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Thread: Commercial guy looking like an amateur

  1. Unhappy Commercial guy looking like an amateur

    Small commercial Meadery, operating partner passed away and I as the money guy had to take over, learning it all backwards, more on that later, but no mead making experience firsthand. His grandson helped him before and is the lead at moment.

    I have a problem and most signs point to sanitation infection from checking with people I can, want a better set of eyes in it. Made similar formula before don't remember any issues. Made another flavor at same time and those seem all good.

    Formula for 5 gal of concern

    10 cups honey
    4 cups sugar
    1 cup lemon juice
    32oz blue berry juice natural organic
    2 packs ec-1118

    After fermentation complete racked then added

    5 cups honey
    2 cups sugar
    24oz lemon juice
    250ml blueberry juice concentrate
    1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfate
    2.5 tsp potassium sorbate

    Looked and tasted good, kegged next day and sent out some kegs.

    2 weeks later they are pouring brown instead of blue and smell of vinegar, terrible.

    I have bottled some that now tastes a bit dry and worried it's turning bad as well. Don't want to put out into market if not good. Driving me crazy that was 100% good day I put in Pubkeg and now it terrible. Thousands lost. Input and questions appreciated and will do best to answer.

  2. #2
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    That's not enough honey by far to make a very strong mead. You need 15 lbs of honey at a bare minimum for a batch that size. The general ratio is 3lbs honey per gallon to make dry mead, more if you want it sweet.

    What do you know about the conditions this batch was made under (original gravity & final gravity, how the yeast was prepared/rehydrated, temperature control during primary, feeding schedule, thoroughness of sanitation, etc.)? It's possible you might be infected, but I don't have enough information to be able to guess what went wrong.

    Where did your recipe come from? For future batches, you will be much better off to omit lemon juice entirely since the acidity makes for a difficult ferment with no real benefit. If you want lemon notes, add some zest in secondary. Why did you add extra honey and sugar in secondary? EC-1118 is one of the strongest yeasts around and usually will not stop until the ABV is around 18%. With so little sugar for the yeast to work with there's no way you're going to get anything but a dry mead.
    Last edited by pwizard; 06-15-2016 at 09:58 PM.

  3. Default

    This Mead runs at 8-9% ABV and is served on tap. Temp is a cooled room around 70-73 degrees.
    Recipe is one old partner came up with years ago, we have cut out most of the lemon juice now.
    We added honey and sugar to backsweeten it. We use the juice in primary for some flavor and mostly color, and the concentrate to flavor without diluting ABV.
    I guess we have enough sugar that the yeast can attack and bottom it out to a 1.01 in 2 weeks flat, and then backsweeten for flavor and send it out the door another 2-3 weeks later at i believe 1.50-1.55 sg

    Concern is mostly that it's changing to dark and vinegary after it's all done, flavored and kegged, looking to see if anything else in there jumps out at you guys as an issue.

  4. Default

    If it is brown it sounds like it has oxidized. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Farmboyc View Post
    If it is brown it sounds like it has oxidized. Just my 2 cents.
    So when it gets racked into second carboy, a plunger thing with the airlock should still stay on it ? I thought Mead was more resistant to oxidation for some reason.

  6. Default

    Yes I would keep under airlock after racking to the secondary.

    Traditional mead is pretty resistant to oxidation but the addition of fruit makes it more suceptible. Either way why run the risk when the ingredients are expensive.

  7. #7
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    Sounds like acetobacter contamination due to insufficient sanitation practices. Acetobacter turns ethanol into acetic acid (vinegar).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetobacter

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bmwr75 View Post
    Sounds like acetobacter contamination due to insufficient sanitation practices. Acetobacter turns ethanol into acetic acid (vinegar).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetobacter
    I had a bad feeling that is what it is based on what i was reading up on, is there any way to check it to be sure ?

    Also what do you guys think of amount of stabilizer ? Not sure why my samples stay good and nice for 2 weeks or so in cooler then start going cloudy and taste changing. I would think if it bottles nice it should stay nice, but apparently not the case. Any downside to doubling meta and sorbate or is there a method of calculating how much to use ?

  9. #9
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    If it tastes like vinegar, you're most likely infected or very badly oxidized. If sealed bottles are changing, then there's probably some kind of infectious agent in the mead. There's nothing you can do at that point.


    Too much sorbate can create a funky flavor in the mead-- if that happens, it's ruined. I never exceed 2/3 tsp of sorbate per gallon, and I only use it if I backsweeten. After adding honey and sorbate, I let the carboy sit with an airlock on it for about a week in case fermentation restarts (that way, it won't blow up if I bottle it). Most of my mead I bottle dry, so I hardly ever bother with K-sorb.

    Sulfites have a cumulative effect, and too much makes your mead taste sulfrous (like matchstick vapor). Sulfites are only effective as long as they are releasing SO2 gas, which they only do soon after you put them in. After that, they do nothing to protect the mead, but the flavor still remains. If you over-sulfite your mead, you will ruin its flavor. I use campden tablets instead of loose K-meta powder, and I add one tablet per gallon at bottling time. Occasionally I add an extra dose if I plan to age the mead for longer than 2 months prior to bottling.
    Last edited by pwizard; 06-17-2016 at 10:10 PM.

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pwizard View Post
    If it tastes like vinegar, you're most likely infected or very badly oxidized. If sealed bottles are changing, then there's probably some kind of infectious agent in the mead. There's nothing you can do at that point.


    Too much sorbate can create a funky flavor in the mead-- if that happens, it's ruined. I never exceed 2/3 tsp of sorbate per gallon, and I only use it if I backsweeten. After adding honey and sorbate, I let the carboy sit with an airlock on it for about a week in case fermentation restarts (that way, it won't blow up if I bottle it). Most of my mead I bottle dry, so I hardly ever bother with K-sorb.

    Sulfites have a cumulative effect, and too much makes your mead taste sulfrous (like matchstick vapor). Sulfites are only effective as long as they are releasing SO2 gas, which they only do soon after you put them in. After that, they do nothing to protect the mead, but the flavor still remains. If you over-sulfite your mead, you will ruin its flavor. I use campden tablets instead of loose K-meta powder, and I add one tablet per gallon at bottling time. Occasionally I add an extra dose if I plan to age the mead for longer than 2 months prior to bottling.
    Gotcha, ok so my sorbate is just below that at 1/2 tsp per gallon, and we backsweeten all of our shorts meads at 8-9% due to the fruity flavor profile we are putting out there inside of 30 days or so. I'll start letting it sit for a week or two then after backsweetening and see what happens.

    campden tabs look they like would convert the same about, so one tab equals 1/16 tsp, so 5 tabs would be 5/16 tsp or roughly 1/4 tsp like i've been adding. Will the 5/16 vs 1/4 tsp amounts have any difference ?
    Main upside of tabs vs using loose power is likely ease of measuring, since 1/4 tsp is a tricky measurement ?

    so backsweeten and add sorbate and sulfite at same time, or backsweeten and let sit a week, then sulfite and bottle ? Sorbate goes in at backsweetening time, correct ?

    thanks

  11. #11

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    I would suggest getting a scale and weigh things. It's much more accurate than measuring spoons. Especially if your working a professional meadery selling to the public. I use a scale and I only make 150 gallons a year as an amateur.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenTicket View Post
    so backsweeten and add sorbate and sulfite at same time, or backsweeten and let sit a week, then sulfite and bottle ? Sorbate goes in at backsweetening time, correct ?

    thanks
    You should be OK if you add sorbate a week ahead of bottling day (no more than that, unless fermentation restarts). I allow up to a week, but I often go ahead and bottle if there is no sign of fermentation 2-3 days after adding honey. Save the sulfites for bottling time, since they start to diminish almost immediately. The whole point of adding sulfites at bottling time is to prevent oxidation during racking/bottling and provide a little bit extra sanitation to reduce the risk of infection. This is especially important if you're using sorbate, since there are pathogens that eat it and give mead a terrible flavor. That's why you don't want to wait too long to bottle after adding sorbate.

    You're clearing your mead completely before backsweetening/bottling, right?

  13. Default

    alright i'll take all that into account. Yea we are running some sparkaloid i believe a week after racking, or while racking, have to check, but i know i just ordered a couple pounds of it so we do use it.
    Just found out my manager is leaving me now too, so going to make it a point to hire someone who knows more of this on this go around. I keep mixing up sulfate and sorbate now while researching, i'm going to have to write them down and post on my wall lol. Anyone whose super clean and can bring some skills to the table want to come run a meadery in FL just lmk.

    Squatchy i'll look into the scale once i know what it is i am weighing better. Ordered a titrite test kit and ph meter so i can check the ppms as i think we need to be adding more of the sulfite/sorbate at a few different points in time and want to be able to be sure of amounts in it and added. I wish the old guy would have wrote more of this procedure down before he passed.

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