Failure. How not to mess up the next batch?

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AlexKay

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I just gave up and dumped two batches, a session mead and an acerglyn. Neither finished fermenting after 2+ months (and the acerglyn had developed a lovely pellicle) -- they were still so sweet I didn't even bother with a gravity reading. Taste was fine (good, even) aside from the sweetness.

For each batch, I:
  • sanitized a plastic fermenter (little Big Mouth Bubbler)
  • measured out 1.5 lbs. of the sugary stuff
  • added RO water to 1 gallon
  • sprinkled 3.1 g Fermaid O on top
  • swirled and shook to homogenize as much as possible (the honey didn't all dissolve)
  • rehydrated 1 g of K1-V1116 in 26 mL of water with 1.3 g Go-Ferm at ~105 F, waited 20 minutes
  • added a small amount of must to the yeast to bring the temperature down to ~75 F
  • pitched the yeast
  • fermented at uncontrolled garage temperature, probably ~54 F in March and 60-64 F in April
Today I am going to try both again. This time I have temperature control and can choose somewhere between 64 and 72 F. I have Tilts available for monitoring. I have more K1-V1116 as well as D47. Is there anything about my process that jumps out as needing to be fixed?
 
There's no penalty in using more yeast than needed. Temperature control will help a lot - I like to pitch at 68F and after the lag phase (fermentation going strong) drop it to 62 for the duration. Stirring the honey with a lees stirrer and drill is a good idea too, it gets some oxygen in the must at the start when it's needed.
 
But the specced temp for K1-v1116 is between 59 and 86 F. Looks like you sorta kinda hogged tied that yeast. Clearly using 1.5 lbs /gallon suggests a potential ABV of 6.5% but you say it never finished. What was the final gravity? And if it was near 6% why or how could a pellicle form? This is honey or tree sap. The final gravity must have been almost scraping the ground. That, and your choice to use a wide mouth carboy as your secondary: by definition wide mouths have a very large surface area and large surface areas are the surfaces for oxygen contact with your mead (or wine). Your primary can be a tank open to the air (OK covered loosely with a cloth, but your secondary must be narrow mouthed. You are not bottling beer two weeks after fermenting.
 
I would rehydrate at closer to 95 to 104, per the spec sheet on V1116. After waiting the 20 minutes you should probably see some cream on the top to indicate that something has started.

At this point I add some of the must to the rehydrated yeast and let it sit another 30 minutes or so. You should definitely see something going on at this point even if small amounts. If the yeast mixture is within 10F of the must pitch it, if not add some more must to the rehydration mix and repeat every 5-ish minutes until you are there. In fairness, the spec sheet states 10C (50F) difference before pitching but you are trying to minimize shocking the yeast.

@Maylar is correct that you can always go with more yeast but I will offer one small caution; The more yeast used, the less esters that will develop by the yeast. When fermented below 60.8F and with proper nutrients you will get more floral esters from V1116. The more yeast you pitch when using V1116 the harder the job is for the yeast to make those floral esters if you were planning on that being a factor.

The other item is that V1116 has a high O2 requirement so you really need to mix as much O2 in there as possible. A mixer on the end of a drill would be great if you have it, if not you need to really shake it well for several minutes.

I'm assuming you are targeting 1 gallon batch which puts your nutrients a bit high; TOSNA calculates out at 2.4 grams. With your higher amount you might have some taste of it left over. Since your targeted ABV is fairly low, I would probably only go 2 grams of Fermaid-0 as TOSNA is a bit much with regards to nutrients at the lower ABV as it doesn't take into account the load from the Go-Ferm.
 
But the specced temp for K1-v1116 is between 59 and 86 F. Looks like you sorta kinda hogged tied that yeast. Clearly using 1.5 lbs /gallon suggests a potential ABV of 6.5% but you say it never finished. What was the final gravity? And if it was near 6% why or how could a pellicle form? This is honey or tree sap. The final gravity must have been almost scraping the ground. That, and your choice to use a wide mouth carboy as your secondary: by definition wide mouths have a very large surface area and large surface areas are the surfaces for oxygen contact with your mead (or wine). Your primary can be a tank open to the air (OK covered loosely with a cloth, but your secondary must be narrow mouthed. You are not bottling beer two weeks after fermenting.
I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing.

I'd been hoping in fact to go straight from the primary fermenter to a keg. I know that's not right for mead in general, but will it work for a session mead that's going to be carbonated and served cold? If not, what am I hoping to accomplish transferring to a (narrow-mouthed) bottle?
 
I would rehydrate at closer to 95 to 104, per the spec sheet on V1116. After waiting the 20 minutes you should probably see some cream on the top to indicate that something has started.

At this point I add some of the must to the rehydrated yeast and let it sit another 30 minutes or so. You should definitely see something going on at this point even if small amounts. If the yeast mixture is within 10F of the must pitch it, if not add some more must to the rehydration mix and repeat every 5-ish minutes until you are there. In fairness, the spec sheet states 10C (50F) difference before pitching but you are trying to minimize shocking the yeast.

@Maylar is correct that you can always go with more yeast but I will offer one small caution; The more yeast used, the less esters that will develop by the yeast. When fermented below 60.8F and with proper nutrients you will get more floral esters from V1116. The more yeast you pitch when using V1116 the harder the job is for the yeast to make those floral esters if you were planning on that being a factor.

The other item is that V1116 has a high O2 requirement so you really need to mix as much O2 in there as possible. A mixer on the end of a drill would be great if you have it, if not you need to really shake it well for several minutes.

I'm assuming you are targeting 1 gallon batch which puts your nutrients a bit high; TOSNA calculates out at 2.4 grams. With your higher amount you might have some taste of it left over. Since your targeted ABV is fairly low, I would probably only go 2 grams of Fermaid-0 as TOSNA is a bit much with regards to nutrients at the lower ABV as it doesn't take into account the load from the Go-Ferm.
I've got a wand and a tank of O2. I'll try that next time.

I don't know where I got the 3.1 g number. I could have sworn I used a TOSNA calculator but maybe I put in the wrong gravity...
 
I've got a wand and a tank of O2. I'll try that next time.

I don't know where I got the 3.1 g number. I could have sworn I used a TOSNA calculator but maybe I put in the wrong gravity...
An O2 wand is best and you probably only need about 30 seconds or less to get the O2 in there.

I do my sessions from fermenter right to a keg as well...add some CO2 and purge the headspace of O2 and you are good to go until you chill it and carbonate.
 
Since your targeted ABV is fairly low, I would probably only go 2 grams of Fermaid-0 as TOSNA is a bit much with regards to nutrients at the lower ABV as it doesn't take into account the load from the Go-Ferm.

I've started following TANG for this reason. It accounts for the Go-Ferm, especially for low gravity musts.
 
I've been using the TONSA method for several years and it works for me, except that I use a whole pack of wine yeast per gallon.
For your next batch I would suggest rehydrating yeast with go-ferm but hold off adding yeast nutrient to the must until 24 hrs after pitching the yeast. For low ABV mead, you can just use one nutrient addition but for higher ABV, staggered nutrient additions are better.
You don't need an oxygen tank.
Dumping your honey/water mix from a brew pot to your fermenter will work fine for aerating your must.
But a healthy and large amount of yeast will help improve your mead.
I swirl the fermenter a few times a day when making mead, but you can use more aggressive methods to de-gas if you want to.
 

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