni
09-10-2016, 07:43 AM
Hi Jim!

Your hydrometer reading is actually fairly close. The blueberries are potential sugar and, until they break down into sugar, the hydrometer will only be giving you the SG of the actual honey itself. EC118 is a pretty hardy yeast, so will probably eat through it, but it will be pretty sweet by the time it's through (final approx. SG=1.025). If you have the headroom (are you fermenting in a bucket?), adding 1/4 of a gallon of water would certainly help. You can always go back, stabilize and backsweeten later.

dave

Stasis
09-10-2016, 08:16 AM
The hydrometer's SG reading is fairly close, but I don't understand how he got to the 24% abv.
I doubt tossing a yeast packet in that must will not result in a stuck ferment. In such a case calculating the approximate final gravity is much more difficult (impossible) than reading the yeast's alcohol tolerance and subtracting it from the total SG.
I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm bashing your post darigoni. Truth is, all replies are welcome as long as they promote discussion. However, that would be an amazing yeast and our lives would be much simpler if we could use that recipe and method and get 20% abv mead with that residual sweetness reliably

darigoni
09-10-2016, 08:41 AM
No problem. I almost didn't send a reply, because I thought I might be hanging my a$$ out there. :-)

I'm guessing he has a triple scale hydrometer and is reading the potential ABV off it and interpreted the lines above 20% incorrectly. On my hydrometer an SG=1.154 is approx. 20.5% potential ABV.

I did say "probably eat through it" and also suggested that he add water, with the idea that it would drop the SG to around 1.13 and give the yeast a chance to eat through some of the honey before it starts working on the sugars in the blueberries.

dave

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 09:42 AM
No problem. I almost didn't send a reply, because I thought I might be hanging my a$$ out there. :-)

I'm guessing he has a triple scale hydrometer and is reading the potential ABV off it and interpreted the lines above 20% incorrectly. On my hydrometer an SG=1.154 is approx. 20.5% potential ABV.

I did say "probably eat through it" and also suggested that he add water, with the idea that it would drop the SG to around 1.13 and give the yeast a chance to eat through some of the honey before it starts working on the sugars in the blueberries.

dave

I probably am reading it wrong. It's hard to read those numbers, at least for me.

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 09:47 AM
As a noob I am a little lost. You guys are saying that I am probably going to have a stuck ferment? I do not have the headroom to add water. i guess I'll just go ahead with adding the must today, unless you guys think i should empty some of the mix out of the carboy and back fill with water.

Squatchy
09-10-2016, 09:52 AM
I have to agree with Stasis. I'm almost certain you will end up with a stuck ferment if you don't make adjustments. The osmotic pressure you have with such a high gravity is too much for the yeast. You could have started differently and ended up the same buy starting with a lower gravity at pitch and added in the remaining honey later once the yeast had chewed through a good bit of your honey.

Using Go-ferm to rehydrate and an o2 stone to saturate your must with oxygen would also help incredibly. Make you acid additions later as Stasis suggested. I also suggest using more yeast when you are working with higher gravities.

What you can do know is dilute the must to say 1120 and rehydrate and pitch another yeast packet to inoculate with healthier yeast (yours are wounded now ) and pay attention to temps so your new yeast slurry is within 10 degrees of the temp of the must before you toss it in otherwise you wound the yeast with temperature shock. Let the gravity drop for 3 days and then add the remaining honey to bump your finished ABV to where you want it. Higher ABV mead takes longer to age even if you do everything correctly.

I add tannins on occasion depending on what I'm looking for. Look here for help starting at page 45

Don't let all this info scare you. It's really pretty easy to make good mead with just a little bit of good information. All of which can be found right here. Welcome to the forums.

darigoni
09-10-2016, 10:00 AM
If I'm reading his original post correctly, he actually hasn't pitched any yeast as of it......

Squatchy
09-10-2016, 10:15 AM
If I'm reading his original post correctly, he actually hasn't pitched any yeast as of it......

Hard to say. He said he was going to pitch today. I've been up a few hours already so he has had time if he is an early riser and/or if he didn't come read this thread prior to inoculating.

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 10:48 AM
I have not pitched the yeast yet. I cannot pitch until 24 hours after I added the campden tablet, so 1630 cdt.

I am confused. You guys think the yeast will die before all the sugars are consumed by the yeast? Is that what you are saying? because if it is, that's what I thought I wanted to happen in order to leave a little sweetness. I don't want to back sweeten, just because I am new to this. It seems to me that if i add a certain amount more sugar than the yeast can consume before it dies off I can control the sweetness of the product on the front end. Am I completely wrong on this?

Squatchy
09-10-2016, 11:46 AM
I have not pitched the yeast yet. I cannot pitch until 24 hours after I added the campden tablet, so 1630 cdt.

I am confused. You guys think the yeast will die before all the sugars are consumed by the yeast? Is that what you are saying? because if it is, that's what I thought I wanted to happen in order to leave a little sweetness. I don't want to back sweeten, just because I am new to this. It seems to me that if i add a certain amount more sugar than the yeast can consume before it dies off I can control the sweetness of the product on the front end. Am I completely wrong on this?

So in theory it somewhat works like that.

The first part is you can only start them out with a certain gravity before it's to much for them. It's called osmotic pressure. Or in the case of too much pressure it is then osmotic shock. Think of the amount of pressure you fell under water at a pool in 5 feet of water. Now dive down to 100 ft. The atmosphereic pressure is much different. If you take a tennis ball down to 120 ft under water it is pan flat.

So in terms of gravity. The higher gravity, the deeper the dive. Imagine taking a baby down to 300 ft in the ocean. It would kill him. Same thing happens if you pitch yeast into a gravity that is too high. If you add all the sugar you are planning to use you will kill the baby.

So, instead, Start at 1120. This is fairly high but too high. Your batch calculator will help you with that. After about 3 days your fermentation will be in full swing and the yeast will have been able to chew down the gravity enough to be able to now add the rest of the honey you would have wanted to start with. This way you will still use the same amount of total honey in there but will have done it in a way to make it bearable for the yeast.

By rehydratin your yeast in with Go-ferm you are preloading them with micro nutrients they need for the long haul. This will make them super strong and ready for the long haul. If you re-hydrate wrong it will wound/cripple your yeast and make it difficult for them to do their work. If you toss the new yeast into too cold of a temp you will cold shock them and kill off most of them at pitch.

Go here http://www.scottlab.com/pdf/ScottlabsHandbook2016.pdf and read pages 33-44. Look at rehydration protocol and added nutrient additions.

Because a living biomass is not a machine they may not tap out at the alcohol tolerance it has listed in the manuals. I have found I almost always go over the stated tolerance level now that I employ all the protocols available to us now using the most current fermentation practices. So just because the literature says it will stop at a certain point you can't count on it exactly. The yeast don't die at this point. They just can't work anymore once the ABV get to a place that overcomes them. If they tapped out and you still have sugars in the musty if you added more water and lowered the ABV they would go back to work.

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 03:27 PM
Thank you Squatchy for the reply. I removed quite a bit of the berries to make room for more water. I'll add the water and get a new reading.

jwaldo
09-10-2016, 03:35 PM
You could also split this into two batches (assuming you have another fermenter) and add water to each to a good starting gravity. Would mean more mead at the end.

darigoni
09-10-2016, 04:01 PM
Of course taking out the blueberries is going to cut back on the flavor. Perhaps you can save (freeze) them and use them in the secondary fermentation?

I like jwaldo's idea of splitting the batch and making two batches out of it. Or you could put all the blueberries in one batch and either nothing in the second batch, more blueberries or something else.

FYI. A typical/average mead must starts off with around 3lbs of honey. So that's why flags went off when your recipe stated 4.5 lbs and with fruit.

What are you using to ferment in, a one gallon jug or bucket?

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 04:49 PM
I am using a 1 gallon glass carboy. I got my SG down to 1.138. The blueberries had been sitting in the must for 22 hours. The must has a strong blueberry aroma and is dark purple. I still have a little room to add water after I pitch. I think I'll give a try and see what happens. It's just an experiment anyway.

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 06:18 PM
I pitched the yeast at 1630. If it's not bubbling by midnight should I kill the yeast and split the batch and re-pitch as Jwaldo suggested or what?
By the way, thank you all so much for the information. i have learned a lot in a couple of days.

Stasis
09-10-2016, 06:35 PM
I don't think osmotic pressure works quite like what you said squatchy. I was under the impression that sugar naturally hinders bacteria growth. This is why jams and honey don't go bad. Now at such a high gravity it is not sterile, but it's not easy for the yeast to chomp the sugars either. Now perhaps there is some pressure on the yeast's cell walls on a microscopic level created by the sugars... anyway the point is: don't be under the impression that having a shallow fermentor will reduce osmotic pressure.
What I think we're trying to say is that just because you want the yeast to stop "prematurely" does not mean you want them to stop early because you treated them bad. This is because treating yeast bad might result in off flavors and can give unreliable results. So one time it might turn out ok, the next you might end with something funky and sickly sweet. There are ways to manage a ferment well, treat yeast right and you can end with a mead as sweet as you want it quite reliably.
Btw, Ec1118 might not be the best yeast to sweeten a mead by exceeding it's alcohol tolerance unless you also want a high alcohol level. This is because Ec1118 has a very high tolerance to alcohol. If you want a lower alcohol mead you can go for a wine yeast with a lower alcohol tolerance. I hear that beer yeasts can be very good for mead making but I haven't tried them myself. Most beer yeasts have a lower alcohol tolerance than wine yeasts.

Stasis
09-10-2016, 06:37 PM
I think you will see some bubbling. The problem is whether or not the yeast are helthy enough to eat through the majority of the sugars

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 09:12 PM
You guys were right. 3.5 hours and nothing. I threw it away and started over with 3 lbs of honey and 1 lb of blueberries.

darigoni
09-10-2016, 09:21 PM
Well, that's to bad. I might have waited until the morning before I pitched it. On the plus side, it was only a one gallon batch. After primatpry fermentation is complete, you may want to rack into another carboy with another 1 to 2 pounds of blueberries. Good luck.

Jungle_Jim
09-10-2016, 09:51 PM
Thank you very much.

Stasis
09-11-2016, 10:11 AM
Thrown away? Meads are very often salvageable, especially after extensive aging. I wouldn't throw a batch away, even when I'm "sure" it's bad. But then again I have many carboys to spare. Meads can often take long to start off, especially with no rehydration protocol. You could have also had a dud pack of yeast (uncommon but not impossible) and the must could have been perfectly fine. Oh well, just be more patient next time ;)

darigoni
09-11-2016, 05:28 PM
You guys were right. 3.5 hours and nothing. I threw it away and started over with 3 lbs of honey and 1 lb of blueberries.

So, is this working any better?

Jungle_Jim
09-11-2016, 10:14 PM
So, is this working any better?

I just pitched. I have fermentation. Yes, it is working just fine.