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Thread: pH 2.7 !! Help?

  1. #1

    Default pH 2.7 !! Help?

    Hello,

    2 weeks ago I started with my first batch of what is supposed to become 10 liters of mead.

    The ingredients I used (its in SI metrics, hopefully thats not a problem...):
    - 3kg of honey (linden)
    - 5L water
    - 8 tsp citric acid
    - 4 tsp tartaric acid
    - 2/3 tsp tannin
    - 4 1/2 tsp yeast energizer
    - 1 package of Wyeast sweet mead

    I stirred the honey in the cold water and heated it a little (still below 50 degrees Celsius, to make it easier for the tannin to dissolve) and added all the additives.
    I let it cool down for one night till it was at room temperature, then I racked it into a 10L bottle. I poured the liquid yeast into the must after the yeast energizer and before the package (smackpack) swelled up. From then on I put a clean towel on top of the bottle and shaked it a couple of times a day to aerate it. After 4 days bubbles became visible and I kept (I know, my mistake) shaking for 1 day.

    After 4 days I measured some stuff: temp 22.5 degrees celsius, ph below 3 (inaccurate paper) and the SG was 1.120. So I added one tsp of Calcium carbonate to increase the ph.
    From then on I put an airlock on the bottle and it kept bubbling. Now, 14 days after the start, it bubbles with approx one bubble per 30sec so I thought I rack it into a new bottle. There is also approx 2.5 cm of sediment at the bottom.
    I measured it again and the SG is 1.051 and the smell of alcohol is very clear. The pH however is 2.7 !! From what I read this is very low and will disable the yeast. I also tasted it and the taste is also very acidic (and not nice), but it doesn't smell or taste like vinegar.

    So my question is what I should do to let the yeast complete its task and to remove the bad taste of it.

    Thanks in advance.

    Jasper

  2. #2
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    First, Jarama, let me welcome you to the "Gotmead?" community!! We're glad that you found us -- unfortunately it was a bit later than optimal, because if you had checked with us before starting your fermentation, we would have advised not to add any acid additions up front. Older recipes for mead (such as the one you're using) were made up by winemakers who assumed (incorrectly) that since there wasn't any of the usual grape acids (tartaric, citric, malic) in honey, that meads would need additions of acid to taste right. That is absolutely untrue, and as you have observed with your batch, acid additions made before fermentation starts can really lower the pH of your must to the point where the yeast are stressed.

    Calcium carbonate, while it will work, tends to change pH very slowly since it does not readily dissolve in water or alcohol. In my opinion, it is much better to make pH corrections with potassium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate, since either of those chemicals will dissolve readily and react with the acids in your must far more quickly than the calcium will.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  3. #3

    Default

    Thank you, wayneb, for your warm welcome.
    I've read the forum before and therefore I already bought some potassium bicarbonate (actually a mix of calcium carbonate, potassium bicarbonate and potassium tartrate), but I haven't added it. How much should I add of this to increase the pH to approx 3.7?

    And for the next time: which ingredients should I remove from my recipe? Only citric and tartaric acid? Or also the tannin?

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Hey, welcome to the forum! I love linden tea, I bet linden honey's awesome.

    10 litres is about 3 US gallons, last time I had to fix a 5 gal batch I was adding calcium carbonate by the teaspoon, so I think if you added half a teaspoon of your mix of carbonates and tartrate at a time, stir it well and give it a day or two to balance out, you shouldn't overshoot and end up with something chalky-tasting. And I'd aim for around 3.4 or so.

    Just be sure to degas it first, not only will the dry powder provide plenty of nucleation sites for your mead to fizz up but also (if you recall science class where you mix vinegar and sodium bicarbonate) the chemical reaction of adding base to your acidic must could fizz up, so even if you mixed your powder into water to dissolve it before adding, carbon dioxide that's already trapped in the must could end up helping the fizz from the chemical reaction get out of hand.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "Good grief! If someone wanted to murder you, all they would have to do is ship you a 55 gallon barrel of honey and watch you document working yourself to death!" - Vance G

  5. #5

    Default

    Welcome Jarama. I dont want to speak for Wayneb, but I think he meant just dont add the acid blends during fermentation. I add tannin at the beginning of fermentation. I got the following from the Morewine website, where i get my tannin:

    "When used at the beginning of the fermentation, FT Blanc Soft helps provide protection from oxidation so more of the wines delicate aromas and flavors are preserved. In addition, FT Blanc Soft's continual bonding going on throughout the fermentation improves mouthfeel and help significantly reduce or eliminate vegetal/herbaceous characters and bitterness. FT Blanc Soft imparts a perception of sweetness without contributing any sugars, along with a low-level, beneficial minerality. Note: FT Blanc Soft can also be used as an ageing tannin post-fermentation as well!"

    FT Blanc Soft is the pet name they give their tannin. Im assuming (dangerous?) that this applies to any tannin.
    The Key of Joy is disobedience

  6. #6
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    triarchy is correct. I meant only the acids, not the tannin. A little tannin in mead during primary fermentation is a good thing.

    BTW - 8 tsp of citric acid powder, along with 4 tsp of tartaric, added to this volume of must is A LOT. It may take you quite a number of tsp of your carbonate/bicarbonate mix to get the pH up to the range where your yeast won't be stressed. It may be that you'll end up tasting somewhat of an "off-metallic" flavor in this batch once it is done.

    It appears that you may have a recipe that was cut down from 5 US gallons (23 L) to 10 L (and it looks like it should be closer to 8 than 10 to me), but someone forgot to adjust the amount of acid!

    In any case, don't add either of them (citric or tartaric) until after fermentation is over, next time.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  7. #7

    Default

    Thank you for your responds. I should really make sure that I don't add any acids to the must the next time, but I'll try to add the carbonate mix until the pH is about 3.4 and the yeast is fermenting well.
    It is true that the mead is now 7 8 liters, but after I rack it into the next container I'll top it up with 2 liters of water (also advised by the recipe I used: http://myplace.frontier.com/~mshapiro_42/meadmanl.html).

    But why is adding acids after the fermentation useful? To make sure it doesn't get infected during bottling or to make it taste better? And what are normal amounts of acid tsp's for a 10L batch?

    Haha, sorry for the many questions. This first time of brewing was certainly very instructive for me (because I also worried that in the beginning the yeast wouldn't start, so I spend a lot of time on research). But it is nice to have found this forum.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    No problem about the questions; we are here to help!

    I would add acids to the fermented mead only if it did not taste good to me. Meads that are too high in pH can often taste a bit "flat" or "flabby." However, that almost never happens. The vast majority of meads made by meadmakers around the world taste quite fine without any additional acids. This is something we've learned over the years - and that is why we discourage folks from following many of the older recipes. They were not only wrong, but often they led to meads that take months to properly ferment, and many more months then need to elapse as the harsh flavors that result begin to mellow with age.

    If I ever encountered a mead that I made that seemed to need a bit more acidic "bite," I would add small amounts, say 1/2 tsp per 20 L, at a time. Once that is mixed in I would allow a day or so for the acid to come to equilibrium and then I'd taste the mead. I would only add more, in successive 1/2 tsp increments, until the resulting taste seemed correct to me. So, always add acid to taste, rather than to some specified recipe amount.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  9. #9

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    Ok, thanks wayneb. That makes it very clear! I'll finish this batch and hope it will turn out 'drinkable' and meanwhile I'll make my own recipe for my second batch.

    Luckily I knew from the beginning that the first batch would be a try-out for me, so this makes the second batch even more exciting...

  10. #10

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    I'd like to tell that I managed to increase the pH to approx 3.5. So this is very good news!
    SG is also already 1.012, so fermentation is already in a final state if I'm correct (because I'm trying to make a sweet mead).

    Thank you very much for your help! Now I'm just waiting and hoping it will stop fermenting and clear in the days or weeks to come. If I've questions, I'll be back

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