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Old 06-01-2010, 01:39 PM   #1
Tyandam
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Default Melomel infection help

First the pictures (they are pretty poor, I have not figured out how to take clear pictures through a carboy yet):







I've been homebrewing beer for a while, but this was my first mead of any kind. The recipe I used was:

4 gallons water
18 lb Orange blossom honey
12 lb raspberries
16g Lalvin 71B-1122

OG: 1.125
Current Gravity: 1.005

I used a staggered nutrient approach following the Mead FAQ post here:
http://home.comcast.net/~mzapx1/FAQ/SNAddition.pdf

Going against a little voice inside of me, I went with a no-boil method of preparing my must. I followed Ken Schram's method in The Compleat Meadmaker for adding fruit to the primary. His method was to boil the water for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and add the honey. Then pour the hot honey/water mixture over the fruit and chill after 5 minutes using an immersion chiller. This is exactly what I did. I carefully sanitized every piece of equipment I used.

Now, it appears after racking to the secondary that my mead is infected. The surface of the mead is covered in small white cultures beginning to form. Even though it may appear so from the pictures, it is not air bubbles, I am familiar with what that looks like. Ignore also the large pink chunks you see floating, those are pieces of raspberries that made it through the siphon tube.

My understanding was that mead was more resistant to infection, especially if it was in the 12-14% alcohol range (which I believe mine is). My question is whether or not there is anything I can do to save my mead, such as adding more honey to increase the alcohol level more, or something else?

It is still to young to taste what sort of infection it is. The only off-flavor I can really detect at this point is the "Listerine" note that I have read is typical for young meads. Thanks for your thoughts in advance.

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Old 06-01-2010, 03:44 PM   #2
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It is really hard for me to say what is going on in there, but if it doesn't smell like nail polish or vinegar, and doesn't smell like rotten eggs, you may ultimately be okay. Traditional meads do tend to be less infection prone, but melomels with fruit can have a lot more issues. With that starting and current gravity you have close to 16% ABV (which is more that 71B usually produces) and that really does help.

However, the risk of infection still exists, and if you leave that much headspace in a batch, it is an open invitation for acetic acid bacteria. They can survive easily enough in 17% alcohol, so you don't want to make it easy for them by giving them space with air. Malolactic fermentation can occur spontaneously with berry batches (or any malic acid containing fruit). The bacteria exist on the skin and will survive the fermentation process to start up when the yeast die down. At 16% ABV, you are at the upper limit for their tolerance, but occasionally they can be active. Treating with SO2 (metabisulphite) and keeping the temperature cool, and the pH low all help prevent unplanned MLF.

Even if you don't have a spoilage organism, old fruit particles sitting in a batch can lead to off odors (especially sulfur), and I would try to prevent that from occurring.

What I would do now, if this batch doesn't taste spoiled, is to rack underneath that stuff on the surface, leaving a good bit behind (don't worry about some loss), and make sure it goes into a container that you can make sure leaves no headspace. I would treat with at least 1 Campden tablet per gallon (or the equivalent in Kmeta powder). I'd try to keep it someplace cool (below 70F) and wait to see what happens. Hopefully it isn't infected, but if it is, this may salvage it.

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Old 06-01-2010, 04:01 PM   #3
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I can't see the pictures through the firewall here, but from the description it sounds like wax from the honey. It shouldn't be a big deal. Most of my meads have those form after the first racking. I usually give it a month then rack it into another carboy and K-meta it. Be sure to top the carboy off with spring water to the neck of the carboy. I will look at the pictures when I get home.

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Old 06-01-2010, 04:04 PM   #4
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It doesn't look infected to me. You're probably just getting yeast rafts attaching to chunks of raspberries.

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Old 06-02-2010, 03:27 AM   #5
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Well thanks for the quick feedback. I can't believe I forgot to say this, but I did relax and have a homebrew before posting this.

I've been storing it at 50-55 F while it secondaries. I'm going to rack off and top off with spring water. We'll see what happens.

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Old 06-08-2010, 08:36 PM   #6
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My blueberry mead looked quite a lot like that when I racked into the secondary, and only slightly less like that when racking into the glass for the third rack... I will surely use a brew bag next time I do a melomel as trying to get rid of the little bits and pieces of the blueberries was a PITA. If it smells good and tastes good you should be fine.
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