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Old 09-11-2012, 04:11 PM   #1
El_Shulo
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Default Cherry Melomel- should I be concerned?

Hi all-

I am a newbie on this forum- there is a lot of great information here and I did not realize there was so large of a home-brew community!

I started a Cherry Melomel almost 3 months ago and I have two questions/ concerns about it. I have searched the forums and can't find that anyone else who has had the same concerns as I do. I would appreciate to hear any advice from experienced meadmakers!

(I am going to post this thread right now- I wrote a long message yesterday and then when I went to post my message disappeared! If this works, I will reply to my own post with more information...)

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Old 09-11-2012, 05:00 PM   #2
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Woo hoo- worked this time.

Here are my questions/concerns:

1. From reading the forums, I know that new mead doesn't taste great so that doesn't worry me much. BUT- my melomel has had a bad smell that appeared after fermentation stopped. The smell isn't sulfur-y, isn't vinegar-y, isn't like gym-clothes, and isn't really rotten- The smell is sorta the same as when you have old lettuce in the fridge- when the lettuce is slimy but isn't completely rotten, but smells funky so you definitely wouldn't eat it either. (The taste of the new melomel is sharp-OK, a little fruity and faintly sweet-OK, and tastes slightly the same way that it smells-no bueno.) I am going to keep the melomel for the long haul, but do you think I will just end up with funky melomel three years from now? Or do you think this weird smell will dissipate?
2. I made this melomel before I found this forum. I have Papazian's book, and in his mead section, he says that mead is ready to drink and bottle when it clears. Well- my melomel cleared a long time ago so I bottled it already. My question/ concern is this- knowing that it still has this off-smell, was it a mistake to bottle it already- am I preserving the off-smell? At this point, should I open all of the bottles and try aging it in a closed fermenter, or will this cause more problems?


Any thoughts/opinions are appreciated!


Here is a brief summary of what I used:

3 gallon batch

10# honey (inexpensive- Rice's Lucky Clover)
4 1/2# home-grown cherries (pitted, frozen, thawed, crushed)
3 tsp yeast nutrient
1 1/2 tsp yeast energizer
Lalvin D47 yeast (yeast starter the night before)

Heated honey, cherries, water, nutrient, and energizer to 185 for 1/2 hour, poured into 5 gallon carboy, aerated carboy by vigorous shaking, pitched the (very active) yeast at 78 degrees. O.G.= 1.108

First day had very active fermentation- had to use a blowout tube. Smelled great. Was worried about leaving the cherry pieces in the fermenter, so I racked from the 5 gallon to a secondary 3 gallon after the first day. After racking, still had aggressive bubbling. Gravity = 1.076

Checked the melomel after one week. Noticed the off-smell. Gravity = 1.003.

Left in the closed secondary for two months. Melomel looked clear***, so I bottled it. Still had the off-smell- maybe slightly less intense or I may have wishful smell receptors. (***FYI- Turns out that the melomel has cleared even more in the bottles, so I probably should have waited a little longer. But I was worried that the fermenter would get contaminated with something and bottling was safer.)

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Old 09-11-2012, 05:17 PM   #3
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Few things...

1. IMO Papazian doesn't know how to make a mead to save his life.
2. You racked far too early the first time.
3. You heated the honey. Bad on all counts there for both time and temperature. A great many mazers won't heat their honey above 100-110F for any length of time. When it is heated to 100-110F it's simply to get it to flow/mix easier. At 185F for 30 minutes, you blew off a lot of what makes mead great.
4. You added the cherries in primary. IME, not a good idea. Far, far, far, far better to add them either once fermentation is complete, has slowed way down, or rack onto them after fermentation is finished. That way you'll extract the flavors from them and not have them blown away by the yeast fermenting.
5. Heating up the cherries as you did, is also a bad idea.

At this point, you've already bottled the melomel, so you're stuck with it. Had you left it in bulk form you could have made adjustments to it. Now, you can only wait to see if it improves over time.

Next time, give the batch (any kind of mead) at least 6-9 months before you even THINK about bottling it. I gave one of my early batches a full year to age in bulk (only racked a few times, to get it to become very clear) and it's significantly better than the batches I bottled a few months before. Those are 18% ABV. I also have some 14% ABV meads aging in vessels right now, that will be racked after I move this month. I started those in December of last year. I also have one that's formulated for 21% that's also aging. That one won't be going to bottles until sometime next year (or later). It has several months of flavor additions ahead of it, which I have yet to start (it was also made in December of 2011).

Look up methods, and recipes, on the Got Mead? forums before your next batch. Rather than going with books published 10+ years ago, using very outdated methods and thoughts. Even the Compleat MeadMaker book is outdated. The author has said so, but the publisher is not going to release an updated version of the book (last I heard at least).

It would be helpful if you described the off smell.

Your contamination concern was unfounded. Unless you didn't practice safe/normal sanitation methods that is. I've racked meads 3-5 times over their process without issue. I also use StarSan to sanitize, using it properly.

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Old 09-11-2012, 05:22 PM   #4
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The off smell should go away with age. You purposely rotted fruit (fermentation), you are still smelling the rotted fruit. Mead generally takes a year before it's drinkable. Put the bottles in the back of the fridge, or the back of a closet, or under the bathroom sink and wait. Make sure the bottles are labled and have a date, then forget about them. When you find them in a afew years you will probably have a nice drink.

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Old 09-11-2012, 05:25 PM   #5
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Back of the fridge is a BAD idea. For one thing, that cold of temperatures will retard the aging process making it take far longer. Put it into the basement, or where it can be kept at 45-55F for the duration.

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Old 09-11-2012, 05:29 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golddiggie View Post
2. You racked far too early the first time.
3. You heated the honey. Bad on all counts there for both time and temperature. A great many mazers won't heat their honey above 100-110F for any length of time. When it is heated to 100-110F it's simply to get it to flow/mix easier. At 185F for 30 minutes, you blew off a lot of what makes mead great.
4. You added the cherries in primary. IME, not a good idea. Far, far, far, far better to add them either once fermentation is complete, has slowed way down, or rack onto them after fermentation is finished. That way you'll extract the flavors from them and not have them blown away by the yeast fermenting.
5. Heating up the cherries as you did, is also a bad idea.
2. Agree, but only because you did it without planning to do it this way. I see no issues with racking this early if you are trying to achieve something. Racking off of whole fruit after a week makes since, if you're trying to get a small wine like taste to your mead without doing a full fruit ferment.
3. Please don't heat your honey. It makes the bees cry. I just mix the honey with some water and shake the s*** out of it.
4. See the points in #2. Fruit in the primary vs fruit in the secondary are entirely different things. Neither is 'better'
5. Heating the cherries will probably leave you with a pectic haze that will never go away. Some fruits when heated like that will turn into jelly, which is bad for your mead.

I still think time will heal all your troubles!
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Old 09-11-2012, 05:33 PM   #7
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Back of the fridge isn't a BAD thing! But I agree it is not best.
Here in SoCal we don't have basements, and have to worry about temps in the 100+ range for several months of the year. I think the fridge is a better option than in high temperatures.

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Old 09-11-2012, 05:34 PM   #8
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Adding the fruit in primary will give you a different result than doing it after fermentation is finished. This is a well known item. While fermenting, the action will 'blow-off' a lot of the flavors from the fruit. IF you add them post fermentation, the flavors/aromas of the fruit will remain. This holds true for any flavor additions you make to a mead.

If you don't believe it, do it both ways for yourself. Use the same amount of fruit for both parts, but have one batch where you add it post fermentation.

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Old 09-11-2012, 05:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Halbrust View Post
Back of the fridge isn't a BAD thing! But I agree it is not best.
Here in SoCal we don't have basements, and have to worry about temps in the 100+ range for several months of the year. I think the fridge is a better option than in high temperatures.
He's not in SoCal... If he has a basement, or access to one, that would be easiest.

I'm moving to a place with a basement in it. That was one of the items on my list of features for where I would move to.

Using a [food storage] fridge will extend out the aging time significantly. What you could get from aging for 6-12 months at 45-55F, will take significantly longer at food storage temps. If the OP doesn't have access to a basement (family member's house, friend's house) then the next best thing would be to make an aging chamber. Similar to a fermentation chamber, but set to aging temperatures instead.
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Old 09-11-2012, 05:38 PM   #10
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The meads I've made smell awesome at first, then get a little weird- definitely not appetizing, improve by bottling time, and after as little as a month in a bottle (carbing up sparkling mead) are nice. They're only 12# honey for a 5 gal batch for a final 12% a.b.v. so I imagine that helps things go quickly. A case of each batch sits patiently in the basement to undergo proper aging.

While I'm by no means an expert mead maker or smell-sniffer, I bet your batch will turn out fine. 3 months in secondary is an arbitrary number I use for my light, crisp mead. The elderberry melomel (12# honey plus 8oz dried elderberries, juiced and treated with pectinase, juice added to primary, to be racked onto elder flowers in secondary, then racked again) will arbitrarily get 6 or so final bulk aging. It could probably do with more, but I find the light stuff is waaay better than "drinkable" in a short amount of time.

Edit: GREAT advice in this thread. I have 24# of excellent local honey on deck, and I will incorporate much of this new knowledge!

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