2nd mead with Ale yeast, looking for feedback

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schilsner

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Hello!

Sort of new to mead, but been brewing beer for years.

I might have got lucky on my first attempt at mead using ale yeast (WLP California Ale Yeast).

My memory of what did for that one is a little fuzzy, but I believe I made 1 gallon of must and split it into a half gallon plain (just honey), and a half gallon Morat (with fresh mulberries), and then eyeballed some liquid yeast starter (using dme) into it. Both fermented dry (to around 1.000 ish) , and the OGs were under around 1.080-1.090ish... mulberry one was higher.

Anyway, those turned out "okay" for a half gallon each, and using ale yeast, and first attempt...I'd say they're drinking decently for about 1 year of age. So that was my first sort of 'test run'.
btw, I had read various accounts of people using ale yeasts and their experiences, but I had yet to really dig in to the more modern mead making science, SNA etc (more on that later*)

So, this year I felt like I would try it again, although make a larger batch and change some of the details around;
This time I decided to try WLP Edinburgh Scottish Ale yeast, and I made around 2.5 gallons of must with a gravity of 1.100, and about a half dozen chopped dried organic apricots, and this time I pitched close to a 1litre starter (using stirplate for around 24 hrs, nice and frothy) of this Edinburgh yeast and a pinch of DAP.

This was almost one week ago, I checked the gravity every few days, the first time I checked it was 1.070 after 3 days fermentation.
The next day 1.065, three days later it was 1.050.

In the time between first pitch and the first gravity sampling, I did enough googling and reading about SNA to lead me to come here and ask for feedback and any opinions people might have on this fermentation.

I have now read up more on what people commonly do using nutrients, staggering vs not etc... So I did add some raisins, and dissolved some more DAP in boiling water, cooled, and added to sample before added back in with no significant foaming. I have also gently swirled the carboy a few times over a few days to try and degass it. All of those things were done within the first 6 days. My plan is to take another reading on Sunday, and if it continues the trend, it ought to be between 1.030 and 1.035 (depending on time of day) as it seems it's been roughly 5 gravity points a day-ish. If it doesn't drop that much, it will have slowed fermentation even more.

Does that seem exceptionally slow as a fermentation to anyone ? I'm keeping in mind that my wee heavy Scotch ale did take a good 2 weeks to ferment to it's FG.
But I am thinking perhaps I underpitched the yeast/under fed nutrients.

If it continues at 5 pts a day, 2 weeks from brewing would be a FG of 1.010-1.015 (fwiw, White Labs does say this Edinburgh strain is suitable for "sweet meads"), and would have to be another few days to go "dry", if that's even possible with this yeast.
Given that it initially was dropping around 10pts for the first few days, it has clearly slowed a bit already.

Well, anyone have any tips or suggestions for this situation? I guess I'm wondering if anyone would advise preparing to pitch more yeast and/or adding more nutrients, but it seems that it's past the halfway mark already, and I've read that nutrient additions might not be useful after that break.

Thanks in advance for any wisdoms!
 

jtratcliff

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Bray Denard (@loveofrose ) has done some experiments using ale yeast for a fast (~1 month) turn around mead....
Nicknamed BOMM (Bray's One Month Mead)... You can find threads here and on the Got Mead forum discussing it...

Here's his personal site with his ale yeast experiments: Denard Brewing

If I recall correctly, he settled on belgian yeasts as the best tasting of the bunch...
 
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schilsner

schilsner

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I should say that one idea I had for using this mead was to make a sort of strong Braggot by blending the finished product with some other ales I've had bulk aging (one gallon of american barleywine, one gallon of my wee heavy). I know it wouldn't be a traditional braggot because it's blended after the fact. but maybe if the mead ends up really sweet it might not be so bad after blending ? Who knows, just experimenting anyway.

And thanks jtratcliff! I might look into the bomm stuff and belgian yeasts in the future.
 

Ty520

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getting a wine to ferment quickly can result in unpleasant flavors and aroma in the final product.

It isn't abnormal for wine and mead can take up to 2 months to fully ferment.

when using ale yeasts, it is important to make sure the alcohol tolerance range is right, and the flavor profile works. Some ale yeasts like the ones you've been using have a very big alcohol tolerance range - your Scottish yeast could end at 8% abv...or go up to 12% abv...or even higher with good nutrient protocol
 
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schilsner

schilsner

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getting a wine to ferment quickly can result in unpleasant flavors and aroma in the final product.

It isn't abnormal for wine and mead can take up to 2 months to fully ferment.

when using ale yeasts, it is important to make sure the alcohol tolerance range is right, and the flavor profile works. Some ale yeasts like the ones you've been using have a very big alcohol tolerance range - your Scottish yeast could end at 8% abv...or go up to 12% abv...or even higher with good nutrient protocol
Ok, that's helpful, and reassuring. Thanks.

So that rate (roughly 5pts a day) isn't too slow for a wine/mead. Good to hear.

Now, the 'good nutrient protocol' part, is where I'm inexperienced here. Are there any specific recommendations in that regard? Amounts/frequency/based on gravity readings ?

Like I said, I've added some raisins and DAP. I don't currently have any other 'yeast nutrient' products. I do have bakers yeast, I've read about people boiling some dried yeast and adding that as a source of food for active yeast.

There's still some foam on the top. So some gas is leaving here and there. I give it a gentle swirl every day. I will take another reading tonight and see how it's doing.
- - -
separate thoughts here;
WLP028 says 75% attenuation (for an ale), and I've seen some ale yeasts go well over there indicated alc tolerance upper limits.

Here's something I don't quite understand in the mead world. I see some people say that all meads are naturally dry unless you've stabilized it, or backsweetened it, and that if your fermentation doesn't reach 1.000 or less that something went wrong.
I'm assuming this is based on only using wine yeasts?

What's the difference between an under-attenuated mead, and a sweet mead? If my yeast attenuates from 1.100 down to 1.023 (according to my abv calculator) it's reached 75% apparent attenuation. For a mead, 1.023 is rather sweet, right? So it seems well attenuated, and sweet. Or is it just that ale yeast/mead relationships a relatively new subject of study these days?
 

Ty520

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If you've already started your fermentation and it's several days into it, do not go through with extra nutrients now. Unless you want to get fermentation started again by adding a second pitch of wine yeast to metabolize the residual sugar.

For future reference, you can search for the TOSNA calculator (there is some debate over it's accuracy).

I prefer to use fermaid O for my nutrients.

You can reach 90%+ attenuation and still have residual sweetness if you build your must recipe to have more sugar than the yeast is able to metabolize before reaching its alcohol tolerance.

for example, if my original gravity is 1.125, and I used a yeast with 14%abv, I can end up with a mead with 1010-1020 final gravity (depending on virility of fermentation), and also nearly 100% attenuation.

a wine yeast has a more predictable and finite abv than an ale yeast (e.g., 71B yeast is about 15% abv, +/- 1.5% depending on the health of the fermentation, whereas the Scottish Ale yeast you mentioned could be anywhere from 8 to12% abv)

An easy little general rule of thumb I use: assume you'll lose 100 points of gravity with wine yeasts and high attenuation (but I actually assume 110 to account for a vigorous fermentation - I've never gone over 1.5% abv above the listed yeast abv)

e.g., If I want a a 1020 final gravity, I'll shoot for a target OG of 1130

note, though - it is possible to have too much sugar in your starting must, which acts as a preservative, and will inhibit the yeast.
 
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Maylar

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Here's something I don't quite understand in the mead world. I see some people say that all meads are naturally dry unless you've stabilized it, or backsweetened it, and that if your fermentation doesn't reach 1.000 or less that something went wrong.
I'm assuming this is based on only using wine yeasts?

What's the difference between an under-attenuated mead, and a sweet mead? If my yeast attenuates from 1.100 down to 1.023 (according to my abv calculator) it's reached 75% apparent attenuation. For a mead, 1.023 is rather sweet, right? So it seems well attenuated, and sweet. Or is it just that ale yeast/mead relationships a relatively new subject of study these days?
There are only 2 reasons I can think of why a mead won't finish dry... One, if you have exceeded its alcohol tolerance, and 2 the yeast ran out of nutrients and the ferment has stalled. So, yes, under a normally healthy ferment any wine yeast should take a "typical" mead dry. However if you had enough sugar (honey) to reach 16% and your yeast quits at 14% then you'll have residual sweetness.

I made a JAOM recently with bread yeast that started at 1.125 and finished at 1.025. That's 13% and very sweet.

edit: I did have one traditional that finished at 1.002 but it was made in winter in a cold brew room. A very slow ferment.
 

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