View Full Version : EEEEEW that smell

10-30-2008, 11:06 AM
I have been brewing beer for several years, and have just started experimenting with meads. I brewed (2) 1 gallon batched of Cyser 3 days ago. I checked on it last night (2 days) and when I didn't see bubbling in the airlock, curiosity forced me to open the lid and take a peak ??? I was surprised by a smell that reminded me of cider vinegar.

My question is...Is this normal?

BTW, there was some bubbling action going on.

Thanks in advance for any help with this.


10-30-2008, 11:16 AM
That volatile acidity (acetic acid) aroma that you're detecting can depend on a lot of factors, and in some cases a little VA early in the fermentation of a cider or cyser is normal, but we can't really tell without reading a bit more about your exact recipe and process. Can you give us some more background details on this batch?

Excessive VA aromas, or smells that don't dissipate as the fermentation progresses, are not generally a good thing.

Oh, WELCOME to the "GotMead?" community, By the Way!!

10-30-2008, 11:23 AM
Thanks for the quick reply.

Orange Blossom Cyser
1 Gallon Apple Juice (Publix)
2 lbs Orange Blossom Honey
8 oz Spring Water
Teaspoon Yeast Energizer
Teaspoon Pectin Enzyme
1/8 Teaspoon Acid Blend
Teaspoon Cote des Blancs

Added the apple juice to a 2 gallon fermenter bucket, warmed the honey and poured into the apple juice, added the yeast energizer, pectin enzyme, and acid blend. Aerated with a commercial immersion blender. Allowed to sit for 30 minutes then spinkled the yeast over the mixture and stirred in. covered and added the airlock.

I have a second batch that is identical except the honey is "Wildflower"...I did not open it to see if it smelled the same.


10-30-2008, 03:40 PM
Your welcome!

Well, the recipe looks fine except for the addition of acid blend up front. You will learn from reading older message threads that honey musts are notorious for swings in pH as fermentation proceeds, since they are under-buffered as compared to beer wort and grape wine must. So it is usually best to hold off the additions of any acid until fermentation has completed. In fact you might find after fermenting a mead completely, that the taste is just fine without any acid additions.

Anyway, yeasts that are stressed can throw small quantities of both acetaldehyde (smells like green apples) and volatile acids (that vinegar-y smell). That stress can come from working at too low a pH or from fermentation at too high a temperature. Cote des Blancs is a strain that likes fairly low temperatures. Have any idea what temp your must is at? Also, do you have any way to test pH?

10-30-2008, 03:50 PM
The fermometer on my beer carboys is reading 68F...don't have anyway to read the pH, but could pick up some test strips.

So what should I be reading?

Thanks again,

10-30-2008, 04:07 PM
Wine yeast like a pH environment generally between 3.4 and 4.0. Much lower than that and the must is too acidic for them to thrive, and higher than that range and other spoilage organisms (bacteria) can cause problems.

68F is a good temperature for Cote des Blancs (Epernay 2). It generally likes to be below 70F, and above 50F.

10-30-2008, 04:10 PM
Also, you might not, as a beer brewer, be completely comfortable with aeration of your must during the first 1/3 of fermentation. You should measure the initial specific gravity of your must (pre-pitching), and then track it regularly. Until it gets to the "1/3 sugar break" (the point at which the first 1/3 of fermentable sugars have been consumed by the yeast), you should stir the must to incorporate a little oxygen from the air into the mix. Yeast actually need O2 during the first 1/3 of their lifecycle, and you'll end up with faster, cleaner smelling and tasting fermentations if you do that.

10-30-2008, 04:22 PM
Looks like some really good info...I'll try to get a test kit tomorrow for pH...how often do you recommend checking the SG...since these are only 1 gallon batches I would hate to loose too much.

I am assuming that the sample pulled for the SG test is dumped and not pitched back into the must (a beer no-no)...I guess it's better than loosing the whole batch.

I'm experimenting to find recipes I like before doing larger quantities.

The OG's were 1.095 for the Orange Blossom and 1.090 for the Wildflower...I guess 1.060ish for the 1/3 :confused2:


Medsen Fey
10-30-2008, 06:29 PM
Welcome to Gotmead? Vino!

A few more tips about volatile acidity in wine-making can be found Here (http://www.vines.org/Docs/Text/WINE_Encyclopedia_Volatile_acidity.htm).
Fermentation and volatile acidity
Acetic acid is generated at a low level 0.3 g/l (<0.03%) at the beginning of alcoholic fermentation, although the level can become higher under abnormal winemaking conditions. The level of acetic acid depends upon the initial sugar concentration; from the 0.3 g/l level at Brix 25 (sugar 230 g/l), the level rises above 0.8 g/l (0.08%) at a Brix of 36 (sugar 324 g/l). The production of acetic acid can be reduced by increasing the nitrogen content of the must. Malolactic fermentation increases the level slightly as the result of the breakdown of citric acid and pentose sugars that are not metabolized by yeast.

And in the archive of New-World Winemaker (http://www.newworldwinemaker.com/).

Acetic acid is formed by the yeast and bacterial microflora of grapes, juice and wine. Up to 0,3 g/l acetic acid is formed by yeasts during any alcoholic fermentation but excessive quantities will be formed depending on the yeast strain, the condition of the grapes, the sugar content of the grapes, the pH of the juice, the temperature during the beginning of the fermentation and the clarity of the juice. Rotten grapes, high sugar contents, pH's higher than 4,0 and beginning fermentation temperatures higher than 25 degrees Centigrade as well as excessive juice clarification will favour the formation of more acetic acid.

Mead musts are generally "excessively clear" by wine making standards and that may contribute to more volatile acidity. Your gravity certainly wasn't too high, and it seems like nutrients should be okay. I suspect the odors you are picking up will fade as fermentation continues, but please keep us posted. I am trying Cote des Blancs for the first time in a mead myself and I am curious to know if it has a propensity for volatile acidity.

If you do wind up with volatile acidity on the high side, you will want to take extra care to keep your mead protected from oxygen once the fermentation is complete so that acetic acid bacteria cannot add to the problem.

Good luck with your batch.


10-30-2008, 11:31 PM
To answer your specific questions, it is also not good practice to return a gravity sample to the main must. Aside from depriving yourself of a "meadmaker's taste sample," ;) you also run the risk of introducing an infection from any airborne bacteria that may have been added to that sample during normal handling. And yes, 1.060 or close would be the 1/3 breakpoint for your current batches.

And thanks to Medsen for finding the references to back up my memory! The man's a virtual fermentation search engine!! :icon_thumright:

10-31-2008, 12:18 AM
Just to chime in late, the cysers I have made have always been stinky for a day or so during the initial fermentation, even with nutrient dosing and aeration. Something about apples.... But they come out fine in the end.

Medsen Fey
10-31-2008, 09:26 AM
In doing a little :icon_study: I found that SO2 addition will reduce volatile acid production by yeast in favor of glycerol production. This might be useful for recipes which you know are prone to volatile acidity, or perhaps in high gravity musts where it is likely to occur.


10-31-2008, 10:05 AM

You guys are incredible...I may have over-reacted to the situation...last night I opened the fermenters and stirred them per wayneb's suggestion...the bubbles increased significantly (an Alka Seltzer effect)...and the smell was AMAZING ;D Not only could I smell the apples, but the orange blossom honey smell was heavenly.

I am waiting to take a sample for a gravity reading until I can pick up my pH meter this afternoon, and will post my findings Monday...in the mean time...




11-03-2008, 11:00 AM
Pulled a sample Saturday...pH = 3.8 so it looks like that's okay...the S.G. was 1.050 so I just missed the 1/3 sugar break...I added yeast nutrient and racked to glass for the balance of the primary since the 2 gallon buckets didn't seem to be sealing very well (beer brewing habit I'll have to break), they are currently bubbling approximately every second.

Thanks again for all the help.


BTW, the sample was YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!!

12-03-2008, 02:36 PM
New potential problem...One of the 2 batches that are in secondary has some for lack of a better word "stuff" that is collecting at the surface...it is a very pale green (almost white)...if I swirl the jug it will disperse but just below the surface along the taper of the jug...it looks almost like clouds...after a few hours it will accumulate back at the top.

I pulled the airlock this morning and there is no apparent odor that I can detect.

The recipe is listed near the beginning of this thread...the batch affected is the one made from wildflower honey...not that that should be a problem.

Any idea what it might be? And should I taste it?

None of my other batches have this issue.