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View Full Version : Did I start my batch with too low O.G.?



veektor
01-03-2005, 02:33 AM
Hi, everyone. I am new to the home wine/mead making scene, though I'm not new to the drinking ;) Though this is a troubleshooting forum, I will try to introduce myself first.

I've had an interest in mead for a long time. I grew up in Russia, reading the classic folk fairy tales, where meads have a prominent role in many festivities. Also, my grandfather was a bee keeper for a long time, though he rarely used honey for his alcohol needs. In retrospect, he probably should have focused more on that, instead of distilling bread+sugar based musts, which ultimately caused him to lose eyesight. Nonetheless, I grew up with some knowlege and considerable liking for honey.

In November, my wife brought home a wine making kit, and we jumped into a batch of Zinfandel Blush, which so far is turning out barely drinkable, and my threshold is pretty low. We'll let it age in the bottles some and see what happens.

In the meantime, I realized that I no longer have an excuse not to try making mead, so I got busy looking for some recipes. I had a gallon of wildflower honey at my disposal, and I concocted 6 gal. of must, using D47 yeast, a tad of ginger, lemon zest, and some dried blueberries for yeast nutrition. So far it is bubbling away, although a tad slower than I would expect. My O.G a week ago, when I started, was 1.066. When I checked yesterday, it was 1.052. From looking around this forum, I gather that 1.100 is where I really should have started, and perhaps use more nutrient agnostic yeast, i.e. K1V. I was really trying to avoid adding a chemical nutrient, hence the blueberries.

Can someone tell me if I have practically wasted a gallon of perfectly good honey? If I messed up, can I still salvage the situation by adding more honey and/or nutrient?

I don't have the scale to weigh my honey, but I estimate that a gallon must be around 10-12 lbs. Can anyone comment on that?

Thanks in advance!

Dan McFeeley
01-03-2005, 02:43 AM
In the meantime, I realized that I no longer have an excuse not to try making mead, so I got busy looking for some recipes. I had a gallon of wildflower honey at my disposal, and I concocted 6 gal. of must, using D47 yeast, a tad of ginger, lemon zest, and some dried blueberries for yeast nutrition. So far it is bubbling away, although a tad slower than I would expect. My O.G a week ago, when I started, was 1.066. When I checked yesterday, it was 1.052. From looking around this forum, I gather that 1.100 is where I really should have started, and perhaps use more nutrient agnostic yeast, i.e. K1V. I was really trying to avoid adding a chemical nutrient, hence the blueberries.

Can someone tell me if I have practically wasted a gallon of perfectly good honey? If I messed up, can I still salvage the situation by adding more honey and/or nutrient?

I don't have the scale to weigh my honey, but I estimate that a gallon must be around 10-12 lbs. Can anyone comment on that?

A gallon of honey is just a little over 11 lb.s. Honey varies according to floral type, etc., so these are ball park guestimates. Eleven pounds is a good figure to work with.

Yeah, a starting gravity of 1.066 is low, but it doesn't mean the mead is wasted. Brother Adam, a meadmaker and beekeeper from the British Isles, made excellent low gravity meads. You can either let it go, or add a little more honey to it. In general, you can guestimate that one pound of honey adds about 35 to 38 gravity points per gallon, but again, honey varies somewhat. These are only ball park figures.

Hope this is helpful!

David Baldwin
01-03-2005, 01:18 PM
Your recipe sounds pretty good. How much of the dried blueberries did you use?

Don't panic, you really haven't wasted anything. Be patient and let the yeast do its work. If you want some extra nutrients, you can add some raisins. I used a half cup of raisins in a 3.5 gallon batch.


I'd suggest that you let it ferment out and see how it all turns out. Wait to add more honey until it is finished You may be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Resist the temptation to meddle with it now that you have it going.


Good luck.

David

veektor
01-03-2005, 11:19 PM
Thanks, guys. I guess I just needed some encouragement. I realize that leaving it be is probably the best way to know what happens under the conditions I had described. I often shoot myself in the foot and start fixing things that didn't necessarily break yet. Besides, no one expects the first batch to be perfect, right?

Dave, I used about a cup of dried blueberries. Looked like there was more after I chopped them.

Dan, I am with you about the ballpark figures. I actually came up with the estimate by looking at a 1.5 lb honey-bear container, that looked like it contained a pint. I am actually surprised to hit so close at all. I got the honey in bulk from my in-laws, who in turn got it from one of their relatives, who happend to have some spare honey last summer. My eyes almost popped out when they showed us those big, 4 or 5 gal. steel cans full of honey, and asked if we need some :o They also said they have more if we need some. Does anyone else think it would be worth to drive 11 hours each way for a couple of big jugs of free honey?

How do you guys measure out the honey? Do you just go by weight indicated on the jar label, record it when buying in bulk, use a kitchen scale, or just keep pouring until you have the must at desired gravity?

Norskersword
01-04-2005, 09:16 PM
Does anyone else think it would be worth to drive 11 hours each way for a couple of big jugs of free honey?

Just tell yourself you are going to visit the inlaws. ;) For that much honey? You can make alot of mead with that! If I were in your shoes I would be looking around frantically for another excuse to go. Just to reassure myself. ;D


How do you guys measure out the honey? Do you just go by weight indicated on the jar label, record it when buying in bulk, use a kitchen scale, or just keep pouring until you have the must at desired gravity?

In my case, I usually buy it in jars or by the pound, so there are no issues in my case.

Are you wondering how much honey to use as well? I have a question for you. How sweet/dry do you want it? A rule of thumb for me is to use 2.5 - 3.5 lbs of honey per gallon, depending on how sweet or dry I want it. You are using a medium yeast (that normally finishes at 12%) and 3 lbs would have made a medium mead. But you are using less than 2 lbs per gallon, so it might finish dry.

This may be what you want, but if you wanted it sweeter, wait till the fermentation is complete and add some more honey to sweeten it up. That is, after you add some sorbate and k-meta right before.

veektor
01-17-2005, 06:15 PM
I thought you folks like to know that my mead so far is humming along just fine, though a little slow. Checked on it twice since my last post, and it is starting to taste rather dry. At this point I will be racking it into a carboy next Sunday, or sooner, if fermentation completely stops. I'll have to see if it is too dry for my taste at that time, and may add some honey to sweeten it up a tad. SG=1.012 as of yesterday.

Thanks once again to all who replied. It seems that indeed, the best thing to do was to let it run its course.

In the meanwhile, I started two more batches: a 5 gal batch with dried apricots (fermenting vigorously as I type), and a 1 gal of "Ancient Orange Mead" with bread yeast and all. The "ancient" is fermenting somewhat slower, but I decided to take the recipe as gospel and changed nothing, at least for the first stab at it. The oranges make it smell so delicious!

Norskersword
01-17-2005, 07:28 PM
Has it been 6 weeks since you started? You should wait 6-8 weeks before you rack. Otherwise you will have to rack more and you loose a little everytime you rack.

veektor
01-18-2005, 12:55 PM
Has it been 6 weeks since you started? You should wait 6-8 weeks before you rack. Otherwise you will have to rack more and you loose a little everytime you rack.


6-8 weeks? I was somehow under the impression that 2 weeks was the appropriate time, and that I was already overdoing it by letting it ferment for 4 weeks. It will be 6 weeks on Feb 6th. So, are you saying that even if fermentaton stops earlier, to still let it sit in the primary fermenter until at least 6 weeks had expired? Don't get me wrong, I am in no way trying to be impatient. I just recall reading somewhere that first racking needed to be done after 2 weeks, that's all.

I do get your point, though, about losing some mead during racking, I definitely would like to avoid that as much as possible.

jab
01-18-2005, 01:17 PM
I don't think you can quantify the 'appropirate time' in weeks, days, hours, etc. It is going to be different for each batch.

While there is nothing wrong racking during primary fermentation I can't see any benefit to it, and in fact you probably risk stunning the yeast and possible infection as the alcohol content isn't high enough to prevent most of the nasties.

On the other hand there is probably no problem with not racking for a while after primary fermentation is complete. One thing you are going to want to watch for there is autolysis, though I think you are generally going to be OK for 2-3 weeks after primary fermentation is complete but realize that other factors (temp., pH, etc.) will have an effect on how quickly that will start happening.

I think rather than trying to get it down to a number of days/weeks/etc. you would be better served by racking to secondary after primary fermentation is complete. If that takes a week the rack at a week. If it takes 5 weeks, then rack at 5 weeks.

Once you have a recipe and/or strain of yeast you know well you can probably start applying a week estimate to your primary fermentation. You will know that generally recipe A with yeast Z takes 3 weeks for primary and you can plan your racking that way, but again realize that just because it generally takes 3 weeks doesn't mean your furnace doesn't go out and the temp drops by 10 degrees and it takes and extra week to complete.