The sweet stuff, cont’d

So I’ve figured out what the problem with the mead is. At least I’m pretty darn sure I’ve figured it out. Thanks to a conversation with my much-experienced-in-all-things-brewly friend Anton, we narrowed it down to two possibilities:

1) the osmotic pressure was just too much for the yeast (the solution was too strong) or

2) they ran out of nutrients. (Sounds strange for yeast to run out of nutrients when suspended in a sugar syrup, doesn’t it? But apparently honey is hard for them to digest and not very, well, nutritious. Not like a beer that’s full of all kinds of proteins and simple and complex grain sugars and whatnot).

I had been completely sure that I had made the original solution too strong, but I went back and found the original honey container and figured out that, in fact, I had made just a middling strength must (solution of honey and water).

I still didn’t want to believe that option 2 could be the problem. After reading my last mead post, though, my mom went searching and found a brewing page that describes the meadly action of various yeasts. There I read this:

Wyeast mead yeasts – sweet (3184) and dry (3632) have given me mixed results. [ . . . ] they’re both rather slow, and even the dry is not particularly attenuative. I’ve had some trouble with the sweet taking forever to do anything. [ . . . ] I have a guess that these yeasts aren’t happy with low nutrient levels, because they’ve done much better with melomels. (The problems were with straight meads.)

we have come across some additional information on using the Wyeast sweet mead yeast [ . . . ] The manufacturer recommends using a yeast nutrient (such as fermax) in order to prevent extremely slow fermentation.

Oh. Woulda been nice if the brew shop had told me that. Maybe when I first bought that particular yeast, or when I went back a couple times to ask for help with why it was taking so long.

In any case, before trekking the 45 minutes up to the brew shop I’m first gonna try a simpler method of getting nutrients to the yeast. Ya freeze a sliced orange or apple (so the cells burst), thaw it, and dump it in. And wait. And wait.

I’m afraid the yeast may be too dormant and sluggish by now to react to the apple, though – I should be able to see in a few days whether there’s any activity – so I may just have to get myself up to the brew shop in any case and get yet another vial of mead yeast … and I won’t forget the packet of nutrients this time.

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