View Full Version : Looking to start 2nd batch - how to get rid of "bite"?

02-23-2011, 09:25 PM
So in the summer I made my first batch of mead (actually, my first time brewing anything). My recipe was:

7 kg clover honey
Yeast nutrient (to the amount recommended on the packet - don't remember exactly)
1 tsp vanilla extract (added at time of bottling)
Lalvin EC-1118 yeast

Pasteurized diluted honey to 95C for a few minutes
Put straight into a 5 gal carboy and added water to 5 gal.
Re hydrated yeast and pitched into carboy.

OG was 1.096 @ 35C Aug 9 2010
at 1 week 1.080 @ 30C (it was summer and was hot for a few weeks)
4 weeks 1.024 @ 21C
7 weeks racked off lees to new carboy and topped up with ~1L of water to make up lost volume. SG 1.008 after dilution.

At 3 months, SG 1.000, added 1/2 cup of priming honey and the vanilla extract. Bottled. I've been sampling it for the last 2 months or so.

The mead turned out OK for a first try, but I'd like to improve it. Nice and alcoholic, clear, and bubbly, similar to champagne. The biggest issue with it is that it has quite a "bite" to it. It has a bitter flavour that I don't know where it came from. I know it is still a bit young, and it has aged out a bit, but I'm skeptical it will go away completely. I've tried some other young meads which didn't have this flavour at all.

My next batch I'd like to make a bit sweeter and lighter, more of a summer cider-like drink. And I want to get rid of the bitter flavor.

What can I improve? Some thoughts so far:
*I was confused about the aeration. I was under the impression that oxygen was bad during the entire fermentation, so I never stirred it and kept the headspace low the entire time. Could this have led to stressed yeast and added bad flavour?
*Yeast. Was 1118 a bad choice? My friend made his with Wyeast "sweet mead yeast" and while it seemed overly sweet (maybe a stuck fermentation?) it had a very nice flavour with no bitter bite. My mead had the bitter flavour even when it hadn't finished fermenting and was still very sweet.
*30 degrees too hot for initial fermentation?
*Bad nutrients? I used an opened pack I found in my dad's basement from years before.
*Left it too long on the lees?
*Infection? But there is no sour or rubber or other bad flavours, only bitter and a bit yeasty.

Any other suggestions? This time I'd like to make maybe a semi-sweet still mead, maybe 9% alcohol with 1% residual sugar and no bitter.

02-23-2011, 10:27 PM
Well, bitter/bite can be a few things. If your starting gravity was below 1.100 then I think we can safely say it's not going to be alcohol bite from too high of an ABV.

But, your temp was through the roof, I mean really through the roof. While some of the other things you listed could have also contributed (I doubt infection though) the fact that this thing was fermenting in the 30s really is the single most stand out problem likely to have caused this. I don't personally have a good grasp on the science, but with high temp ferments your yeast will put out fusel alcohols which are most commonly compared to rocket fuel for taste and aroma.

Aeration (lack of), nutrients, yeast choice - the fact that you chose to do it sparkling rather than still, these all could have contributed, but temp is the big thing on this one.

If you like the over-all recipe then you could repeat it with a different yeast and a cooler ferment, also try to improve some overall proceedures too if you want, and I'm sure you could have a really good mead. You may choose to stabilize and sweeten (to taste so you don't go overboard) when fermentation is over too, rather than carbonate (can't do both unless you force carb instead of bottle ferment carb it), you may like that (unless like me you find you simply prefer dry meads).

Welcome to gotmead!

02-23-2011, 10:36 PM
PJH, Welcome to the "Gotmead" community! AToE beat me to it (again - he's good at that), but I completely agree with his suggestions. 30C is way too hot for any fermentation, save one that is trying to mimic red grape ferments, with melomels that include dark red skinned fruit. Your yeast were likely stressed by the temperature and they produced the higher order alcohols called fusels. Fusel has a sharp, biting taste and a slightly pungent aroma that is often referred to as "rocket fuel" like. Your batch being carbonated contributes to the fusel flavor profile.

Take heart - fusels do, with time, break down into simple ethanol and esters. The transformation, given enough time, is nothing less than miraculous. A mead that you would dismiss as undrinkable when young, due to its fusel content, will transform itself into something pleasantly floral or fruity, and almost sweet tasting, with time. The only problem, is that we're talking about timescales on the order of many months to years. So, I'd recommend patience with this batch - put those remaining bottles away in a dark, cool place for a couple of years, and make some more mead in the mean time! ;)

02-24-2011, 03:00 AM
hi PJH
where abouts are you from?

i think something went majorly wrong.
EC-1118 should have finished within a week not 3 months.
i'm wondering if the must was still to hot (from the pasteurization) for the yeast when you pitched it and it died. your fermentation was probably done by wild yeasts.
or the old nutrient caused the massive slow down.

Chevette Girl
02-24-2011, 03:29 AM
I'm less suspect of the old nutrient as the fermentation temperature, I don't know if DAP can actually go bad, so long as it wasn't contaminated with something else...

Uh, PJH, was 30 degrees your pitch temperature after topping up your pasteurized honey with cool water, and your fermentation happened closer to 21C (room temp), or is that the temperature your must was fermenting at the whole time (i.e. you live somewhere hot without air conditioning)? If it was just your pitch temp, that shouldn't have harmed the yeast and I don't think it should have caused excessive fusels from this yeast, although the lack of aeration might be responsible for the harsh taste, which may well age out in a year.

I myself would be very tempted to try the exact same recipe again, only aerate the heck out of it a couple times a day till the yeast have eaten 1/3 of the sugars, and maybe add some yeast energizer as well, and see if you get a nicer, cleaner fermentation with characteristics you want instead of the harshness you don't like.

And yeah, your friend who used the wyeast sweet mead yeast probably did have a stuck fermentation, that yeast seems notoriously unreliable according to a lot of the folks on this forum who have used it.

Straight meads do sometimes take this long, especially when not aerated. My first mead was with EC-1118, not well aerated and probably overly acidified, and it got down to 1.010 in 3 weeks but lingered there for a couple months and when I bottled it 5 months later thinking it was done, it carb'd up in the bottles, so it obviously wasn't finished...

(Tweak'e, I'm guessing with my throbbing deductive skillz that PJH is not American, considering the use of metric units and celsius scale) :)

02-24-2011, 04:07 AM
Hi folks,

Thanks for the quick replies!

You are right that I'm not American, I live in Vancouver Canada. Usually it is quite cold around here, it's quite uncommon to be much hotter than the low twenties so of course we have no AC. I guess I just had really bad timing on when I pitched the batch. I took a look at the historical weather around that time and is was hot (25-30) for a week or so just after pitching, then cooled down to say 20 degrees for the rest of the time.

I let it cool to 35 degrees before pitching, so I'm pretty sure I didn't kill the 1118 yeast. It fermented slow and steady right from the get-go.

So it sounds like the 1118 yeast wasn't the main problem, so would you expect I could get a good result with that yeast? I still have some in the fridge, now 6 months old. But I have access shops that have a good selection of yeasts, so I could try something new maybe.

What is an ideal fermenting temperature?

02-24-2011, 04:54 AM
canada, i thought you might have been down under in this lovly warm weather.

30c is meant to be the upperlimit of ec-1118. i think it would have contribrated to the poor taste a fair bit. 35c should be fine for starting so its not that.
what sort of Yeast nutrient did you use? any name on the packet?

in contrast one of my batches was ec-1118 at around 24-26c most of the time and it basically finished in 5 days. fairly hot tasteing so its going to sit and age for a long time.

Medsen Fey
02-24-2011, 11:09 AM
30c is meant to be the upperlimit of ec-1118.

in contrast one of my batches was ec-1118 at around 24-26c most of the time and it basically finished in 5 days. fairly hot tasting so its going to sit and age for a long time.

As has been pointed out, 30 C is bad unless you are fermenting a red wine (or something similar) that needs high temp for extraction of color and tannins. For traditional meads it is bad.

I ran a test at 29C (the HotMead Yeast Test in the Patron's area) to compare various yeast and EC-1118 definitely does poorly. Even the better choices spend a year smelling like Band-Aids before mellowing out. So the number one thing you can do if you want a smoother, better-tasting mead is keep the temp below 21C.

There are other yeast that I think taste smoother than EC-1118 in any case - 71B for example, or DV10 if you want a Champagne yeast to do carbonation. These yeast, if used with proper temps, can give you a mead with little or no bitterness.

02-24-2011, 02:50 PM
So it seems that I created high fusel levels with poor fermenting conditions. For the next batch I will:
*Control the temperature
*Use better/known nutrients. My local shop has "DAP". Do I need anything else? What's a recommended dosage amount/schedule for 23L batch?
*Aerate during the first portion of the fermentation (until what point? 1/2 way mark?)
*Change yeast to a smoother variety. I'm thinking either D47 or 71B. Thoughts? D47 is specifically recommended for mead on the Lalvin website and gives "EVC" sensory effect (what's that?), while the 71B description says it "also has the ability to produce significant esters and higher alcohols". I thought I was trying to avoid producing higher alcohols?
*Make a still mead with OG 1.080, ferment dry, stabilize, then back-sweeten a bit. I'll probably be asking more about this in due course.


02-24-2011, 10:58 PM
I just have to interject that 30 is NOT hot. 30 is pleasantly warm. 40+ IS hot. :cool:

But I'm from the Central Valley of California, and we know hot! Be very careful when starting batches in July, August, and September. :)

Chevette Girl
02-24-2011, 11:14 PM
*Control the temperature

So far I don't think I've ruined a batch, and I'm sure I've started the odd one in the high 20's. However, I'm going to pay more attention in the future and sitting the carboy in a tub of water and put a t-shirt over it, evaporation should keep it down.

*Use better/known nutrients. My local shop has "DAP". Do I need anything else? What's a recommended dosage amount/schedule for 23L batch?
DAP is yeast nutrient, the stuff I have recommends 1 tsp per gallon but I think you might want more for meads, you might want some yeast energizer too, I did without it for years but I like to use it with any high-alcohol ferments that I do, keeps the yeasties happy. Do a search for SNA or "staggered nutrient addition" and you should get lots of info.

*Aerate during the first portion of the fermentation (until what point? 1/2 way mark?)
Typically to the 1/3 mark, a little later than that shouldn't hurt anything but it's most important right at the beginning.

*Make a still mead with OG 1.080, ferment dry, stabilize, then back-sweeten a bit. I'll probably be asking more about this in due course.
Are you going for a relatively low-gravity mead to make sure it goes dry, or so it goes clean/quick?

02-24-2011, 11:22 PM
PJH, check out the NewBee guide (link at left) if you haven't already. Some of the basics are covered there in some detail.

03-01-2011, 03:18 AM
Ok guys, thanks for the help and the links. After reading through the NewBee Guide and other resources, I gave it a shot, and this is what I did:

Feb 25
6.24Kg of honey, diluted and heated to 84C
Put into carboy and topped up with cold water to ~20L splashing lots to aerate.
OG 1.092
1/2 tsp DAP
1/2 tsp yeast energizer
Must temperature not measured, but outside of carboy felt cool.
Rehydrated D47 yeast as directed on package (15min in 50 mL warm water, then pitch into must). Temp of water not measured, but I'm sure it wasn't above 40C. Likely 30C.
Room temp 19.7C

Feb 26
No visible activity. Added 1/2 tsp DAP, 1/2 tsp YE
Stirred vigorously with racking cane (all I had that was long and narrow enough) and splashed the surface by rocking the carboy.
Room temp 17.5C

Feb 27
Still no visible activity, until I rocked the carboy. Then dissolved C02 was released.
Added 1 tsp YE, 1/2 tsp DAP.
Racked to 2nd carboy with lots of splashing to aerate.
Must temp 17.5C
Density 1.092

Feb 28
Lots of gas released when carboy is shaken, but not much activity otherwise.
Added 1/2 tsp DAP and 1/2 tsp YE
Racked again to aerate, lots of CO2 released - enough to stop the siphon a few times.
Room temp 20C
But... density still 1.092!

I'm getting worried - it seems behind schedule. There is definitely something happening, but it seems too slow. What should I do?

03-01-2011, 12:38 PM
PJH, I would say to NOT heat your must, or honey above 100F (~38C) and then only to help it to get into solution. Going above that is unnecessary these days and you'll lose a good deal of what makes honey taste as it does (up through the vapor)... Heating the honey up is a carry-over from days of old where sanitation was poor and people were over-paranoid.

I also wouldn't move the must between carboy's/vessels while primary is going on (or you're trying to get primary to happen)... You can aerate it through a few different methods that keep it in the same carboy/vessel. One would be to gently shake to degass (bung in the carboy). Then remove the bung and shake (careful not to spill it) to aerate it. Be careful with this method since you can have a foam volcano erupt all over the place. Another would be to use a lee stirrer on a drill to aerate the must. I made my own aeration tool a few days after starting my first batches of mead. I just took a 3' length of silver solder rod (from a welding supplier), bent it in half (keeping it bowed towards the end/middle) and locked it into my cordless drill's chuck. A few minutes with that provided good aeration for the must. I also went with the stepped nutrient addition method (measuring the nutrient on a precision scale) until the 1/3 break was reached.

Unless you give the must a good shaking before you rack it, you run the chance/risk of leaving yeast behind (the yeast that's settled out of the must)...

Just because you don't have any VISIBLE activity (I assume we're talking airlock movement here) doesn't mean nothing is going on... Usually people wait until post lag-phase to do anything with the must...

I've not used the yeast energizer, but I don't think you use it more than once during the process (at the start)... I would suggest checking the PH of the must to make sure it's within the good range.

I would also leave it alone until active fermentation has started at this point. You could be shocking the yeast with the racking back and forth so much (I could be wrong here, never did it to a must)...

The last batch I started (hard lemonade) took a few days before things really started to take off. I was fighting low PH initially, which I resolved. After a few days, things started to get more active, and they're going well now...

Be patient with your must/mead... I would also check the must's temperature to see what IT is... Room temp isn't a good gauge. You need to know what the must's temp is.

03-01-2011, 12:45 PM
If there is CO2 being produced, something is going on. Aerating is good, keep up the faith!

03-01-2011, 03:59 PM
Ok, maybe I'm getting too worried for no reason. It's just that in all the guides Lve read talking about stepped nutrient additions etc, it seems like at 3 days should be around the 1/3 sugar break, wheras mine has barely started.

Why would you not recommend using my racking method to aerate? I'm sure I didn't lose any significant yeast. I suppose I'm increasing opportunity for infection to take hold. Maybe I'll build a lees stirrer with a rod, that's a good idea and a lot easier than the racking method I've been using (athough I think i'll use stainless steel, not silver!).

BTW I did measure the must temperature on day 2 I think, it was 17.5C.

Medsen Fey
03-01-2011, 05:03 PM
At 17.5 the lag phase takes longer especially if you don't use GoFerm in the rehydration. They are working, the CO2 produced is evidence of that, so give them time.

03-14-2011, 09:00 PM
Alright everybody, I need some more advice/encouragement.

It's been 2 1/2 weeks, and the SG is 1.060. It's been under airlock for about a week, when SG was 1.065. Bubbles out the airlock are slowing to about 1 / 30 seconds. Doesn't .005 drop in SG in a week seem too slow? Small lees cake forming at the botttom, maybe 4mm thick. Should I:

A. Do nothing except be more patient
B. Add more nutrients
C. Measure pH (how do most people do this?) and adjust if required

Medsen Fey
03-14-2011, 09:20 PM
C. Measure pH (how do most people do this?) and adjust if required

Use pH strips with a range or 3-4 (or thereabouts), or get a pH meter and calibration solutions.

03-14-2011, 09:30 PM
Patience is key, but I would take the pH. Get a calibrated meter, or strips that are accurate in the 2-5 pH range.
Your must is fermenting (as shown with the drop to 1.060).
My cool ferment (the last one, I'm fairly new to mead) took 3 days to start at 14C. It smells great, and after 10 days has only dropped 40 points.
I'm using EC-1118 as I wanted a low temp neutral yeast.
The more experienced here have said that you should keep the pH between 3 and 4.
If it's out of that range, post back, and we can help get within range.
As has been pointed out, the newbie guide link to the left is great.
Hang in there.

Medsen Fey
03-15-2011, 09:21 AM
I'd probably add another tsp of yeast energizer if it is the tannish-colored, powder type of yeast energizer (not white crystal stuff).

03-17-2011, 02:52 AM
I'd probably add another tsp of yeast energizer if it is the tannish-colored, powder type of yeast energizer (not white crystal stuff).


So I took your advice and added a tsp of yeast energizer (fine tan powder, tastes like salty yeast). I have now experienced the dreaded mead volcano! But other than making a big mess, it seems to be working wonders. Instantly the bubbling rate has taken off. It went from 1 bubble/30 seconds to 1 bubble per second. Some of the activity might be just de-gassing from the addition of the powder, but an hour later, it's still at about 1 bubble / 2 seconds, so still 15X faster than before. We'll see if it keeps up!

I haven't gotten to the store to get any pH strips yet.

03-17-2011, 03:22 AM
PJH: Check the pharmacy as well for strips! The pharmacy strips usually come in a plastic container that keeps moisture out (the ones I got from the brew shop didn't) and, at least here, are a fraction of the price as they're meant for people who need to check their urine at least once per day...and the pharmacies order in larger bulks :)

03-17-2011, 03:36 AM

So I took your advice and added a tsp of yeast energizer (fine tan powder, tastes like salty yeast). I have now experienced the dreaded mead volcano! But other than making a big mess, it seems to be working wonders.

Did you add the yeast energizer in dry? If you did, try adding any power to a small amount of water or some of the must first. This will help to keep your mead inside your container.