View Full Version : Failure to follow directions

Vance G
11-14-2011, 01:20 AM
15 pounds dandelion/alfalfa/clover honey
4 gal water dipped from continents biggest fresh water spring
2 tsp yeast nutrient
1 tsp yeast energizer
10 grams lavlin ec 1118 yeast
Oh yeah 3 pounds more honey after I realized I had screwed the pooch, used wrong yeast and it was going to work out real dry.

My first venture at mead making was derived from Mr. Schramm's Compleat Guide to Mead Making and I chose to use his recipe for a medium sweet Orange blossom honey, his recommendation for a first attempt. Well since I am a Montana beekeeper with forty some gallons of my own honey and I couldn't find anyone who wanted to sell me affordably OBH, I used my own. Then some way or another I used the wrong yeast. So to make my long story shorter, I have ended up with some still settling torpedo fuel that went from SG 1.125 to just over 1 ; and how to I adjust for honey added in the middle of the fermentation? It was in the primary for four weeks at about 66 degrees. I worried about it being that cool, but decided it would be better to leave it alone than change conditions. After a couple weeks it was still actively working and I added three more pounds of honey. I realized that i had somehow brain froze and used the wrong yeast. When it had mostly stopped working, I racked it off into a carboy and managed to lose syphon twice and had know I got a lot of air into it! I know I got pye eyed sucking on hose to get syphon back, not wanting to spit on the carpet. It has now been in the secondary for eight more weeks and I have never observed a single bubble thru the fermentation lock. It is still pretty murky and I am debating racking it again as there is about two inches of cloudy loose white muck at the bottom of the carboy. I had a liter coke bottle full of it in my refrigerator that I periodically sample. It has clarified completely and left a thin hard cake on the bottom. It is starting to taste like it might have a future but is pretty non descript, highly alcoholic, with a light citrus taste. Where did that come from? Now for questions. Should I put it outside and chill it as I wonder if chilling is what clarified the sample in the fridge and then rack it again? It is going to be in the twenties and thirties and it would chill without freezing pretty quickly.

I believe that the mead would easily bear the insult of being adulterated with say raspberry juice or peach or such from concentrate and served that way for the holidays. Is that worth a shot? I am satisfied to reserve most of it for a year or more if anyone thinks it might refine into something worth waiting for. I think if I carbonated it and corked it and layed it away, it would be at least as good as most of the champagne I have been fed over the years. Any and all comments gratefully recieved. You don't need to tell me I am a fool who can't follow directions, I know that already:<}

11-14-2011, 02:18 AM
I'd keep it and let it clear on it's own. Young mead can be pretty harsh, and with age will most likely surprise you in a couple of months.

If you've got your own honey at your disposal (so to speak :)) you should try something like this again with different yeasts to find the right combo that really lets the honey character shine through.

Best of luck on your future mead making! I hope to one day have my own lovely ladies gathering ambrosia for me. ;)

11-14-2011, 08:20 AM
i've never had 1118 dry out that badly...

11-14-2011, 10:35 AM
EC 1118 is a very hardy 'yeast killer' strain with a highly active ferment. It's usually recommended against when using delicate varietals because just the act of fermentation can blow off flavors and smells with that yeast. I'm not sure what amounts of honey you've used calicojack, but from my calculations it could have easily gone dry with 15 pounds in 4 gallons. It's usually what people use 1118 for, very dry champagne style meads.

As for some of your questions, Vance, adding a bit of honey partway through a fermentation is called 'step feeding', however, it seems like you added the honey towards the end of fermentation. It also seems like you had a VERY long primary fermentation, four weeks+a couple of weeks after feeding. Did you aerate this at all during the first sugar break? Did you pour the entire 2 tsp of yeast nutrient into the must, or did you break it up over several days?

What does the nutrient look like? A tannish powder or hard white crystals? Do you have an ingredients list for the nutrient?

I'm worried that from your description this might have been a neglected fermentation, and besides it being young, you might have some stressed yeast flavors. A better brewlog, a new SG reading, and, at the end of it all, time will help. It sounds like this is, roughly 3-4 four months old, if we count the primary.

Minimum of 8 months of AGING (all done with fermentation and settling quietly) is the BOTTOM line of what I'd say you could really call a drinkable product. You also have used a very high ABV yeast, which has more phenols and higher alcohols to smooth out, it might take more time. Give a year, leave it alone, take it out for holidays 2012 and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Vance G
11-14-2011, 12:33 PM
The yeast nutrient is a tannish powder and was all added at the start. I realized what I had done wrong with the yeast, that is why I added more honey. It was still actively fermenting when I added it and I did not aereate at all when I added the supplimental honey. I still wonder if I shouldn't rack it off the muck in the bottom? I know you said to let it sit quietly. Am I failing to follow directions again? I will get a SG . As far as taste, it is just not that objectionable, has a little slightly bitter grapefruit thing going on but mostly just plain Jane. As I have said, I am content to let it sit, it is just that I have yammered to friends and family about my new toy and was hoping to have something to present. Thanks much for the help.

11-14-2011, 01:29 PM
If your fermentation is done, and if I understood the post it is (being around 1.000 SG), I would let it sit in the cold (and dark) until it cleared and then rack it off the lees and let it bulk age. The cold will help it drop the sediment and with 1118 I dont think it is as critical to get the mead off the lees quickly. The less racking you do the better, so get as much sediment to fall before you rack to a secondary for aging is my general thought. That said, I never get away with less than two rackings and most of the time its three.

Once you let it bulk age for a year or so, then you can decide to stabilize and backsweeten or even leave it dry if you like how it tastes. That is my .02, good luck.

Chevette Girl
11-14-2011, 02:15 PM
EC-1118 isn't bad for leaving it on the lees for a bit so I'd second (or third?) the suggestion to just leave it for a bit, if you're lucky the lees (white muck at the bottom) will compact over time so you'll lose less volume when you rack it.

And yeah, something THAT alcoholic is going to want a year before you make any judgements on it. If you want to serve it with fruit juice at Xmas or something, well, if it tastes good, go for it, but just make sure you don't leave a lot of headroom when you're aging the rest.

11-14-2011, 06:47 PM
... Well since I am a Montana beekeeper with forty some gallons of my own honey...

Ha! That's a GREAT problem to have!

And, yes, just about any mead may evolve into something that's worth waiting for....

11-14-2011, 07:04 PM
Just to reenforce the above comments, age will amaze you. AMAZE you.

11-14-2011, 07:50 PM
And a newbee's .02 worth, my first mead started in Feb, after a few rackings went to the closet to bulk age, not clear, no honey character, vaguely like a cheap thin white wine...flash forward to almost 9 months old, been that same "not quite clear" for the whole time until I got back from a MagFest week, it had turned to pale amber glass so I went to thieve a few tablespoons to taste (the first since it went to age) I was indeed amazed at the honey aroma when I pulled the bung and the change in flavour and mouthfeel, now I know what "perceived sweetness" is (also pretty amazing)

Vance G
11-14-2011, 08:02 PM
Ah yes headspace. What do I do about what I have already and hydrometer testing will mean more!? The liquid level only reaches a little way above where it starts to narrow to the top. That is probably at least 2 qts of room. Should I fill it with something? I guess it has enough pop to accept some plain water without hugely diluting it. Wouldn't that restart fermentation? Would that be a bad thing if I am waiting for years and years anyway? I have lots of honey to add too! Maybe I could get this torpedo fuel up over 20%! All that said. Thanks much for you folks time and experience. I do appreciate advice and am more than willing to just let it be. I have my fall back cyser merrily burbling to and it is supposed to finish faster. Maybe all this stuff won't just end up being served at my wake. slainte!

11-14-2011, 08:53 PM
correct me if i'm wrong, but water wont restart it. only new sugars >might<

Vance G
11-14-2011, 09:30 PM
I am a compleat newbie but adding water seems to me would lower the ethanol saturation and that ethanol level might no longer inhibit further fermentation. There is some residual sugar by the taste that could be converted.

Chevette Girl
11-14-2011, 09:54 PM
Yep, as Vance said, the only time water might restart a fermentation is if you still had residual sugar but the yeast had reached their alcohol tolerance and stopped, and the water addition managed to bring it far enough below that the yeasties started up again.

Regarding losss from hydrometer testing - if you're careful to sanitize your hydrometer and your hydrometer test tube and anything else coming into contact with your must, and can keep your fingers out of it, you can pour it back in. Several of us around here regularly do that and I don't think any of us have managed to infect anything that way yet.

If it's still making carbon dioxide, you can leave it with a bit of headspace as described, but when it's no longer producing carbon dioxide, you probably want to attend to that.

If it's still fermenting, I like to add honey water that's the same SG as my original must, then the yeast will eat the honey and I can just go by the new finishing gravity and don't have to do math to figure out how much I may have diluted it by adding water.

Vance G
11-14-2011, 10:26 PM
It is no longer fermenting but it is fermentation locked. What would happen if one dropped a tiny sliver of dry ice in after opening to test SG or stealing a taste? Since it is no longer fermenting observably, what would happen if I filled excess headspace with the matching SG honey water mix?

Chevette Girl
11-14-2011, 10:51 PM
Well, if it's at its alcohol tolerance, it will just be a little sweeter. If it's still capable of fermenting, it will probably start up again and go until it's out of sugar again. Yeast can be dormant and then revive up to two years later if they feel like it.

Adding dry ice would probably protect it from oxidation just fine. It's just nothing I've ever considered because I wouldn't know where to get the stuff.

11-15-2011, 03:01 PM
Out of curiosity I searched how to find dry ice and found this 'cool' resource.


11-15-2011, 03:04 PM
Wow. Apparently a lot of local supermarkets and ice cream shops sell it. I just called a Harris Teeter down the street and they sell dry ice at 99cents a pound. Pretty cheap. I found the Harris Teeter from the link I posted above.


Vance G
11-20-2011, 09:18 PM
I topped off my carboy with water that I used to rinse out an empty gallon honey jug just to keep it from going to waste. The couple quarts it took to fill the carboy must not have been enough to light the fires again because still no action at the fermentation lock. The muck at the bottom which I have been corrected to say is lees, have settled to the bottom and the liquid has visibly cleared and I see little round white objects slowly floating hopefully to the bottom. I had to move the carboy out of the hole I have it shoved in to tap it, so I suppose I roiled them up. I got my new handy dandy fermtec winethief the other day so I field tested it and my SG still sits so close to 1 that I have to say that is it. I saved the withdrawn mead and added it to a bottle I have in the fridge for test purposes. It is a little hot at the back of the throat initially but beyond that, I have drank way worse stuff in my life. The citrusy bitter taste is gone. No citrus in there, so I don't know why it was there anyway. I think this is going to be a fine drink in a few years. Surely good enough for the girls I go out with. My cyser is still burbling away at about 68 degrees. I am going out of town for Thanksgiving so I imagine it may be racking time when I get back. This is a hoot folks. I only have four different things I want to do next! Maybe I need to start thinking small and making gallon batches. But then If it is good I will have wasted ALL THAT TIME----

Vance G
12-06-2011, 08:46 PM
Don't know what has happened. I salvaged better than a quart of meade off the lees from my first racking basically by cooling it out. I had intended to keep that quart properly settled to top off my 6 1/2 gal bulk storage carboy. Trouble is, I have been keeping the quart in the refrigerator and there has been a tremendous evaporation problem! It is nearly gone as evaporation happens sometimes twice a day! I think I am hooked on dregs. This stuff is starting to taste pretty good to my uneducated self. I am really afraid this evaporation will lead me to racking this potent slightly sweet elixer into a five gallon carboy and separately dealing with the remaining gallon and a half. But where does it stop?? I have been told this high alcohol immature mead is only going to get good years from now! Please tell me, Am I a bad meadmaker?

12-06-2011, 09:54 PM
<snip>...Please tell me, Am I a bad meadmaker?

No, you're not a bad meadmaker...you've just discovered the hardest part about mead making; patience. ;D

It's not such a bad thing, since you get to drink some mead whenever you want. But, once you've seen and tasted the benefits of aging, it should help you to resist the temptation to allow for "evaporation" to happen again. ;)

I know some members here keg their mead during the aging process (Medsen comes to mind), which allows you to sample the mead whenever you want without fear of increasing the headspace, since it's sealed with CO2 blanketing the mead. Might be something for you to consider I you don't think you can resist the call of the mead.

Vance G
12-09-2011, 01:08 AM
I tested Sg just because I was there to check my cyser. SG now down to .998 I would say. The perceived sweetness is much less than the sample in the fridge that seems to have mostly disappeared. It does not taste as good as that sample either and has a lot of floc floating and doesn't seem to be clearing much. I could maybe see my hand on the other side of the carboy but I sure couldn't read anything. I am content to let this just sit and mellow. If it hasn't cleared by spring, I may wheel it outside on a just above freezing night and see if that won't clear it up, but no rush is the word I have gotten and I will follow that.