View Full Version : Did I bottle too soon?

11-19-2016, 11:57 PM
Hi All,

My husband and I have brewed beer for many years, but I have always wanted to try making mead. I think mead is so delicious and was eager to make some! This was our first attempt at making anything but beer, and I think we messed it up. We ended up making a blueberry melomel, and I assumed the fermentation was complete. I was overconfident and did not take a specific gravity reading until the middle of bottling. It was at 1.075! I do not know how bad this is. The mead tastes really good aside from the fact that it is really sweet. All the details are below-

We purchased a 5 gal bucket of raw honey from a friend that raises bees locally. Life got a little crazy, and the honey sat for a while (at least 2 years) before we got around to using it. I say this because the honey crystallized and I thought maybe this might be helpful for troubleshooting.

We were given some free, high quality, 75 brix blueberry juice and we decided to make a Melomel with the blueberry juice and the honey. I diluted the super concentrated 75 brix blueberry juice (it was more like a blueberry paste) down to 14.1 brix, which is what I estimated the average fresh blueberry juice would be. The total volume of melomel we made was between 6 and 6.5 gal. To this we added-

8 pints of 14.1 brix blueberry juice
22 lbs of honey (seemed like a lot, but that's what it took to get to 1.145 specific gravity)
4 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
An ale yeast- Sulfate US-05- for initial fermentation (2-3 months)
A standard mead yeast for second fermentation (~3 months to bottling at ~13 months)

We heated the crystallized honey to help dissolve it. When the must came down to the right temperature, we used an ale yeast to give the initial fermentation a jump start. We read about how contamination is particularly a problem in mead since it ferments so slowly and can commonly form off flavors. We let the melomel ferment a couple months with the initial yeast. When no more CO2 production was observed, we racked the melomel and added a standard mead yeast recommended to us (I forgot to record the exact yeast). Approximately 13 to 14 months later we figured it was ready to bottle.

Starting specific gravity was 1.145
Specific gravity after 13 - 14 months was 1.075
Racked it around 3 months and right before bottling and there were lots of dead yeast bodies both times.

Do you think my bottles are going to explode? Should I open up all my bottles and try to get it fermenting again in a carboy? Why would the specific gravity be so high after fermenting over a year?

Any helpful comments or suggestions are welcome! Thanks!

11-20-2016, 12:25 AM
I realized I should add a few more details-
We used well water that was run through an RO filtration system and then boiled
We dry pitched the yeast both times
The carboy was put in our root cellar where the temperature stays pretty constant between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In the dead of winter it can fall to 40 for a short period of time.

11-20-2016, 08:14 AM
Yes, I would be VERY concerned about bottle bombs!

Your OG to your SG gives you an ABV of 9.5%, meaning that without stabilization with sulfites and sorbates you could easily get refermentation even this far out. For some reason your yeast pooped out early. There are a few potential reasons for this:

Dry pitching the yeast--both the ale and the mead yeast--doesn't get it off to the healthiest start. This impairs its ability to complete a fermentation to its full ABV tolerance, especially with relatively high OGs like your's. In the future look up a product called GoFerm from Scott Labs. Follow the directions and use it with your next batch.

Your fermentation temperature was very low. Even temperature tolerant yeasts like K1V or R2 would have a hard time fermenting to completion down in the 50's. When the bottles are stored at a higher temp the "mead yeast" (which is usually a wine yeast strain) could wake up and start fermenting again.

What I would do from here is put your mead back in a carboy. Look up the Scott Labs Fermentation Handbook 2016 Edition. For the future, on page 7 is instructions for dry yeast rehydration. On page 28 are instructions for restarting a stuck fermentation. Follow them and get your mead restarted and down to a lower FG. If you have residual sugar after this fermentation finishes, stabilize the mead before bottling with Potassium Metabisulfite and Potassium Sorbate.

Getting this batch into good shape will likely take some time. In the meantime, check out www.meadmaderight.com for a modern, very reliable nutrient regimen. Check out www.denardbrewing.com for the popular "BOMM" protocol and a great collection of quick mead recipes. There's another, perhaps simpler, set of instructions to restart a stuck fermentation there too.

11-20-2016, 08:43 AM
What kind of bottles did you use? Wine, beer or champagne?

Do you plan on giving any of it away or drinking it all yourself?

If you plan on keeping/drinking it all yourself, you could store it in your cool/cold cellar, inside of a Rubbermaid container. I'd open one every few weeks and, if you start to get carbonation, you may want to think about re-bottling.

If you give any of it away, you should tell the recipient to keep it refrigerated :-)

11-20-2016, 10:02 AM
In my opinion the gravity is so high and the ABV so low it is way to sweet to even drink unless you like syrup. For that reason alone I think you will do well to ferment it further.

11-20-2016, 11:38 AM
Did you ever aerate at all? I've found that helps fermentation along well enough that even racking (or bottling) can give it a bit of a restart, which could be a worry for you.

Like zpeckler suggested, I wouldn't dry pitch your yeast. Maybe for the first pitch its ok, but definitely not on the second. I've never used goferm, but you can pitch your yeast in a 1/4-1/2 cup of warm water (~100F) and wait about 20 minutes before adding it into the must. You'll see it foam or rise a bit and it will smell like bread. If you don't see/smell that, you could have a dud yeast packet which happens sometimes.

For anything besides the initial pitch, look into making an acclimated starter. Basically, pitch your yeast into about a cup of your must, and as fermentation progresses, gradually add another cup of must, maybe once or twice a day, over a few days. You can gradually add more volume each time as it gets bigger, but start out slow. Once you get to about a quarter of your initial volume, put the whole thing back in your main container. I've had to do an acclimated starter once before with a stuck fermentation, and if you want to be extra safe, I suggest EC-1118 from Lalvin as its very hearty yeast.

I'm guessing that zpeckler hit the nail on the head though and your storage was just too cold. I've seen the 60s referred to as cold, so I think for most yeasts the ideal range is 65-75F.

This may not be entirely accurate (especially depending on tastes) but I saw something like this somewhere once...
SG < 1.01 = dry mead
1.01 - 1.025 = 'normal' mead
SG > 1.025 = sweet mead
So even if you were thinking about having your mead be carbonated, 1.075 is way too high and could explode, as I believe the normal practice for carbonation is ferment til dry then add only a teaspoon of sugar at bottling.

The only other note would be that you shouldn't expect fermentation to go so long. I think the longest I've had a fermentation go (not counting the stalled one) was 2.5 months, but it is quite normal to have it complete in as little as two weeks (as always, trust your hydrometer ;) ). The big time difference between making mead and beer is the aging process. Some people do try to be more dynamic and get another fermentation going in secondary or even just adding different ingredients then, but past that 2-3 month mark, its a matter of taste/experimentation, not waiting on actual fermentation (usually). JOAM after all is supposed to be drinkable after 2 months, and truly you can drink any mead after fermentation is over. But letting it just sit undisturbed for a few months lets the alcohol mellow out and for the flavors to really seep in. The big thing to look for aside from your hydrometer is if the must starts to clear at all, or if any fruit or other ingredients in there starts to drop. These aren't 100%, as cold crashing helps to clear, but fermentation can still reactivate afterwards, or fermentation can stop and it won't clear on its own, but just things to watch out for. :)

11-20-2016, 12:13 PM
This may not be entirely accurate (especially depending on tastes) but I saw something like this somewhere once...
SG < 1.01 = dry mead
1.01 - 1.025 = 'normal' mead
SG > 1.025 = sweet mead

There are actually 4 levels of sweetness:
1) Dry
2) Off-dry
3) Sweet
4) Dessert

The specific gravity ranges depend on who you are referencing and variable. Also very few meads have a SG <1. (Personally I like to call those "Bone Dry").

I like my wine/mead 1.005 to 1.015 depending on my mood, how much acidity is present, and how much if any tannins are present. FOR ME, greater acidity and greater tannins require greater residual sugar.