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John Pilson
07-04-2004, 07:45 AM
Well, I'm a first time mead maker, and something ain't going right. Remember, I'm a ding-dong, so use some simple words and general understanding in your replies.

I started in Feb. with a 5 gallon batch of mead. 15 lbs. honey, glass carboy, some starter fert., a dash of lemon juice. Heated up the honey with water, skimmed it, put it in bottle, added champagne yeast after cooling to about 70 degrees or so, and lo-and-behold all is well with the world for a few months as the airlock was bubbling away. Then it stopped, and I racked it into another carboy. To fill up the remaining airspace I added some water and a cup of maple syrup. I had no more honey, but was told I should add water to fill the carboy to within a couple inches of the top and that the water should have the same sugar % as what I had started with. I pretty much ballparked the amount of maple syrup.

Anyway, airlock re-installed, and there was no further fermentation. Still hasn't been, and it's been maybe 6-8 weeks now. The carboy just sits on a counter in the kitchen with a towel wrapped around it to keep the light out.

What's up? And what can I do about it? Am I done and ready to bottle, or just plain "done"?

Thanks for any help.

John

JoeM
07-04-2004, 12:05 PM
Sounds like your mead is just done fermenting...a "few months" is plenty of time for a mead to ferment to completion, especially with champagne yeast which tends to ferment quite rapidly. Most of my 6 gallon batches also contain about 15 lbs of honey and i would say they tend to ferment to completion somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks depending on the circumstances. Did you taste it or take a hydrometer reading when you racked it? I usually rely on my taste buds to tell me if my beers and meads are doing what they are supposed to be, although a hydrometer is a more scientific and accurate way of doing so.

John Pilson
07-05-2004, 10:50 AM
I did taste it when I racked it and it tasted nice. Only tasted a few sips while siphoning, but it seemed nice enough. I had just thought it'd go on and have a second but less powerful fermentation after racking it. Is the addition of the maple syrup an issue, and/or would that have much of an effect on the sweetness of the finished product? I was/am hoping to make a dry/semi-dry mead.

Thanks for your help in answering my questions! Really looking forward to this mead...

John

John Pilson
07-05-2004, 11:08 AM
Oh, and no I didn't use a hydrometer. Don't have one. Maybe I'll get ahold of one for my next batch. What would it tell me right now?

Also, why is that mead will improve with time in the bottle? And what is the +/- "ideal" amount of time? I don't want to wait forever, but I'd like to hang on for a few months or six or so with the bulk of the bottles IF it would make that much of a difference? Forgive me if this is explained elsewhere here.

I've soaked a bunch of wine bottles and STILL can't get the labels off. Is there a trick, a special soap, a something?

Thanks! John

Jmattioli
07-05-2004, 01:02 PM
John,
I use a razor blade for the stubborn bottle labels and then Goo Gone for any glue left.
A specific gravity tool (Hydrometer) will tell you the specific gravity of the mead which is relative to sugar content. If you know the starting and ending gravity you can use it to get a fairly accurate alcohol content since the beginning reading less the end reading represents the approximate amount of sugar converted to alcohol. The hdrometer usually has 3 scales on it to make calculations simple. one for specific gravity, 1 for sugar in Brix, one for potential alcohol percent. It comes with instructions.
Joe

Jmattioli
07-05-2004, 01:09 PM
To better answer your specific question....
It will tell you the amount of sugar left if any which will tell you if its done . No sugar then no food for the yeasts! Its done. Of course there could be sugar left and its done also depending on the yeast you use and other variables but in any case if therer is no residual sugar left then fermentation cannot continue.
Joe

Rurouni85Samurai
07-05-2004, 05:04 PM
I would still use a stabilizer when bottling. Sometimes yeast can just go dormant and then start up again. I have read some bad stories about bottles exploding and soaking the place in a delish necter.

Jmattioli
07-05-2004, 06:01 PM
I would still use a stabilizer when bottling. Sometimes yeast can just go dormant and then start up again. I have read some bad stories about bottles exploding and soaking the place in a delish necter.
If there is no residual sugar... it won't start up again.
If there is residual sugar and you don't want to use chemical stabilizers or bulk age for 6 months to a year to insure no restart you can use some canning techniques such as heating the filled bottles before labeling in a pot of hot water which will kill any remaining yeast (pasteurize). You can look up the specifications for a yeast to find the temperature that will kill them.
Regards, Joe

John Pilson
07-05-2004, 06:23 PM
Well, off to buy that hydrometer then! :)

Thanks for your replies, fellas. Appreciate it.

Can't wait to find out (I'm hoping) that it IS done so I can proceed with the bottling program, which leads cleanly right into to the drinking program. And then the next batch...

Thanks again -- John

John Pilson
07-12-2004, 12:04 PM
Ok. Got that hydrometer. I've got a reading of 1.032 and that includes the .002 addition b/c of the 77 degree temp or so right here. Again, I don't have an initial reading. What does that 1.032 tell me, that I am basically "done"?

I tasted the mead and it tasted ok. Not great. Slightly sparkling too. Don't know what that means. Pretty slight. Plenty of alcohol in there, I can sure tell that.

So, what next? Go ahead and bottle? Re-rack and then bottle after another short stint? What about the mild effervescence?

Hot water cooking the bottles -- upright (and full) in a big soup pot is making quicker work with the labels. That and then scrubbing and/or solvent work to get the last of the glues off.

Thanks for any suggestions. Great site this. :)

John

Jmattioli
07-12-2004, 01:52 PM
John,
That tells you it has quite a bit of residual sugar left in it. It would be considered a sweet mead. As to whether it is done, I would say not completely as you said it was slightly sparkling. That is carbonation or suspended CO2 which will eventually come to the surface and leave your mead still. Then it will be done. Without knowing your starting SG and yeast type and brand I cannot tell how much further it will go but from the amount of honey you used (3lbs per gal) and the cup of maple surup I would guess it is very close to done. Bottling now could cause bottle bombs unless you stabilize with sorbate and sulfite. Why not just leave it alone another few months to bulk age and finish out or if you like it like it is, stabilize it and bottle now.
Good Luck,
Joe

John Pilson
07-12-2004, 04:24 PM
Hi Joe,

I used a champagne yeast from the local brewer's supply house. It's a Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast. That's all it says on the package.

Yes, it does taste a bit on the sweet side. Is it wrong to get it going again by adding some more yeast and more nutrient? Currently, there's no fermentation going on from what I can tell looking at it. If it is, it's wicked slow.

Thanks! :)

John

John Pilson
07-12-2004, 04:59 PM
I also wanted to mention that I'd like it probably a bit less sweet, and that I don't want to use any additives. I'm not opposed to them at all, I just want to make mead without them if I can.

:)

Jmattioli
07-12-2004, 07:42 PM
John,
According to Red Star, its Champayne yeast Ferments best at 59-86 deg.F. You might make sure temperature is in the 70's. It prefers a bit warmer temperature than some other yeasts. That might restart it. Secondly, check your maple syrup bottle to see if it had any preservatives added in it. ( If so don't go any further) Your yeast should ferment to dry. It can tolerate a high alcohol level and I am convinced it definitely stopped early based on your honey ratio in your recipe. A pinch of fermax or yeast nutrient and a little yeast shouldn't hurt also but don't over do the nutrients.
Joe

JamesP
07-12-2004, 07:53 PM
John,

EC-1118 yeast should ferment up to 18% alc if nursed correctly. I would recommend that yeast to get it going again.
Hydrate, then add small amounts of the must to provide the sugar to get the yeast multiplying before adding the starter into the carboy (usually doubling the volume with each addition of must to the starter).

Since you only want it a little less sweet,
split your batch, so that you ferment to dry a portion (half or a quarter?), and the other portion you sorbate/sulfite to ensure the fermentation is stopped (or it may start up again when bottled). Then combine the two portions once the fermentation is completed.
This assumes you have appropriately sized carboys to allow splitting the batch. If you can't do this, then just add the starter to the whole of the batch, and stop the fermentation when you think it is down to the desired sweetness (1.020, or 1.010 ?).

You don't like additives, but it may need some nutrient to help it along.

Cheers,
James