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Thread: Brewing Noob first batch - should I stop the ferment?

  1. Default Brewing Noob first batch - should I stop the ferment?

    Hi all,
    I am working on my first batch of mead, and just to be clear this is not just my first batch of mead, it is my first batch of brewing anything, period. I thought I'd give mead a try as I was led to believe it is fairly easy and a good starter to get into brewing, as well we have a local brewery that makes real good Cherry mead, so I know I like the stuff .

    So here we go, as a first batch I'm not expecting the world, this is just to prove out that I can indeed do this and go through the process successfully before getting too crazy. As a first batch I used cheap bulk honey, which was pasteurized (I understand now that this may have not been the best thing to do for flavour). For added flavour some ginger was added in the primary as well as some fresh squeezed lemon juice. The lemon juice I also understand may have not been the best thing to use as it can make the must too acidic and stunt the yeast, but that appears to not be a problem for this batch. I did not add lemon zest, just juice. The ginger was placed in the primary in a cheesecloth bag, and was removed when it was transferred to the glass carboy. For yeast I used Vintner's Harvest SN9 which does not appear to be very popular, but the gent at the brewing store suggested it as it is very resilient to temperature change and should allow for a high alcohol content without issue, so a good choice for success as a beginner.

    As a starter batch I ended up with a OG a bit low, only 1.08 which I hear should make a dry mead and a bit low on alcohol content, I think I did some honey/water ratio incorrect, something probably not clear when reading the internet, US Gallons vs Imperial Gallons...Anyway, I am now in about 6 weeks of fermenting, I checked the gravity and we are down at 0.996, and still fermenting away, airlock is still bubbling, and the mead is not clear, still very cloudy.

    So my question is should I stop the fermentation now, or just ride this out and see what happens? I suppose I can wait for fermentation to complete naturally, then back sweeten if it is not a good flavour.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default

    This fermentation is already over. It's only degassing at this point. Once your hydro reads zero it is dry and no more sugar available for the yeast to eat.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  3. #3
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    Well, the best thing you've probably done is to find this website.

    Now:

    1. Read the NewBee Guide.

    http://gotmead.com/blog/making-mead/...o-making-mead/

    2. Check out the 9 week Meadology series, on YouTube, by the Canadian Sasquatch.

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...yUw6jg2Zlrgko7

    3. And, when you have the time, start listening to the gotmead podcasts "Modern Mead Making", starting on 9/05/2017

    http://gotmead.com/blog/gotmead-live-radio-show/

  4. Default

    That was fast, thanks for the advice guys.

    I'll go through the youtube series when I have some more time, but from reading through the newbee guide, it sounds like I should rack the mead, add some sulfites and sorbates and wait for it to clear and age it. Maybe weeks to months...

    Thanks!
    Last edited by reet; 11-25-2017 at 02:27 PM.

  5. #5
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    Taste. Taste and taste.. Tasting tells you everything while waiting passively tells you nothing..

  6. Default

    Ok, so I racked the mead to a clean glass carboy, and put some bentonite in to help it clear quickly.

    Gave it a taste (before the bentonite) and I can't say it was that good. It smells and tastes like juice gone bad at this point. I've no point of reference so I hope that is normal for young mead.

    Once it has cleared I will rack it again to remove the bentonite and let er sit until it tastes good (hopefully).

    Sent from my LG-H873 using Tapatalk

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    Taste. Taste and taste.. Tasting tells you everything while waiting passively tells you nothing..
    Ok so I racked the mead and added some bentonite to help it clear quickly. Once it has cleared I will rack again and leave it be until it tastes good.

    I did taste it (before the bentonite) and I can't say it was very good. It tastes and smells like juice gone bad so I hope that is normal for young mead. I've no point of reference since it is my first batch.

    Sent from my LG-H873 using Tapatalk

  8. #8
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    Doesn't sound very good. It could be that you just don't like dry mead and/or are tasting the yeast that is suspended in the must. Wait until it's clear, then rack off the lees. During this process siphon or pour some of the mead into a glass. Taste. If it still sucks, start adding some honey (back sweeten) and see what you think.

  9. Default

    That sounds like a good plan, thanks for the advice. I did get some potassium sorbate so I am prepared to back sweeten. At this point I am mostly concerned that the batch has been contaminated.

    Sent from my LG-H873 using Tapatalk

  10. #10
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    Unlikely this has anything to do with contamination: first, if you sanitized your equipment then they are not going to introduce any contaminants, secondly, alcohol -and acidity - tend to be inhospitable to bacteria, and thirdly, you are fermenting honey (and fruit and spices ) not grains. Grains (beer) are full of bacteria and the heat associated with brewing creates near perfect conditions for their growth and /or contamination from the environment.

    What makes you think of "juice gone bad"? Does it taste too tart? Does it smell foul - like rotten eggs (hydrogen sulfide)? Does it taste like vinegar? The first is a flaw and it is repairable, the second is due to stressed yeast (poor protocol) but is repairable, and the last is due to the presence of air in the alcohol that has allowed particular bacteria (acetobacter) to transform the mead (or wine) into vinegar but that typically takes months...(and should never happen unless that was your aim).
    Last edited by bernardsmith; 12-01-2017 at 10:02 AM.

  11. Default

    Definitely not rotten eggs, and I don't think vinegar is how I'd describe it either. I would say perhaps it is too acidic. I think it may just need to age some to get full flavoured with some back sweetening to combat the acidity. The bentonite appears to be doing the trick in a hurry, I checked this morning, after only sitting overnight it has already cleared significantly, taken on a bit of a bright Red Bull colour.

  12. Default

    Give it time. At this stage, you can have some big improvements in a small amount of time.

  13. #13

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    you going to need to use some sulfites as well when you stabilize it. Sorbate will only stop the yeast from budding. But you will still have a live biomass delete everything you back sweeten with
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  14. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatchy View Post
    you going to need to use some sulfites as well when you stabilize it. Sorbate will only stop the yeast from budding. But you will still have a live biomass delete everything you back sweeten with
    Yes of course. I should have been clearer. I already had the sulfites (campden tablets) from when I started the batch, and had purchased the Sorbates since I didn't have any on hand. So I guess my question here is should I toss the stuff in now or after it has aged and I am about to add more honey.

    When I started the batch, I mixed everything in the must, crushed a couple camped tablets in and waited 24hrs before pitching the yeast, to make sure that the must is clean and that everything had stabilized to the same temperature. This worked very well, the yeast started up right away, I stirred once per day for about a week before transferring to a glass carboy. To that end, as a beginner, I read a lot of instructions that asked for the primary to be completely sealed with an airlock, which didn't make much sense to me. Some instructions had just an open bucket with a cloth over top, etc. so there was some conflicting information. My understanding is that the primary ferment needs air, hence why it is being stirred daily, so the primary is in a bucket with a lid, but not sealed air tight. The CO2 being expelled rapidly is enough to keep contaminants out. After a week or two when the SG dropped to about 1.04 it is transferred to a glass carboy with an airlock. To my understanding, sealing the primary with an airlock only slows down the fermentation, am I correct here?

  15. #15
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    Do you have any way to measure the TA (not so much the pH) TA is titratable acidity and that is a measure of the AMOUNT of acid in your mead (pH is a measure of the STRENGTH of the acid - You can see, I think that amount and strength are not the same and that you can have a lot of one and a little of the other). TA is about taste: you want the TA to be about .65 grams of acid/liter and you can buy kits (quite inexpensive) to measure the TA. The basic kits use a color indicator but if you have a pH meter then you add the chemical base until the pH hits 8.2 and you check to see how much base you needed to add to neutralize the acids in the mead. If the amount is significantly more than .65g/l then that explains why the mead tastes tart. There are ways to bring down the TA but most chemical ways have their limits. The best way (IMO) is to simply blend your mead with another mead that is far less tart (a lower TA)

  16. Default

    I don't have any means of measuring TA, for this batch I think I will just use my flavour gauge, maybe look into some pH/TA stuff for next batch.

    Tonight I think I will do my final racking and let 'er age. The bentonite got the mead mostly cleared, there is still a bit of pulp and bits floating around in it, I'll probably wrap the end of my siphon in cheesecloth when I transfer tonight to try and filter it out.

    This forum only allows very small images, so here's a link to a photo of what it looks like today.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by reet View Post
    To my understanding, sealing the primary with an airlock only slows down the fermentation, am I correct here?
    It's not that adding an airlock slows down fermentation. It slows down because when you rack the wine or mead the fermentation is very close to the end. There is only a few points of sugar left and often the yeast is near its tolerance for alcohol etc etc.. The airlock simply prevents air from oxidizing the mead (or wine) because NOW the volume of CO2 being produced is far less and very soon that production will cease and unless you create a barrier there will be enough interchange between the outside and the inside for air to take up any headroom in the fermenter. Your airlock is the barrier..

  18. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    It's not that adding an airlock slows down fermentation. It slows down because when you rack the wine or mead the fermentation is very close to the end. There is only a few points of sugar left and often the yeast is near its tolerance for alcohol etc etc.. The airlock simply prevents air from oxidizing the mead (or wine) because NOW the volume of CO2 being produced is far less and very soon that production will cease and unless you create a barrier there will be enough interchange between the outside and the inside for air to take up any headroom in the fermenter. Your airlock is the barrier..
    Yes, my question was about the primary fermentation, not after it is racked to a glass carboy. I've seen instructions to have the primary sealed with an airlock. My understanding was that during primary ferment you are agitating/aerating daily to bring oxygen into the mix, which won't happen if its in a sealed container with an airlock. Maybe I'm not understanding fully, but in any case my primary was a covered plastic bucket, not sealed with an airlock, and I'll probably just stick with this process. I checked the SG every couple of days and racked to a glass carboy once the gravity was down at 1.040 which was a little over a week if I recall.

  19. #19
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    I think many people on this forum use loosely covered buckets as their primary in order to facilitate degassing and feeding and measuring changes in gravity. Brewers may need to work with a sealed primary but mead makers and wine makers tend not to have the same anxieties about contamination and infection.. For good reason: acidity and higher ABV inhibit problems and honey ain't grain (grains are very hospitable to bacteria and the heat generated by brewing creates a perfect environment for their growth).

  20. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bernardsmith View Post
    I think many people on this forum use loosely covered buckets as their primary in order to facilitate degassing and feeding and measuring changes in gravity. Brewers may need to work with a sealed primary but mead makers and wine makers tend not to have the same anxieties about contamination and infection.. For good reason: acidity and higher ABV inhibit problems and honey ain't grain (grains are very hospitable to bacteria and the heat generated by brewing creates a perfect environment for their growth).
    I guess that explains it. The instructions I saw probably came from brewers that started with beer practices.

    Thanks.

    Sent from my LG-H873 using Tapatalk

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