View Full Version : We all know aging helps—but can it help bitterness?

03-25-2016, 11:13 PM
Hi lovely folk, and happy friday.

I'm tasting a lemon ginger mead (Named Dorian Gray to have a "dry" sense of humor and strange hotness) I pitched in March 2015, racked and re-racked in August 2015, bottled in December 2015 and am just now cracking open. It's dry, very dry, which I don't mind. I wanted that. But I used sliced (super clean and organic lemons) in primary, and when I tasted in December, man, so bitter. Tasting the inaugural bottle now, 4 months later, damn. Still so bitter.

Was it my fault for using whole slices, with pith? Is it maybe the ginger? The bitterness is what I'd associate with eating pith, although I adore lemons and usually don't mind. It's only bothersome because there's zero sweetness. Should I have used some sort of additive? Everything else I've made with 71B hasn't fermented to complete dryness (on the contrary), but then again, I did start with only 2 lbs honey. Did I push 71B to dryness by accidentally step-feeding it more sugar each time I racked?

Either way, will the bitterness age out with time? How can I avoid this in the future?

Thanks for any advice. I mean it. <3

Recipe below just in case:
2 lbs honey
4 chunked lemons
1 ginger root, grated and diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
71B yeast
energizer and nutrient
1/2 cup additional honey
Second racking:
topped off to fill to one gallon with Trader Joe's organic lemonade (which also had sugar in it)
(Fermentation restarted)

03-26-2016, 12:52 AM
Can you decide where the bitterness comes from? Ginger can become bitter. Bad fermentation practices can become bitter. To much nutrients can give a bitter chemical bitterness. Is chunked lemons like it sounds? If you take all the lemon stuff you have here and remove the sugar of course it will become bitter. The only way your yeast won't eat all you sugar is if you add more than what it takes to go beyond the alcohol tolerance level. You can add honey to balance the bitterness of it being to dry. I suspect it's the lemon peel/pith. How did the fermentation move along? How much nutrient and when did you add it? WHat temps?

Are we talking a single gallon? Did you top it off to a single gallon, or did you add a gallon more of lemonade to top off a larger batch? What was your OG? When you restarted after you added the lemonade it's obvious the yeast have not yet gotten to their tolerance level. Can you measure pH? I doubt it's to wrong or you would have stalled along the way / or not restarted when you topped with lemonade.

It's hard to say if it will age out until you have a better idea of what causes it! I know you said you like it dry, but maybe you need to either stabilize it and add more honey or sugar. Or keep feeding it honey until they die off and then add more to get some balance.

You could also try to alter your TA by adding potassium Bicarbonate. Or , if your pH isn't to far off you could try a malolactic fermentation. Even though the malo is to remove some of the TA the bacteria still need a pH of about 3.4 or so for them to work.

I would try first to add honey, 2. bench test a portion with Potas bicarb, 3. investigate malo

03-26-2016, 01:01 PM
It looks to me like you have a 1-gallon batch going? I have the same problem with a recent 5-gallon batch of mine. I had a session mead, just OB, that I then added a bunch of citrus to in the secondary to give it some summertime zip! I added a small bag of tangerines, just quartered with rinds, and four small limes, also just quartered. It added a lot of good qualities, but the bitterness from the rinds is a little over the top. I have the advantage that I didn't add any ginger or other ingredients, so I know where the bitterness came from. I tried blending it down with some of the same OB session mead that I didn't add the citrus to, but by the time I got it balanced, I had lost a lot of the desirable citrus flavor. I'm hoping aging will take the bitterness down a few notches, but I think rescue will come in the form of blending, ultimately.

03-26-2016, 01:55 PM
Bitterness depends on so many things... tannins, including amount of pith, ingredients, etc. I made a cinnamon-clove cyser over a year ago (July 2014 to be precise) and it wasn't drinkable to me until just about 2 months ago. The bitterness from the cloves (I added 24 whole -crushed up- cloves to the mix!) was overpowering and surprisingly all the aromatic-ness of it had been driven off by either the boiling of the spices, or something else (added after ferment was finished, so it wasn't that) but what was left was this amazingly powerful bitterness that prevented me from even tasting the apple or honey or other spices. Two months ago, however, it mellowed out considerably and tastes pretty good now!! What a nice surprise.

So, it's hard to say, but one of the highest order rules of fermentables is patience. Or blending. Sometimes blending. Yeah, blending works well. And it's quicker.

03-26-2016, 07:15 PM
I have had great results by adding citrus zest. Adds the notes I'm looking for without the bitterness.

03-26-2016, 07:49 PM
What squatchy said. Tried using lemons and all I got was bitterness. Next time I'll go for lemon zest and malic or tartaric acid if I need more acidity

03-26-2016, 08:18 PM
Thank you for the advice, Squatchy, and notes from everyone else. Yes, it was a 1 gallon experiment batch. It was one of my first batches, so I've been expecting a mistake somewhere down the line!

Unfortunately, it's already bottled, so there's little I can do other than add things to it when I serve it. I've got a 5 gallon batch of purely traditional semi-sweet in primary right now—I may end up blending the two when I serve it!

I will let it it age for another 6 or 9 months before I crack one open, I think (to your point, EbonHawk). Aging helps a lot of things. I wonder if there's anyone else out there who used whole citrus like some of us and found that the bitterness subdued in time?

03-27-2016, 12:51 AM
Yes, JAOM calls for whole oranges and I think we've all tried to make it a time or two. :-)

Mine got better and better the longer it sat. It was no exception to the waiting rule.

03-28-2016, 05:47 AM
Lemon notes come from the zest alone, if you want some acidity from the fruit, segment out the flesh.

Pith does indeed impart bitter notes (see the JAOM recipe i.e. why you shouldn't use wine yeast, as that makes it dry, focusing the flavour on the next strongest, the pith bitterness).

It could fade, but you'd most likely need to sweeten it to mask the bitter notes.......

03-28-2016, 02:01 PM
Lemon notes come from the zest alone, if you want some acidity from the fruit, segment out the flesh.

Pith does indeed impart bitter notes (see the JAOM recipe i.e. why you shouldn't use wine yeast, as that makes it dry, focusing the flavour on the next strongest, the pith bitterness).

Thanks fatbloke—I've not yet made a JAOM, so I hadn't known that about wine yeasts / pith.

You guys have definitely schooled me. Glad to understand mead-making just a little bit better for the next batch! This hobby is truly amazing in that we are constantly learning new things.

Chevette Girl
03-28-2016, 09:55 PM
As everyone else said, whether it will age out does depend on where the bitterness came from. For example I made a batch using highbush cranberries and it's gone from OMG SPIT IT OUT to "I might be able to swallow this next time" to "I can swallow this" to "this might actually be enjoyable soon" over the ten or twelve years I've been aging it. That's due to having used WAY too much of the little pucker-powered things and their tannins, and the tannins are slowly dropping out (or more accurately, sticking to the sides of the carboy, which is red every time I rack it). Most things (especially including anything I've ever made with citrus pith) for me usually age out to drinkable within a year or so.

Personally, I would assume the bitterness is from the lemon pith and to avoid this problem in the future, only use the juice and zest. Additional acidity from the lemon juice may also contribute to enhancing the bitterness, and the dryness will also help highlight the bitterness, so not using as much lemon juice and/or not letting it go completely dry may also make it more drinkable earlier.

I get heartburn from leaving the pith in when I make a JAO, so now I only ever use the zest when I want citrus flavour in a mead or wine - it's got all the flavour, none of the pith's bitterness and a lot less acidity compared to the juice.

As for why this batch went dry? Your yeast ran out of sugar after two pounds of honey, and devoured the half cup you added to secondary and the sugar from the lemonade you topped off with, then stopped because they were out of sugar. You didn't need to step feed this one, that yeast can go up to 14% and just over 2 lb honey isn't going to get you past about 10-11%. Without looking at your other recipes I can't tell you why your other batches with this yeast didn't go dry.

03-28-2016, 11:44 PM
When I first read the thread title, I honestly thought it was going to be about old mead makers...