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Old 11-12-2013, 04:01 AM   #1
Valguss
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Default Help - I'm making bad mead!

I started making mead just over 3 years ago. My first three batches were "regular" mead or "honey maple mead", and all were ok to good. Since then, I have made close to a dozen batches, and they ALL seem to share a similar bad taste. I've made several "regular" batches of mead, as well as batches with Maple syrup, and many different fruits. All of these batches are 2 years old or more. The bad taste I would characterize as "rotten", or possibly "sour".

I have a closet full of bad mead and I'm afraid to try brewing more until I figure out what I'm doing wrong. I can't find any obvious changes to how I made the mead after batch 3, based on my poor note-taking. Most of my batches had yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, or both. Most batches also had acid blend. Most batches were made with boiled tap water, and most of the time the honey was boiled for 10 - 20 minutes. Most batches were made with honey from Sam's club, and most were made with champagne yeast. most were also fermented at a temperature in the low to mid 60's. With my last batch I measured the pH for the first time, and it appeared to be low (3.3).

Based on these notes, does anyone have an idea of what I'm likely doing wrong? Thanks!

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Old 11-12-2013, 04:56 AM   #2
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Ok so presuming the ferment was actually ok, have you tested the FG ?

Cos dry mead is an acquired taste.

Did you back sweeten ?

Some more info might be helpful to work this out because many (here among the beer brewers), well IMO, get it wrong.......

If you look over at gotmead, have a read of their "NewBee" guide (linked in left side yellow box on forums front page). It explains a lot that you might be missing..........

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Old 11-13-2013, 07:40 PM   #3
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Be as obsessive as you can about cleaning and sanitizing.
Age it in a larger batch then bottle later. This minimizes overall variations.
You could try using a different yeast. Various yeasts can enhance flavors already prevalent or add other dimensions.
Did you keep the meads at a consistent temperature within the thresholds of the yeast?
If the meads you have are not your preferred taste could you use them to enhance your cooking / pickling or are they a lost cause?

I wish you luck with trying to decipher the various factors that may have changed the batch and with being able to reach a preferred consistency.

Tomico

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Old 11-14-2013, 02:57 AM   #4
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Thank you for the responses!

To answer some of the questions... No, I have not tried measuring the gravity on my batches. Fermentation has always seemed decent. It's usually fairly vigorous for the first week or so, then slows but continues for another month or two. I always rack to another carboy the day or so before bottling, but in some cases racked an additional time to get rid of some of the dead yeast. I have never back sweetened. My mead shouldn't be a dry mead, as I always have 15+ pounds of honey for a 5-gallon batch.

I have had some problems in the past attempting to rack the mead from one carboy to another - seems like often too many air bubbles form in the line, breaking the siphon. On more than one occasion I've had to give up an attempt at racking, and swirl the must in the carboy to attempt to liven the fermentation to then try racking again a few weeks later. Would I be better served keeping the carboy in a warmer part of the house when fermenting, or should low to mid 60's be fine (mostly using Red Star Champagne Yeast)?

I'm curious about the cleaning and sanitizing. I never enjoy that part and possibly rush it too much. I simply use bleach and water in a basement wash-basin, and soak the equipment in there for a bit. Then I rinse with clean water and use. Is it possible I'm not rinsing the equipment well enough and bleach residue is getting in the mead??? Or could it be that the sink isn't clean enough? I use the sink for many things, but have always assumed that if it's full of bleach water, I should be ok.

My friend who got me started in mead making makes a stellar mead, and I'm pretty sure I'm using the same ingredients he does (same yeast & Sam's Club honey). Our water would be different, though I think I have good tap water and I always boil it first. I don't think he ever uses yeast energizer or nutrient. Not sure what else to add - thanks for the help!

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Old 11-14-2013, 03:14 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Valguss View Post
Then I rinse with clean water and use.
Methinks this could be a large part of your issue. Rinsing with water introduces all the ickies in the water to your equipment, effectively un-sanitizing your gear. Try getting some no rinse sanitizer, and be absolutely ocd about keeping things sanitized.

I'm not sure if you mentioned washing things with soap and water before sanitizing them. You're doing that, right? Sorry if that's a silly question. Clean dirt is still dirt, and some bad bacteria can be hiding beneath it to infect all your batches.

How about staggered nutrient additions? There's a sticky on the mead section that goes over that stuff. If you add a little nutrient during different stages of the fermentation, the yeast stay vigorous and are less likely to give you a stuck fermentation, or stressed out yeast that can cause some bad flavors.
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Old 11-14-2013, 06:23 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kittyfeet View Post
Methinks this could be a large part of your issue. Rinsing with water introduces all the ickies in the water to your equipment, effectively un-sanitizing your gear. Try getting some no rinse sanitizer, and be absolutely ocd about keeping things sanitized.

I'm not sure if you mentioned washing things with soap and water before sanitizing them. You're doing that, right? Sorry if that's a silly question. Clean dirt is still dirt, and some bad bacteria can be hiding beneath it to infect all your batches.

How about staggered nutrient additions? There's a sticky on the mead section that goes over that stuff. If you add a little nutrient during different stages of the fermentation, the yeast stay vigorous and are less likely to give you a stuck fermentation, or stressed out yeast that can cause some bad flavors.
Whereas I think you not on target.......

Household bleach is not good to use as it can require a lot of rinsing, hence not the best material to use......

I know we're in different locations but the US and EU seem equally obsessed with commercially available water, be it utility or bottled. There will be minimum standards hence unlikely to affect the yeast - though there is a possible issue with water hardness.

As for the OPs idea that 15lb in 5 gallons guaranteed sweetness, again, that's incorrect. It's necessary to confirm starting gravity so you know how sweet it is and when comparing the yeast maximum alcohol tolerance.

Poor technique usually means mediocre mead.

If a full ingredient listing and mixing and fermentation method was posted, then we'd have a better chance of diagnosis than just throwing suggestions and "chinese whispers" in the air.

Oh and a no rinse sanitiser like Star San is better for sanitising, but only after the soap and water suggested by Kittyfeet.....
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:11 AM   #7
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+1 to the existing comments stated here.

I just wanted to add that your yeast may also be the source of your sour flavor. I've done a lot of side by side testing of yeast and red star champagne has always had that flavor. As replacements, I would suggest the following in order of preference: KIV-1116, DV10, or EC1118.

If you really want a change, you can try Wyeast 1388 as stated in the Brays One Month Mead post.

Happy mazing!

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Old 11-15-2013, 03:34 AM   #8
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Thanks again for the responses! I will take a look for Star San sanitizer and try to be more diligent about cleaning. Yeah, I probably wasn't even using soap & water first, and also hadn't thought about my "clean" tap water as possibly re-introducing contaminants. In regards to the yeast, I have easy access to three types of yeast: Red Star Champagne, Lalvin 71B-1122, and EC1118. I tried the 71B-1122 in my most recent batch, but haven't tasted it yet. All others had Red Star yeast. I will definitely give EC1118 a try.

As for batch ingredients/notes, here ya go! Try not to laugh too hard at the stupid mistakes I made (and actually kept in my notes below). Any feedback would be great. Keep in mind the first 3 batches were decent.

1st Batch – Honey Maple Mead – May 9th, 2010
• 4 lbs Clover Honey (from Sam’s Club)
• 3 quarts Maple Syrup (from Sam’s Club)
• ~1tsp of acid blend
• 1 packet of champagne yeast
Made 3 Gallons
July 2nd, 2010 (~8 weeks old) –Bubbles around 90 seconds apart – Transferred to second carboy

2nd Batch – Honey Mead – July 17th, 2010
• 17 lbs Basswood Honey (from Noble Bee Honey)
• ~2tsp of acid blend
• 5 tsp of yeast nutrient
• 1 packet of champagne yeast.
Made 5 Gallons
September 18, 2010 (9 weeks old) – Bubbles around 115 seconds apart – Transferred to second carboy
September 19, 2010 – Bottled

3rd Batch – Honey Mead – September 25th, 2010
• 30 lbs Clover Honey (from Sam’s Club)
• 10 tsp of yeast nutrient
• 2 packets of champagne yeast.
Made 10 Gallons
<way too many notes to post on this one... but despite the many challenges, this batch was good!>

4th Batch – Honey Maple Mead – October 1st, 2010
• 3 ¾ lbs Clover Honey (from Sam’s Club)
• 3 quarts Maple Syrup (from Sam’s Club)
• ½ tablespoon of acid blend (meant to do ½ teaspoon – oops)
• 1 packet of champagne yeast
Started with 1.5 gallons of water & brought to a boil. Added syrup & honey and boiled for 10 – 15 minutes. Also boiled another 5 or 6 quarts of water right away to let cool and add to carboy when needed.
Made 3 Gallons
Attempted to transfer to second carboy on December 28th, however had the same problem with too much air in the mead breaking the siphon. Mixed up the mead quite a bit to get a lot the bubbles out and tried again the following day.
December 29th, 2010 (over 12 weeks old) – Transferred to second carboy.
July 24th, 2011 – Bottled.

5th Batch – Honey Mead – May 21st, 2011
Ingredients
• 12 lbs Clover Honey (from Sam’s Club)
• 5 tsp yeast nutrient
• 1 packet of champagne yeast
Started with 4 gallons of water & brought to a boil. Added honey and boiled for 10 – 15 minutes. Added 5 Tsp (1 per gallon of must) yeast nutrient during the boil. After filling the carboy, I had to boil & add about 2 more quarts of water. This was probably due to some spill over during boil (oops!) and evaporation.
Made 5 Gallons
July 24th, 2011 – Bottled.

6th Batch – Honey Maple Mead – May 28th, 2011
• 10 lbs Clover Honey (from Sam’s Club)
• 2 quarts Maple Syrup (from Sam’s Club)
• ½ teaspoon of acid blend
• 4.5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient (to use up the bottle)
• 1 packet of champagne yeast
Started with 3 gallons and 2 3/4 quarts of water & brought to a boil (5 gallons of water minus 3 1/3 quarts of honey (10 lbs honey = 3 1/3 quarts), and 2 quarts of maple syrup). Note, I put in 3 gallons & 2 3/4 quarts of water instead of 3 gallons & 2 2/3 quarts of water to make up for evaporation. Added syrup & honey and boiled for about 15 minutes. After cooling and moving to carboy, still came up a quart or 2 short on water – Start with more next time.
Other notes:
Made 5 Gallons
Took about 35 minutes to bring the water to a boil
Took another 10 – 15 minutes to get back to boil after starting to add honey & syrup
Took about 10 minutes to chill the must with new copper chiller
July 24th, 2011 – Bottled.

7th Batch – Honey Mead – August 7th, 2011
• 12 lbs Wildflower Honey from Noble Bee Honey.
• 5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
• 5 teaspoons of yeast energizer
• 2 packets of champagne yeast
Started with 4 gallons and 1 quart of water & brought to a boil. Added honey and boiled for about 15 minutes. Stirred in yeast nutrient & energizer & cooled (did I cool or add yeast energy first?). Try to remember to cool first. Moved to carboy.
Made 5 Gallons
Stored this batch upstairs in the bedroom where it’s much warmer. Had very rapid fermentation for the first week or two. Went on vacation 8/15 – 8/19, and by the time I got back, it appeared to be done. Moved it downstairs around 9/3. Let it remain in carboy until 9/10, when I transferred to another carboy prior to bottling.
September 11th, 2011 – Bottled.

8th Batch – Orange Clove Mead – August 7th, 2011
This one was terrible - I blame it on not having sanitized the oranges. Nothing more needs to be said about this batch.

9th Batch – Blackberry Mead – March 24th, 2012
• 3.5 Gallons boiled water
• ~17.5 lbs Clover Honey (from Sam’s Club)
• 3 lbs blackberries
• 3 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
• 3 teaspoons of acid blend
• 1 packet of champagne yeast
Started with 3.5 gallons of water & brought to a boil. I actually put 2 gallons in the brew pot and 1.5 gallons in the chili pot to get the water boiling quicker. I added water from chili pot into brew pot once it started boiling. Once all the water had boiled in the brew pot for a bit, I removed it from the heat and added in the honey, stirring to dissolve it. I then brought the heat back up (without boiling it) and let it cook stirring occasionally for 15 – 20 minutes. Next added blackberries and cooked for an additional 5 minutes (not boiling).
The Blackberries were prepped by rinsing them in hot water. Half the blackberries were put in the blender and pureed then moved to a bowl. Then the remaining blackberries were pureed. The blender & bowl were both “sterilized” with hot water prior to use.
Turned off heat, and then added the yeast nutrient and acid blend, stirring it in. Then I cooled the must to 80 degrees. Transferred must to 6 gallon carboy, adding prepped yeast to carboy, part-way through filling.
Prepped yeast by warming ¼ cup water in the microwave (~10-15 seconds), getting it to ~105 degrees. Then added yeast packet and stirred.
Added stopper to carboy and moved it to the bedroom, then put on airlock. Appears to be about 5 gal.
15 April 2012: Racked into different carboy, removing most of the seeds & chunks of fruit. Fermentation still going slowly – bubble every 65 seconds.
23 April 2012: Left the carboy in the basement after racking, where it’s cooler than the bedroom (where it began its fermenting). Currently, bubbles are about 53 seconds apart (oddly faster than they were a week ago, though it is warmer this week than it was last week).
27 April 2012: Bubbles are about 90 seconds apart. Racked to a new carboy in the morning, in preparation for bottling. Bubbles about 2 minutes apart in the evening - bottled. Note that the mead was not at all clear, and there was a fair amount of carbonation. Moved bottles to basement shower in case they are bombs.

10th Batch – Raspberry Mead – March 26th, 2012
• 3 Gallons boiled water
• ~13.5 lbs Clover Honey (from Sam’s Club)
• 4.5 lbs frozen raspberries (from Walmart)
• 3 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
• Juice from 3 oranges
• Juice from 3 lemons
• 9 tablespoons of a strong brewed English Tea
• 1 packet of champagne yeast
Started with 3 gallons of water & brought to a boil. Once all the water had boiled in the brew pot for a bit, I added in the honey, stirring to dissolve it. I then brought it back close to a boil (adding the honey lowers the temp) and kept it there for 30 minutes. I turned off the heat and added the raspberries, orange & lemon juice, Tea, and nutrient. I left the cover on for a while “to let the heat sanitize the fruit”.
The raspberries were prepped by rinsing them in hot water. Half the raspberries were put in the blender and pureed then moved to a bowl. Then the remaining raspberries were pureed. The blender & bowl were both “sterilized” with hot water prior to use.
Then I cooled the must to 90 degrees (would have taken it down to 75-80, but my chilling coil was ruined from leaving it in bleach water – had to put ice in another pot and hold it in the wort to chill). Transferred must to 5 gallon carboy, adding prepped yeast to carboy, part-way through filling.
Prepped yeast by warming ¼ cup water in the microwave (~10-15 seconds), getting it to ~105 degrees. Then added yeast packet and stirred.
Added stopper to carboy and moved it to the bedroom, then put on airlock. Appears to be about 4.5 gallons.
07 April 2012: Returned from SAC travel to find the fermentation had stalled (completed???). Note that the blackberry mead brewed 2 days earlier is still fermenting (bubble every 10 seconds or so). Raspberry pieces had all settled to the bottom, and no movement. Racked to new carboy (minus 95% of the sediment), added new yeast, and then left for Wisconsin for Easter. Returned the next evening and found it still inactive.
23 April 2012: Mead remained inactive (airlock never moved up at all!). Opted to bottle the mead. While bottling, there was a decent amount of bubbles in the line (not too many to break the syphon, but enough to give me hope that the mead will not be “dead” in the bottle). Used 29 of the 15.2 Oz Grolsch bottles (made approximately 3.5 gallons).

Batches 11 - 14 were for Cherry, Strawberry, Blueberry, and Pineapple - all of which also contain the rotten, or sour taste. If there's any desire, I can post my notes for those too, but those are even more lengthy and I figure I've probably bored any readers by this point!

On a different note, if anyone with a good tongue for diagnosing mead issues finds themselves in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ping me for a taste test (I do have good stuff to share too!).

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Old 11-15-2013, 01:16 PM   #9
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Taking notes is a good thing. While I'm new to mead and wine making, I have tried to keep detailed notes, and have already learned a lot and made adjustments. My batches are certainly improving. So don't stop that practice!

What's missing in your notes are your gravity readings. It's very important to measure and record the specific gravity (SG) of the must. The SG will give you an idea of how sweet or dry your mead will finish, and give you a ballpark estimation of your final alcohol content (which also depends on the yeast you use).

Also, once you've determined that primary fermentation is complete, and you rack to secondary, it's important to continue to measure and record the SG. When the SG is no longer dropping, THAT is when you should start considering stabilizing, backsweetening, adding fining agents and then bottling. Lack of bubbling is not a good indicator that fermentation is complete, and you risk bottle bombs.

The sourness you've experienced could be that the meads are too young. For example, I have have a Pineapple Coconut that is done fermenting, but is currently a bit sour. I've researched that pineapple takes quite some time to mellow, so I'm going to sit on it and see if it ages. To further the point, I cannot believe how delicious my peach mead, aged 9 months, was, compared to how it tasted on bottling day. So, don't give up on some of the ones that are "sour". They might end up alright after 3, 6, 9 or 12 months.

Beyond that, sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. You cannot over sanitize your equipment. As FB states above, bleach is not your best choice. Many home brew stores provide no-rinse sanitizers, and I stand by them.

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Old 11-15-2013, 07:18 PM   #10
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What is oxidation supposed to do to wine/mead?

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