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ejt
07-19-2008, 11:42 AM
Edit: Please see my thrid post in this thread (seven overall) for a much more detailed account of my recipe and procedure.

Having received little to no help from my local homebrewing community, I decided I needed to seek out some expert advice. In 2006, I made my first batch of mead. Like many newbies, I used the basic recipe from "The Compleat Meadmaker" with only two changes: Instead of using 15 lbs. of orange blossom honey, I used 10 lbs. of orange blossom and 5 lbs. of basswood honey. I made the substitution because the honey seller at the local farmer's market (who said he was a meadmaker himself) only had 10 lbs. of orange blossom on hand and told me the basswood would be a good substitute. The other change was that I bottled the mead in smaller bottles with attached rubber stoppers instead of in wine bottles. My rough timeline would be as follows:

Mid-June 2006: Prepared the must and started fermentation.

Early July 2006 (ca. two weeks later): racked off to a glass carboy. I had quite a bit of additional fermentation afer I racked it over, like 3-4 weeks of weak fermentation.

October 2006: Bottled the mead.

After I had aged it a few months, I checked the the mead and it tasted pretty bad, almost as if it had been improperly distilled. I consulted with the owner of the local homebrew store, who told me not to worry. He said that mead really needed a year or so to mellow out and taste good. So I let it age. At one year, it still tasted bad, but a different kind of bad from before. It had a bit of what I'd call a mouthwash quality to it. Not the "rocket fuel" taste I've heard described for oxidized mead, but certainly not pleasant. It's aged almost two years now, and the mouthwash flavor hasn't gone away. It certainly doesn't taste like professional meads I've had, and the homebrew store owner is stumped. After trying to find the answer on my own, I keep coming back to oxidation, even though it doesn't really have the qualities of oxidation when it's described (the color looks good, and the flavor is not nearly as harsh as the flavor that oxidized mead is supposed to have). So I basically have two questions: 1) What went wrong? and 2) Can I fix it, or should I just dump it all and start again?

Thanks very much for your help!

Yo momma
07-19-2008, 12:06 PM
Did you taste the batch while it was brewing? If so what did it taste like and when did it start to taste bad? Sometimes it's better to cut your loses and start anew. I know that it s**ks but I think everyoe has had a batch go bad in one way or another. I am no expert and without the previous questions being answered, I couldn't help.

ejt
07-19-2008, 12:20 PM
I tried it when I racked it the first time, when I bottled it, and then again about 3-4 months later. Each time, it had an almost liquor-like taste. Very high in alcohol, and frankly not very good. This was when I was advised by my local homebrew store owner to let it age at least a year, which I did. At that point, the "distilled" taste was gone, but it had the Listerine/mouthwash quality described in my original post, and it hasn't really gone away since.

I've been hesitant to dump the batch and try again until I have a better idea of what went wrong so I don't repeat my same mistake (if it was my mistake and not just an ingredient problem). I was going to make a cyser next, but I think I'd like to master (or at least get a handle on) basic show mead first.

Oskaar
07-19-2008, 12:54 PM
Welcome to Got Mead?!

Howdy.

I know you referenced Ken's recipe, but, if you would please post up your exact process and ingredients for us that will help us to see if we can help you. It is often the case that when a recipe is followed, it is not followed exactly, or there are some differences that actually impact the recipe in an adverse way so it helps us to look at it and try to find those things that may have been changed/added/omitted that will make a difference in the end product.

Ken stops by this forum as well so you may get some advice from the recipe originator and mead sage himself!

Cheers,

Oskaar

wayneb
07-19-2008, 01:39 PM
Allow me to add my welcome to this wonderful community! "GotMead?" is a great place to find answers to all your meadmaking questions. In addition to Oskaar's request for recipe and process, let me specifically add another question -- do you have any records of the temperature of the must as it fermented? If you didn't take temperature readings with a thermometer, could you at least estimate the air temperature in your fermentation room when the batch was actively fermenting?

sandman
07-19-2008, 01:55 PM
I was just reading through this and thinking about fusels. Being down here in the :angryfire: PHX :angryfire: I've had to learn a few things about warm weather brewing and the issues that might come from that. If it is just a fusel issue, time is the best solution I could suggest. Posting the exact recipe and process like Oskaar said would definitely be a help in figuring out this one. That and the environmental conditions it was (A) Fermented in, and (B) Stored in. In any case. it won't hurt to leave it to age some more. Time is definitely our friend where mead is concerned.

I'd also like to echo wayneb and welcome you to the forum. If there's a solution for this batch you'll definitely be able to find it here.

ejt
07-19-2008, 02:41 PM
Thanks for the warm welcome! Here is the exact recipe and procedure I used as far as I can recreate it. A computer virus ate my original mead journal last year, so this is comes from the handwritten notes I still have as well as what my brother (my mead-making assistant) and I can recall from memory. I also repeated a lot of details I mentioned in my previous posts so you wouldn't have to refer to multiple posts for all of the information.

Ingredients used:
10 lbs. Orange Blossom Honey
5 lbs. Basswood Honey
4 gallons Spring Water
2 packets (10 g) Lavin 71b-1122 yeast
5 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient

My brother reminded me that when we tried to buy yeast energizer, the clerk at the homebrew store didn't carry it but said the nutrient would be enough. I substituted the basswood for the orange blossom because the guy at the farmer's market who sold it to me (and who claimed he was a meadmaker himself) didn't have a full 15 lbs. of orange blossom but told me basswood would make a good replacement.

Must preperation:
I sanitized everything using bleach and was extra paranoid to make sure everything was well rinsed before begining. I heated one gallon of the water to a vigorous boil for 10-15 min., added the yeast nutrient and the honey. I stirred it until it was uniform, then checked the temp. It was about 135 or so, so I let it sit for about 20 min. We dumped the must into the fermenter, which already contained the remaining gallons of water (ice cold, of course). After the temp dropped a little below 80 degrees, I pitched the rehydrated yeast, stirred it well to add oxygen, and covered it. I placed it in a dark closet in a room in my basement. Fermentation had already started by the following morning, about 18 hours after I pitched the yeast. While I didn't keep a record of the temp in the storage area, this was June of 2006. The current temperature (as of July 19th, 2008) of the storage room is ca. 67-70 degrees, depending on which thermometer you'd like to believe.

Racking into the carboy:
This was done in Mid-July, exactly two weeks after I prepped the original must. Again, I used bleach as the sanitizer. I racked it into the carboy and placed it back into the same room. At this point, fermentation started back up. While weaker than the original fermentation, it lasted for about 4 weeks. I tasted a little of it, and it was like a strong, distilled liquor. Very alcoholic.

Bottling:
I did this in October of '06. Instead of wine bottles, I used smaller bottles with attached rubber stoppers. This went off without much trouble. I tasted it again, and it didn't taste much different than it did when I racked it. The bottles were stored in the same room. In the summer the basement stays relatively cool while in the winter this closet is not too far from the heater. I would estimate the year-round temperature variance to go between 50 degrees to 75 degrees. It remains fairly dark in the room.

3-4 months later until today:
I tasted the mead again. It had improved since in that I didn't get a strong liquor taste, but it still tasted pretty bad. As I said, the best comparission I can think of is mouthwash. I consulted with the owner of the local homebrew store, who told me to just relax and let the mead age. He said all of the meads he's made take at least a year to mellow out and taste good. I have tasted the mead every few months since, and there has been no noticable change in taste. It may have mellowed a little since then (it's hard to remember exactly how astringent it was from tasting to tasting), but it's still basically undrinkable.

I appreciate all everyone's help. I'd love to save the batch if I can instead of having to chalk it up to learning. Thanks!

fatbloke
07-19-2008, 03:33 PM
If this were my brew, I'd do 1 of 2 things. In practice you probably only have the 1 option.

So, I'd either just run it through my still (well 4 litres of it anyway as a test). That would tell me how much (roughly) alcohol I'd get from the entire batch,

or

suggestion 2, is just leave it in the bottles to age. If you did some digging around the web (or picked up some of the out of print books through amazon market place), you will often see references to recipes (particularly "old time" recipes that have been around for decades) that suggest that some meads can take a number of years to come good.

One of the books I have (published in the mid 60's), is very critical of using heather honey and says that it's only a PITA because it can take between 5 and 8 years to come good. I don't know about that, because I've only made one gallon of heather honey mead and although it's now ageing, it didn't taste too bad when it was freshly racked off the lees and cleared.

So if it does still have a mouthwash/medicinal taste too it (which Ken also refers to in his book) then why not just leave it alone and give it a couple more years. You'll know if it does come good. I was personally amazed by the changes that can occur in a mead through age.

regards

fatbloke

ken_schramm
07-19-2008, 08:59 PM
From what I have read here, I am going to lay the blame at the feet of the basswood honey. I have had meads made from basswood honey, and in fact some basswood honey by itself, that was sharp and acrid to the point of being distasteful. The meads had a distinctly medicinal quality that was true to form with the offending honey. Some basswood honey is not as aggressive, but some is unmanageable.

If that is the case, there won't really be any way to salvage the mead.

I have never used Fermax, but 5 tsp sounds like a serious dose. That may be contributing to the problem.

Put it away for a few years and make a few new batches. Try a spicy metheglin or a big fruity melomel to get yourself off on the right foot.

Yours,
Ken

Oskaar
07-20-2008, 01:42 AM
Ken,

Thanks for your insight here.

I've never made mead from basswood honey, and things didn't click until I googled it and found that it is also referred to as Linden. I've tasted several meads made from Linden honey, and some were medicinal to the point of numbing my tongue. At the International Mead Competition this year in Boulder, CO, Vicky Rowe, Janis Gross, Pavol and Edo (of Vcelko Vina from Slovakia) all tried a Linden mead and we were all pretty much looking for a rinse after tasting it. It was very full of phenol, and some mind numbing spicy characters that are reminiscent of curry and pickling spices.

In any case I think that you're right on the money about the flavor, and, the nutrient dosage out of the gate. I think letting this sucker age for a while is the right approach and from there a decision can be made.

Cheers,

Oskaar

ejt
07-20-2008, 12:05 PM
Thank you all for your quick responses.

The 5 tsp. of Fermax might be a typo. I copied that off of my handwritten notes, which were scribbled down quickly and not very legibly and might not be 100% accurate. I was working from Mr. Schramm's recipe, which only calls for 2 tps., so I may have only added 2. Honestly, I can't remember what I did two years ago, and with my main notes gone, it's impossible for me to say for sure.

Either way, the advice is the same. I'll give it a few more years, and should it actually turn out all right, I'll be sure to report back. In the mean time, I'll try again with a one gallon batch of something quick and easy, perhaps a JAO.

Thanks again for everyone's help.

Dan McFeeley
07-20-2008, 01:30 PM
Aging may help a great deal, but if the flavor is still off, you might want to consider blending the mead with another.

Blending doesn't cure a poor mead, it only dilutes it, however, if aging cures the off flavors but the overall flavor profile isn't to your liking, a blend might help.

fatbloke
07-20-2008, 06:01 PM
You learn something new every day.

so thanks to the "meadmeister", Mr Schramm.

Now I knew that Eucalyptus honey can produce strange results, and that Leatherwood honey, leatherwood being related to eucalyptus is also probably best avoided for the same reason, but........

I've seen basswood honey advertised.

So at least now I know that it's probably one to avoid.

regards

fatbloke

Teufelhund
07-20-2008, 09:02 PM
Now this is weird! I just got off a 30 min Google of this big gnarly tree in the front yard: has great smelling flowers and the bees love it. Finally found it and what is it? Basswood! :laughing7: The splinters will infect you like a $#@*! too.
And to top it off, Ken pops my bubble of basswood honey mead. :angry2: HA!

:cheers:

DD