Mead Lover's Digest #34 Fri 13 November 1992

Forum for Discussion of Mead Brewing and Consuming
John Dilley, Digest Coordinator


not-so-great odors… (Brewing Chemist Mitch)
Re: First mead, relax or worry. (Jane Beckman)

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Date: Thu, 12 Nov 92 15:55:42 CST
From: (Brewing Chemist Mitch)
Subject: not-so-great odors...

Greetings all,

I haven't checked it this week, but in the first couple of weeks of my
ginger metheglins primary ferment there came the smell of plastic ! :-{
Definitely plastic. It was accompanied by a plastic aftertaste, during
a gravity check / taste test. It's in a glass carboy, and before that
it was stored in a large tin. The honey is a few years old, wildflower,
and may be a wee bit oxidized, but it can't be that, can it ?

Is this a phase ? The smell has seemed to diminish in the last few weeks,
will the taste ? I'll be racking it to secondary tonight, and hoping for
the disappearance of this affliction.

Have any of you experienced this during fermentation ? I know a lot of
strange smells can occur, but this one seems so . . . . . gack!

Other than that, plans are in the works for cyser, next. My first mead, a
raspberry melomel, in the bottle about 5 months now is really starting to
be great. I hope I can keep away from most of it, and let it age some more.



– —

Date: Thu, 12 Nov 92 17:08:10 PST
From: (Jane Beckman)
Subject: Re: First mead, relax or worry.

I've been meaning to reply to this one for a while…

[various details of the first batch of mead] then…

>The starter took off like
a bang, and the next day, I added the wort. Fermentation began
with-in about 4 hours, and went crazy. About 2-3 bubbles per second
at one point. Starting SG was 1.101.

And this is the reason why I never put the lock on until two days after
adding the yeast. I use mostly Victorian (or earlier) references, and
every single one of them says not to seal it until it's gone through the
first day or two of "hot" fermentation. A couple old books even recommend
keeping it in an open barrel until then, then casking it with a lock. Your
first couple of days are when you are going to get a LOT of active
fermentation. You do, however, want to keep floating nasties from the air
out of it. I generally cover the neck of the bottle with a piece of muslin
held in place with a rubber band. (I've heard if you want to be silly and
have a practical demo of fermentation, you can secure a baloon over the
opening of the fermentation jug and watch it inflate over time. Never tried
it, though.)

This continued until the airlock got so dirty with wort I began to
worry and decided that's why people use a blowoff tube.

See comments above. As an added precaution, after one batch that backed
up into the lock, I leave an inch or two of headspace above the wort. It's
not enough air to cause problems, but it gives you a little grace if you
have a really active batch of yeast. This works best if you are fermenting
in a glass jug that has a longish neck above the shoulders of the bottle.

>I didn't
have one, so I got out my 3 gallon plastic fermentation bucket and
after a good chlorine session, transfered the wort to the bucket,
and then added the air-lock.

First really big mistake. You're not only exposing the wort to air, but
also to possible contaminants (wild yeasts, etc) in the air.

>even though it was going great guns before the transfer,
slowed way down after, like I had disrupted them and they were sulking.
It never really got going like it was though, now bubbling every 3-4

This is normal. Your active fermentation slows as more sugars are converted
to alcohol.

>Three weeks into the ferment, I
couldn't stand not being able to see what was going on, since the
wort was now in the plastic bucket, and the bubbles had slowed to
one every minute, so I racked it back into a gallon glass jar.

Second really big mistake. See comments on first mistake. Even worse at
this point, since you are introducing air bigtime, now, at a later stage
of fermentation.

>The smell was still nasty, kind of like rotten oranges. It reminded
me of the time I left an orange in a plastic cooler for a few

This should NOT be the case. My guess is that some contaminant spores got
into the wort at the first transfer, and were happily into their own
digestion process, independant of the yeast.

>After this transfer, it perked back up to about a bubble every 20
seconds and now has slowed back down to a bubble every 1.5 minutes.

My guess is this renewed fermentation might be aerobic fermentation, and
something is converting residual sugars into tasty vinegar. Not that mead
can't start fermenting again, later, especially if the temperature rises
substantially. (I, and every mead brewer I know, has had at least one
incident of bottled mead shooting a cork, after being subjected to elevated
winter indoor temperatures caused by the furnace kicking the normal
temperature up.)

I would taste the mead before bottling. If it still has an unpleasant
smell, or has any odd and objectionable undertastes (non-aged mead should
be fairly pleasant, if unremarkable), I'd toss it and start over. Why
bottle a bad batch?

–Jilara []

It has been 4 weeks now, and it is beginning to clear, with a
nice white layer of yeast on the bottom.

End of Mead Lover's Digest