View Full Version : Mold? What went wrong?

02-15-2007, 09:13 PM
I'm only a week into 4 batches of mead but I think they're already messed up. I'm hoping someone can tell me what I did wrong. Here's the steps I went through.

4 glass Bottles. 3 - 1 gallon, 1 - 3 gallon.
Honey from a Co-Op grocery store.
Mint leaves, Lavender, food grade rose pieces, candy canes.
"1 Step No Rinse Cleanser" - from brewery
ID Carlson Yeast Nutrient - from brewery
Sweat Mead/Wine Yeast #WLP720

All the bottles, stoppers, airlocks, and the big pot I was going to boil the mead in were all washed with the no rinse cleanser. Despite the name No Rinse I quickly rinsed with hot water just to clear out any leftover cleanser.

I used Spring Water from Walmart. I heated the water till it boiled and then added the honey. Once it was all dissolved I turned off the heat and poured it into the bottles. I had to do it in two batches to make enough. Each time I added the flavoring for each batch while it was still cooling. I also put the Yeast Nutrient into each batch while it was still cooling.

Once I thought it was cooled enough I put the yeast into each batch and sealed them up with their airlocks. Two of the stoppers didn't fit quite right. I tried to shave them down but they still came out. I them plugged them in as best I could and taped them solidly in place. (Peppermint and Candy Cane.) I then put them in a small area I'd covered up so they would be in the dark and used a space heater to maintain the temperature. (It's been dropping below 0 here recently) I then sat back and waited for them to start bubbling. In the previous batches I've made that took about 2-3 days.

It's now been 5 days since I set them aside. I've been checking the temp a couple times a day but other then that I hadn't been watching them very closely. (A watched pot never boils and all that.) However I wanted to check today to make sure everything was going well. Unfortunately it all looks horrible.

The Candy Cane mead is the only one bubbling. It also has several large clumps of white stuff floating on top. It looks kind of like mold.

The Peppermint mead is not bubbling at all. It's got one small spot of the white stuff attached to the side.

The Rose mead is not bubbling but it's got the little pieces in it that in my past meads were bubbling. Don't know the technical term for them. It's surface has a foam all over the top. It looks like there is some mold on the floating rose pieces in the foam.

The Lavendar mead is also not bubbling. It's also got a lot of the white mold like stuff floating at the surface.

If it had only been the two batches that the stoppers didn't fit tightly then I would understand but so far the possibly bad stoppers are the only batch that actually started bubbling and then the one batch that has the least amount of possible mold. What's the common mistake that screwed all of these up or are there several problems in my method that killed all of them? This is the first time I've ever used Yeast Nutrient. It says 1tsp per gallon of must so I mixed it in to each while they were warm. Did that create the problem?? Any clues would help. I'd hate to throw all these out but without knowing what went wrong I'm worried that there's nothing salvagable.

Bjorn Arnaldsson

02-15-2007, 09:40 PM
Well, you boiled your water - which removed all the oxygen from it, cooled it, then pitched your yeast. Yeast + Must - O2 = No Fermentation.
I would suggest you read this, then peruse the Mead Newbees Forum:


BTW, Welcome to the Forums Bjorn! :cheers:

- GL63

02-15-2007, 11:58 PM
Did you boil the leaves at all or pitch them in at room temp with the yeast? How were they prepared? Quite possibly you got something on those leaves and they got put into the carboy and took right off.

As for the candy cane I wouldnt be too quick to think its mold just yet. Is the candy cane disolving? That stuff floating could be a reaction to fermentation or melted goo from the candy cane.

Plus it sounds like you dont have a true sealed airlock going on, correct me if I am wrong but this is sounding like you left several points of contamination open. To keep a truer flower flavor you might want to consider putting them in the secondary next time. Fermentation alters the flavor and also the mead in the secondary should be of alcoholic strength (12% or higher) to kill off anything that leaves might bring with them.

02-16-2007, 12:16 PM
It's possible that after boiling I was short on 02. But I've done two batches before and I was taught to boil everything and let it cool. Unless I miscalculated how much it needed to be cooled (till I could touch the glass and it wasn't too warm) I don't understand why it didn't work this time. And why would 1 bottle decide to ferment when the others didn't? All were cooled the same way. When researching for this batch I'd seen references to the boiling vs not boiling. I think I'll look into that more and maybe not boil next time but I still want to figure out how to boil correctly. The link you provided has some good notes about re-oxygenating that I might try.

The candy cane was crushed and put in while it's bottle was still very warm. The cane all melted before it was cool enough to put the yeast in. The mold in it looks the same as the other bottles. As for the other herbs I had rinsed all of them the same way I would if I were cooking. I didn't know if I needed to do more then that to clean them or not but I figured if it were safe to cook with that it would hopefully be okay to put in.

The airlocks are probably very much to blame on the two bottles that the stopper didn't fit right but it bothered me that all the bottles were affected even the ones with the airlocks I know fit and have used successfully before. That's why I've been trying to figure out the true source of the contamination. At this point the best I can figure is that it was either something wrong with one of my common ingredients (cleaner, yeast activator, yeast) or they all became contaminated while cooling. In my previous batches I had let them cool without immediately adding the airlock but apparently I've just been lucky in the past that I didn't get contamination.

It appears I've got at least 4 gallons that I have to go pitch now. :-( As for the candy cane is there anyway to save it since it is at least fermenting or is the fact that there's already mold before the fermenting really kicked off mean that the batch will continue to have problems even if I could move it away?

Are there good articles about the difference between adding flavors in the primary vs the secondary? I was lead to believe that adding the flavors from the beginning provided a much more thourogh taste to the mead overall. The only flavored batch I've done previously I put in 1 pound of raspberries at the primary and then after straining everything out I put another pound in at the secondary then strained again before bottling.

Thanks for the all of your help.

Bjorn Arnaldsson

02-16-2007, 07:30 PM
Hey Bjorn. I am willing to bet that you started out making beer before mead since you are using the boil method. I started out the exact same way. Its not necessary but it is one method.

Herbs for cooking and brewing are going to be different in their preperation For cooking you heat it in the food, then eat it and it drops into the stomach acid. Then even if something bad gets going we have white blood cells to fight off bugs. A vat of warm water has 0 protection. If the secondary has 12% or more alcohol thats enough to stifle growth of bad stuff.

02-17-2007, 04:00 AM

Before you pitch that mead. I'd suggest that you get your hands on some Active Dry Yeast by Lalvin, and re-pitch your mead, or get as many vials of the WLP 720 as you need to re-pitch your different batches.

Mold will generally continue to grow and look fuzzy or powdery on top, and will generally get a bit darker toward the edges.

Here's where I see your possible failure points.

1. Transfer of the hot must into the bottles: Were the bottles covered with anything during the time that they were cooling?

2. Addition of nutrient to the must: Was everything that you used to weight and measure the nutrient sanitized before you made your additions.

3. Blending in the nutrient: How did you blend in the nutrient? What utensils did you use to do so? Were they sanitized?

4. Yeast slurry temperature: What was the temperature of the yeast slurry when you pitched it into the must? How did you mix it in? Was the utensil you used sanitized?

5. Must temperature at inoculation: What was the temperature of the must when you inoculated it with the yeast? If you don't have a thermometer it's time to get one. If you pitch your slurry while it is still cold, into a must that is too hot (over 104 degrees C) you'll kill off your yeast and your fermentation will never pick up. How long did you allow the yeast vials to come up to temperature? What was the ambient temperature in the area you were preparing this mead?

6. Flavor treatments: What steps did you take to ensure a clean introduction of the flavoring agents into the must? Next time around you may want to consider using the flavor treatments once fermentation has completed and you have racked to secondary.

7. Brix/Gravity of the must: What was your starting gravity? It's also possible that your beginning gravity was too high for the yeast you're using. How did you determine what level of sugar you had in the must, or did you do that at all? If you don't have a hydrometer, it's time to get one.

8. Boiled must: It is a good idea to aerate vigorously if you have boiled your must. As pointed out previously boiling drives off O2 and in order for your yeasties to be healthy they will need oxygen during the first portion of the primary fermentation.

If you can answer these questions it would help narrow your possible infection down a bit. Also, if you're not seeing activity today some time. I suggest that you get hold of someone who has Lalvin Active Dry Yeast on hand and get a few packets of EC-1118. I've had good experiences with EC-1118 and boiled musts when a slow or excessive lag phase occurs. Make sure you rehydrate the yeast as per manufacturers spec. DO NOT rehydrate in must, apple juice, orange juice or anything with sugar, and/or nutrient added. Just use plain water, or if you have some, use Go-Ferm.

Take a look at what I've written here and answer the questions as well as you can from your recollection of making the mead. Hopefully a couple of the questions will help dial in what the problem may have been.

My bet is on temperature of the must at pitch, and possibly temperature of the yeast slurry as a contributing factor.



02-19-2007, 09:02 PM
Unfortunately I've already tossed the two bottles (lavendar, peppermint) that still hadn't showed activity. Since the candy cane and rose were showing some slight activity I took them and siphoned everything about an inch or so under the mead into a freshly cleaned bottle. I then added more spring water to make up for the what didn't get siphoned over and to fill off the bottles so they didn't have as much air space in them. Within a few hours both bottles were extremely active and have continued to go happily for the last couple of days. There's not a spec of mold anywhere to be seen. I wish I'd tried siphoning and mixing water in the others but since they hadn't started yet I'm not sure if it would have helped them. I may at least get two gallons of mead instead of the whole batch being dead.

Anyway I still wanted to answer your questions as a way of teaching myself what to not do in the future. Hopefully this will keep me from making as many stupid mistakes. As a note the mold I had was not really fuzzy. It was more like floating islands and the consistancy was more rubbery and felt/looked kind of like the lichens you see on trees. Mainly white but with a bit of color. It really looked and felt more like the stuff on trees then normal food or bread mold.

1)No the bottles were not covered. I expected cooling to be quicker then it was and was running the 2nd batch while the first cooled. That's definitely one of the things I'll do differently in the future though I also plan do follow the forum tip of only heating half the water with the honey and then mixing with already cooled water to speed the cooling.

2)The nutrient was a granulated substance like big pieces of salt. I only measured them with a tsp like the instructions said and dumped them right in. the tsp was not washed in the special no rinse cleanser but with only a few seconds of contact I'm not sure that this was a big contamination area. Still better safe then sorry next time.

3)The nutrient was dumped in while the must was still warm and then I capped the bottles and shook them so the warm must would dissolve the little crystals. I then uncapped the bottles to let them cool. (mistake #1)

4/5)I did not test the must temp when I poured in the yeast. The person who taught me was apparently very much a fly by the seat of your pants style brewer because I'd never heard of a lot of these temp/gravity/etc measurements till now. I just copied doing things the way I'd seen them done. Anyway the yeast was a little tube of liquid. I let it warm up as per the instructions on the tube and then used the tsp from the nutrient to evenly distribute it among the bottles. (A tsp for you, one for you, one for you, repeated until I ran out of yeast. All the bottles got pretty much the same amount.) The tube instructions just say to let it warm up and then dump the whole tube in so I don't know if I was supposed to do anything else.

6) Looking back now I think this was the biggest area of contamination. The herbs, while washed, all came from open bins at a co-op. I probably needed to do something more thourough then just rinsing them. I also realized that I only briefly washed the cloth that I used to make little pouches out of. I definitely should have hit that with the cleanser since there's no way of knowing where that piece of fabric had been. Reading the forums I have defenitely learned that while fruits and stuff can be in the primary that herbs should definitely be in the secondary. I did take the rose out of the bottle when I reracked and will not add it back till it reaches the secondary stage. As for the candy cane time will tell if that taste works from the primary or not. I have noticed that it's bottle is the most active I have ever seen mead ferment in my batches or others I have seen. Maybe it's the extra sugar or something else from the melted candy cane but that's one happy batch of yeast now.

7)I'm not immediately familiar with either term. As I noted in 4 I had never heard of them till now. I'll read a little further into the forums and try to learn more about them.

8)I'm definitely planning on adding this in with the process of adding cooler water to the boiled water/honey. Mixing the two up and adding air should help a lot in my process.

Thanks again for all the comments and help!