This is my first batch of mead. I chose a Medium Sweet basic recipe from Schramm's book. Here's what I used:
6.4kg (14.10 lbs) Orange Blossom Honey
5 grams Fermax (this was all I could get for nutrients/energizer)
2 packets Lalvin 71B-1122 (10 grams)
Enough spring water to complete 5 gallons
First of all, I actually realized I could have used a bit more honey to have my mead Medium Sweet. But if it would turn out to be something between Dry-Medium Sweet it's fine by me.
One of my concerns is the lack of pure DAP as a nutrient. I'm aware Fermax contains only a small amount of DAP, but I really couldn't find any where I live. The best I could get is plain Fermax.
I've heated the must to sanitize without boiling. All equipments were nicely sanitized. Oxygenated the must stirring thoroughly for 5 minutes after pitching the yeast.
Primary Fermentation (started 8/25)
I used a fermentation bucket. As far as my Air Lock could tell, fermentation started up well. After 2 weks (9/08 ) bubbles slowed down to a point there was 1 each 38 seconds. This, combined with the fact 2 weeks had passed, made me think my mead was ready to be racked. I moved the bucket to a higher spot so I could rack but then realized the gap between bubbles had fallen from 38 to 15.5 seconds the other day. This raised some concerns but I just ignored it and racked anyway (9/12). I transferred the mead to a glass carboy. I measured gravity again and got 1.034. Since then, I've been wondering if I have racked my mead too soon.
Secondary Fermentation (started 9/12)
One week after secondary started I noticed the gap between bubbles had fallen again to 11 seconds. Seemed really strange to me. On 9/20, a bit less than a month after fermentation started I decided to measure gravity again: 1.022. It dropped only 0.012 points for about week.
At this point, I could really use some of your advice. Of course I drank the sample, and it still tasted a bit too sweet, but no signs of strange, unexpected off-flavors (although since it's my first mead I don't have much to compare it to).
My guess is that my fermentation has been really slow due to lack of nutrients. Am I correct? If this is the case, should I add more Fermax (unfortunately, this is all I have)? If so, how much more? Do I simply add and stir? Your suggestions would be really welcome here.
I do appreciate your help and attention. I'm glad to finally join this community. Thank you all in advance.
WELCOME TO GOTMEAD!
Your fermentation is a bit slow and that is likely due to the yeast being undernourished. 71B is one of the least demanding yeast when it comes to nutrients, but it still needs more than a gram of fermax. It is also possible the pH may be too low.
You may be able to move things along by adding some Fermaid O, or some yeast hulls, or some boiled yeast. However, if you are wanting a semisweet mead, you may be better off by not adding more. With a staring gravity if 1.096, a healthy fermentation will take it dry, and you would have to backsweeten to get the desired level of sweetness. In this case, it may continue to ferment down slowly allowing you to stop it at a level you prefer (hopefully it won't stick). You will need to use sorbate and sulfites in either case.
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Thanks a lot for the insight Medsen.
So in case I decide to continue with an "unhealthy" fermentation are there major risks involved? I will leave the country in a month or so and I plan on leaving this batch unattended for about 5 months.
I can already see a lot of sediment sitting at the bottom of the carboy. I wonder if it's fine to leave my mead to finish fermenting during this period with no nutrient addition. Do you think it would be ready for bottling by the time I'm back? I'm not really willing to add sulfites or sorbates. Since it's my first batch I'd like to keep this one as "organic" as possible.
You will need to rack it off the lee's before you leave, because you used 71B. If it is left on the lee's for more than a few weeks, it will start to break down and create off flavors in the mead.
You can try boiling a cup of water, and adding a packet of bread yeast. Let it boil for about 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and let it cool to room temp and add it to the must.
Primary: Welches Grape Wine
Primary: Blackberry Melomel
Primary: Joe Mattioli's Foolproof Ancient Orange
Thanks again for your insights.
I could use more of your knowledge now. I've returned home and would like to bottle my mead. However, I'm afraid this is still early. A few things make me think there's still active fermentation, although it's very slow:
- I can still see a very thin layer of foam on the surface. I'm assuming this is the result of CO2 production.
- I can barely see any Airlock activity, but when I moved the carboy a bit I noticed a bubble. Probably because the pressure inside got disturbed.
- O.G: 1.096 / last gravity check was on October 20 - 1.006
So what do you think? I'd like to avoid taking too much samples for gravity check, but I know it's a much more precise measurement. If I check it now, is there a safe range of gravity for me to conclude it's ok to bottle? Again, I've used Lalvin 71B in this batch.
Any other advice?