View Full Version : Small changes creating different results - WORRIED

10-24-2010, 10:10 PM
10 lb honey
1-1/2 gallons of elderberry juice
3 gallons of water

I did some things different this time and REALLY need some experienced advice!
I boiled everything = whereas I usually never boil the honey...and when the yeast didn't start after 24 hours I added more. THEN I found out the lid was not airtight and replaced it - BAM - it started bubbling like crazy (the same thing happened last time I accidently used this lid - which is now in the trash).
Yesterday (day 4) I noticed the house smelled like vinegar... today it was worse so I opened the barrel and saw that the yeast had created a scum like layer on top which was bubbling (never saw it do this before). Any ideas??
From what I have read - this is normal (this was the ONLY time I have forgotten to do a hydrometer reading to start!) but my past batches were all about 10-12sg and yet never did this so much nor do I recall such a strong odor.

Thank you SO much!

Chevette Girl
10-24-2010, 10:45 PM
Do you generally aerate your must for the first few days or not?

If not, one possiblity for any difference in fermentation behaviour could be that when you boil water, any dissolved oxygen that was in it already will be driven out.

That's not to say that you can't make wine doing it this way, I used to boil everything and often didn't aerate, but now I'm noticing what a difference it can make.

I've occasionally gotten vinegary smells but as long as the must doesn't taste like vinegar you're probably OK, especially if you haven't been aerating your must because the acetobacter bacteria that makes vinegar needs oxygen. What yeast were you using? Sometimes stressed-out yeast makes funny smells, as I learned with my recent crabapple mel using RC-212.

I'd check the SG to see that it's doing something, and then I'd probably give it a good stir and break up the scum just in case it's something other than yeast.

10-25-2010, 03:04 PM
What did you use as your determination for the yeast not starting? No bubbles in the airlock sounds like it might have just been a leaky seal, rather than a problem with the yeast.

A foam layer on the top is not uncommon, it is made up largely of proteins and some polysaccharides. Boiling honey will coagulate any proteins present, so they might have risen to the top this time (vs. other times).

The vinegar smell is more worrisome. Are you sure it is vinegar vs. another sour smell? Sour smells can sometimes be normal, but vinegar (acetic acid) is not normal behavior for yeast and 99% of the time points to a colony of acetobacter. These will form groups on the top of the mead (they need air), often round-ish in shape and will look like something rather unpleasant. Let us know if you are definitely getting the acetic smell, you'll want to squash that as soon as possible.