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PinkFrog
12-06-2012, 10:51 PM
N00b with n00b mead problems....

I started my first mead as the following recipe: Syr Michael of York Mead
http://www.greydragon.org/brewing/mead.html#York

"Ingredients:
1 Gallon Water
2 1/2 lbs Honey
1 Lemon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 pkg Ale or Champagne yeast

Boil the water and honey. Add the juice of the lemon and the nutmeg. Boil, skimming the foam that rises to the surface, until it stops foaming. Let cool to blood temperature, actually under 90 degrees F, then pitch the yeast.

Let it work two and a half weeks, bottle it and let it age two weeks."

The must had SG of 1.075. Using Lalvin D-47 and sanitizing everything with One-Step, I followed all instructions.... until the two and a half week mark hit and the instructions called for bottling.

Instead, I racked into a secondary and let sit for two months, when the SG was 0.99. It smelled terrible, so backsweetening seemed like a good idea. I racked again adding potassium sorbate (1 crushed tablet) and potassium metabisulfite (1/2 tsp).

I let sit for two days, and while the fermentation seems to be clearly over. The pH is around 3.0 and it tastes so, so, so terrible. My mom called it "vinegeary" and it almost tastes carbonated, but there are no bubbles. It's just bad.

Tasting it, I know I made a huge mistake by not following the original recipe, especially since it was meant to be a short mead. I just wanted to keep brewing! What a waste.

My question is: Is it time to give up and try a better recipe? Can this be saved? What, specifically, is making it suck SO MUCH? Bacteria? My impatience?

Much thanks for any help/direction to where I could find answers. My google-fu is strong, but I decided it was time to reach out myself.

RachmaelBenApplebaum
12-06-2012, 11:08 PM
Well, with your original listed gravity its very likely that the batch has gone very dry. Dry young mead tastes pretty awful (to most people at least) especially with citrus(bitter) and nutmeg(also bitter without sweetness). Since you didn't say how much you back-sweetened it's difficult to tell. I made a JAOv with lemon and it tasted like Palmolive dish soap, so you're not alone. If you used the whole lemon the white pith of the fruit has a tendency to be VERY bitter and make "hot" flavors as well.

The original recipe indicated to use "ale or champagne yeast". In this case, since it was meant to be a short mead, ale yeast probably would have been the better option as it wouldn't have fully attenuated (blown through the sugar making it into alcohol) and would have left a sweeter product initially. Also if the recipe called for bottling after two weeks it might have been meant for bottling in crown-cap bottles to make it sparkling, light, and dry without bottle priming, which is really dangerous if not done properly. Since you've already added potassium sorbate and sulfites my recommendation would be to mix up ~1lb of honey in water and rack what you have onto it to backsweeten. Also young mead is going to taste like A$$ anyways. The temptation is there to want to drink it, but if you bottle it up after backsweetening and making sure it won't re-ferment just let it sit for 6months to a year, see how it comes out the other side.

Cheers.

PinkFrog
12-06-2012, 11:12 PM
Thanks so much, RachmaelBenApplebaum!

Sorry I wasn't clear - I only added the potassium sorbate & potassium metabisulfite, and haven't backsweetened at all!

Your suggestion is fantastic (and easy). Thank you!

RachmaelBenApplebaum
12-06-2012, 11:20 PM
With time the ambivalence and overall neglect of meadmaking will take hold. Unless a batch is obviously infected/rotting/moving/attempting to contact you telepathically the best policy is to let time do it's thing. I had a batch made with R.W.Knudsons black cherry juice and it smelled like farts, no kidding, distinct feces aroma, and I bottled it anyways. 6months later I opened one and it was DELIGHTFUL. And now, no more bottles left (only made a gallon :( )

Chevette Girl
12-06-2012, 11:55 PM
Dry young mead, yes, this will taste gross. Just taking a small sample and adding honey by the drip will give you an idea of how it can be better, but the best ingredient to add at this point will be age. It's also fairly acidic from the lemon juice (vinegar's pH is around 3.0, just for reference) so the sweetness should help offset that a little too.

I'm glad to see you put it in a carboy for a couple weeks before bottling it, I was reading the part about bottling it up with growing horror :)

Medsen Fey
12-07-2012, 12:10 PM
This recipe could definitely use updating. The reason for the bad smell was probably due to a lack of nutrients. While the harsh flavors will undoubtedly improve over time, if it still smells bad (like rotten eggs or sewer gas) you likely have sulfur odors which may not all fade away simply by aging. Many of these sulfur compounds can be remove with a good splash-racking, and if needed, stirring with a piece of copper tubing.