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Mjolnir
10-17-2013, 05:12 PM
So I have a strange growth which looks like a Jellyfish floating on top of three of my meads. Two of them are aging in my mead cellar and the other one is currently fermenting. I believe it is some kind of bacterial infection. The cellared meads had undergone filtration, a practice which I have abandoned. I feel it is likely that this growth took hold in the fermenting mead during a week which it was stuck. I re-pitched the yeast, added Fermaid-O, and increased the temperature which revitalized it.

I have found little information about this problem in the forum and online. I am eager to know from your experience(s) what you believe it is, the potential causes, and any recommendations on how to salvage the mead. I should mention none of these meads have off flavors, one is a little hot, but that should age out. I eagerly await any advice or suggestions you can offer.

loveofrose
10-17-2013, 06:18 PM
This growth is likely a fungi or actinomycetes fruiting body. Carefully rack as much mead away from it as possible into a new carboy and hope another one doesn't grow.

Alternatively, you could filter if you have the ability/equipment.

Causes include improper santitization and/or contaminated plastic. You also may have introduced it from the air at some point.

Mjolnir
10-17-2013, 08:26 PM
Thank you loveofrose for your quick reply.

I try to replace my plastic lines every 6 months and it is about that time. I am pretty sure the ageing meads were exposed to this fungi or actinomycetes fruiting body during the filtration process. I was using a plate filter, but it never seemed to work quite right. I will carefully rack the mead as you suggested.

Thank you again for your help!

Chevette Girl
10-17-2013, 08:29 PM
I might have had something similar once that grew around the end of a vanilla bean that was sticking up out of the must, I used a siphon to suck it up, then sulphited the wine and I'm pretty sure I drank it.. and I don't recall any off taste and I obviously didn't die.

On the topic of weird growths, I had one infest my fruit bag in a recent batch, and when I went to remove it, it had a really interesting texture, almost fibrous, like wet paper towel or something. It turned the mead sour but not like vinegar, more reminiscent of a sour beer I had once...

Mjolnir
10-17-2013, 09:24 PM
Thank you Chevette Girl,

Sulphiting sounds like a good practice and one I have been meaning to implement since abandoning the filtering system.

I probably should have added photos and mentioned the growths are quite large, taking up the entire surface of the 5-gallon carboys.
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11363837/jellyfish%20resized.jpg

Chevette Girl
10-17-2013, 10:54 PM
Huh, that looks more like what was growing on my pears than what grew on that vanilla bean. Have you tasted the mead lately?

WVMJack
10-18-2013, 03:42 AM
Wow, that really looks bad, I mean all that air space you have in those carboys, that is the next thing you have to fix. What kind of meads are these, did you put fruit in them, could that just be pectin from some fruit floating on top? Forget trying to blame it on filtering, if you are not sulfiting then if this is an infection it can come in at any time.

How about posting some more info, like what kind of meads these are, basicially how you are making them, the ingredients, did you use pectinase, a little more info would help out a lot.

WVMJ

Mjolnir
10-18-2013, 06:17 PM
I did taste the aging meads Chevette Girl. They all taste good, but one does have some distracting phenolic s like rubber or plastic.

Your right WVMJack there is a lot of head space which does pose a greater risk of contamination. I displace all o2 with co2 and check it monthly to insure that there is no o2 present. Daily throughout fermentation I will take the specific gravity, record the pH, fermentation temperature and ambient temperature. The samples are not returned to the fermenting musts but into a separate carboy where they continue to ferment. I am sure this practice does open up avenues for contamination, but it also provides a lot of useful data about the fermentations.

Thats a good point, it could be pectin. While looking through my notes, I noticed the last thing I did to the aging meads was add freshly squeezed blackberry juice to mask the filter flavor from my failed attempts at filtering. They started out as traditional meads. One I used sage and alfalfa honey and the other alfalfa and orange blossom honey. I used DV10 for both of them. I use the no-heat method, SNA with Fermaid-K, Dap, and aeration until 1/3rd sugar competition. I use a lee stirrer to stir the lees back into suspension daily until fermentation is complete. They were both filtered separately with a .3-.5 micron plate filter.

The one that is currently fermenting was made with grapefruit honey and Dole Pineapple juice. I usually use homegrown fruit, but heard good things about using canned Dole Pineapple juice for fermentation, so I thought Id give it a try. The yeast is D47. I used the same methodology minus filtering.

I have not been sulfiting or using potassium sorbate, but that is going to have to change.

Medsen Fey
10-19-2013, 08:31 AM
That doesn't look like any pectin I've ever seen. If it isn't smelling of sulfur or nail polish I would rack underneath and leave it all behind. Then I would add the equivalent of 1 Campden tablets per gallon, and I'd top up those containers so there is no head space under the airlock.

When you say you check to make sure there is no O2, how are you doing that?

By the way, phenolics are one of the common byproducts of Brettanomyces.

Mjolnir
10-19-2013, 05:06 PM
Thank you Medsen Fey.

The cellared meads have fruity and berry aromas and the fermenting one has a strong pineapple and grapefruit honey aroma.

I use a Scripto long reach candle lighter to check that there is no oxygen present. My assumption was that with the absence of oxygen and having an abv above 12% few things could take hold. This growth seems to suggest otherwise. The pHs are 3.75 and 3.78.

I hope its not Brettanomyces.

Medsen Fey
10-19-2013, 05:39 PM
If I'm not mistaken no flame means O2 less than about 14%. To prevent oxidation and spoilage you need less than 1%.

WVMJack
10-19-2013, 06:53 PM
Looks like a sucessfull Keeve:) I have never seen anything like it either, OP needs to fill us in his recipe. WVMJ

Mjolnir
10-24-2013, 07:06 PM
WVMJack the recipes for the cellared meads are the same aside from the honey varieties:

10 Pounds Alfalfa Honey
6 pounds Orange Blossom Honey
4.5 gallons filtered tap water
8g Lalvin DV10
10g Go-Ferm Protect

The meads were made 10 months ago. I used the no heat method. OG 1.104 at 64F. pH 4.35. The temperature of the actual meads during fermentation fluctuated between 64F-70.6F.

Aerated with a .5 micron aeration stone providing 1 sL O₂/min with a flow meter for two minutes every 12 hours until 1/3rd sugar completion. The yeast specialists at Scott Labs think I can increase this until 50% sugar completion. After fermentation started, I added about 1g DAP and 0.5g Fermaid-K every 12 hours until 1/3rd sugar completion.

Back then, I was attempting to force stop the meads at a desired gravity. I stopped theses at 1.014, which took 13 to 16 days to ferment. I used 30ml of the finning agent Bio-fine clear on each of them while they cold crashed in my fridge at 36F. They were brilliantly clear within 24 hours; its a pretty damn amazing finning agent. I racked the meads and a day later used a .3-.5 micron (sterile) plate filter to remove any unwanted microorganisms and yeast to prevent re-fermentation instead of using sulfites and potassium sorbate. All attempts (15 in number) at using these plate filters failed resulting in re-fermentation and soulless meads with a strong filter flavor and aroma and a very sad Mjolnir =(. These two cellared meads continued fermenting until 1.008 and 1.000. Ive read accounts that this filter aroma and flavor would age out in a few weeks to months. After 8 months I gave up hope and juiced homegrown blackberries adding 1.5 pints to each of them. This really did help to mask over the problem. I dont know when the growths occurred as they were covered with black trash bags to keep out any light.

Thank you Medsen Fey, its good to know that oxygen can still be present even in the absence of a flame. Ill have to work on minimizing that empty space in the future.
I ended up cold crashing the cellared meads in the fridge at 36F for 24 hours which caused most of the growth to fall, making it much easier to rack. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of it of this stuff at the bottom, so I ended up with only 3 gallons of one mead and 3 gallons of the other after racking. Out of curiosity I tasted the growth, which tasted just like the mead, so the dregs were drunk and the non-phenolic one was enjoyed =).
Following a calculation (PPM of free SO₂ desired* x 3.785 x Gallons (U.S.)) and pH chart on sulfiting in a Morewine manual, I ended up adding 0.90g Potassium Metabisulfite in one mead and 0.86g in the other. I dont have the capability yet of measuring free SO₂. Hopefully, in the meantime, this will help protect the meads from other unwanted microorganisms which might be lurking around.

WVMJack
10-24-2013, 08:21 PM
Its a big flor :) It sounds like you and your filter dont get along well, what kind of filter are you using? WVMJ

Mjolnir
10-24-2013, 08:57 PM
I was using the Beer and Wine Plate Filter Kit from More Wine:
http://morewinemaking.com/products/beer-wine-plate-filter-kit.html