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BrewStef
05-01-2006, 02:12 PM
I am currently experiencing a slow/stuck fermentation on my first batch of Traditional Mead (and first mead as well). This happened IMMEDIATELY after racaking to secondary 6 weeks after brewing.

From reading a bit on the subject on this forum, I believe my best bet is to pitch more yeast using a well-aerated starter. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Recipe:
15lb Orange Blossom Honey (raw)
WLP720 White Labs Sweet Mead Yeast
5 gal charcoal-filtered tap water

I did NOT use any yeast energizer. nutrient, etc, as I wanted it to be "purely traditional" without additives, etc.

I made a yeast starter two days prior using 1 cup water and 1/4 cup DME (I actually pitched the wort as well).

Total volume of batch was around 5.75 Gallons

Timeline:
March 19th - Started batch, SG 1.090 @ 78 deg

I saw the first bubbles at around 36 hours after pitching yeast.
Never vigorous bubbling - most was 1 blip every 7 seconds on 3rd day.
On fifth day, 1 blip every 12 seconds.

1 week later - 1 blip every 12 sec @ 69 deg
2 weeks later- 1 blip every 12 sec @ 69 deg
3 weeks later- 1 blip every 12 sec @ 68 deg
4 weeks later- 1 blip every 14 sec @ 69 deg
5 weeks later- 1 blip every 15 sec @ 70 deg

It was suggested that I rack after 6 weeks to get the mead off the yeast cake to prevent "off flavors". So I did...

Racked to secondary (5 gal carboy) at 6 weeks, 1 blip every 17 sec @ 70 deg
SG 0.050
Tasted very sweet, definitely alcoholic (~6.75ABV), no alcoholic "hotness"
24 hours after racking, 1 blip every 3.5 minutes.


I also racaked the extra .75 Gal to a 1 Gal jug.
24 hours after racking, 1 blip every 45 seconds

So, the batch was progressing slow but sure at around 1 blip every 17 seconds. Now the 5 gal secondary is every 3.5 minutes and the .75 gal secondary is every 45 seconds. I know that more yeast made it into the 1 gallon jug than the 5 gallon carboy, as I did the jug after the carboy.

Ok...

What would be the best course of action?

I have a 1 gallon container 3/4 full of fermenting must which I can use to test or use as a base for a starter. Or should I just do a new starter and NOT use the gallon container.

Should I abandon my efforts at making a straight traditional mead and use additives? If I should use additives, how much? Should I use a different strain of yeast? Should I just wait it out to see if it just kicks back in gear by itself?

Any other suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

BrewStef

Oskaar
05-01-2006, 04:49 PM
Welcome to the Gotmead.com Forums Stef!

Ok, here's (http://www.gotmead.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,103/topic,3735.msg31741#msg31741) a link to a previous discussion thread about Wyeast Sweet Mead Yeast and slow/stuck fermentations.

I'd suggest that you get some nutrient and add it to the must. At this point I'd be more worried about yeast stress imparting poor flavors than the lees. Re-pitching with a different yeast strain is also a reasonable approach, but for now I'd suggest trying the nutrient. Ken Schramm suggested that Wyeast 1056 would be a good choice, and there's always K1-v1116 which will kickstart most stuck fermentations.

A quick clarification on mead terminology for you. Wort is for beer brewing, must is the term we use for meadmaking or mazing as many people call it. Don't worry, I started out brewing beer so I still say "brewing up a batch of mead" to the dismay of many other meadmakers. LOL

Hope that helps, ask more questions when you have them,

Oskaar

BrewStef
05-01-2006, 05:03 PM
Thanks Oskaar. How much nutrient should I use?

Also, the link did not show in the message.

I look forward to "brewing up more mead"! ;)

Oskaar
05-01-2006, 05:40 PM
Whoopsie,

The link should be working now. I'd go with two teaspoons of nutrient in 100 ml of clean bottled water. Stir it into your must slowly.

Do you have a recent gravity and pH reading available? Make sure to take them BEFORE you add the nutrient. If you don't see any activity in a couple of days (48 hrs) then it's time to bring in the big guns and go with the K1-V1116 to jumpstart your must.

Cheers,

Oskaar

BrewStef
05-01-2006, 05:44 PM
SG was 0.050 yesterday. I will check the PH, add the nutrient, and check in again.

Thanks!

BrewStef
05-04-2006, 02:32 PM
Ok, I added 2 tsp yeast nutrient in half a cup of water around 2 days ago.

Fermentation has picked up a bit. It was at one blip every 3-4 minutes, now it is a blip every 40 seconds. This is better, but a far cry from the blip every 17 seconds it was going before racking.

Should I:

1) Not worry, leaving it as is, which would likely result in a much longer fermentation period (I planned on bulk aging for a year anyway)

2) Repitch the same yeast (Vial of White Labs sweet mead yeast) AS IS

3) Repitch the same yeast with a starter, letting it grow for a day, siphon the wort, add more wort, letting it grow for another day, then pitch the yeast cake.

4) Repitch with the different yeast (K1-V1116)?

Also, if I do repitch, should I make a DME-based wort or should I use the currently fermenting must? Or do I use DME for the initial fermentation, then use the fermenting must for the second round?

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Cheers,

BrewStef

Oskaar
05-04-2006, 09:45 PM
Swirl your carboy a couple times a day with the airlock in place. But keep an eye on it as you do so. See if this causes the airlock activity to increase at a sustained rate over time. It may take a day or two. If not then I'd suggest building up a same-yeast starter with some apple juice and pitching it.

That failing, it's time for the K1 IMO.

Cheers,

Oskaar

BrewStef
05-08-2006, 01:02 PM
Thanks Oskaar. It looks like I will need to repitch as the swirling has not seemed to help.

What size starter would you recommend? How much water/juice/nutrient(if any), etc?

Thanks.

Oskaar
05-09-2006, 06:27 AM
OK, one more gravity reading before pitching something new into the mix, let's see if it is still moving downward. If so, I'd suggest just waiting a bit to week how low it will go. Otherwise, when you pitch the K1V it will go bone dry and you'll need to backsweeten if you're looking for a sweet mead.

Also take a taste of the must and see just "how sweet" it seems to you. Your tastebuds will make the determination if it's too sweet. Some folks like it in that range. I've tasted several that were over 1.050 that were excellent. Wrathwilde's Acerglyn comes to mind.

Post that gravity and lets see if your yeasties are creeping along or on strike.

Cheers,

Oskaar

BrewStef
05-30-2006, 11:23 AM
Hi Oskaar,

I checked the SG last night to see where it was at: 1.045. So it is progressing, just slowly.

I do not mind letting it sit for as long as it takes as long as it keeps on going. At this rate, if it continues the same, it will take 5 more months to get to 1.010 (is that what I should be shooting for?)

Anyway, it did taste better, though it still makes the roof of your mouth feel furry.

I combined it with a Winexpert kit I am making (a wildberry shiraz) which I did not like by itself, and it seemed to make a nice Pyment...so I MAY go that route. Once that wine is stabilized/done, I will likely combine part of each batch.

At this point do you think I should bother pitching a starter with the same yeast, or just let it finish on it's own?

Thanks again for your time.

Cheers!

Stefan

finburger
05-30-2006, 09:45 PM
If you've got the carboys, it might be interesting to make a gallon of the shiraz pyment now and let them ferment together. You might want to run that past winexpert first to see if you need to adjust the amount of finings in the shiraz after drawing off some of it.

Oskaar
05-30-2006, 10:10 PM
Honestly I'd say give it a bit and see if it comes down to about 1.030 which is about where I like my sweet stuff.

I think combining them is a good idea. Do the blending on a small scale first to get the taste right and then do the batches you have. You can take the left overs and combine them in a different vessel and tweak them with more honey or whatever you think might make it better. Maybe some spices so you have a spiced pyment.

Anhow, keep us in the loop.

Cheers,

Oskaar

BrewStef
05-31-2006, 11:24 AM
Thanks Oskaar and Finburger for your comments.

The wine is done fermenting, the only thing remaining is to clear and degas. Given this, would blending the finished wine and unfinished mead now really be much different than blending the final products in a few months when the SG of the mead is down to around 1.030 as suggested?

I tried the blend again last night. Wow, it is real sweet even when blended - you can feel it on the back side of the roof of your mouth. I am looking forward to see how it turns out in a few months.

Cheers.

BrewStef

ken_schramm
07-02-2006, 09:19 AM
I am currently experiencing a slow/stuck fermentation on my first batch of Traditional Mead (and first mead as well). This happened IMMEDIATELY after racaking to secondary 6 weeks after brewing.


BrewStef


Brewstef;

You're darned ambitious, I'll say that. I have a few comments;

If you are serious about making a traditional mead without nutrients, it will likely mean going above and beyond the standard hobbyist procedures. I would first suggest looking for a yeast strain that has already been determined to have a low nitrogen demand. You may need to buy 500 grams to get the strain you are looking for. Have a look at Lallemand's chart:

http://www.lallemandwine.us/products/yeast_chart.php

DV10 has always been one I wanted to try for a low/no nutrient trad.

Next, skip the filtration, and use a tasty bottled spring water that you can get inexpensively. You don't want to be stripping out any of the minerals, especially potassium.

Make sure you are pitching enough yeast without the need for lots of reproduction. I'd also strongly suggest GoFerm during your rehydration, but maybe that is stretching the no nutrient principle.

Finally, don't rack just for racking's sake. Let your large initial yeast population stay in contact with the yeast until you have taken care of 95-100% of your target attenuation. Racking a no-nutrient mead off of the yeast halfway through your target attenuation is a perfect formula for a stuck or massively stressed fermentation. And that is a much bigger threat for creating off flavors than some prolonged sur lie contact.

For a beginner, I would strongly recommend using nutrient until you have gotten the process nailed. You pretty much started playing the organ by trying to master Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. You really stacked the deck against yourself.

I hope I wasn't too strident.

Ken

Oskaar
07-02-2006, 09:15 PM
... snip ... I hope I wasn't too strident.

Ken


Geez Ken, you're gonna chase everyone off with that kind of tongue lashing :o

I don't think that was anywhere near being strident, let alone in the neighborhood of "finger-wagging!"

Great response and great advice too.

Oskaar

WRATHWILDE
07-02-2006, 09:57 PM
You're gonna chase everyone off with that kind of tongue lashing :o


It'd take more than a tongue lashing to chase us off... a worldwide shortage of honey might get a few, the destruction of the net would undoubtedly chase off the rest.

Wrathwilde

BrewStef
07-12-2006, 02:04 PM
Ken,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am honored by your response.

I started this mead a while back before I read your book which I really enjoyed - VERY enlightening, especially the no-heat method which I will use next.

You mentioned in your book Scott Labs yeast straing Zymaflore VL3 which I intend to use (if I can get it - my LHBS says they can't get it in any smaller amounts either.)

FYI - your comment on racking it too early was right on target. This ended up being a split batch with most of it in a 5Gal carboy and the last bit being siphoned into a 1 gal growler. The mead in the growler cleared with a SG f 1.020. The mead in the carboy is currently at 1.044. This indicates that had there been enough yeast in the carboy it would have finished.

I took Oskaars suggestion and pitched the same yeast (2 liter starter using DME and nutrient, well stirred/aerated, refrigerating, decanting liquid, resuspending with boiled water) and within hours had a rapid restart - lots of bubbles going on. It looks like the batch was saved. The hydrometer "taster" was excellent, not cloying - just still too sweet. I expect it to finish under 1.020 shortly.

One other comment regarding the pyment. I did blend some of the final Wildberry Shiraz with some of the growler mead and it was REALLY good. I entered it into the homebrew competition in San Diego and did not place - the judge, who is a friend and also the LHBS owner, said it had an artificial taste to it - likely due to the wine kit...which he sold me. <growl> I thought that was funny. I will use less wine and more mead the next time I blend it.

Thanks again for all of your help and advice. I will take this advice to heart. I want to take my meadmaking to the next level (or two) so I am learning everything I can. These forums, and Kens book (which I purchased a second copy for our local homebrew club library as well), are great resources.

Thank you all.

BrewStef