View Full Version : Fermentation and SG question.

07-13-2011, 12:43 AM
I had two questions I wanted to ask.

The first one has to be with a JAO spinoff..."Orion's Not-Ancient-Mead" (as there were issues with me using the JAO name after I had made adjustments, heh). It was in a 6 gallon carboy, with 3 lbs of honey per gallon of water. I used 2 packets of Fleishmann's Active Dry bread yeast, 3 1.5 inch cinnamon sticks, 1 clove, and about 8 full oranges.

This was back in March. Four months later, and I'm curious as to what's going on with it. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to get an original gravity reading, as I broke the hydrometer WHILE I went to get the reading (lesson learned - do not use the hydrometer to move fruit out of the way...stems break easily). However, here are the readings that I've gotten so far:

SG: 1.120
ABV: 16%
Sugar: 30%

SG: 1.110
ABV: 15%
Sugar: 27%

SG: 1.095
ABV: 13%
Sugar: 24%

I live in Southern Arizona (Google: Monument Fire, AZ >:( ), so the temperatures can get weird here...it's either mediocre, in the 70's and dry, or high 90's/low 100's and dry, or (like now) during Monsoon Season it's 80's-90's and humid...

What I have been doing, is recording the temperature for each reading, and then using the Hydrometer Temperature Adjustment Calculator (http://www.brewersfriend.com/hydrometer-temp/) to get what a standard reading at 70F is. So all of those readings above are based on 70F.

I was curious as to when to tell if a mead was ready to bottle...I was trying to make this a sweet, but not TOO sweet, mead to enjoy for the holidays this year. It's very hard to tell if there is an alcohol taste due to the cloves, but it has been clearing up for the past four months.

So I called Strange Brew, where I get all of my supplies, and the man on the other end of the phone asked me what the current gravity was (1.095), and he stated that it's no where near where it needs to be and that it hasn't fermented yet (although there may be some alcohol in it).

Back in May, when I took those hydrometer readings, I had asked the same question (I believe here on these forums) and also by calling Strange Brew again. The person on the other end of the line gave me advice on creating a yeast starter (yeast + bit o' must + yeast nutrient) and I gradually added must/mead into it until it was 3 gallons, and then dumped all that back into the carboy (bringing the total back to about 6 gallons).

Here we are, 2 months later, and the SG has dropped... (0.015). Huh ???

So again, the person from Strange Brew told me to go get some more yeast, and add an applicable amount of the Fermax Yeast Nutrient that I have in the cabinet. It calls for 1 tsp per gallon, so prior to creating the starter, I racked off of all of the sediment/lees and left over orange/raisin floaties, which gave me about 4 gallons left. I took a pint of must, put it into a sanitized container, and "flash boiled" it to get rid of any icky stuff (SB customer support's advice). I let it cool a bit so it was just a tad bit warm, added in 4tsp of yeast nutrient (made the kids giggle...it fizzed a lot), added 2 more packets of yeast, stirred it up, and pitched it into the carboy.

8 hours later, no sign of activity. The thing was, this must was probably 99% clear when I did this. I could read a prescription bottle, and the nutrition label on a can of chilly THROUGH THE CARBOY (which, y'know, is probably close to a foot in diameter?).

So anyway, I wanted to know if this is the right way to go about this? It is still very sweet (my wife says she'll drink it the way it is, but...yea...no way, WAY too sweet for me). Should I add a gallon or two of water to it to "thin it out", or should I try something else?

Very...tiring, worry about this mead for 4 months!

07-13-2011, 01:28 AM
I would say it's stuck.
Stuck ferments are hard to restart.
Do a serach on stuck ferments - there's HEAPS of info. I've never had one stick before, so not sure i can really help much.
I do know that EC1118 is one of the best yeasts to use for restarting a stuck ferment, only it has an 18% tolerance, so this mead will wind up quite dry, if not bone dry if you restart it with EC1118.
Of course, you could always make another JAO (which are always really sweet) and blend it with this now dry JAO to get the ultimate sweetness for your taste.
after your attempts with Flieschmanns, I would not bother trying to pitch it again, it's clearly not going to start for you, possibly because of acid content - low pH (8 oranges in 6 gal is higher than Joe recommends) But I really don't have the experience to guess with confidence.
Good luck.

07-13-2011, 08:28 AM
Based on the fact it has gone completely clear, I would wager that the starting gravity was super high and the yeast have hit their tolerance.

The best way to bring the SG down more would be to use a wine yeast, either K1-V1116 or EC-1118 following procedures for restarting a stuck fermentation.

Unfortunately, not having the OG makes it a guessing game.

07-13-2011, 01:32 PM
I'm going to dissagree with that last post just a little, a stuck mead can clear completely too. If it was for sure 3lbs of honey per gallon, then there's simply no way that the gravity started high enough that this is the finished gravity based on ABV.

Chevette Girl
07-14-2011, 03:50 PM
I second what AToE said, the yeast will settle out as soon as they become inactive, I had a very clear, very stuck ferment that I only recently restarted.

It's possible that by adding yeast directly to must with a concentrated amount of nutrients that the yeast just fizzled out again (it's established around here that adding yeast nutrients directly to your starter is a bad plan), I'd try bread yeast one more time before giving up on it, just make an acclimated starter instead of what Strange Brew suggested... rehydrate your packets of yeast in 1/2 cup water for 15 min, then add 1/2 cup of must, then keep doubling its volume by adding must every half-hour to two hours until you've got a gallon (or three:)), then pour that in. It should be easy to tell if the yeast is active, there should be visible foaming and a yeasty smell. Oh, and aerate the bejeezus out of the starter (try to avoid mead eruptions) or maybe the must before you add it in.

The last stuck one I had, I rehydrated the yeast in a measuring cup then as soon as I had enough to cover the bottom of the new carboy, I poured it in there and just kept doubling the volume until I'd transferred everything over from its original carboy to the new one, giving both carboys a good splash before additions...

Adding another strain of yeast might dry it out completely, ick if it's a JAO, you might have to stabilize and backsweeten if you do that (you'd have to stabilize anyway if you were to blend it with another batch of sweeter JAO as Kudapukat suggests because the wine yeast would take over from the bread yeast and dry THAT mead out too)... and if you do restart it with a wine yeast, I'd still recommend making an acclimated starter starting out with the rehydration recommendations on the yeast packet. And you should have enough nutrients in there, you shouldn't need any more.

You could try making another variation on Joe's with something like 2.5 lbs of honey and one orange per gallon so it goes dry and then blend it with the overly sweet stuff but at the SG it's pooped out at, you'd probably need another 6 gallons...

The pH might be an issue but I've made JAO variations with more citrus than that and had it go farther (then again the pH of my drinking water is over 8, yours might be more acidic to start with), but it probably wouldn't hurt to add small dose of something to see if you can raise the pH a bit. It's hard to know for sure without a calibrated pH meter.