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Stormy Weber
02-07-2017, 01:55 PM
Hello everyone,

This is my first mead batch (I have a little experience with beer) and I just can't seem to get the fermentation rolling. Here's my procedure:

01-29-2017: Boiled 4+ gallons of water. Poured into fermenter with 12 lbs wildflower honey, 2L of Grade-A maple syrup, 1.5 tsp yeast nutrient, and 2 tsp acid blend. ~5.1 gal total volume. Let cool and pitched 1 packet of Wyeast 4632 (dry mead). OG: 1.113. For the next couple days, the airlock bubbled only very minimally (once every 10-30s).
01-31-2017: SG: 1.113 (same as OG). Added 0.5 tsp yeast nutrient.
02-02-2017: No change in SG. Same minimal airlock bubbling.
02-03-2017: Same as previous day.
02-04-2017: Pitched another package of Wyeast 4632 because I may have pitched the first package while the must was too hot. SG: 1.100.
02-06-2017: Added 1 tsp of yeast nutrient because NO bubbling was detected. Slow bubbling started immediately after adding the nutrient.
02-07-2017: Bubbling has completely stopped again.

Does anyone have any idea what's going on? Is it in oxygen problem? I'm pretty sure it's not a temperature issue, as the room is ~66F. There's no funky taste in the must/mead, it just tastes like honey-water as it did on Day 1. I also find it unlikely that I bought two packs of bad yeast, but I guess it's possible. Please let me know if you have any advice. Thank you!

caduseus
02-07-2017, 02:40 PM
Hello everyone,

This is my first mead batch (I have a little experience with beer) and I just can't seem to get the fermentation rolling. Here's my procedure:

01-29-2017: Boiled 4+ gallons of water. Poured into fermenter with 12 lbs wildflower honey, 2L of Grade-A maple syrup, 1.5 tsp yeast nutrient, and 2 tsp acid blend. ~5.1 gal total volume. Let cool and pitched 1 packet of Wyeast 4632 (dry mead). OG: 1.113. For the next couple days, the airlock bubbled only very minimally (once every 10-30s).
01-31-2017: SG: 1.113 (same as OG). Added 0.5 tsp yeast nutrient.
02-02-2017: No change in SG. Same minimal airlock bubbling.
02-03-2017: Same as previous day.
02-04-2017: Pitched another package of Wyeast 4632 because I may have pitched the first package while the must was too hot. SG: 1.100.
02-06-2017: Added 1 tsp of yeast nutrient because NO bubbling was detected. Slow bubbling started immediately after adding the nutrient.
02-07-2017: Bubbling has completely stopped again.

Does anyone have any idea what's going on? Is it in oxygen problem? I'm pretty sure it's not a temperature issue, as the room is ~66F. There's no funky taste in the must/mead, it just tastes like honey-water as it did on Day 1. I also find it unlikely that I bought two packs of bad yeast, but I guess it's possible. Please let me know if you have any advice. Thank you!

1) unlike wine/beer/cider, mead requires Staggered Nutrient Addition(SNA). Please do not assume what is done with other fermented beverages is the same with mead.
2) never add any nutrients, other than Go-Ferm, at pitch
3) follow TOSNA or TiOSNA protocol (yeast energizer is like fermaid-k with TiOSNA).
4) did you hydrate your yeast first? What yeast?

bernardsmith
02-07-2017, 02:49 PM
Hi Stormy Weber - and welcome. Don't know if these thoughts may provide the answer but they highlight one or two possible weaknesses. First a general point: mead ain't beer. You boiled the water? Is that because you live in a part of the world where you cannot get potable water? When you boiled the water you removed all the O2, so you are starting with a problem. Yeast need O2. Strike 1. Then you talk about bubbles in the airlock which suggests to me that if you have hammered that bung home you may not be removing it a couple of times a day to stir air into the mead. You need to aerate the must. So the problem of lack of O2 is then compounded by restricting the yeast's access to O2 as it reproduces and as it ferments. Strike 2.

Strike 3 may be that you added acid.. Yeast don't need the must to be tart for the yeast to get to work. In fact, a must that is too acidic can stall the fermentation. You may have had a good reason to acidify the honey (Not sure if maple syrup will also add to the acidity) but it is unclear (at least to me) what that reason might be. In any event, honey is quite notorious in its inability to buffer acidity so the pH can swing so low even if you keep all acidic adjuncts safely locked up with corks - 'coz you only need to add acidity (if you do) come time to bottle... - honey can still give you grief by forcing the pH down to 3 or lower.

There's another possible problem and that is that you may be pitching this yeast in such a way that the temperature differential between the yeast and the must is such that the yeast are significantly damaged on contact with the must - you know, as if you leaped naked into a freezing lake or into bath of boiling water... You want the yeast and the must to be very close in temperature (10 degrees different , I think, is already stretching things).

But others may see something I missed and I may have seen something that others might argue is not a problem. All I know is that I have started two one gallon meads in the last few days and they have been fermenting away with a lag time of an hour or so. But I use dry yeast (71B for one batch and Saison Belle for a batch of t'ej).

MrMooCow
02-07-2017, 03:25 PM
Welcome Stormy! My first bit of advice if you're having trouble getting your fermentation off the ground is to make sure you're lifting with your legs. (I'll be here all week, please tip your waitress).

Good advice so far, although I will disagree with the esteemed caduseus a bit on the issue of nutrients at pitch. As far as I know, the reason for that is concern over wild yeast being present and using those nutrients first and crowding out your intended yeast. This is a risk, but I don't think it's as big a risk as people think. The wild yeast isn't as adapted for our purposes as the store bought stuff. It's like going and getting a random stallion off the plains, and putting it up against a professionally bred race horse. Sure, 1/100 times the wild horse might win. But the vast majority of the time it won't. Meanwhile, unless you work from home and/or have no life, you aren't home/awake when the yeast reach the point where they want to start eating some nitrogen. So no matter what, you're putting it in early or late. I've done dozens of batches putting some nutrients in at pitch, and so far have not been raped and killed by wild yeast (although there was that blueberry batch that snuck out in the middle of the night and stole the car, but insurance was understanding so no great loss).

The biggest issue I see is the acid blend, and probably cheap store bought nutrient/energizer. Also, if the temperature is 66 in the room, you want to put the bucket in a water bath (wide shallow tub, wrap the bucket with an old light weight cotton t-shirt) once you get the fermentation going. Active fermentation can easily add 10-15 degrees to the must temperature, so you want to be bringing that temperature down.

Stormy Weber
02-07-2017, 03:26 PM
Hi bernardsmith; thanks for the response! Yeah I was certainly worried about the O2 in there. I tried to give it a good stir before pitching the yeast, but that may have been ineffective. People keep telling me that oxidizing after fermentation is a no-no, but do you think I should try and get some O2 in there (since I've barely fermented anything so far)? If so, what's the best way to do so? Give the bucket a good shake? I can also remove the lid and open-ferment with just a towel over the bucket if you think that would help.

As for the acidity, I hadn't thought too much about that. Just blindly following the brewshop-guy's advice, as I don't know too much about the subject. I currently don't have a pH tester, but maybe it would be worth getting one to see if I'm too acidic right now. If that's the case, is there a solution to that problem?

As for the yeast-must temperature differential, I did leave the activated Wyeast packet out for several hours before pitching, so I think they were similar temperatures at pitching time (at least the second time I pitched).

I'm going to chalk up O2 (or lack thereof) as the most likely culprit... Please let me know if you have any advice for tackling the issue. Thanks so much for your reply!

MrMooCow
02-07-2017, 04:10 PM
I recommend the PH-200 from HM Digital. It's $50 on Amazon. You can cheaper ones, but I don't recommend it. I bought a cheap one from Healthy Wiser, and it was terrible. You can't change what reference you calibrate to, and for neutral (which its programing requires you to do before calibrating to 4.01) it calibrates to 6.85. Huh? Standard neutral calibration solution comes in 7.00. Because, you know, that's neutral. You have to use their calibration buffer powders, which of course would be easy to mess up mixing. With the PH-200, not only can you change what your reference point is, but under normal circumstances it will automatically detect what reference liquid it is placed in and calibrate itself without anything from you (other than putting it in the calibration mode).

If you need to adjust the acid up (less acidic), I recommend Potassium Bicarbonate. Calcium Bicarbonate can also be used, but some people report a chalky aftertaste with it. Plus, the yeast need potassium, so two birds with one stone. Ken Schramm says PH range for more yeasts if 3.7 to 4.6. I'd go above 4.0 because the PH will drop as the fermentation progresses.

For your O2 problem, do a search for Aerating. You should turn up the /huge/ thread on degassing and aerating, which will teach you more than you ever needed to know. Basically, don't heat your water, and do lots of splashing around when you're mixing your batch up.

Stormy Weber
02-14-2017, 03:32 AM
Hi all! So here's an update on what I've done:
02-07-2017: Aerated the crap out of the must by alternating between shaking up the bucket and using a whisk to stir/splash it up several times. I've whisked up the must every day since.
02-08-2017: SG: 1.096
02-09-2017: SG: 1.094
02-12-2017: SG: 1.088. I don't have access to a pH test kit, but I used a pH strip (however reliable that may be...) and it didn't change color, suggesting that the pH is greater than 5.

So, it looks like it's fermenting verrrrrrry slowly (I do see the yeast forming clusters on the surface). I'm not sure if the aerating is helping much. Again, the temperature is mid-60's or so and it doesn't seem as though it's super acidic. Any thoughts? Thanks again!

Stasis
02-14-2017, 06:08 AM
Hi all! So here's an update on what I've done:
02-07-2017: Aerated the crap out of the must by alternating between shaking up the bucket and using a whisk to stir/splash it up several times. I've whisked up the must every day since.
02-08-2017: SG: 1.096
02-09-2017: SG: 1.094
02-12-2017: SG: 1.088. I don't have access to a pH test kit, but I used a pH strip (however reliable that may be...) and it didn't change color, suggesting that the pH is greater than 5.

So, it looks like it's fermenting verrrrrrry slowly (I do see the yeast forming clusters on the surface). I'm not sure if the aerating is helping much. Again, the temperature is mid-60's or so and it doesn't seem as though it's super acidic. Any thoughts? Thanks again!

Ph can't be greater than 5, especially since you added acid blend.
All the points mentioned before are still valid:
- O2 even though you're aerating now, you did not aerate after pitching the yeast for the most critical first day or two. The yeast might have been pitched in an O2 deficient must and taking action now might be too late.
- Ph is a likely problem since you added acid
- The yeast might not have been pitched in best conditions. First pack because of acidity, temp and O2 deficiency, second pack because of alcohol, acidity, O2, and Dap from your energizer. Liquid yeasts also benefit from creating a starter

Squatchy
02-14-2017, 10:49 AM
Yeast can create Oxygen on their own even when they are not exposed to it. The shortage of O2 could show up later on at the end of the fermentation by stalling, but that remains to be seen. You underpitched the proper amount of yeast and could have compromised them entirety I wonder why, with your beer experience you didn't make a starter? Even 2 smack pacts pitched correctly would have been underpitched. I would get a couple more smack pacts, make a starter and after it's going good add smaller portions of your must every 4 or 5 hours unroll you have added all the must to the growing starter.