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Old 07-06-2012, 03:20 AM   #1
SoberMonk
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Default Worst stuck fermentation mead EVER!

So now I am seeking the help of a higher power, this forum. We started the mead (sweet mead) with 15 lbs of wildflower honey. Our flavor additive was cocoa nibs (2 lbs). We added yeast nutrient, chilled, added yeast, oxygenated and started primary. It fermented, fast! We pulled it two weeks later and all the sugar had fermented off and there was barely any recognizable chocolate flavor so we added 5 lbs of honey and 1 more lb of cocoa plus some bakers chocolate, as well as some additional yeast (champagne). It fermented for a few days but seems to slow way down. We were assuming it was just putting along. We decided to leave it for a month, naively believing we would have a good product if we waited. When we pulled it, it was sweet, really sweet, like it hadn't fermented at all.

Over the next couple months we tried a myriad of different boosters. A little honey with pitched yeast and extra yeast nutrient; a little more flavoring and yeast with some calcium chloride to try and balance pH; pitching yeast and yeast energizer into some pasteurized malt extract to see if the yeast would latch on to the sucrose then continue on to the fructose. Nothing worked even a little bit. Unfortunately I'm ready to give up at this point. It has a little alcohol from primary but it's so sweet right now it's almost not drinkable. It's a damn shame though because it has so much sugar in it and has so much potential to be great but for the life of me I cannot figure this one out.

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Old 07-06-2012, 03:29 AM   #2
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Holy crap! That's a lot of cocoa nibs!!

What's the batch size?

Did you take hydrometer readings?

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Old 07-06-2012, 03:39 AM   #3
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batch size is roughly 5 gallons. The reason I kept adding cocao nibs is because it would clarify and I wouldn't even get a hint of flavor from them, even when added to fermentation. And no, I don't ever take hydrometer readings. I never have. But if I had to guess, I'd say for obvious reasons it's pretty high right now.

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Old 07-06-2012, 12:23 PM   #4
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Spend $10 and buy a hydrometer. Otherwise, everything is just a guess.

After the initial ferment with 15 lbs, you said "all the sugar had fermented off", which would give you about 15% ABV. After the second ferment with 5 lbs, you say it's like it hadn't fermented at all. My guess is it fermented just fine, but you added too much honey. 20 lbs honey in 5 gallons has a potential for about 20% ABV. Very, very few yeasts will go that high. My guess is that the yeast died out when they reached their alcohol tolerance during the second fermentation leaving unfermented honey.

You could add water to lower the ABV and then add new yeast. I'd suggest EC-1118.

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Old 07-06-2012, 12:29 PM   #5
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Best place to start is to take a hydrometer reading, this will tell you exactly where you are & how far you need to go. The ABV might be at or beyond the yeasts tolerance. After that, I think I'd add a little boiled & cooled water, try a pint to start with (you can always add more later) & give it a GENTLE stir; you certainly don't want to introduce oxygen at this point. The water will reduce the alcohol & allow the yeast to resume their activity. The trick is to add small amounts of water & wait to see if it works. You can always add more water, but once added, you can't remove it. I've used this technique with a cyser with good results.
Regards, GF.

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Old 07-06-2012, 01:03 PM   #6
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That's a lot of honey for a 5-gallon batch.

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Old 07-06-2012, 01:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoberMonk View Post
We added yeast nutrient, chilled, added yeast, oxygenated and started primary. It fermented, fast! We pulled it two weeks later andphase all the sugar had fermented off and there was barely any recognizable chocolate flavor
Ok, so to echo the others, first step get a hydrometer, an OG is the best place to start....

What yeast did you use? this is real important at this step.

I'm guessing if you're saying all of the sugar fermented out, it tasted hot, dry, no sweetness, bitter but not chocolatey?

Chances are at that point it wasn't stuck, it was done and finished dry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoberMonk View Post
so we added 5 lbs of honey and 1 more lb of cocoa plus some bakers chocolate, as well as some additional yeast (champagne). It fermented for a few days but seems to slow way down. .
Could Have reached the alcohol tolerance of the yeast, above you infered all the sugar was gone so the ferment was probably done, all sugar became alcohol, then added more sugar and yeast, it burned through what it could, made some more alcohol then stressed and got pickled when it reached its tolerance level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoberMonk View Post
We were assuming it was just putting along. We decided to leave it for a month, naively believing we would have a good product if we waited. When we pulled it, it was sweet, really sweet, like it hadn't fermented at all. .
Again perhaps it was the alcohol level at this point you maxed out the abv% the yeasties could handle, it got drunk, stop eating and died off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoberMonk View Post
Over the next couple months we tried a myriad of different boosters. A little honey with pitched yeast and extra yeast nutrient; a little more flavoring and yeast with some calcium chloride to try and balance pH; pitching yeast and yeast energizer into some pasteurized malt extract to see if the yeast would latch on to the sucrose then continue on to the fructose..
Alright so you've been making sugary syrup instead of mead, (just for reference honey isnt just fructose, it has as much glucose and in smaller amounts maltose and sucrose predominantly then a bunch of other sugars at fractional quantities) don't give up yet.

First, go spend $8 on a hydrometer instead of more fermentables.

Second. one thing I didnt see mentioned was aeration.....daily or better, multiple times a day for the first 1/3 of fermentation (3days to a week if still holding out on the hydrometer) shake/stir/swirl the bejesus out of it during those times.

However, It still sounds as if you were done fermenting after your primary, in which case you could have stabilized and back sweetened if you wanted some sweetness then let it age for the alcohol flavor to mellow and the chocolate flavor of the nibs to come out as iot takes aging for that to happen (sometimes a long time)

as you were adding sugar, yeast, sugar, nutrients, sugar....there reached a point that there was more alcohol and way more sugar than the yeast could handle. It hit your must and shriveled up (possibly dormant not dead). (please look into a hydrometer)

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoberMonk View Post
Nothing worked even a little bit. Unfortunately I'm ready to give up at this point. It has a little alcohol from primary but it's so sweet right now it's almost not drinkable. It's a damn shame though because it has so much sugar in it and has so much potential to be great but for the life of me I cannot figure this one out.

Help me Oh Wise Forum! You're my only Hope.
Ok so here is my suggestion, im sure there will be others and maybe some that are even better but I think this may work.

1. GO BUY A HYDROMETER

2. go get a hydrometer

3. get yourself a hydrometer

4. Take a hydrometer reading, just a guess but with that much sugar you could be way off the high limit of the hydrometer.

5. move your must into a vessel like a large sanitized pot (split in half or more if needed to accomidate the volume)

6. clean and sanitize your fermenter

7. start adding water to your must in small increments, you can heat it (the water NOT the must) to 80-90 degrees F (slightly over room temp) to get it mixed in with the sugars, but do it slowly, checking the hydrometer readings until it is down to a managable (at this point I'd say shoot for 1.100) reading in the pot (or each pot if you used multiple).

8. When it is all at or very close to that reading take a sanitized spoon or wire wisk and have at it, whip the He!! out of it, aerate/oxygenate/take months of frustrations out on it...At this point you are basically starting with a fresh batch of must that already has some yeast, nutrient and alcohol in it and it's going to either now or at another step go through a whole new primary fermentation, eliminating the worry of oxidation right now.

9. Return it to your shiny clean sanitized fermentation vessel, airlock it and let it sit for 24 hours.

10. Report back here how it looks, smells and what the exact hydrometer reading curently is.

11. Shake it up again after that 24 hours, then again every 12 hours

12. after 3-4 days of this, take a sample and a hydrometer reading....

13. Report back here if anything has changed about look, color, smell, taste and most importantly the hydrometer reading.

If theory is right the diluting will bring the sugar and any alcohol level down into a range that any residual yeast can handle. Being as you've added so much yeast and nutrient already, thinning it down some and introducing some oxygen, and getting out any remaining disolved CO2 will hopefully bring all that back to life, without adding more of either.

IF NOT...don't despair, now you will have a managable must that other steps can be taken, start with simple though and lets see what happens.

(p.s. lets get it fermented then can discuss adding some more flavor to it if you want, right now DONT add anything but water)
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Old 07-06-2012, 03:17 PM   #8
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Did anyone suggest getting a hydrometer?

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Old 07-06-2012, 05:37 PM   #9
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There's such a thing as over-managing your fermentation...

The first solution to what you think might be an incomplete ferm should not be "let's throw more random chemicals at it and see what happens...."

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Old 07-06-2012, 07:50 PM   #10
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Ok, So aside from the suggestions of hydrometer that EVERYBODY is giving you. Here is some information on chocolate.

1. It takes a LONG time to age. You flavors will not come out that much until after that aging.
2. You will most likely never have a clear batch.
3. you have way too much chocolate dispite your honey volume. For a biter dark chocolate they list 80% chocolate or so, some have 75%. This is the chocolate to sugar ratio. Hershies chocolate bars have as low as 35% coco in it. The sugar brings the chocolate from bitter to more tasteable.
4. I didn't see that you added any vanilla. Vanilla will round out the chocolate falvor to bring it to the foreground.
5. I usually do not put the chocolate in the primary. Seconday additions are better.

My suggestions for you:

1. Split the batch in two, water down by 1 1/2 gallons each. Once it is racked, thined down a bit and aeriated again it may start fermenting, if it doesn't then hit it up with a packet of yeast, I recomend D47. But it may not be neccessary.
2. Put 2-3 vanilla beans in it for 1 1/2 months.
3. Put in some medium oak or light toasted oak for a month or so. This should smooth the mead out a bit. Medium toast oak should go well with the chocolate flavor.

Matrix

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