Agave wine, ferment looked awesome for 3 weeks, racked, took SG, now fully stalled.

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nvp1971

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I saw another recent thread on this forum about an agave wine not behaving. The conditions described in that thread were unlike mine enough that I decided to start a new thread. Hopefully this new thread does not cause undue noise here.

I started an agave wine on 2012-02-04. The recipe I followed (for 1 gal glass carboy) was pretty similar to mead recipes that I had successfully executed in the past:
- 2 lbs raw "organic" agave nectar from Whole Foods.
- started with 1/2 gal spring water.
- 1 lime sliced.
- 1 small box brown raisins.
- Fermax yeast nutrient (1tsp per instructions).
- Lalvin K1-V1116 wine yeast, 1 packet.

I brought 1/2 gal spring water up to 140 degrees F.

From the 1/2 spring water at 140 degrees F, I took 1/2 cup and set aside into a bowl.

I added 1 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient (per instructions) to the water and stirred it in.

When water reached 110 degrees F, I added one packet of yeast, gave a gentle stir and let it sit for 15 minutes. Yeast was doing its thing, no concerns here.

OG at this point was 1.080.

Once the must cooled to approximately 100 degrees F, I added it to a 1-gal carboy until it was 1/2+ full.

I added the packet of brown raisins and one sliced lime.

I added more spring water and left enough room to add the yeast mixture.

I added the yeast and left a few inches of headroom.

I added my airlock and gave carboy a little jostle to make sure that yeast mixed in without being too violet of a jostle.

For the next 2-3 weeks, starting about 12 hours after adding everything to the carboy, the ferment was VIOLENT! Nice! Lots of activity on the air lock and clearly I was seeing a lot of bubbles in the ferment, both at the head and throughout the mix. Air lock easily bubbled every 2-5 seconds for 2 weeks and every 5-10 seconds for the third week. At the fourth week it was maybe once every 60-90 seconds and mix was noticeably less agitated.

Note that mix temperature remained somewhere between 65-70 degrees and carboy as butted (almost against, but close to) an iron steam radiator in my house.

At week 4, I racked the agave wine and was TOTALLY surprised with the results. After all the ferment, SG had barely changed, in fact it had increased to almost 1.1000! What?! Same results after 3 more tests!

I took a taste of agave wine and it tasted fine, nothing like wine, not rotten, but definitely very sweet with a hint of lime.

I activated a new packet of yeast and added that to my secondary as well as 1tsp of tannins (elderberries). 12 hours later, this morning, I had zero activity.

I decided that given the sweetness of the wine and lack of alcohol content, maybe the issue was with acidity, so I added 1.5tsp of acid blend, and aerated the wine.

6 hours later I am not seeing that much more activity in the wine or in the air lock.

What else might you recommend to get me back on track?
 

Dicky

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Have you tried adding a yeast energiser?

Something isn't right here. If you had fermentation there would be alcohol and the SG would have dropped, not increased.

Dicky
 

Honda88

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when you racked it and got 1.100 was it still throwing off carbon dioxide?? if it was sometimes you can get a false reading
 

056r

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Did you take an OG reading? either im blind or there isnt one in you original post. There is no way to tell what kind of progress was made without an OG.
 

Insomniac

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The only other things to concider are the temp the different readings were taken at, and if the must was fully mixed when the first reading was taken.
 
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nvp1971

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when you racked it and got 1.100 was it still throwing off carbon dioxide?? if it was sometimes you can get a false reading
Entirely possible. Although airlock was dormant, probably 1 every couple of minutes at this point, looked like there was a lot of fizz during racking, so yes, likely a lot of gas. I was hoping to get a variance of readings if this was the case, but surprisingly all 4 were the same: 1.1000.
 
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nvp1971

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Have you tried adding a yeast energiser?

Something isn't right here. If you had fermentation there would be alcohol and the SG would have dropped, not increased.

Dicky
I'm going to pop the cap and take another SG reading today to see where I am. Then I'm going to buy and add the yeast energizer as necessary.
 
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nvp1971

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The only other things to concider are the temp the different readings were taken at, and if the must was fully mixed when the first reading was taken.
The must was definitely fully mixed when the first reading was taken.

Temperature was definitely a variance, however. First reading was around 100 degrees F. Second was closer to 70 degrees F.
 
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nvp1971

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Did you take an OG reading? either im blind or there isnt one in you original post. There is no way to tell what kind of progress was made without an OG.
1.080. Original posting modified to reflect this.

That's why I was very surprised when my SG turned out to be 1.1!
 

Insomniac

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Well the temp difference would up that to 1.085, but that still doesn't explain it...
 
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nvp1971

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Have you tried adding a yeast energiser?

Something isn't right here. If you had fermentation there would be alcohol and the SG would have dropped, not increased.

Dicky
Strangely my SG was 1.080 today. It's a far cry and better than the 1.100 I was getting on Friday but yikes -- my OG was 1.080! After the fireworks show that was the fermentation that was supposedly happening on weeks 1-3, I wonder what was really accomplished?

Anyhow, after taking SG I prepared a batch of yeast energizer (about 10 minutes ago) that's scaled to a 1-gallon batch. This energizer is from LD Carlson in case anyone here is familiar.

Will update soon with hopefully good news!
 
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nvp1971

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Strangely my SG was 1.080 today. It's a far cry and better than the 1.100 I was getting on Friday but yikes -- my OG was 1.080! After the fireworks show that was the fermentation that was supposedly happening on weeks 1-3, I wonder what was really accomplished?

Anyhow, after taking SG I prepared a batch of yeast energizer (about 10 minutes ago) that's scaled to a 1-gallon batch. This energizer is from LD Carlson in case anyone here is familiar.

Will update soon with hopefully good news!
I did a bunch of doctoring last night after the agave wine failed to do anything after adding in yeast energizer. I followed some instructions from Jack Keller's wine blog to rescue a stuck wine and started to see some action w/fermentation once again.

The real problem here is that through doctoring I think I have altered the taste of what was once a virginal agave wine recipe. I have decided to stay the course and see how things turn out and if (more likely when) they turn out badly I will note the good and bad parts of the process and give things another whirl at some point down the line.

If I was to guess I'd say that the issue is with the ('raw' agave) product itself in that it might be inhibiting fermentation through some chemical means, maybe a preservative that wasn't noted and that the 3 weeks of active "fermentation" was really a ruse? As part of this process I'm going to get a list of agave products that people have used and work with that as my baseline in the future.
 

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I Treat my product like a chardonnay. I've tried rushing it with hardy ale yeast slurries right out of the cone from my brewery at 70F. Those finish at about 5 Brix in 3 weeks. Most Fruit wine yeasts, and wine yeasts in general, make it over dry/tart for my taste and take up to 8 weeks to reach dryness. It sounds like either your yeast was not viable or otherwise not doing its' job. I would re-pastuerize/sulfate and generally start over, especially at 26 Brix/Plato.

I ferment in stainless for 4-5 weeks to 2/3 FG, at 60f then transfer to American Oak Barrels and do secondary in them for another couple months. If I Add any fruit it will add another two months to the process. I generally look for a FG around 0.
Good luck
-C. Firey
Founder Blue Marble Agavery
 

frteach

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I too have the same problem as you have. I made a 5 gallon batch jan 19th and OG was 1.078. As of 3/1/12 it was only 1.056. Used 2 narbonne sachets and 3 premier cuvee. I have tried several pitching and aerations, a whole bottle of nutrient and energizer acid blend additions to lower pH to a wine pH. No help. Also sometimes swirling the bucket to degas the space. I think its the nature of the beast and I'm considering a sour culture(which is native for pulque) to see if the beasties will chew on other stuff that obviously the sac.'s are turning their noses to. Agave syrup is pH 4.3 per manufacturer and close to 75% fructose-hence a soda-like flavor with a lime kicker. This pH is within a region between beer and wine and I'm starting to suspect that we have a zone for a specific kind of yeast, perhaps mainly sours. I'd love to see some research, if existing about pH and sugar types. After the expert at LHBS and my anthologies of various fermentations, My only remainder is a yeast v. pH issue. I wanted to pipe in and agree with some things you said. Why does agave syrup produce a lime flavor when fermented??
 

cyberlord

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I've made 2 batches of Apple Raspberry wine using Agave Nectar as the sugar source.

The first batch's OG was 1.130 but had a lot of suspended pulp. It fermented to 1.008 before I topped it with a commercial wine and ruined the color. It's aged some and SG has decreased to 1.002 at last racking where I topped it up with H2O.

The second batch started at a more reasonable 1.090 before I added the raspberries. It stopped at 1.002 but is still aging and SG may still go down as time goes by.

Could definitely taste malic acid in both of them when young but they both appear to be aging fine. I used Red Star Pasteur Champagne to start both batches but added EC1118 and K1V to the first batch to get it unstuck.

Batch #1

Batch #2

So all that to say that agave does ferment down.

I did note in your text that you had 1.080 to start then added raisins. That would have increased the OG some, but the yeast should have dropped the sugar level below the OG by now. Maybe your OG was off? I usually measure it several times while mixing ingredients then once more 12-24 hrs later before I pitch the yeast.
 

frteach

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It looks like the same thing. My homebrew store is almost certain that the Wholesome foods agave nectar"organic" actually has preservatives not listed on the bottle. I did call the manufacturer and they deny that but I basically did all the same things less the tannins and dried fruit. BUT i did make a 3/4 gallon starter of scottish ale yeast 1728 and pitch that and it did a very good job. So the premier cuvee only dropped from 1.08 to 1.055, but the beer yeast took it down to 1.020. I don't think it'll ever get wine dry and the only thing i'm concerned is that if i don't stabilize it, it may burst some bottles if i don't drink fast. very sweet even at 1.020
 

agavery

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Sounds delicious. Which yeast are you using? Pastuer Champagne works well for me and its always nice to have a fresh slurry of yeast from a local brewer to kick it off fast.
BTW whats up w the 140 h2o? That will not pasteurize.
 

saramc

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I have made two wines using that exact agave nectar and had no issue. I do know the pH of the product alone will prevent fermentation BUT I always check the pH of my must and that was not an issue. And I did use k-meta just in case there was a natural yeast within the agave. I used Cotes de Blanc and Cuvee and in less than 30 days both ferments were complete, one finished at 1.002 the other at 1.001

What is going on with the ferment now?
 
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nvp1971

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I have made two wines using that exact agave nectar and had no issue. I do know the pH of the product alone will prevent fermentation BUT I always check the pH of my must and that was not an issue. And I did use k-meta just in case there was a natural yeast within the agave. I used Cotes de Blanc and Cuvee and in less than 30 days both ferments were complete, one finished at 1.002 the other at 1.001

What is going on with the ferment now?
Sorry for the delay in response, in particular since I really and truly appreciated all of the thoughtful and helpful responses!

I ended up chucking the first batch. It's a real shame to waste anything but in this case after another month there was zero change and even tasting the product in its existing state was plain gross. I decided to update all my notes with results and try again (this was back around my last post this past spring) now that the weather is warmer and the house averages 70F or so, if not a little more, most of the time.

Since my original query I've switched up yeasts for all my meads to Lalvin EC-1118. I had a stuck ferment for a raspberry mead and mind you while I've made serveral 'regular' meads with Lalvin K1-V116 successfully it was just not working with my raspberry mead. I ended up refermenting successfully with EC-1118 and ended up with a great-tasting product and from that point on, and several batches forward, I have stuck with EC-1118 for similarly consistent and enjoyable results.

This past Saturday (2012-05-26) I started a batch of raspberry/kiwi agave wine (2.5lb agave in the raw) with an OG of 1.120. That was quite high IMO and sure enough after 48 hours there was zero activity in the primary. I decided to get an SG, given the HUGE amount of sediment that had deposited after 48 hours, in *spite* of using a fine-grain strainer that I use for soups and fine broths, so I racked and SG was 1.10. OK, headed in the right direction, but stalled, definitely stalled. I re-hydrated some more EC-1118 w/yeast nutrient and worked with 1/2 must (I'll call it must still, not wine) and yeast energizer. Within 8 hours I had a LOT of activity, gobs of sediment were no longer falling, and this has continued for at least 48 hours.

Will post more results as I have them although I have a feeling that this batch is headed in the right direction. I believe the pH was off, not straining effectively did not help, and this caused things to fall off. In spite of adding an appropriate amount of acid blend and pectic enzyme things were not quite right.

Next purchase will be a pH kit in any case.

Thanks again for your replies, and next response as soon as I rack again, probably in a few weeks.
 

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