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First batch - High Starting Gravity 1.18

IrNot1337

NewBee
Registered Member
Oct 25, 2019
1
0
0
Hello all, the inner hobbyist in me got bit by the brewer bug and I decided to start my firat batch of mead.

I started buying things halfway and began with a 3 Gallon plastic carboy, a hydrometer and Red Star champaigne yeast, over the course of time I've been adding more things to my toolbox, carboy stirrer, aeration pump, calcium carbonate, ph strips, Go-Ferm and Fermaid-K.

On 9/24/19 I mixed up my first must using 3 gallons of filtered tap water and 15 pounds of unpasteurized local clover honey using Red Star champaigne blanc for my yeast.

I started the yeast in water (no Go-Ferm or Fermaid-K at the time) from the microwave, waited til it was in the proper temperatire range and mixed in the yeast. Gave it about 5 minutes and then pitched it in with the must.

I then proceeded to aerate with a sterilized wire coat hanger and drill, popped a ballon on top and left the carboy to sit. Measured the starting gravity at around 1.180 (ish) the range was higher than my hydrometer read so I looked ar the scale and estimated off of the mark. Goal is a final gravity of 1.02 and a ABV of 22% (slightly higher than the yeasts rated range but I've heard that is normal).

Around 9/27/19 I was still not seeing much progress (few if any bubbles in the must), I realized I did not add any nutrients of any sort for the yeast to develop with (not even raisins) so I mixed in 1/3 teaspoon of Fermaid-K and aerated hevily with the carboy stir and drill until I had a decent foam and once again left it to ferment.

Around 10/1/19 my gravity was still above the hydrometer scale, I assumed that I killed my yeast so I pitched Lalvlin 1118 with Go-Ferm and Filter Tap water and added that to the must after hearing that 1118 can practically kick start any must.

I have since added another 1/3 teaspoon of Fermaid-K on 10/19/19 and took a gravity reading of 1.154 (I initially misread the reading as 1.054 and got excited I was close to done). The mead has been bubbling slowly in the carboy (can always see small bubbles in the mix) and has had no problem keeping the baloon inflated.

I measured the must again on 10/24/19 and I'm only at a gravity reading of 1.150, so I started to think I messed something up, I checked my PH and read a 4.6 so i added 1/2 teaspoon of calcium carbonate to brong me to a PH of 4.8, I also ran the aeration pump for around 5 minutes and blended in another 1/2 teaspoon of Fermaid-K. I also bought a glass loop airlock and carboy cap to replace the baloon and Ihaven't seen one bubble pass through the airlock (though I do see the pressure push the water column around the bend in the airlock).

I know that a high starting gravity really stresses out the yeast but I still figure I should have been done with Primary a month in.

I've been considering pitching another batch of yeast (I have both Red Star Champaigne Blanc and Lalvlin K1-1116 available, local shop was out of more 1118) but before I do anything else to this mix I figured I reach out for advice.

TLDR:
I started my half-cocked home mead with 15lbs of honey and 3 gallons with Red Star Chaimpaigne Blanc yeast and no nutrients. Starting Gravity: 1.18
Measured Gravity weekly with no change after 1 week, pitched Lalvlin 1118 to kickstart the stuck fermentation (used Go-Ferm and Fermaid-K).
After 25 days Specific Gravity was 1.154, added Fermaid-K and stirred vigorously.
Afer 30 days Specific Gravity is 1.150, used aeration pump and added Fermaid-K.
Looking for advice/tips on how to proceed.

Thanks!
 

A-man

NewBee
Registered Member
Oct 24, 2019
14
0
0
Southeast US
I'd be willing to bet your yeast prep prior to pitching may be the problem.

How did you rehydrate the yeast and why was a microwave involved?

What was the temp of the rehydration water?

Did you pitch too-warm yeast into room temp must?

And yes 5lb of honey/gal is quite a bit.
 

Toxxyc

Worker Bee
Registered Member
Dec 21, 2017
375
9
18
Pretoria, South Africa
5lb per gallon is a bit high, yes. I highly doubt if your yeast will do 22% ABV. Chances are your initial pitching might have killed the yeast if you microwaved it or the water was too hot. 1118 will do around 18% ABV, maybe 19%, but I doubt you'll reach 22% ABV, specially considering the yeast wasn't treated like the kings they should be if you want to reach that. Your pH is also a bit off, it's usually closer to 3.5-ish, or should be, IIRC. Anyway, I would just let it finish now. Pitching different yeast strains on top of each other is never a great idea, but at least you have something fermenting.

This mead will require a long aging time before it'll be drinkable. 22% ABV is very, very high. It's twice as high as the maximum recommended ABV if you want a mead that's drinkable soon-ish.
 

4give

Worker Bee
Registered Member
Jan 1, 2018
284
3
18
Montrose, CO
Hi - You'd do well to study the NewBee guide on GotMead, but even better by spending the time on Ryan Carlson's podcasts for mead making techniques.

Here's a quick read on rehydration: https://morewinemaking.com/web_files/intranet.morebeer.com/files/wineyeastrehydration09.pdf

Then you can go to this post by Erichartman for a lot of resources. This includes links to the podcasts.

Invest the time to at least understand what others are finding as good protocols for mead making.

As previously mentioned, PH should actually be closer to 3.5. One thing I can't see in your post is what temperature you're fermenting at. That is also important. Only a 4 point drop in 5 days isn't much, but hopefully it gets going and finishes.