Advice needed: Brochet with cough syrup flavor

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Oct 11, 2020
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I am relatively new to homebrewing and dabble mostly in the cider realm. I have an apple brochet that has been in secondary fermentation since March and it has retained a cough syrup flavor that I was hoping would age out. My thought was that maybe I could add sweetness to cover the off-flavor (I want it sweet anyway) with more honey or apple concentrate, but I've come across some other posts that suggest that adding acidity might solve the problem.

I am curious what the best approach is to saving this batch. I used store-bought apple juice and honey fermented with cider house yeast (Link here), pretty much just caramelized the honey and once it stopped bubbling, racked it into secondary and it's been sitting there sense - tasted every two months or so.

If the answer is acid, what is the best way to add this? Is it something to find in a brew store? If so, what should I be looking for? Any advice would be appreciated.
It could be acid but me being from the beer realm and dabbling in mead I think Phenolic with medicinal. Reminds me of mouth wash or sometimes plastic like band aids.

This commonly is caused by unfiltered/unboiled tap water or chlorine sanitizers (Star San is non-chlorine).

Some yeasts also produce high levels of phenols and it's also a more common product of yeast when fermenting above 70 degrees.

Can also be from infection but would assume there'd be some visible signs as well.

If it is phenols, once it's in, it's there. It's what I'd bet it is from the cough syrup description. You could try and over power it or mask it. idk. It would be a task for sure.

I would think with most if, not all, acids, it would become tart, sour, or puckerish. Apples contain Malic acid which is fairly soft comparing to other acids (Acetic, Citric, Lactic, etc.).
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Thanks for the input.

My apartment temperature often hovers around 73 degrees, so that could be the culprit. I've done a number of other batches that haven't produced this flavor, but this is one of my higher ABV fermentations. I sanitize with Star San and didn't use any water, so that might be ruled out. Also no visible signs of infection, it's actually quite clear with a pretty amber color.

Do you have any suggestions as to what might best mask the flavor? I typically just backsweeten and bottle, but I don't mind adding something to at least distract myself from the cough syrup :)
Did some more digging in off flavors in wine (since I'm also new to the mead world and work mostly with beer). Found this in another forum, worth a shot.

"A cough syrup or medicine-like flavor is usually a result of a high alcohol, low acid wine that's been sweetened.

If I were to venture a guess I would guess that you're wine is low in acid. Best advice I would suggest is figure out what your total acid is using an acid titration test kit. Fruit wines are *generally* around .55-.65% in total acid. If you do in fact have a low total acid then adding acid like Tartaric will make it more tart and help take some of that sweet medicine-like edge off.

As always, experiment with a very small sample and scale adjustments up to the whole batch once you've got your additions figured out. Good luck."
What's the gravity sitting at? Is there sugar still in there?

You may have figured it out in your initial post, when saying you should add acid. I must have read it wrong thinking you meant it was acid that was the problem (doh!) :p Also showing how much of a wine/mead newbie I am haha

My last batch of mead I used a few ounces of lemon juice for it's citric acid but you can buy acids in powder form. Maybe try a small bit with a dash of citrus juice (or something with a high acid content) and see if it helps get rid of that cough syrup. You could also use malic acid if you wanted to find some at a brew store since you used apples in this batch and that's a natural acid from apples and grapes. Apples are low in acid so could be the problem.
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We must have found similar posts - I read something along those lines as well. The gravity is right around 1.01, so the sugar is pretty well fermented out. I'm thinking I might just try a few experiments in shot glasses and scale it up for anything that comes out decently.

Thanks for your help with this! Hopefully the brochet can be saved 🤞
I just back-sweetened with unfermentable sweetener and it cleared up pretty well. I didn't record how much I put in, but that seemed to mask the medicine taste pretty effectively.