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  1. #1

    Default First time brewer: Odd smelling mead?

    Hello all,

    I started a batch of mead a couple of days ago. Sanitized everything as good as I could.
    I did however start in a little bit of a rush as I'd already had trouble getting hold of a fermentation chamber last month and really wanted some mead to take with me to a christmas festival in early december. Seems I may have missed the dead line for a nice smooth mead by then, but at least I'll have something drinkable for late december xD
    As I've never brewed anything before (other than a few undrinkable sugar wines to test how well my designating brewing area could keep a consistent temperature) I am unsure of what it should actually smell like.

    Anyway. Recipe... unfortunately dirt cheap, caught myself at a bit of a squeeze and had to use cheap honey, as well as missing out on a hydrometre and proper thermometre, but things go\\

    3.4KG of cheap blossom honey
    2.27KG of wild honey
    - 5.67
    23 litres of water
    (I know I'm a criminal for mixing xD , but the wild honey was very expensive and the only way I could make close to the desired amount was to stock up with cheaper blossom honey)

    That put me in at about 1.134KG a gallon (I was suggested 1.5KG a gallon for 'sweet mead' but I always prefered dry drinks, also I'm a bit broke), although I'm not entirely sure what a gallon is, but my recipe called for 'standard 5 gallon' fermentation chamber, and all 10 of the fermentation chambers I found in the shop were 23 litre, so I'm just guessing a little here xD

    Anyway:
    Used a small tube of yeast nutrient suitable for 23 litres (recommended in the recipe I was using as reference) and a 23 litre suitable packet of Champagne yeast.
    It all started up fermenting after 22 hours and is now bubbling nicely. However, after all of this rambling and dancing around, the smell, the point of this thread, is what I'm unsure about.

    About 50 hours since I put the fermenter in the cupboard as of posting this and it smells EXACTLY like bannoffee pie!
    No idea if this is normal, doesn't exactly smell 'off', but it doesn't have the slightly sweet yeasty smell I expected from it, but it's bubbling away nicely and there is a large layer of foam on top. But like I said, I'm totally new to this.

    Any suggestions/advice, put my mind to rest :3

    Thanks
    - JL

    PS: I'm 90% sure that every gallon mentioned here is an American gallon, not a British gallon.

  2. #2
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    Banoffee pie, I had to look this up on wikipedia : bananas, custard, and whip cream?

    What did your honey smell like, and what is and ambient temperature that the mead is fermenting at?

    My primary guess that your just smelling fermentation and its side affects...
    Bees stole my signature file!

  3. #3

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    More specifically it smells like a home made bannoffee pie. Banana, toffee and whipped cream. It's uncanny how close the smell is.

    The honey itself didn't smell that remarkable. Cheap stuff. The blossom honey smelled more or less like 'honey', the wild honey had a much deeper smell though, sort of thick, less sugary and more flowery.

    Ambient temperature is between 19-23C
    Can't prevent the flux unfortunately, but I'm keeping it as stable as I possibly can

  4. #4
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    The aroma is nothing. Champagne yeasts have a habit of blowing a lot of the aromatics and some of the more subtle flavouring elements straight out the airlock (plus a lot of HBS recommend them as they know sod all about meads and make sweeping generalisations, given the levels of sugars in honey - mostly it's not bad/wrong advice, just poor, ill-considered).

    The amount of honey used is likely to give you a dry mead. Which is "an acquired taste". To get it sorted for your time scale, I would let it ferment dry, then rack it off the sediment, then stabilise it with sulphite and sorbate, then back sweeten it with which ever honey it is that you like the most (you may need as much as 1lb of it). The back sweetening honey is mixed 50/50 with water, then added a little at a time. After each addition, take a hydrometer reading and a little taste - so you know when you've got a gravity reading that matches your preferred level of sweetness (commercial meads are often IRO 1.040 here, but they're too sweet for me, I like mine about 1.015, so that's what I aim for when back sweetening).

    If you follow the above suggestion, and then let it clear naturally, or even using finings, you should have something ready for crimbo. The only extra thing you might need to consider, would be that it may need a little acid (I use the mix of 2 parts malic to 1 part tartaric, as suggested in Ashton & Duncans "Making Mead" book - now out of print, but it's from the same stable as CJJ Berry's "first steps in wine making"). As with the back sweetening process, adding acid is also done in small increments. You want something with a tiny bit of "bite" but not something that tastes like honey flavoured sherbert!
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

  5. #5

    Default

    I feel like maybe I shouldn't rush the next batch, which hopefully I'll be starting up in a few weeks when this rushed lot is ready to put in the second chamber, I'll take upmost care and spare no expense with that one.

    Anyway, this mead I'm getting ready for christmas, champagne yeast I was told to use for mead, but if it kills the aromatics I'm wondering if I should go knock that person round the head or not.

    I'll be getting a hydrometre at the earliest possible chance, then I'm sure what you said with the numbers will make more sense, and I'll get myself some better mead and try a hand at this back sweetening stuff. I think I'll have to do more reading into the acid thing though, that's gone totally over my head

    Thanks for the advice though, believe me I'm writing this all down because I still don't have any idea what I think I'm doing xD

  6. #6
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    Nah, don't knock the bloke in the head, it's not his fault he's ignorant about mead... They recommend that for a lot of things because it's mostly idiot-proof for newbies... just tell him that you've been researching it and champagne yeast tends to blow the delicates off and there are other better suggestions for the next time he's asked... spread the knowledge! (although you'll have to ask Fatbloke about what's good to use that can be found locally, I mostly only ever use Lalvin yeasts, I'm finding my favourites are K1V and D47 for meads, RC-212 for anything really fruity.

    And yeah, it's mostly US gallons referred to here. I had to do a bit of math myself when I first got here but at least I'm still used to dealing with pounds My favourite conversion site for converting from American is here...

    I suggest you keep a mead log for each batch, mine are all in a notebook with the occasional interspersed page full of notes I've found in my readings...

    Another option if you want something decent in time for Xmas is JAO, presuming you like sweet meads.

    The acid addition Fatbloke mentioned is just in case the finished mead is lacking in something, gives it a little bite. If it tastes fine to you when it's done, don't worry about it.

    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chevette Girl View Post
    Nah, don't knock the bloke in the head, it's not his fault he's ignorant about mead...
    This is the most common response I get from any LHBS when I ask him what yeast he has.
    Interestingly, many are resistant to learning that they're wrong.
    I told a guy once (major importer here in aust) that EC1118 was no good as it blows off volatiles. (we had already stated we were dealing with mead) and his response was [mockingly] "It's just the highest volume yeast we sell"
    I was thinking,
    1. I'm the customer, don't tell me I know nothing
    2. Perhaps that's because you recommend it so strongly!
    Quote Originally Posted by Chevette Girl View Post

    I suggest you keep a mead log for each batch, mine are all in a notebook with the occasional interspersed page full of notes I've found in my readings...
    Definitely do this. I print 2 custom pages, on 1 standard sized page. Then I take to to my office supplies store who photocopies it 20 times, guillotines it in half and binds it with a pretty cover. If I'm hasselled, I could post the pdf for you to print.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chevette Girl View Post

    Another option if you want something decent in time for Xmas is JAO, presuming you like sweet meads.
    Definitely go brew a JAO right now.
    it's too easy, and it serves two purposes
    1. Gives you something to drink
    2. Will be ready by XMas
    3. Stops you losing heart because your other mead's not ready yet
    Oh, that's 3 reasons, well you get one fore free OK?
    Mae'r teithiau golau ceffyl eto

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by kudapucat View Post
    This is the most common response I get from any LHBS when I ask him what yeast he has.
    Interestingly, many are resistant to learning that they're wrong.
    I told a guy once (major importer here in aust) that EC1118 was no good as it blows off volatiles. (we had already stated we were dealing with mead) and his response was [mockingly] "It's just the highest volume yeast we sell"
    I was thinking,
    1. I'm the customer, don't tell me I know nothing
    2. Perhaps that's because you recommend it so strongly!
    [mock]That's because you sell to people who don't know how to make anything better than wine kit wines. [/mock] Or perhaps because this isn't as much of a problem with grapes, but we're not fermenting grapes.

    EC-1118 does have its uses and I'd still recommend it to a beginner as a hassle-free yeast, but I would explain that it's not the be-all and end-all yeast, even though it's pretty much all I used for the first 4 years I brewed, mostly because my wine book suggested champagne yeast for many of its recipes. Maybe I'm just lucky with my LHBS's but the owner of the one that specializes in wine kits recommended the RC-212 for fruity stuff, and I've probably taught him a thing or two about the weird stuff I've fermented (haven't told them about chevette parts though, I'd probably lose any brewing cred right then!). The other store that's a bit better stocked for home brewers that don't just do onsite wine and beer kits has made mead, and though I've never asked what yeast they'd recommend, just from my discussions with them about meads and fruit wines, they'd be open to learning more about something they don't do much of. Now I'm curious and will ask next time I'm in.

    Although personally, I would need to do side-by-side batches using different yeasts to actually verify what it does to the honey flavour and aroma... I'm not sure I'd actually notice the difference otherwise. I myself do not have a good grasp of the effects of using different yeasts. It's on the to-brew list, honest.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  9. #9

    Default

    Does that recipe work well for larger batches?

    I know where I was going to get hold of a pair of 12 liter glass carboys to rack this mead into, and if I picked up another one while I'm at it I'd possibly use that, but would also give an excuse for a larger batch if that works ok with it.

  10. #10
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    Yes, JAO does upsize quite well, I've done several 3-gal batches. You just have to multiply all the ingredients by the number of gallons, technically you don't have to up the yeast until about 5 gallons but I do anyway because it's cheap and can't hurt anything.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  11. #11

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    I'll be headed into town hopefully some time next week, so I'll gather ingredients there when I pick up the carboys and the hydrometre I couldn't find last week

  12. #12
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    If you do try a JAO (and have enough time to read the JAO thread - its probably the longest thread here), don't worry about not finding the exact yeast (its a US brand), I use Allinsons or even a supermarket own brand, I just use half decent wild flower honey and I just make it up to an imperial gallon.

    It still comes out fine........
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

  13. #13

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    UPDATE:

    The fermentation has slowed right down, or at least the airlock has slowed right down. I had some problems with the lid and had to wrap it in clingfilm to avoid too much air leaking, but couldn't get the seal exactly, so I'd guess it's a little more active than the airlock is indicating.
    Anyway, the smell, which used to be like bananas and toffee, is now sort of sour general sour smell. Something has changed, not sure if normal or if I need to do something to fix it?

  14. #14
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    Usually the smells you should be alarmed at would be sulphur, rotten egg, rubber, or vomit... if you're really alarmed, microwave some bread yeast in a small amount of water and chuck it in, it can absorb some smells and also feed yeast that might be making stink because they're undernourished.

    If you're really concerned, get a taste!

    And leaky bucket seals aren't anything to really worry about, just don't leave it in that bucket for secondary and you're fine.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  15. #15

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    Unfortunately there wasn't any big carboys left when I went into town today, so I got 5 smaller ones. Unfortunately it left me a bit short so I wasn't able to put together all of the JAO mead, but I've got some expensive forest honey that it my favourite on toast, be using that to backsweeten, or maybe even add now.

    I'll tell you what I decide when I'm next on xD

  16. #16

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    UPDATE:

    I did decide in the end, despite what I said on another thread, to add the expensive honey to the mead. It started up a giant foam and the mixture has gone a deep amber colour.

    In the spirit of this thread though I should mention that the smell has changed to being what I can only describe as 'slightly sour bannoffee pie' xD

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leeham991 View Post
    UPDATE:

    I did decide in the end, despite what I said on another thread, to add the expensive honey to the mead. It started up a giant foam and the mixture has gone a deep amber colour.

    In the spirit of this thread though I should mention that the smell has changed to being what I can only describe as 'slightly sour bannoffee pie' xD
    Ha ha!, well obviously the yeast like to produce some esters as well (often banana-ish smelling, especially with honey).

    Once it's settled down, and finished and you've racked it off the main part of the sediment (a.k.a. gross lees), have a little taste. I'd put money on it that it will not taste as you expect it too. A lot of "young" meads, taste pretty damn hideous. The clearing and ageing process are the real magic IMO, because you put something that's a bit cloudy into a DJ, you know it's got some alcohol in it, as you can often taste it, sometimes a lot (the alcohol hot taste you might see mentioned in threads), but 6 months to a year down the line, you taste it and it's got the beginnings of something truely amazing.

    I'd say, that at that point, is where you make sure it's stabilised, then with a 50/50 honey and water mix, you add that a little bit at a time, carefully stirring it in to mix, but you don't want to agitate the hell out of it, then you test the gravity and also have a little taste. That continues until you're happy with the level of sweetness. Then once it's finally cleared, bottle it. Complete ambrosia
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

  18. #18

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    I've been told to expect a taste not unlike boot polish even as far down the line as putting perfectly clear mead in bottles xD

    I'm really hopeful for this mead now and I think I'll start collecting bottles right away, get everything ready/// I was thinking of racking to the glass carboys some time between monday 23rd and the beginning of next month, but I'm guessing it all depends on when all the yeast calms down to almost nothing. According to what I've read one of the only ways to ruin a mead other than bad sanitizing is to do the first racking too early

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leeham991 View Post
    I've been told to expect a taste not unlike boot polish even as far down the line as putting perfectly clear mead in bottles xD

    I'm really hopeful for this mead now and I think I'll start collecting bottles right away, get everything ready/// I was thinking of racking to the glass carboys some time between monday 23rd and the beginning of next month, but I'm guessing it all depends on when all the yeast calms down to almost nothing. According to what I've read one of the only ways to ruin a mead other than bad sanitizing is to do the first racking too early
    If it's still fermenting and you rack it, you're asking for a stuck ferment, as you will have left a lot of the yeast colony in the lees that's have been racked out.

    It's usually best to leave it alone to ferment, then when there's no sign of bubbles in the airlock, you test it until you've got 3 identical test results taken across a period of about a week i.e. tests taken about 3 days apart.

    Once that result is in, you can either leave it a while to drop sediment, or if you've got about a half an inch depth, then rack it.

    With traditionals, I like to back sweeten it with honey, but doing that with a clear mead, can cause a protein haze, so I usually rack it a first time, then stabilise, then back sweeten to taste - so I know roughly how sweet it will be.

    Then I clear it, sometimes with age, sometimes with finings.

    That way, the only other thing that needs to be done is the final finishing i.e. if I think it needs a bit of acid bite, I will do that now, and the same applies to a little tannin. Then it just gets filtered (I could just let it sit, but I like to get it bottled at this stage).
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

  20. #20

    Exclamation

    UPDATE

    I took a hydrometer reading and honestly I forgot what it was because I was worried by the taste of the mead and felt the need to run to the computer xD

    I was expecting a sort of hot alcohol taste, but what it actually tasted like was just sweet yeast.

    The fermentation has slowed down again since I added the new honey on saturday and now the airlock isn't bubbling at all, but it is lopsided so I'm pretty sure that there is still some gases that are pushing their way out.

    I'm a little worried because it seems to have no sort of alcohol in it at all, and the colour has gone from a deep amber to a yellow. It's also still cloudy.

    Hydrometer I'm pretty sure was just at the black line which says 'bottle beer', around 10 on the 'specific gravity' marked side of the thing.

    Temperature has been holding 24c for the last week.

    On another note my hands smell like a pub from accidently getting some of the mead on me, so I'm thinking there is at least a little bit of alcohol in it.

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