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Thread: I May Have Blown It - pH Way Too High

  1. #1

    Default I May Have Blown It - pH Way Too High

    I started my first batch of 2014 mead (my 16th overall) and may have made a critical error. I'm wondering how (or if) I can recover it or if I should even attempt to do so.

    My recipe (7 gallon batch):

    6 gallons water
    21 lbs Pumpkin Blossom Honey (Initial SG: 1.12
    2 tsp Epernay Yeast (Lalvin DV10)
    Nutrients (Fermaid at pitch, nutrient at lag phase, mixture of the two when aerating)
    Pitched on 4-15-2014 (48 hours ago)

    The problem was in the pH. In balancing the must's pH (which was about 2.9), I added Calcium Carbonate. I don't know how, but I apparently failed to mix it thoroughly enough between additions. It showed modest increases in pH until I got it up to about pH: 3.9

    Then I mixed it aggressively to provide some initial aeration and , after pitching the yeast, I did a final re-check of the SG and pH and found, to my horror, that the pH was now 5.0!!

    I couldn't login or get to the forums, due to the switch in servers, etc., (this was on the 15th) but I did some reading on other forums which seemed to indicate that the best thing you could do was to leave it alone and let the yeast reduce the pH as it worked, so that's what I've done. But I fear that this one may be blown.

    For one, the activity of the yeast is clearly depressed. I made a batch last year with the same recipe; within 48 hours it was pushing 210 bubbles/minute through the airlock and had dropped 25 points of SG. By contrast, this batch, at 48 hours, is pushing 42 bubbles/minute. The sugar consumption is commensurately anemic; it has fallen a mere 13 points in 48 hours. The pH has fallen to pH: 4.50

    The must also has a subtle but perceptible 'soda'-like flavour, rather reminiscent of baking soda, which is, I suspect, the presence of the carbonate.

    I'm not sure how (or if) the pH can (or should) be adjusted downward or whether that would do any good at this point. Nor do I know whether this batch will be permanently stuck with the carbonate flavour.

    What would you recommend? Any words of wisdom will be gratefully received and carefully considered. And in any case, thanks for the time and energy you spent reading this!

  2. #2

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    The initial SG in the original post should have read: 1.128

    Who knew that an 8 followed by an end-paren would invoke an emoticon ... OK, OK, you all knew ... but I didn't!

  3. #3
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    I would let it finish fermenting. Then after a first racking back sweeten it if necessary (stabilising if needed).

    Then hit it with Kiesol and chitosan finings and once clear rack it again.

    Then filter it with the finest gauge I can - likely "sterile".

    Then check pH, and add acid to bring it down. Incrementally, tasting and testing until it tastes right.

    As a guide, dessert sweetness levels are about the 1.035 to 1.040, but the best tasting one I've tried is at 1.035 but also measured 2.6 pH......

    So it's not blown, it's likely repairable........
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
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  4. #4

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    Thanks, friend! I appreciate the advice. At this time (about 96 hours from pitch), the must is down to about 1.110 and the pH has fallen to about 4.4.

    I have back-sweetened only on of the meads I've made and have never used after-fermentation additions but I may well do so with this one! I plan to add strawberries, either as secondary or as a post-fermentation addition.

    Thanks Again!

  5. #5
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    This is one of the reasons I recommend using potassium bicarbonate rather than calcium carbonate for pH adjustments. The potassium salts dissolve immediately and equilibrate much more quickly. The calcium carbonate doesn't dissolve as easily and you have to wait a couple of hours (at least) to see where the pH settles.

    The good news is that your pH will probably drop to lower than 4.0 which is fine. The yeast function just fine at pH much higher than 5.0 so it isn't a problem for them. If at then end of fermentation you aren't happy with the acidity you can always add a bit of tartaric acid (or even cream of tartar) and this will increase acidity and precipitate calcium out. You should wind up with some tasty mead.

    Sent from my THINGAMAJIG with WHATCHAMACALLIT
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    This is one of the reasons I recommend using potassium bicarbonate rather than calcium carbonate for pH adjustments. The potassium salts dissolve immediately and equilibrate much more quickly. The calcium carbonate doesn't dissolve as easily and you have to wait a couple of hours (at least) to see where the pH settles.

    The good news is that your pH will probably drop to lower than 4.0 which is fine. The yeast function just fine at pH much higher than 5.0 so it isn't a problem for them. If at then end of fermentation you aren't happy with the acidity you can always add a bit of tartaric acid (or even cream of tartar) and this will increase acidity and precipitate calcium out. You should wind up with some tasty mead.

    Sent from my THINGAMAJIG with WHATCHAMACALLIT
    Any reason for using cream of tartar or tartaric acid vs an acid blend sold for wine? I'm asking because I have no clue!

  7. #7
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    I like tartaric because it is less likely to be metabolized by spoilage organisms and can be precipitated out more easily with calcium. Most acid blend contains tartaric, malic and citric in some proportion. I don't particularly like citric in my meads. Citric and malic are not easily removed if over-done.

    Sent from my THINGAMAJIG with WHATCHAMACALLIT
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  8. #8
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    I sort of agree with Medsen for the main part, but I mix my own blend which comes from Ashton & Duncans "Making Mead" book.

    It's 2 parts malic and 1 part tartaric. I use it "to taste", but I add it incrementally and taste/test after each increment.

    As Medsen says, tartaric can be precipitated out some, but equally you can do MLF as well. I too, was never a big fan of citric for flavour......

    That said, I've been drinking a batch recently, which is one of my earlier efforts. Its ok, a little mediocre. So I'd got it out and put about half a bottle in a pint glass, when I thought I just fancied a longer cold drink so on the spur of the moment, topped it up with cold lemonade.

    I don't know if it was the citric acid or the carbonation or both, but damn it "lifted" the mead to be very enjoyable. Not sharp or sour, but the hint of lemon really did the job........

    Maybe I've been blinded by attitude/opinion of others too much ? Dunno. Just that I'm still happy using A&D's suggested mix but if any of my other batches are ok/mediocre, I think I'll keep some lemonade to hand (just cheap, clear, sparkling supermarket stuff - nothing fancy).....
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

  9. #9
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    On the (admittedly rare) occasions when I needed to lower pH, I've used just straight, freshly juiced lemon juice---no concentrate, no powder, not canned - just the real deal. Okay, okay, it's all citric, but I think it does a great job of adding a bit of spark to the flavor.

    Did I see a thread here somewhere that said rhubarb has a dramatic effect on pH?
    Last edited by GntlKnigt1; 04-19-2014 at 01:34 AM.
    Don't Panic!

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  10. #10
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    Lemon juice and lemonade I like. Citric acid in crystalline form lacks the flavor of lemon.

    Sent from my THINGAMAJIG with WHATCHAMACALLIT
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

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