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Thread: Sour/Bitter Mead, Need Advice

  1. Default Sour/Bitter Mead, Need Advice

    Hey all,
    I started my very first batch of Mead in November with the following ingredients.
    • 15lbs. Old Dutch Clover Honey (From Costco)
    • 4gal. Water
    • 1gal. Cinnamon Apple Tea
    • 8g DYW84 Dry Wine Yeast
    • 8g AD345 Fermaid-K Yeast Nutrition

    Specific Gravity = 1.09

    Once the airlock stopped bubbling in December, I racked it into a 6gal. glass carboy using an autosiphon. The two containers were on the same level so my friend and I essentially pumped the solution from one to the other using the siphon.
    Specific Gravity = 1.00

    This racking procedure produced a lot of bubbles which I am weary about. I topped the carboy off with some more Cinnamon Apple Tea and added some oak cubes for giggles and let it sit until January.

    I noticed that a lees had formed in the carboy (maybe due to more fermentation or just a bad rack the first time) and decided to rack again to avoid having my mead sit on the less while aging. The mead is very clear and doesn't have a film or any bad odors associated with it. After racking a second time I tasted the mead and whoa is it dry, sour, and bitter. It's not very drinkable and leaves a weird aftertaste in my mouth.

    After reading the forums and internet I've decided to add some sulfates to the mead and back sweeten with more honey. My primary concern is if my fermentation actually produced alcohol and not vinegar. In the case of the former I can probably fine a way to make it work; in the case of the latter I'm inclined to just pitch it and start a new batch.

    Any idea what could have gone wrong or if my first batch isn't a total wash?

    Last edited by nmacholl; 01-03-2012 at 05:44 PM.

  2. #2

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    I'm still learning myself, but a couple of things about your recipe made me wonder:

    1) DWY84 has an alcohol tolerance of 16% and the gravity readings you listed would indicate that your ABV is about 11-12% so you may have racked a little before fermentation was completely finished (you probably could have left it in secondary for a week or two longer.)

    2) I'm not familiar with the costco honey but if it is pasteurized and not raw you'll be lacking quite a bit of flavor from the honey itself. And topping off a 5 gal batch with another gallon of cinnamon apple tea is only going to decrease your mead/honey flavor. That could be where alot of your sour flavor is coming from.

    3) Another thing to consider is your ph level and room temperature. Adding the tea could have increased the acidity of your batch which would be stressful to the yeast. And if the temperature was too warm (80F or above) that would also be hard on the fermentation.

    I would suggest you go ahead and backsweeten, then bulk age it for about 3 months and see how it tastes then. If it is still harsh try another 3 months. You'll be surprised at how much aging will make a difference.

  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by HunnyBunz View Post
    I would suggest you go ahead and backsweeten, then bulk age it for about 3 months and see how it tastes then. If it is still harsh try another 3 months. You'll be surprised at how much aging will make a difference.
    I ordered some sulfite and potassium sorbate to prevent more fermentation. I suppose the plan is to go get more of the honey from Costo (which is raw) and back-sweeten with that then let it age. I really hope the tea is the culprit and certainly won't try to use it ever again.

    I guess I could try to check the acidity of the mead. The temerature during fermentation was around 72F.
    Last edited by nmacholl; 01-03-2012 at 06:58 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    I wouldn't worry too much. Young mead can be bitter and sour, especially when dry. I would recommend letting it age for a few more months before you decide to backsweeten it. Age will surprise you. Unfortunately, waiting for at least six months is probably the hardest part about making mead.
    Find what you like, and hone it to perfection.

    And don't serve dodgy beer!

  5. #5

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    For a traditional mead like this, you want to wait at least a year, preferably two before making any judgements.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    First, a comment on what Hunnybunz said about your yeast and its capability... The yeast stops when it runs out of sugar or hits its tolerance, whichever happens first, and with yours at 1.000, it's essentially out of sugar, I would be surprised if it went below 0.990. Even if the yeast is rated to 16%, it can't make more alcohol than it had sugar to convert, and with a must starting at 1.090 you're not going to get much more than 12-13% no matter what your yeast is rated for.

    When you ferment something, one of the byproducts is carbon dioxide, which stays in solution for a while. Thinks like stirring and racking can dislodge it and that's probably responsible for a lot of the bubbles you got when racking but if you're really concerned, siphoning works a lot better when the container you're emptying is above the one you're filling. Then all you have to do is get it started and it'll keep going itself unless it equalizes the liquid level.

    Your lees layer could be from stirring things up OR sometime when a mead looks clear and you agitate it (ie, racking) all the tiny little particles you can't see are attracted to each other and become big enough to fall more quickly out of suspension, I've had that happen after bottling, it sat clear looking for months, then I bottled it and all this stuff settled out... should have racked it once before bottling and let it sit for a few more weeks! Truly clear means if you shine a flashlight through the glass you can't see the beam in the liquid, until that point you're still going to end up with stuff settling out.

    If it doesn't smell and taste like vinegar, that sharp distinct acetic acid flavour and aroma, it's fine. And I've been intentionally trying to get one wine to turn to vinegar, for me anyway it seems to take a LOT of oxygen to get it to go.

    Also if you want to know if sweetening it will fix it, draw out an ounce or two and put a little sugar in it and see if that makes it a little less bitter. Tea and oak both have tannins that can really give a mead some pucker-power (you know like that astringency you get from some red wines?) but that will mellow with age and so will the harshness of the alcohol, I've got one batch made with barely ripe highbush cranberries that's so tannic and bitter that it's been aging out for several years now and is finally approaching drinkable, probably another 5 years before it's enjoyable so I live and learn, half as many cranberries in the recipe and make sure they're ripe next time.

    I also this year managed to make an overly-acidic red currant wine, a few teaspoons of calcium carbonate really helped, if it is too sour from acidity it can really enhance any bitterness that might be there.

    Short answer - your mead is probably fine, just give it time and maybe some backsweetening. Most meads and wines (especially dry ones) taste pretty awful at 2 months unless it's Joe's Ancient Orange!

    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "Good grief! If someone wanted to murder you, all they would have to do is ship you a 55 gallon barrel of honey and watch you document working yourself to death!" - Vance G

  7. #7

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    Thanks CG & Yogi for clarifiying my thoughts about the yeast and backsweetening. I kind of knew that already but I probably should have thought it through better before posting.

    nmacholl - One thing I WAS confident on is my recommendation to let your batch age for awhile. One of the members on this forum has a quote that pretty much says it all - something like "Making mead is what made patience a virtue."

    I hope I didn't mislead you on anything.

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