View Full Version : potential contamination?

02-23-2010, 09:29 PM
well i have been experimenting with high gravity meads using the white labs "super high gravity" yeast. the first batch i did developed a red colored substance that apeared on the top of the must and in a line around the glass at the highest point reached but the bubbles. I first noticed this about 3 weeks after starting the fermentation and about a week after adding the last of my concentrate. (you have to ramp the sugar levels slowly during the first few weeks of fermentation to max the alcohol yield) i dumped the first batch assuming that it was contaminated at some point during the first few weeks with the constant messing with it i had to do. I started a new batch over the weekend and put the yeast and begginings of the honey in a carboy sunday. i added pasturized honey/water mix monday, checked it tuesday morning before going to work, and when i came home it had developed the same red substance. It looks like this substance may be a byproduct of the fermentation because it deffinatly seems to appear where there are alot of bubbles. Has anyone ever ran into this before? Is it something i need to worry about or is it just a part of the fermentation? I am an experianced mead maker and have never had trouble with contamination before. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!!!
The Orc

02-23-2010, 10:22 PM
Hey Orc! Welcome to "Gotmead?" !!

You should routinely when asking questions about a particular batch, post a summary of the ingredients (amounts as well as contents), process and measurements that you may have taken along the way. It helps us immensely in narrowing the possible range of answers.

That said, what you describe is not something that I've seen before, either. Can you shoot some digital pics of it and post them up so we can all see? That could help as well. I have also never used the White Labs super high grav yeast before but I have used several other strains that have been bred more for ethanol conversion capability than for flavorful results - and I've never seen anything like the red scum you're describing.

Can you grab a small sample of it and describe its smell (if any) and taste (if any) as well as what it looks like up close?

02-24-2010, 02:47 AM
Red? Wow that is odd.

If you can't snap a picture, could you describe the "redness" of the red? Bright red, brownish red, purple red? Does it cover the whole surface or just around the edge? What are you fermenting in? Solid red stuff or more like flecks of red in the foam?

02-24-2010, 12:34 PM
Also, is the honey "raw" honey or some generic purchased at the store?

Raw honey often has "bee parts" and such in it which could, during fermentation with that (or any, I suppose) yeast, get suspended in the krausen and stick to the fermenter. Not only that, depending on the honey could (in my experience) make the krausen behave...and color...differently.

If you have noticed this in two straight batches using the same ingredients and yeast, then I would bet it is not anything to worry about.

Just my two cents...seen some odd stuff as a beer brewer and this doesn't sound that odd to me.

02-24-2010, 09:34 PM
well i am going to try to get a picture but as i just added more concentrated must you cant really see the red stuff right now. its only appearing around the sides of the bottle and where there are groups of bubbles in the middle. its a fairly red red (for lack of a better description) its not a dark or bright red, its slightly brighter if anything. The last batch i tried was not raw honey(this one is) so i dont think it has anything to do with that.

Here is my "recipe"
6.5 cups honey
9.5 cups water
.75 tsp nutrient (added into starter)
1.75 tsp nutrient (in concentrate)
1 Lipton teabag (steeped in must for 10 min after it reached 170 degrees)
.25 tsp acid blend (in starter)
1 tsp acid blend (in concentrate)
i let the starter go untill it was activly applying pressure to the airlock then put it into the carboy and added some concentrate. I have added a similar amount of concentrate every evening since (about and inch in a gallon jug)

03-10-2010, 09:25 PM
well i think i figured it out. i think that the red stuff is produced but sunlight. once the carboy is full it only forms on the window facing of the bottle, when the levels were lower it formed over the whole suface because it had more surface area exposed to light. this is mostly conjecture based on observation but i also think that with the first batch i may have had the blinds closed on the window for a week and then opened them around the time the red stuff appeared in that batch. comments?

03-10-2010, 11:38 PM
Red...light...algae? If so, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_algae) says it is quite nutritious. :o Admittedly, this is a total shot in the dark. Any chance for a picture?

Incidentally, Irish moss is listed as a species of red algae. I thought it was seaweed? Different moss?

03-11-2010, 12:12 AM
Lots of seaweeds are actually algaes, rather than higher organized plants.

03-11-2010, 12:29 AM
Huh, good to know.

Also I looked up the stuff that makes your sink/shower pink: Serratia marcenscens. It's red, and lives all over the place. I have a hard time figuring that it would survive through sanitation and fermentation, but maybe it can. It apparently doesn't need much to survive.

03-11-2010, 12:35 AM
S. marcenscens generally doesn't live in areas of relatively low pH, where "low" in this case means lower than 5.0. So while the red scum in this mead may be a bacterial contamination, it probably isn't serratia.

03-13-2010, 12:51 AM
ill try to get a good pic tomarrow when there is good light, i dont really think its a bacteria or anything living, it doesnt grow like an algae or mold would, it actually seems to be going away slowly now that i have the bottle filled and also its a south facing window so its starting to get less light. i would venture a guess that its a byproduct put off by the yeast (plant cells) when some sort of photosynthesis occurs, i know normally yeast doesnt photosyntesize but because this is a really high gravity yeast it may have been bred with normal plants to increase its cell strength. i have no real proof but it seems the mostly likely to me, pics tomarrow i hope

Medsen Fey
03-13-2010, 11:06 AM
The yeast (even ones with high gravity/alcohol tolerance) don't photosynthesize. Have you tried making a batch without the tea to see if the same thing happens? My guess is that it is related to some of the color compounds from the tea.

03-13-2010, 01:19 PM
i use the same tea in all my meads (with different yeasts) and have never seen this before, i am thinking it is similar to photosynthesis, not actually photosynthesis. the only observations i have made on conditional changes relating to the changes in the red stuff are in relation to the amount of sunlight in the room and contacting the surface of the must.

Medsen Fey
03-13-2010, 01:25 PM
That's why it would be interesting to see a batch with the same ingredients except for the tea, just to see if it is something coming from the yeast itself.

03-13-2010, 02:44 PM
I'm no biologist, but yeast crossing with a plant doesn't seem likely, considering that yeast isn't a plant, it's a fungus.

03-15-2010, 01:35 PM
Question: isn't sunlight the enemy to the fermenting mead? I thought that keeping sunlight away from your meads both during and post fermentation was the recommended practice. Specifically, the UV causes oxidation and (for beers at least) can change the flavor of the product significantly.

03-15-2010, 02:22 PM
Question: isn't sunlight the enemy to the fermenting mead? I thought that keeping sunlight away from your meads both during and post fermentation was the recommended practice. Specifically, the UV causes oxidation and (for beers at least) can change the flavor of the product significantly.

Yes, although mead is not subject to the transformation of a chemical found in hops to that contained in skunk musk (which gives rise to "skunking" of beer exposed to UV), other chemical changes are caused by UV, which can make for a mead that is "light struck." Not a good thing.