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bochet that won't start fermenting

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duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
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I decided to make a bochet the other night so I boiled 11 lbs. of honey for 2.5 hours until it turned dark, dark brown (virtually black) then dissolved it in enough spring water to total 3 gallons. Specific gravity was 1.112 and pH was 3.4 so I assumed those were good starting figures. I added 3 crushed Campden tablets and let it sit for a day.

I then hydrated some Lalvin EC-1118 as the packet instructed, which was different than my usual method (in fact, this is my first time using Lalvin yeasts). Ordinarily, when I prepare a starter I follow the instructions from Jon Iverson's winemaking book, which calls for a larger amount of water, followed by some diluted must. In any case, the yeast woke up and started foaming so I added it to the primary.

It is now 24 hours later and there is absolutely zero activity in the airlock. There are no visible signs of life in the must, either. Could the fact that this is burnt honey be hindering fermentation, sort of like the way smoked meat prevents microbial activity?

I recall the only other mead I made (a hibiscus mead) was a sluggish one too. That began with some Red Star Pasteur Champagne that seemed to slow to a stop so I threw in some extra Premier Cuvée that I had on hand. It picked up for a day or two, then disappeared. Half a year later it tastes great and definitely has a decent amount of alcohol, though I haven't measured the gravity yet.
 

Medsen Fey

Fuselier since 2007
Premium Patron
Can you please provide more details?
What other ingredients went into the must?
What is the must temperature?
What is the expiration date on the yeast?
Did you aerate the must well?
Exactly how did you rehydrate the yeast?

A bochet will normally ferment without problems. I suspect you just have a long lag phase and that it will start. I find that adding Campden tablets to a must sometimes causes this even after 24 hours which is one reason I don't use them routinely at the beginning (the other being that they are not needed with honey musts, especially those that have been boiled).

I'd aerate the must again and check the gravity.

What nutrients do plan to add?
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
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No other ingredients--just boiled honey, water, and the sulfites. I suppose the Campden tablets weren't necessary because the honey was boiled but the spring water was not. I'm just overly cautious because last year I had a wine must that surprised me with spontaneous fermentation so I learned to always sulfite my musts and let it bind with the sugars for 24 hours.

The temperature probably fluctuates between 60-70° F depending on the time of day (the house has poor insulation).

I don't know the expiration date but I just purchased it at my LHBS and I would hope they rotate their stock. I'll check the trash but that may have already gone out, as yesterday was trash day.

I didn't really aerate the must other than pouring it into the primary and stirring the water in. How would you recommend doing that?

I rehydrated the yeast by putting it in 50 ml of water at about 105° F (with that container sitting in a warm water bath to retain the heat). I had planned to pitch it after 15 minutes as the directions indicated but then I ended up talking to someone and it didn't go in until an hour later. The yeast in the starter was creating foam on the surface so it appeared to be active but when I pitched it, it floated on the surface and looked flocculated like those little grains when it comes out of the packet dry. That was weird because it was thoroughly dissolved when it was in the starter solution. The next day everything had sunk to the bottom.

I think I'll try adding nutrients. I usually add some Fermax and Yeastex, which tends to get things going, but I guess I forgot because it was late at night.
 

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
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Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
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Ottawa, ON
I'm not sure from your post if you're fermenting in a bucket or a carboy, if it's a bucket, sanitize a whisk or large spoon and go to town till your wrists demand that you stop, you need to incorporate some oxygen into your must (and the agitation and aeration should also help get rid of any residual sulphites that may still be suppressing things).

If it's in a carboy, the easiest way is to siphon some out into a sanitized blender and whiz the crap out of it, pour it back in, stir, repeat a few times.

Most of us aerate at least once a day for the first 1/3 of fermentation.

It's also possible to get a dud pack of yeast, I've had one EC-1118 that was once (of several hundred batches, it's not common but it IS possible).

If after 48 hours there's still no signs of life, grab another packet, rehydrate according to the packet, then add an equal amount of must to the rehydration water after the elapsed time, by ten or fifteen minutes after that you should be able to see visible signs of fermentation and you can either keep repeating that and doubling the volume to get a nice big starter going, or pitch it in now that you at least know the yeast is alive.

 

Medsen Fey

Fuselier since 2007
Premium Patron
You probably lost a lot of yeast by leaving them unfed for an hour. That reduced your pitch count and between that and the sulfites you're seeing a long lag phase. It is possible to get a packet of yeast that are old or were otherwise damaged by poor storage, but that is less likely.

Aerate it well and check the gravity in a day or two.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
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Last night, I added some Fermax and Yeastex (1 tsp per gallon, as the package says) and then whipped the must into a froth with a big industrial whisk. This morning I saw a bubble pass through the airlock but gave up waiting for another. It's very slow. If I don't see more activity when I come home tonight I may pitch another starter of EC-1118.
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
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0
I came home last night and there was no activity. I aerated the must again, then created another starter (and, yes, the sell-by date is 2015). After hydrating it for 15 minutes at about 105° F, it was quite active, so I added a few spoonfuls of must to the starter. At first, it fell still but I submerged it in a bowl of 100° water and a couple of minutes later, the yeast started bubbling and rising to the surface again. I added some more spring water and must to add volume and let it keep roiling on its own for about 10 minutes.

I gently poured it into the must, which by then had a thick, foamy head from being aerated. I sealed the lid and several minutes later, the airlock began to emit bubbles very slowly.

This morning I checked on it and the airlock is still. ??? Maybe I need to put a heating pad around it or position the primary next to the wall heater.
 

Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
Moderator
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Apr 27, 2010
8,398
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Ottawa, ON
Give it another 24 hours to get started, and if you can put it closer to the heater that might not be a bad plan. And even if you're not aerating it, keep swirling it around to keep the yeasties in suspension.
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
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0
I moved it next to the wall heater, where the must is now a nice, cozy 81° F. It started bubbling (albeit very slowly) within minutes. I've aerated it with a whisk twice today and immediately afterward, the airlock bubbles steadily for a few minutes but then slows down to a crawl. The hydrometer says it's about 1% alcohol so far. Feels like this is going to be one difficult batch.
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
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0
It was with both, although it's hard to get exact numbers from those pH strips. The color looks totally different depending on the light. I recalibrated my digital pH meter just now (it was only off by 0.03) and tested the must again. Now it's reading 3.33, which does seem a bit on the low side. Think I should add some calcium carbonate?
 

fatbloke

good egg/snappy dresser.....
GotMead Patron
It was with both, although it's hard to get exact numbers from those pH strips. The color looks totally different depending on the light. I recalibrated my digital pH meter just now (it was only off by 0.03) and tested the must again. Now it's reading 3.33, which does seem a bit on the low side. Think I should add some calcium carbonate?
No, I'd leave it "as is" for the moment, just keep aerating once a day minimum (I only tend to aerate once a day, some like to aerate twice or more).

It's dropped a few points so it's more likely just "lag phase" at the moment - the longest I've had with EC-1118 lagging, was over 3 weeks, but that's because I pitched dry into a must that I'd sulphited to kill off some wild yeast contaminants that had formed. Once it started it was fine.

New mead makers often are a little impatient. After all, with all that sugar content it should go mad right ? Wrong. A perfect balance of sugars, acidity, nutrient and correct temperature will often ferment very quickly, yet it only needs one of the elements to be out and it can take a while to start "properly"...... (that's presuming I've read your other posts correctly and haven't overlooked something).......
 

Medsen Fey

Fuselier since 2007
Premium Patron
This is a tough one, but I still think you are looking at a prolonged lag due to yeast handling. I think it will eventually pick up. I reread your posts and I see that you kept the yeast in a warm water bath which may have impaired them, and if you pitch 100° F yeast into 60-70° F must, the temperature shear will destroy a large percentage of the yeast.

Let me suggest you try the following:
A) Take 2 packets of the yeast (EC-1118) and add to 100 cc of water at 100° F. If you have Go-Ferm to add to the rehydration it does help.

B) Don't keep it in a water bath. Just have it on the counter. It is OK for it to cool down after the yeast have been stirred in.

C) After 15-20 minutes add 100cc of your must and let it sit until it starts bubbling actively. This could take anywhere from a few minutes to 2-3 hours.

D) When it is bubbling, add another 200 cc of your must. Again, wait for bubbling to be visible then stir it up and pitch into your must.

With the temperature shear less than 15° and acclimated yeast, it should go. If not, consider ordering a couple of packets of Uvaferm 43 yeast (the hardiest strain I know) and try pitching it.


Sent from my DROID RAZR using Tapatalk 2
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
0
0
I made a starter last night over the course of three hours, starting at 100° and letting it cool to room temperature on its own. I only had one packet of EC-1118 left and seeing as there seems to be something about the must that shocks the yeast, I added that in small increments--10 cc at a time, then 20 cc at a time, until I reached 200 cc. I also added a pinch of Fermax at the beginning to give them some fuel. The yeast was active the entire time (although with each addition of must it temporarily fell still). By the time I reached 200 cc it was still moving. At that point it was a 4:1 ratio of must to water, so that can't be radically different from what's in the primary. I aerated the primary and poured the starter in. The airlock kept bubbling and I went to sleep but this morning it had stopped. There were little, sparse clusters of bubbles on the surface, which I hadn't seen before, but tonight they had disappeared. I might try the Uvaferm 43, although I'll have to wait for it by mail because my LHBS doesn't stock it. They recommended Red Star Champagne, which I do have on hand. I've seen varying results with that strain. I made a mead last year that went very slowly and on the other hand I made a banana wine in the kitchenette at work that fermented to dryness in only 6 days. I don't want to wait too long for the Uvaferm in case bacteria sets in, although I did sulfite it on day one.

Anyway, here are some videos of the starter I took over the course of the night:

http://youtu.be/5HE2tMsk3pM
http://youtu.be/d11IGhUePCo
http://youtu.be/0BTyXoC9uIk
http://youtu.be/fzrDgkhlGzs
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
0
0
I expedited a Uvaferm 43 kit and prepared it according to the directions (hydrate in a sugar water solution for 4-5 hours, then suspend the bag in the primary). While in the starter, the alginate beads were bubbling like mad. After I put it in the primary, nothing happened. I checked the gravity a few days later and there was no change. No bubbles were coming out of the bag either.

I read several bochet threads that warned about caramelizing all the sugars, so I entertained the possibility that there was a negligible amount of fermentable sugars left. After all, the honey had been boiling on the stove for two and a half hours. So I went to the store and bought enough honey for a fresh 5 gallon batch (15 lbs.). I dissolved the honey in a half gallon of water, mixed it into the must, and then topped the primary up with enough spring water to total 5.5 gallons (the extra half gallon to compensate for lost volume at the first racking). I also dissolved 2 tsp of Fermax and 2.5 tsp of Yeastex. So the total recipe now is about 11 lbs. burnt honey, 18 lbs. regular honey, and water to make 5.5 gallons. Well, that made the gravity super high--about 1.176--but at least I know much of that represents sugar that is not caramelized. The pH was slightly higher but I forgot to write it down. I prepared a starter of EC-1118 according to the packet's directions, then added a half cup of must. The yeast continued to churn (albeit more slowly). After a while, I added another half cup of must and waited. There was still motion in the starter at this point and it had created an inch-thick cap. I pitched it into the primary and at first there was gas slowly coming out of the airlock, but by the next morning it had fallen still. The next day, still no activity.

Last night, I prepared more Uvaferm 43 and after 5 hours, added about a quarter cup of must to the starter. It still continued to bubble healthily. In the meantime, I worked the must into a thick foam using a sanitized egg beater. I then lowered the bag into the primary, discarding the starter liquid, per the instructions. After the foam had subsided, I observed the bag, which was suspended only a few inches into the must. I could see bubbles rising to the surface as they did in the starter. I sealed the primary and saw gas being forced out of the airlock slowly but more vigorously than in my previous attempts. I strapped a heating pad to the primary and set it to low because the house has been getting cold at night. This morning, I checked the airlock and it was still. It wasn't even as though there was a bubble partially on its way out--the pressure on both sides appeared to be in equilibrium. I opened it up and swished the bag back and forth to disperse any by-products that may have accumulated around the beads. After closing the lid, I saw some outward pressure in the airlock but not enough to release a bubble. 15 minutes later, it was in equilibrium again.

This sucks. I've got a lot of money sunk into honey at this point and I'm tempted to throw some turbo yeast in there to get the job done, although I've heard it leaves disagreeable flavors. On the chance that there is insufficient oxygen in the must, I ordered an oxygenation kit with a diffusion stone which should be here by the end of the week. I can pick up a small oxygen tank at the hardware store. I still have some more Uvaferm 43 but if oxygenating the must doesn't help, I'm out of ideas.
 

Medsen Fey

Fuselier since 2007
Premium Patron
Let me save you some effort- if Uvaferm 43 won't ferment it, the turbo yeast aren't going to get it done. I'd consider splitting it into 2 batches and diluting it down by half. Then let the Uvaferm take it as far down as it will go, and after that you can step feed it to bring the ABV up if you like.

As a last option you can start a new batch (about a gallon in a 5-gal fermenter) and when it is going strong, I'd add the old must a little at a time keeping it fermenting until I got it full.
 

duffrecords

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 9, 2013
27
0
0
I should still have some Accuvin SO2 test kits left in my supply box. My email indicates that I ordered a pack of 10 back in 2011 so I couldn't possibly have used them all by now. I'll run a SO2 test tonight as well as take a new pH measurement. Hopefully they have not expired.
 
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