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Thread: Airlock bubbling and Healthy Yeast

  1. Question Airlock bubbling and Healthy Yeast

    Heeeeey, I'm new

    I started my first ever home brew four days ago. I chose to make a mead, not because of its supposed ease of preparation relative to beer... I did it because I friggin' love mead...... Anyway, it is a basic five-gallon recipe with 12 lbs of clover honey, canned cherries (two ingredients: cherries, sugar), spring water and Wyest's dry mead starter. The honey and cherries were pasteurized with two gallons of spring water, then added to 2.5 gallons of fresh spring water into a glass carboy and aerated.

    Two potential problems though, because I am a rash, ignorant newb

    1) I ordered the Wyeast starter pack online, and it was shipped without an ice pack. At some point during the two-day shipping, one of the nutrient packs burst and started the fermentation, so when my package arrived, the pouch was fully balooned. I don't know much about yeast, but a quick online search had me thinking the yeast was still viable and healthy (I guess this happens a lot) so I figured what the hell, I'll use it.

    2) I may not have cooled the must enough prior to adding the yeast starter pack. The last temp measurement I took of the must before adding it to the carboy read 125F. After aerating everything, and then dropping the yeast in, the carboy felt pretty warm to the touch. It was at this point I remembered reading somewhere that everything should be cooled down to around 75F prior to pitching yeast; and later, I read that yeast can die (or be wounded) at 120F

    Well, I went to bed and woke up eight hours later to find the airlock bubbling, and it has now (Day 4) settled to a rate of one burp every seven seconds, and lots of little beer-like bubbles fizzing to the surface. SO, it appears to be fermenting well I guess...

    ... But my question is, in your guys' experience, can hurting your yeast in the first few hours of fermentation spoil your batch? Did I create some kind of super yeast population by killing off the weak ones, that won't operate normally and impart weird flavors? The gas that comes out of the airlock smells great, but that may be from the layer of cherries floating on top.

    Oh, another newb mistake I made: My hydrometer arrived broken and I didn't bother to replace it, so I don't have an OG, and I'll have to find another method to determine when the primary fermentation is done.

    Sorry for the long ass post guys, but these are questions/concerns I have that I couldn't find the answer to searching forums.

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    Also, is that a good average bubble per seconds for four days, with 4" of headspace in a 5-gallon carboy? It's a common canister style airlock.

  3. #3
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    Welcome to GotMead!

    Guess I'll start with the yeast. Yes, you can weaken the population by killing half of them off in some manner. Given enough nutrients, the yeast will reproduce back to their ideal cell density. Pitching hotter than your fermentation temperature also encourages rapid reproduction. This can be a good thing in some cases (say you're making a lager and need lots and lots of yeast), or it can be bad (say they burn through the nutrients in the first day, then go stinky on you).

    Speaking of nutrients, have you added any? (I'm guessing this is a 4 gallon or so batch?) The cherries will help, but you'll want to add some more, especially if you think you might have scalded a few of your yeasties. Not sure where along the fermentation you are without a SG reading, so can't say what you might want to add. For the future, search for "staggered nutrient addition" and you should come up with some of the many ways to feed your mead. There are also some "YAN calculators" floating around.

    About the cherries: you'll want to push those back into the liquid periodically. Search for "cap management" for lots of info about using fruit. Definitely not too late to do this on the current batch.

    The airlock: counting bubbles is fun but not terribly informative. Lots of variables go into the rate of bubbling (size of container, size of batch, temperature, weather--literally, blah blah blah) so you can't really compare your readings to any "standard". SG readings are the gold standard for fermentation progress.

    All-in-all it sounds like it's going well. Read up (and check the New Bee guide if you haven't yet) and try not to get sucked into the "what's next" threads or your whole house will be full of carboys.
    Want to see something added to the GotMead Glossary? PM me! Didn't know we had a glossary? Check the top row of links.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by akueck View Post
    try not to get sucked into the "what's next" threads or your whole house will be full of carboys.
    and what's wrong with this?
    " ...no sense hauling empty carboys around when full ones take up just as much space. " -TheFlyingBeer (on HomeBrewTalk)

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    Thank you for the reply

    I was aware of the cap management issue.

    I heated and stirred two cans of cherries into the must, which turned the whole batch a nice dark red, but when I poured the must into the carboy, I only put a few of the cherries in, enough to almost cover the cap. So it's easy to saturate them with liquid by just giving the carboy a bit of a swirl. No other nutrients were added other than what came in the Wyeast starter pack. My plan is to add crushed cherry juice and maybe some other citrusy fruit into the secondary fermentation, but now you got me thinking I should add something before the primary is done.

    It seems like there is still a lot of activity though. Little bubbles everywhere, and stuff swirling around inside.

  6. #6
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    If I were you I'd be trying to get a replacement hydrometer for better management of next batch (you know there will be a next batch!!!) and some yeast nutrients and yeast energizer. Fermaid K energizer is the recommended one because the most is known about what amounts of good stuff it contains, but I've done well enough with the stuff I've got.

    If you want to "feed" your yeasties, I'd recommend microwaving or boiling up some bread yeast (several teaspoons in 1/2 cup of water, boil away half the water), it's one of the safer additions you can make if you don't know what stage your fermentation is at, because anything your yeast can't use at this point will just settle out..
    "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
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014

  7. #7

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    Definitely get another hydrometer asap. I bought two when I got mine just in case.

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    Thanks again guys

    Fermentation is still going strong from what I can tell, for now. Would a bunch of raisins be an ok alternative to the bread yeast mixture at this point?

    And for the secondary fermentation, I'm thinking Fresh cherries and a vanilla bean will be added. Secondary fermentation will be racked either when the bubbles slow down significantly, or at 3 weeks, whichever comes first, since I don't have an OG. I'm assuming if fermentation hasn't stopped at that point it is still ok to leave it in there to age.

    And I'm definitely getting another hydrometer for my next batch. is there no way to determine the ABV% without an OG reading?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cerberus View Post
    Fermentation is still going strong from what I can tell, for now. Would a bunch of raisins be an ok alternative to the bread yeast mixture at this point?
    It wouldn't hurt, but dead and boiled bread yeast would be better.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cerberus View Post
    And for the secondary fermentation, I'm thinking Fresh cherries and a vanilla bean will be added. Secondary fermentation will be racked either when the bubbles slow down significantly, or at 3 weeks, whichever comes first, since I don't have an OG. I'm assuming if fermentation hasn't stopped at that point it is still ok to leave it in there to age.
    Shouldn't be a problem if it's still going.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cerberus View Post
    And I'm definitely getting another hydrometer for my next batch. is there no way to determine the ABV% without an OG reading?
    You can either approximate your starting gravity using the Mead Calculator, or once the fermentation's finished and you get a hydrometer, you can do a spirit indication test, where you determine the difference in SG if you remove the alcohol by boiling and replace the exact same volume with water. It's not terribly accurate with a regular hydrometer, but it's better than a dartboard guess
    "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
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014

  10. #10

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    Welcome from another mead n00b!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chevette Girl View Post
    It wouldn't hurt, but dead and boiled bread yeast would be better.
    Follow up question: Would "normal" yeast nutrient do or is "dead and boiled bread yeast" the thing to use here?
    -=[ Mead n00b / video gaming addict ]=-
    PS: Profile picture is from "The Compleat Meadmaker" by Ken Schramm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wijnand View Post
    Follow up question: Would "normal" yeast nutrient do or is "dead and boiled bread yeast" the thing to use here?
    If you had yeast energizer on hand I'd say maybe, but without knowing how far along you are with your fermentation, I wouldn't add more "yeast nutrients" (DAP) as the yeast can only metabolize it for the first 1/3 of the fermentation.

    Boiled bread yeast is an assimilable source of nitrogen (yeast food) that doesn't contain any DAP (which can't be assimilated past a certain point), so if you're not sure where your fermentation is OR you're past the point in your fermentation where you should be adding things, it's fairly safe. In the early stages of fermentation, it's nowhere near as good as nutrients and energizer but in the later stages, it shouldn't leave a lot of food for other organisms.
    "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
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014

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