View Full Version : arrrggghhhhh!!!!!

11-02-2005, 07:14 PM
This is getting to be a real pain in the ass! This is the second batch of mead that has started fermenting after bottling. The first batch had been 2 or 3 months with no change in graqvity before i bottled. Every bottle from that batch turned and where pushing the corks from the bottles.

This batch was a tupelo mead, 2 months no change in gravity. After racking off the lees I used bentonite followed 2 weeks later with sparkalloid. Three weeks after treatment, I filtered through 5 mic pads, then 1 mic pads and finished through 0.5 mic pads then bottled. A few weeks later, the tupelo mead is pushing corks from the bottles (it does make a nice sparkling mead).

I spent Sunday - Tuesday in buffalo and Ontario, I come home this morning to find soaked boxes, 3 bottles near empty and half a dozen corks pushed half way out of the bottles!

I poured the partial bottles in the vinegar vat, then pulled the corks which where coming out, let the botles breath a bit before corking them again.

I really don't wan to sulfite the mead I make, if I must (heh heh heh) I will. I'm thinking about adding a neutral spirit to finish mead I want still may be a choise I prefer to sulfites. Other then waiting longer before bottling, sulfiting or fortifying, what can I do.

Pissed and hopeful,


11-02-2005, 10:13 PM

Have you been using sorbates at all? After doing all that clarifying and filtering, a dose of potassium sorbate might be enough to keep things from starting up again. Sorbates are much nicer to people with allergies than sulfites are (if that's an issue for you).

Other than that...hmmm...?

Pasteurization? That can be a real pain. Some folks think it affects the flavor and aroma of a final mead, too. Others I've read about disagree. You can pasteurize by holding the must at 160 degrees F. for twenty minutes. This is very effective at killing fecal coliforms, and other nasty bad guys. Yeast are even more susceptible to heat.

On a completely different topic...I've read many times that making vinegar and making mead/wine/beer/sake/etc. are dangerous to do in the same place. Since vinegar has been a pretty hot topic here lately, can you elaborate on how you keep the vinegar from contaminating the mead (physical separation situation and sanitation techniques, I mean). You do it on a regular basis, so unless they're in different locales, you're doing something I definitely need to learn about!


11-03-2005, 01:25 AM

I've asked around about the vinegar issue too, and everyone I've asked says to keep it totally separate from the wine - like in the basement or garage. Well, I live in an apartment with no basement or garage, so I make and keep my vinegar in the kitchen. The precautions I do take are simple:

Don't make vinegar the same day I'm doing anything with wine;
Zealously wipe up every spill or drip and wash all equipment (even just a spoon) immediately;
Keep the vinegar jar high up on a shelf, not on the kitchen counter.

Once a bottle is ready and capped, it's in the rack with the other culinary bottles (soy sauce, pepper grinder, etc.). I'll bet most home-brewers working in their kitchens have a bottle of vinegar there and never think of it. I usually have two: one of my own vinegar and one commercial balsamic. I've had a few musts go sour: prickly pear and fresh fig, but attribute faulty wine-making technique to those failures. I've had an 18-liter jerrycan of apple wine and another of hard lemonade sitting by the kitchen door for months with no problem.



11-03-2005, 02:02 AM
Hey David,

I've not been using sorbate or sulfite. I may have to start it seems.

As to vinegar, I make vinegar in a 2.5 gallon stoneware crock and a 1.5 gallon glass jar, both are in the kitchen atop the pantry. Other then not handling mead and vinegar at the same time, I simply do not use any equipment used for mead to handle vinegar.


11-03-2005, 02:19 AM
Hey Anthony,
I may sound silly, but did you leave enough space in the bottles? Was there a big temperature change? In our neck of the woods we get hit with some HHHoooottttt days, as you know, and that may be the reason. Also, did you check your hydrometer?


11-03-2005, 02:21 AM
Obviously, wines, meads, and beers that are capped up nicely are in no danger. What I'm wondering about is if people who practice proper sanitation techniques have had problems in this regard. It seems to me that despite the abundance of acetobactor in the region, if a person were to be clean about their work, they shouldn't have much problem. Of COURSE, if you just leave a vinegar tools around, accidents can and will eventually happen. The point is, if you follow a ritual of sanitation, and practice common sense, do you really run a huge risk? Is this one of those things that is (or should be considered) more of a guideline than a rule?

I ask all this for academic reasons only: I actually despise the flavor of vinegar! I like switchel, but only because it doesn't taste like vinegar. I hate it on salads, in pickles (if it overpowers the dill or other spices), or just about anywhere else. I'm not repulsed by very many wholesome foods, but vinegar is one (when I ate meat, liver was another -- eww...I ate Scrapple, for Goddess sake, and liked it {pan fried}, but nothing makes me want to worship the Great God Ralph like liver -- raw or cooked...except, maybe vinegar). It's strange, really, because I love, love, love tartness: it's my favorite taste sensation. But vinegar just doesn't do it for me. Sorry. Mull it; make it balsamic; do whatever you like. If it's straight vinegar, I'm heaving.

Oh, Anthony! So sorry man! This has gotton so far afield from your horribly sad tale! No thread piracy intended here -- it's the Ancient Orange speaking, for sure!


11-03-2005, 03:14 AM
Hey Ted,

No temp spikes, the bottle filler leaves the same head-space in every bottle and the gravity had been stable for months.


Not to worry. Unlike yourself, I really loike vinegar, the smell the flavor and the bite. Best thing ever for in-digestion. I may be proven wrong, but as far as i can tell... proper sanitization, and not mixing the tools used for vinegar with those used for mead, should limit the risk of vinegar contamination in the mead beer and wine.


11-03-2005, 11:09 AM
On the subject of vinegar, if you like it, try sekanjabin for a cool drink. Dissolve 4 cups sugar in 2 1/2 cups of water; when it comes to a boil add 1 cup wine vinegar. Simmer 1/2 hour. Add a handful of mint, remove from fire, let cool. Dilute the resulting syrup to taste with ice water (5 to 10 parts water to 1 part syrup). The syrup stores without refrigeration.

This stuff is the most refreshing drink I've ever had, and a real boon on hot days. I took a couple bottles of the syrup to Pennsic, and couldn't mix it up fast enough for the fighters. I take it to re-enactments too, its very popular.

::back to your regularly scheduled arrrggghhhhh!!!!!::

11-03-2005, 11:56 AM
I don't understand how you can be seeing fermentation after all the filtering you've done.

I am assuming you do the following steps (correct me if I am wrong):

1. Rack off the initial lees for aging.

2. Move the carboy a day or two before final racking (not when you rack) to allow lees to resettle.

3. Rack off any remaining lees.

4. Filter.

5. Bottle.

A half micron filter is supposed to be good enough to take out all the yeast and even some of the things you don't want out. Is it possibly something in your filtering technique? Too much pressure? Trying to filter the must without a final racking?

I'd like to figure this one out because I am trying to do the no chemical approach as well and was figuring on filtering as my salvation. Maybe not...

How is your sterilization technique?

11-03-2005, 12:24 PM
I have found that racking off the lees 3-4 times, and leaving the mead to age in a carboy has kept most of my meads from re-fermenting. I do have the occasional one kick off in the bottle, but since I've taken to bottling in grolsh bottles, beer bottles and champagne bottles, it doesn't cause bottle bombs or messes.

I haven't filtered yet (though I've asked for a filtering unit for Xmas), but so far about 85% of my meads don't re-start.

11-03-2005, 12:56 PM
I agree with Pewter's comments. Yeast will not make it through your 0.5u pad unless you have a integrity issue with your filter setup. It could be that your mead was contaminated post-filtration either due to a non-sterile outlet hose on your filter setup, or from your bottles/ corks. You can narrow it down by looking at what is growing in your bottles. If every bottle is showing signs of what appears to be yeast growing, there is a good chance that you filter was set up/ operated wrong, or you had integrity issues. If all bottles are showing signs of growth from bacteria, this would indicate gross contamination of your outlet hose, bottling bucket, bottling cane or corks. If your growth is not consistent from bottle to bottle, it probably indicates that only a few bogeys got in post-filtration due to technique or improperly sanitized equipment.

It sounds like your fermentation was definitely complete when you bottled. It would be highly unlikely that the yeast would re-start a fermentation since they would have run out of carbon source/ nutrients or the alchohol content is beyond tolerance. Since you did not add additional nutrients, whatever grew must be surviving on a carbon source other than sugar. This points to the presence of acetobacter which would utilize alcohol for a carbon source. Your 0.5u filter would be right on the edge of being able to filter out acetobacter which are 0.6u to 0.8u in width. It could be that the acetabacter were present for some time, but did not begin growing until you introduced air (oxygen) during filtration/ bottling (acetobacter are obligate aerobes).

It sounds like you take good steps to separate your vinegar production from your mead production. But, it may be worth it to review your techniques again. Acetobacter will not travel well by airborne routes, so any cross-contamination would more than likely come from contact. In addition to using separate equipment (like you do), you may also consider doing a bleach sanitization of all surfaces (i.e. sink, countertop and ANY liquid spills that you see) and a bleach soak of any towels, rags, etc. that you may use for both processes (wasing them in a washing machine may not be enough).

Please keep us posted on your investigation.


11-03-2005, 05:47 PM
Sorry Vicki, but I'm going to throw an additional possibility in here.

If you have not been using nutrient (there's no info from you on nutrient use here), or ENOUGH nutrient, a change in environment can set off any remaining yeast. You really want to make sure your yeast works though all of the available sugar in a healthy state, so that when it hits its ETOH tolerance, it is DONE. If it gets dragged down by metabolic stresses while it is trying to attenuate everything, it just becomes dormant; a blast of O2 (like it gets from racking) or a change in temps can set off another brief growth phase. Grenades.

To make sure your yeast is done when it says it is, make sure you give it enough nutrients to do what you've asked it to do. Then use sorbates when it stops, if you have any doubts.

Yours in meadmaking,

11-03-2005, 07:12 PM
Hmm, guess that might be why then. I always use nutrient, every time. Good point, Ken, and *you* of all people never have to apologize around here. You're like E.F. Hutton. You open your mouth and we all listen.

Nice to see you, and I really liked the article in Zymurgy. *Very* interesting.

11-03-2005, 11:56 PM
Thank's all.

I filtered and bottled three other meads the same day as this one, no problem with the other batches. Having drank the contents of the bottles which blew the corks, I'm sure it not vinegar.

This run stopped at 1.020, after 2 months it was still at 1.020, so there where sugars in the mead at time of bottling. Maybe I should rack more and wait longer before bottling in the future.

I use Superfood, DAP and Vitamix in the must before pitching, when starting secondary and 2 or 3 days after fitting an airlock. Most of the mead I've made has finished fermenting in 10 to 14 days.

I believe my cleaning and sanitaion technique are good, but there's always room for improvement. I clean carboys, buckets, bottles, conters and everything else with B.L.C. and sanitize the same with a 25ppm solution of iodophor.

I really don't want to use sorbates, but unless the mead is extra dry their use may be the best choice.

Thank's again folks,


11-04-2005, 10:14 AM
After having a unstoppable ferment in a batch of mead I took to doing the following:

Before bottling, (2-3 weeks in advance)

Rack off lees,
Move from my basement (60 degrees) to my kitchen (70 degrees).

If it is going to start fermenting again, these tend to set it off.


11-06-2005, 09:08 PM
So I had another bottle blow the cork this evening. What a Difference a week can make, the last one to blow was Saturday last while preparing for a trip to N.Y. I am truly surprised at how much the flavor has changed in so little time.

Lacking the experience of most here, I humbly request your advice on how to save a mead should this happen again, and how to avoid this problem from the start.


11-07-2005, 04:00 AM
Wait longer before bottling. I like to bottle between 10 and 14 months depending on the situation, but I would advise at least 6-8 months of bulk aging.

This will not only improve the flavor of your mead, it will also almost guarantee that you're fermentation will not restart.

11-07-2005, 09:54 AM
My general process is to rack when it stops, bulk age in the cold, rack a last time before bottling, and then bottle anything I expect to be in the heat at all in champagne bottles.

I would guess that the biggest mistake made by most people is moving their batches just prior to racking and not allowing long enough (days?) for the lees that was stirred up to drop back out of suspension....

I have some questions for our experts.

1. How long does it take for most yeasts to go dormant after they have run out of sugar?
2. How long for yeast to go dormant when in a temperature below what they are able to ferment?
3. How long for the few super yeasts to go dormant after the batch has hit it's ABV limit?

Just looking for a general guideline on how long would be a good rule of thumb for bulk aging before bottling...

Thanks in advance,

11-07-2005, 12:55 PM

I'm with Joe M. Bulk age longer if you can. You're having more problems in this regard than pretty-much anyone else I've heard of, and you seem to be doing everything right, so I'll admit I'm stumped as to the cause...though, to be honest, I'd give a bit more thought to the vinegar-making question. And Ken Schramm has brought another possible cause that merits scrutiny.

Bulk aging like this can become a real issue, space-wise, but it's the only way to be consistently sure (and even then, refermentations can happen -- though they are much more rare).


12-09-2005, 09:14 PM

I read (what I assume is) your brewlog for this mead. (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=103&topic=1519.0)
A few things I noted:
1) You seem to have bottled within about 2-3 months of pitching. That's a pretty tight timetable, I prefer to bulk age 6+ months.
2) You used only superfood as nutrient.
3) Tupelo honey is notorious for slow fermentation due to low nutrient levels.
4) D47 can be a "creeper" yeast that is known for prolonged secondary (according to a fairly recent Oskaar post, IIRC).

Based on that information bottle fermentation is a reasonable possibility. However:
1) You also fined with bentonite and sparkoloid, which can clear a mead up nicely but doesn't eliminate all the yeast even after a careful racking.
2) You filtered with a 0.5 micron filter which should remove all yeast cells.

Yeast will not make it through your 0.5u pad unless you have a integrity issue with your filter setup.

IMHO, filtering looks like the weakest link to me. Is it possible, as Homebrew suggests in his comments, that there may have been an integrity issue with the filtering system?

I'm sure you can track down the problem, whatever it may be, and apply a sulphite-free solution!