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White mead?

TresK3

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 5, 2012
18
3
3
Cincinnati, OH
I've brewed beer off and on for 15+ years and made a few batches of mead along the way. On Thanksgiving I started a batch with the following:

3 lbs local wildflower honey​
2 pkg. Red Star Premier Blanc yeast​
2 tsp. LD Carlson Yeast Nutrient​
2 gal. distilled water (Kroger)​

The night before: I made a yeast starter by dissolving about 2 Tbs. of honey into 16 oz boiled & cooled water, in a sanitized 1 qt. mason jar (shook well before adding yeast to aerate this mix). The yeast was a bit past its date, but had been stored in the freezer. Before pitching the yeast into the starter, I let it slowly warm to room temp and sanitized the outside of the packets. After adding yeast, I let it rest for about 20 min, then shook gently to dissolve/distribute yeast and loosened the lid to let pressure escape. I've done this before, for beer, with good results. This seemed to take off quickly, with evidence of fermenting (small bubbles and foam on top). By the next day there was a layer of white yeast on the bottom of the jar and the foam had subsided.

Mead day: Warmed honey in sink with hot water. Sanitized a 3 gal carboy and triple rinsed with boiled water. Poured one gallon of store-bought water into carboy. Poured honey through a sanitized/rinsed funnel into carboy, capped with a sanitized/rinsed stopper and shook well to mix. Rinsed honey jar with second gallon of water and added to carboy. Capped as above and shook well. Pitched yeast started. Added 1 tsp yeast nutrient and mixed. Fitted a wide blow-off tube onto carboy, with open end in a plastic container with water. Set in kitchen and wrapped in a towel. Kitchen temp was about 65-68F. OG was 1.042.

Next day: Evidence of fermentation (big bubbles coming from large blow-off tube). In the evening I added another tsp of yeast nutrient and mixed.

Day three: Fewer bubbles. Swapped blow off tube for standard air lock (sanitized and rinsed) and moved carboy to basement.

Day four (yesterday): not a lot of bubbles from airlock but mead looks distinctly white (!). Smells ok, but I'm worried about bacterial infection.

Today: Still looks white. I've attached a picture; the flash makes it look a bit whiter than just ambient light. There is a layer of yeast in the bottom (maybe 1/4 - 1/2 inch). Still smells ok (a bit yeasty). Broke the hydrometer, so I haven't measured SG. I moved the carboy back up to the kitchen and set it next to the radiant heater. Tomorrow I'm going to get a new hydrometer and maybe some oak chips.

Question #1: What about the white? Looks like a bacterial infection from my days in a lab. But... everything smells ok; or at least, not bad. I plan to sample and check the gravity tomorrow (after I get a new hydrometer... and maybe a thermometer and a few other toys).

Question #2: I'm heading out of town late this week, so I was planning on racking to the secondary, and adding oak before I go. Probably Wednesday night, or maybe Thursday night. Too soon? Otherwise it will have to stay in the primary until after Christmas. I'm used to thinking in a beer time scale.

Question #3: Suggestions on oak? I'd like to add a nice touch... more than a hint, but less than a slap.

Sorry if this has already been addressed. I tried searching the forum for "white" and "mead" and "bacteria" but didn't come up with much.

TIA!


TresK3 Mead Flash.JPG
 

EricHartman

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Mar 4, 2019
350
38
28
Indiana
This is the normal appearance for a traditional in my opinion. Most of my meads have looked just like this unless I have an additive (fruit, spice, etc) forcing a different color. You can safely leave it in the primary vessel for a month without any significant risk. Once your SG stops changing for a few days throw it in the fridge for a couple weeks to help clear it prior to transferring into the secondary (cold crash). French medium vs medium+ or American light -> medium would likely be what you're after.

My understanding is that beer oxidizes quite easily. Thankfully mead is much more forgiving on that front. So long as you keep headspace to a minimum, and use an airlock during the months spent in the secondary fermentation you'll be good.
 

TresK3

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 5, 2012
18
3
3
Cincinnati, OH
Thanks. I was convinced it had bacteria.
I'll move it back to the basement and let it sit for a few weeks. I could also move it the attached garage. Temperatures will likely range from 35 - 50F in there. What do people think?

I was concerned about oxidizing. I can't do much about the head space, but I'll avoid opening it up any more, to (hopefully) keep more CO2 in. I will also keep it protected from light. Will my baby need anything else?
 

EricHartman

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Mar 4, 2019
350
38
28
Indiana
Yeah has the color of the bacterial lab broth for sure but bacterial contamination generally will smell different/foul. KMBS will help protect from oxygen as well; though this is typically added during the secondary. Adding sanitized glass marbles can help fill up a container but it takes quite a few of them.
 

EricHartman

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Mar 4, 2019
350
38
28
Indiana
Potassium MetaBiSulfite its one of the sulfite products commonly used to prevent oxidation and restart of fermentation once the mead is backsweetened. Take a look at the blog in my signature for a wealth of information to help fill in the blanks :)
 

TresK3

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 5, 2012
18
3
3
Cincinnati, OH
So the baby has been cold-crashing in the garage for about 6 weeks now. It has cleared quite nicely. Haven't smell, tasted, or measure gravity because I don't want to break the airlock seal or disturb it. However... I'm finally going to get some oak tomorrow and I have a new refractometer for the gravity (technically brix, I guess) measurement.

Current plan is to rack to another 3 gallon carboy, mix very gently, measure gravity and distribute between two, 1 gallon jugs. One jug will get oak, the other won't. I'll check the taste periodically and bottle when I decide "oops... I liked it better before."

Any thoughts or advice at this point?
 

TresK3

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 5, 2012
18
3
3
Cincinnati, OH
New Question....
The mead sat at around 60-70 F for about 5 weeks, then I moved it to the garage to cold crash for another month (30-45 F). I brought the must (~2 Gallons) inside, racked it over to another carboy and saved a sample for measuring gravity and tasting. I made sure to catch some of the yeast sediment when I racked, because I want to bottle condition later. Then I split the must into two, 1-gal jugs. Into one jug I put a 3-4" piece of oak spiral (dark toasted French) and left the other plain.

This may be important... The spiral was tied with butcher's twine and weighted with 2 sanitized metal washers. Then I swished the whole thing in some bleach water and rinsed well before putting into the jug. Not perfectly sanitary, but I should have killed most of the wild things.

Back up in the kitchen, I checked the gravity with my brand new refractometer and it read 1.015 (OG was 1.042, also by refractometer, but a diferent one). What the...? I've brewed over 25 batches of various alcohols and never had a stuck fermentation. I should have checked that before splitting the mead and adding the oak, but it was totally unexpected. The first fermentation had apparently gone well and I wasn't expecting problems.

Moved both jugs up to the kitchen, near the heater, to warm up the yeast and kept an eye on the air locks. Within 24 hours, the oaked one was bubbling (1 bubble / 30-35 sec.), and most interestingly, I could see tiny bubbles forming on the oak spiral. (the jugs are dark brown, but one is light enough to see a little bit through). Nothing apparent from the un-oaked jug.

Current plan: I will sample both to check gravity in a day or two. At that point, I'll add about 1/4 tsp. of the LD Carlson "Yeast Nutrient" and stand back. I'm going to add the nutrient to both jugs, just to keep them as identical as possible (except, of course, for the oak).

Questions:
Why did the oaked jug take off, when the plain apparently didn't?
Does that seem like a reasonable amount of yeast nutrient, per gallon?
Anything else I should do?

TIA
 

TresK3

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 5, 2012
18
3
3
Cincinnati, OH
Measured the SG, and to my surprise, it actually read a touch higher (1.018 and 1.017). Double checked the calibration on the refractometer and readjusted. That dropped the SG by about 0.001, but still a bit above the SG of a few days ago. The pH of both oaked and unoaked is about 3 right now. The temperature in the jugs, which were sitting near the heater, was 75F.

When I added the yeast nutrient, the unoaked mead foamed up a little (no reaction in the oaked).

At this point, I'm guessing that the bubbles I saw coming from the oaked mead came from dissolved CO2 coalescing on the rough surface of the oak, rather than actual fermentation. I'm guessing something similar for why the unoaked foamed when I added the yeast nutrient: dissolved CO2 gathered on the crystals. Does that sound reasonable?

It's been about 24 hours, and I may be getting a little fermentation on the oaked... I saw one bubble in the airlock, earlier. It seems my fermentation is still stuck. I have a few ideas:
  • Add more fresh yeast directly to the jugs, maybe with a little nutrient.

  • Simply add some killed yeast to the jugs, for nutrient, without fresh.

  • Pour each jug back into a 3G carboy and shake to re-oxygenate, then add more yeast; or more yeast nutrient; or both. (There's not enough head space to oxygenate in the jugs.)
Everything smells good, and what I tasted last week was very clean & neutral - almost to the point of being boring.

Any thoughts or ideas??
 

EricHartman

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Mar 4, 2019
350
38
28
Indiana
ok don't worry about the bubbles, oak will have some air within the wood that can bubble out as it soaks; and the must definitely has lots of dissolved CO2 within it. adding solids will help the CO2 escape the liquid, its called nucleation and you can watch some funny videos with mentos and diet coke for evidence! PS generally people will do a quick soak in vodka for their oak rather than sanitizers... given how porous it is sterilizing is a pipedream

Your OG really wasn't all that elevated so a stuck fermentation is odd. Given your experience I doubt it but make sure there's not a user error. Double check the SG with both hydrometer and your refractometer to ensure they are close.

If you are going to pitch more yeast consider rehydrating them using the goferm protocol. fermenters handbook on www.scottlab.com can help with this. The goferm protocol helps get your yeast ready to ferment a higher gravity must while skipping the need for a starter.
 

DILLY DILLY

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 3, 2021
2
0
1
65
Denton Texas
BREWED SOME GINGER MEAD THE OTHER DAY.NOTHING SEEMED OUT OF THE ORDINARY UNTIL I REHYDRATED THE CHAMPAGNE YEAST AND POURED IT INTO THE 5 GAL.CARBOY.WHEN THE YEAST WAS ADDED IT IMMEDIATELY TURNED WHITE.ALLS WELL WITH THE MEAD ITSELF.PERHAPSTHE GINGER TEA IN THE MEAD REACTED TO TURN WHITE I DON'T KNOW.I THINK EVERYTHING IS FINE WILL KNOW FOR SURE NEXT MONTYH
 

Psilocybe

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 17, 2021
1
0
1
Olympus Mons
BREWED SOME GINGER MEAD THE OTHER DAY.NOTHING SEEMED OUT OF THE ORDINARY UNTIL I REHYDRATED THE CHAMPAGNE YEAST AND POURED IT INTO THE 5 GAL.CARBOY.WHEN THE YEAST WAS ADDED IT IMMEDIATELY TURNED WHITE.ALLS WELL WITH THE MEAD ITSELF.PERHAPSTHE GINGER TEA IN THE MEAD REACTED TO TURN WHITE I DON'T KNOW.I THINK EVERYTHING IS FINE WILL KNOW FOR SURE NEXT MONTYH
Buddy I don't think we can tell an issue from just that, I mean it sounds all in normal parameters to me. Also no need to shout lol.
 

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