First Time Mead, and I think I've Messed It Up. Help?

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JarlHammer

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Good evening everyone!

As the title suggests, I am brand new to trying to make my own mead, and I believe that I may have shot myself in the foot from the very beginning. I tried following a very basic, beginner's recipe for a 1 gallon batch, which included using Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast, which I know is frowned upon by serious mead makers, but it is what it is now. It seems like the fermentation has already slowed down quite a bit from where it started. I believe that I added too much sugar to the must, as I was trying to go with a sweeter mead. I have posted all of the relevant information below, including the recipe that I used, but I will state now that I have not taken a secondary hydrometer reading yet, as I only started this must five days ago.

Start Date: 03/30/2021

Ingredients
Water
3lbs. Orange Blossom Honey
Fresh Orange Peel, roughly 1/2 of a standard sized orange
2oz Fresh Orange Fruit
16oz sugar
1tsp Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast
OG - 1.160 - Details Below!
Ambient Home Temperature - 68F

My OG reading for the must before adding the sugar was 1.050, and I wanted to achieve both a higher ABV, and a sweeter finished product. I was trying to hit an OG of around 1.110 to start, and used this chart to determine the difference in the reading to determine how much sugar to add to get the must to my desired OG: Using a hydrometer to work out how much sugar to add to your wine. (Or not.)

However, I think that I may not have shaken the must long enough before adding the sugar and had a false initial reading, because after I added the sugar, shook it up for another five minutes, and took a reading, my OG was 1.160! I still pitched the yeast, and fermentation was aggressive for the first few days. I have been swirling the must vigorously two times a day to help with degassing, but as of today, I have very slow airlock activity, though I'm still getting tiny bubbles floating to the top.

Is my fermentation stuck? Is there anything I can do to save this if so? I don't have a local brew shop, so any additional products I need will have to be purchased online and would likely take a minimum of two days shipping. At the end of the day, I'm still going to let it sit until I don't see any activity, rack it, and hope for the best, but if there's something I can do in the meantime for a better product, please let me know.
 

Phoenix7801

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Well a pound of honey is usually .035 of gravity so three lbs of the stuff will give you 1.105 which if your trying to hit 1.110 will get you close. But that one lb of sugar will give you .046 of gravity which when added to your must will give you 1.151. And then the 2 oz of orange fruit made up for the rest. I was told fleishmanns active dry will go to about 12% but right now I have a pyment that went to 14% with it. However I think your gravity is way over what the bread yeast will handle and a lot of sugar is gonna be left over. I’ll let the more experienced brewers chime in with a fix
 

bernardsmith

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Hi JarlHammer - and welcome. One simple solution might be to add a little more water to dilute the mead and so allow the yeast to ferment the sugars. You use simple arithmetic to determine the new STARTING gravity (as it were) by dividing the initial gravity by the new total volume (if you you had an SG of 1.160 with 1 gallon of liquid and you add another gallon then the .160 is divided by 2 gallons so your starting gravity was /is 1.080.
and here is the secret: you can always back sweeten a wine (or mead) after you have finished fermenting. You chemically stabilize the mead to prevent any yeast from further fermenting any added sugar and you add as much sweetener as you want.
Another secret is that honey is flavor rich but sugar ain't and when you add sugar to your must you dilute the flavor but increase the alcohol. Wine making is ultimately all about balance and when the amount of ethanol you allow the yeast to make is out of balance with the flavors , the acidity, the tannins, the mouthfeel, ... and yes, the perceived sweetness, you might as well be adding sugar to vodka.
Last secret: the real problem with using bread yeast is that it has not been cultured to drop out of solution - unlike lab cultured wine yeasts. In bread making it means nothing for the yeast to remain in solution , not least because in bread making we are working with dough and not juice. With mead (or wine) bread yeast will stay in solution no matter what you do to try to get it to drop out t of solution and that means that the mead will tend to taste yeasty. Wine yeasts (and beer yeasts) are bred to flocculate). They fall out of solution and your mead tastes of the honey (and the fruit you add) and not the yeast.
 

dvi

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@Phoenix7801 covered the likely error in calculating SG pretty well. I'll chime in to add that bubbling/airlock activity isn't a reliable way of telling if a batch is fermenting. The best way to be sure is to take another hydrometer reading, then one the following day, and so on, and see if the gravity is moving. If it's moving, the yeast is still hard at work. If the gravity hasn't dropped over several successive days, that likely means the batch has stalled.

A few things that might help if the yeast is still active: outside of the orange fruit, there are very few nutrients in this recipe and the yeast will struggle to stay healthy. Since you don't have a local brew shop, a solution that might work in the absence of nutrients is to take a packet of bread yeast, boil it in a bit of water for 10 minutes, and then (once cooled) add that slurry to your brew. Yeast are cannibals and the dead bread yeast will provide a decent amount of food for the live ones to feed on and keep going.

Also, if your batch has stalled or if you aren't yet at the 1/3 sugar break (probably about 1.107 for this batch), something you might want to consider is diluting this ferment. An FG of 1.16 translates out to 20% potential alcohol, which is extremely high; even hearty yeast like EC-1118 will have difficulty fermenting through most of that, and bread yeast won't come anywhere close. If it doesn't stall, it will likely peter out at around 10-12% and you with a FG of something like 1.06, which is much too sweet for most peoples' taste. (Though I don't want to bias- if you prefer it that sweet, then by all means. Different folks, different strokes. :)). Diluting with water can help here to bring it down closer to what you originally shooting for and make it less likely for the yeast to stall. Using the Gotmead Calculator, it looks like adding half a gallon of water would bring your SG down to 1.106, which is 13.9% potential alcohol; 1/3rd of a gallon would bring the SG to 1.12, or 15.5% potential alcohol. Bread yeast should still leave some residual sweetness on both those gravities, especially if it doesn't have many nutes in the must to work with, but not so much to be unpleasant. Again, your mileage might vary here though.

Edit: @bernardsmith covered diluting right as I was writing this! He also covered backsweetening too, which is a great consideration that I missed touching upon. Very useful info that might help you.
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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Thank you all very much for your advice and information! I currently only have my one, one gallon fermenter, so I probably won't be able to go with the dilution method, but I will keep that in mind for the future. This morning the must seemed to have a but more activity, and I will be taking another hydrometer reading tomorrow morning once I'm off work to see where it's at.

As far as the bread yeast, I have done some research on it and knew that it wasn't the best choice for brewing, but I admit I got intimidated by the sheer amount of choice of brewing yeasts that are out there, a mistake I will not repeat. The information about making my own yeast hulls is awesome, and I will definitely do that when I'm off work tomorrow!

Thank you all again for your help and your wisdom. I will definitely plan better for my next batch of mead, and will be ordering the yeast nutrients I've seen mentioned in other threads such as DAP, Fermaid O, and Fermaid K.

I do have a question regarding backsweetening. In the future, would I be able to do that without chemical additives to the brew? @bernardsmith mentioned chemically stabilizing the brew, and I'm not sure if that is meant specifically to mean adding a chemical to it, or used in a different context.
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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For those still interested, I took a hydrometer reading today, and I've fermented down to 1.140. I believe I'll give it some more time, see what happens in a couple of weeks, and if all else fails, this has been a learning experience. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice in this thread.
 
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Dan O

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For those still interested, I took a hydrometer reading today, and I've fermented down to 1.140. I believe I'll give it some more time, see what happens in a couple of weeks, and if all else fails, this has been a learning experience. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice in this thread.
Do you mean 1.040?
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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Ahh, ok. Well, @ least you know it's fermenting 😉
Exactly! As long as I'm getting tiny bubbles, I figure it's okay! I'll take another reading in two weeks, see how it looks there. Unless I should give it more time?
 

Dan O

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Exactly! As long as I'm getting tiny bubbles, I figure it's okay! I'll take another reading in two weeks, see how it looks there. Unless I should give it more time?
Just so you know, bubbles are only an indication that there is cO2 present in the must. The only true way to tell if it's fermenting is taking gravity readings. FYI😉
Hope this helps.
Happy meading 😎
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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Just so you know, bubbles are only an indication that there is cO2 present in the must. The only true way to tell if it's fermenting is taking gravity readings. FYI😉
Hope this helps.
Happy meading 😎
Ah, that's fair. Thanks for the tip! I'll take a reading in a few weeks to see what's up.
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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As an update to this thread, it is now May 21st, and my gravity reading is down to 1.096 from 1.160. I am going to give this another two weeks and take another reading, though I admit I am somewhat afraid that this fermentation may have stalled. An initial tasting tasted good, but it still has that yeasty aftertaste to it. I have some DAP that I can add to the must to reinvigorate the yeast if needed. Any thoughts or suggestions would be helpful!

Full Reading Chart
03/30/21 - 1.160
4/6/21 - 1.140
4/16/21 - 1.120
5/21/21 - 1.096
 

Dan O

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Well a pound of honey is usually .035 of gravity so three lbs of the stuff will give you 1.105 which if your trying to hit 1.110 will get you close. But that one lb of sugar will give you .046 of gravity which when added to your must will give you 1.151. And then the 2 oz of orange fruit made up for the rest. I was told fleishmanns active dry will go to about 12% but right now I have a pyment that went to 14% with it. However I think your gravity is way over what the bread yeast will handle and a lot of sugar is gonna be left over. I’ll let the more experienced brewers chime in with a fix
I just racked my 3 gallon of a batch of JAOM that I altered slightly, (only the zest & I used blood oranges, & a bunch of honeys blended together) . It came in @ 1.014 & 15.88% ABV on bread yeast.
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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Think I should sprinkle in some DAP to give it a boost, or just apply patience?
 

Miraculix

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Think I should sprinkle in some DAP to give it a boost, or just apply patience?
Never ever use DAP. And if fermentation already is strong on the way espacially never ever use DAP!!!! Fermaid O is the yeast nutrient of choice, but there is a right time for it and a wrong time for it.
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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NEver ever use DAP. And if fermentation already is strong on teh way espacially never ever use DAP!!!!
Thanks for the advice! I've seen a lot of recipes call for DAP at various sugar breaks, is there a reason to not use it?
 

Miraculix

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Thanks for the advice! I've seen a lot of recipes call for DAP at various sugar breaks, is there a reason to not use it?
If the yeast is not metabolizing it completely, there will be a disgusting taste left in the mead. Also, it is lacking any trace nutrients. I know a lot of recipes are using it, but it is not up to modern standards. Check the TOSNA 3.0 calculator for specific isntructions:


Fermaid O is, to my knowledge, the most complete yeast nutrient out there and far superior to DAP or Fermaid K. But to be fair, at the start of fermentation, Fermaid K could be of use.

There is a point in fermentation, when the yeast stops to take in DAP and if you still have some DAP in solution or add something after that point, it will stay in the mead forever... and this tastes like crap.
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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If the yeast is not metabolizing it completely, there will be a disgusting taste left in the mead. Also, it is lacking any trace nutrients. I know a lot of recipes are using it, but it is not up to modern standards. Check the TOSNA 3.0 calculator for specific isntructions:


Fermaid O is, to my knowledge, the most complete yeast nutrient out there and far superior to DAP or Fermaid K. But to be fair, at the start of fermentation, Fermaid K could be of use.

There is a point in fermentation, when the yeast stops to take in DAP and if you still have some DAP in solution or add something after that point, it will stay in the mead forever... and this tastes like crap.
Thank you so much for the information! I appreciate it.
 

Miraculix

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Thank you so much for the information! I appreciate it.
The above advice given about diluting the mead with water is sound. And for the next meads, just hand the recipe over to the calculator and it will do the nutrient math for you, it is hard to go wrong with that :)

And on another note, I did a bread yeast mead like you and it was perfectly clear when botteling, just needed some extra time... on the other hand, I am just waiting for a TOSNA mead made with Lutra yeast to clear... and is still cloudy af....... you never know....
 

raguido

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If you want to make bread, use Fleischmann yeast. If you want to make wine, you have to use a wine yeast. Not all yeasts are created equal; that's why there are so many types out there. Each each developed for a specific use (e.g., grapes, fruits, flowers, etc.). Just Google "wine yeast chart" to see what's available. Stay away from bread yeast! I've attached one example to this reply.
 

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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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I don't plan on making any more brews with bread yeast; this was my first ever, and my closest local brew store is about a 2 hour drive from my house. I didn't want to go all in if it wasn't something I was going to enjoy doing. However, I have been having a blast, and have since picked up some legitimate yeasts for future brews.
 
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JarlHammer

JarlHammer

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For a final update on this, I was able to bottle today! FG came out at a whopping 1.090, so it's very sweet, like a dessert. Lesson learned, I've already started my next brew which will just be a traditional honey, water, and Lavlin 71B. Thanks again for all of the advice given here!
 

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