View Full Version : I think my first batch has been contaminated

09-29-2009, 12:34 AM
Went to transfer mead from primary to secondary done in 5 gallon glass carboy and its smells terrible. Like sour apples or apple cider vinegar. I used the time tested 5 gallons of water 1 oz of bleach 1 oz of vinegar cleaned everything and the only thing i can think of is that i mixed in a 7 gallon bucket which i cleaned and sanitized but maybe something was left in the valve (which i ran the solution through) or a scratch in my beer brewing bucket. It is 2 years old but has about 90 gallons of beer under its belt. I always clean really well and use the bleach sanitze solution right before it comes in contact with anything. should i go out and get a new bucket or carboy???? i have never had this happen maybe its because i didnt boil just heated water up to 140. This is no fun but at least i have 12 more pounds of honey.

09-29-2009, 01:23 AM
Hi there!

Does it definitely smell like vinegar? How does it taste? Any funny stuff growing in there? (ropes, fibers, pellicle, etc)

The biggest thing you can do to help us figure things out is give us your exact recipe and process. Young mead smells a lot different than beer, so hopefully you are just in olfactory shock.

Dan McFeeley
09-29-2009, 04:29 AM
I think the time honored sanitation method is five gallons of water with bleach alone, no vinegar.

I can see some problems with mixing the two -- often bleach is a strong base, depending on the type, and you're mixing that with an acid.

09-29-2009, 08:56 AM
Dan, there's a slightly less time honored (aka "new-fangled") approach to using bleach as a sanitizer that involves mixing it with a little acid. The lowered pH helps the free chlorine resulting from mixing the bleach with water to do its job more effectively. HOWEVER, this can be dangerous if not done properly. Add the acid ONLY after the bleach has been diluted with lots of water. Otherwise the rapid release of free chlorine can rapidly kill you!

Medsen Fey
09-29-2009, 09:44 AM
In addition to your recipe details, please tell us how long was this in your primary fermenter?

Dan McFeeley
09-29-2009, 10:40 AM
Thanks for the update Wayne -- doesn't look like anything I'd want to use, even if the bleach is diluted in five gallons of water. I'll stick with the older fangled methods. ;D

09-29-2009, 01:38 PM
The recipe i used is:
12 lbs blueberry michigan honey
4 gallons filtered chicago water
Lavin K1V-1116 dry wine yeast
yeast nutrients
yeast energizer

I mixed the honey with 1 gallon of water at 140 and let sit for 20 min. I then mixed the remaining 3 gallons of water to cool and get to volume. I opened the valve directly into the 5 gallon glass carboy and left some head room. It started fermenting in about 6 hours. It was 3.5 weeks into it and the smell from the 2 piece airlock was great like honey. I transferred that day and when i took the bung and airlock out it smelled like sour apple cider. I tasted it and it was sulfur like and sour apple cider with a back hint of honey lol. There is nothing growing in it. I have left it in secondary because i have a few vessels and can always dump it later.

A little clarification on the sanitizer solution. Yes the vinegar is to lower the pH and this tip came from the inventor and manufacture of sanstar. So thats why i went with it and have not had a problem in 2 years. this is my first mead and bam. A little clarification on how to mix the solution. I use a bucket and a shot glass as a measuring device. I get 5 gallons of water in the 7 gallon bucket get 1 oz of bleach in the shot glass and pour it in. RINSE THE SHOT GLASS. get 1 oz of vinegar and pour it in. RINSE THE SHOT GLASS and put it away. There is your sanitizing solution. If the bleach were to come in direct contact with the vinegar the fumes can kill you so be careful.

Hope this helps I cant figure this one out i'm so freaked out i'm thinking of buying a new carboy and bucket.

09-29-2009, 02:03 PM
How much nutrient did you use? When did you add it? Did you oxygenate your must?

Sounds to me like you might be smelling some stressed out yeast byproducts. Do you know the current SG of your mead?

09-29-2009, 05:17 PM
used the recommended amount of nutrient on the label. 1 tsp. per gallon. Did not take a SG but my FG when racked was 1.002

Medsen Fey
09-29-2009, 06:06 PM
There is nothing growing in it. I have left it in secondary because i have a few vessels and can always dump it later.

Whatever you do, don't dump it -at least not yet.

I'm curious, at what temperature did you ferment this batch?

It is unlikely that any spoilage organisms have had their way with your mead. That usually takes a bit more time. You may very well have some stressed yeast, and the pH may be the issue. However, it is very likely that what you are smelling and tasting is just "young mead."

Keep it protected from air, and let it sit age and clear. Rack it when it clears. In 6 months to 1 year you'll be able to smell and taste it to get a true picture, and the difference will be amazing.

09-29-2009, 07:35 PM
I hope you are right I fermented this at 74 that was the temp of the basement at the time. I will sit tight and make another batch just to be safe. :)

09-30-2009, 12:26 AM
i'm making a different batch friday and to make sure no badness gets in i'm using just my pot and carboy thats it no bucket mixing in the pot and adding the water. I may even preboil my water. This has got me shaken. What is a recommended fermenting temps on meads? i'm sure it depends on what you want but what are the ususal temps?

09-30-2009, 01:25 AM
Generally cooler is better; you will see fewer fusels, phenols, and other volatile organics produced at lower temperatures. Keep in mind that the mead can be several (or many) degrees above the air temperature--fermentation is exothermic. Specific temperature recommendations depend on the yeast you choose, but a good range to shoot for is 65-70F (mead temperature). Room temperature should probably be about 5 degrees cooler than that during the initial vigorous fermentation if you have no active cooling measures.

Medsen is probably right, this is likely the "new mead" flavor and you just haven't worked up an "appreciation" for it yet. ;) Time will definitely help.

Be sure to heavily aerate your mead when you pitch the yeast. That and proper nutrition (search the forum for SNA or staggered nutrient addition) will help you achieve a fast and low-stress fermentation.

09-30-2009, 01:34 AM
ok excellent 65-70 wont be a problem for the new batch. As for the suspect batch I will leave it for a month or two in the secondary and keep everyone posted. How about the campden tablets not really sure about them but should I drop a few in the new batch before fermentation?

10-11-2009, 08:15 PM
great news I racked the mead from the secondary into another secondary glass carboy after it had cleared and it smells and tastes fine. Everything that was said was true I think it fermented a little high 75 and me being a noob and my first mead I didn't know what it was supposed to smell like. Thanks everyone you saved 5 gallons of mead that I will enjoy. On to the next batch. case closed.

Thanks again.

10-11-2009, 10:41 PM

I love it when a plan comes together.:)

even my son, who brews beer, thought there was something wrong when he saw the Huge Cap on a melomel I had in vigorous primary, so don't feel too bad. ;)