I have 15 gallons of mead going right now, I started it about 10 days ago.
I'm using WLP099 Super High Gravity yeast. As per the instructions in order to gain the higher alcohol content, I've been gradually feeding honey to the mix to bring the gravity up. Because of this, I'm unsure what the current gravity reading should be or how much has actually fermented.
I started out with 3 gallons of water and added 6 lbs of wild flower honey, 6 tsp yeast nutrients and 7 tsp acid blend to bring the ph about 3 to 4., each went into 3 fermenting buckets. White labs recommends to use 2x the amount of yeast nutrient for mead, since the honey lacks nutrients that the yeast needs. The starting gravity was 1.063.
I started out with a single vial of White Labs WLP099 which put into a 1 liter starter. Once the ferment was going well in this starter, I split it in half and brought both starters to 1 liter of must. Once the ferment was going strong again, I spit off a third starter and added more must to being them to 1.5 liters each of must. I let the starters settle, decanted off the liquid and pitched in the yeast slurry into the 3 buckets of must.
Every other day or so, I've added 2 lbs of honey that I diluted down with boiling water, a bit of acid blend and yeast nutrients to each bucket. (I let it cool down to room temp before adding to the buckets.)
Also, the fermentation has been slow, but steady. I get bubbles in my airlock a few times a minute and when I put a mag light to the back of the bucket, I can see shadow movements from the yeast flocculating chunks of yeast floating up and around the buckets. I'm also concerned that I may not have added enough yeast, and am considering pitching more. I made some slants from the original vial and have been building up another starter, mostly for practice since I'm new to yeast propagation, but also because I'm worried I may need more yeast. Should I pitch this starter into the currently fermenting mead?
I took a gravity reading last night, just before adding the final honey (total honey per gallon is 3.8 lbs.) and the specific gravity was at 1.040 after temperature adjustment (and before adding the last of the honey.) It had a very fruity taste, nice floral scent and a good alcohol smell. According to the gravity readings though, it would only be about 3% alcohol, but that's where I'm confused.
Since I've been adding honey gradually to the mix as I go along, do I just throw out the OG readings, since it's been altered as I went along? Also, it tasted way stronger than 3% alcohol to me, will I have to just wait for the fermentation to finish and use a vinometer to check the alcohol content, or is there a good way to try to estimate how strong it will be?
Thanks for any input or advice!