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Thread: First time batch - Help fixing it the next time around?

  1. Default First time batch - Help fixing it the next time around?

    Hello there everyone,

    I started a 1-gallon batch of mead and racked it yesterday. Now, I haven't seen any bubbling from second fermentation, which the guy at the homebrew store says is perfectly normal, but I'm still worried that I may have killed everything in the must. The real concerns, however, are the following:

    1. I forgot to buy a hydrometer before I started making this, so I don't have a precise starting SG. Mea culpa, my formal science education was forgotten for a moment. I did manage to calculate a pretty good guestimate of 1.1282 based on some known quantities, however.

    2. When I racked, I realized that I had lost considerable volume, and the 1gal carboy I was using as a secondary would probably have too much headspace, and the must might start oxidizing too fast. So.... I added water until I went from a 3/4 full carboy to just short of the bottleneck. I realize this is going to vastly water down the alcohol content, but I didn't even read about the marble filling trick till after this was done. Whoops. Anyway, recipe is as follows:

    Justin's First Batch
    Yield: Starting volume 1 gallon. Racked approximately 3 quarts, filled secondary carboy to 1 gallon.
    Ingredients:
    A. Trader Joe's Mesquite Honey, 3lb (roughly 1 quart)
    B. 1 Orange, sliced
    C. Water, to fill 1 gallon carboy
    Yeast: Lalvin's 71B-1122, approximately 1/5 of the pouch
    Yeast Rehydration: Approximately 20 minutes in room temperature water, no nutrient added.
    Ingredient Special Handling: Orange was sanitized and then rinsed prior to slicing and placement in carboy.
    Must Preparation: Mixed 3lb honey with 1 quart water and simmered/stirred over low heat for 30min.
    Fermentation Management: Forgot to take starting SG (oops). Must was kept at room temperature (A/C'ed room) in a solid chest. Must racked after 25 days of fermentation. Air bubbles in the blowoff tube had slowed to 1 bubble every 40 seconds. I will take the ending SG after the must has clarified. Preliminary calculations should put me at around 5% alcohol after the watering down of the must. But we'll see.
    Aging: None yet

    Storage space is at something of a premium where I am right now, so I won't be using a full-on bucket or have a collection of various-sized carboys for the near future. In the next few batches, I'd like to start producing controlled volumes of mead at small batch sizes. The big question I have is, can I mix a more concentrated must (4lb honey compared to 3 for a 1-gallon batch), let the fermentation go a little longer, and then add water to replace lost volume after racking? My thought process is that by starting out with a higher concentration of sugar, I can get more alcohol in the primary fermentation, and if I have to water it down, maybe the dilution effect isn't quite as bad.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who can help me out.

  2. #2

    Default

    I would use the whole 5 gram packet for each gallon. You'll have a shorter lag time and a strong fermentation.

    Yes you can use 4 lbs but you better learn how to use Go-ferm as a rehydrating protocol.
    Why not just use mead to fill up the head space?
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    346

    Default

    Much better to start with enough must so that you end up with a gallon when you rack off the lees. You can get a 1-1/2 gallon bucket from a bakery.
    Dave from New Haven County

  4. Default

    I'll give the bucket option another look.

    Fill headspace with mead? As in a storebought one? I guess I could try that. I thought about using wine, but I was afraid the pre-existing alcohol would start converting into vinegar. Perhaps that was paranoia.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    Cincinnati
    Posts
    435

    Default

    Hydrometer! Hydrometer! Hydrometer!

    Staggered Nutrient Addition

    Use fermaid-K or fermaid-O

  6. #6

    Default

    Top it off with mead you make yourself. Next time around. Or just make extra like suggested
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  7. #7

    Default

    Responses below.

    Quote Originally Posted by justin.chiang View Post
    I started a 1-gallon batch of mead and racked it yesterday. Now, I haven't seen any bubbling from second fermentation, which the guy at the homebrew store says is perfectly normal, but I'm still worried that I may have killed everything in the must. The real concerns, however, are the following:

    Yeast are hardy, and its very difficult to kill them (usually has to be done with stabilizers). They may be dormant, but if they have available sugars and the abv is low enough, they will kick back into action.

    1. I forgot to buy a hydrometer before I started making this, so I don't have a precise starting SG. Mea culpa, my formal science education was forgotten for a moment. I did manage to calculate a pretty good guestimate of 1.1282 based on some known quantities, however.

    2. When I racked, I realized that I had lost considerable volume, and the 1gal carboy I was using as a secondary would probably have too much headspace, and the must might start oxidizing too fast. So.... I added water until I went from a 3/4 full carboy to just short of the bottleneck. I realize this is going to vastly water down the alcohol content, but I didn't even read about the marble filling trick till after this was done. Whoops. Anyway, recipe is as follows:

    Mead is very hard to oxidize. It's the organic materials in wine and beer (grapes and hops) that really suffer from oxygen (which is why melomels are easier to oxidize), but honey is immune to this. Not that it's impossible, but you really have to try and it wouldn't become a factor for a long time.

    Storage space is at something of a premium where I am right now, so I won't be using a full-on bucket or have a collection of various-sized carboys for the near future. In the next few batches, I'd like to start producing controlled volumes of mead at small batch sizes. The big question I have is, can I mix a more concentrated must (4lb honey compared to 3 for a 1-gallon batch), let the fermentation go a little longer, and then add water to replace lost volume after racking? My thought process is that by starting out with a higher concentration of sugar, I can get more alcohol in the primary fermentation, and if I have to water it down, maybe the dilution effect isn't quite as bad.

    3lbs of honey is actually a good/high sugar content for most yeast strains. They'll take it dry or close to it. I wouldn't recommend putting 4lbs in up front as the sugar content could actually then be too high for the yeast to begin their work easily. If you want to add more honey, you can step feed (ie: add another lbs of honey after SG goes from 1.100 to 1.070 (just a random example)).

    That being said, your yeast are not superheroes. Each strain has a max abv tolerance, and once they ferment to that level, they won't continue no matter how much sugar is available. You can certainly add water after you rack to make up the volume though. If there are left over sugars, this will lower the abv giving the yeast a chance to convert them until they reach their tolerance again.

    I don't think your mead has been diluted as much as you think though. I would encourage you to take an SG reading now, as clarifying can happen months after fermentation ends, sometimes not at all without help. Your hydrometer is your best friend and the only reliable way to determine what's going on with your mead. If you get 3 identical SG readings over ~1 week, you can be confident fermentation has stopped.

    Back to your abv though. Assuming your OG calculations are accurate and fermentation has completed fully, you can look to your yeast for an estimate. 71B will usually land in the 14-16% range, so let's say it gave you 15% (just to be round), then use this formula to calculate your abv after diluting:

    C1V1 = C2V2 where C is concentration and V is volume. So in your case..
    (0.15)(0.75) = C2(1) -> C2 = 11.25% abv

    So not nearly as low as 5%
    Given that an OG of 1.128 minus 15% alcohol would give you an SG of ~1.01, it is quite possible that fermentation will restart in secondary since you lowered the abv with diluting and there are residual sugars. But only your hydrometer can tell you that for sure!
    Hope that helps!
    Last edited by dingurth; 03-15-2017 at 12:55 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Saratoga Springs , NY
    Posts
    868

    Default

    Hi Justin.Chiang - and welcome.
    When you rack one of the things you are very likely doing is removing the fermenting liquid from any yeast that may have settled towards the bottom of your fermenter (flocculated), so the size of the colony in your secondary is very likely to be far smaller than the size of the colony in the primary. But that said, you don't say how long the mead was fermenting in the primary before you racked to the secondary. It is very possible that for all intents and purposes, all the sugar was fermented in the primary (without an hydrometer there is no simple way of knowing) and any bubbles in the airlock you may have been witnessing may simply have been the CO2 falling out of suspension in the liquid rather than being produced anew by the yeast.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dingurth View Post
    Responses below.
    Best response to date. Muchas gracias esse

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