View Full Version : Peach melomel extremely bitter, S.G. quite high

02-08-2013, 05:05 PM
Hello everyone. First off, a very hearty thank you to the owner of Got Mead as well as all of the contributors for the vast wealth of information here. I've really enjoyed reading through the various guides, tips, and logs gleaning information.

That said, I wish I'd discovered this place before starting the batch in question, though I've run into a bit of an issue that I haven't seen specifically addressed, per se. For my second (1 gallon) batch I decided to do a peach melomel, recipe as follows.

5# Clover Honey (Kirkland Signature... I know, but it was cheap).
1# Frozen peaches, thawed, mixed with 1tbsp honey, pureed in the blender
~ 1/2 gallon Spring Water
8.5g Fleischmann's Active-Dry bread yeast, rehydrated with 1/3C warm (93F) water and 1tsp honey
1 tsp DAP

I started by mixing the honey with 2 or 3 cups of water, stirring vigorously, but without heat. Once I had the mixture nicely incorporated (and probably fairly aerated as well), I poured it into my gallon jug, topped it with the peach puree, and swirled the bottle until it looked mostly combined, then added the rest of the 1/2 gallon of spring water and swirled the bottle again. The gravity reading at that point was 1.154. I then added the rehydrated yeast, gave it a quick stir with a sanitized chopstick, added the DAP, and airlocked the jug. This was finished around 4pm on 2/3/13. It temp-ed out at 74.6F

After about 4 hours I had some activity in the airlock and some definite fizziness in the bottle - about like what you'd see as a head on a well poured pint of Guinness, but peach colored instead of tan. About an hour later I had a somewhat serious MEA (liquid was spraying out of the pinholes in the top of the airlock, but it wasn't completely foamed over yet), and switched to a blow-off tube.

The mead threw a good amount of foam into the blow-off jar over the next several days, which was set at a lower height than the mead jug to avoid any possible back-siphoning effect if the pressure level in the blow-off tube dropped. I had to keep emptying the blow-off jar and refilling it with water and sanitizer to avoid foam-overs in the jar, and on Wednesday I was able to swirl down the foam in the jug enough to briefly airlock it long enough to clean the foam out of the tubing. At that point, the smell coming out of the hole in the cap of the jug was about what I'd expect from fermenting peaches and honey; a nice, sour-ish, slightly effervescent, slightly dry peach smell. I didn't taste it at the time or take a gravity reading because I was running late for work. Once I was done cleaning and drying the tubing (so none of the cleaning solution dropped into the mead), I replaced the airlock with the blow-off tube, as foam had already built its way back up to the tip of the airlock.

The mead has continued to foam, and I've continued to swirl the jug twice a day, for a total of 4 times since then. This morning, when I did the AM swirling to reduce the foam, I had enough time to take a gravity reading and a quick taste, and my taste buds really wish I hadn't had that much time.

The S.G. is now reading out at 1.160. I'm thinking (hoping) this is because it was actually higher than 1.154 originally (the calculator says it should have been 1.185), but the honey and peach puree weren't completely mixed in at that point, or because the temp has dropped a little bit since my initial reading (3.5F, to a new and stable temp of 70.1F). The smell coming off the jug is no longer that nice fruity fermentation smell, but is bitter and chemical-y, kind of like aerosol stainless steel polish or possibly oven cleaner. The taste starts with a good hit of the peaches and honey, kind of like a can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup, and finishes with an acrid cross between rubbing alcohol and spray on mosquito repellent. The yeast is still fizzing along, the blow-off tube is still consistently bubbling away in its jar of water, and the foam has gone back to that "Guinness head" consistency, though it's white now instead of peach colored. I suppose the good thing is that this definitely isn't a sulphur smell. I've spent enough of my life around LNG and LP to know sulphur, and this ain't it.

Now, all that being said, I have some questions.
1) Do I need to worry about this new smell and taste, or is it something that'll take care of itself with the proper applications of time and patience?
2) I know now (but not when I started this batch) that bread yeast only has a 12% alcohol tolerance, and for something with this high an S.G. that's going to be rather sweeter than I'd like, especially since I plan on racking onto another pound of peaches in secondary to boost the peach flavor. I have some Lalvin K1-V1116 coming Tuesday, which has a higher alcohol tolerance. Should I wait for the bread yeast to die off and then re-pitch with K1V? Alternatively, should I cold crash the mead and then re-pitch with K1V?

Thank you, and I apologize for the long-winded set-up.

Marshmallow Blue
02-08-2013, 05:34 PM
I would wait a bit and see if it mellows out. It also seems like a lot of honey and other ferment abodes for a half gallon of water. Your high gravity might be making the yeast upset and cause a stressful fermentation with off flavors. Do you have a larger fermenter you can use to push it to a gallon? Not sure if that's the problem though.

My last beer had an EA and something in there got infected and ruined the whole batch.

02-08-2013, 05:43 PM
The 1/2 gallon of spring water brought the total volume up to just under a gallon (it was just at the point where the gallon jug started very rapidly narrowing down to the neck of the bottle). Sadly, I do not have anything larger, except for a 5 gallon bucket that I don't trust to get sanitized enough - we use it when we scrub the floors. I am considering buying some 3 gallon carboys and would definitely buy a bucket for primary fermentation if I did; but working with 1 gallon batches it seemed a bit precipitous.

Marshmallow Blue
02-08-2013, 07:08 PM
Yeah 5 gal buckets wouldn't be good for 1 gal batches. Another idea would be to add more honey peaches and water to have a decent gravity in 2 separate 1 gallon carboys.

02-08-2013, 07:48 PM
That doesn't sound like a bad idea. If things aren't noticeably better on Tuesday when my next order of supplies gets here, then I'll plan on doing that. Probably shoot for an SG around 1.110 to 1.130 range for each, and see what that gets me.

Luckily for me, I am a fairly patient individual, and while I'd hate for 5lbs of honey to go to waste, at least I've learned some things along the way if I have to toss this batch.

02-08-2013, 08:49 PM
That's a really high starting gravity. You probably have some very stressed out yeast, and stressed yeast create off-flavors. I would dilute the mead down to no more than 1.130 and see if that helps.

1 gallon of mead in a 5 gallon bucket is perfectly fine for primary. Headspace is your friend as long as things are actively fermenting.

02-08-2013, 08:58 PM
Hey, you can get a two gallon plastic paint bucket that is food grade (hdpe2) and a lid at home depot, or Lowes, for 4$ or so. Drill a hole int he lid and put a 3/8" gasket for your air lock that you can also get at home depot (98 cents). I use this to ferment a lot of stuff.....

02-08-2013, 11:46 PM
Meldin, don't knock the Costco honey. I have made several batches of Mead with it and have no complaints. Somewhere in the forums there is a post about Costco honey and it is all American and of high quality. The price aint too bad either.

Marshmallow Blue
02-08-2013, 11:51 PM
Meldin, don't knock the Costco honey. I have made several batches of Mead with it and have no complaints. Somewhere in the forums there is a post about Costco honey and it is all American and of high quality. The price aint too bad either.

Fun fact: Apparently Costco diamonds are actually really good also.

02-10-2013, 08:16 PM
Thanks for the all of the tips. I will definitely be splitting this batch in half when my next glassware order gets here and dropping the SG of each resultant batch down to 1.130. I'll probably leave off adding any more peaches in primary, and just rack onto peaches in secondary, once I get rid of some of these off smells, since I don't want to re-complicate the sugar equation.

02-12-2013, 04:29 PM
Ahh, yes. The best laid plans of mice and men. And meads. So, while I was thoroughly convinced that today I would be splitting this batch into two halves and adjusting the gravity of each back down to 1.130, when I checked the SG just prior to starting the process, it came in at a nice solid 1.138. It seemed like a bit more trouble than I really wanted to deal with to split it in half and start mucking about with honey and water and trying to balance 2 gallons at 1.130 each, so I just racked into a clean carboy, topped up a little with some room temp spring water (dropping the SG to 1.126), and stuck a new airlock on it.

The taste is much improved. It's still not good by any means. In fact, it's still pretty horrible, for a mead. But the finishing taste of rubbing alcohol and mosquito repellent is completely gone, as is the smell of industrial aerosol de-greaser. I attribute all of this to the fact that on Friday, before leaving for a weekend away, I added 1/2 tsp of DAP and 2.5 tbsp of yeast hulls, as nutrients, to attempt to de-stress the poor little yeasties.