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High OG Mead Experiment

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TheDannyMann

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So, we brewed some straight mead, and pitched our Lavalin 71B-1122 on brew day. We had a nutrient regimen we stuck to with Fermaid K and DAP.
We believe our starting OG (of 1.16) hindered yeast production, but our SP right now is 1.09 and has stalled. It has been 6 weeks.

Thoughts on if we should bottle the Mead at about 10.5%, or attempt a second pitch to increase the dryness and ABV?

Thanks
 

Amadeo38

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Did you do staggered nutrient or just the initial pitch? Did you aerate/de-gas a few times per day when fermentation was cranking? Just trying to get an idea if the yeast achieved to their potential. My calculation shows almost 12%ABV, so it’s kinda close to the max for that yeast. At this point I’d consider racking it (have you done that yet?) to a secondary to see if that alone makes it start up again, though I doubt it.
Problem is that a 1.090 mead is probably so cloyingly sweet you might as well just eat honey with a spoon. I had one stop early at 1.030 and had to rack it onto currants just to cut the sweetness with some bitter. Have you tasted it?
 

Grump

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With an OG of 1.16, I feel I should ask, what was your original intent? A very sweet mead? Or a high ABV?
Even with racking this onto a more resistant yeast, in order to bring it to 'accepted' top end range for a Sweet mead (SG 1.020), the yeast will need to survive to 22% ABV. (A dessert mead of SG 1.025 yields 21.59% ABV).
Perhaps split the batch and dilute, or rack onto something (extremely) tart/astringent. Apricot? Or something with a strong flavor profile.
Or go the other direction and go over-the-top with it. Surely someone out there has attempted to distill mead. A brandy-like, mead liqueur, perhaps? On second thought, that's probably a horrible idea...
 
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TheDannyMann

TheDannyMann

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Thanks for the input.

I'm a beer brewer, and lent my tools to be used by a friend to try Mead. He thought he had 9lbs of honey, but really it was 12lbs. His OG should have clued him in. Luckily we staggered nutrients, likely what kept the little buggers going.

Now that it's down under 1.08, and over 11%We've tried it, it's not as thick as you would think, but is still thicker than desired.... May do just fine over ice.

Not a bad thought for distilling....
 
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To make mead with that high an OG, you really need a yeast that works better under those conditions than 71b...

Uvaferm43 is a great yeast for high gravity. I had a polish mead that went from ~1.185 (I think, my hydrometer didn't got higher than 1.160, lol) to 1.060.


Also, uvaferm43 is pretty good yeast for stuck fermentations like you have....just make a starter and get the yeast active than step feed some of your mead for awhile (a couple days) until it's really roaring and then pitch. It could chew thorough another 30+ points.

Another option is to brew a dry mead and then blend. If you do that make sure you stabilize with potassium metabisulphite and potassium sorbate, or you may have fermentation restart...
 

Amadeo38

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Fermcalc has a dilution calculator you might try. You can probably dilute it by half and end up with a reasonable tasting hydromel, if you also use some bitter fruit juice like black currant to cut the rest of the sweetness. Just a thought.
 

rsquared

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Fermcalc has a dilution calculator you might try. You can probably dilute it by half and end up with a reasonable tasting hydromel, if you also use some bitter fruit juice like black currant to cut the rest of the sweetness. Just a thought.
Wouldn't diluting allow fermentation to start up again? It sounds like the gravity has been still moving a bit (although slowed by the high ABV). Diluting down to 6% ABV but still around 1.040 is probably going to go a little higher strength than hydromel.
 

videojunkie1208

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I routinely use EC-1118 and D47 with SG's up to 1.140. The key is feeding (which you have done), and degassing as you go. Both of those yeasts will turn out very drinkable meads well over 18% ABV.

You're in a bit of a sticky situation, because you have enough alcohol fermented that you don't want to add too much oxygen, so I would make a starter with the new yeast, (perhaps use about 1 cup of your must in a few cups of water. (not sure how big your batch is - although 12 lbs honey would indicate this is at most a 3-4 gallon batch with those kind of SG numbers). Add some nutrients (probably the last 1/3 -1/4 of a TONSA schedule - the new yeast will feed off the dead yeast and whatever nutrients are left in your must) and re-pitch without re-aerating it.

Good luck!
 
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Amadeo38

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Wouldn't diluting allow fermentation to start up again? It sounds like the gravity has been still moving a bit (although slowed by the high ABV). Diluting down to 6% ABV but still around 1.040 is probably going to go a little higher strength than hydromel.
Not sure the rationale behind this... assuming you’re using distilled water or pre-boiled RO with no nutrients or oxygen, what would cause the yeast to start again? Agreed that diluting is less ideal than adding EC-118 per above and getting it to attenuate more. Even then, you may still need to dilute a bit to reduce sweetness.
 

rsquared

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Not sure the rationale behind this... assuming you’re using distilled water or pre-boiled RO with no nutrients or oxygen, what would cause the yeast to start again? Agreed that diluting is less ideal than adding EC-118 per above and getting it to attenuate more. Even then, you may still need to dilute a bit to reduce sweetness.
Because they only thing holding the yeast back right now is their alcohol tolerance. They're still in there, and there is still sugar to ferment.

Let's say you had a dry mead that fermented out to 6% with no sugar left. Now you add enough honey to get it back up to 1.040. Would the yeast not start working on that sugar? And if so, how is that different that taking a 12%ABV mead at 1.080 and diluting it down to 6% at 1.040?

I know the alcohol has stunted the yeast somewhat, but it sounds like not all of them have stopped (from 1.09 to under 1.08 in the past month according to the OP). Reduce the alcohol concentration that is stunting them and shouldn't they ramp up a bit again?

All that said, my knowledge is mostly in beer with only a handful of meads, so I'm mostly just guessing at what I think makes sense. It may be that the yeast is too stunted to do much more anyways, and if this had been sitting around a month or two without the gravity changing I'd buy that. But from what little I know, I assumed giving the yeast a happy environment again would get them moving once more.
 

videojunkie1208

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Because they only thing holding the yeast back right now is their alcohol tolerance. They're still in there, and there is still sugar to ferment.

Let's say you had a dry mead that fermented out to 6% with no sugar left. Now you add enough honey to get it back up to 1.040. Would the yeast not start working on that sugar? And if so, how is that different that taking a 12%ABV mead at 1.080 and diluting it down to 6% at 1.040?

I know the alcohol has stunted the yeast somewhat, but it sounds like not all of them have stopped (from 1.09 to under 1.08 in the past month according to the OP). Reduce the alcohol concentration that is stunting them and shouldn't they ramp up a bit again?

All that said, my knowledge is mostly in beer with only a handful of meads, so I'm mostly just guessing at what I think makes sense. It may be that the yeast is too stunted to do much more anyways, and if this had been sitting around a month or two without the gravity changing I'd buy that. But from what little I know, I assumed giving the yeast a happy environment again would get them moving once more.
The problem with reaching alcohol tolerance is that it tends to kill the yeast. Running out of sugar, makes them go dormant.
 

Amadeo38

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The problem with reaching alcohol tolerance is that it tends to kill the yeast. Running out of sugar, makes them go dormant.
@rsquared your explanation makes sense in a situation where alcohol tolerance is the only reason the yeast stopped. I didn’t think of it initially because I felt like there was a general yeast health issue overall. I say this because I literally just racked a 71B mead off primary last night that reached 17.2% with proper care. The listed tolerance is a significant underestimate based on pitching and forgetting, IME.
 
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