View Full Version : Blackberry/Vanilla Melomel - Need reassurance please

09-26-2012, 09:41 AM
Ok, so I want to make certain I didn't screw this up, because it was starting to make me feel really good about mead making until this morning. First things first, recipe and steps by date.

Sept. 15th 2012
10 lbs Sue Bee White Clover Honey (went cheap on honey due to fruit idea)
24oz pureed blackberry
24oz crushed blackberry
1 vanilla bean
water to 3 gallons
1 pack K1V-1116 yeast
1 strong cup scottish blend breakfast tea

This time through the only heat to the honey was sitting it in a hot water bath for pouring. Re-hydrated the yeast per instructions and put all the ingredients above in.

I have another 48oz of Blackberries that I am reserving for secondary.

Given the potential of "explosive" reactions I have read about here I went with the 6 1/2 gallon brewer's bucket for plenty of head room during ferment.

Once all ingredients were combined I sealed the lid on the bucket and plopped on the fermentation lock. Initial hydrometer reading: 1.116

Aerated for first 2-3 days, twice daily (for cap management and aeration).

Sept. 19th - Hydrometer reading: 1.090

Sept. 20th - Skimmed blackberries and vanilla out of brew bucket, due to leaving town and no ability for cap management.

Sept. 23rd - Hydrometer reading 1.070

Sept. 24th - New addition of fruit and honey. Boiled another ~48oz of blackberries and let water/berries cool. Added mushy fruit to mesh bag with another vanilla bean. Racked the current batch of mead to get it off the seeds, etc from first fruit addition into a 5 gallon glass carboy. The batch only reached about 3 and a 1/2 gallons so I decided to add more honey / water to the mixture so the head room wouldn't be an issue.

Thinking I was being smart I added the honey to the blackberry "tea" I had created and mixed that up. While that was continuing to cool I shoved the mesh bag into the carboy, fruit and all (that was a heck of a challenge). At this point I was wishing I had a second brew bucket handy instead of a glass carboy. I added the blackberry tea + honey (about 2lbs honey and maybe close to a gallon and a half of water).

At this point I have been checking the mixture daily and doing cap management at least 3 times a day. The fermentation is going crazy and the mixture has a lovely deep red color to it. I didn't think any problems had surfaced at all until this morning.

Sept. 25th - Went down for cap management this morning and stuck my sanatized spoon in to push the bag down. Pulled the spoon out and took a smell (no tastes yet) and was confronted with the smell of sulphur. So of course I freaked out, immediately yanked the mesh bag out (having already avoided one overflow scenario I was concerned the particles at the top of the carboy were causing issues without exposure to the alcohol) and swirled the contents of the carboy to cover all surfaces for a about 10-20 seconds and now the top of the carboy is clear of foam and fruit particles. Sulphur smell was still there, but possibly not as strong.

As I had to head to work I wasn't able to verify that fermentation restarted to previous very active levels, but I will check at lunch. What I am worried about is if I screwed this up and/or what may have caused the sulphur smell?

Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

09-26-2012, 02:58 PM
Some yeasts and some musts are inherently sulfury, although I wouldn't guess your batch would be. In that case, sulfur smell usually means nutrient deficiency. If you have some Fermaid O (Fermaid K would be ok but not as good at this point), this would be the time to add it. If you haven't picked up that sort of thing, you can use some boiled bread yeast. Try 1 tsp of yeast, give it a stir, and see if the smell dissipates.

09-26-2012, 03:13 PM
Now I feel a little stupid. I knew I had seen a post about that on the boards before and kept searching to find it before I posted and couldn't.

I also kind of figured that the blackberries and vanilla would actually be more than enough nutrient for the yeast, especially since it is the K1V-1116 brand of yeast. I will go get some and add it in tonight.

I was a little relieved at lunch, I finally got the guts up to taste it and man was I surprised. No foul taste or anything, in fact, for a really young mead still in fermentation it was good! I let my wife try some and as a point of comparison, she thinks every alcohol out there tastes like cough syrup and can't get past the alcohol burn/taste in anything. She really liked the sample I gave her, thought it needed to be slightly drier, but otherwise she really like it.

09-26-2012, 04:34 PM
Fruit certainly helps the nutrient situation, but that amount is definitely too low for most quick fermentations. Even all-fruit (no water, no honey, just fruit) musts will often need a little nutrient boost.

Bee Serious
09-26-2012, 05:40 PM
+1 on nutrient addition...

I haven't been making mead very long, but one thing I've learned is that you can't judge a mead simply by the smells it is giving off. Even the most beautiful woman in the world can have rancid farts...

I had a JAOM variant that was pumping out cheesy band aid yeast flatulence in primary. Tastes great now in secondary already. It's hard to relax and let it ride, especially since mead is expensive both temporally and monetarily, but mead seems to be a waiting game!

09-27-2012, 11:29 AM
As an update and a huge thanks, it was the lack of nutrients. Boiled up some bread yeast and tossed it in, about an hour later the sulphur smell was gone and the mead smelled completely normal.

Now to sit back and wait for it to finish :).


09-28-2012, 09:25 PM
New update: After the first addition of boiled yeast the smell went away as I noted earlier, so I had hoped I could leave it alone. Checked it again late last night and the smell was back with a vengeance.

I went ahead and tossed in more boiled yeast at that point. Checked again today after work (smell was gone in the morning) and it seems to be starting to come back again.

At this point I am not really sure I want to add more boiled yeast and I don't really want to add commercial nutrients if it is at all possible.

I have pulled the fruit though I think some of it "leaked" out of the mesh bag I had it in. Would it be beneficial to rack it another time for it to continue fermentation or should I just stop stressing about it and be patient?


09-29-2012, 08:33 AM
I'd go ahead and add more boiled yeast. It's sometimes very hard to correct a nutrient deficiency when you are chasing it down like you are. Some of the sulfur will dissipate on its own, even if you leave it like it is, but some will be converted to more pernicious forms that are very difficult to get rid of and just about never go away. Better to keep on slugging now.

Racking it now probably won't help at all, I'd leave it where it is until fermentation is done.

10-11-2012, 10:22 AM
New update:

I checked on this batch again, no more bad smells, color is amazing on it, but no clearing yet either which isn't a big deal.

Hydrometer reading 1.000.

Took a sample of this to taste and it is very dry. You can definitely catch some hints of blackberry in it but for now I think it is too young and all you get is "Holy Crap Alcohol!" taste. Not listerine or anything like that, but just a very potent dry wine taste.

I am thinking this one is close to completion on the fermentation front and I may add in some more blackberries wait a bit and then consider backsweetening a little bit as well. But that's still up in the air, because it could be really good as a dry mead as well.