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Thread: My first batch ever seems to have stopped short...

  1. #1

    Default My first batch ever seems to have stopped short...

    I am new to mead making, having very successfully brewed great ales for years. I had a particularly good harvest of pears this year, and decided to use some of them in my first mead experiment. I sterilized my equipment and pasteurized the honey at 160 deg F for twenty minutes before adding it to the water, spices and pears, all of which were boiled prior to adding the honey.

    Being new to mead, I thought I would start with a small batch. Basing my recipe on a grilled pear dish that we like, I added 5 pounds of pears, a handful of peppercorns and about a one inch piece of ginger root, grated, to the seven pounds of local clover honey, making a total volume of 2 gallons of finished must. I am looking for a dry finish, and my local brewing supplier recommended Lalvin champagne yeast, which I pitched after cooling the must to about 80 deg F. OG approx 1.140.

    Fermentation at approx 70 deg F was steady for about 30 days, yielding a bubble at the airlocks of my two one-gallon glass fermenters approximately every 5 to 10 seconds. At 30 days, all activity seemed to have stopped.

    Because there was so much sediment in the fermenters (about an inch, maybe in part because of solids precipitating out of suspension from the pears?), I re-racked yesterday, about a week after the stoppage, and filled the fermenters with sterilized glass marbles to keep the head space in the fermenters at what I believe to be the appropriate level, but things still appear to be stuck.

    The current gravity comes in at about 1.065, which is much higher than I expect for the finished product. The taste is strongly alcoholic, leading me to question my OG reading, and very raw. I am told that mead in this range should age as much as two years before mature and ready to drink. Should I try a little yeast nutrient? Re-pitch a stronger, more tolerant yeast? Or do I just wait patiently for the yeast to do its thing?

    I'm about to start my second batch, a vanilla metheglin at a lower OG (starting with 6 lbs of clover honey from the same farm) with the same yeast. I wanted to try meadowfoam honey, but was unable to find any locally. We'll see how that goes...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Flint, Michigan


    Having your ABV that high already, it willbe hard to repitch a yeast that will start brewing again. If you want to try, take EC 1118 or K1V 1116 and acclimate it slowly to yur must. Start with just a traditional setting at an OG of 1.100. As it starts to ferment, about 10-15 point a day start adding your stuck ferment until the SG in the new batch reaches your stuck batch SG. If you can get it to go then walla your refermenting. Keep in mind that when you use this strain that your must will dry out real fast and your ABV will reach 18 percent with a real hot feel that you will have to age out.

    Keep us posted.

    Welcome to got mead!
    If I was a mead what flavor would I be?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Ithaca, NY


    Welcome to GotMead!!

    Did you add any nutrients to you mead? Did you aerate it at all?

    1.140 is a very high starting gravity and yeast are going to have a tough time. Even at lower gravities, mead musts need significant nutrient additions; honey is very low in nitrogen. Aeration during the first stages of fermentation is also very important (even in high gravity beers).

    I'm not a "restarting a stuck fermentation" guru, so I'll let others make suggestions for this batch. Going forward, read the NewBee guide if you haven't already.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Evergreen, CO (west of and above the Denver smog!)


    Hi, Paul! Welcome to the "GotMead" community!

    You certainly have presented yourself with a challenge for your very first mead. A starting gravity of 1.140, as others have noted, is a significant challenge for almost any yeast, and I'm not quite sure what yeast you used, exactly. "Lalvin champagne" isn't really a trade name or a yeast strain that exists in the Lallemand stock -- is it possible that you are actually using Red Star Pasteur Champagne? Or, was this yeast re-packaged by the local supplier into some generic container and simply labeled "Champagne?" If you are using a Lalvin yeast it is most likely already EC-1118, which is about as good as any in working in high gravity musts.

    However, it takes more than a good yeast strain - it also takes proper fermentation management, including providing the yeast with adequate nutrients and oxygen during the first 1/3 of fermentation, to prevent it from sticking. Now that you've stuck you'll have to resort to semi-heroic efforts to get things going again - and just so you know up front, they may not work. Restarting fermentations once the must has reached an alcohol level of 10% ABV or higher are always problematic. But if you're game, there are some things that you can do to maximize your chances of success. Instead of outlining a procedure in this reply I'm instead going to point you to a restart protocol that Oskaar (our resident Mead Laureate, and the most prolific and successful meadmaker that I've ever met -- save maybe for Ken) outlined a little while back, which references the Lallemand article on how to attempt restarts:


    BTW, I've used the protocol outlined in this referenced Lallemand article myself, in a mead must that started at 1.145 and stuck at an ABV of around 11.5%. The Uvaferm 43 took it dry! So, this is likely your best bet.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

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