View Full Version : I may have killed it before it started

05-30-2009, 02:46 PM
Hello all. I'm going to have to make my first post a plea for help.

Instead of doing the smart thing, and starting with JAO, I decided that the best way to start my mead-making adventure was to go with as basic a mead as one could. Honey, water, and yeast. So, I went to my LHBS, and purchased the equipment I needed, as well as a packet of Wyeast Sweet Mead yeast, per the lady's suggestion. She also sold me a packet of sulfites for sanitization.

I got home, mixed up the sulfites, and, thinking I was being clever, filled a spray bottle to spritz everything to help sterilize it. My recipe was simple:

9 Pounds of Honey (Basic Clover from the Grocery)
Tap water to make three gallons
1 packet of Wyeast

I warmed the honey in hot tap water, mixed it up like crazy to aerate, squished the Wyeast packet, but, again per the BrewShop's direction, did not let it swell before I pitched it. All in a 5 gallon bucket. Sealed the lid, brought the whole bucket to my room (which I keep at around 74 degrees), and eagarly awaited the action...

Which never came.

This was Wednesday evening. Of course, I accidentally broke my Hydrometer after taking my first SG reading (1.10). (Those things are fragile...) So I couldn't take a reading to see if anything was going on "behind the scenes". After reading several posts here on the forums, I decided that perhaps the choice of Wyeast was a bad one, and I decided to try and restart things. So, on Friday evening (yesterday), I went to a different shop and purchased a packet of K1V-1116, some "yeast nutrient", and a new hydrometer. A measurement confirmed that there had been no activity, and so I rehydrated the yeast according to the instructions on the packet, with the addition of 1/3 tsp of the nutrient. In the cup, the yeast was going crazy, and I thought, "this is it!". Aerated my must again (i've been vigorously stirring it at least twice a day), and I pitched the new yeast. (This was around 6:00PM last night)

After a few desultory burps... nothing in the airlock.

However, a Hydrometer reading today shows 1.094.

Is it working, albeit slowly? Did my over use of sulfites kill the must before I started? (more research leads me to think I should stick with bleach. At least you can smell when the bleach is gone...) Should I write this off as an educational experience, dump it, and make a batch of JAO? (Planning to do the Ancient One regardless.)

Any ideas or suggestions would be *greatly* appreciated.


Medsen Fey
05-30-2009, 05:23 PM
Welcome to GotMead? dargocitfer!!!

Don't throw anything out.

Buckets are quite prone to leaking. My buckets that I use for primary often don't bubble the airlock at all, but that is okay. The lid just keeps fruit flies and other critters out, and the mead ferments just fine. The hydrometer will tell you how you are doing and if your gravity has dropped from 1.100 to 1.094 you mead is fermenting.

If you rehydrated the yeast with the yeast nutrient in the rehydration water that is not a good thing to do. It may be toxic to the yeast, and may cause it to get off to a slow start. Since your gravity is dropping, the yeast have survived and are doing their thing.

K1V is a strong fermenter and quite reliable. You should aerate the must each day until the gravity get down to about 1.067, then seal the bucket and continue to swirl it a couple of time each day to keep the yeast up in suspension until it is done (with a gravity that doesn't drop any further which should be 1.000 or lower). At that point it is done and ready for racking to secondary.

I hope you get a great result


05-30-2009, 07:08 PM
Thank you for your advice Medsen! I was starting to get worried; I guess I was expecting it to act more vigorous. But, there is foam on top of the must now (where there wasn't before), so it seems like things are indeed finally moving.

Do you suspect that I may have killed the first yeast pitch with over use of the sulfites? Should I switch to some other method of sterilization, or just make sure that everything is thoroughly rinsed?

I appreciate your assistance. It is very refreshing to participate in a forum where no one is saying "HA HA! N00b!" or some such thing.

Thanks again. I will post again when I've got more information. (Now I just have to resist "messing with it" too much. :p )

06-02-2009, 11:06 PM
Well, I've succeeded in not messing with it, and now my gravity is at 1.086. It's not exactly flying, but it is working! I can even taste just a hint of alcohol (of course, that could just be my wishful thinking. :) )

Thank you all. This has definitely been educational. (And isn't that what it's all about? :p )


Medsen Fey
06-03-2009, 10:58 AM
It does look a little slow. You should aerate it some more to help the yeast multiply as much as possible.

It might be good to check a pH reading if you can.

06-17-2009, 10:11 PM
Sorry for the delay in replying; I just wanted some more time to see how things would progress.

It's moving as slow as the honey I made it from (:rolleyes:), but it is still moving.

Here are my measurements so far:

Date Gravity
2-Jun 1.086
6-Jun 1.08
8-Jun 1.076
12-Jun 1.07
17-Jun 1.06

It looks like it's been pretty regular, dropping .01 in gravity every 5 or 6 days. Of course, at this rate, it will be another month and a half before the fermenting is even done. :-\ I suppose mead is not for the impatient.

I finally bought some PH Papers (I can't afford a fancy PH meter...), and it looks like it's right around 4.0. So that should be fine. I also aerated daily with a giant wisk until the 12th. (Close enough to the 1/3 break, I thought.)

My Joe's Ancient Orange is bubbling along nicely, so I don't think there's something wrong with my water.

I suppose I will check it again on the 22nd, and see if it's at 1.05. Just seems odd that it's moving so slowly...

Oh well.

Medsen Fey
06-18-2009, 04:41 PM
Of course, at this rate, it will be another month and a half before the fermenting is even done. :-\ I suppose mead is not for the impatient.

Mead - the drink of Gods and procrastinators!

Yes, I've come to the conclusion that mead was the drink of the Gods mainly because they're immortal, and the only ones who could live long enough to make it - at least if you make it the old fashioned way.

That may be your problem. As I read back, it looks like you added a tiny bit of nutrient to the yeast starter, but didn't add any to the must. If you didn't add any to the must, your yeast are starving for nitrogen. If you have some Fermaid K or Yeast energizer, I'd add about 10 grams and I'd aerate the snot out of it. That might kick this into high gear.

Yeast hulls, 0.5 grams per gallon might also be a big help. They bind toxins that slow yeast down.

I'm not sure I'd trust those pH strips. A pH meter can be purchased on eBay for about $25. Well worth it in my opinion because you can easily have $25 worth of honey in a very small batch. If the nutrients don't move it along, I'd definitely check the pH with a meter (borrow one).

I hope that helps.


06-21-2009, 01:20 PM
So, there is only one HBS in Western Washington (that I could find) who carries Fermaid K. Went on Friday and picked up a packet.

Got home, boiled about 2 oz of water and put in a tsp of bread yeast I had left over from my JOA. ("Poor man's" yeast hulls, since for some reason the HBS didn't have yeast hulls.)

I pitched 2.5 tsp (my best guess as to the grams to tsp conversion...) of the Fermaid K, and the (now cooled to room temperature) yeast corpses, had at it with my big ol' wire wisk for a few minutes, and put the lid back on.

And, after a little less than a half hour... *activity in the airlock*!!! :headbang:

Checked gravity this morning, and it has already dropped to 1.048!

That, as they say, seems to have kicked that in the head!

Thank you again for your great advice.