View Full Version : Bacterial Contamination or hypochondriac?

10-15-2014, 06:46 PM
I am absolutely new to mead-making; just started this month. I decided to try a slightly modified version of BOMM, which I discovered on this website (and most of you are probably familiar with).

Basically, it was about 2.5 lbs of standard clover honey, a handful of organic raisins, made up to a gallon of filtered water. I added yeast nutrient to start, and again at 2 and 5 days post yeast-pitch. The yeast is Lalvin EC-1118. The gravity is now around 1.000, having started fermentation on Oct. 3rd.

I have no idea what mead is supposed to smell like, but it smells like a mixture of alcohol and faintly like olives and beer, maybe? It's hard to really assign a smell, because its not really like anything I've smelled before.

I tried racking it about 3 days ago after it had cleared somewhat, and I tasted it: tasted alcoholic, not sweet whatsoever, and pretty much awful.... but I expected that. I racked using mouth-siphon, because I read that many people have had success with it, likely because mead seems to be pretty tough to contaminate.

So... to the problem (I tried uploading a photo but the restriction is terribly small). After 3 or 4 days in the new carboy the mead still smells basically the same, but it has a "halo" of haziness that seems to be floating at the interface of the mead and the air. The mead is still not totally clear, but I can still distinguish this haziness from the rest of the cloudiness of the mead. There is no visible mold-like contamination, or colonies.... just this odd hazy halo.

Am I being paranoid, or should I be worried that this is contamination?

Thanks so much!

10-15-2014, 10:17 PM
For a BOMM you shouldn't have used EC-1118, you need to stick to Wyeast 1388 and follow loveofrose's directions. This will likely take 6 months to a year to be ready to drink. In the meantime if you can't get Wyeast 1388 make yourself a Joe's Ancient Orange mead everything you need can be obtained at a grocery store, it uses bread yeast and is ready to drink in about 2 months.

10-15-2014, 10:21 PM
Don't worry about the haziness it's just the mead clearing. You can use fining agents to speed it up but I just let them sit. It can take anything from a couple of weeks to months but my meads are left to age a bit anyway so it doesn't matter.

10-16-2014, 12:27 AM
Thanks! I know the Wyeast 1388 is best for being drinkable in 1-2 months, but I don't mind the extra wait.

I was actually thinking about starting another batch following the JAOM recipe, but was again just going to use EC-1118 and wait it out.

Does the bread yeast (and also the Wyeast 1388 I suppose) produce less harsh fermentation products that distort the flavor? Is that why it's drinkable earlier than with the EC-1118?

10-16-2014, 09:30 AM
The EC-1118 has an alcohol tolerance of about 18% which will take it to dry exposing the bitterness of the pith in the orange. Using bread yeast which poops out at about 12% alcohol leaves the mead sweet which is where a JAOM is supposed to be. Do not use a wine yeast for a JAOM or it will get too dry and bitter. Also when making a JAOM to the recipe, make sure you use a US gallon not a UK one or it won't be sweet enough either.

10-16-2014, 01:13 PM
[Using the EC-1118] for the JAOM, couldn't I just backsweeten after fermentation is complete and stable? It seems like that would give the sweetness to cover the bitterness, and also give a higher alcohol %. Plus, I was thinking of just peeling the orange to remove most of the pith -- is that a bad idea?

Chevette Girl
10-20-2014, 12:16 AM
The things that make a JAO variant still be a JAO is the amount of honey and the use of bread yeast. Anything else is some other kind of mead. That said you can still make good mead with EC-1118 (although I'd try K1v-1116, it's a little gentler on all those lovely floral notes you want to keep in a mead). It's just going to ferment dry and take a while to age to something you actually want to drink. There are a number of other things you can use instead of oranges to get some acidity and some bitterness, but without something like that a JAO is too sweet. But with a regular wine yeast, it'll go dry and those things that balance it (the acidity and bitterness) will be so pronounced it'll taste like arse for months. New meads are pretty gross, which is why folks use the JAO with bread yeast and the BOMM with Wyeast 1388, and the yeasts are important.

I regularly modify the JAO recipe to use just the juice and zest of the orange because the pith gives me heartburn, it still tastes pretty much the same and is ready to drink in about 8 weeks. The whole point of JAO is to be quick and simple. It's simple because the bread yeast konks out at 10-12 % and you don't have to mess around with chemicals and backsweetening, it stops where it's just about right. The remaining sugar and the low (10-12%) alcohol content are two of the things that cause it to be quick, higher alcohol contents often taste quite harsh for a long time, and even if you backsweeten something made with EC-1118, you'd have to stabilize it chemically or it'll just keep eating the honey. And chances are it'll still need a good bit of age. JAO according to the recipe benefits from age but is still good if you drink it early.

10-21-2014, 11:08 AM
Chevette Girl, thanks so much that was an awesome information-packed reply!! What do you mean by saying "you'd have to stabilize it chemically or it'll just keep eating the honey" ?? I was under the impression that once the yeast was all dead, that any honey you add would just basically be sweetener. Am I missing something?

10-21-2014, 03:10 PM
I was under the impression that once the yeast was all dead, that any honey you add would just basically be sweetener. Am I missing something?

When the yeast is (are?) done fermenting the sugars they don't die, they just go dormant. They can and sometimes do wake up.

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10-21-2014, 07:52 PM
To stabilize it you will need potassium sulfite and potassium sorbate. Not one or the other both. The sulfites stun the yeast and the sorbate is like birth control and they can't reproduce any more. The sulfites also stop the sorbate from leaving compounds called gerianols in there. They smell like rotten geraniums and it's impossible to remove so if you use sorbate you must use sulfite. Other than that you would have to step feed the yeast honey until it poops out and then add honey to your desired sweetness level but you could end up with a very high ABV which could require a good bit of aging.