View Full Version : Hard Water & Nutrients

06-11-2004, 07:16 AM
I am a proponent of the no chemical nutrients unless absolutely necessary senario however I ran in to my first no nutrient snag. It happened when using K1V-1116 Lalvin yeast and just honey and water. (I have been adding some buckwheat honey in both for complexity and because it has more natural nutrients than most other honeys.) However I did not use hard water this time and after the SG going down to 1.030 from 1.100 it slowed to near a stop. (One bubble every 5 minutes for 3 weeks) After recalling a tip I read in Action and Ducan making mead book concerning the need for magnesium which is present in Epsom salt (magnnesium sulfate) I had no epsom salt so I put a pinch of Fermax (which also contains magnesium sulfate along with other nutrients) and it took back off and is now going great. Hard water contains quite a bit of trace elements needed by yeast and prior to this I found it not necessary to use nutrients but when using soft water I now find it most necessary indeed for healthy fermentation. Magnesium may not have been the only thing it needed but all other conditions were constant and my understanding is that the Epsom salt is an old trick to get fermentation going again that is stuck and has been proven in the past to work.
Your comments and other similar experiences welcome.

06-12-2004, 09:33 AM
hmmm at 1.12 my mead is finished at 1.03. you had about 10% ABV there on a 12-14% yeast. when you say a pinch i assume you used much less that the recomended tsp per gallon. I have not had the problem of stuck ferments except for that time with sorbated apple juice. But then again most of mine are melomels with some buckwheat honey as well these days.

06-13-2004, 07:23 AM
Yes, just a pinch, maybe 1/8t. I have never had that problem with a melomel either or cyser just a straight mead with buckwheat for nutrients. Guess it was just a little bit too deficient without using hard water since K1v-1116 is known for complete fermentations with low nutrient levels.

06-15-2004, 05:36 AM
Another thing that's interesting about this is that I think I recall someone on this forum saying that they never use nutrients because they always use buckwheat honey, and that buckwheat is suppose to have it's own, natural nutrients. I wonder what that guy would have said about this. ;)

06-15-2004, 09:33 PM
I never start from there anymore. The rare occasions when I add nutriends I add WAY less than the recomended amount. Fermax reccomends 1 tsp per gallon. If he only had a 1 gallon recipe... he used 1/8 the recomended level of fermax ( 1/40 if a 5 gallon batch).

Also worth noting... the act of adding a powder will cause the suspended CO2 to Bubble out of the liquid, giving a stirring effect that is often noted as helping with a stuck fermentation... at times refered to rousing the yeast.

I have also clearly stated that almost all my meads are melomels or cysers. Fruit juices have thier own trace nutrients. In the case of cyser, you don't even need the buckwheat honey (though i tend to use it even so)l.

I have stated previously, though it may have been in a post lost from before, that I will resort to chemicals if things aren't going propperly, but that i do so cautiosly. The only harsh result I have ever had... was with 1 tsp of fermax per gallon. The first and last time I followed those directions.

06-16-2004, 02:37 AM
Funny you should mention that but the one who didn't use nutrients did use hard water with buckwheat. I have one of his recipes. Buckwheat does have a higher nutrient level than most honeys but it is still not the recommended levels when added and I believe without hard water and a low nutrient requirement yeast such as K1V-1116 one might be asking for trouble if one expects a full fermentation from with a starting gravity of 1.100 or greater. Hard water seems to have a healthy complement of trace nutrients that contribute to a healthy yeast. Any technical information posts on hard water and yeast would be appreciated and welcome here.
Thanks in advance Joe

06-16-2004, 02:51 AM
Sorry, I'm new to all this myself. By the way, what are you referring to by "hard water"? I'm assuming you arn't talking about tap water saturated with chemicals and such, which is also known as "hard water".

06-16-2004, 06:59 AM
Here's my limited knowledge..
Hard water is any water which contains an appreciable quantity of dissolved minerals. This includes calcium, magnesium, fluoride, iron, copper, zinc, nitrate and aluminium among others which I am not familiar with. The more of these minerals the harder the water. Distilled water would have all of these minerals/nutrients removed and everything I have read concerning mead-making advises against the use of distilled water unless you are going to add the nutrients for yourself or they are present in another ingredient you are using. Anyone else have any info? Joe

Dan McFeeley
06-16-2004, 04:13 PM
Chuck Wettergreen was the poster who has recommended a buckwheat honey along with other honeys, and hard water for mixing up the honey must.

The use of hard water was something that came up more by happenstance. We'd been having a back channel conversation where he mentioned that he always used water from the tap at home, even though the water was hard. This was in contrast to Brother Adam's recomendations to always use the softest water available. Chuck said the use of hard water hadn't effected the taste of his meads, and that it likely added minerals needed by the yeast for fermentation.

I wouldn't place the importance of hard water on the same level as something like providing proper nutrients for the yeast, but it is important to avoid overly soft water. The trick of using a pinch of Epsom salts comes from Bryon & Acton's book published in 1965 titled "Making Mead." The authors noted that at times their English water was too soft for the fermentation. A pinch of Epsom salts got it going again.

Buckwheat honey -- it's good stuff. Compared to other honeys, it is high in nitrogen content, minerals, and other good stuff the yeasts can use. Adding buckwheat honey to a blend is not the same thing as adding nutrient addtive in terms of potency, but it helps the fermentation a great deal.
IMHO it is very important when working with natural fermentation methods and no additives.

06-16-2004, 10:52 PM
I use well water, it has what it has :-)

Got it analyzed before i started making mead... was looking for bad stuff not mineral content. Sure there is some.

06-16-2004, 11:58 PM
Now THAT'S historically accurate mead.

06-17-2004, 12:10 AM

For what its worth (or not worth) in using hard water, clover honey and K1-V, the yeast being pitched on a new-moon, I get a good consistent fermentation.

06-17-2004, 02:44 AM
I found an interesting article that has much to say about hard water and yeast when making sake.
Sometimes we take for granted the water when making straight mead without chemical nutrients added but evidently it is important when not using added or chemical nutrients.


David Baldwin
08-29-2004, 06:03 AM
Here in Grand Rapids, MI we have moderately hard water. However our hardness is almost entirely calcium carbonate. We have very low concentrations of disolved metals.

The calcium carbonate is an excellent buffering agent where acid balance is considered.

My solution to the lack of magnesium, nitrogen etc, has been to add a bit of molassis to the must.

I've detailed the process under "natural meads".

So far I'm sitting at about 12% and still bubbling. I have to assume that I've done something right.