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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.
 
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