View Full Version : Contaminated batch?

04-21-2014, 09:59 AM
Hello all,

I'm Brent. I've been lurking around for a while, trying to learn how to make mead, and decided it was time to register.
Last Christmas I started my first batch. I used 15 lbs. Mexican mesquite honey with 5 gal distilled water, oranges, raisins, and 2 packets of Lavin D47. It's in my fiance's mothers crawlspace, where it's nice and dark and cold, but the only problem is I can't monitor it. So, in February, we checked it out, and it seemed to be doing great. I racked it into a glass carboy, tasted a little (very sweet), and put it away. One of the mistakes I did was forget to take the starting gravity, so I'm assuming I won't be able to tell the alcohol content on this batch. Anyhow, we're getting married in on June 28th, and I was hoping to put a bottle on each table. I know it has to sit in the bottles for a while, so my first question is, when would be a good time to bottle it? Does it matter all that much that I left it in the primary fermentation container too long, and the secondary probably not enough?

Also, and this one is pretty ridiculous: Last night I took a shot at another batch. I used 11 lbs. of wildflower honey with 5 gal water, grapefruits, and dried peaches. (Ok, here it goes for first impressions)... So, I cut my finger in the mead slicing the grapefruit. I'm still shaking my head in disappointment. There is blood in the batch. Not a lot a lot, but blood. My first thought was to just throw it out, but the fiance said to see what happens. I can't see how it wouldn't spoil. Is there any way it could still turn out?

Thanks so much. I'm looking forward to posting here.

04-21-2014, 10:37 AM
D47 likes to be kept cool, not cold. What's the temperature in that crawlspace? If it's very sweet still after going 4.5 months, you'll want to determine if it has fermented much or at all. I'd recommend purchasing a hydrometer and taking a reading. You can use the mead calculator on this site to get a rough idea what your starting gravity was, and in a general sense, figure out how far your ferment has progressed. I would not recommend bottling a batch of mead so young for any reason, let alone a wedding. The bottles themselves could become hazardous, for one thing. Example: your crawl space is sitting at 62 degrees, and that D47 had itself a nice cool ferment. You bottle it all up, and store it somewhere the temperature is a bit warmer. The yeast wake up, and get back to work, this time while sealed into something that is known to shatter from pressure. This is called a bottle bomb, and using them for a wedding might make an amusing story (I can almost see this in a comedy movie or something) but in general, highly discouraged.

Given that you didn't use any nutrients, depending on the temperature, I'd say the D47 could still be working away, albeit slowly. What sort of airlock did you use, and has it shown any activity? Airlock activity is no replacement for a hydrometer, but it does tell you that *something* is happening.

I don't know what to tell you about your blood mead. I know I wouldn't drink it, but that's because it isn't my blood. If I bled into one of my own meads, I don't know that I'd dump it, but I do know that I wouldn't give any away. It probably wouldn't hurt anyone, but dude, that's just nasty. If we're talking a drop or two I doubt you'd ever notice anything in the flavor of the mead. Keep it to yourself this time around, and next time, be more careful! 18 stitches in my pinky says this can be a dangerous hobby.

04-21-2014, 12:10 PM
I wound never think about sharing the blood batch -- I was just wondering if I could get anything out of it. I guess time will tell. It was only a couple drops.
The crawlspace is in the upper 50s. There was some activity in the cheap, econo-airlock, but I was only able to see it start, after the first few hours. I have a hydrometer, I just thought I would have had to measure at the beginning as well. It said it was at about 9% when I measured a couple months ago.
I was more or less hoping it would be ready in time for the wedding. If it's not, it's not. No big deal. Thanks for the help with the temp. I'll be checking on it again in three weeks, so I'll make sure to find the exact temp, and maybe buy one of those carboy jackets. I could also take it out of the crawlspace and let it sit in the carboy at room temp for a month or so.

04-21-2014, 12:42 PM
Any possible likely spoilage organisms from the few drops of blood will be likely killed off during primary ferment. It sorts out most things.....

Plus if your ingredients were exactly as you posted for the D47 batch, then it's likely slow because of the low temp but also the reduced nutrients in the orange and raisins. Maybe you can help it along a bit, but with organic source of nitrogen i.e. FermaidO if you have it, failing that, yeast hulls or some boiled bread yeast (a tablespoon or two, simmered in 50 to 100 mls of water for 3 or 4 minutes then cooled before adding).....

04-21-2014, 12:43 PM
Hi Brent,

Welcome to the ranks of active GotMead forum posters! Regarding the batch that you have fermenting "in cold storage," my quick calculations put an estimate of your initial gravity at around 1.105 (for 15 lbs of honey dissolved in enough water to yield 5 US gallons). That has a potential final ethanol concentration (assuming it ferments completely dry) of around 13.9% ABV. If your hydrometer measurement is showing 9% potential ABV at this time, then it has fermented at least partly - it should be in the neighborhood of 5% ABV at the present time. (When you use the % alcohol marks on a 3-scale hydrometer you take the difference between the starting potential ethanol and the current potential ethanol to get the actual estimate of current ethanol concentration.) We generally prefer to work directly from the Specific Gravity scale on the hydrometer, since it has a finer scale on it that allows you to more carefully estimate both the % ethanol and the sugars remaining in the solution. If you want this batch to finish in time for bottling for your wedding, you may want to pull it out of the crawlspace for a week or so. The increase in temperature will likely invigorate the active yeast cells still in the must, and the rate of fermentation will very likely pick up. A mead with only 5% ethanol is not inherently stable, so if you bottle it as-is, you could potentially end up with bottle bombs (re-fermentation in the bottle could over pressurize the containers, causing them to explode). You could stabilize it with potassium metabisulphite and potassium sorbate, but if you did so with so much residual sweetness, the result may be too sweet to drink (depending on your taste).

Oh, and I agree with trying fatbloke's suggestions - if the increase in temperature isn't enough to do the trick.

04-22-2014, 12:00 AM
Thanks a lot! Maybe it's not as bad as I thought!