View Full Version : Mead infections-HELP!!

07-12-2014, 03:27 AM
We just this Thursday had a friend who is Bipolar, he not only re-arranged our house, but also sampled one mead to death (a 400ml experimental fermentor), another my pride and joy 5 gallon batch, is not only drained of 1/2 a gallon, BUT he shoved a dirty syphon into it, then broke the airlock, panicked and shoved a new unsterilized one in, then forgot the vodka, pulled it off, set it down, and searched for a few minutes until he managed to find my vodka and then rammed it in so far I will need pliers to get it out. The whole syphoning process with the airlock off took over 15 minutes with the refrigerator door open, and it blowing air all over the open fermentor the entire time. He also raided my Rhubarb melomel by opening the bucket and dipping a few cups, leaving it open for almost 10 hours before replacing the lid. It was done fermenting BTW. And the fruit fly population decided to investigate both avenues. :mad:

NOW, the question is, how much K-Meta, K-Sorbate, and what else can I hit these with before I get 6 1/2 gallons of vinegar?? The Drad Dry Trad is at ~4 gallons, and the Rhabarberbarbararhabarberwein (Rhubarb Melomel) is at ~2 1/2 gallons roughly. There is still a significant amount of yeast trub in both as they were sitting and waiting to be cold crashed. The Traditional was already hit with 1 Tbsp Bentonite slurry, and was starting the cold crash. It's now sitting on my counter where he put it after getting the airlock back in....

Just let me know the readings that are needed to be sure I get the right amount of everything in them. I have been trying to avoid them in my meads, but it looks like it's that or my first large batch of vinegar. Not sure I know enough people to give away 6 1/2 gallons of it, let alone sell it.

Oy Vey! That was a lot to type without blowing my stack a couple times. When he told me what he did, I let my partner handle him. I'm still recovering from my latest "bout" with my health, so I'm hoping I can get to the store and get the stuff I need without too much trouble Today,Saturday the 12th. I'll be getting K-Sorbate, and some additional K-Meta
Well next time I know to set a couple dozen booby traps on the way into my fermentarium... (And yes I said booby) Now it's damage control. So any other ideas? Maybe do a heat pasteurization in the bottles at 190F for 5 mins so as to avoid the chems, or would that be too detrimental to the flavors??? Now I am a pinch and need advice in a hurry because I was not quite to the point in my autodidactism on the subject of infections and how to handle them...

07-12-2014, 09:43 AM
Here's the good news. Since mead isn't beer it can handle a lot more abuse than beer. So you have a good chance that all is well. Depending on the ABV, higher obviously being better you may not have to do anything at all.

Regardless, looks like your bottling schedule has been moved up. I also like to avoid the chemicals if I can but it may be prudent to dose everything your friend got his mitts into.

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now. G

07-12-2014, 03:44 PM
A big problem is that after 10 hours of an open 5 gallon bucket fermentor, with someone dipping a dirty cup into it a few times, I KNOW it's infected. The Traditional is probably infected because he did use a dirty syphon from the sink. So it looks like Chems, and 6 1/2 gallons of mead to bottle very soon. (On the plus side I got some VERY positive feedback on them both:confused:)

But, yeah, the ABV is 15.8% (1.120 SG & 1.000 or lower FG) on both. Dirty dishes used again though....

Ah frell, I guess it'll be a mixed berry sugar wine of sorts... Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Marionberry, and Salmonberry are all in my freezer. He left one out that was just found today, in average of 95F days and 65F nights. Lucky (soft of) that the only one was my home harvested raspberries. VERY actively fermenting, and NOT in a pleasant way...

My mead is the first and worst (to me!), the rest of the house and yard will be a few days to clean up still...

Needless to say that he is NOT welcome again so as to avoid more disaster in and out of our house and major disruptions to our lives in general.

07-13-2014, 03:11 AM
You can never "know" until you get to see a pellicle......

If you can add the appropriate sulphites that should sort any possible fungal issue.

Acetobacter contamination is a very different issue..... You'd have to wait until you smell or taste vinegar......

If you can either bottle or shift to different containers to reduce head space, that'd likely help to.....

07-13-2014, 04:04 AM
Well I am now fairly positive of impending infection. I looked at the surface, and floating next to each other were a small green bit of something and a part of a noodle, some pulp from some citrus... I've managed to get them most of the big bits out, and have started to melt down 4 K-Meta campden tablets. K-Sorbate is on the menu for tomorrow as well. It's a 50+ mile round trip in 102F, but we are visiting friends anyway to help them harvest their garlic and salvage their garden. Our Bipolar friends daughter and husband's gardens (over 1/2 acre of them) are sitting under 1 foot of water or more. Nuff said.

Back to Chems: Got 4 campden going into the Traditional. Followed by (I am still trying to figure this part out!) acid additions (tartaric I think is best if I remeber correctly) to take it from the 3.7 it's sitting at to 3.0 (or lower, I may as well back sweeten while I'm at it). Plus (Still trying to get a straight answer on this) 1/2 tsp or 1 tsp K-Sorbate per gallon (I'd rather weigh it, but nobody seems to do that!!). Also it is just plain cloudy even after 18 days with Bentonite in it and cold crashing it to boot, so I will be picking up come KC finings while I'm at the LHBS.

Now onto the Rhabarber: 2 1/2 campden tablets. I need a pH to check on acid additions. K-Sorbate. KC finings. And some hibiscus tea to regain my color from the sulfiting before bottling (gotta figure out how much and when to add the tea).

Advice, opinions, alternatives, changes, etc, are all welcome and needed. But the sulfite is getting unceremoniously dumped into the Traditional tonight, it's sitting out still so that I could shove the Rhabarber into the refrigerator and slow down the acetobacter, and/or other infections.

Acetobacter is the one I am most worried about with the Rhabarber. What can be done about them BEFORE you smell/taste vinegar. At the point you can taste it it's all pretty much too far gone to save right? That is what I am afraid of, I REALLY don't need or want 2 1/2 gallons of Rhabarber vinegar...

I just took a SG, it was at .994... Talk about dry!!! The pH was still ~3.7, and the campden is dumped and thoroughly mixed into the Traditional. The Rhabarber will be hit tomorrow...

Chevette Girl
07-13-2014, 08:32 AM


First, my congradulations on not strangling this person. I might have. And then when I found a chunk of noodle in my mead I might have gone for a drive to his place to do it again.

Second, breathe again. OK, now I'm calm enough to type! (angry on your behalf!)

Hehe, booby.

Good instincts to hit it with the chems right away. This is exactly what I would do (and have done). Although with "impending infection", you can easily go 1.5 to double the amount of sulphites if it makes you feel better, I usually go with 1.5 campden per gallon when I've had a problem. And I've had more than a few problems, and really not that many ruined batches. I even had a recurrent pellicle on a 6% cider, I think I sulphited it three times over a few months and it tastes just fine (actually I've only got one or two bottles left). Oh, and it's the sulphites that are the important one, because this batch was to be carb'd, I never did put sorbate in it. Don't be afraid to hit it with sulphites multiple times if required, but you only need to add the sorbate once.

One thing I urge you not to forget, one thing infections need is a way into your must, but the other thing that infections need is TIME, and if you're hitting it all with sulphites right away like this, you'll probably be fine. I've had one batch that was infected wtih fruit flies (little bastards bred in the airlock and hatched out on the wine side!), it turned out fine. I've got two more batches which may not turn out fine but that's because I didn't catch it in good time and it probably went weeks or months before I realized (a hundred fruit flies or so). They're still not vinegar though. Ideally acetobacter prefers something in the 5% alcohol range to do its thing, it's a hard slog when you're up at 15%.

07-14-2014, 12:43 AM
Hrm, considering the state of the dishes he pulled the syphon from, these will be getting the extra dose then, but I'll hold off on the K-Sorbate. If acetobacter likes low ABV then they are SOL here. After recalculating the SG from 1.120 to .994, I get an ABV of ~16.6% roughly, outa their league I think.

I KNOW I have degassed the Traditional 4 or 5 times before the Bentonite and cold crashing, and it is still got enough CO2 to blow all the vodka out of the airlock when I swirl the carboy. It's dropped .006 gravity points since my last reading, which was right BEFORE placing it in the refrigerator. But in the refrigerator it always had the vodka backed up into the S airlock. I am guessing the K1V just kept munching the residual sugars and the CO2 just dissolved into the mead while it was cold crashing. At this rate I'll end up at .990 in no time. Ummm... Can the SG go below .990??

Now I know the name was Drad DRY Trad, but the K1V is taking this seriously it seems. The sample I pulled was tasting hot, but NOT fusel-rocket-fuel-ish. I hit it with a second dose of K-Meta, and hit the Rhabarber with a nice double dose. I'm going to have a wait and see approach on the Traditional, as I don't want to add any extra K-Sorbate if I can help it. And from what I have been reading Sorbate won't do a darn thing with an active ferment. I'd better do the same with the Rhabarber as I made a 500ml acclimated starter for it to beat any bugs present as I used mostly non-sterilized hand squeezed rhabarber juice.

So now: K-Meta added at 2 campden per gallon for both, and a wait see about the continued fermenting before adding any K-Sorbate.

My next issue is that I read that K-Sorbate should be used at anywhere from 1/2 tsp/gal up to 1 tsp/gal (mine is saying 3/4 tsp or to recipe(WTF??)). I also HATE dealing with tsp & Tbsp, I'd much rather know the weights that I should be using. Much more accurate, less guessing (flat, rounded, heaping, etc), less waste, and better overall control for the entire process. I have a scale that does hundredths, I could probably get access to a thousandths place scale, but that's a royal PITA weighing that miniscule of a speck of dust...

07-14-2014, 10:46 AM
If it makes you feel better I've seen highly acclaimed professionals in the wine industry (a california winemaker of some repute that I won't name) take a sample from the barrel, put it in a rinsed (not sanitized) glass, taste some, really swish it around in their mouths to get all the yummy backwash from their teeth/mouthhole and proceed to spit it BACK INTO THE BARREL. They seem to think that it's ok, I wouldn't personally if it was MY 59Gal barrel of wine that would potentially be worth $12,000, but hey. Also, they did that to EVERY BARREL, being hundreds. Holy sweet leaping Jesus that freaked me out, gave me the willies like you could not imagine. I think you'll be ok, I know that's a lot of money and time invested but don't overtreat it either, that can ruin more than what your friend did.

07-14-2014, 01:49 PM
Fermentation kills everything. Spitting it back into the barrel is disgusting but who knows if that's what every single winery has been doing for hundreds of years?

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now. G

07-14-2014, 10:33 PM
Active fermentation I can see it killing almost anything. But if it's just a sample to see where things are at post fermentation.... I suddenly no longer want to do a Wine Walk to our 21 tasting rooms, or every buy one again! Well, then again, I guess they have been at it a while so they probably know something.

But for my peace of mind it's double doses of K-Meta all around. And as soon as I can verify my Traditional has stopped fermenting I'll be racking it and proceeding thusly: Dropping the pH to ~3.2 (it's 3.7 now), a final LITE hit of K-Meta, full dose of K-Sorbate, hit it with KC finings, rack into 1 gallon jugs, age a few months, then bottle...

The SO2 did it's job on the Rhabarber alrighty! The Rhabarber is going to need some serious colorant to be added to it. Meanwhile I have wonderful smelling, pure, clean and clear as water, Rhabarber melomel. I'm thinking a VERY strong infusion of Hibiscus to things back to Technicolor... Then it will be a process similar to stabilizing and bottling the Traditional...

07-15-2014, 12:00 PM
Also some handy info for hitting the right SO2 according to pH http://www.sachomewine.com/winemaking-chemistry-notes/so2-additions-wine/

07-15-2014, 12:14 PM
I've heard of bears raiding the beehives, but humans raiding the mead?! Damn! Anyone who tries that at my place is going to find my response most unpleasant. I don't even know what I'd do, kinda frightening. You might as well drop a deuce on my dinner table. I'd be less upset!

07-15-2014, 02:16 PM
Actually, this sheet is more helpful, I dunno about keeping a 10% solution in a bottle. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/NR/rdonlyres/EF47145D-4BF0-46CF-B160-696C04C8DC4A/163603/SulfurDioxideAdditions.pdf