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I started making my very first mead. I took 1kg of pure single-flower honey and 2.5L of water (actually, not tap water but a bottled one). According to the suggestions, I did:

  1. Warm 1L up to almost 50 Celsius.
  2. Add the honey, mix, and avoid the whole mix to pass 50 Celsius.
  3. Take it out, mix another 1.5L of water, and put everything in the end flask (I use a flask with an airlock to do the fermentation process). Temperature will drop to a value in the 25-45 Celsius range.
  4. Sample a glass of honey water, add some dry yeast (in my case, I used a dry yeast of type S04). Let it live a while in the glass until it expands.
  5. Mix that yeast-containing sample back into the whole honey water flask.
  6. Strongly close the lid, which has an airlock, and then hide it from the sunlight for 2 weeks. I kept a temperature of 20 Celsius (on day - it is lower on night).
  7. Mead.

In theory, at least. No clearing substances, no hops (I wanted to keep that for further iterations and just try it veeeeery simple). Actually, I did not even measure the density (yes, I forgot that part, actually - I bought the densimeter just today).

BUT today, when I felt ready to bottle and continue, I took the potential mead flask to check it, and:

  • It had a lot of sediments in the bottom.
  • It had alive yeast floating in the liquid.
  • It had no unexpected particles, taste or smell.
  • Everything was right save for a little fact: It didn't even have taste to alcohol. Despite the lots of sediments, which I thought it would mean hey!, the yeast did a lot of work here, no taste to alcohol at all (and I bought a mead first, to try it out first before doing my own). The taste is still... honey and water.

How can that be possible? What am I missing? How can I fix it? (I'm attaching four pictures of the current status)

Current honey-water mix Bottom of the honey-water mix, with sediments I store it in the dark Seriously, in the DARK

8

A few things come to mind:

  • Two weeks seem a bit short for fermenting out a mead - I would say it can take 3-4 weeks. Your mead might still be tasting of honey and water because there is not full alcohol development yet.

  • Do not taste test - but use a gravity meter. The good thing about honey is that it's pretty predictable when it comes to calculating OG just from the ingredients - so even though you did not take a reading, you should still be able to approximate how far you are off from the OG.

  • Give it a bit more time - do a reading now with a gravity meter and another reading in a week's time. If it's still the same you may have a stalled fermentation. In that case you need to check what the OG was and the current gravity. If it's still more than 1/3 of the OG (if it's less, you may oxydize the mead) you can consider re-oxygenating the must and pitching a new packet of yeast. (read the last point)

  • You are using S04 which is rated for about ~7% ABV - with 1 KG of honey in 2.5 liters of water, you have the potential of 12.5% ABV. It may well be the case your fermentation is "done" as your S04 died in the alcohol and that you are tasting a lot of sweetness because of almost half of the residual fermentables are still there. Consider using a Champagne yeast when you re-pitch.

4
  • +1 for using champagne yeast -- I've used Lalvin EC-1118 for most of my meads, and it's a champ (haha). I've only had two batches get stuck with this yeast, and both were bargain-basement honeys of uncertain provenance (possibly adulterated -- these behaved differently than all the other honeys I've used). Oct 19 at 17:36
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    I will seriously consider by point 4 (and also risk opening it again to use the gravity meter - I hope I get no contamination in the process), and will come back to you in 1 week. Oct 19 at 17:52
  • I just tested gravity, like doing [initial estimation - measure]: There is no change at all. As far as I know, the honey is pure. Oct 19 at 18:57
  • I think the OP should only consider using Champagne yeast, if they are making a very dry mead.
    – Kingsley
    Oct 19 at 22:16
3

For any brew, if you think it might be stuck, watch the must, and watch the airlock. If you see any sign of bubbles rising, there's a chance that things are still plugging along. That said, CO2 can take a while to dissipate, so the presence of bubbles is not a guarantee of continued yeast action. A better measure, although it requires a bit more patience, is to take a gravity reading, wait a while (at least several days, better yet a week or two), and take another reading. If there's no change, your brew is likely done fermenting (either because it's stalled, or because it's finished).

As Lucas notes, which yeast you use is a key consideration. Different strains of yeast are engineered for different operating parameters. Just from googling, it looks like S04 is an ale yeast. Any beer-oriented yeast is likely to have a low alcohol tolerance, and thus will be ill suited to brewing meads and wines, which typically have higher alcohol levels than beers. I bet your batch is "done", in that the S04 has fermented itself to death. To convert any more of that sugar to alcohol, you're going to need to pitch in a heartier strain of yeast.

I've had decent success using Lalvin EC-1118, a champagne yeast, to brew my meads. Champagne yeast tend to be engineered for higher alcohol tolerance, so they produce stronger and dryer meads and wines. I've gotten as high as 18.3% ABV with low residual sugars (that one was a plum wine; my strongest straight mead so far finished up dry at 16.75%).

Another key consideration is that wines and meads take longer than beers. I've brewed ... I dunno, 50, 60 batches of mead over the years? The only "quick" meads I ever did were in college beside the dorm room radiator, using bread yeast (I know, ick, but I was basically a kid at the time), and even those over-warm and nearly-nasty brews took two weeks. Anything I've done that has actually tasted good, has taken at least three months. On the outer edge of that timeframe, one particular batch using a markedly funky honey took nearly three years of aging to get tasty enough to where I'd be proud to offer it to friends.

Be patient, and use the right yeast.

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  • 1
    You (all) might be right about this with the yeast. I start to think that this yeast is done and dying out of alcohol level (and that the honey taste is hiding the alcohol taste). I will come back in 1 week (and for now, disinfect the gravmeter, open the flask, take a sample, measure, and hope nothing is tainted in 1 week). Oct 19 at 17:58
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    @LuisMasuelli, if the S04 finished out, you've probably got a very sweet 7% ABV brew. Think something like Zima, if you remember that stuff. The high sugar content will mask the alcohol, and will probably make the alcohol hit your blood faster, so if you're just looking for the buzz, your brew might do the trick. If you're looking for a proper mead, though, try pitching a stronger yeast. Oct 19 at 18:04
  • I just tested: I see no gravity change at all. Not sure what's going on. What can I do? Oct 19 at 18:59
  • @LuisMasuelli, no change since when? If your current reading shows no change compared to, say, a week ago, it sure looks like your S04 yeast are done -- I'd suggest getting a higher-tolerance yeast and adding that to your brew. Oct 19 at 21:26
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    Actually, do not take it too strong in this sense: I did not have a densimeter when I started, so I estimated the numbers mathematically on start, two weeks ago. I just measured it... today. And [measure_today - estimated_two-weeks-ago] has almost no difference. Oct 19 at 21:49
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It sure looks like fermentation has happened to get that much sediment. Since you didn't take an initial gravity reading it's going to be hard to tell for sure but you can track if it is still changing and as Lucas points out, you should be able to have a rough guess on initial OG.

Agitating the the must might get the yeast going again. I'd possibly be inclined to get the temperature into the low 20s.

1
  • My rough guess is ~1.11 (I took a guess by considering the density of honey as 1.420, with some variance. Unfortunately I cannot play with the temperature, but now at least today is a bit cold so it will do the job itself. I will try agitating the mix and sediments, and I will come back to you, as well, in I week. Oct 19 at 17:55

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