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View Full Version : A small batch and a few questions



Medovinski
05-15-2012, 03:51 PM
So right now I have (my first) a small batch of mead going in 2x4L carboys. One of them is wildflower honey with crushed blue and blackberries and the other is clover honey with a few bags of tazo organic chai. Both are being brewed with bread yeast.

Please bear with me as my procedures were rather unorthodox--most of the information I went off of what I got from a friend whose parents own a meadery and another friend who brews his own cider as well as a few online sources.

The wildflower melomel has been going on undisturbed since 5/6. I boiled the honey and berries in reverse-osmosis filtered water, added some inactive yeast (a trick I use at my job when I want to accelerate the growth of yeast for medical research I do). I ended up mixing a bit too much must so I set up two 750 ml wine bottles to ferment as well. The carboy has a nice thick head of foam sitting at the top of it. Recently the two bottles stopped bubbling so I put them in the fridge for a few days and decanted them. Today I had a bit of it and quickly discovered that it tasted nasty and sat in my stomach like a rock and induced a hell of a headache. The smell is rather acrid, as though someone had eaten a lot of fruit and then puked. I figured that was from the yeast acidifying its medium, but this smells nothing like the yeast I grow cultures of or the starting must. I then went online and did some research and found that, unlike the cider my friend brews, mead must be aged.

The second carboy I've got going I made on 5/10 using deionized water from work. I tore open the tea bags and boiled the loose leaves in the water, then let it cool a little bit, then added the honey and stirred. I let that cool off, then I added some bread yeast and inactive yeast. That one's been sitting undisturbed for a while now and has a very pleasant spicy aroma similar to the must, unlike the other one. It hasn't developed a foamy layer yet but it is audibly and visibly bubbling. I may have used less honey on this one than the other.


So, with that all said, I have a set of questions I want to ask:
1. Is that fruit-puke smell normal? Should I ditch my brew?
2. I've heard that leaving fruit pulp in melomel too long will produce a lot of tannins, is it a bad thing that I've left it floating in the carboy since I first set it up? When should I strain em out?
3. Should I take any precautions when adding honey to an existing brew?
4. When I went to drink the young mead, I added sugar and lemon juice to it to make it bearable to drink (it did). Will that affect the aging process at all?

Nathan K
05-15-2012, 04:42 PM
So, with that all said, I have a set of questions I want to ask:
1. Is that fruit-puke smell normal? Should I ditch my brew?
2. I've heard that leaving fruit pulp in melomel too long will produce a lot of tannins, is it a bad thing that I've left it floating in the carboy since I first set it up? When should I strain em out?
3. Should I take any precautions when adding honey to an existing brew?
4. When I went to drink the young mead, I added sugar and lemon juice to it to make it bearable to drink (it did). Will that affect the aging process at all?

1. The smell is probably normal. It's very young at this point and can take a long time to age out. I'm assuming you have separated the fruit from the must at this point and racked it into a secondary container. If you haven't and it is done fermenting, then you certainly should.
2. Yes, fruit skins and seeds will add tannins, which can be a good thing in the right amount. If you find the tannin levels are too high for your liking, extending aging will reduce the tannin levels. I've known lots of people who have made bad tasting mead that still tasted bad after a few years but started tasting really good after 5 or 10 years (maybe not what you wanted to hear).
3. Adding honey will most likely restart fermentation unless the yeast has reached it's alcohol tolerance level. If you want to add honey without causing fermentation then you can add potassium sorbate as long as you are absolutely certain that fermentation has finished. Potassium sorbate won't stop an active fermentation but it will prevent a new one from starting.
4. Did you add sugar/lemon to the whole batch? Age by itself may make the mead much more drinkable. If you don't think it is sweet enough then I suggest you stabilize it (see the comment about potassium sorbate) and then sweeten. Different people add acids (such as lemon juice) at different parts of the process but I wait until I'm getting ready to bottle it, and then add acid a little at a time while tasting it so I can make sure I get the right amount.

A good rule of thumb is that the mead is probably not going to taste that great for the first six months or so although there are many factors that can cause it to take longer.

skunkboy
05-15-2012, 09:50 PM
I you have access to decent water use it, don't use deionized water, the normal minerals make the yeast happier.

How warm did you ferment these?

Blackberries could add a lot of tartness from the seeds if left in alcohol for a long time, or if you crushed a lot of the seeds. If it already tastes tart you probably want to pull it off of the fruit.

Chevette Girl
05-15-2012, 09:57 PM
I've had at least two batches with different fruits go through a barfy stage where they did smell and taste like bile. It passes, thankfully.

I've found some fruit wines go kind of woody-tasting if you leave them in the must for too long, but I've also had really good experiences with leaving fruits in for months when I'm doing a Joe's Ancient Orange Mead variation using bread yeast.

And it's really disappointing to try your must at various stages and it's good, it's good, it's good, it's gross... >:( It's usually pretty awesome tasting until all the sugar's gone, THEN it needs aging before it's worth considering again. Or backsweetening, but be careful not to oversweeten if you backsweeten it early, there's a perception of sweetness that comes back to meads after about six months of aging.

And I'd also recommend using potassium metabisulphite or campden tablets along with your potassium sorbate to keep fermentation from restarting - certain non-harmful organisms that may be present in your must can eat potassium sorbate and turn it into geraniols, which taste and smell just like they sound - geranium, and this can't be removed later like some other off-smells. So it's best to knock those critters out with sulphites around the same time you add the sorbate.

I think NathanK got anything else I would have said :)

Nathan K
05-16-2012, 11:59 AM
One other thing that I thought of - if you find that the tannin levels are too high, you can use gelatin to both clarify and precipitate tannins.

Medovinski
07-05-2012, 01:30 PM
Oh my god

just tried the melomel.

This stuff is DEVINE. I fined it with egg whites and now it tastes like you're drinking boozy wildberry cake. It's better than any store-bought stuff I've ever tried. I kind of don't want to drink it. I want to bottle it up and save it for special occasions.

Now I understand why patience is a virtue.