View Full Version : Question: Fermentation Complete or not

CJ Babe
12-27-2011, 04:56 AM
For my first mead I am attempting a Strawberry Melomel.

10 lbs cape weed honey
12lbs strawberries
4 gallons water
Lalvin Champagne Yeast

Starting SP was difficult to determine with the fruit content but took a reading of 1.070.

Started the yeast according to instructions on packet and pitched the yeast on 17th Dec 2011. Fermentation began several hours later. Vigorous fermentation occured 6 bubbles per minute over 7 days then dropped to 1 bubble per minute on 25th Dec. I racked the mead on the 9th day removing the lees and strawberries and transfered the must to another fermenter. The SG is now 1.000.

The fermentation appears to have stopped. The temperature has been a constant 75 F.

What to do next? I believe the process to complete fermentation should have taken a lot longer.

The must is pretty cloudy and has a very dry champagne taste.

Any advice on the next course of action would be appreciated.

I have not at this stage added any yeast nutrients.

12-27-2011, 06:00 AM
congrats on a successful ferment.

speed is about right. champagne yeast (which one?) will ferment it dry. probably lucky enough the yeast didn't require lots of nutrient and the strawberries provided some.

all that it need to let it sit and clear. clear it, rack it, stabilize it, backsweeten and/or add more strawberries to taste.

CJ Babe
12-27-2011, 06:07 AM
Thanks for the congrats. That was too easy. Do I back sweeten by adding more of the same honey as I would have preferred a sweeter mead?

12-27-2011, 12:32 PM
Thanks for the congrats. That was too easy. Do I back sweeten by adding more of the same honey as I would have preferred a sweeter mead?

The next step IMO, is to rack it off the lees, then ignore it.

Very few meads are good when this new and you don't want to play with the taste until you have a better idea of what you have right now. If you were to back-sweeten now you likely would have to add a lot more honey/sugar than if you let it bulk age for 6 months first. The net result would be if you sweeten then age you might end up with something too sweet.

You also have a decent chance right now, of restarting the fermentation by adding sugar since you most likely have not hit the alcohol tolerance of your yeast (champagne yeasts go really high).

sooo... Rack, wait... Rack again if more sediment collects.... repeat as needed, give it at least 6 months, preferably 1 year, but as much as 10 years to age, then taste, and back sweeten.

To quote another user here... YMMV

Medsen Fey
12-27-2011, 02:23 PM
If you plan to backsweeten, you'll want to let it clear some, then stabilize the mead to prevent fermentation from starting up again. Usually this is done by adding the combination of potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulphite to the mead. As has been recommended, I'd wait a few months before doing anything.

CJ Babe
12-27-2011, 09:57 PM
It sounds like waiting is the name of the game. I'll bulk age the must for as long as it takes with periodic racking. 10 years is a long time to age. Looks like I'll be starting another brew soon :-)

I can add the sorbate before back sweetening after the months of bulk aging but I am allergic to sulfites and do not want to add them. Are there any alternative preservatives or will I have to take the risk of a bacteria growth down the track?

When back sweetening with honey, should the honey be heated before adding it to the must? Likewise, if I decide to add additional fruit puree how should the puree be treated before adding it the must keeping in mind I prefer not to add sulfite preservative?

Many thanks for your help.

12-28-2011, 01:38 AM
sulphite is there to kill any bacteria that may eat the sorbate.
you could always do pasteurization or sterile filtration.

Medsen Fey
12-28-2011, 12:22 PM
If you have a true sulfite allergy (which is extremely rare) then avoiding sulfites is appropriate, but remember that fermented beverages all contain sulfites that are produced by the yeast during fermentation. Folks with true sulfite allergies usually should avoid fermented foods.

I wouldn't recommend using sorbate alone. It is less likely to be effective, and it may be consumed by bacteria that will produce a geranium odor that will spoil your mead. You can use Benzoate as a preservative, which may have some carcinogenic potential, or try to sterile filtration (a bit tricky), or pasteurization (possible negative flavor effect). You can try step-feeding and add honey until the yeast gives up, but that may leave you with a harsh, high-ABV result with a Champagne yeast. There is no perfect solution.

For future batches, if you want them sweet without running the ABV too high, try using a yeast that will poop out at a much lower level than Champagne strains. Using 71B, or D47 with ABV tolerance of around 14% can be good, or I even like using clean ale strains (Nottingham or 1056 for example) that will give up around 12% or lower.

CJ Babe
12-28-2011, 03:28 PM
I certainly won't be using the same champagne yeast for future batches and will try some lower ABV tolerance yeast as suggested. I will investigate sterile filtration but it sounds like an added complication for a newbie to mead making.

I was hoping to make my own mead to avoid the sulfite preservatives of most purchased wines.

So the lesson learned is to use a lower ABV tolerant yeast that will ferment to completion to produce a sweeter mead by step feeding the yeast with honey. With this strategy am I correct in saying the need to use sorbate and potassium metabisulphite to stop further fermentation is reduced?

Thanks again for your suggestions.

12-28-2011, 07:14 PM
step feeding is not really required.
general idea is to use a lower alchol tolerance yeast eg one that quits a 14%. that way it will ferment up to 14% and stop leaving behind some residual sugers.
down side is yeast can push past their tolerneces, so its possible that it can resume later on after its been bottled. which is why most commerical wines use stirle filtration regardless of yeast used.
tho if you can rack off most of the yeast, keep the bottles cold, it will minimise the risk of them continuing to ferment.

CJ Babe
12-28-2011, 11:20 PM
Thanks for your advice.

I have learnt a lot from this forum. Leaving my first dry batch of mead to bulk age and then back sweeten if necessary seems like the best option.

Future batches will be lower alcohol content using low alcohol tolerant yeast. A sweeter result -yummy!

I am going to avoid using sorbate and potassium metabisulfite hoping the aging process and my careful racking technique will avoid further oxidation of the yeast. I understand I won't have the same control over the finishing SG or sweetness but hopefully choosing the correct yeast will improve the chances of producing a mead to my liking in the future. The mead probably won't keep as long either but thats not a bad thing, rather a good reason to drink up and make more!

Thanks again everyone!

12-28-2011, 11:40 PM
ypu will need to stop the yeast in this batch one way or another. if you backsweeten it the remaining yeast will fire back up.
fining will help drop the yeast out, but still you will not get all of them by racking.

12-31-2011, 03:12 PM
For this batch, since you are trying to avoid sulfites and such....

Give it six months, then use fining agents which will help to strip out the yeast. Not all of them mind you but limit the potential to restart. Same as before, rack until sediment is not collecting at the bottom anymore (two weeks minimum between rackings). Any sediment is likely to have yeast in it that could help restart fermentation.

Once completely clear no sediment yadda yadda... back sweeten again. Stir everything thoroughly. Think of it as intentionally trying to restart fermentation by stirring. You might not want it to restart but if you do your best to restart it without aerating and it doesn't restart then you know you're fairly safe.

Let it sit for two weeks measuring the SG daily. If it moves at all it's fermenting again and utmost caution should be used.

The problem with this method is that you will make things cloudy again when you back sweeten (I'm assuming you'll back sweeten with honey.... it's mead! let's maximize our honey taste!) It's possible you will even need to use fining agents a second time since it won't want to clear on it's own.

This method has lots of steps but avoids needing to buy expensive filtration equipment. IMO the Buon Vino filtration system isn't really that difficult to use, in many ways it's easier than what I've described above. It is very expensive though and if it's not very clear before filtering you have to use fining agents anyway (running super cloudy wine through it just clogs the filters which aren't expensive, but aren't cheap either)

CJ Babe
01-01-2012, 08:42 AM
G'day, thanks again for the advice.

I can see I am in for the long haul with my first batch of mead.

I don't really want to purchase expensive filtering equipment. Racking every few weeks to remove any sediment for 6 months will be fine. The yeast is pretty hardy and hangs around for a long time by the sounds of things.

I'll add the fining agent as suggested to try and stop the fermentation, then follow the process outlined.

Yes I do intend to use honey for back sweetening - that is what it's all about! I found a local apiary to purchase my honey from. They supply honey to one of the few Meaderies in Western Australia.

It won't be the end of the world if this batch isn't very pleasant to drink but at least I will have learned a lot more about the art of making mead.

I feel a little disheartened as without the use of potassium metabisulfate I will expereince the same problems for future batches to some extent, even if I use a lower alcohol tolerant yeast. Let me know if you can suggest any recipes that may be more suitable for not adding sulfites.

Best wishes for 2012!

Chevette Girl
01-01-2012, 07:09 PM
Well, if you find you're OK with dry wines/meads, you're good. I rarely bother stabilizing anything of mine that has no residual sugar left.