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View Full Version : My Mead smells and tastes like vinegar



Firestix
06-04-2017, 07:54 PM
I've made a one gallon batch of mead successfully and decided to try my hand at 5 gallons. It has been 9 days and the activity in the airlock has stopped. I pulled a sample off for a hydrometer reading (1.020) and it smells sour and tastes like vinegar. My ingredients are as follows.

2.5 quarts of honey (Harvested from my hives. Strained, not filtered.)
5 gallons of water ( This water has either been through my Aquarain (http://www.aquarain.com/) filter or boiled for 10 minutes for sterilization)
5 tsp of yeast nutrient
Nottingham yeast (re-pitched from a previous cider brew)

Is this salvageable? If so, how?

Thank you in advance!

Dadux
06-04-2017, 08:37 PM
Well many things wrong here, i'll try to see if i can answer you

First of all, the honey ammount is not very high so what you are doing is a short mead or hydromel. ITs hard to get stuck ferments like yours in these.
Next time measure your SG (starting gravity).
I remember reading that nottingham yeast is not really that great for mead, and tastes bad early on, but i doubt that is the source of the vinegar smell (if i remember correctly it produced too much sulfur so you should be getting a rotten eggs smell rather than sour/vinegar). My best guess would be you got it contamined with acetobacter...

So is this salvageable? Short answer? Maybe, but i really dont know.
You can do 2 things. You did not use much honey so option one is to say "fuck it" and let it turn to honey vinegar (which actually is a thing that seems pretty cool, but then you'd have 5 gals of that so you better buy some bottles and gift it away because you are NEVER running out of vinegar) or toss it.
If you potentially wanted to fix it, here is how i would try, but im not sure if this would yield good results.
1- Sulphite to kill the acetobacter, or even boil it (boiling will strip the honey of most flavour and its 5 gal so its hard. Plus it will evaporate the alcohol, so better sulphiting, but dont overdo it or you cant referment it). The goal is killing the acetobacter.
2- Add more honey. Add until you want which depends on what you want but i'd aim at 1.100 or so if i wanted a normal abv mead. Short meads are more prone to being contaminated with acetobacter post ferment, and more honey could potentially make you unable to taste the vinegar
3- Pitch NEW FRESH YEAST IN VICIOUS AMMOUNTS (1 5-gram pack per gallon, so 5 packs or around 25 grams), previously rehydrated. This will make less likely the contamination with acetobacter. I think your yeast was a bit dead after that cyser, and putting it in a mead did not do them well.
4- Wait 12h and add nutrients. Nutrients are not added all at the same time like you did. read on SNA (staggered nutrient additions), and get a propper brand of nutrients, it matters (such as fermaid, if you are in America)
5-There are some ways to reduce acidity if after the ferment you feel it is still too vinegar-y, but those are not recommended and are a last resort. Basically using K-carbonate. This can react with the vinegar and precipitate as salts, but its hard to take the mead out of said salts...
Full honesty here, I'd just keep this one to make vinegar or toss it. You did not use much honey, and you are gonna need more than you previously used to even have a chance of turning it into a drinkable mead.They say never to toss a mead, even if bad, but im not sure this qualifies.


I must say it could not be acetobacter. Im pretty sure its that, but are you fermenting by chance in a fermenter with a lot of headspace? If so, the vinegar smell could come from oxidazion, altough it would be weird..
Also did you carry some cyser with the yeast? if the cyser was spoiled or overly acidic it could come from that. But again, i'd say this is most likely acetobacter doing. Maybe someone else has another idea...

Dont take this as critic, you messed up because you lacked information and your process was not good. We'll try to help you for next time, but you should prepare too.
A tip for next time: read the newbee guide this site has, it is pretty good. And stop posting repeatedly. Your posts need to be accepted by the administrator since you are a new user (we had spammers, so thats why). If you try to post but cant, you know why it is. Its not great but it works. After some time, your posts will be posted without need of acceptance. If you are really in a pinch you can PM me.

Firestix
06-04-2017, 10:58 PM
Ok. First off. Thanks for the heads up on posting. I sent a msg to the admin about my posts not showing up. (my apologies, I'm still new to this forum as it differs from the Homebrewtalk site.)

So, I've been brewing cider for about 2 years now and I have made a 1 gallon batch that tasted just how I like it. I'm shooting for a mead (or hydromel) that is a honey version of cider in that it is sweet, bubbly, and in the 5%-9% ABV range. The re-pitching I did actually came from my home made frozen yeast cell packets. It works well and the "how-to" info is here (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/freezing-yeast.html). I've never had a non-start using this method. I did measure my SG and took pictures of the readings with my phone. Unfortunately I'm now missing about 2 weeks worth of pictures which includes the SG pics.
From there, I created a 1 gallon starter and it was going great! I then pitch it with the other 4 gallons in my 5 gal brew bucket. (about 3/4 to 1 inch head space) I use copious amounts of starsan and follow the same procedures as I do when making cider. How does acetobacter infection occur? I Could it have come from the honey? Should I have heated or treated my honey? Is there any way to test for acetobacter to make sure this is whats going on?
I realize that some (or all of these questions) can be answered by the newbee guide. I just kinda jumped right in since I've been successfully brewing cider for a couple of years and the first 1 gal batch of mead turned out super yummy! (Dumb beginer's luck) I'm reading the newbee guide as soon as I submit this. I just want to be sure that it's acetobacter before I toss it. Do you think I could add some LD Carlson yeast nutrient to kickstart the fermentation process? If so, how much?

Thanks for your help! ...off to do some reading!

caduseus
06-05-2017, 09:51 AM
I don't re-use yeast. Keep in mind beer-brewers re-use yeast but these are low abv. Not sure how this works with re-using yeast that has fermented more alcohol.
In the future don't re-use yeast for mead unless the abv for all the batches is <7% abv.

As far as this batch get a second opinion on the taste before you do anything.

Even if it is vinegar, mead vinegar is an awesome vinegar to cook with.

Dadux
06-05-2017, 11:45 AM
I don't re-use yeast. Keep in mind beer-brewers re-use yeast but these are low abv. Not sure how this works with re-using yeast that has fermented more alcohol.
In the future don't re-use yeast for mead unless the abv for all the batches is <7% abv.

As far as this batch get a second opinion on the taste before you do anything.

Even if it is vinegar, mead vinegar is an awesome vinegar to cook with.

Even if its so, im not sure if that ferment would yield good vinegar. I ran the numbers by the calculator and i got an OG around 1.045. If its stalled at 1.020, im not sure there is enough acid there to make good vinegar.
But definitely try a second opinion. You can always toss it, but once you do you cant undo it.

bernardsmith
06-05-2017, 12:03 PM
But 9 days would suggest that there is not much air hanging around the alcohol. Any headroom would most likely be filled with CO2 and don't acetobacter need oxygen to turn the alcohol into vinegar? I wonder if the smell is coming from the "yeast". It was used to make cider. It's not clear how well the yeast was washed or how much cider slurry was added to the must. It's also unclear how viable this colony of yeast is. Much of the O2 was stripped from the water by boiling and perhaps through filtration. Yeast need O2 to build healthy cell walls and to produce the sterols they need to transport the sugars through those cell walls. You may have weakened the yeast with your methods of "sterilization" and the weakened yeast may be producing chemicals that you perceive as sour and vinegar-like. What you might do is splash rack the must into a second carboy - that is allow the must to travel down the inside wall of a second fermenter so that a large amount of surface area is exposed to the air. What you want to do is try to get lots of oxygen into this solution (you might whip it with a new (and sanitized) paint stirrer attached to an electric drill).Forcing air into this solution may restart the fermentation, blow off the smell of vinegar and provide the yeast with the O2 they need to create the chemicals they currently may not have in sufficient quantities.
Of course, I could be very wrong and what you have is 5 gallons of vinegar... but my money is on problems with the yeast.

Dadux
06-05-2017, 12:23 PM
But 9 days would suggest that there is not much air hanging around the alcohol. Any headroom would most likely be filled with CO2 and don't acetobacter need oxygen to turn the alcohol into vinegar? I wonder if the smell is coming from the "yeast". It was used to make cider. It's not clear how well the yeast was washed or how much cider slurry was added to the must. It's also unclear how viable this colony of yeast is. Much of the O2 was stripped from the water by boiling and perhaps through filtration. Yeast need O2 to build healthy cell walls and to produce the sterols they need to transport the sugars through those cell walls. You may have weakened the yeast with your methods of "sterilization" and the weakened yeast may be producing chemicals that you perceive as sour and vinegar-like. What you might do is splash rack the must into a second carboy - that is allow the must to travel down the inside wall of a second fermenter so that a large amount of surface area is exposed to the air. What you want to do is try to get lots of oxygen into this solution (you might whip it with a new (and sanitized) paint stirrer attached to an electric drill).Forcing air into this solution may restart the fermentation, blow off the smell of vinegar and provide the yeast with the O2 they need to create the chemicals they currently may not have in sufficient quantities.
Of course, I could be very wrong and what you have is 5 gallons of vinegar... but my money is on problems with the yeast.

Yes i thought something similar but its very weird as i see it. There are definitely yeast problems because the batch looks stalled. But I would definitely not say something tastes like "vinegar" just because some acid. I've never gotten vinegar taste in a mead, but i have had super acidic meads. Cider has a lot of acid so it could be acidic, but...vinegar? its got to be quite concentrated to make 5.5 gallons of mead taste like vinegar as i see it. Other option is the yeast was so dead, it got contaminated by a mix of bacteria and other yeast (some present in the honey even) that produce much more acid than the strains we pitch.
But it could definitely be yeast problems. Even if it is, if the taste comes from acetic acid, the problem is the same. If it tastes like that already i dont think aereating it will blow away the taste. You can try though.
However, where you are very right, bernard, is that the only way to make acetic acid is with O2, so weather it comes from oxidation, acetobacter or yeast, if its vinegar what you have, you had an O2 problem there.

Edit: So we can pinpoint better the problem you want to post what you did exactly and what fermentor (size) are you using. Did you aereate or not? If so, how many times for how long and how did you aereate? did you see bubles early on that indicated the start of the ferment or not? how much slurry you pitched? etc etc. The more details you give us the better, really. Also taste it again and determine if you are tasting vinegar or just acid that does not come from vinegar (acetic acid). And if you can, measure the pH. That can be the reason for the yeast stalling. If the taste is vinegar, check the top of the must to see if there is a pellicle or not.

Stasis
06-05-2017, 05:40 PM
I was thinking perhaps the yeast slurry stayed out in the open a bit too long with a low abv cider surrounding it before it was re-used. Then maybe acetobacter took hold of the yeasts lurry and converted the little cider present to an acetobacter colony. When you pitched the slurry the yeast created mead while the acetobacter created vinegar. I am thinking perhaps the mead became contaminated from the very start. Without too much detail it is hard to tell

caduseus
06-05-2017, 07:42 PM
I was thinking perhaps the yeast slurry stayed out in the open a bit too long with a low abv cider surrounding it before it was re-used. Then maybe acetobacter took hold of the yeasts lurry and converted the little cider present to an acetobacter colony. When you pitched the slurry the yeast created mead while the acetobacter created vinegar. I am thinking perhaps the mead became contaminated from the very start. Without too much detail it is hard to tell

Another good point. One more reason to NOT re-use yeast especially if not making a short mead.

Firestix
06-05-2017, 11:08 PM
Yes i thought something similar but its very weird as i see it. There are definitely yeast problems because the batch looks stalled. But I would definitely not say something tastes like "vinegar" just because some acid. I've never gotten vinegar taste in a mead, but i have had super acidic meads. Cider has a lot of acid so it could be acidic, but...vinegar? its got to be quite concentrated to make 5.5 gallons of mead taste like vinegar as i see it. Other option is the yeast was so dead, it got contaminated by a mix of bacteria and other yeast (some present in the honey even) that produce much more acid than the strains we pitch.
But it could definitely be yeast problems. Even if it is, if the taste comes from acetic acid, the problem is the same. If it tastes like that already i dont think aereating it will blow away the taste. You can try though.
However, where you are very right, bernard, is that the only way to make acetic acid is with O2, so weather it comes from oxidation, acetobacter or yeast, if its vinegar what you have, you had an O2 problem there.

Edit: So we can pinpoint better the problem you want to post what you did exactly and what fermentor (size) are you using. Did you aereate or not? If so, how many times for how long and how did you aereate? did you see bubles early on that indicated the start of the ferment or not? how much slurry you pitched? etc etc. The more details you give us the better, really. Also taste it again and determine if you are tasting vinegar or just acid that does not come from vinegar (acetic acid). And if you can, measure the pH. That can be the reason for the yeast stalling. If the taste is vinegar, check the top of the must to see if there is a pellicle or not.

So, my process, and ingredients were as follows.
YEAST: The yeast was Nottingham harvested from a successful 5 gallon cider brew. Right after bottling from my brew bucket with spout (lid remains on throughout bottling), I swished the slurry around and poured it into a sanitized mason jar. (starsan) After letting it settle in the fridge for several hours (overnight) I pour off all the excess liquid and then freeze the yeast using this method here (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/freezing-yeast.html). I get about 10 packets of yeast to repitch from this method and have never had a problem form any re-pitches. I store the yeast slurry in breastfeeding bottle baggies since the come pre-sterilized, marked in milliliters, are double sealed for leak protection, and are made to be frozen. They look like this (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByAn8SrY8WBqS2xlQmpDc0JoN00)



STARTER: I mixed Filtered/Boiled water with honey in a sanitized glass gallon growler and take an SG reading. (pic of the reading has been lost via phone malfunction) I thaw out the yeast as per the instructions. I add a tsp of LD Carlson YN to the growler and shake it up to dissolve. I sanitize the outside and open my packet of thawed yeast and pitch into the gallon jug. Place the sanitized lid on it and shake vigorously for about 2 min. Removed the lid, and placed a bung & airlock. I start to see good airlock action in about 24hrs. I've recently started a new batch using the same setup. It looks like this (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByAn8SrY8WBqWnVVcGdWNzZWM1U).

PRIMARY: After about 48 hours I prepare to pitch the starter in the mixture of 4 gallons of water, 4 tsp of LC Carlson YN, and raw, strained, honey. This is in a sanitized, food grade brew bucket that I made from the 5 gallon buckets that once housed cake icing. (I've already had many successful cider brews in these buckets) The set up looks like this (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByAn8SrY8WBqeG1hR2hYT1I4WEE). I use starsan solution in the airlock.
It bubbled for about 8 days ... then ... when I pulled some off to try it and get a reading (using the spout) it tasted sour/vinegary. I just now took pic "under the hood" and it looks like this (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByAn8SrY8WBqRWVRdFExNVhXLWs).

So. I am very open to suggestions. If you need anymore information please dont hesitate to ask.

Thank you for all your help!