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Some relevant facts:

  • 18 pounds of Trader Joe's Mesquite honey, water to 5 gallons, yeast nutrient and energizer (I think it was 1 teaspoon of each, but a computer failure ate my notes).
  • Yeast: Wyeast Sweet Mead Smack pack (that was fully swollen).
  • yeast pitched End of November 2011.
  • OG: 1.111
  • Transferred to secondary after fermentation calmed down, Beginning of January 2012, SG of 1.085
  • Life got busy, but didn't notice any further fermentation activity, transferred to new carboy in June 2012, gravity still 1.085.

I realize that I've been lucky and have not had any bad batches thusfar (other than from obvious brewer error), but I think my fermentation is stuck. I have no clue how to revive a stuck fermentation, how do I proceed?

EDIT:

Tested pH and I think it was below 3.2. The color was closest to 3.2 but did not match either 2.8, 3.2, or 3.6. I figure I have a pH of either 3.4 or 3.0, but my gut tells me from looking at the color chips and comparing to the color or my test paper that it's 3.0.

So, either my pH is on the bottom end of acceptable, or is too acidic to ferment. How do I raise the pH? Do I pitch another package of yeast (since it's been almost 7 months since pitching the first time)? Do I add more nutrient/energizer?

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Do you have a means of measuring pH? –  baka Jun 6 '12 at 16:28
    
@baka, I do not, but I am planning a rather large order from NB pretty soon, so I can include that. What pH should I be on the lookout for? –  Pulsehead Jun 6 '12 at 18:47
    
Below 3.2 or so, the yeast have trouble surviving, so try to keep it above 3.4. At the least, pick up some wine-range pH testing strips. –  baka Jun 6 '12 at 19:04
    
@baka, does the edit answer your questions? –  Pulsehead Jun 17 '12 at 17:57
    
Yes, Calcium Carbonate will raise the pH, but according to the bottle I have, you shouldn't use more than 1.5 teaspoons per gallon. –  baka Jun 17 '12 at 23:03
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1 Answer

It sounds like you severely under-pitched. That OG sounds a little low too--it's about what I would expect from 10-12 lbs of honey in 5 gallons, but maybe that brand of honey is a little more watery than most.

I've never used that strain of yeast (I'm a Lalvin guy) but if it is a wine yeast (as is likely) you are probably stuck with it. I would order another few smack packs of it and make a starter with fresh honey and nutrient. After it's been going for a few days I would start to add some of the partially fermented mead. If fermentation continues, I would continue adding the mead to it stepwise until I felt confident with the yeast population, then pitch into the full batch of mead along with fresh yeast energizer and nutrient.

If adding old mead to the starter stalls it out, that's evidence that there's something not right with your old batch--maybe pH as was mentioned, maybe something else. Your pH should be in the 3.5-4.0 region.

I would also consider switching to a dry yeast if possible to make pitching adequate yeast easier.

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I remember that the OG was 1.111, since I laughed at "eleven eleven". I know I used the cans of Trader Joe's Mesquite Honey, and I THINK it is 3 pounds per can and that I used 6 cans (again, a dying computer ate my notes). –  Pulsehead Jun 17 '12 at 17:50
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