View Full Version : Super tart. help?

11-06-2011, 04:24 PM
Hello all,
I just racked over a fig mead (melomel?) and it has a very tart taste to it. My last batch of mead years ago had the same issue, and aging never made it go away so I am a bit worried here. There is good flavor hidden in the back, but the initial taste makes you screw up your face.

recipe was as follows:
10# honey
12# or so (about 1.5 gallons?) fig puree
This filled 5 gallon carboy about half full. Topped off with water
3 tsp gypsum
3 tsp tartaric acid. (half of what I used for the last batch.
white labs sweet mead yeast

Had a vigorous ferment, racking gravity was 1.000, no starting gravity

Sanitation was good. racked after 18 days.

Would a malolactic fermentation help here? is that possible at this stage? Did I just ferment out all of the sweetness and am left with an ultra dry mead I can backsweeten?

Ive run into the same problem with apple ciders...

Any help would be appreciated!



Chevette Girl
11-06-2011, 04:58 PM
Welcome to the forum!

Ok, you're going to hear it a lot from the folks on the forum, it's fine to add acids if you're making a wine using sugar and are trying to emulate the starting conditions of a grape must, but you generally don't need to if your main fermentable sugar is honey, because honey has its own acidity (do a search for "gluconolactone" using the forum search tool, the article you're looking for is by Dan McFeely). This could be a factor in why it's so tart.

Your SG of 1.000 indicates that it has indeed gone dry... I wouldn't worry about malolactic fermentation just yet, there are a few things you can do. You hit it right on the head with your initial thought to backsweeten. Just make sure you stabilize first, your yeasties might not be at their maximum tolerance.

If it's still too tart after you've backsweetened a little, then you might want to try a small amount of something to neutralize the acid. I had an overly acidic red currant melomel and a small amount of calcium carbonate knocked it back down to tolerable levels but you do have to be careful if you don't want it tasting chalky.

Oh, and congrats on getting that yeast to take it dry for you, I've heard it's a big pain in the patoot sometimes!

Medsen Fey
11-06-2011, 05:02 PM
Welcome to GotMead!

This in one of the reasons we usually suggest adding acid to taste after the fermentation is finished. Meads balance differently, and you often don't need much (if any) acid addition. Figs provide great body and acidity and in batches I've done with figs, I've found I don't need to add any acid.

Figs have little malic acid (more citric instead) so malolactic fermentation will not help. You have a few options:

1 - backsweeten it until the acid is balanced. That should give you a great dessert mead.
2 - Stick it in a fridge. Potassium bitartrate crystal will drop out and you can rack it off the crystals, lowering the acidity. This might work enough.
3 - treat with calcium carbonate which will precipitate out calcium tartrate and raise the pH. If your pH happens to be on the high side, you can use gypsum which will drop out the tartrate without raising the pH.
4 - Blend with another dry batch that needs acidity.

Hopefully one of these approaches will be satisfactory.

Endeavor to persevere!


11-07-2011, 02:36 AM
Ok, thanks. Good to know there are options. A few questions if I may?

If backsweetening, I can kill any remaining yeast with campden tabs? I dont really have a freezer large enough to fit a carboy. Then add a honey water mixture? also sanatized with campden tabs? This will also dilute the figs in the mix, but Im kinda stuck on that one. I have room in the carboy for about another gallon.
Can one use a non-fermentable sugar like lactose to accomplish this goal?

I like the calcium carbonate idea, does it really stay at the bottom of the carboy like a flocculated yeast would? Same question for refrigerating it. Are these crystals visible or do you just leave behind the last inch or so? any idea on amounts or how to calculate proper amounts of that or the gypsum? a PH meter would be key here, its been on the list, it may just have to be moved to the top...

Thanks again for the reassurance.


Chevette Girl
11-07-2011, 12:50 PM
Calcium in general doesn't dissolve well in water so it's looking for any excuse to precipitate out. The acidity will react with it until it's all gone or until the acidity is all gone (which you don't really want) but anything unused will likely settle out but it's still best to go carefully with that, I think I used 1 tsp at a time in my 5 gal batch and then waited a few days before checking the pH because it can take so long to dissolve. You don't want to decrease the acidity too much or it'll taste wrong, you just want to decrease the tartness a little.

Do some searching around here for "stabilization" (here's one recommended thread (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11742)). You can certainly do it without cold-crashing (I've never been able to get a carboy in my fridge either) but you will want to get some potassium sorbate to keep the yeasties from multiplying if any of them manage to recover from being knocked out by the campden tablets, the last thing you want is fermentation starting up again after you've bottled...

Medsen Fey
11-07-2011, 05:38 PM
Here's another good thread on stabilizing (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18086).

Dan McFeeley
11-07-2011, 07:10 PM

Would a malolactic fermentation help here? is that possible at this stage? Did I just ferment out all of the sweetness and am left with an ultra dry mead I can backsweeten?

I've run into the same problem with apple ciders...

If you run down this list of acid content of fruits and vegetables . . .


you'll see that figs are not very high in acidity, according to the pH. That would point to the tartaric acid as the source of any acid tartness taste, piqued by the dryness of the finished melomel.

That would also mean that a malolactic fermentation wouldn't have much effect.

There's two basic reasons why acid is no longer added up front in meadmaking, at the start of a fermentation. Actively fermenting yeast produce organic acids, which is a survival technique for them. It allows them to lower the acidity of their immediate milieu below that which bacteria favor, so they can dominate the area and the food source. So, adding additional acid to an already fermenting must will lower the pH still further, possibly to levels that can slow and even stall the fermentation. The second reason is that the flavor properties of gluconic acid, the primary acid in honey, are quite different from the organic acids found in fruit wines, including grape. Because of that, balance of acid and sweetness, support structure, overall harmony of the finished mead is a different affair compared to wine. Skipping the details, because of these differences, acid addtives in mead act more like a flavor additive in a metheglyn. Certainly, acid additions in a mead will change the acid/sweetness support structure, but in a different way than a grape wine.

Medsen's advice seems the best way -- you've already got gypsum in the melomel, assuming it all didn't drop out at the racking, so try the fridge idea for a while. Rack if, and after the crystals drop out of suspension, bulk age for a while, taste it and see if backsweetening will help. The bulk aging will also help ensure the yeasties won't wake up when you backsweeten.

It would also help if you can pick up a few pH strips used for winemaking and see what the pH of your melomel is. They'll give you a ballpark figure, not as accurate as a pH meter but considerably cheaper.

Hope this is helpful!


Dan McFeeley
11-07-2011, 10:42 PM
Another helpful chart -- I think Medsen had posted this a while back . . .


11-07-2011, 11:04 PM
Wow, that's a great chart! I'm keeping a copy of that on file!

11-08-2011, 04:01 PM
Ok, so an update.
I checked the ph with some strips I had, Didn't tell me much, they only go down to 4.6 and the color didn't even budge.

I added a tsp. of calcium carbonate just now. also had that lying around, sometimes its good to be a hoarder! The mead needs to be racked again anyway, a fair bit of sediment/yeast came over on the first racking, so Ill give that a day or so and rack and see what happens. Tried to cram the carboy in my kegerator, but it just wouldnt go. Temp controlled fermentation chamber is still a ways down on the project list so were taking this step by step. If the calcium carbonate doesnt work, then its the stabilize and backsweeten route.

Would I need more that a tsp for 4 gallons? What ph am I really shooting for anyway?

This has turned into a fantastic science lesson! Thanks!


Chevette Girl
11-08-2011, 04:52 PM
The pH matters less than the taste... I recommend you give it a few days and taste it again, then if you think it's made a difference in the right direction but still needs more, you can add more. It's always easier to add a little more than to remove too much!

Typically, yeast are happy down to 3.2-3.4.

I'd also suggest taking a small sample and adding a little sugar or honey just to see if it improves the taste, you may just not like how this one is when dry. I'm not much of a fan of anything too dry myself.