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First-timer - two questions about yeast

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Hagroth

NewBee
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Jul 3, 2012
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OK, just checking, not everyone understands right away why their yeast rated for 18% won't give them that if they only feed it enough sugar for 12% :)

If you're sure it's stopped, yeah, I'd rack it off the lees, although "sour" isn't something I'd associate with leaving it on the lees too long. If it doesn't start clearing within a couple weeks or months (by the time you want your carboy back and are either happy with it or have given up on it and want to bottle it or dispose of it) introduce it to some bentonite... it might drop right clear within a few days. Maybe. Them yeasties are tricksy beasts.

I rarely bottle anything from primary, I'm way too much of a klutz and I always stir everything up with the racking cane while futzing around with the bottles, so even if it's a batch that didn't NEED racking before bottling (like a JAO) I usually rack it a week before I want to bottle it if there's any sediment at all. But most of the time, I rack into secondary as soon as the SG stops moving because there's too much headspace in the plastic fermenter and most of my creations need a couple months to clear anyway.

Hmm, you know what? I suspect I left too much headroom in the fermenting bucket. I only had 10 litres of mead in a 30 liter bucket. A couple of samples (very small glasses) I put out weeks ago have started to taste sour, obviously because of exposure to oxygen I'd believe. It's been standing for a couple of weeks in that bucket now post-fermentation. Hmm, is this batch lost?

Also, I've had problems with pH-values as you may have seen. Have you had similar problems? What are the causes of too low pH? Is it the honey itself? Or is it all a gamble?

And for my upcoming batch, I'm going to try some better yeasts and nutrient/energizer. For nutrient/energizer, I've read Wyeast Nutrient Blend (the one I used for the current batches) is more for beer and not mead. The ones I've heard mention of when it comes to mead is E.C. Kraus nutrient and energizer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s28auin8k6M) and Fermaid-K from several threads. I'm just curious as to what you're using?
 

Hagroth

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 3, 2012
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Sorry for the double-post but I can't edit my last one anymore. Do you use campden tablets at any stage? Most people use it on the must prior to fermenting, but sometimes it's appropriate to do it on the wine (or mead I take it) before bottling. Do you think that's anything worth spending any effort on?
On the same note, a book I recently looked around in said that a cure for an oxidized wine (caused by waiting for too long before racking - I haven't racked at all!) is campden and then storing it for a while. It mentioned refermenting in more extreme situations but it isn't that bad... yet, anyway. I just tasted it again, and it still tastes good. It's a bit strong, you can still feel the sweetness and flavor it's always had, but there's a little hint of sourness in there that didn't use to be there.
Here's a picture by the way: http://imgur.com/PASV3
 
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Chevette Girl

All around BAD EXAMPLE
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Huh, I'd never heard of campden tabs as a cure for oxidation, just as a preventative. I'm also not sure if it can get rid of off-flavours from leaving it on the gross lees for too long, sounds kinda hokey to me, so if anyone else has heard of or experienced this, please enlighten me!

To me, oxidation tastes/smells the way sherry does. Others have reported it tasting like wet cardboard. "Sour" isn't really something that points to oxidation. It's possible the natural acidity is now showing through but it's no longer really masked by residual sweetness as it would have been while it was still fermenting.

If your meads are sweet, campden tab and some potassium sorbate before bottling will drastically reduce your chances of having spontaneous refermentation in the bottle, I personally don't bother if my mead or wine has been aging in the carboy for a year or more. The sorbate/sulphite one-two punch also prevents other organisms from getting in there and spoling your meads or wines and it can also guard against oxidation to some extent... but if you allow it a lot of contact with oxygen, it may well oxidize no matter what you do. Personally, with the exception of delicate fruits like pears and watermelon or something that's prone to spontaneous fermentation like homemade apple cider, I never use campden tablets before a fermentation. I prefer a good strong fermentation to kick the butts of anything in there that shouldn't be.

And refermenting? You'd need to add more sugars to feed the yeast and more water to dilute the alcohol, and the last time I had a spontaneous referment, it did not blow the weird off-aroma out the airlock like I'd hoped it would, still smells like diesel fuel even after dropping from 1.030 down to 1.000.
 
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Hagroth

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 3, 2012
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Huh, I'd never heard of campden tabs as a cure for oxidation, just as a preventative. I'm also not sure if it can get rid of off-flavours from leaving it on the gross lees for too long, sounds kinda hokey to me, so if anyone else has heard of or experienced this, please enlighten me!

To me, oxidation tastes/smells the way sherry does. Others have reported it tasting like wet cardboard. "Sour" isn't really something that points to oxidation. It's possible the natural acidity is now showing through but it's no longer really masked by residual sweetness as it would have been while it was still fermenting.

If your meads are sweet, campden tab and some potassium sorbate before bottling will drastically reduce your chances of having spontaneous refermentation in the bottle, I personally don't bother if my mead or wine has been aging in the carboy for a year or more. The sorbate/sulphite one-two punch also prevents other organisms from getting in there and spoling your meads or wines and it can also guard against oxidation to some extent... but if you allow it a lot of contact with oxygen, it may well oxidize no matter what you do. Personally, with the exception of delicate fruits like pears and watermelon or something that's prone to spontaneous fermentation like homemade apple cider, I never use campden tablets before a fermentation. I prefer a good strong fermentation to kick the butts of anything in there that shouldn't be.

And refermenting? You'd need to add more sugars to feed the yeast and more water to dilute the alcohol, and the last time I had a spontaneous referment, it did not blow the weird off-aroma out the airlock like I'd hoped it would, still smells like diesel fuel even after dropping from 1.030 down to 1.000.
Ok, maybe it's completely normal and I'll get the sweeter taste back by storing it for a while. Well, I guess there isn't much to do except for racking it as soon as possible and hope for the best. I'm going to rack it using a hose and a bottle-filler thing to minimize splashing into a glass carboy small enough to make minimal airspace, and store it there for a few months. I guess that's the best thing I can do?

I noticed one interesting thing though yesterday. After having pushing on the lids of the fermenting buckets of the two batches in order to push out the gas and stabilize the water level inside the airlocks (in order to see if there's anything going on in there), I noticed days later that the water level in the sweet mead's airlock hadn't changed noticably, but the one in the dry mead's had! So maybe there's something going on in there still. This is despite both being completely stable and still for weeks. The dry one has been for over a month.

Anyway, do you use any preservatives when bottling? Like campden (potassium metabisulphite)? This guy, whose Youtube videos I've been mainly following when making these batches, recommends it: http://www.stormthecastle.com/mead/chemicals-used-in-mead-making.htm
 

Chevette Girl

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I don't always stabilize before I bottle, depends on the batch and my patience:risk ratio at the bottling time. It's not a bad habit to get into.
 

Hagroth

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 3, 2012
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All right, the two batches have been standing in glass carboys completely void of any light in a 14-15 C ambience in almost a month. I can see thick layers of sediment at the bottoms, we're talking about an inch in each carboy. I should probably rack it by now, right?

Also, I'm about to start two new batches in a few days using D-47 and the "Dry Mead" yeast from Wyeast I never opened. I'm just wondering how staggered honey additions would work out? Would it be worth it? I'm aiming at making sweet meads, perhaps finishing at 1.030 or so (I really liked my 1.042 FG, 9.3% ABV batch actually, the 0.9995 13.6% one was good and definitely drinkable but way too dry to be enjoyable in loads, tasted too much like wine IMO; The sweetness is relevant since the more honey, the more staggered additions are necessary FWIH). The reason I'm skeptic towards staggered additions is because I suppose it'd make the gravity measurements very theoretical or even impossible, am I right?
 

Chevette Girl

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You can calculate it if you know your exact volume of must and your exact volume of honey. Other than that, yeah, you can estimate your OG using the total amount of honey added (presuming you keep careful notes and are accurate in your measurements). I typically say to hell with it and do a spirit indication test at the end once the SG stabilizes after the final addition.
 

Medsen Fey

Fuselier since 2007
Premium Patron
The reason I'm skeptic towards staggered additions is because I suppose it'd make the gravity measurements very theoretical or even impossible, am I right?
Step feeding makes calculating the ABV a little more challenging, but as long as you measure the volume of liquid added, and factor in the resulting dilution, you can get a pretty good estimate.

The bigger question is why do you want to step feed it? Typically, I don't usually do that unless trying to push yeast beyond their maximal ABV tolerance, or trying to get maximum alcohol while remaining dry. If you want a sweet mead, you can just start at a higher gravity or backsweeten.
 

Hagroth

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 3, 2012
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You can calculate it if you know your exact volume of must and your exact volume of honey. Other than that, yeah, you can estimate your OG using the total amount of honey added (presuming you keep careful notes and are accurate in your measurements). I typically say to hell with it and do a spirit indication test at the end once the SG stabilizes after the final addition.
I see, well I don't like doing it in theory since something tells me different honey products have different amounts of sugar and so on. And I'm pretty much still a beginner, so I want to keep it simple of course. Ah well, do you usually do staggered honey addition or should I be fine if I just rehydrate the yeast properly before pitching it?

Medsen Fey, yeah I guess it might be overkill and not necessary then :) I just want to make a sweet traditional mead and I read somewhere that too much honey from the start might shock the yeast. However, I'm going to rehydrate it according to the instructions to try to maximize results.
 

Chevette Girl

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I only do it if I'm pushing the yeast too, otherwise it's just easier to do it all at the beginning. I don't like to start with a SG of more than about 1.120 so if the amount of honey I want to add in total would give a higher SG than that, I'd mix until I got my 1.120 and then hold the rest back until fermentation's in full swing and it's eaten at least half of the sugars it started with.
 
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