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  1. #1

    Default Fermenting on Herbs...

    I'm trying to ferment a bucket of mead on a blend of herbs (anise, damiana, fennel, angelica root, peppermint, yarrow, elderflower) and the fermentation seems pretty darn sluggish. It's the second time I've done this. I had great results last time, though I did not manage to ferment to dryness like I'd wanted. Last time I got the must down to a FG odf 1.01 and it took FOREVER to get there! I started with an OG of 1.15 both times. We're using premire cuvee yeast plus a healthy dose of energizer. The pH and temperature are fine. I want lots of ETOH for maximum extraction of compounds from the herbs. I'm thinking about pressing the must off the herbs and then soaking what's left in vodka, then pressing out the vodka and blending it with the mead...but that feels like cheating to me.

    So is the yeast just pooping out at 18%ABV? Are my herbs antiseptic? Should I go buy a fifth of stoli and call it a day?
    Last edited by Angelic Alchemist; 10-08-2009 at 11:46 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
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    Default

    Standard response

    Could you post up the details of your batch(es) in bullet format or other easily-readable way? Be sure to list all additions, if/when you aerated, and any readings you have.

  3. #3

    Default

    18lbs local wildflower honey
    3.5 gallons water
    4oz Damiana
    4oz Anise
    4oz Fennel
    1oz Angelica Root
    1oz Peppermint
    1oz Yarrow
    1oz Elderflowers
    OG = 1.15

    Herbs were simmered in the water for 20 minutes. Honey was then dissolved into the mixture. After cooling, we pitched 1 packet of rehydrated premire cuvee yeast and 5tsp nutrient. The SpG dropped to 1.09 over the course of 2 weeks and then the fermentation stalled. I adjusted the pH with K2CO3 - nothing. I added another 5tsp nutrient - nothing. I pitched another packet of yeast - now it's going slowly.

  4. #4
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    Getting any yeast to chew through a must with an initial gravity of 1.150 to dryness is a tall order. In addition to the spec ETOH tolerance of the yeast you have to consider the punishment they take at pitch; the osmotic stress placed on the inoculum when you first pitch into a must this heavy really compromises the yeast's ability to perform to their rated tolerances. This is one case where a stepped acclimation to that heavily sugared environment is recommended - in other words, a multi-stage yeast starter is a good idea for a must as heavy as this.
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  5. #5

    Default

    Understood, but I don't have this trouble pitching into musts of an equal OG without the herbs.

  6. #6
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    Next time around, let the herbal tea (your simmered herbs) cool to room temperature before you add the honey. Heating drives off oxygen (simmering not as much as boiling) but when you're starting off with such a high gravity if you're not giving your yeast using a proper re-hydration nutrient (Go-FERM, etc.) a step up by giving it a bit of the must to cut it's teeth on before you dump it into that high gravity mush, then you're really asking a lot of the yeast.

    Herbs do make a difference with their phenols, essential oils, enzymes and such so that would account for part of the pokiness.

    Rehydrate with Go-FERM as per spec, add your must in an amount equal to 1/2 the volume of your rehydration suspension and allow to stand for another 5 to 10 minutes before adding SLOWLY into the must. If there is a large difference in the temperature of the yeast suspension and the must, repeat the 1/2 volume of must addition to the yeast suspension again in order to eliminate thermal shock.

    Also, with herbal musts, add .5 gram of yeast hulls per gallon of must to the must in a suspension of clean H2O at a rate of 50 ml H2O/.5 gram yeast hulls.

    Aerate liberally and add a mixture of Fermaid-K and DAP at a ratio of 7:3 in favor of the Fermaid-K at the end of the lag phase. Aerate liberally. Stir at least 4x/day when herbs, spices, plants and slow moving relatives are added to the must.

    Cheers,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  7. #7

    Default

    Sounds like tempering eggs for a soufle. I like it! And I already have yeast hulls (expensive little buggers) from a previous splurge at the HBS.

  8. #8
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    Default

    Have you thought about just adding the herbs to secondary?
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    Have you thought about just adding the herbs to secondary?
    Nope! But it's probably a good idea.

  10. #10

    Default

    A good reason for additoin of herbs in the secondary is over extraction of tannins or other bittering agents present in the herb. Think of over steeped tea.

    I think this is something you have to work out according to the individual herb. Ancient Orange works with the spices added at the start, others might not.
    <><><><><><><><><><>
    <><><><><><><><>
    Dan McFeeley

    "Meon an phobail a thogail trid an chultur"
    (The people's spirit is raised through culture)

  11. #11

    Default

    In addition to what everyone else said, the rated alcohol tolerance for Premier Cuvée is "only" 18% according to the Yeast Table over there.
    <---

    That's a lot of alcohol. You're approaching distilled spirit levels of potency. There are only a handful of yeasts in the table that are rated higher.

  12. #12
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    I just wanted to point out that it seems everyone is talking about this one having an OG of 1.150, but the first post says it was 1.115, which is not a very high gravity at all for a yeast like that. I think...

    Way below the yeast's tolerance for ABV anyways, it should go dry easily.

  13. #13
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    Ah, I see that now. His first post says 1.115, but his post with the listed ingredients says 1.15, which if we add the trailing zero is 1.150. I expected the latter, because 18 lbs of honey in only 3.5 gallons of water is a pretty rich honey concentration. OK, Alchemist, which is it?

    Alright, I just did the math, and for typical honey with an 18% moisture content, 18 lb of honey into 3.5 gallons of water should yield a must with about 1.130 SG. That is neither of the above. So, what did you really do, sir?
    Last edited by wayneb; 10-07-2009 at 08:08 PM. Reason: Did some arithmetic....
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayneb View Post
    Ah, I see that now. His first post says 1.115, but his post with the listed ingredients says 1.15, which if we add the trailing zero is 1.150. I expected the latter, because 18 lbs of honey in only 3.5 gallons of water is a pretty rich honey concentration. OK, Alchemist, which is it?

    Alright, I just did the math, and for typical honey with an 18% moisture content, 18 lb of honey into 3.5 gallons of water should yield a must with about 1.130 SG. That is neither of the above. So, what did you really do, sir?
    Thanks Wayne, this helps to remind me to not presume other people work brix in their head like I do. Basically I multiply by .6 X 30 brix(approx brix with 18 lb honey added to 3.5 gal H2O)

    And before any of you jump up and say it's actually supposed to be .57 rather than .6, I know. It's quicker and easier to do the math with .6, and I'm not interested in exact numbers anyhow since even wineries are accorded a wiggle factor on the ABV % of about 1.5%.

    Anyhow, bottom line is that 1.132 SG is still high gravity by definition, still introduces significant osmotic shock, and at anything over 1.12 SG you should double your yeast addition from 5 grams to 10 grams in a five gallon batch.

    I stand by my previous post.

    Flame away,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  15. #15

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wayneb View Post
    Ah, I see that now. His first post says 1.115, but his post with the listed ingredients says 1.15, which if we add the trailing zero is 1.150. I expected the latter, because 18 lbs of honey in only 3.5 gallons of water is a pretty rich honey concentration. OK, Alchemist, which is it?

    Alright, I just did the math, and for typical honey with an 18% moisture content, 18 lb of honey into 3.5 gallons of water should yield a must with about 1.130 SG. That is neither of the above. So, what did you really do, sir?
    HER first post -- I'm of the fairer gender, gents.

    And I've corrected the numbers. My OG was 1.150. Typo. Oops.

    The giant pickle jar in which I transported the honey home holds about 18lbs of honey. It might be more, but I seriously doubt it. Unless I wrote something down incorrectly in the paper log, my numbers are otherwise good.

    I realize Premier Cuvee is rated to go to 18%, but I've had it go to 20% before when fed enough super ferment. I know, I'm a bit of a mad scientist. An aging diva does not a sane woman make.

    I gotta learn this whole brix thing. It looks useful.
    Last edited by Angelic Alchemist; 10-08-2009 at 12:25 PM.

  16. #16

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Angelic Alchemist View Post
    HER first post -- I'm of the fairer gender, gents.

    And I've corrected the numbers. My OG was 1.150. Typo. Oops.

    The giant pickle jar in which I transported the honey home holds about 18lbs of honey. It might be more, but I seriously doubt it. Unless I wrote something down incorrectly in the paper log, my numbers are otherwise good.

    I realize Premier Cuvee is rated to go to 18%, but I've had it go to 20% before when fed enough super ferment. I know, I'm a bit of a mad scientist. An aging diva does not a sane woman make.

    I gotta learn this whole brix thing. It looks useful.
    I'm sticking with my inexpert opinion that your yeast are just too drunk to ferment quickly at this point. Maybe try Flor Sherry or Eau de Vie next time.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcanum View Post
    I'm sticking with my inexpert opinion that your yeast are just too drunk to ferment quickly at this point. Maybe try Flor Sherry or Eau de Vie next time.
    It's pretty hard to find the Red Star Flor Sherry any more. Eau de Vie is ok, but it tends to come out pretty hot at that gravity.

    QA23, K1-V1116, EC-1118, Uvaferm 43, DV10 will all handle this with no problem. Uvaferm 43 will come out hot if it's not managed closely.

    I think the main reason your Premier Cuvee didn't handle this well was because of the nutrient addition at the time of pitch (DAP is not good for active dry yeast that are fresh out of the bag, and will kill more than it will help) and the apparent lack of aeration/oxygenation. Also with herbs as mentioned below, you need to keep the yeast moving daily. When I make herbed/spiced cysers, I'm after them at least four times a day to keep them from settling in one place and concentrating all that phenol that area.

    Cheers,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oskaar View Post
    DAP is not good for active dry yeast that are fresh out of the bag, and will kill more than it will help
    Interesting, I'll have to remember that.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcanum View Post
    Interesting, I'll have to remember that.
    Likewise. Very interesting. Though, I've never had EC-1118 go to 20% (but I've tried ). I guess my aeration was fair, though according to Oskaar I need to double my efforts. It's all good, I enjoy stirring the pot -- literally and figuratively.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angelic Alchemist View Post
    Likewise. Very interesting. Though, I've never had EC-1118 go to 20% (but I've tried ). I guess my aeration was fair, though according to Oskaar I need to double my efforts. It's all good, I enjoy stirring the pot -- literally and figuratively.
    A lees stirrer attached to a power drill is a pretty effective way to quickly get lots of air into the must. If you're not careful it's also a pretty effective way to get lots of must all over the floor, but that's why we're careful.

    It is also is a very quick way to trigger a degassing of the must.

    Links: This or this.
    Last edited by Arcanum; 10-08-2009 at 03:42 PM. Reason: Added links

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