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Old 01-04-2006, 08:30 AM   #1
Blackbyrd2
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Default No fermentation. My recipe at fault?

In an effort to increase the alcohol content of my mead, I modified my recipe, and now I have two carboys sitting nice and quiet.

The only changes I made were to increase the amount of honey, and to substitute fruit juice (from concentrate in one case, and fresh cider in the other) for the water.

So;
1/2 gal black cherry juice (listed on the jug as 'from concentrate)
(no preservatives, no artificial anything. Just black cherry juice)
1 gal berry honey
heated to 180 degrees
cooled to approx 70-75 degrees
poured into carboy, yeast added, airlocked
This was this last Saturday. I thought perhaps the issue was the large amount of airspace in the carboy (3 gallon) but I'm almost certain now, there's no fermentation happening.

1 gallon fresh apple cider (from a local farm)
(confirmed no additives, and is very pulpy, but I didn't shake the jug before adding, so lots of fluidity)
1 1/2 gals clover honey
heated to 180 degrees, cooled to 70-75, poured into carboy, yeast added
Again, there's a decent sized air space at the top, but I'm pretty sure it's not cooking.

I recently made batches with roughly equal parts of apple juice, honey and water. That percolated just fine.

So, is it the lack of actual water? I would have thought the water in the juice would have been enough.
The honey mixed in well enough. No difficulty in dissolving it.
I skimmed the little bit of foam that developed off while it cooled, but that's more of a flavor/aesthetic choice, I believe

I have a similar mix of pomengranate mead;
1.4 qts pom juice,
a solid two qts plus of honey, and a bit of water to top to 1 gallon.
It's cooking right along, although it was slightly warmer when I added the yeast.

Is the temp too low? Can I add a starter to the mix tomorrow and still have drinkable mead? (Will the juice spoil, or is it hazardous to use with no fermentation happening for 3-4 days? I'd hate to have to toss roughly $100 worth of honey and juice if it can be safely salvaged.)

Any help from more seasoned vets is appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 01-04-2006, 08:50 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackbyrd2
In an effort to increase the alcohol content of my mead, I modified my recipe, and now I have two carboys sitting nice and quiet.

The only changes I made were to increase the amount of honey, and to substitute fruit juice (from concentrate in one case, and fresh cider in the other) for the water.

So;
1/2 gal black cherry juice (listed on the jug as 'from concentrate)
(no preservatives, no artificial anything. Just black cherry juice)
1 gal berry honey
heated to 180 degrees
cooled to approx 70-75 degrees
poured into carboy, yeast added, airlocked
This was this last Saturday. I thought perhaps the issue was the large amount of airspace in the carboy (3 gallon) but I'm almost certain now, there's no fermentation happening.

1 gallon fresh apple cider (from a local farm)
(confirmed no additives, and is very pulpy, but I didn't shake the jug before adding, so lots of fluidity)
1 1/2 gals clover honey
heated to 180 degrees, cooled to 70-75, poured into carboy, yeast added
Again, there's a decent sized air space at the top, but I'm pretty sure it's not cooking.

I recently made batches with roughly equal parts of apple juice, honey and water. That percolated just fine.

So, is it the lack of actual water? I would have thought the water in the juice would have been enough.
The honey mixed in well enough. No difficulty in dissolving it.
I skimmed the little bit of foam that developed off while it cooled, but that's more of a flavor/aesthetic choice, I believe

I have a similar mix of pomengranate mead;
1.4 qts pom juice,
a solid two qts plus of honey, and a bit of water to top to 1 gallon.
It's cooking right along, although it was slightly warmer when I added the yeast.

Is the temp too low? Can I add a starter to the mix tomorrow and still have drinkable mead? (Will the juice spoil, or is it hazardous to use with no fermentation happening for 3-4 days? I'd hate to have to toss roughly $100 worth of honey and juice if it can be safely salvaged.)

Any help from more seasoned vets is appreciated. Thanks.

Sounds like your Specific Gravity is too high. What was it? What kind of yeast did you use? What was the temp you pitched the yeast at? Did you aerate the must? 1 gallon of honey is about 11 pounds of honey i think. How many gallons are you making? I need a little more info then i can help you. If you want to increase the alcohol in your mead you have to condition the yeast slowly, by adding a little more honey to the must every other day so that the yeast dont go into shock and quick working. Did you add yeast nutrient? Cheers
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Old 01-04-2006, 12:36 PM   #3
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I didn't measure the specific gravity, so I don't have a number for you, but this sounds like a likely issue. I wasn't aware that it could be too much honey, but it seemed likely it was the recipe somehow.

I added the yeast directly to the carboy when I poured the must in. The temp at that time was approx 70 degrees F.
The ingredients listed are the only things I added, with the exception of a splash of lemon juice for the apple version. There was virtually no loss to steam, so the apple mix was roughly 2.5 gals total. The B Cherry was 1.5 gals total.

I didn't aerate the must, and wouldn't know how?
I didn't add any yeast nutrient.
The packages of yeast. Hm. Believe it was a champagne yeast. Yellow package, but I can't recall the brand right now. (I'm not at home.)
I do know that I split a package of yeast for the pom blend and the B cherry blend, so I know the yeast was fresh and viable when it went in.

It sounds like I ought to pull the makings out, add a gallon of water or two, heat it up again, and try it again? Once again though, my concern at this point would be safety, (and flavor, of course) being as it's been airlocked in the carboy at room temp for three days.

Thanks!

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Old 01-04-2006, 05:29 PM   #4
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There is a limit to how much osmotic pressure yeast can work against. Very high (above about 1.120) gravities will either kill the yeast or result in extremely slow ferments. Borrowing a trick from distilling, ferment with about 1/2 the sugar/honey, then add the extra sugar with more yeast.

If you have room in the carboys, make a large starter with a gallon of straight apple juice and more yeast. Give it two days and pitch it, 1/2 to each carboy.

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Old 01-04-2006, 10:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackbyrd2
I didn't measure the specific gravity, so I don't have a number for you, but this sounds like a likely issue. I wasn't aware that it could be too much honey, but it seemed likely it was the recipe somehow.

I added the yeast directly to the carboy when I poured the must in. The temp at that time was approx 70 degrees F.
The ingredients listed are the only things I added, with the exception of a splash of lemon juice for the apple version. There was virtually no loss to steam, so the apple mix was roughly 2.5 gals total. The B Cherry was 1.5 gals total.

I didn't aerate the must, and wouldn't know how?
I didn't add any yeast nutrient.
The packages of yeast. Hm. Believe it was a champagne yeast. Yellow package, but I can't recall the brand right now. (I'm not at home.)
I do know that I split a package of yeast for the pom blend and the B cherry blend, so I know the yeast was fresh and viable when it went in.

It sounds like I ought to pull the makings out, add a gallon of water or two, heat it up again, and try it again? Once again though, my concern at this point would be safety, (and flavor, of course) being as it's been airlocked in the carboy at room temp for three days.

Thanks!
to aerate shake the crap out of it. cause splashing.
Add yeast nutrient and yeast enegizer
Add more water and take a hydrometer reading. If you dont have one, get one.
A medium sweet mead will have about 15 pound of honey per 5 gallons or 3 pounds per gallon.
Dont touch the must, let it stay right where it is and put in some camdem tablets just in case bacteria is try to grow, and let it sit for a day and next day pitch the yeast.
Aerate right before you pitch the yeast.
hope this helps. I have the book the compleat meadmaker, and about 7 other books on the subject so ask me any questions you may have.
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Old 01-05-2006, 01:26 AM   #6
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OK. Last night, (or was it very early this am? If so, before 3:30, anyway) I added a bit of bottled water to each of them. Not a lot, maybe a quart or so. This was before reading any responses. This probably aerated it a bit, and probably also lowered the specific gravity just a smidge- apparently just enough.

Today when I got home from work, I have bubbles from both carboys. Yay! Slow right now, but of course it would be. It's been less than 24 since they started actually working.

So. I think I'll likely pass on building a starter and adding it, and keep this info in mind for my next batch. I'm sure these two will eventually take off.

Now for the part where I feel like a complete n00b. I have no idea how I'd take a hydromter reading inside the carboy,unless I wanted to leave the hyrdometer in there until racking. :P If you know a trick for this, I'd be appreciative.

Thanks for the offer, usmcruz. I'm going to take you up on it right now.

Now that it's working, I'm thinking buying and adding the camdem tabs is not a great idea? Should I do anything down the road?

This has actually been one of my biggest concerns when brewing. I don't have a corker, and have been using tee (sp?) corks. (The ones with the plastic tops.) Every time I cork a bottle and lay it on its side, in the hopes that the cork will expand and really seal that sucker tight, the cork gets pushed out (obviously corking too soon.) Then I get nervous about corking it after I'm pretty sure it's done cooking.

Should I leave my meads in the carboys (after siphoning off from one to another to clear out the sediment, etc) for months after they 'finish' cooking? Should I just leave them inside the original carboys for months at a time after they 'finish' cooking?

I was under the impression that they were usually pretty safe to cork at about one bubble per 3-4 minutes, but I've seen them gurgle all over my kitchen floor after corking at this point, so now I'm racking them into another jug, leaving them for another week or two to insure no more bubbles, and then racking into wine bottles, and leaving them upright. I think now I'm being TOO cautious, yes?

Finally, I've read that meads ought to be stored for a year or three to age and mellow. I'm assuming this means after the final racking and corking? Or are we talking about a year or three in the carboys? How does this happen, and what kinds of things can I do to improve the flavor during this process?

I've had very strong meads, and am not all that enamored of them. Frequently they have a metallic taste to them.
Light / quick meads are tastier, but I need a higher alcohol content for the target audience.
Is there something which can be done to avoid this aftertaste? I haven't run across it yet in my own meads, but the two previous experiments were very light in the alcohol content area, and I'm a little nervous. The ones I ran across were by relatively experienced brewers.
(This batch is for a special function, and will actually be served fairly 'green.' I'm hoping the fruit juices help make it palatable. It will likely be done cooking, but just.)

Thanks for all the help, folks. I know some of these questions may be old news to you, and probably do wonders to display my ignorance, but hopefully I'll only make my mistakes once.

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Old 01-05-2006, 12:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackbyrd2
OK. Last night, (or was it very early this am? If so, before 3:30, anyway) I added a bit of bottled water to each of them. Not a lot, maybe a quart or so. This was before reading any responses. This probably aerated it a bit, and probably also lowered the specific gravity just a smidge- apparently just enough.

Today when I got home from work, I have bubbles from both carboys. Yay! Slow right now, but of course it would be. It's been less than 24 since they started actually working.

So. I think I'll likely pass on building a starter and adding it, and keep this info in mind for my next batch. I'm sure these two will eventually take off.

Now for the part where I feel like a complete n00b. I have no idea how I'd take a hydromter reading inside the carboy,unless I wanted to leave the hyrdometer in there until racking. :P If you know a trick for this, I'd be appreciative.

Thanks for the offer, usmcruz. I'm going to take you up on it right now.

Now that it's working, I'm thinking buying and adding the camdem tabs is not a great idea? Should I do anything down the road?

This has actually been one of my biggest concerns when brewing. I don't have a corker, and have been using tee (sp?) corks. (The ones with the plastic tops.) Every time I cork a bottle and lay it on its side, in the hopes that the cork will expand and really seal that sucker tight, the cork gets pushed out (obviously corking too soon.) Then I get nervous about corking it after I'm pretty sure it's done cooking.

Should I leave my meads in the carboys (after siphoning off from one to another to clear out the sediment, etc) for months after they 'finish' cooking? Should I just leave them inside the original carboys for months at a time after they 'finish' cooking?

I was under the impression that they were usually pretty safe to cork at about one bubble per 3-4 minutes, but I've seen them gurgle all over my kitchen floor after corking at this point, so now I'm racking them into another jug, leaving them for another week or two to insure no more bubbles, and then racking into wine bottles, and leaving them upright. I think now I'm being TOO cautious, yes?

Finally, I've read that meads ought to be stored for a year or three to age and mellow. I'm assuming this means after the final racking and corking? Or are we talking about a year or three in the carboys? How does this happen, and what kinds of things can I do to improve the flavor during this process?

I've had very strong meads, and am not all that enamored of them. Frequently they have a metallic taste to them.
Light / quick meads are tastier, but I need a higher alcohol content for the target audience.
Is there something which can be done to avoid this aftertaste? I haven't run across it yet in my own meads, but the two previous experiments were very light in the alcohol content area, and I'm a little nervous. The ones I ran across were by relatively experienced brewers.
(This batch is for a special function, and will actually be served fairly 'green.' I'm hoping the fruit juices help make it palatable. It will likely be done cooking, but just.)

Thanks for all the help, folks. I know some of these questions may be old news to you, and probably do wonders to display my ignorance, but hopefully I'll only make my mistakes once.
Stop!!! Do not put the cambden tablets in there now it will kill the yeast. Let it go, and use the cambden tablets for future recipes. You can easily take a hydrometer reading from a carboy using what is called a "wine Thief", your hydrometer will go into the wine thief and you can take a reading like that. When your done taking a reading you touch the tip of the wine thief to the inside of the carboy and it places the sample back into the carboy. A must have tool I suggest. The secondary is a good place to leave your mead for months. The primary has too much sediment to leave your mead on. It will cause off flavors. Your not being too cautious. I would wait till there is a confirmed no activity in the fermenter. Otherwise you will have exploding bottles. Flick the airlock and if a bubble comes out then dont bottle. Repeat every so often till there is no activity. You can age the mead in a carboy or a bottle, but i would probably age them in the wine bottles if your not aging your mead with oak or anything that needs time for flavors to extract because every so often you can pop one open to see where its at in the aging process, but if you wanted to you can age in the carboy with no ill effects. As for the metallic taste, what pots are you using, are they aluminum, are you adding additional sugar like corn sugar. Allot of thing cause a metallic taste especially meads with a high alcohol content because it throws off the balance of the mead. A acid blend might help with this problems. I found that when i make my meads with a high alcohol content i add rasberries to the secondary or any other fruit of your choice to balance the alcohol and the flavors. You could also add spices and what not. The aftertaste's come from what i call a hot fermentation. I found that when i ferment the mead towards the lower temp threshold of that particular strain but not too low, i get a better tasting mead. Just like beer, if you ferment at higher temps of an ale yeast you get off flavors. This applies to meads as well. I hope i answered all your questions, but if not then send them my way. Cheers
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Old 01-09-2006, 01:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usmcruz
Stop!!! Do not put the cambden tablets in there now it will kill the yeast. Let it go, and use the cambden tablets for future recipes. You can easily take a hydrometer reading from a carboy using what is called a "wine Thief", your hydrometer will go into the wine thief and you can take a reading like that. When your done taking a reading you touch the tip of the wine thief to the inside of the carboy and it places the sample back into the carboy. A must have tool I suggest. The secondary is a good place to leave your mead for months. The primary has too much sediment to leave your mead on. It will cause off flavors. Your not being too cautious. I would wait till there is a confirmed no activity in the fermenter. Otherwise you will have exploding bottles. Flick the airlock and if a bubble comes out then dont bottle. Repeat every so often till there is no activity. You can age the mead in a carboy or a bottle, but i would probably age them in the wine bottles if your not aging your mead with oak or anything that needs time for flavors to extract because every so often you can pop one open to see where its at in the aging process, but if you wanted to you can age in the carboy with no ill effects. As for the metallic taste, what pots are you using, are they aluminum, are you adding additional sugar like corn sugar. Allot of thing cause a metallic taste especially meads with a high alcohol content because it throws off the balance of the mead. A acid blend might help with this problems. I found that when i make my meads with a high alcohol content i add rasberries to the secondary or any other fruit of your choice to balance the alcohol and the flavors. You could also add spices and what not. The aftertaste's come from what i call a hot fermentation. I found that when i ferment the mead towards the lower temp threshold of that particular strain but not too low, i get a better tasting mead. Just like beer, if you ferment at higher temps of an ale yeast you get off flavors. This applies to meads as well. I hope i answered all your questions, but if not then send them my way. Cheers
Just to bring you up to speed;
Have not yet purchased a wine thief, but it's on my list of things to get.

I'm certain that the original specific gravity on the apple mead was well over 1.16, possibly even over the 1.20, as I have made a new batch with a 1:1:1 mix of honey, apple cider and water, and it comes out at 1.15, roughly.
The original batch is cooking right along since I added the water, with a bubble every 3-4 seconds, which is great. However, I notice it's settled into two distinct layers. I believe the lower layer is mostly honey, (based primarily on color and the fact that honey is denser, and likely to settle out in a super-saturated solution)which means I'm actually probably just fermenting the top half, with just a little help from the lower half.
I'm going to let it cook until it quits, siphon off the top half, and then sample out each of the layers, and see what I have then. My guess is that I'm going to have to blend the lower half with a fresh batch of water/juice, and see if I can get it to mix.

The metallic tastes I mentioned weren't from any of my meads, but from those produced by others, so I can't answer as to what was done with them. I'm glad to hear about the 'hot ferment' issue though. I'll keep that in mind as I proceed.
Also, the "adding fruit juices" is basically why I went with the flavored meads to begin with; I hoped to soften the flavor a bit. I'll let you know how it works in a couple months.

I've a feeling the meads I'm making right now will end up with fairly high alcohol contents, so I may run into taste issues there. At this point, it's hard to say, so I'll also let you know about that in a couple months as well.

Thanks again for all the helpful advice.
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Old 02-26-2006, 10:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackbyrd2
However, I notice it's settled into two distinct layers. I believe the lower layer is mostly honey, (based primarily on color and the fact that honey is denser, and likely to settle out in a super-saturated solution)which means I'm actually probably just fermenting the top half, with just a little help from the lower half.
I'm going to let it cook until it quits, siphon off the top half, and then sample out each of the layers, and see what I have then. My guess is that I'm going to have to blend the lower half with a fresh batch of water/juice, and see if I can get it to mix.
UPDATE time:

One carboy, which had settled into two distinct layers (see quote) is still cooking.
The fluid in the upper half is very clear, very light yellow. The lower half is (and has always been) darker, more like honey. It's got a bloom in it, under a layer of sediment which I assume is a yeast layer.

Another carboy, with similar mix, but with water added (see original post) has virtually stopped cooking, and is nowhere near as light in color, nor does it have layers.
The Pomengranate mead had a split layer effect as well, but has settled out at about 3 1/2 qts out of a gallon of mead. I racked it off, and it's done cooking. I'm letting it clarify now.

Finally, the Black Cherry mead is nearly done cooking too, and will be racked off into a secondary in a week or so, after I empty out the Pom. (Btw, it's too dark to see where the layers are, or where the sediment sits. I think I'll end up filtering this one.)


My question is about the first carboy I mentioned, with the very light yellow fluid on top.

My theory is that the lower half is probably mostly honey, and the bloom is yeast. As it creates alcohol, the alcohol rises, being lighter. Thus, the yeast doesn't die, and the upper half is just getting stronger and stronger. I think it's probably like a cider by now, and less like mead.

However, if I'm wrong, then maybe it's not something good growing in that lower half, and taste testing the top half might kill me or make me sick.

Has anyone ever had anything like this happen with their mead?
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Apple mead, moderate; .5 gal bottled (Dec 05)
Apple mead, moderate; 2.75 gals bottled Apr 06. 1 gal left.
Apple mead, strong; 3 gals racked, turned out great.
B Cherry mead, strong; 1.75 gals bottled Apr 06 .5 gal left
Pomengranate mead, moderate; 3 fifths bottled. (Mar 06) 1 fifth left
Spiced Apple melomel, 3/4 gal, Jul 07
Pom melomel, strong, 3 gals, Jul 07
Peach melomel, 2 3/4 gals, Jul 07

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Old 04-09-2006, 10:13 AM   #10
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I've bottled the pomegranate, and the Black Cherry refuses to clarify, or filter, so it's going to be bottled cloudy. Tasty though.

The 'normal' apple melomel is looking loverly, and is done, I think. Bottling it in a week or so.

The 'split level' apple is still cooking. Remember, this was about the first batch I made, and it's still going. (I prepped all four batches within about 2 - 3 weeks of each other.)

I m not certain, but I think the clear layer is getting bigger, moving down the carboy. I've taken to calling it my 'engine', beause I think I could siphon off the clear, add more apple juice, and have a fresh batch cooking.
Haven't tasted it yet. Still a little worried about that bloom, but then, nobody's come screaming telling me I'll die if I taste it, either.

The pom, the BC and the apple..oooooo They're going to be tasty in about a month.

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Apple mead, moderate; .5 gal bottled (Dec 05)
Apple mead, moderate; 2.75 gals bottled Apr 06. 1 gal left.
Apple mead, strong; 3 gals racked, turned out great.
B Cherry mead, strong; 1.75 gals bottled Apr 06 .5 gal left
Pomengranate mead, moderate; 3 fifths bottled. (Mar 06) 1 fifth left
Spiced Apple melomel, 3/4 gal, Jul 07
Pom melomel, strong, 3 gals, Jul 07
Peach melomel, 2 3/4 gals, Jul 07

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