View Full Version : Strawberry Melomel Eruptions

03-29-2010, 01:15 PM
You know how this one is going to end already :eek:

Ingredients list:
18lbs clover honey
18lbs semi-frozen strawberries
1t Irish Moss
1T Gypsum
2T Yeast Nutrient (Brewcraft brand)
4632 Wyeast - Dry Mead Yeast
Tap water to the 5 gallon mark

1. Break open the Wyeast smack pack and let it sit at room temp (70F) for a couple hours.
2. Combine all ingredients except fruit and water; bring the honey/nutrient mixture to a full rolling boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Temperature reading after 5 minutes boiling was around 220 degrees fahrenheit.
3. Remove from heat and let cool for awhile. Our guide here was whether or not we figured the mixture would harm the primary fermenter when poured in...
4. Once sufficiently cool, pour must over semi frozen strawberry mixture into the 6 gallon primary fermenter.
5. Cool to pitching temp. Pitching temp was around 75 degrees fahrenheit. Can you tell we were impatient?
6. The OG was 1.130, and from that we came up with a 17% potential alcohol.
7. We pitched the yeast, stirred like crazy, and proceeded to ignore it.

This is where the fun begins. This batch was made in July I believe (don't have records in front of me...), and of course, what happens the day we pitch? We begin a heat wave, of course! Outdoor temperatures were getting into the mid 90's some days; indoor temperatures, including the meadery, mid 80's.

Day 1: No activity.
Day 2: Fermentation begins.
Day 3: BOOM! There is a combination of strawberries and honey covering every surface within four feet of the primary buckets. Yes, there were two. The first one went off on its own; my roommate discovered it and I got the strangest text message: "dude something blew up in here". Between the heat and the undersized primary and the chunks of strawberry in the mix, we had ourselves a rather dangerous combination. Some chunks of strawberry rose to the top of the bucket on top of the krausen, and some of the material plugged up the airlock. Pressure built. And built. And built. Thankfully the airlock seal was the weakest link, and not a seam on the bucket or something. When he found the first one, my roommate informed me that the second bucket was bulging and looked like it was about to explode as well. I told him to do the only sane thing: relieve the pressure yo! So he sets down his phone... I hear a *THUMP*, and then nothing but laughter for about 20 seconds. He comes back on the line... "Dude! That s*** hit the ceiling! Oh my ... " etc etc etc. ;D

This story wouldn't be complete without an illustration...
If the image doesn't show inline, here's a link... http://cid-fcc2e13084bdcfcb.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/strawberrymess.jpg

So, as you can imagine, we started paying *a lot* more attention to temperature and primary fermenter size after this little incident. We also replaced the carpet with linoleum... While we haven't actually put in a floor drain yet, it's definitely on our wish list!

Fast forward to yesterday evening, 03/28/10. We took a few readings: PH 3.3, Temp 71 degrees, SG .998. Taste is sharp, with some strawberry nose. Flavor-wise I think it's the near the worst mead we've ever made. It went completely dry, while being fermented for a week around 85 degrees fahrenheit. After the first week we went out and bought the AC unit that now protects us from repeating that mistake at least... It's also when we invested in a couple 8 gallon primary fermenters.

So, what to do? We racked it for the second time yesterday, removing a fine layer of lees that were not yeast-colored; appeared to be fruit sediments still coming out of suspension. Once we determined that both batches showed near identical readings, we used one to top up the other in a 5 gallon carboy, then put the rest in a 3 gallon carboy. The head space on both we flooded with CO2. All this to say, it's ready to sit around and age for as long as necessary. So, considering the conditions during fermentation, how long are we looking at? Anything we can do to help with the flavor? We're definitely planning to backsweeten at some point; are we correct in that we should wait longer bulk-aging first? The abv on this stuff is 17%+!

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions.


03-29-2010, 01:23 PM
I offer no advice, but thank you for posting this. I don't laugh lightly at your misfortune, but damn, the part about the second bucket going was priceless. People were coming to my office to check on me, I was laughing so hard.

03-29-2010, 09:57 PM
Heh, I was laughing too, until I got home that evening and had to tear out the carpet... ;D

03-30-2010, 12:06 AM
I hope those computers in the picture weren't important either. :eek:

03-30-2010, 03:40 PM
If you are planning to back-sweeten, and are planning for a long-haul bulk age. I would drop another 5 lbs of strawberries into the carboy inside of a mesh strainer bag. Then 8 weeks from now (or less/more depending on what you want as far as taste) remove the bag and continue to bulk age.

At the very least you'll bring back the strawberry flavor, and even if the mead is a tad 'hot' you will get hot-strawberry, rather than hot-nothing.

You could also add some type of strawberry puree or concentrate that won't add to the haze already in the carboy, but honestly, I think the normal strawberries will do just fine in the bag.

Good luck and let us know what you decided to pursue,

03-30-2010, 04:25 PM
More strawberries sounds like a good idea to me, assuming the ones already in there aren't gonna start popping out anytime in the next couple years... I don't think I want to age much of anything more than two years, as we have historically been terrible at actually allowing things to age. If they're tasty, it's bottoms up!

We're definitely going to need to back-sweeten, as the taste now just isn't pleasant. I'm thinking that the back-sweetening ought to be done after any new fruit additions, correct?

Akueck: Was using them for spare parts, thankfully nothing terribly important in the room was ruined, just the room.

I uploaded three more shots of the damage (http://cid-fcc2e13084bdcfcb.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/Public) just so yall can see what you should NEVER EVER EVER do... learn from our mistakes on this one, trust me! Honey doesn't come out of porous materials very easily. Add strawberries to it and you have something that looks like it's straight out of a cheap slasher flick, and it's NOT coming out. I felt a little like one of those disposal guys, cutting up and carrying out a rug covered in big sloppy red stains... :glasses7:

The good thing that came out of it: when we fixed up the room, it became a semi-fulltime (brew/wine/mead)ery. I'll have to post some pics sometime...

03-31-2010, 10:29 AM
I love the ceiling shot. Also, I would back-sweeten when you add the strawberries, unless you want to add even more time to your aging, just go conservative and add 10 pts of gravity. You can always add more, the last thing you want to do is wait a month while your strawberries steep, then back-sweeten and prolong the aging process. Just add it all in one-go but be conservative. Shoot for 1.010 or 1.015 total sweetness. The mead calculator should be able to tell you a good estimate.

It will also reduce the cloying 'new' honey additions sooner, rather than having to wait even longer for full integration of the flavors.


07-25-2010, 02:44 AM
7/24 - added 2lb 3oz to add 10 points of gravity to 7 gallons of mead. Dosed it with 1/4 tsp of potassium metabisulfite in the form of powdered campden tablets. 8lbs strawberries are thawing right now, and will be added to it along with sorbate in the corny kegs. Since there's 7 gallons the batch is split semi-evenly between the 2 kegs. We'll roll the kegs around multiple times daily to keep the strawberries sanitary and we've flushed the headspace with co2.

07-25-2010, 05:27 AM
therein lies the answer......

The wyeast dry mead has a tolerance of 18% and will ferment dry......

The strawbs do tend to go to mush when fermented on the pulp.... and as such are better in a fine straining bag - which not only protects the rest of the ferment from having too much sediment, but also, if the batch foams like hell, goes some way to stopping part of one of the fruit getting jammed/stuck in the air lock inlet and allowing the pressure to build up to explosive levels.

Normally, between 1/4 and 1/5th head room is enough to allow for foaming, but that's not a guarantee.......

If you think about the yeast that you're gonna add, then you can often find one that is "low foaming".

The strawbs used for back sweetening is a nice touch but I'd also suggest a quick visit to your hydrometer as it's possible that you'll still have some fermentation activity unless you've sulphited/sorbated it......

Have you bottled it for ageing or is it in bulk ?????

As for it tasting hideous when recently finished, that's hardly surprising. Most meads (IMO) don't tend to taste that good when "fresh". It depends on whether this is a "alcohol hot"/medicinal (or to use Ken Schramms analogy - listerine), well that just means that it will need some time for that to mellow.

Strawbs are curious beasts, if you whiz them in a food processor like for a smoothie, you'll often get a distinct whiff of sulphur amongst the fruit aroma......

Either way, good luck with it. It does sound like a nice batch, but it sounds like it's been a good learning batch as well.



07-25-2010, 01:28 PM
We've been aging it in bulk, waiting for strawberries to become available around here, and then ended up waiting a little longer so I could recondition a couple of "new" corny kegs to use for adding fruit in secondary. We pressure tested the kegs yesterday then shortly thereafter split the batch between the two.

Good call on the bag, we've got some so we'll probably give them a try since this'll be our first fruit in secondary experience. I'm expecting to leave it on the fruit for about a month, at which point we'll move it to carboys for clearing again. Hopefully at that point the flavor is a little more pleasant.

Right now it has been sulphited, but not sorbated. Will add the sorbate when we add the strawberries.

edit: hydrometer prior to honey addition: 1.000. PH 3.7.

The flavor now is still quite alcohol-hot; the nose is huge strawberry. If it tasted how it smelled we'd be working on our best batch yet ;D If the additional honey and berries doesn't fix this, we've got oak and vanilla to throw at it as well; anything to tone down the alcoholic kick to a less dominant level. All of this is just more arguement for proper fermentation management to a predetermined alcohol level followed by sulphites, sorbates and back sweetening. Many a lesson learned the hard way on these batches.

07-28-2010, 02:43 AM
7/27 - Added the strawberries to the corny kegs. Bagged the fruit in a mesh bag. We added 1/8 tsp of potassium sorbate to each keg. We're keeping them at 5psi to make it safer to roll them about. We'll be rolling them at least once per day for one month, when we currently plan to remove the fruit.
The packaging for the sorbate said 3/4 tsp per gallon! :eek: Is that even close to a correct dosage?

07-28-2010, 08:15 AM
I'm glad I have wood floors; I'd hate to explain something like this to my landlord. He's a great guy and a colleague, but this is quite a mess. Heh heh heh.

01-02-2011, 05:05 AM
We bottled this mead a few days ago. The nose is all strawberries. The flavor is huge strawberries, followed by an alcohol kick that's not unpleasant. Much thanks for the advice, we managed to turn this stuff into something great!