View Full Version : This mead's giving me way too much trouble...

04-20-2009, 01:10 PM
Hey all, I'm new. On my third batch of mead now, and this one's giving me a lot more issues than the other two. I'm making a half-recipe of Wrathwilde's Chocolate Acerglyn, with minor adjustments due to ingredient availability:

8lb Good Flow Clover Honey, Austin, TX
5oz Ghiradelli's Unsweetened Cocoa powder
~2 gallons tap water (filled to 3, anyways)
Lalvin ICV/D-47, 5oz, rehydrated in Go-Ferm
1/4gal (2.75lb) Maple Syrup (secondary)
Fill to 3.5gal (secondary)

Note that the original recipe called for Lalvin D254, which wasn't available at my LHBS.

I intended to follow a normal DAP/Fermaid-K nutrient schedule, with 1tsp each at yeast pitch, 1/2tsp each after ~40 hours, and 1/4tsp each at half sugar break. I got the first two, but I definitely missed the half sugar break. I'll get to that.

I brewed last Monday, 4-13-09. I didn't realize that I should've been aerating the mead twice daily or so, since I'm a noob.

Here's where I probably screwed up a lot, so start cringing.

Friday, 4-17-09, I racked the mead from a 4gal bucket to 4x 1gal carboys, after adding the maple syrup and more water. I forgot to take a gravity reading before the addition, but afterwards I took a reading: 1.012. This, from a mead that started with OG 1.112 just 4 days earlier. I wasn't expecting it to move nearly this fast, so, combined with high ambient temperatures (75-80 F) and my neglect in properly aerating it, the yeast produced a lot of sulfur, of course.

So Friday night I decided I should shake the carboys, to aerate (since they were still fermenting the maple syrup) and hopefully to get some of the sulfur out. Smelled pretty nasty. I did the same thing in the evening of Saturday (4-18-09) because the sulfur smell was still very strong.

At this point, I figured the sulfur wasn't just going to go away on its own. I looked into finding Bocksin or copper sulfate, but neither are available at LHBS. Googling other wine/mead sites told me that stirring with a sanitized copper tube would effectively do the same thing as the copper sulfate. I splash-racked the evening of 4-18-09 then stirred for about 15 minutes with the copper. I left the copper sticking out of the mead (sealed, of course) for about 15 hours. Also, I added the last bit of DAP (1/4tsp) at this point, but not the Fermaid-K, since the yeast seems to have plenty of nutrients to keep fermenting.

Last night (4-19-09) I stirred again and left the copper in once more. It's still there, presently. Took a gravity reading, which was 1.011. Some places said that the copper should be left in for only 4-5 minutes, others for a week, so I'm planning to remove it tonight (4-20-09) or tomorrow (4-21-09). The mead's bubbling now, so I'm assuming that even though the copper's in there, it's still fermenting the maple syrup. As far as I can tell, the smell has subsided to at least some degree.

So (finally) here's my question. Should I keep the copper in any longer? Should I remove it immediately? And should I do something to try and prevent any oxidation, since I've shaken it up so much?

Like I said, my current plan is to remove the copper within the next day or so and then, once I'm sure fermentation is finished, use Campden at 1 tab per gallon to hopefully protect it from any more oxidation. It'll kill the yeast, of course, but they should be done with their job anyways.

Sorry for the very long-winded post. Like I said, lots of troubles with this mead. I'm not giving up on it just yet, though.

04-20-2009, 01:39 PM
Welcome to "Gotmead?", jumpjet2k!!

Thanks for the recipe summary, and your process description. They really help us to zone in on what is going on with your batches!

Let me advise that you not stir any more with the copper rod in the near term and please pull it out of your must until all signs of fermentation have passed. Copper ions do in fact react with hydrogen sulfide in the mead to produce copper sulfide, which is not soluble in water so it then precipitates out of the must with any other lees as the mead clears. However, because of the way that yeast metabolism works in a solution with copper present, if there are any yeast actively fermenting the must an addition of copper can actually increase their H2S output!

So, vigorous stirring and splash racking are your only short term viable treatments. Once fermentation is done, you can try the copper rod trick, or you can employ bocksin if you can get it. Copper sulfate treatments should only be done by someone with experience in chemical titration, and only with the greatest of caution, because if you OD your mead with copper, it will be toxic.

04-20-2009, 02:45 PM

Thanks for the quick response. I'll take the copper out ASAP and rack it, then leave it until it's entirely done fermenting. I've ordered some Bocksin, too, so when that gets here I'll use it if I think it's needed.

Do you think I should do any more splash racking or shaking, though, since I've already done so several times? I wouldn't want to cause oxidation in the long run.

04-20-2009, 03:29 PM
You should continue to stir out any dissolved gas while you have active fermentation. The longer that H2S stays in contact with ethanol, the more of it gets converted from the relatively free H2S to a bound sulfide (mercaptan). Mercaptans smell even worse than H2S and they do require the addition of Bocksin or copper to remove. Still further along that reduction reaction chain, mercaptans will ultimately end up as disulfides. Disulfides are the worst smelling of the lot (think "burning rubber") and they require the addition of ascorbic acid along with copper to be removed.

As long as you have some fermentation going on, CO2 will tend to displace any oxygen introduced by the stirring or racking. Even though that is not 100% effective in removing any potential for oxidation, a slight amount of sherry-like flavor or aroma is far preferable to mead that smells like rotten eggs, sewer gas, or kimchi.

Medsen Fey
04-20-2009, 04:01 PM
When the fermentation is finally complete, if it still smells of sulfur, before treating it with more copper, you may want to test using some ascorbic acid (vitamin C - found in most health food stores) before the copper treatment. The Vitamin C will convert mercaptans back to sufides that can bind with the copper more readily.

The easiest way to test whether the vitamin C will help is take two glasses of the mead, and to each glass add a real-copper penny (pre 1982). To one of the glasses add a tiny pinch of Vit C. Swirl both glasses for a few minutes and sniff. If the Vitamin C makes a difference in the smell, then you can plan to add an appropriate amount to the rest of the batch prior to copper treatment.

Endeavor to persevere!

04-21-2009, 03:00 AM
Medsen and Wayne,

Thanks for the suggestions. I've got the copper out of there for now, so I'm planning on waiting until the end of this week before I try to do anything more to it. Hopefully my Bocksin will come in by then. Right now, at the least, my closet doesn't seem to smell nearly as sulfuric as it did the past few days, so that's a good sign, I suppose.

Part of the issue now will be determining which smells come from sulfur and which come from the cocoa powder, the alcohol, and the natural smells of fermentation. I'll definitely post an update once I see how things are going.


04-27-2009, 07:38 PM
This mead just keeps surprising me.

Yesterday I added 1 Tbsp Bocksin, or about 4.3ml/gal (recommended dosage 2 to 6 ml/gal), because it still smelled pretty awful. Racked it today - it still smelled bad, but not sulfuric. I'm thinking it's just a stinky mead.

What surprised me, though, is the gravity reading - 0.996. This yeast, despite all of what it's been through, has fermented all the way to 14.7%*. Go figure, this was supposed to end up semi-sweet. So much for that.

Think I'll just leave it for a month or so now, see how it goes.


* (edit: Scratch that, I calculated wrong. 16.7% is correct. Which is awfully high for a yeast that's supposed to tolerate only 14%.)