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Thread: Help My First Mead!

  1. Default Help My First Mead!

    Hi,
    I purchased my first sweet mead kit with the liquid yeast I cann't remember if it was white labs or wyeast it came in a tube....i think it was wyeast but won't swear to it. I followed all the directions on midwestsupplies website for making sweat mead. It started to bubble(about once every 20-30 seconds) at one week. At one month I racked, but I didn't see yeast at the bottom as im used to with beer. The liquid was darker at the bottom(lee's ??). The s.g. had dropped by .5 or .10 or less. its s.g. started at either 1.60 or 1.70. about month later i racked again this time a thin layer of yeast at bottom like paint s.g. might have dropped a little more id say maybe .10 total drop from starting s.g. So I added more yeast nutrients. its still bubbleing real slow and its been 3 months total going on 4. At this rate I don't see how it could be done in another month as per instructions. i see on here some people are getting final gravitys of 1.19 i did a beer kit that didn't get that low.what did I do wrong and what can I do to speed it up(will trying to speed it up affect the taste)? anything else sound wrong? or more info needed?

    thanks

  2. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    i have never used liquid yeast so it is hard for me to spot what might have prevented that from taking off. you should probably should post more info to get an exact answer about where things went wrong. info such as the amount of honey, nutrients, energizer, etc., how oftne the airlock bubbling and prehaps the temperature.

    the dark liquid at the bottom of the primary was probably undisovled honey. the directions on the website you reference (http://www.midwestsupplies.com/kits/...structions.htm) indicated 12lbs of honey which should put the o.g. at 1.100. your o.g. reading of 1.070 indicated that about a quarter of your honey was setting at the bottom when fermentation started.

    my advice would be repitch some yeast. the only time i had to repitch yeast (due to temperature problems) i used lalvin EC-1118. that has a high alcohol tolerance though so you will have to stop fermentation if you want sweet mead. the mead that resulted from the time i had to repitch yeast turned out tasting good.

    hope that helps. im sure more experienced mead makers on here will also have advice for you.

  3. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Quote Originally Posted by hellbringer
    Hi,
    I purchased my first sweet mead kit with the liquid yeast I cann't remember if it was white labs or wyeast it came in a tube....i think it was wyeast but won't swear to it. I followed all the directions on midwestsupplies website for making sweat mead. It started to bubble(about once every 20-30 seconds) at one week. At one month I racked, but I didn't see yeast at the bottom as im used to with beer. The liquid was darker at the bottom(lee's ??). The s.g. had dropped by .5 or .10 or less. its s.g. started at either 1.60 or 1.70. about month later i racked again this time a thin layer of yeast at bottom like paint s.g. might have dropped a little more id say maybe .10 total drop from starting s.g. So I added more yeast nutrients. its still bubbleing real slow and its been 3 months total going on 4. At this rate I don't see how it could be done in another month as per instructions. i see on here some people are getting final gravitys of 1.19 i did a beer kit that didn't get that low.what did I do wrong and what can I do to speed it up(will trying to speed it up affect the taste)? anything else sound wrong? or more info needed?

    thanks
    We're assuming that your SG readings are mangled. You mean
    "1.06" and "1.07" and "1.019", right?

    As mentioned above, the darker stuff at the bottom is probably
    undissolved honey. 1.07 isn't a very high starting gravity,
    and that also points to honey not being thoroughly dissolved.
    You're going to have a low-alcohol mead when you're done.
    That's not necessarily a bad thing -- I hear it cuts back on the
    aging curve. You could also add more honey now, that's up
    to you and your budget.

    Wyeast sweet mead yeast is a pH fussy-yeast. My first try was
    also with this yeast, and once I corrected the pH, it went
    well-and-tasty. Check the pH, if you can. IIRC, it likes to be
    up in the 3.8 range. If the pH is bad, de-acidify as below and
    retest later. Even if you can't check the pH, you might as well
    try de-acidifying a bit. Your mead is probably going to be hurting
    anyway if you don't get this fermentation into gear.

    Pick up some type of product from your homebrew shop that is used to
    lower acidity ... powdered calcium carbonate.

    1) Move your carboy to the bathtub.
    2) Dissolve by stirring about 1/2 the recommended amount of
    de-acidifier in a shotglass of water. Dissolve thoroughly!
    3) Add the solution to your carboy. It may foam over. Once
    foaming subsides, re-airlock and rinse.
    4) Come back and check on it in a day.

    This got me into the secret bonus level of happy bubble land.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Hellbringer,
    Without a doubt, your experience is not normal. You need to tell us exactly what you did for a more accurate accessment. The instructions on the website leave much to be desired. For example, they say nothing about aeration prior to pitching the yeast. Wyeast liquid yeast is very tempermental and directions on the yeast pack must be followed religiously. Did you wait to a certain temperature before you pitched? Instructions say " 3. Procedure: Mix 12 pounds of honey into 1 gallon of hot water until honey is completely dissolved. Top off with up to 5 gallon of cool water. Add 5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient to the mixture. Pitch the this point."

    That is the worst instructions I have read on a professional site. It assumes you are not a first time mead maker. And that is foolish on their part because usually only first timers buy kits. When they are more experienced they put it together themselves. The instructions doesn't imply you wait to a particular temperature before you pitch. (Wyeast is temperature sensitive). It leaves out a thourough aeration with oxygen step which woulld further mix your 1 gallon water with honey mixture to the balance of water. No wonder it started so slow and is darker on the bottom and it is a miracle it started at all.

    Now you will have to stir well and repitch with another yeast. I would recommend staying away from Wyeast for a first time mead maker. Pitch Lallvin K1V or EC-1118 to restart it and it will probably end up dry and you can always stabilize and sweeten up.

    Joe


  5. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    hi thanks for the input so far, i think ill try the ph thing first off. i checked my airlock its bubbling at a steady 32 secs right now. when i disolved the honey it was in more than 1 gallon of water id say more like 3, i heated it only slightly just enough to warm it to help disolve.i stired it for prob 10 mins straight. after this i dumped the honey water into fermentor then i took the spray nosle on cold from fauset and filled fermentor up to 5 gallons. this cooled it and helped add oxygen i was hoping. and when i dumped into fermentor i tryed to splash it. after this i added nutrients stired it. then checked temp it was around room temp. so i added yeast and stirred it again. put lid on with airlock and let it sit for a month. it has basicly been bubbleing at about 30 secs. ever since it started. except when i racked it the first time(then added nutrients) it was dead for 3-4days then came back. i dumped the dark stuff that was at the bottom down the drain...which i believe now was a mistake. if it was honey it was a waste to throw out or if it was yeast i shouldn't have throw it out but o well. i say yeast because thats more what it looked like to me it was like the color of the liquid yeast. during my rackings i tryed not to let any air into the liquid. i have on acident let a little water from the airlock get into the mead but my problems started way before that happened. one of u suggested i use calcium something...i take it thats to increase acid. could i also use something like a lemon and how much? i just don't want to introduce any chemical flavors to my mead. but if i have to i will to save it. currently at the bottom of my fermentor i do see another layer of yeast..when i racked it i had added some nutrients i think i put about 4 table spoons in...can a person put too much in? does it add off flavors? as far as tempature goes its sitting upstairs in my bedroom so its been at a steady 68-72. it doesn't come in contact with the sun, but it is under one of my house lights. prob gets 1-3 hours of that a day. cann't think of anything else so as i said before the ph sounds like the thing to at least check ill let u all know what it is when i check it. hope this info helps u in any more suggestions. again thanks for your help

  6. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    also im useing a plastic carboy one of them better bottle ones. most use glass i hear but these things are sopposed to be just as good. im not sure why people use glass but thought i would let u know this just incase it could be causing some kind of problem as well.

  7. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    opps i told u i thought it was wyeast that i got, i found my order slip, i had asked for whitelabs champane yeast for my sweat mead. i think i did that because i looked around and heard bad things about wyeast for sweat mead. anyways the guy changed it because champane is for dry mead and i think he gave me white labs sweat mead since i asked for white labs champane. also i looked at some pics at wyeasts tube's of liquid yeast and there not clear. the one i got was.

  8. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    here's another interesting thing to ponder...if indeed they did send me whitelabs sweat mead yeast....i looked on midwests web page. on the sweat mead kit with whitelabs it says #920wl <--which they didn't have under the mead kit when i bought my kit. now go to white labs yeast tab on the left where it shows u all the yeast they have. the only wl920 on that list is a Old Bavarian Lager Yeast. on the tube i got im pretty sure it said sweet mead but i dunno. there's no 920 on whitelabs website that i could find....guess i should have kept better records duh...but i never seen this comin. so if they gave me a lager yeast wouldn't that be why its goin so slow?

    maybe this is what they sent me

    Sweet Mead/Wine
    (WLP720)

    A wine yeast strain that is less attenuative than WLP715, leaving some residual sweetness. Slightly fruity and will tolerate alcohol concentrations up to 15%. A good choice for sweet mead and cider, as well as Blush wines, Gewürztraminer, Sauternes, Riesling.
    Attenuation: 75; Flocculation: Low; Optimum Ferm. Temp: 70-75

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Hellbringer,
    Okay, I assume you mixed well and aerated from your response above . 10 minutes is plenty. Next time check the temperature of the must exactly. Liquid yeast sometimes has a very narrow range for fermentation. Check the specs. Don't know why your OG was so low .... should have been more like 1.096.

    Big mistake adding more nutrients. 4 T (12t) is way too much. Yes a person can put too much in! Your 1 t per gallon at start was plenty. Taste some of the nutrient mix sometime dissolved in water. It will make you a believer not to add any more than the yeast can use. Your yeast must have got off to a slow start. maybe yeast was old, I cannot tell since you didn't say how you prepared it before pitching. It is normal for bubbles to stop right after racking since most of the CO2 comes out of solutioion with racking. You did right to pour down drain. Thats the idea of racking. To get mead off of lees.

    Don't add acid or carbonate unless you know for sure PH is off. Acid makes the PH lower. Carbonate higher. If you have no test strips or way to check it then don't do anything. Let fermentation continue , even if slow. 1 bubble every 32 sec is slow. Keep us posted of SG and measure it carefully. Should be reported like this: 1.070 not 1.70 (scale doesn't go that high)

    Plastic is okay for short term but not recommended for long term storage because it is oxygen permeable. It is also not recommended because it scratches and scrathes are a breeding ground for bacteria because it is harder to clean than glass. But that is the least of your worries.
    Joe

  10. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    did a ph test with universal paper. its red so that means its 2.0 but the paper says give or plus 1.0 so anyways im gunna buy some paper off the net and some cal b. looks like the ph was the problem. anyone know what ph the white labs sweat mead likes? wyeast someone said liked 3.8.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    3.8 -4.2 should be fine.
    Joe

  12. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    errr.....i added baking soda 2 tsp. i read somewhere that somone used 1 table spoon so i figured id be about right with what i used. so it worked real well at first i disolved 1 tsp. in water stirred but when i poured it, it stuck to the side of the glass so anyways i then just dumped one more tsp. of this time stright baking soda directly into my mead it fizzed this time. then i put on airlock and it was bubbling at 1 bubble every 4 sec's...i thought cool its fixed...i checked back half an hour later and it was still doing 4 seconds. next morning it was doing more like 19 seconds...so i used my universal ph tests on it and it showed a very light orange and orange is 4.0. the next one is yellow which is 6.0. so i went and bought wine ph strips and it shows a dark grey or a blue its hard to tell....so its either 4.2-4.4 or higher.....so i think i put to much baking soda in...im not sure all i know is it was doing good last night now its not and im not sure how to tell exactly what my ph is and if ph is still my problem or not. also what do i add to make my ph go down now? i was hoping to use something here at home to get this thing worked out quickly. but i do have some acid blend in route. i just wanted to add a little of something to get it going better then put final touches with acid blend.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Hey HB,

    To bring your pH down you'll want to add acid blend and bring it to anywhere between 3.4 - 3.8. You may want to invest in a digital pH meter, litmus paper is a pain in the guzica, and hard to get anything more than a ballpark estimate.

    If you're going to tweak your must some more I'd suggest putting about 8 ounces in a pyrex measuring cup and adding your acid to that in 1/8 teaspoon increments, testing the pH each time. Once you hit the right pH just divide your total batch volume by 8 and that will tell you how many 1/8 teaspoon doses (Divide by 8 again, and it will tell you how many full teaspoon doses) you need to bring your batch into proper pH range.

    Also, when posting please give us a line break every two or three sentences. It makes the posts easier to read and understand.

    Cheers,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  14. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    The increase in airlock activity you saw was the gas being produced by the baking soda neutralizing the acid. Even if the pH correction did make the yeast happier their activity would not increase that rapidly. Just so you know, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) contains a lot of sodium and can contribute a bad, sort of salt like, flavor. Most people like to use calcium carbonate to neutralize an acidic must as this has a more neutral flavor (although too much of this can taste chalky...basically because it IS chalk).

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Hellbringer,
    Sounds like you are making a mead from hell. In the future it would be wise advice to slow down and not rush into adding anything so quickly. Mead is a patience tester. All my mistakes came out of my impatience. Yeast know how to do their job, even under adverse conditions. As long as it is not stopped, there is no rush. Between the nutrients, the baking soda and now the acid, I am praying your mead will forgive you and turn out drinkable. :-/
    Anyway, I hope you are having fun.
    Joe

  16. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    man do i feel like an idiot. I finally figured out what the problem was for sure. It was the temp.

    I had one of them stickon type's at its been saying 70. So i went and got a floating therm just to double check it....the temp was closer to 65 on the floor.

    So i had a heating pad used for fishtanks and i stuck that under my carboy. Now 1 day later my yeast is going nutts. the heating pad is heating up to around 88...which once it gets threw the plastic carboy im hoping with so much liquid it will be about the right temp...but its fermenting so thats good.

    But now i have another problem...it just doesnt seem to end! Its foaming inside my carboy...and a few bubbles are seen inside the tube going up in the airlock...if i get to many more it will make contact with the water...prob won't be long.

    How big of a problem will it be if the foam makes contact with the water in the airlock?

    As long as my airlock doesn't get clogged and pop off i should be fine right?

    p.s. this is just a straight honey/water mead no fruit peices to get clogged in airlock.

    i could take some mead out but im guessing i would have to take quite a bit....im not sure but hopefully it doesn't foam anymore and i won't have to do anything.

    i have heard of putting a tube in hole then other end in sterile solution...but i heard its not recemended.

    thats the last time i ever use a cheap nockoff fishtank temp. gauge.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Dude,

    Take a deep breath and step back for a couple of minutes. You're tweaking this stuff all over the map, and stressing out on something that should be fun.

    It's OK if the foam touches the bottom of the bung on your airlock, if it starts bubbling through and up into the arlock, then you can rig a blowoff tube that runs down into a water/sanitizer solution, and remove the airlock. I've used blow-off tubes on and off over the past 22 years and have had no problems with them.

    You need to check the temperature tolerances on your yeasts. For the Wyeast Liquid Sweet Mead the range is 65 - 75 degrees. At 88 degrees F you're cooking your mead and your yeast may even go in to autolysis. You may be producing fusel alcohols that will take time to mellow, which translates into longer aging before it will be drinkable.

    You were fine before, you could have just covered the carboy with a nice fluffy towel, and put another towel under it and you would have been fine at 65 degrees,

    Turn the heating pad off and LEAVE YOUR MEAD ALONE FOR A WHILE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!

    Let it complete fermentation, and then taste it and take a gravity reading and we can talk then.

    Until your mead is compleat do the following:

    1. Remove the heating pad and insulate your mead with a towel underneath, and a towel around the outside of it.

    2. If the airlock is being infiltrated by foam, remove it and rig a blow-off tube.

    3. Once it is covered and in the dark step away for a while and let it be.

    4. After a week or so, take a look and note any changes in the fermentation rate, stratification, etc.

    5. When it is clearing, let us know and we'll have plenty of suggestions based on the gravity, taste, aroma, etc.

    Bottom line, take a chill pill and mellow out dude!

    Cheers,

    Oskaar

    Modified for spelling
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  18. Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Oskaar, you remember how giddy you were for your first full carboy of wine/mead you made? That's where he's at. lol. At least let him know it's okay to keep peeking in on it at least once a day... If he doesn't he'll go nuts!

    I still check my meads at least once a day and wish the yeast beasties a good night... lol. NO matter what stage of fermentation/aging they are in. My wife laughs at me for it too. But the funny part is that she's getting just as bad as I am with her meads. *grins*

    Seriously though, hellbringer, follow what Oskaar says as I agree whole heartedly with him. Also, most of us use the lalvin yeasts which work really well. The Wyeast products for mead, from what I've read, can be very tempermental.

    Talon.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Very good advice from Oskaar.

    At those temps you are going to produce a lot of acetalaldehyde which is going to give you a rather harsh green apple character to your mead that will take a while to age out.
    (Been there - did that with my first batch)

    It's pretty much avoidable if you keep your yeast to the lower range of it's tolerance.

    Follow Oskaars suggestions, and you'll be able to really enjoy your mead six months from now.

    In the mean time, buy a commercial mead (if you can) to pacify you until yours is done. That's what I do when I'm getting itchy to tinker with my mead.

    Good luck.

    David

    David Baldwin
    Michigan Meadery LLC

    www.michiganmeadery.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Help My First Mead!

    Talon,

    My wife laughs at me too...

    When our kitchen table was set with a couple of bubbling carboys, I would stand there for several minutes at a time just watching them. I suppose it's sort of a mixture of amazement ("I actually can do this!") and pride ("Look at those beautiful batches of mine."). But the wife walks in and looks at me standing there, looks at what I am looking at, and chuckles at me...

    But the liquid gold I just racked off from my first batch makes it all worth it...

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