View Full Version : Is this a "stuck fermentation"?

01-21-2012, 05:44 PM
Hi everybody, working on my 2nd batch of mead ever. Had partial success with the first one (actually 2 seperate meads, of which 1 turned out great, but I consider it 1 batch, since it was all done at once) and I'm looking forward to learning some more!

So I was wondering if this is a stuck fermentation. Here's the info.

-16 lbs honey (10lbs clover honey, 6lbs canola honey)
-5 tsp yeast nutrient
-filled to 6 gal (23 L) with mineral water
-1 packet Lalvin 71b-1122 yeast (started seperately according to instructions, by my brother who is a fantastic bread maker. I figured he'd know yeasties better than anybody else!)

O.G. 1.098 (12.94% pot. ABV)
Ferm. temp: 17˚C or 62.6˚F

Methods: (timeline)

Dec. 28, 2011 : Everything cleaned, rinsed & sanitized thoroughly using Sodium Metabisulfite. Mixed must in 6 gal pail, applied clear primary ferm film over top (found it at LBS, figured I'd try it so I could see what was going on)

Dec. 30, 2011 : Fermentation is making a constant audible fizz and bubbles are very visible coming up to the top of the must; very little krausen (not sure if that's only for beer talk, but it's the foam caused by fermentation anyways)

Periodically checked over the next few weeks, but did not take SG readings or notes... (My brother dropped my hydrometer and I didn't have time to get a new one until racking.) Lots of fizzing still going, no krausen after a few days, but carbonation is still going strong.

Jan. 21 : Racking : cleaned & sanitized all equipment to be used. Racked into a 23L carboy with airlock.

Results: (important info from racking)
S.G. : 1.050 (taste like honey water, no odd flavours detected)
Very little sediment on the bottom, much less than I expected based on my first batch...

So if this is a stuck fermentation, should i just pitch more yeast in? I'm definately passed the 1/3 sugar break, so nutrients/energizer shouldn't have any effect, if I understood the concept properly.

Any recommendations? More yeast, types of yeast, patience, anything really... It's a little too sweet and honey-watery for my tastes... i was hoping for mead, otherwise i'd have just drank my must!! :p

Thanks ahead of time for your help!! The community here is so wonderful and helpful and I'm so glad I found other people who enjoy, and know mead.



p.s. pardon my extreme nerdiness in formatting this like a science report. I kinda felt like I was writing one, so I figured, heck, why not. It's pretty much what it is!:D

01-21-2012, 06:12 PM
I'd up the fermentation temp to the mid-sixties if you can. You may also want to check pH if you can. If you can't, it won't hurt to add a little K carbonate.

01-21-2012, 08:08 PM
Well, as per what Lawpaw said, plus I'd also sanitise a hand whisk and whip the hell out of it.

I routinely aerate to the 1/3rd sugar break, some aerate for much longer and as it's dropped less than 50 points in nearly a month IRO the 1/2 sugar break, it shouldn't hurt any......

01-22-2012, 02:28 AM
a few things here....

temp to cool. 71b bottoms out at 15c so 17c its going to go slow.
PH, 71b i think will quit early if PH is below 3.2
nutrient, depends a lot on what it is made of. but 5 tsp at the start probably made a huge amount of yeast which then dined out and has eaten all the nutrient.
so some dap/yeasthulls/vitamins/minerals mix would not hurt to much. just add a small bit and see if it picks up. just don't pour a heap of dap in.

next time spread the nutrient over the first 1/3 of the ferment. even leave out the nutrient for the first day or so.

Chevette Girl
01-22-2012, 04:02 AM
As the others have suggested, warm it up a few degrees (yeah, I know, easier said than done in Winterpig! ;D) and aerate the heck out of it.

Racking it off the lees before it was finished might also have slowed it down on you. If there was very little sediment when you racked, it's possible that the yeast is all still slowly doing its thing and is still suspended and hasn't dropped out yet, or that for some reason it didn't make a nice strong colony so there wasn't a lot of yeast to drop out. After aerating and warming it up, I'd also suggest you stir it daily to keep things suspended. And check the SG again and let us know, is it still moving (even slowly) or has it completely stopped?

I've made several meads and plenty of fruit wines with just yeast nutrients added all up front and mine all turned out OK. That might be your problem, but likely only a part of the problem if it is at all, and you're right about the nutrients timing, I wouldn't add more nutrients at this point. However, if you do make a trip to the brew store, adding a little bit of yeast energizer at this stage wouldn't be a bad idea, the yeast should still be able to metabolize it.

And I kind of like the report style... tells us what we need to know in a far easier format than my usual terribly long blathering posts! :rolleyes:

And if warming and aerating it doesn't get things started up again, let us know and we can give you some tips on how to add more yeast if you want to try to repitch, just dumping another packet in might not work, my preference for any repitching is to use an acclimated starter.

Good luck with it, keep us posted!

01-22-2012, 11:49 PM
Thanks for all the help everyone. Here's my progress thus far. I will do all of the following, and re-test S.G. next weekend.

I've done my best to try and raise the temperature in the room. Unfortunately, we're right in the middle of a cold snap right now, and it's really difficult to keep the temp. up! I checked today, and my fermometer indicated 15-16˚C!! (For the record, the entire house isn't at this temp, only the downstairs workroom where I have my mead/beer set up... maybe I should stick to lagering... oy)
I brought in a little heater, but I'm not sure it'll do any good. I also don't want to burn the house down in the name of Mead. Either way, I will try to bring it up to about 18-19˚C. If I don't post another reply in the next 2 weeks, assume that I burned my house down.;D

I will go out and buy Litmus paper (or maybe "borrow" a few strips from the lab... :rolleyes:) and check the pH.

I will try to aerate, but I have no whisk small enough to fit through the opening of my carboy. I'll just shake it around till it splashes, and keep going until my arms fall off.

nutrient vs energizer
I'm having a hard time differentiating the two... here's why: I went to the LBS closest to my house (Wine Sense) in november, and asked for both Yeast energizer and Yeast nutrient. I was told "I've never heard of yeast energizer", was given a packet written "yeast nutrient" on it, and went home.
I went to the the better, non-franchised LBS that I now go to, in December and picked up a packet of yeast energizer. When I got home, I compared it to my yeast nutrient, and, to my surprise, they were exactly the same... So one LBS's yeast energizer, is the next's nutrient. I went back to the LBS the other day, and saw their "nutrient" was a white, crystalline substance, whereas the energizer (aka nutrient from WineSense) is an almond colored fine powder. Perhaps you guys could enlighten me as to what I actually put in my mead!!

I'm a science guy. I like chemical names and structures. Why do no LBSs put the names of the substances on the bulk chemicals/ingredients they sell?!!?!:confused: That really drives me nuts! The downside to being a science guy, is when you want to talk science, but the salesperson doesn't know or understand it... it's so much easier to ask for a specific substance, than a brand name, or generic name... (like asking for "headache go away stuff", when you really mean acetamenophen, or tylenol;))

01-23-2012, 02:05 AM
nutrient vs energizer is something that drives me nuts. every one uses the terms differently.
its easier with big brand names as you can find out whats in it. however a lot of shops by bulk generic and repackage it with a massive mark up !

Chevette Girl
01-23-2012, 02:31 AM
Typically when we on Gotmead refer to nutrients, we mean DAP or another inorganic nitrogen source, DAP is usually a white crystalline powder with slightly bigger crystals than table salt (or at least all the different brands I've ever used have looked like that), and when we refer to energizer, it's micronutrients and vitamins and sometimes a little DAP, and is usually a tan powder that smells like a bottle of multi-vitamins, although one of my local places sells one that's a very fine white powder that smells the same as the tan powder from the other place... If you want to be all scientific about it, go online and order Fermaid K because we know exactly what's in that and Medsen and some of the others around here have got calculations for how much you need to add and when...

And yeah, especially when you're into meads and fruit wines, you will sometimes know more than your brew shop workers about your specific brews.

As for pH, you'll want strips that measure between 2 and 5, plain old litmus paper will just tell you that it's acidic, and we could have told you that ;D Also if you get a titration kit, it might not be accurate because honey's gluconic acid doesn't behave quite how you'd expect.

As for warming up your must without burning down the house, there are a number of things people have tried. You could make a blanket "curtain" around your mead corner to decrease the amount of basement your little heater is trying to heat so it doesn't stay going the whole time... you could also just wait it out, when your cold snap is over and you CAN get it warmed up a little, give it a good aeration and stir all the stuff up and it may well take off again... cold won't actually kill the yeast but it might make them hibernate. Perhaps just leaving the lights on might help raise the temperature a little, I've been leaving my garage lights on when it's really cold here so my potatoes don't freeze, so far so good, thanks to my new insulated garage door, it's stayed just above 0˚C even when we've had a week of close to -20˚C nights and I'm moving the car in and out so the door's wide open.

I know lugging a full carboy up a flight of stairs is not really a safe option...
And at least you know for next year, make sure the mead's primary fermentation is done in the spring/fall and do your lagering over the winter! Or maybe keep it in the kitchen until it's close to 1.000 (a lidded and airlocked fermentation bucket is a lot easier to carry down stairs than to carry a carboy up or down stairs), bring it downstairs, let it settle a few days and then rack it to carboy... Live and learn, we all have to figure out what works best for us :)

01-23-2012, 10:56 AM

I use a brew belt to deal with the lows. They should be available at any home brew store. It is a heater that wraps around your fermentation vessel and doesn't take a lot work to maintain an even temp.


01-23-2012, 11:22 AM
I bought a 250w heat lamp, light bulb outlet, 14Ga wire and plug for ~$15US from Lowes. I then put it into my brewing fridge with a regulator to precisely control the temp.

This is a bit extreme, but I would imagine you could build something similar, use a smaller cheaper bulb and build a small wooden box to size. That would be fairly cheap.

On second thought brewbelt might be easier :)

02-14-2012, 02:42 AM
What some beer brewers do is to buy a thermostatically controlled acquarium heater (pretty cheap, around 20 US$) and hang that in the middle of the brew through a hole in the lid. Works well with a standard bucket-type FV, but I suppose it could be adapted to fit in a carboy too.

Waterproof and easy to sanitize, easy temp control, and probably more widely available than brew belts (for those of us in countries where homebrewing hasn't caught on yet). A 50W acquarium heater will give you temperature control over a 18-34C (64-93F) range on up to 60 litres (15.8 Us Gal).

11-21-2012, 12:48 AM
Well, after a looooong hiatus, a considerable bicycle tour across eastern Canada, and stint of working in the province of Quebec, and the passing of fall into winter, I've finally made it back to my batch of mead which I started 11 months ago.
Of course, it was stuck around S.G. 1.03, and I had to leave everything while I went away to live life for a while.
So I finally came back, and double checked that everything was still ok. The airlock had barely anything in it at all, but was still effective. The taste was exceptionally smooth, but very sweet. Anyways, I adjusted the pH with calcium carbonate, made a new starter using the same honey (I still had some left over), and successfully restarted the fermentation! It's going full force!
Thanks for all the help to everybody who chipped in! I'm so glad that my first 6 gallon batch hasn't ended in failure!

Cheers, and onto the next batch!


12-08-2012, 03:44 PM
So on November 21st, I restarted my fermentation successfully. S.G. at the time was 1.033. It was vigorously fermenting for the first week, so much that the airlock overflowed! I'm kind of at a loss now, since over 2 weeks later, my S.G. is only at 1.022! I was hoping for a little bit of a dryer wine... It's still fizzing a bit, but I doubt it's ferm activity. Seems to me more like dissolved CO2 leaving the mead, seeing it's beginning to clarify.

Anyways, my questions are:
-I find it a little sweet for my palate, but what is the standard S.G. of a dessert wine? Is this an acceptable F.G. for mead?
-Should I try restarting the fermentation a 2nd time?
-Any ideas on what might be hindering my ferm? I had even adjusted pH before the restart!
-I've read of people mixing batches... is this something I should consider doing and start another batch that will hopefully ferment to below 1.00?

Thanks ahead of time for you ongoing help, fellow mead-heads.


Medsen Fey
12-08-2012, 04:03 PM
Which yeast did you use to restart the fermentation?

And to answer the question about sweetness, I have traditional meads that have a higher gravity than that. How sweet it tastes depends on the amount of acidity and tannin and other flavor elements in the mix. If it tastes too sweet for your preference, you can try restarting with a yeast that will take it dry, or you can blend it with a dry batch to make it more palatable. At the ABV level of this batch, it shouldn't be too hard to get it to finish dry.

12-08-2012, 07:07 PM
Which yeast did you use to restart the fermentation?

And to answer the question about sweetness, I have traditional meads that have a higher gravity than that. How sweet it tastes depends on the amount of acidity and tannin and other flavor elements in the mix. If it tastes too sweet for your preference, you can try restarting with a yeast that will take it dry, or you can blend it with a dry batch to make it more palatable. At the ABV level of this batch, it shouldn't be too hard to get it to finish dry.

Hi Medsen,
I used regular Fleishmann's quick rise yeast. (I know, shame on me!!! I should've gotten the right stuff!) Do you have any suggestions as to which yeast might be a good one to restart it and take it dry?
On a totally different note, I was thinking of oaking a small quantity of the batch, just to see how it goes. Would oaking change the way the sweetness comes through? I'm all game for experimenting, what I am not game for though, is ruining 6 gallons of heaven! :-)

Thanks again,

Medsen Fey
12-08-2012, 11:49 PM
Yep. If you want restart a stuck fementation, it helps to pick the right yeast. Uvaferm 43 is, without question, the best "restart yeast" around, but your LHBS typically won't carry it. You can order it from online suppliers like MoreWine. EC-1118, DV10, and QA23 are other good choices for a restart, and EC-1118 ( same as Red star Premier Cuvee) is widely available.

If you take at least a couple of packets and rehydrate them, and then acclimate them to the must you should be able to get it finished.

12-09-2012, 01:57 PM
On my way to the LHBS right now! I will pick up one of the aforementionned yeasts. I will keep you posted of progress. I suppose I should re-check the pH before pitching the yeast, just to be safe.
I'll monitor progress and post in a week or so and let you know the fermentation restarted... again.

12-09-2012, 02:21 PM
Most LHBS only carry the usual suspects from the Lalvin range i.e. ec1118 d47 k1v1116 rc212 71b, normally that is, unless youre lucky enough to live near to morewine......

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