View Full Version : Taste issue?

06-23-2010, 09:00 PM
I made a strawberry melomel recently and had a question.

7.5 lbs honey
2.5 gallons water
3.5 lbs strawberries

Primary for about 2 months and racked onto 9 lbs of frozen strawberries and 2 oz vanilla extract (stopped fermentation at 54 degrees in the bucket).

2 weeks later I racked again for aging. Tasted it and...

Ugh! you know the old rubber in a turkey baster? There is a noticeable taste of that there, but not overpowering, say about 40-50%.

I've read that that taste will go away as it ages, is that correct?

06-23-2010, 10:41 PM
More specifics regarding your batch and techniques will help other, wiser, members offer some advice.

What yeast did you use? I believe Cote de Blanc has been said to give a "rubbery" taste if stressed.

Ferment temperature?


Could it just be you aren't used to the taste of young mead.

06-23-2010, 10:48 PM
Sure... some name btw lol.

Yeast WLP720
Fermented between 70-75 mostly. There was a day or two towards the end where it may have gone over 80, but pretty sure it stayed under.

SG was 1.106, it finally hit 1.038 when I racked. It was pretty hot (taste) too.

Yeah I've heard young mead can taste like that but my wifes (show mead, almost the same recipe) doesn't. Could the fruit have something to do with that?

Chevette Girl
06-23-2010, 11:05 PM
I had this happen recently to a JAO variant using black raspberries... I'm still waiting for it to go away,.although it's not bad if I mix another JAO in with it. First time in 6 years it tasted like the rubber stopper the airlock was in!! (I have one or two stoppers that do smell like rubber but I don't know now if this batch was exposed to one of them). I'm now only using those ones for primary fermentation where there will be a lot of airflow and a limited contact time... but if it was caused by something else, I'm very interested in this thread!!

Medsen Fey
06-24-2010, 09:22 AM
Old rubber odor/taste can come from sulfur compounds. Lack of nutrients, heat stress, and sitting on old fruit for several months can all contribute. You can test with a shiny piece of copper by swirling it in a glass to see if that reduces or eliminates the "rubbery" character. Did this batch get stinky during fermentation?

Some funky odors/flavors age out, but if it comes from sulfur compounds you may not be so lucky. If you find the copper testing helps, you may want to treat the whole batch. If not, you can let it sit and age and wait to see how it progresses.

06-24-2010, 09:23 AM
The rubber smell/taste (mostly an aroma, correct?) is usually not from contact with a stopper. Regarding the staying power of the objectionable smell, well, it may go away with time... or it may not. It really depends on exactly what you're smelling. Most of the rubbery aromas in fermented beverages come from reduced sulphur compounds (remember that hydrogen sulphide, H2S, is often produced by yeast that are not sufficiently nourished - deficiencies in yeast assimilable nitrogen will cause the yeast to generate it). While the "rotten egg" aroma of sulphides is well known, the good news is that with a little aeration of your must late in fermentation, most of it will come out of solution. The technique called "splash racking" is often used to clear hydrogen sulphide smells.

However, if the sulphide is left in solution for any length of time (more than a few days), in the presence of ethanol, hydrogen sulphide will chemically change. It frst becomes a class of compounds called mercaptans (sometimes called mono-mercaptans), and eventually becomes completely reduced sulphur compounds, called disulphides. Mercaptans will react with free copper ions in a liquid to form a compound which is chemically more stable, not readily soluble in water, and it will precipitate out, clearing the problem and removing the odor. So often the "copper penny trick" is employed to introduce some free copper into the solution - that's where you drop a clean penny, or a clean piece of copper tube, or even a copper pot scrubber into the must and allow it to stay a day or two until the aroma clears - or not.

Sometimes instead of introducing copper metal, some winemakers will add a carefully measured amount of copper sulphate solution because that will have the same effect. But the sulphate solution by itself may not work, either.

You see, while mercaptans will react with the copper in this way, disulphides will not. You need to oxidize any disulphides first (turning them back into mercaptans) before the copper trick will work. A recognized safe way to turn disulphides back into mercaptans is to add a little ascorbic acid in addition to the copper, to the must. It will slowly (over a month or longer in many cases) change the disulphides into chemicals that will react with the free copper in solution.

BUT working with copper solutions in wine or mead is inherently dangerous, since too much copper is toxic. Although the copper penny or tube trick generally doesn't add enough copper to be a problem unless you leave the metal in there for longer than a few days, I especially DON'T recommend the copper sulphate addition method unless you are experienced with chemical lab procedure and you can accurately measure reagents and titrate solutions. It is VERY EASY to add too much copper via sulphate additions to your mead, rendering it toxic - copper poisoning is similar to lead or mercury poisoning, so in addition to internal organ damage you can also develop brain and nervous system problems that can really mess with your head.

Given that the smell/taste of methyl mercaptan resembles that of vulcanized rubber (aka your stoppers), that may be the predominant chemical in your meads at present. If that is true, since the mercaptans react readily with free copper, the penny trick may work for you without having to resort to ascorbic acid additional treatment. You can try it, and let us know how it goes.

OK, Medsen, this time you beat me to it! ;)

06-24-2010, 05:11 PM
It is a taste. I first noticed it when first racking out of primary (primary was 2 weeks with fuit). There was some odor at that point which has since disappeared. So it sounds like it's settled into the mead correct?

I'll try the copper penny trick this weekend (Gelatin has been in for a week), and see what happens.

If I understand this right, since the smell has dissipated, the taste should age out?

06-25-2010, 01:28 PM
Well, if it is not aroma based, then I don't know if it is sulphide based or not. Sulphide faults are usually associated with an odor, rather than an off-flavor.

Chevette Girl
06-25-2010, 01:58 PM
Mine is both, I think... but no harm with the penny trick, I suppose... mental note, put a penny through dishwasher tonight...

06-25-2010, 07:04 PM
Well, if it is not aroma based, then I don't know if it is sulphide based or not. Sulphide faults are usually associated with an odor, rather than an off-flavor.

Well, it started as a smell and taste. Last week it was just a taste, but the strawberries I'd added to the secondary might be covering up the smell. Guess I'll find out with a penny!

Medsen Fey
06-25-2010, 09:51 PM
A shiny pre-1982 penny; it has to be real copper.

06-25-2010, 11:37 PM
Yup - the other alloyed metals don't release nearly the amount of copper ions as do the old bronze pennies. Better yet, go get a small piece of copper tubing from a hardware store's plumbing department.

06-27-2010, 01:32 PM
Ok, I still have to go get some copper to test that with.

The more I think about it, it was probably temp stress, since no fruit was in more than 2 weeks ever.

In the meantime:

When I added the 9lbs of strawberries to secondary, they were still frozen a bit and took the temp down to 54f. Fermentation stopped, gravity was at 1.038 and 14% alcahol so I called it good. Racked off the strawberries after about a week and stuck it in my temp controlled fridge for aging.

Brought the carboy in the house yesterday for testing and fermentation had restarted since the gravity was now 1.036 and bubbling about once a minute, temp was at 68f at that point.

So now the question becomes - Let it finish fermenting? Obviiously I'll get lower gravity, and the strawberry flavor should still come through, but will that gas off the sulpher? (Assuming that's what it is). I'll also put it in the beer fridge for temp control.

Medsen Fey
06-27-2010, 02:41 PM
Yes, let the fermentation finish, and that may eliminate some sulfur odor if present. Don't add copper to active yeast as that will cause them to produce more hydrogen sulfide. You'll be able to judge the results better once the fermentation is done.

06-27-2010, 03:13 PM
Ok cool. Also, since there is a mini-sargasso sea of strawberry pulp in the carboy (some near the top, some near the bottom), I should probably rack off of that correct?

Medsen Fey
06-27-2010, 03:19 PM
I think I'd let it finish fermenting before racking in this case.

06-27-2010, 03:22 PM
Will do. Thanks a bunch!

07-25-2010, 04:09 PM
Ok, well, this melomel finished fermenting (again) a couple of weeks ago, haven't had a chance to post since. It went back to rubbery smell, and not so much rubbery taste, but still there. The penny test seemed to not work, but I may have done it wrong. The plan is to let it age and either it will be drinkable or I toss it.

Penny test I used: Put a pinch of vitamin C powder in the mead, and dropped a cleaned pre-82 penny in. Let it sit for 5-10 mins and tasted.

So all in all is my only choice now to simply let it age and see?

07-25-2010, 04:45 PM
I'll also throw in another possible source of the taste/smell thing.......

The strawberries themselves........

Whether it's the flesh or the seeds I don't know, but if you take some strawberries and blitz them in a food processor/liquidiser, if you then take a smell immediately after removing the lid, you'll often get a sort of strawberry sweet smell but with sulphur undertones to it.

I'm thinking that if that can be released by just chopping/pulping the fruit, then it's also got to be possible that it would just make a slight stressing of the yeast worse.

connecting onto what Medsen and Wayne were referring too....

complete PITA whatever caused it.

Oh and I always either steam extract "red" fruit juice or if I have to ferment with the whole fruit, it goes into a fine mesh net, to prevent it turning to mush in the lees - it makes it considerably easier to remove the fruit element after however long you want to give it in the ferment......

dunno if that helps any or prompts any idea of what do to about it......

Good luck



07-25-2010, 08:20 PM
Well, I'm hoping that's all it is and that it ages out. :)

03-20-2011, 09:43 PM
Hi all!

Been awhile since I've posted here, so I suppose I'm due.

The mead this thread is about has been aging for 8 months since I killed fermentation. Here's a recap.

8.25 lbs honey
3.5 lbs strawberries in primary.

Not knowing enough I racked onto 9 lbs of strawberries and (OMG!!!) it started fermenting again. Ok, lesson learned there, so I let it ferment out (per Medsens's sage advice) then killed fermentation.

I let it age about 7 months and finally back sweetened, using 1 part honey to 2 parts mead. I let it age for another month.

So currently:

I used the gotmead calc and it turns out it's all of 17% abv (wahoo!) :)

After aging 8 months and backsweetening... I'ts pretty darned smooth! Can taste the strawberries, and whatnot.

Only one issue. It still smells rubbery! Funny thing is tho, after it airs for a bit, that rubbery smell goes away and you can smell strawberry. What is that all about?

So that's my main question, should that rubbery smell go away with more aging you think? I'm also considering adding some juiced frozen strawberries to back flavor it a bit more. Thoughts?

Chevette Girl
03-21-2011, 01:41 AM
It might age out, or it might just be a wine that needs to be aired a little before you drink it... I've got one batch that smells like rubber stopper and I don't think it's aged out yet, and another batch that smells like diesel and it takes some work with a vacuum pump, but once it's aired out it's awesome... I hope others can be more helpful, I'll certainly be interested in their responses too!

Medsen Fey
03-21-2011, 09:29 AM
Sometimes a wine or mead does well to be decanted prior to serving.

You can try the copper penny test on a glass to see if that rubbery smell is a sulfur odor in which case you may be able to remove it prior to bottling.

03-25-2011, 06:56 PM
Thanks for the replies.

Is there a method to "air it out" such as leaving it open for awhile? Maybe rack to another carboy and do the same thing? Not talking about areating tho.

Chevette Girl
03-26-2011, 04:03 AM
Racking it back and forth a couple times could do it, what I ended up doing with my stinky pumpkin mead after racking it and letting it splash around a bit and THEN leaving the airlock off for a day or two was agitation in the carboy without too much splashing, and not putting the airlock back on till it didn't stink after stirring... then do it again after the stink has returned, did it once or twice a day for a week or two... and with that batch, the stink has diminished significantly.

With my bottled diesel-scented red currant wine, I remove a few ounces from the bottle, shake the hell out of it, and pump all the air out with a vacuum-stopper system, then let the air back in, shake it, pump it out, repeat 3 times about 5 times a day for a couple days until it no longer smells like diesel... I think this way does limit the oxygen exposure because you pump the right air back out of it along with some of the stink, I left the vacuum cork on a bottle I de-stinkified six months ago and drank it last week and if it had oxidized at all even after some quite vigorous shaking while de-stinking it, I couldn't taste it. I kind of wish I could get an attachment so I could use the vacuum stoppers in a carboy.

Medsen Fey
03-28-2011, 09:10 AM
Sometimes just decanting 0.5-1 hour prior to serving will allow some odors to clear.

03-28-2011, 10:37 AM
In my experience, rubbery smells -- while alarming to detect in my young mead at first --, have always aged out quite nicely, and I guess yours will too. Thing is, with your recipe, it will probably take a lot more time than with some other recipes, given the high gravity (17%) you have taken this one up to. I say, try the copper or whatever, but mainly what it needs is time --another year at least, before bottling. Then lay it up for a year after that before tasting it again.

04-07-2011, 12:19 AM
I'm not sure if this would mean anything but you did mention that you used vanilla extract in the original recipe. Will from the stormthecastle site mentioned doing something similar and ended up pouring his must down the sink. Apparently commercial extract has preservatives in it (even if unlisted) that may play havoc with the ferment.


His recipe is about more than halfway down...