Reoccurring Problem! Melomel HELL! What am I doing wrong??

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stargirlmead

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Hello everyone! I am so excited to have found this forum! Thank you all for your wisdom and help in this awesome hobby!

Ugh... Melomels have been my struggle lately. I keep having a reoccurring "issue" that I am not sure is an "issue" or not, or just a byproduct of fermenting fruit. I have had a lot of success making mead. I have my approach down, and have been able to replicate this process with many different varieties of honey.

However, when it comes to adding fruit to the primary, all bets are off.
I currently have a blueberry mead (SG 1.120 pre addition of berries (3lbs for 2 total gallons volume liquid) using 71B, and today (5th day of primary) there is an overpowering smell of FUNK. It isn't sulphur, it isn't "nail polish" aroma, just FUNK. Dare I say it smells like spoiled fruit... with something else that I just cannot put it to words. And only on day FIVE!

Fermentation temps kept between 65-69 degrees through duration, used TONSA staggered nutrient protocol accounting best I could for nutrient addition of blueberries, and the SG has dropped to 1.040 in five days. I sterilize everything thoroughly with starsan (although I don't add campden at this stage) and oxygenate the must during the first several days with a lid loosely on before I put it under air lock when it reaches around 1.020.

WHY DO I KEEP GETTING THIS SMELL/TASTE?? I don't understand! Will it age out? I dumped a Pawpaw wine because it had this same profile after several months! It isn't pleasant or enjoyable.
Hopefully I provided enough information that someone can help me! Thank you!!!
 

SimPilot

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Have you tried adding fruits to the secondary only?
 
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stargirlmead

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No, and that was a deliberate choice. However I am rethinking my approach. I'm just disappointed because I know that people have positive experiences with fruit in primary and I wanted the benefits. Moreso, I just want to understand WHAT is happening. That's what is really frustrating at this point...
 

Hoppy2bmerry

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It is a crap shoot sometimes. I’ve used frozen commercial strawberries without doing anything but letting them thaw smoosh and sanitize the bag before opening and had a pellical (on beer) waiting for secondary you have the advantage of high alcohol to help prevent some microbes from taking hold.

I recently made a blueberry Melomel, and pasteurized with sous vide at a low temp to add fruit in primary after a couple days of fermentation.
 
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stargirlmead

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It is a crap shoot sometimes. I’ve used frozen commercial strawberries without doing anything but letting them thaw smoosh and sanitize the bag before opening and had a pellical (on beer) waiting for secondary you have the advantage of high alcohol to help prevent some microbes from taking hold.

I recently made a blueberry Melomel, and pasteurized with sous vide at a low temp to add fruit in primary after a couple days of fermentation.
Thank you, that is really helpful and good to know. It's just such an absolutely bummer as when this off odor popped up before, it never went away. I take such care to make sure to use good ingredients and sanitize properly... But as you said, it's up to chance some times! I just want to know WHAT it is, ya know? Too bad we can't telegraph smells online haha!
 

Hoppy2bmerry

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Thank you, that is really helpful and good to know. It's just such an absolutely bummer as when this off odor popped up before, it never went away. I take such care to make sure to use good ingredients and sanitize properly... But as you said, it's up to chance some times! I just want to know WHAT it is, ya know? Too bad we can't telegraph smells online haha!
You’re welcome. I’m sure some other mazers may have different opinions and processes and may catch this and share. BTW, welcome to the forum.
 

wildmazer

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most off odors that appear early in fermentation disappear with time. i don’t worry about smells in primary at all. pawpaw specifically, as you noted, takes on a kinda barfy smell if used i primary, but it goes away pretty well, too. don’t give up too fast!
 
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At what point are you removing the fruit? They usually look 'used up' by 4-5 days.
I put mine in a paint strainer bag and remove at that point.
 

amber-ale

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did you use wild picked fruit or store bought fruit?
do you dunk your fruit with a sanitized spoon twice a day?

and if it is only day 5, leave it and find out. fermentation is, after all, basically allowing stuff to "spoil" under controlled conditions.
if you are getting the same smell in every batch, then maybe it is normal.
but mostly my fruit meads smell like juice until the alcohol increases then they smell icky. maybe you are just more sensitive to smells?

try with a basic JOAM or BOMM and wait and see what you get.
 

Raptor99

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Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but in virtually every fruit wine recipe I have seen, they tell you to add Kmeta (Potassium Metabisulphite) to the fruit must and let it sit for 24 hours before adding the yeast. I assume for a melomel you need to do that same thing. You need to kill the natural yeast and bacteria on the fruit.

I never heat my fruit when making fruit wine, but I always treat it with Kmeta.
 

madscientist451

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No, and that was a deliberate choice. However I am rethinking my approach. I'm just disappointed because I know that people have positive experiences with fruit in primary and I wanted the benefits.
So exactly what are the "benefits" of putting fruit in primary when making mead?
I've done it both ways, but here's why I usually don't put fruit in primary:
1. Fruit like blueberries, currants and raspberries have lots of acid and this can slow down yeast development. I like to have a nice healthy yeast population that will turn the honey to alcohol without throwing too many off flavors.
2. Alcohol kills bacteria and unwanted yeast. If I let a mead ferment until its maybe 10% ABV, its logical that some (or most) of the unwanted wild yeast and bacteria on added fruit won't survive for very long. The risk of some kind of contamination still exists, but its reduced.
So what's the down side of putting fruit in secondary? The main problem is that the process of clearing the mead will be delayed. Since I'm not on any kind of a schedule, this isn't a problem for me.
 

wildmazer

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in my experience, it’s a flavor profile thing. fruit added in secondary after there’s a significant amount of alcohol will have their fresh flavor preserved somewhat - it’ll be more recognizably that fruit. fruit in primary takes on more of a winey-er flavor, in the same way that true grape wine doesn’t taste so much like the raw grapes. doing fruit in both primary and secondary combines the two - more deep wine-like flavor combined with the more recognizable fruit flavor.

i only ever do just secondary or both.
 
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stargirlmead

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Thank you everyone for your responses! I really appreciate it and look forward to seeing how this turns out. In the future I think I am only going to put the berries in secondary.
 

i_mead_it_myself

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I do it the easy way by using 100% juice (no preservatives). Made a blueberry mead that way last Sep and just about ready to bottle a tart cherry mead right now.
 

Dan O

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I have little experience with melomels, but, are you punching down your fruit cap twice a day? From what I've learned, both here & @ gotmead.com, it's important to keep the fruit wet, don't let it dry out @ all. Any of the meads I've made that have had fruit, just a couple of swirls a day has been enough & I have never had any off smells/flavors.
I hope this helps.
Happy meading 😎
 

Psilocybe

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I do it the easy way by using 100% juice (no preservatives). Made a blueberry mead that way last Sep and just about ready to bottle a tart cherry mead right now.
Just finished a tart cherry mead myself! Using juice of course, I've had the same luck with OP with fresh fruits, with the same issue. Just make sure you don't add acid until after fermentation because that tart cherry is acidic as hell, I had to restart fermentation.
 

Redeemer

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I have never used K meta or camden tabs EVER. I've had some challenges but never from fruit spoilage. I've probably done about 10 fruit meads where the fruit was primary only (and it has never smelled like rot. Funky and fermenting yes, but never moldy or rotten). I only use frozen fruit from the store because they are picked at the peak of ripeness and therefore have more sugars.

What I do is inoculate the must and on the same day dump the froxen fruits into a stainless steel kettle. Sometimes I beat the bejesus out of the bags to relieve aggression; sometimes not. I always treat the fruit with pectic enzyme before adding to the must to extract the most juice possible and reduce pectin haze. I cover the kettle with a lid and let it sit at room temp for 24 hours and then add it to the must as long as fermentation is vigorous. My guide being, if the must is ready for its first nutrient addition it is ready for its primary fruit addition.

PH is not an issue because thanks to Bray and his BOMM protocol I buffer ALL meads, ciders, cysers etc with potassium carbonate. YMMV but from what I have found, a healthy yeast colony can stave off any potential infection from wild or secondary nasties that may be present in the air and in the fruit.

Oh but stir, degass, punch the fruit, many times per day. This helps in so many ways that are overlooked by so many people first starting out. You WILL have a faster, healthier ferment with less chances of contamination.
 

i_mead_it_myself

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Just finished a tart cherry mead myself! Using juice of course, I've had the same luck with OP with fresh fruits, with the same issue. Just make sure you don't add acid until after fermentation because that tart cherry is acidic as hell, I had to restart fermentation.
I didn't add acid. I added potassium bicarb to get rid of some of the acidity - it was too strong for my taste, even with an FG of 1.007. I'd already bottled, so I wound up adding 1/8 tsp bicarb, 1/8 - 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 - 1.5 tsp sugar per 750 mL bottle. Much better IMO. The only mead I've made with fruit is a lemon mead which came out great. No chance of infection, because I sprayed the lemons with StarSan (then wiped them dry). Juice and zest of 2 lemons, 3 lb 9 oz clover honey, spring water to 1 gallon,1 tsp Kbicarb (could have used less), D47, TOSNA, fermented at 63 F. Just opened a bottle last night - lemonade plus 17% ABV. I just started a cyser - with apple juice.
 

Redeemer

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The biggest offender I have had with blueberries was the short time before the tannins got unbearable.
Yes. I like red wine sometimes, but I don't like when a blueberry beverage tastes like red wine. Gives me the heebie jeebies.
 

Dan O

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The biggest offender I have had with blueberries was the short time before the tannins got unbearable.
That shouldn't be the case with blueberry juice, correct? K. R. Knudsen has a blueberry juice that I bought with the intent of turning into a mead, but, haven't gotten around to yet. Thinking the juice should be okay, but, if anyone has had a different experience, please share.
Also, @videojunkie1208, do you taste daily, when adding blueberries
so it doesn't go too tannic or do you have a formula that you follow?
Thanks, in advance, to anyone who takes the time to answer.
 

videojunkie1208

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Also, @videojunkie1208, do you taste daily, when adding blueberries
so it doesn't go too tannic or do you have a formula that you follow?
Thanks, in advance, to anyone who takes the time to answer.
I don't have extensive experience with blueberry, but from what I experienced, I used berries (frozen wild blueberries from Costco) and for the first two weeks or so had a this beautiful Port flavor, and then I had to leave it for a week or so, and by the time I got back it had turned to a more Shiraz like flavor, - not bad mind you - I was just hoping it was going to keep that port style flavor it was developing. So from my experience, the critical point is somewhere between weeks 2 and 4. My guess is closer to the end of week 2, beginning of week 3. I have a sample valve on my fermenters (CF10 and FLEX+) that is invaluable for this kind of thing (taking small daily samples).

My guess is that if you are using juice, you won't have this problem at all. In fact I wound up adding several quarts of juice for volume in secondary (I only got 4 gallons out of primary!) and it freshened up the flavor immensely.
 

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