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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    San Diego, CA
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    432

    Default Newbie ? about Primary Fermentation/FG

    I have been reading as much as I can about mead making, but still have some specific questions on my first batch of mead:

    On Sunday 7/29/12 my wife and I started a 5 gallon kit of Curt & Kathy's orange blossom honey sweet mead from NB. Here are the kit ingredients:

    - 15 lbs Varietal Honey (orange blossom)
    - 4 packets Curt & Kathy’s yeast nutrient blend
    - 12 grams Nutriferm Energy in a 30 ml vial
    - 2 PACKETS OF LALVIN 71B-1122 “NARBONNE”
    - spring water to bring total volume to 5 gallons

    We started the primary fermentation per the instructions here: http://www.northernbrewer.com/docume...etVarietal.pdf

    Unfortunately, my hydrometer arrived broken and we did not want to wait to start, so we did not get a OG reading. The instructions indicate we should transfer to a carboy after approximately two weeks. I now have a hydrometer and am working up the nerve to use it for the for the first time. Here are my questions:

    1. Without knowing the OG is there any way to gauge what the FG should be before I transfer?

    2. I am still confused about the term Secondary Fermentation. Is fermentation complete after the first two weeks and the "Secondary Fermentation" really just conditioning, or does fermentation continue in the carboy.

    3. If we were to add potassium sorbate to stop fermentation, would this be done at the time of transfer to the carboy, or just 4 months from now before we bottle.

    The bubbling from the airlock has slowed dramatically. If it matters, please note that it has been very hot here in San Diego the past week. I have tried to keep the fermenter bucket cool with a wet towel and fan.

    Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide. I am primarily wanting to make sure that we don't hurt the mead by transferring it from bucket to carboy too soon and I want to better understand the secondary fermentation process and the FG range for a sweet mead.

    Dan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Flint, Michigan
    Posts
    934

    Default

    As you already know htgere is much to learn about mead making. The best thinbg to do here is to read the newbee guide. It will save time for you and for us to have you answer those questions there. If after reading it and it doesnt give you the answer you need then repost and we all will be happy to post an answer for ya.

    As far as guessing your OG I can say its frolly around 1.120 ish but cannot give you a perfect answer.
    If I was a mead what flavor would I be?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Ithaca, NY
    Posts
    4,958

    Default

    Definitely check the Newbee Guide, and avail yourself of the forum search function.

    In just a few words, you'll be transferring the mead to another container (call it "secondary" if you like) when the fermentation is done. This means the SG stops dropping and is roughly where you'd expect. Your OG is probably in the range of 1.110-1.120, so you'll expect a FG a little above 1.000, perhaps as high as 1.015.

    Since you're just two-ish weeks in, you can probably check the SG now and then again in a week.
    Want to see something added to the GotMead Glossary? PM me! Didn't know we had a glossary? Check the top row of links.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    432

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by akueck View Post
    Definitely check the Newbee Guide, and avail yourself of the forum search function.

    In just a few words, you'll be transferring the mead to another container (call it "secondary" if you like) when the fermentation is done. This means the SG stops dropping and is roughly where you'd expect. Your OG is probably in the range of 1.110-1.120, so you'll expect a FG a little above 1.000, perhaps as high as 1.015.

    Since you're just two-ish weeks in, you can probably check the SG now and then again in a week.
    akueck and Yo momma, thanks for your replies. The Newbee Guide is a great resource. I just took my first hydrometer sample, and I believe I did everything right. If so, the mead is currently right around 1.000 - see photo below. 1.000 is at the transition from blue to green. It is hot again today, so the sample could be as warm as 80 degrees, even with the cool water towel and fan. But as I calculated it, this would only increase the reading by .002.

    If I read the sample right, it seems like it is time to stop the fermentation for a sweet mead and transfer to the carboy. Am I missing anything?

    Thanks again,
    Dan


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Ithaca, NY
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    Default

    Hard to tell from the picture what the reading is. If your SG is 1.000, the hydrometer will float in the same spot (plus or minus depending on temperature) in plain water. Where does it float in water? If it's the same spot, then yep that's correct. Time to rack!
    Want to see something added to the GotMead Glossary? PM me! Didn't know we had a glossary? Check the top row of links.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    432

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by akueck View Post
    Hard to tell from the picture what the reading is. If your SG is 1.000, the hydrometer will float in the same spot (plus or minus depending on temperature) in plain water. Where does it float in water? If it's the same spot, then yep that's correct. Time to rack!
    I cooled the mead sample to 60 degrees, and the hydrometer did not seem to move any significant amount - still near 1.000. I poured the mead into a glass and filled the tube with water; the hydrometer moved a bit to the top of the scale at 0.990. The hydrometer is a basic tri-scale model that came with a winemaking kit. See photo below. The 1.000 reading is between the blue and green at the top of the hydrometer.

    I tasted the sample and it smells good but tastes very strong.

    If it is time to transfer and add potassium sorbate, do I also need to add Campden tablet(s) at the same time. The mead recipe mentioned potassium sorbate but not Campden, but I have read conflicting recommendations online. I have also read that the potassium sorbate will not do any good until the mead has cleared as it stops yeast reproduction but does not kill the yeast. As you can see in my original photo, the mead is not clear.

    Thanks again for your help!

    Dan


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    UK - South Coast.
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    3,632

    Default

    I'd just leave it alone for the moment. Take gravity readings 2 or 3 days apart, so you can confirm the same reading and that fermentation has indeed finished.

    Then you add 1 crushed campden tablet per gallon, and however much sorbate per gallon the packaging recommends (per gallon). It's usual to use both sulphite and sorbate together in this way.

    If it all gets a good stir, which will bring the sediment back into suspension, but it helps remove some of the dissolved CO2, then rack it to the carboy to let it drop the sediment.

    Then once it drops a half inch, then rack it off the sediment. If you don't have an extra fermenter, you should be fine to rack it to a bucket, so you can rinse the carboy before siphoning the mead back into the carboy.
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    San Diego, CA
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatbloke View Post
    I'd just leave it alone for the moment. Take gravity readings 2 or 3 days apart, so you can confirm the same reading and that fermentation has indeed finished.

    Then you add 1 crushed campden tablet per gallon, and however much sorbate per gallon the packaging recommends (per gallon). It's usual to use both sulphite and sorbate together in this way.

    If it all gets a good stir, which will bring the sediment back into suspension, but it helps remove some of the dissolved CO2, then rack it to the carboy to let it drop the sediment.

    Then once it drops a half inch, then rack it off the sediment. If you don't have an extra fermenter, you should be fine to rack it to a bucket, so you can rinse the carboy before siphoning the mead back into the carboy.
    Thanks fatbloke. Unfortunately, we transfered the mead from the bucket to a 6 gallon carboy today before I read your reply since our kit instructions suggested two weeks for the primary fermentation. We did not however add any sorbate or sulphite. At this point, I think I will leave the mead alone in the carboy until it is time rack it to our second carboy. Perhaps at that time I could add the sorbate and sulphite. If I understand correctly, the only risk to leaving it alone is that the mead could continue to ferment, and end up drier and with a higher alcohol content than we intended.

    If it would be better to continue to take samples and add the sorbate and sulphite to the carboy now if I confirm a consistent gravity reading, let me know.

    Thanks to everyone for their help.

    Dan

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    UK - South Coast.
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    3,632

    Default

    Ok, so from earlier posts, it sounds like its nearly finished anyway.

    The reason for leaving it in the bucket, is that if it is still fermenting, racking it leaves behind some (most ?) of the active yeast, which, if its still got some way to go can cause a greater slowing or even a stuck ferment.

    As it was around the 1.000 area, its much less likely to be an issue.

    So now I'd still test it for the 3 identical readings (presuming no renewed bubble activity). After all, while it depends on what you're aiming for, I usually stabilise (sulphite/sorbate) and then backsweeten to about 1.010

    It's up to you, but once you're happy its finished the ferment, stabilised, etc, you can either clear it with time or use finings.
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

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