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  1. #1

    Default Slight sulfur smell in nose

    I made a hopped mead and when you swirl the glass I pick up slight sulfur. My girlfriend said she didn't get anything but I know it's there. It has a good aroma if not swirled though.

    1/24/09
    I used 16# clover honey from Sam's Club (Virginia Brand)
    1 oz Cascade hops
    10g EC-1118 (Proofed before pitching)
    Plus nutrient additions (No DAP in this one)

    Boiled 1.5 gallons water with 1 ounce hops for about 45 minutes.
    Waited until that cooled to about 80 and added the honey
    OG 1.095

    Added 1.5 tsp yeast nutrient and 2.5 tsp yeast energizer
    (I switched to Fermaid-K and DAP now, these were generic nutrient packs)

    Aerated the must for about 5 minutes by shaking

    Covered with cloth for 4 days, kept at about 68-70
    Aerated daily over the next 4 days

    Added 2 tsp nutrient 1/25/09

    Added 5tsp energizer 1/28/09

    Added 3 tsp nutrient @ 1/2 break

    Added 1/4 tsp K Meta + 3 tsp K Sorbate @ end of fermentation

    Added 1 tbsp Sparkelloid a month later 3/7/09

    Racked it 3 times

    Bottled 5/19/09
    TG 1.012

    Any thought as to where I'm getting sulfur from? Mead is crystal clear and tastes great.

  2. #2
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    Well, although it appears you gave it enough in nutrients, somehow these yeast were stressed and they stalled. With a starting gravity of 1.095, using EC-1118, you should have ended bone dry with a gravity less than 0.999. Your batch stopped way short of that.

    Did your rack it early?
    Did you ever check the pH?
    Was the carboy exposed to light (sunlight or fluorescent)?
    Did you pick up any sulfur odors along the way prior to this?
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  3. #3

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    Well, although it appears you gave it enough in nutrients, somehow these yeast were stressed and they stalled. With a starting gravity of 1.095, using EC-1118, you should have ended bone dry with a gravity less than 0.999. Your batch stopped way short of that.

    Did your rack it early?
    Did you ever check the pH?
    Was the carboy exposed to light (sunlight or fluorescent)?
    Did you pick up any sulfur odors along the way prior to this?

    Thanks for the reply!

    I racked it to secondary after 35 days. And the racked to tertiary after adding Sparkelloid at about 58 days (after it had cleared nicely). I wanted it a bit sweeter so I added the Sorbate & meta before gravity was too low.

    Did not check pH on this batch, didn't have a pH meter at that time. Now I do and check.

    Yes, carboy was kept from all light.

    I got no sulfur anywhere along the process. No other odors at all either. The only place I pick up anything off is when swirling in a wine glass.

    I don't think I stirred the yeast back up into suspension at all on this batch, and just aerated the first 4 days until a little before 1/3 break. It did get lots of nutrient, maybe too much.

  4. #4
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    Another question - is this mead bottled with crown caps or screwtop bottles?
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    Another question - is this mead bottled with crown caps or screwtop bottles?
    This particular one was a 12oz bottle with a crown cap. I bottled 12 in beer bottles, and corked the rest of the batch in 750ml green wine bottles.

  6. #6
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    Very Interesting.

    There has been debate raging through the wine industry for years about the pros and cons of different closure. One of the potential negatives about using Stelvin screw caps (ROTE closures) has been that since no oxygen get introduced to the wine, the wines may be more prone to reductive odors (sulfur smells). Some graphs taken from AWRI data show some of this; see page 5. It is also discussed HERE.
    The sensory analysis threw up some surprising results. The ROTE closure produced a rubber-like flavour/aroma in the wine after 18 months. This is unexpected and alarming, considering that the most of the Clare Valley Riesling producers decided to switch to screwcaps for the 2000 vintage, in a well publicised move. Considering that there is a long track record of bottling Riesling using screwcaps, and many library reference samples are available, it's an odd result. The authors of this paper suggest that it could be a consequence of the lack of oxygen, and that leaving a slightly higher headspace may have alleviated this anomalous result. Apart from this, no plastic-type taint was associated with any of the synthetic corks. [Note added later: Peter Godden, lead author of this trial, communicated the following by e-mail: "We are very confident that the 'rubber-like' character is not a taint, but is an unwelcome modification due to chemically reduced sulfur, as a result of lack of oxygen. However, it is certainly an important character in ROTE-closed wine, and we have highlighted its existence to avoid mass-bottling of wine under extremely anaerobic conditions which might then develop a similar character somewhere in the future. However, you can see from the other sensory data that it has not detracted from the fruit characters and intensity of aroma of the wine to a great extent so far, although the intensity seems to have increased at 21 and 24 month post-bottling testing."]
    Some winemakers have made adjustments to their wines to prevent these reductive odor from developing. They may treat with copper, or use less SO2, or leave more headspace, or other stategies to make sure they don't get sulfur smells in wines bottled with screw caps. And clearly, this reductive issue does not occur with every wine (and nobody has studied meads).

    I'm wondering if the sulfur note you are detecting is coming from the closure with crown caps. Since this is essentially as airtight as a ROTE/Stelvin screw cap, the same phenomenon might be occurring although it is very early. It would be easy to test - just take another crown capped bottle and see if you pick up that same smell. Then take a corked bottle and compare the two (preferably blindly with triangular tasting). You might be able to document the first (at least I think so) evidence of reductive odors with airtight closures in a mead.

    I'll be most interested to hear what you find.

    If the mead in corked bottles also has this sulfur note, then another possible explanation may be the hops. Fermentation conducted with hops may be more likely to produce higher level of H2S. There was a Korean Study showing this.
    Effect of hops on production of hydrogen sulfide during beer fermentation. S. T. Moon (1), J. Lee (1), S. K. PARK (1). (1) Kyung Hee University, Department of Food Science and Technology, Yongin-Si, Kyungki-Do, South Korea.

    The effect of hops on production of hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) during beer fermentation was studied. Five hop varieties in conjunction with two lager yeast strains were investigated for H(2)S production using laboratory scale fermenters. Hydrogen sulfide production was continuously monitored using sulfide detecting tubes. With the exception of one hop variety (Chinook), the wort fermented by a German lager yeast in the presence of hops produced a large amount of H(2)S (32.4 g to 75.3 g). However, the wort fermented in the absence of hops (the control) produced only a total of 11.1 g H(2)S. The wort fermented in the presence of the hops by the San Francisco lager yeast strain produced much lower levels of H(2)S, ranging from 2.2 g to 25 g and 1.2 g from the control. The levels of H(2)S production seem to be strongly influenced by both the yeast strain and the levels of sulfur residue remaining on the hops. These results clearly demonstrate that hops are a contributor to H(2)S production in brewing. Accordingly, testing hops for potential risk of H(2)S spoilage problem before their purchase or production scale fermentation is recommended to reduce or prevent H(2)S production during beer fermentation.
    I can't say for certain that this holds true with hops in a honey must, but it certainly raises the possibility. In any case, please do try to compare the crown cap and corked samples and let us know what you discover.

    Medsen.
    Last edited by Medsen Fey; 05-22-2009 at 01:30 PM.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  7. #7
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    Default

    This also has the ring of yeast autolysis to me. Have a look at this. I can't say as I can readily identify the cause of the yeast's unusual performance, but sulfur compounds can result from autolysis. Judging from the recipe, I'm going with stressed out yeast from a pH crash as my best guess; they quit eating sugar and ate enough of each other to cause the sulfur nose.

    I'm also curious to know the impact of 14 tsp of nutrient and energizer (1.5 + 2.5 + 2 + 5 + 3). Man, that's a ton of stuff there. Just the yeast hulls alone could be generating some off character.

    Ken
    It's time for some woodshedding, Willie Mae. The blue light was my blues, and the red light was my mind.

  8. #8
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    I went back to review "Wine Science" by Ron Jackson. Overdosing of nitrogen can lead to both incomplete fermentation and to increased H2S production by yeast. Of course it has not been studied in Meads, but it would surprise me if the same didn't hold true.

    In your case, if each tsp weighs about 4 grams, I'm guessing you added somewhat more than 400 PPM nitrogen. I don't think that would constitute an overdose that should inhibit yeast function, as it falls into the range that may be optimal for yeast growth.

    I'm still wondering why you the sulfur wasn't apparent before bottling.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Medsen Fey View Post
    Very Interesting.

    There has been debate raging through the wine industry for years about the pros and cons of different closure. One of the potential negatives about using Stelvin screw caps (ROTE closures) has been that since no oxygen get introduced to the wine, the wines may be more prone to reductive odors (sulfur smells). Some graphs taken from AWRI data show some of this; see page 5. It is also discussed HERE.


    Some winemakers have made adjustments to their wines to prevent these reductive odor from developing. They may treat with copper, or use less SO2, or leave more headspace, or other stategies to make sure they don't get sulfur smells in wines bottled with screw caps. And clearly, this reductive issue does not occur with every wine (and nobody has studied meads).

    I'm wondering if the sulfur note you are detecting is coming from the closure with crown caps. Since this is essentially as airtight as a ROTE/Stelvin screw cap, the same phenomenon might be occurring although it is very early. It would be easy to test - just take another crown capped bottle and see if you pick up that same smell. Then take a corked bottle and compare the two (preferably blindly with triangular tasting). You might be able to document the first (at least I think so) evidence of reductive odors with airtight closures in a mead.

    I'll be most interested to hear what you find.

    If the mead in corked bottles also has this sulfur note, then another possible explanation may be the hops. Fermentation conducted with hops may be more likely to produce higher level of H2S. There was a Korean Study showing this.


    I can't say for certain that this holds true with hops in a honey must, but it certainly raises the possibility. In any case, please do try to compare the crown cap and corked samples and let us know what you discover.

    Medsen.
    I will be trying them tonight. I am curious as well.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ken_schramm View Post
    This also has the ring of yeast autolysis to me. Have a look at this. I can't say as I can readily identify the cause of the yeast's unusual performance, but sulfur compounds can result from autolysis. Judging from the recipe, I'm going with stressed out yeast from a pH crash as my best guess; they quit eating sugar and ate enough of each other to cause the sulfur nose.

    I'm also curious to know the impact of 14 tsp of nutrient and energizer (1.5 + 2.5 + 2 + 5 + 3). Man, that's a ton of stuff there. Just the yeast hulls alone could be generating some off character.

    Ken
    I agree with you that this batch had too much in the way of nutrient additions. I think one of my issues was that I did a nutrient addition but didn't write it down on my paper process sheet but did enter it on my computerized notes and then added more later based on the paper notes.

    Some of my changes have been using an aeration stone rather than just shaking the carboy, checking and managing pH, reducing the amount of nutrients to proper levels only @ 1/3 and 1/2 breaks, basing additions on grams rather than tsp/tbsp, and re-suspending yeast every few days during fermentation. I have also changed my nutrients to DAP and Fermaid-K. I was using LD Carlson's nutrient with ammonium phosphate & urea and LD Carlson's energizer that had DAP, yeast hulls, magnesium sulphate, and Vitamin B complex.

    Would checking pH now be of any value in troubleshooting?

    I am going to sample another capped bottle tonight + a corked bottle to verify its present in the nose of each.

    I appreciate the help you guys are giving me, GotMead.com rocks!

  11. #11

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    pH of the finished mead is 3.35 now.

    I opened another crown sealed bottle and its the same. No sulfur on nose until you
    swirl it and then you pick it up. I did let a glass sit out for about 30 minutes and when I swirled it then I didnt get the sulfur.

    I will try a cork sealed bottle tomorrow night.

  12. #12

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    A little late... I opened a corked bottle tonight and it has the same slight sulfur smell that dissipates after about 15 minutes. The only thing that was different on this batch was the amount of nutrients. It doesn't taste bad nor smell funny after 10-15 minutes. Anyone want a bottle to help me troubleshoot?

  13. #13
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    Well you've ruled out the closures, and the pH seems fine. Still, the yeast were stressed a bit as evidenced by the incomplete fermentation. That and the hops. I'm not sure why the sulfur didn't make itself apparent before bottling.

    In any case, it seems you have an easy solution which is to decant before serving. Time may help this odor, and it may fade with age.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

  14. #14

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    I have to agree with Medsen on this one. Decanting is your best bet without having actually tasted or smelled it. It might be that you have a particular sensitivity to "sulfur/mercaptons/phenolics/aromas etc."

    But that's a good thing. You've identified something in this batch of mead that doesn't strike your fancy. If you can help identify the disagreeable note a little further, we can probably help a little better.

    How do you friends perceive this mead? Do they get the same odoriferous notes that you do? Or is there some other character of the mead that strikes them more prevalently? Objective observers are a very good measure, especially when you compare how you feel about it.

    One thing that really strikes me on this batch its youth. Give it a few months or a year and I think you'll be surprised at the difference.


    Wade
    Wild In Idaho
    Mead, like life, is a journey and not a destination. So stop and savor the flavors along the way!


    "Gawd, I hate drinking mead and posting in the forums."

    Nothing currently fermenting!

  15. #15

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    I did a full alcohol analysis on it and got the following, may not help to figure out aroma any but I think its good to know all the numbers.

    ABV 11.73%
    P 23.92
    Real Extract 7.33 %m/m
    Apparent Extract 3.45 %m/m
    SG 1.01351
    RDF 72.06%
    ADF 85.56%
    Cal 331.22 kcal/12oz
    pH 3.35

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by wildaho View Post
    I have to agree with Medsen on this one. Decanting is your best bet without having actually tasted or smelled it. It might be that you have a particular sensitivity to "sulfur/mercaptons/phenolics/aromas etc."

    But that's a good thing. You've identified something in this batch of mead that doesn't strike your fancy. If you can help identify the disagreeable note a little further, we can probably help a little better.

    How do you friends perceive this mead? Do they get the same odoriferous notes that you do? Or is there some other character of the mead that strikes them more prevalently? Objective observers are a very good measure, especially when you compare how you feel about it.

    One thing that really strikes me on this batch its youth. Give it a few months or a year and I think you'll be surprised at the difference.


    Wade
    I only asked one other person, and she said she didn't get anything. She's usually pretty good at getting smells right, too.

  17. #17

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    I wanted to do a test, so I emptied half a bottle and put a T cork in and let it sit for a month, it smells wonderful. No sulfur smell whatsoever. Any thoughts?

  18. #18

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    I made another batch with roughly the same recipe, but with much closer attention to pH and nutrient (including DAP this time.) Total nutrient was about 12g of DAP, 12g Fermaid-K in a 6 gallon batch added in a SNA fashion.

    It was done fermenting by day 14. I racked on day 21 and did a taste / smell with no indication of any sulfur. However on day 35 I got the sulfur smell again after I racked for the second time. I added 2g of K-Meta, and 5g of Sorbistat-K and splashed while racking.
    I also degassed after it was racked over to fully mix in the stabilizers and try to get some H2S out.

    I was going to put some copper wire in today as well to help this one out. I read to aerate and leave in for about a week?

    I cant help but wonder if I would have racked this sooner would it have prevented this. Can autolysis happen that fast with EC-1118?

  19. #19
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    Hmmm... could it be that you aren't smelling hydogen sulfide, but instead might be catching faint whiffs of 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol? That's the principal compound in a skunk's spray, and with a strong reduced sulfur component in the molecule, at very low concentrations it can be mistaken for the simpler H2S.

    You are using hops in this recipe, and you had no suggestion of the odor prior to some time after the racking to a secondary carboy. EC-1118 is a notoriously neutral strain of yeast, which doesn't typically produce much in the way of reduced sulfur compounds when it autolyzes. You really haven't been on the lees long enough for much in the way of autolysis to have taken place yet, anyway.

    Was this ever exposed to any sunlight, direct or indirect, while it was in that secondary? Alternatively, did you have it lit by flourescents for any period of time during that interval?
    Na zdrowie!

    Wayne B.

  20. #20
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    It is really odd that you develop the sulfur odor so quickly after fermentation is complete given that it was racked. When you racked it for the second time was there a lot of lees? I am wondering if this is related to the hops, and if handling them differently might avoid the sulfur.
    Lanne pase toujou pi bon
    (Past years are always better)

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