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A few weeks ago I made my first mead (actually a braggot). I ordered a 12 lb bucket of raw honey. To my surprise, when I opened it the honey inside was a creamy, almost foamy opaque white. It didn't seem to be crystalized, just 'whipped' in appearance.

After brewing and adding the honey, I got an unexpectedly high gravity reading. The must/wort looked stratified somewhat even after vigorous shaking and would settle into a dark, cloudy lower level and a lighter transparent amber layer on top. There was a fair amount of particles in suspension, some I think from the fermaid but also pollen and debris from the honey.

The gravity taken from the middle was off scale high (>1.135, probably around 1.160 or even 1.2) and the gravity from the very top was 1.127. I expected to get a gravity of 1.135 from Beersmith.

Is it possible that the white honey made an unusual contribution to gravity? Now weeks later my gravity is at 1.043 and I'm trying to figure out if it's done or if I have a stuck fermentation (using EC-1118).

EDIT: I should specify also that it was a 5 gallon batch along with 6 lbs of amber DME and hops.

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A little update: Using FermCalc I was able to use simultaneous refractometer and hydrometer readings to get an estimate of ABV despite not having an accurate OG. It came out to about 15%, so I am planning to repitch with a large starter to try to get it to 18% or so. –  bk0 May 7 '12 at 12:07
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Pure sugar is the most fermentable substance, at 1.046 points per pound per gallon. With 12 pounds of sugar in 3 gallons, you'd expect a OG of 1.183. Honey has an estimated yield of 35 ppg, and correspondingly the gravity would be lower - 1.135.

There could be 3 possibilities for the observed high gravity

  1. the stratification is causing the reading to be off.
  2. you were given more than 12lb of honey
  3. the honey was cut with sugar, giving an overall higher ppg yield. This might account for the white fluffy appearance.

Incidentally, to accurately measure gravities off the scale on the hydrometer, dilute the sample with an equal volume of water and mix well. The actual gravity is then double what the hydrometer reads.

To accurately determine if the fermentation has reached terminal gravity or stuck, you can perform a forced ferment of a small amount in a separate vessel with some new yeast at a warm temperature for a few days.

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Edited original question. 5 gallon batch along with 6 lbs of DME. Gravity was measured with a refractometer. –  bk0 Apr 18 '12 at 16:57
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Good tip on reading gravities off the scale. –  tomcocca Apr 18 '12 at 21:49
    
One detail missing for forced ferment... You should seriously over pitch that same too. So like a whole packet in two cups of the sample to be fermented. And rouse it often with some shaking or a stir plate. –  brewchez Apr 19 '12 at 1:19
    
Thanks for the info about forced ferment. I have a feeling it's just done and will end up being sweeter than I anticipated. Not sure what else to do since EC-1118 is about the toughest yeast around. –  bk0 Apr 20 '12 at 11:44
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