New brewer, very confused at the moment

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
I am only a week into my first brewing experience. On 7/28/21 I purchased a 2 gallon brewing bucket with a rubber grommet in the lid, an airlock (3 piece), star san sanitizer, some yeast nutrient, and a packet of wine yeast (I'm a dummy and can't remember which one).

I bought 3lbs of wildflower honey, and a gallon of distilled water.

I sanitized all equipment that was used in the mixing of the must.

I mixed the water, honey, nutrient powder, and the entire packet of yeast. I put the lid on the bucket, added water to the airlock, and popped it in the lid. The bucket has been sitting in my closet for just shy of a week.
For the entire time I've been seeing activity in the airlock, but this evening I noticed that the airlock had reached neutral pressure, and that worried me.
Since starting this brew I have also purchased a hydrometer, so I opened up the bucket, sanitized a turkey baster, sample tube, and hydrometer, and I took a reading.
It came out to .990
Since I did not have a hydrometer when I started I have no idea what the gravity was when I began, but based on the gravity reading I'm getting now I can only assume two things.

1. No more sugars for the yeast to consume
2. Yeast has reached its tolerance

Now, I put 3lbs of honey in one gallon of water. I assume that it shouldn't have burned through all that sugar in less than a week. So, I'm confused.

I may have made a mistake at this point. I decided to add more honey, and mix it up. After that I took a new reading. It came out to 1.016. So, I guess if it goes back down then the original 3lbs of honey I had wasn't as sugar loaded as I thought it may have been. If it doesn't then perhaps I got a bad packet of yeast, and it all died off for some reason, or it reached its tolerance.

OR

I'm a big newb dummy and I have no idea what's happening with my brew.

So, any help would be great. Please be nice 😅
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
452
Reaction score
246
Location
HAMPSTEAD
I am only a week into my first brewing experience. On 7/28/21 I purchased a 2 gallon brewing bucket with a rubber grommet in the lid, an airlock (3 piece), star san sanitizer, some yeast nutrient, and a packet of wine yeast (I'm a dummy and can't remember which one).

I bought 3lbs of wildflower honey, and a gallon of distilled water.

I sanitized all equipment that was used in the mixing of the must.

I mixed the water, honey, nutrient powder, and the entire packet of yeast. I put the lid on the bucket, added water to the airlock, and popped it in the lid. The bucket has been sitting in my closet for just shy of a week.
For the entire time I've been seeing activity in the airlock, but this evening I noticed that the airlock had reached neutral pressure, and that worried me.
Since starting this brew I have also purchased a hydrometer, so I opened up the bucket, sanitized a turkey baster, sample tube, and hydrometer, and I took a reading.
It came out to .990
Since I did not have a hydrometer when I started I have no idea what the gravity was when I began, but based on the gravity reading I'm getting now I can only assume two things.

1. No more sugars for the yeast to consume
2. Yeast has reached its tolerance

Now, I put 3lbs of honey in one gallon of water. I assume that it shouldn't have burned through all that sugar in less than a week. So, I'm confused.

I may have made a mistake at this point. I decided to add more honey, and mix it up. After that I took a new reading. It came out to 1.016. So, I guess if it goes back down then the original 3lbs of honey I had wasn't as sugar loaded as I thought it may have been. If it doesn't then perhaps I got a bad packet of yeast, and it all died off for some reason, or it reached its tolerance.

OR

I'm a big newb dummy and I have no idea what's happening with my brew.

So, any help would be great. Please be nice 😅
Hello & welcome @Samwisethebrave. It is likely that the yeast you used has eaten through all of the sugars or gone to tolerance. Now that you've backsweetened, keep an airlock on it & see if fermentation restarts. If it does, it hasn't met tolerance & you have step fed the yeast. Just remember to have @ least 3 consecutive gravity readings in a row over the course of 1-2 weeks before you try bottling or you could have a potential bottle bomb on your hands.
I hope this helps you.
Happy meading 😎
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
Hello & welcome @Samwisethebrave. It is likely that the yeast you used has eaten through all of the sugars or gone to tolerance. Now that you've backsweetened, keep an airlock on it & see if fermentation restarts. If it does, it hasn't met tolerance & you have step fed the yeast. Just remember to have @ least 3 consecutive gravity readings in a row over the course of 1-2 weeks before you try bottling or you could have a potential bottle bomb on your hands.
I hope this helps you.
Happy meading 😎
Could it really have eaten through all the sugars in a week? As I said I don't remember the yeast I used, but a week seems really quick. I was told that it wouldn't be ready for racking for at least 3 weeks
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
That is pretty fast, but not impossible.
Ok. That was my main concern. I'll have a little more info today. I'm going to run by the brew store and ask them what yeast they sold me since I didn't make a note of it and just tossed the package like a doofus lol at least then I'll know the theoretical tolerance of the yeast.
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
Yes, definitely.
That's super surprising. Since this is my first time I guess I didn't consider that possibility. If that's the case then why would I have been told to just leave it for 3-4 weeks? I assumed that meant it would take that whole time to get through as much of the honey as it could.
 

Golddiggie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2010
Messages
13,224
Reaction score
1,384
Location
Living free in the 603
1. Yeast selection is more than just important, it's vital (just like with beer).
2. Use the calculation tool on the GotMead web site to get your OG and target ABV numbers. The Mead Calculator
THAT will TELL you what the must potential will be. Going to .990 means the mead is DRY.

There are sources of info out there to help you figure out how much honey to add back in to get it to be NOT dry. Without knowing what yeast you used, it will be difficult to say if it will kick off another fermentation cycle. Since you're most likely at 15.3% ABV, I suspect you used a champagne yeast (like EC-1118), which can go up to ~18%.

In order to not kick off more fermentation, you'd need to stabilize the mead, preventing the yeast from going through the new sugars. Unless you want to go to 18% that is. If you do, then add a bit more honey (use the tool I linked above to figure out how much) until the yeast screams uncle. Then add a little more to get it away from ultra-dry levels.

As I said, yeast selection will determine speed of fermentation as well as ABV levels. EC-1118 is a FAST fermenting yeast.
That being said, I wouldn't touch a batch of mead until at least several weeks from fermentation being done. Then move it to another vessel for some aging and to get off the yeast. Give it more time (weeks/months) before you do anything else with it. Just be careful with the transfers so that you don't oxidize it. Since good honey is NOT cheap, you don't want to ruin it.
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
1. Yeast selection is more than just important, it's vital (just like with beer).
2. Use the calculation tool on the GotMead web site to get your OG and target ABV numbers. The Mead Calculator
THAT will TELL you what the must potential will be. Going to .990 means the mead is DRY.

There are sources of info out there to help you figure out how much honey to add back in to get it to be NOT dry. Without knowing what yeast you used, it will be difficult to say if it will kick off another fermentation cycle. Since you're most likely at 15.3% ABV, I suspect you used a champagne yeast (like EC-1118), which can go up to ~18%.

In order to not kick off more fermentation, you'd need to stabilize the mead, preventing the yeast from going through the new sugars. Unless you want to go to 18% that is. If you do, then add a bit more honey (use the tool I linked above to figure out how much) until the yeast screams uncle. Then add a little more to get it away from ultra-dry levels.
Yea I'll be heading to the brew store in a little while to ask them what yeast they gave me, but I doubt they gave me a champagne yeast. I told them it was my first time, and they were really helpful with everything.
Also, I know I made a mistake not buying a hydrometer in the beginning, but I wasn't super concerned with how much alcohol was going to be in the end product. 9%? 16%? I didn't care, but now I see that the hydrometer is also going to be very helpful for knowing if I'm done fermenting in general. Even if I don't care about the abv. So, I'm glad I have one for my next batch lol
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
2,870
Reaction score
1,065
Location
Ellsworth
I do 1 gallon batches with 3 lb. of honey. OG is usually around 1.100. And they have always dropped down to a SG of 0.999 or less in a week. Doesn't neccessarily mean things are done though. Give it a week or 2 after reaching FG before racking to a smaller container.
I use a whole packet for these small batches which is maybe why things go so fast. Have used Red Star Cote des blanc, D47, and EC118 so far.
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
I do 1 gallon batches with 3 lb. of honey. OG is usually around 1.100. And they have always dropped down to a SG of 0.999 or less in a week. Doesn't neccessarily mean things are done though. Give it a week or 2 after reaching FG before racking to a smaller container.
I use a whole packet for these small batches which is maybe why things go so fast. Have used Red Star Cote des blanc, D47, and EC118 so far.
So, what I'm getting is that going that dry in a week isn't unheard of, and the reason I was told to leave it for so long wasn't because it would take that long to ferment, but more that it would take that long to be a better tasting product?
It's hard when I started this project thinking fermentation would take like 3-4 weeks, and then I'd have to move it to a smaller container for months after that until it was ready to bottle and drink. Know all of that sort of put the idea that it would be fermented out in just a week out of my thoughts lol
 

Golddiggie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2010
Messages
13,224
Reaction score
1,384
Location
Living free in the 603
If you plan to do a lot of testing, you better increase your batch sizes. Since you drink/toss the samples once taken (NEVER put it back into the batch).

I've yet to see any stores provide really GOOD information/advice for people making mead. Unless the person at the store actually makes really good mead, you'll probably get mediocre advice (at best).

Before you make another batch, go over to the Got Mead forums and read up on how to do things well.

BTW, I do hope you start using Starsan solution (mixed not concentrate) in your airlock. I don't know of anyone (still using airlocks) that uses water in them. Hell, I didn't do that even when I started brewing over a decade ago. Always have some mixed up and in a spray bottle for use.
Also NEVER heat your must/honey up above 100F. If a recipes calls for you to cook the solution, toss the recipe out. Well, unless you're making a bochet.
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
If you plan to do a lot of testing, you better increase your batch sizes. Since you drink/toss the samples once taken (NEVER put it back into the batch).

I've yet to see any stores provide really GOOD information/advice for people making mead. Unless the person at the store actually makes really good mead, you'll probably get mediocre advice (at best).

Before you make another batch, go over to the Got Mead forums and read up on how to do things well.

BTW, I do hope you start using Starsan solution (mixed not concentrate) in your airlock. I don't know of anyone (still using airlocks) that uses water in them. Hell, I didn't do that even when I started brewing over a decade ago. Always have some mixed up and in a spray bottle for use.
Also NEVER heat your must/honey up above 100F. If a recipes calls for you to cook the solution, toss the recipe out. Well, unless you're making a bochet.
Starsan solution in the airlock instead of water?
And when you say "still using airlocks" what else would they use?
 

Golddiggie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2010
Messages
13,224
Reaction score
1,384
Location
Living free in the 603
Starsan solution in the airlock instead of water?
And when you say "still using airlocks" what else would they use?
Yup, everyone I know that brews (or has over the years) uses/used Starsan solution in the airlocks. It's safer than water.
I've been using spunding valves for over a year now (since I started brewing again). Especially since I moved over to conical fermenters. Makes the fermenter a closed, pressurized, system (working pressure rated to 15psi). I also haven't needed a blowoff hose setup since I switched to pressurized fermentation. Which means not losing any more volume to that.

I'm still deciding if I'll get another conical before cider season so that I can make batches in one, while keeping the two I have now for beers. Post cider season I could use that one for a batch of mead as well.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
2,870
Reaction score
1,065
Location
Ellsworth
It's hard when I started this project thinking fermentation would take like 3-4 weeks, and then I'd have to move it to a smaller container for months after that until it was ready to bottle and drink.
That was the case 'back in the old days' before we knew about such things as staggered nutrient feedings, and what nutrients the yeast actually needed to thrive. Historical recipes from back in the medieval times would state fermentation times of months to years. But, an important point to make is that the active fermentation may be done, but the mead is hardly ready to drink. Residual yeast will slowly clean up off-flavor products and time will mature the flavors. And most importantly, to me anyways, is that it often takes multiple rackings over a 2-3 month time period to result in a crystal clear product. Sounds like everything is proceeding as it should!
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
That was the case 'back in the old days' before we knew about such things as staggered nutrient feedings, and what nutrients the yeast actually needed to thrive. Historical recipes from back in the medieval times would state fermentation times of months to years. But, an important point to make is that the active fermentation may be done, but the mead is hardly ready to drink. Residual yeast will slowly clean up off-flavor products and time will mature the flavors. And most importantly, to me anyways, is that it often takes multiple rackings over a 2-3 month time period to result in a crystal clear product. Sounds like everything is proceeding as it should!
Well now I'm much less worried, and at the least I've either back sweetened my mead, or step fed the yeast. Neither of which are the end of the world. I'll let is sit for a while longer. Take another reading in a week or so. Maybe rack it into secondary after that.
 

bernardsmith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2012
Messages
5,523
Reaction score
1,957
Location
Saratoga Springs
Hi Samwisethebrave - and welcome. Unlikely that any wine yeast that was lab cultured would hit its tolerance if you mixed 3 lbs of honey to make about 1 gallon of must. One pound of honey mixed with water (to make a gallon) will raise the gravity of the water by about 35 points (1.035) so 3 lbs will raise the gravity by about 1.105 and that suggests a potential ABV of about 14%
Since pure water has a nominal density (SG) of 1.000 then if your hydrometer is correct and you are reading the figures correctly, a gravity reading of .990 tells you that a) the yeast have eaten ALL the sugars; b) the potential ABV has been hit; and c) there is a significant amount of alcohol in solution since alcohol is less dense than water.
Can yeast eat through 3 lbs of honey in a few days? Absolutely. The warmer the environment the faster the yeast will chew through sugar BUT the downside is that speed will not make the best mead (or wine) that the ingredients might optimally produce. Esters produced at cooler temps will not be created at higher temps ad so won;t be able to add flavor notes to your mead.

Bottom line, just because a strain of yeast CAN ferment very rapidly does not mean that that is good practice for the wine or mead maker. Cool, slow fermentation is better. Check the specs for the yeast you select. Always try to ferment at the lower end rather than the higher end of the yeast's tolerance for heat.
 

Biggz1313

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 8, 2020
Messages
96
Reaction score
57
Location
Columbus
Well now I'm much less worried, and at the least I've either back sweetened my mead, or step fed the yeast. Neither of which are the end of the world. I'll let is sit for a while longer. Take another reading in a week or so. Maybe rack it into secondary after that.
Consider buying a refractometer instead of hydrometer. If you don't care about actual alcohol measurements, a refractometer will be a better tool for judging if your FG is stable (though making alcohol measurements will require a special calculator). It only requires a few drops to get a gravity reading, vs 80-100ml for a hydrometer. To each their own, but I prefer not wasting a couple glasses worth of product for hydrometer testing, especially if you're only making 1 gallon batches.
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
Consider buying a refractometer instead of hydrometer. If you don't care about actual alcohol measurements, a refractometer will be a better tool for judging if your FG is stable (though making alcohol measurements will require a special calculator). It only requires a few drops to get a gravity reading, vs 80-100ml for a hydrometer. To each their own, but I prefer not wasting a couple glasses worth of product for hydrometer testing, especially if you're only making 1 gallon batches.
A fair point. I will definitely look into it for future projects!
 

tracer bullet

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 10, 2020
Messages
734
Reaction score
600
Location
Minnesota
I generically will say I use my refractometer for everything before fermentation (it's fast, doesn't need much liquid, and I take multiple readings during my (beer) brew day. Hydrometer during or after fermentation to check final gravities. Bonus you can drink whatever you tested with and see how it is going that way as well.
 

Dr_Jeff

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Messages
1,233
Reaction score
644
Location
Henagar, Alabama
I have a batch of Cyser going in Alaska right now with a condom on it, and it should be ready when I return in a couple of weeks.

Nothing wrong with using a condom, gotta do what you gotta do and use what you can with limited resources.

Just don't use a used condom.o_O:ghostly:
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
I have a batch of Cyser going in Alaska right now with a condom on it, and it should be ready when I return in a couple of weeks.

Nothing wrong with using a condom, gotta do what you gotta do and use what you can with limited resources.

Just don't use a used condom.o_O:ghostly:
Got a room for rent in Alaska too?It's my favorite place in the world!
 
OP
S
Joined
Aug 4, 2021
Messages
14
Reaction score
12
Actually, I hate Alaska, I'm burnt out, when I get there I work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until I leave (usually 8 weeks on station).

I'm ready to come home and commute.

Where I work, is about 350 miles from Siberia.
Oof. Yea nevermind lol
 

Drewch

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2021
Messages
115
Reaction score
195
Location
Greater Montgomery (AL)
Consider buying a refractometer instead of hydrometer. If you don't care about actual alcohol measurements, a refractometer will be a better tool for judging if your FG is stable (though making alcohol measurements will require a special calculator). It only requires a few drops to get a gravity reading, vs 80-100ml for a hydrometer. To each their own, but I prefer not wasting a couple glasses worth of product for hydrometer testing, especially if you're only making 1 gallon batches.
Just take the time to calibrate your refractometer against some solutions with known SGs.
 

Murph4231

Homebrew Advocate
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 19, 2021
Messages
206
Reaction score
329
Welcome @Samwisethebrave , making mead as an introduction to brewing is a brave endeavor. Patients is a great virtue and a must have when making mead. As others have stated, while the yeast may seem to have stopped working they are still in there contemplating their next move to react to your next move. They are not finished in only one week. By now since you added more honey they should be off to the races again if not completely gone through that one added pound by now. I would sneak a taste if you haven't already done so, just to see what it taste like. I would give it at least a month before doing anything else at this point. At the end of a month take another reading and if fermentation is to a point you determine to be done, then rack the mead off the lees and yeast into another clean and sanitized fermenter for aging. You should stabilize (basically kill off) any viable yeast at this point and seal the vessel up for aging. After another month sample your mead to see if it taste how you want it to taste, ie, dry, semi sweet or what ever your target taste will be. At this point you can back sweeten if desired to achieve your desired level of sweetness. Then give it another month to settle and meld flavors. I usually age my meads at least six months to years.
 

Bluekat

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2018
Messages
79
Reaction score
401
Ok. That was my main concern. I'll have a little more info today. I'm going to run by the brew store and ask them what yeast they sold me since I didn't make a note of it and just tossed the package like a doofus lol at least then I'll know the theoretical tolerance of the yeast.
You did the right thing by reaching out on this forum. You will get excellent advice, guidance and wisdom from very experienced home brewers. Remember, we all started exactly where you are now. My two cents, listen and learn, take detailed notes of your brew day, clean and sanitize thoroughly, read John Palmers book.
 
Joined
Jul 24, 2018
Messages
1,030
Reaction score
1,733
Location
Torrance
Starsan solution in the airlock instead of water?
And when you say "still using airlocks" what else would they use?
I'll be counter-cultural here and suggest you use the finest vodka you can get in a plastic, twist-off cap bottle. I use a $10/1.5L from Total Wine for all of my airlock needs. The fruit flies seem happy for it to be the hill they die on. And if some vodka gets sucked back into my fermentations, it's just a little extra ABV instead of acidity.
 

Murph4231

Homebrew Advocate
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 19, 2021
Messages
206
Reaction score
329
I'll be counter-cultural here and suggest you use the finest vodka you can get in a plastic, twist-off cap bottle. I use a $10/1.5L from Total Wine for all of my airlock needs. The fruit flies seem happy for it to be the hill they die on. And if some vodka gets sucked back into my fermentations, it's just a little extra ABV instead of acidity.
@JAReeves I thought I was the only one who puts vodka in air locks. I only use air locks for meads and wine but I always use vodka in the air locks. Lol, I really like the smell of the CO2 being expelled after passing through the vodka, Tito's in my case.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
452
Reaction score
246
Location
HAMPSTEAD
@JAReeves I thought I was the only one who puts vodka in air locks. I only use air locks for meads and wine but I always use vodka in the air locks. Lol, I really like the smell of the CO2 being expelled after passing through the vodka, Tito's in my case.
I use vodka for all of my airlocks. Some bugs can swim, but, I haven't met one yet that can make it through the vodka. Smirnoff in my brew room, as well, @Maylar
 
Top