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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Mead Forum > Advice on some probably stuck mead
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Old 11-21-2009, 10:44 PM   #1
Lumberbrew
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Default Advice on some probably stuck mead

5 gal recipe, ~15# clover honey. Boiled water along with 1 tbsp acid blend and 1 tsp yeast nutrient, added honey. Chilled to 80F and oxygenated using sterilized bubbler stone and pure oxygen for ~3 minutes. I pitched 2 packets of Red Star Champagne yeast, rehydrated at 100F and let stand to cool to 80F for pitching. OG 1.122@70F.

The mead fermented in my basement in a 6 gal carboy, temp stabilized at ~64-65F within 24 hours or so. It went on quite strongly - 1 bubble per 2 seconds - for several weeks. After 8 weeks, activity had slowed to perhaps 1 bubble per 8-10 minutes. I took 2 gravity reading a week apart and it was at 1.070, taste was quite good, no off flavors, but of course very sweet still.
On the advice of a friend who's a mead maker, I swirled it a bit to re-suspend the yeast and brought it upstairs to raise the temp to ~70-72F, quite a bit of dissolved CO2 came bubbling out. I got some renewed activity in the airlock for a few days, but even after 3 more weeks the gravity only dropped to 1.068. I racked it into a second 5gal carboy to eliminate headspace and it's sitting there now after 2 weeks, still at 1.068 with no activity.

Well, it should ferment out much lower than this, so I think it's stuck? This is only my 2nd batch -- the first batch was only around 1.080 OG and fermented to .998 or so using the same yeast with a 2 month primary. Thoughts on this batch? I'm considering repitching per the instructions in the FAQ, but I wanted to get some second opinions. I have the yeast on hand to do so, but will need to purchase the other ingredients.

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Old 11-22-2009, 03:11 PM   #2
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I see a couple of issues here... First, the acid blend. It is not useful, and often a detriment to an efficient fermentation. Second, using only a yeast nutrient does not typically add sufficient nitrogen (YAN) to the must, especially with a higher gravity like 1.122.

Having only dropped 54 points in the time period you've noted suggests to me that you may have a low pH problem [the acid addition did not help... ]. Knowing what you've written, and assuming no other problems, I would do the following:
1) Keep the must in an area whose ambient temp is ~70°F
2) Add 2.8-3 g of DAP, and 5-6 g of potassium carbonate (or bicarbonate): stir-in well
3) Prepare and add a starter according to the FAQ instructions on Stuck Mead

Good luck!

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Old 11-22-2009, 04:51 PM   #3
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hightest is right. Acid blend is ok...IF you need it. Also the lack of yeast energizer means you had little nitrogen which the yeast must have to be healthy.

Third issue was rackign off your huge yeast cake to secondary...now you have a tiny yeast population that's too weak to do much.

In addition to the above suggestions, I've had luck restarting a stuck fermentation using fruit. Fruit, especially berries, have some simple sugars and a helping of nitrogen that can re-awaken the yeasties.

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Old 11-24-2009, 03:12 AM   #4
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Thanks for the advice!

Looking back at the recipe I was suppose to add more yeast nutrient after an additional amount of time (1/2 tsp at ~70% and ~40% of OG) which I didn't do. Doh!
This is definitely a culprit for the stuck fermentation, combined with a possibly low pH and a somewhat on the low side temp for the yeast -- Red Star says 59-86 and my fermenter was at 64-65 -- well it's some combination of all these, surely?
I'm thinking perhaps CO2 buildup lowered the pH too low, combined with a lack of nutrients for the yeast.


One thing I guess I don't understand the part about a lack of nitrogen and adding DAP. The yeast nutrient I used was Fermaid-K which lists DAP as an ingredient. Did I need additional DAP in addition to the Fermaid-K pitching schedule? What I didn't use was a yeast energizer during rehydration, which I've been told since I didn't make a starter wasn't going to be helpful.


I agitated and racked the cake off as well (it's mostly settled out again of course) and added around 1 pint of sterilized water to fill the 5gal to the neck. I needed the larger 6gal carboy for a primary for a winter ale, and I didn't want the mead sitting with open headspace if active fermentation was going on. I did purge the new carboy with CO2 first and of course thoroughly sanitized everything. So I don't think this is an issue.


I believe I have some pH strips tucked away. If I measure the pH of the mead how can I determine how much potassium carbonate should be added to buffer it back to an appropriate level (3.6-3.8)?


Any issue with pitching a different yeast for re-starting? It turns out I actually don't have the same yeast on hand, but a friend offered an extra vial of WPL715. We have the other stuff (Go-Ferm, Fermaid-K, DAP) on hand for making a re-starter.

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Old 11-24-2009, 03:43 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumberbrew View Post
...Looking back at the recipe I was suppose to add more yeast nutrient after an additional amount of time...
Please read the FAQs on Honey fermntation concerns, Optimization, and Staggered Nutrients...
Quote:
...Red Star says 59-86 and my fermenter was at 64-65 -- well it's some combination of all these, surely?...
Regardless of the yeast's low-end limit, I always tend to ferment in the 67-71°F range with higher gravity musts.
Quote:
One thing I guess I don't understand the part about a lack of nitrogen and adding DAP. The yeast nutrient I used was Fermaid-K which lists DAP as an ingredient. Did I need additional DAP in addition to the Fermaid-K pitching schedule?
Short answer is yes. Again read the Staggered nutrient addition FAQ.
Quote:
What I didn't use was a yeast energizer during rehydration...
And you should not have used it - read the Rehydration FAQ.
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I believe I have some pH strips tucked away. If I measure the pH of the mead how can I determine how much potassium carbonate should be added to buffer it back to an appropriate level (3.6-3.8)?
pH strips do not last forever. They have a shelf life and are often misread. I believe I indicated a safe amount of potassium carb/bicarb to add in my earlier reply... Also, I do not worry about adjusting pH to some specific level. I have found the 5-6 g addition to do just fine. You can easily overdo it when trying to "hit" a specific value.
Quote:
Any issue with pitching a different yeast for re-starting? It turns out I actually don't have the same yeast on hand, but a friend offered an extra vial of WPL715.
I would recommend using the yeast strains noted in my FAQ as they are best choices for dealing with stuck fermentations. WLP715 may be ok, but I have not used it for that purpose as I only use dry yeast strains for mead (at least so far...).
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Old 11-24-2009, 09:43 PM   #6
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Yeast nutrient is NOT yeast energizer.
Yeast nutrient, at least most brands, are vitamins and minerals. TRACE elements.

Energizer is pretty much always Di-ammonium Phosphate, DAP, and is pretty much pure nitrogen and phosphorus. Not exactly macro nutrients, but they are very important.

Mead that had no fruit or added juice really needs the energizer. Nutrient is good too, but the energizer can be crucial.

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Old 11-24-2009, 11:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Yeast nutrient is NOT yeast energizer. Yeast nutrient, at least most brands, are vitamins and minerals. TRACE elements...
Very true, which is why supplemental nitrogen (in the form of DAP) is essential (IMO) for honey-based fermentation.

The key is to add these compounds in stages, at the appropriate time, and in reasonable amounts - the basis of a staggered nutrient addition protocol.

I should mention that Fermaid-K is one of the few commercial nutrients (Superfood is another) that also adds urea-free nitrogen; and moreover, identifies the amount of nitrogen added such that one may calculate (and control) its nitrogen contribution.

No other commercial nutrient that I know of can make those claims...
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Old 07-21-2010, 07:57 PM   #8
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An old thread, but I thought I would wrap it up:

We first de-gassed the mead with a vacuum pump. I'm not sure this was actually necessary though too much CO2 or other gasses in solution can inhibit fermentation, and I don't think it can cause harm (plus it was very awesome to watch).

Then the pH was measured at ~2.8-3.0 and we brought it up to ~3.8-4.0 with the addition of potassium carbonate, then added 3g of DAP and agitated to re-suspend the existing yeast. However, fermentation didn't start back up after 2-3 days.
Meanwhile a starter had already been prepared with 2 packets EC-1118, yeast nutrient, energizer, etc. and fed with honey over those few days. We put the starter in a sanitized and purged 6gal carboy and the mead was added in slowly over several days. Essentially we followed the stuck fermentation guidelines in the FAQ to the letter, though at the "you may add the entire volume of mead" step we added 1/3, then the remaining 2/3 in 2 days after fermentation kicked back off. Vigorous fermentation proceeded, and after 2 weeks the gravity had dropped to 1.015 and proceeded down to a FG of ~.995 which should be ~16-17% ABV (very happy with the performance of EC-1118!).
After it cleared - I cheated a bit by cold conditioning it - we degassed again and bottled it in early spring in 750ml wine bottles, it tasted quite good, dry, still, but quite "hot" alcohol bite at bottling. We just cracked open the first bottle last weekend to celebrate a friend's wedding and while it's still a bit too hot for my tastes it's mellowed quite a bit and is very good. If I'm a good boy I will probably open another bottle at Christmas, but I'm really looking forward to how this one ages.

Thanks for all the help, everyone!

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Old 12-27-2010, 02:57 AM   #9
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Did you open that Christmas bottle? I've got a stuck Braggot that I'm looking to fix. My pH (if the paper was good) was 4.4. I added Nutrient but no energizer. I'm going to add Fermaid K or pitch on a yeast cake of WY1056. Haven't decided which.

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Old 12-27-2010, 05:26 AM   #10
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I've made all my meads with EC-118 so far everyone regardless of starting O.G. has went to 1 or below!

The first one was 5 gallons with 18 lbs wild flower honey and EC-118. It's nearing a year old and I've drank have of it! Stopping now haha! After a year it too is still quite "hot"!

I added apples and cinnamon to this one so I'm gonna stay out of it till next christmas and see how it changes!

Mead is very exciting!!

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