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Old 10-15-2011, 04:41 PM   #1
JohnFrum1978
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Default I'm stuck.

Started a sack mead over the summer. I used 20 lbs of clover honey, some yeast nutrient, and a package of red star champaign yeast in a 5 gallon batch. Original gravity was 1.14. I got it fermenting and left it alone for a few months. When I racked it last month it tested at 8%. Everything I'm reading says red star champaign yeast should be good for 13-18%.

So I tried repitching, making a starter from another pound of honey, yeast nutrient, and another packet of the same yeast. Nothing much happened. The guy at the homebrew shop suggested adding hungarian oak chips. I did and it started foaming and bubbling a little. Nothing spectacular. Then I put it out on the porch when we had a few warm days a week back. Stuff was definitely happening in the carboy and the airlock was going like a madman. But I just checked the gravity again just now and it read 1.08. Seems like it's still hovering around 8%.

Any suggestions? I'd like my extra 5-8 percent.

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Old 10-15-2011, 06:27 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by JohnFrum1978 View Post
Started a sack mead over the summer. I used 20 lbs of clover honey, some yeast nutrient, and a package of red star champaign yeast in a 5 gallon batch. Original gravity was 1.14. I got it fermenting and left it alone for a few months. When I racked it last month it tested at 8%. Everything I'm reading says red star champaign yeast should be good for 13-18%.

So I tried repitching, making a starter from another pound of honey, yeast nutrient, and another packet of the same yeast. Nothing much happened. The guy at the homebrew shop suggested adding hungarian oak chips. I did and it started foaming and bubbling a little. Nothing spectacular. Then I put it out on the porch when we had a few warm days a week back. Stuff was definitely happening in the carboy and the airlock was going like a madman. But I just checked the gravity again just now and it read 1.08. Seems like it's still hovering around 8%.

Any suggestions? I'd like my extra 5-8 percent.
What do "guys in homebrew shops" know of mead ? just about zero if all he could suggest was oak chips!

So, stuck ferments tend to have a couple of main issues. Either they've run out of nutrient or the pH has swung enough to stifle the yeast.

As you're more than half way through the ferment just adding more inorganic nitrogen is unlikely to help, other than have the potential of causing an after taste.

I'd suggest that you test the pH first. Below about 3.2 pH is enough to cause problems. So then it's worth giving it a good stir, because any CO2 still in solution is going to be in the form of carbonic acid, after the good stir, test the pH again, if it's still down too low, it might be time for some calcium carbonate to raise it that way.

Also, nutrient. Well as I said about it above, doesn't mean that there's nothing to be done. You can see if the home brew place keeps or can obtain FermaidO (not FermaidK, that's different), if not try yeast hulls, or if not that, then mix a couple of teaspoons of bread yeast in 100 mls of water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Let it cool to room temp and try some of that.

Now I don't know the yeast well, only used it once or twice (I try and stick to Lallemand/Lalvin products as they publish the best data/info of all the makers, for their products), but yes I do understand that it should be good for 18% tolerance.

When referring to the numbers, it's often best to use gravity, there's enough people who can decypher what's going on, plus as the ferment is still on going, you'll find that % ABV scales on some hydrometers aren't very accurate, yet a record of gravity readings will give you enough data to convert to % ABV once it's done......

Dunno if any of that's helpful for you.

If you're new to the mead lark, then here's a good link for some very well written/explained guidance.
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Old 10-23-2011, 06:04 PM   #3
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The battle continues.

So, I picked up some litmus paper and some calcium carbonate. The mead's ph tested at 3.2. Gravity is still at 1.08. I added a few teaspoons of the calcium carbonate to raise the ph, but found it wasn't budging.

So, I called the homebrew shop to ask about how much I was looking at adding. He asked me about what I was trying to achieve and a few more questions. What he left me with was that the yeast finishing was almost entirely a function of temperature. He said that no matter what I added or what I did, the mead wasn't going to do anything unless I could keep the must above 85 degrees F.

Not sure what to do from here. I'm inclined to just put it down cellar until summer comes with warmer weather. Any ideas?

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Old 10-23-2011, 06:44 PM   #4
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The battle continues.

So, I picked up some litmus paper and some calcium carbonate. The mead's ph tested at 3.2. Gravity is still at 1.08. I added a few teaspoons of the calcium carbonate to raise the ph, but found it wasn't budging.

So, I called the homebrew shop to ask about how much I was looking at adding. He asked me about what I was trying to achieve and a few more questions. What he left me with was that the yeast finishing was almost entirely a function of temperature. He said that no matter what I added or what I did, the mead wasn't going to do anything unless I could keep the must above 85 degrees F.

Not sure what to do from here. I'm inclined to just put it down cellar until summer comes with warmer weather. Any ideas?
1.080? Are you certain? Or do you mean 1.008?

And don't you dare put the mead at 85 degrees! I'll come over there and kick your butt!!!!!!
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Old 10-23-2011, 07:22 PM   #5
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Thanks for responding. The mark on the paper in the hydrometer is reading 1.080.

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Old 10-23-2011, 09:51 PM   #6
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Thanks for responding. The mark on the paper in the hydrometer is reading 1.080.
Well, stir it well to degas and aerate and consider adding some yeast nutrients. I'll find the "sticky" information on staggered additions, for reference (my memory stinks!).

Edit- here's one I was looking for: http://home.comcast.net/~mzapx1/FAQ/SNAddition.pdf

Oh, and here's hightest's info on stuck meads: http://home.comcast.net/~mzapx1/FAQ/StuckFerm.pdf
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Old 10-24-2011, 05:01 AM   #7
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I'm doing something similar in the form of a cyser.

I started with a gravity of 1.20.

I never had a problem with stuck fermentation (in fact, I'm having more of a problem stopping it and back sweetening as the yeast keeps coming back from the dead), and I've kept my must around 75-80F, and added plenty of nutrient.

From what I can see, the red star champagne yeast is very nutrient hungry, so maybe toss a handful of raisins in it and see if that helps?

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