View Full Version : To pitch or not to pitch?

04-12-2014, 07:47 PM
Hello and greetings from Greece!

I am relatively new to brewing, still experimenting (a lot). I have successfully brewed and distilled a couple of batches of Rum, so i thought to give mead a shot, looks easy enough. Currently, I am successfully(?) brewing a JOAM right now (about 5 more days and then rack to secondary), but there is a problem with the second batch that was prepared just yesterday.

See, I made the Rum and the previous JOAM with baker's yeast which started bubbling very fast, but in this batch I acquired and used some wine yeast (exact strain unknown, purchased unpacked from wine lab). I activated 5g of yeast for 30 minutes in warm water and poured directly into the jug. Absolutely no activity for 24 hours. Had shaken the jug and aerated and all this stuff, but nothing! I did read that it may take up to 3 days for the fermentation to start, but I expected vigorous fermentation within a 12 hours (as with baker's yeast).

Thinking that I may have under-pitched, or the yeast died because I pitched it too soon after using K-meta, i decided to pitch some more yeast, this time making a proper starter. So, impatient as I am, I made a light starter (1 part must, 2 parts water) with another 5g yeast and decided to let it grow for at least a day this time.
Now that I am writing this, it has been almost 15 hours since the starter was prepared and is obviously fermenting happily (bubbling, really pleasant yeast smell, yeast sediment at the bottom increased twofold already). Meanwhile, the must has shown some very little increase in activity: airlock bubbling with like 2 bubbles per minute and some very thin krauzen.
So.... it is pretty clear that I initially under-pitched (especially for the heavy must), but, since fermentation IS slowly happening, should I pitch the new yeast starter? will it create any problem? Should I put it instead in the fridge and use it for the next batch (planning to start it in about a month)?

FYI, my recipe for about 4L was:
3L water
750g local wildflower honey
800ml mock honey syrup (recipe (http://homedistiller.org/sugar/wash-sugar/honey) calculated to have about 1000g/L sugar content)
30g small raisins
2 tsp cornmeal
1 vitamin B tablet
Disinfected with potassium metabisulfite and left to fume out for 24 hours before adding the yeast.

I replaced part of the honey with mock honey in order to cut back the cost of wildflower honey which is pretty high around here unfortunately (I said I do like to experiment ;) ). The OG was little less than 1.200 (overweight, I know, I just wanted to end up sweet not dry). I planned to add cut or mashed strawberries in about 2 weeks.

Thanks for the help!
excuse my english... if you can.

04-12-2014, 10:31 PM
If you followed the JAOM recipe exactly with the exception of the yeast, you will probably have to age that batch for a long time before it is drinkable as wine yeast will ferment most of the sugar leaving you with a pithy result. You will most likely want to back sweeten or age out the pith.

As for the yeast, I don't see why not pitch it. It can only help avoid the off flavors a struggling yeast can produce.

Good luck! Welcome to gotmead!

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now. G

04-13-2014, 02:31 PM
Thanks for the advice.

I pitched the starter some hours ago and added some water to thin the sugar solution, but, while it accelerated noticeably, it is still fermenting a bit slow. I suppose wine yeast is just behaving somewhat differently. The only solution now is to wait it out.

Just to clarify, the first mead batch I made was JOAM (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f80/joes-ancient-orange-mead-49106/)to the letter (with the baker's yeast). The second batch, the one in question, is the one prepared with a combination of regular and mock honey (the recipe I posted). I plan on adding strawberries in the secondary. If the fermentation proceeds with the current rate, the racking may have to wait a bit longer than 15-20 days.

04-13-2014, 03:46 PM
What was your SG after you thinned it and repitched?

Medsen Fey
04-13-2014, 06:48 PM
If you pitch yeast into a must with a gravity of 1.200 you're lucky if you get any activity at all. That level of sugar will choke yeast. A typical gravity for JAO is 1.130 or so.


04-14-2014, 07:37 AM
If you pitch yeast into a must with a gravity of 1.200 you're lucky if you get any activity at all. That level of sugar will choke yeast. A typical gravity for JAO is 1.130 or so.

No. It was a typo sorry. I meant 1.120 SG... 1.200 is way off the scale of my hydrometer anyway (I am not able to edit the post). The sugar content was about 320 g/L I am sure of that.

I didn't get a reading after thinning, but I calculated it to be around 1.110. With that much sugar it will surely dry out. Should I back sweeten when I add the strawberries, or should I wait to dry them out too? Unfortunately, I couldn't get my hands on any sorbate to stabilize. I just have K-meta, but there is no problem waiting out the fermentation. I am just not sure how to get/correct the SG readings after I back sweeten or add the strawberries.

04-14-2014, 01:18 PM
No rush to stabilize.....it can be done weeks after apparent fermentation stops, and most certainly should be done before you back sweeten. Take a deep breath, get your sorbate, and wait for the process to catch up to you.

Sent from Arthur Dent's towel smothering a volume of Vogon poetry, some of which just leaked out.