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Old 01-25-2010, 11:04 PM   #1
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Default Apparent slow start on my first mead

I made a 2.5gal batch in a 3gal carboy of Chief Niwot's Mead (recipe from Papazain's book, just cut it in half). This is my first attempt at making mead, and I'm excited.

Here's the deal... I added 1 tspn. Brewcraft Yeast Energizer to the must. But then I find out that energizer isn't necessarily the same thing as nutrient. The OG was 1.100. It took 2 days before the airlock started bubbling, and there was originally a lot of sediment on the bottom of the carboy, which looked like the yeast slurry. I pitched at 75* with 1 packet Redstar Champagne Yeast.

The closet I'm fermenting in was at more of an ale temp, about 68* when I put the carboy in there. After a day or two I turned up the heat a little in there to bring it around 73* and that is when the airlock started showing activity, but it is still not very vigorous, and there is still lots of sediment on the bottom (although visibly less than before, so it gives me hope that some of the yeast has gone active).

I've fermented high OG stuff (Apfelwein) with this yeast before and gotten much more vigorous signs of fermentation, including lots of little bubbles in the liquid. None of those now. It's been going for 4 days now.

Anyway, long story short, should I get some yeast NUTRIENT and add it now? Should I raise the temp a little more? Pitch another packet of yeast? Should I add more yeast energizer?

Or should I just leave it alone?

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Old 01-25-2010, 11:38 PM   #2
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You'll have to forgive me but I don't recall the specifics of the recipe and I don't have my copy of Mr. Papazian's book handy at the moment. As I recall, it uses some acid additions at the beginning, and that is a reliable way to slow down a mead. During fermentation the pH tends to drop, and adding acid at the beginning often exacerbates this tendency.

First I'd check the current gravity, if it is dropping steadily, then do not worry.

It it is dropping very slowly, check the pH. If the pH is below 3.2, you probably need to adjust it up to about 3.3-3.4 and that will usually get things going.

Yeast energizers may have about half the available nitrogen of yeast nutrient (DAP). Depending on how much you used, you might need a bit more. Adding nutrients also tends to bump the pH up a little which might be helpful.

Raising the temp my get you a harsher result with more fusel alcohols. More yeast aren't needed.

I hope that helps.

Medsen

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Old 01-25-2010, 11:51 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I decided against using the acid blend that the recipe suggested, but I did use gypsum.

I think I will add 1tspn of the same energizer and swirl/shake the carboy a bunch to try and rouse the yeast on the bottom and see what happens.

If that doesn't do it I'll check the gravity. I think I have some pH strips somewhere.

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Old 01-26-2010, 12:26 AM   #4
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Gypsum also cause the pH to drop as the calcium displaces hydrogen ions from proteins and organic acids, so generally speaking, it doesn't help much with mead making.

Whenever you question how fast a mead is going, check the gravity. Bubbling is notoriously unreliable as an indicator of fermentation activity. Bucket lids, airlocks, and stoppers all leak and you can see no bubbling but still have a healthy rate of fermentation. You can't tell if you have a problem without checking the gravity.

How much energizer did you previously add?
If the gravity is above 1.067, I'd also aerate the must.

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Old 01-26-2010, 02:01 AM   #5
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Thanks, all good information to know. It's early but adding the energizer and shaking/swirling the carboy seems to have helped. I will take a reading soon.

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Old 01-26-2010, 08:34 PM   #6
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Took gravity reading today... 1.071, this is after 5 days. Is that worrisome? Visible signs of fermentation (airlock/bubbles in the must) have not changed much since yesterday when I added energizer.

I shook/swirled the must pretty well when adding the yeast energizer so I think it got aerated yesterday. I couldn't find any pH strips to test it, unfortunately. I do know that I have pretty soft water, though.

Here's the recipe...

6.5lbs orange blossom honey
1/2 tspn gypsum
1/2 whirlfloc tablet
1tspn yeast energizer (1tspn more added after 4 days)
1 packet partially rehydrated redstar champagne yeast

Boiled for 15 mins, cooled to about 75*, added energizer, pitched yeast, aerated must by swirling vigorously for a minute or two.

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Old 01-26-2010, 08:54 PM   #7
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Dropping 6 gravity points per day isn't too bad for a traditional mead. You mentioned your apple batch had been much faster, and this is often the case as yeast love apples. With a traditional mead, the signs of fermentation tend to be less vigorous.

You've added a little more than 3 grams per gallon of yeast energizer (rough estimate), which is still a bit light. I can't say for sure what the YAN content is of the energizer you are using, but if it is similar to Fermaid K, then you've got a little more than 75 ppm nitrogen plus whatever amount is in the honey (10-20 ppm max). Your yeast will probably be happier with another 50-75 ppm so you might want to to think about adding another 1.5 tsp.

If it sticks (or slows way down) the pH will need to be checked, but at the moment, it sounds like you are on your way to some good mead.

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Old 01-26-2010, 09:08 PM   #8
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I agree with Medsen.

Hit it one more time with a little energizer (or better yet, nutrient & DAP if you have it)

You're at about 30% sugar depletion, which is right where hightest recommends the 3rd and final staggered nutrient addition (check out his FAQ's if you haven't yet).

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Old 01-26-2010, 09:15 PM   #9
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Thanks! I will add some more energizer and RDWHAHB.

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Old 02-01-2010, 09:40 PM   #10
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Took another reading today, SG down to 1.045 (11th day), so that is good. Going to leave it alone now for awhile, it seems to be doing just fine.

Thanks for the tips everyone.

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