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How to avoid fermenting to dryness?

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JoshD1974

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Hello all,

I'm a new user although I've been making beer, wine, mead and such for years.

I've had an issue with the meads I've been making that isn't a huge deal but I'm wondering if there is a better solution. I have 2 current batches, one is a strawberry mean and one is a wild black raspberry and herb mead.

I basically used Ken Schramm's recipe for medium show mead to start, with 14 lbs of wildflower honey in a 5 gallon primary (starting gravity 1.112). Fermented with Lalvin D-47 from a 1 quart starter. Primary went fine and I racked to secondary onto 15 lbs of strawberries (bought fresh but frozen for 2 weeks before using) in a nylon mesh bag. The fermentations went fine, starting to smell great. However, after primary the gravity was down to 1.007 or so and it tastes quite dry. For a medium show mead I was expecting a bit more sweetness. I believe Ken's recipe predicts a final gravity of more like 1.015 or more.

I know that I can add potassium sorbate and back sweeten before bottling if I want, but in the future what can i do to avoid fermenting to such a dry level? I don't mind dry mead but my wife prefers a bit more residual sugar. I used the same yeast and amount of honey Ken recommended for a medium-sweet show mead. Of note, there was nothing about the primary that encouraged an overly aggressive fermentation. It sat in the dark in my basement at around 60 degrees F or so, so it wasn't too hot or anything like that. The black raspberry mead was done roughly the same way except I used less fruit, about 8 lbs of wild black raspberries since I've heard they pack a bit more flavor impact. It also fermented to the same level and tastes pretty dry as well.

Thanks in advance!

Cheers!

Josh
 
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Welcome to the forum!
Trying to predict and potentially stop a fermentation based on the yeast used and amount of fermentables you use is a bit of a crapshoot. Much better to let it go to completion, which it will do anyways, rack it until it stays clear, then stabilize and adjust the flavor to your preference.
 

bernardsmith

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Trying to stop an active fermentation is a lot like stopping a bullet between your teeth. It can be done by a stage magician but it ends up as a bloody mess if you try that trick at home. You have two choices and the first is not one that makes a great deal of sense to me.
1. You can look for a yeast with the lowest tolerance for alcohol you can find and then you keep on adding more and honey to the mead so that the yeast hits its limit and then succumbs to alcohol poisoning and you sweeten without stabilization hoping that there are not a few cells in the mead that do have more tolerance and which over time will reproduce and eventually form a colony large enough to continue fermentation creating bottle bombs OR
2. You do as Jim Rausch suggests and you select the yeast for the flavors you are looking for at the ABV you want and you allow the yeast to finish their job and you then eliminate them by stabilizing after racking and backsweetening before you bottle.
 
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JoshD1974

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Thanks Jim and Bernard! Good to know. Just racked both off the fruit yesterday and they are looking/smelling good. Still need to age and rack a few more times to clear but I'll probably experiment with stabilizing and back sweetening later before I bottle.
 

Grump

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Cold crashing can force the yeast into dormancy and then drop out of suspension. You can wait until you've reached the desired Specific Gravity/sweetness, then cold crash (put fermenter/container in refrigerator {if you have space in one *and* a tolerant/enthusiastic mate}) then rack off the lees and stabilize. Chemical stabilization by itself will probably do it, but depending on the method of introduction, there is a risk of unwanted oxidation. If I'm understanding you correctly, cold crashing first is likely the surest, simplest way for us amateurs to accomplish your desired effect.
 
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