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Cherry cough syrup.

Burrowsforge

NewBee
Registered Member
Aug 19, 2021
3
0
1
Florida
So against conventional wisdom I had the idea of making a “Black Forest Cake” mead using black cherry juice, honey and aging on cherries, cocoa nibs and vanilla. I’ve read that black cherries can sometimes taste a bit like cough syrup and that’s what I got. I found some black cherry juice at ALDIs which inspired this recipe.

I had some mistakes in the recipe, but ended up with

8lbs of dark fall honey (I’m in Florida, not sure what my bees brought in)

8 liters of dark cherry juice (dark cherry juice concentrate & water)

1 galllon of water

Total yield, 4 Galons.
10g 71 b yeast
1.25 teaspoons of calcium carbonate to bring PH to around 4.0. (Tested at roughly 3.8)
5g of Proper Yeast Nutrient at pitch, 24hr, 48hr, 72hr and day 7 according to the TOSNA calculator.

Also added 6 g of Go Ferm 4 hrs after pitching (UPS came late) next time I will add Go Ferm with yeast.

On day 7(today) I read 1.021 on the hydrometer which gives us approx 15.36% ABV (I added the last nutrient addition after I took my sample - but before I worked out my reading -lesson learned)

mead is slightly sweet, honey and cherry on the nose with the finish of cough syrup, which I read can be a problem. It’s really quite abhorrent. My wife doesn’t like it.

My plan was to cold crash, rack and age this for a week or two on 20ish lbs frozen black cherries, 4 lbs cacao nibs and 4 vanilla beans.
However, I have no idea how to eliminate this cough syrup taste. Should I try to find tart cherries to age this on? Do I need more cacao?

This mead took off like a rocket and I’m very proud of my yeast, but it tastes like ass.

No sure where to go from here. Any ideas how to mitigate the cough syrup taste?


John
BurrowsForge
 

Squatchy

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Hi and welcome. Sorry to hear about your situation. I am pretty sure we can fix it. I have very successfully made Black Forrest Mead several times. I even won Best of Show with them before. And could continue to do so, I'm pretty sure. So It's not the "Black Cherries" fault entirely. It's, in fact, the lack of acid to appropriately counterbalance the "too sweet" concoction you currently have. You can adjust this a few different ways. But let's drop back a bit first as you have made some scientific blunders we need to address first.

Yeast will only assimilate YAN up to about 9% ABV with inorganic YAN (DAP) and 10% Organic ( Fermaid-O), for example. After that, they won't eat any more food. You added the last ad well beyond the point that they can use it. Therefore. You have unused food in your flavor profile. This flavor is most often thought of as a flaw. Taste some by itself to see how it tastes. I suggest that everyone taste every last thing they put in their Mead, so they know what everything tastes like. You would be surprised how many people add the same thing in meads over and over AND NEVER KNOW WHAT IT'S DOING TO THEIR MEAD. And then taste the Mead, and you should be able to find it in the finished (so far) flavor profile. My hunch is that the ferment went so fast you were well beyond When you should have. I look back now, and you messed all of the beginning processes up with your additions. Listen to the podcast starting on 9/5/17 to find out how to make Mead.

I'm also afraid you're going to mess up a bunch more with your other additions. That may be too many Cocao nibs, for one. Based on using them tons of times. Also, way too many vanilla beans as well. Remember, you can always add more, but you can't remove it later when overdone. I toast the nibbs first as well to get a better, more chocolate-like profile rather than an earthy profile.

Now. On to adjustments. You have the cough syrup flavor because the Mead is out of balance and is overly sweet. You can add tart cherries. This is what I would do. This will add back some tartness to balance the overly sweet error now. It will add more "Cherry" to the finish. And if you use frozen or fresh. I guess even just juice, as a matter of fact. This will help to dilute the overly high ABV, in my opinion. Most beginners always want to make high ABV stuff. Over time most decide that it causes the meads not TOdrink well because they are too high in BAV. Thus, they present hot. It's really hard to create a balanced profile. The heat masks over a ton of good flavors you will not taste drinking firewater. And it takes years to age the ethanol to a place where it tastes ok for the average guy. I would try 12% or so for a while until you know more. But of course, all of this is my opinion, and you are certainly free to do whatever you want. And that's fine with me.

I would add one thing at a time as you seek to find your finished profile. Start with just the cherries first and get them to where you think it suits your desire. Then get rid of them. (I only let them sit a couple of weeks) unless I keep the Mead at temp control. Then I feel good about keeping them in longer. At 15%, it won't take more than a couple of weeks to extract all the flavor out of them anyway. Then you can add some vanilla beans. One bean goes a long way over time. You can also get vanilla from American Oak in lighter toast levels. I prefer this for a few reasons. The orchid is too overwhelmingly smothering, in my opinion.

In contrast, the oak will give you other complexities and some tannins that will also help balance out the cloying sweetness. It will add flavor nuances as well as tactile benefits. The beans won't do anything more than taste like vanilla beans. It's easy to get too much. We see this when judging competitions all the time, unfortunately.

Lastly, acid additions are another way to adjust things to tweak your finished profile to a nice place. You can find info searching me in the forums on this as well as in the podcast. And of course, lots of other people have also written about their experiences as well here.

Just as a side note. I have often split a barrel's worth of this, added ghost peppers to 25 gallons, and kept the rest without the heat. It has also done me well, winning hardware.

Anyway. I hope this helps. These are my ideas. You will come to your own conclusions over time. So feel free to take this all with a grain of salt.
 
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4give

Honey Master
Registered Member
Jan 1, 2018
319
26
28
Montrose, CO
Hi and welcome! I can't add much more than what Squatchy stated. I've used, and still do, all those components in one of my own recipes that's my favorite. You definitely need to taste as you go and start small with the cocoa and vanilla. I know it requires more racking and loss of mead, but I also add them one at a time (e.g. get the cocoa where I think I need it, rack off it, add the vanilla and then rack off that when I think it's where I need it). You can add both, and might find that both flavors integrated right where you want them at the same time, then rack once, but the odds are against that happening just perfectly IMO. If I think it needs a bit more of one or the other after some other adjustments, then I can add a bit more for some time until it's right. For me, I'll taste a couple days in a row just to make sure my palate isn't tricking me. I like to get it to the point when it's just past where I want it (a bit too much vanilla, for example). This usually works out pretty well after all my other adjustments. Both cocoa and vanilla can go too far. In my experience, cocoa will back away with aging and mellow out, but vanilla can stick around.
"Balance" is an interesting thing to me as I know what professional judges may be going for, but I also like my own balance. I really like heavier tannins in some meads. Squatchy once told me I had too much in one of mine, but it was just where I wanted it for me. I knew where he was coming from though, and expected that feedback ;) .
I think if you search on 'intelligent acid additions' you might find the right post Squatchy referred to.
As pointed to already, there are some protocol aspects for you to study out a bit, but I'll comment on PH and SG. My understanding is it's better to have your PH closer to 3.5. The lower PH helps protect your mead, and means less SO2 additions (of course higher ABV can do the same to some extent too). I once had Squatchy talk me off a ledge when I had a ferment at a PH of 2.7 - if it isn't stinky, and it's going strong, let it run it's course.
Your ending SG is fine if you want something that sweet. My understanding is 1.020+ is "dessert" territory. I think this can also contribute to the cough syrup aspect with so much sweetness and sugars left over. You might do better determining a starting SG that your yeast can ferment to dry, and then back-sweeten to where you like it.
If you have the gear for it, you may want to divide this batch up a bit and try some different ideas just to learn more about the aspects that can bring better balance to the mead.
Let us know what you decide, what you learn, and how it turns out.
 

Squatchy

Lifetime GotMead Patron
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Nov 3, 2014
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Hi and welcome! I can't add much more than what Squatchy stated. I've used, and still do, all those components in one of my own recipes that's my favorite. You definitely need to taste as you go and start small with the cocoa and vanilla. I know it requires more racking and loss of mead, but I also add them one at a time (e.g. get the cocoa where I think I need it, rack off it, add the vanilla and then rack off that when I think it's where I need it). You can add both, and might find that both flavors integrated right where you want them at the same time, then rack once, but the odds are against that happening just perfectly IMO. If I think it needs a bit more of one or the other after some other adjustments, then I can add a bit more for some time until it's right. For me, I'll taste a couple days in a row just to make sure my palate isn't tricking me. I like to get it to the point when it's just past where I want it (a bit too much vanilla, for example). This usually works out pretty well after all my other adjustments. Both cocoa and vanilla can go too far. In my experience, cocoa will back away with aging and mellow out, but vanilla can stick around.
"Balance" is an interesting thing to me as I know what professional judges may be going for, but I also like my own balance. I really like heavier tannins in some meads. Squatchy once told me I had too much in one of mine, but it was just where I wanted it for me. I knew where he was coming from though, and expected that feedback ;) .
I think if you search on 'intelligent acid additions' you might find the right post Squatchy referred to.
As pointed to already, there are some protocol aspects for you to study out a bit, but I'll comment on PH and SG. My understanding is it's better to have your PH closer to 3.5. The lower PH helps protect your mead, and means less SO2 additions (of course higher ABV can do the same to some extent too). I once had Squatchy talk me off a ledge when I had a ferment at a PH of 2.7 - if it isn't stinky, and it's going strong, let it run it's course.
Your ending SG is fine if you want something that sweet. My understanding is 1.020+ is "dessert" territory. I think this can also contribute to the cough syrup aspect with so much sweetness and sugars left over. You might do better determining a starting SG that your yeast can ferment to dry, and then back-sweeten to where you like it.
If you have the gear for it, you may want to divide this batch up a bit and try some different ideas just to learn more about the aspects that can bring better balance to the mead.
Let us know what you decide, what you learn, and how it turns out.
I'm glad you brought up the pH comment. I meant to and it slipped my mine. I just have never made a pH adjustment in my entire life. I have never had a mead bail out due to pH issues. I think people might have had stalls at 3.0. But I wonder how much of that was a real issue verses a myth that people honored just because they were taught this stuff.

Assumimg this really was an issue. It seems to me that the reason that I have never had any issues going below the 3. is that we make our yeast healthier than they used to be when we buff them out so well with the protocols we employ. Such as our rehydration protocols, or feeding process, and managing O2 additions. As I write this. I makes me realize I have not done bench trials to really determine the differences of controlled pH levels verses verses just leaving them natural. I might do a little of that winter.
 
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Squatchy

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Nov 3, 2014
5,296
109
63
Denver
So against conventional wisdom I had the idea of making a “Black Forest Cake” mead using black cherry juice, honey and aging on cherries, cocoa nibs and vanilla. I’ve read that black cherries can sometimes taste a bit like cough syrup and that’s what I got. I found some black cherry juice at ALDIs which inspired this recipe.

I had some mistakes in the recipe, but ended up with

8lbs of dark fall honey (I’m in Florida, not sure what my bees brought in)

8 liters of dark cherry juice (dark cherry juice concentrate & water)

1 galllon of water

Total yield, 4 Galons.
10g 71 b yeast
1.25 teaspoons of calcium carbonate to bring PH to around 4.0. (Tested at roughly 3.8)
5g of Proper Yeast Nutrient at pitch, 24hr, 48hr, 72hr and day 7 according to the TOSNA calculator.

Also added 6 g of Go Ferm 4 hrs after pitching (UPS came late) next time I will add Go Ferm with yeast.

On day 7(today) I read 1.021 on the hydrometer which gives us approx 15.36% ABV (I added the last nutrient addition after I took my sample - but before I worked out my reading -lesson learned)

mead is slightly sweet, honey and cherry on the nose with the finish of cough syrup, which I read can be a problem. It’s really quite abhorrent. My wife doesn’t like it.

My plan was to cold crash, rack and age this for a week or two on 20ish lbs frozen black cherries, 4 lbs cacao nibs and 4 vanilla beans.
However, I have no idea how to eliminate this cough syrup taste. Should I try to find tart cherries to age this on? Do I need more cacao?

This mead took off like a rocket and I’m very proud of my yeast, but it tastes like ass.

No sure where to go from here. Any ideas how to mitigate the cough syrup taste?


John
BurrowsForge
Hey John. Have you ever come back after posting this? We want to help you. Please reply. We can lead you through some steps to rescue this me
 
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Burrowsforge

NewBee
Registered Member
Aug 19, 2021
3
0
1
Florida
Hello, and thank you for all the thoughtful posts. I very much appreciate you taking the time to help me out. I’ve made a few batches before with mediocre success but this was my first with my own honey and I’d like to have something to share with family and friends who’ve listened to me talk about bees and mead for the last few years. I will try to be thoughtful in my reply.

I chose 71b due to the yeast fermentation temps being ideal, the ability to covert some acids (I mistakenly thought I’d have too much in a fruit juice based mead) and the profile I read in the Complete Mead Maker. I’m not specific to a high ABV, I’m just fine with something around 12%. Thank you for pointing out my ABV, for some reason in my head I didn’t associate the cough syrup flavor with the alcohol level being as high as it is. In retrospect, I should have added less honey to ferment this out dry at about 12%, stabilized and continued on.
As for what I have on my hands now, I’m just fine cutting this down with more juice.

I will cold crash this and then stabilize to give me a stable starting point.

What amounts of juice to dilute am I looking at for 4 galons? I see a lot of posts about dilution, but I’m having trouble finding a rough formula based on “batch volume and current alcohol percentage = this amount of juice to bring to X percentage of alcohol”.

I enjoy the cherry flavor I have currently but I admit that my palate is in the early stage of development and trust the suggestion of adding tart cherry juice to bring in some acidity.

I also have 1 liter left of the dark cherry juice, and an “acid blend” I could add as well. Not sure what to do here, I’m leaning towards tart cherry juice depending on how much I need.

Im hoping that once I get the batch diluted and tasting better I’ll move on to additions. The amounts of Cacao and Vanilla are based off an episode of another podcast where 1 lb per gallon and one vanilla bean per gallon was suggested for a big chocolate taste. I have no problem reducing that by half (and toasting the cacao) as you all suggested I can always add more. Thank you for the tip.

In summary, how much juice should I consider adding? Is it more of “add to taste” situation? How do I know what my ABV will be? I imagine I’ll be adding it in steps.
Thank you all again for the insights!
John.
 

Squatchy

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Hi

Welcome to the addiction.

Seems to me you have a good handle on the suggested procedures. I'm not certain. But I think most people would be surprised how little I follow a plan, Perse. Once we get past the science. Which very quickly becomes a no-brainer. We move into the culinary end of things. I am a very " fly by the seat of my pants" guy when looking for my end result. The pallet is king here. Everything is then done by what my mouth requires.

If you feel you need a "PLAN". You can figure how many units you have of the percent you have and then add other units you have of zero percent. This will then compute to " average" amount of "percent" and then you will know your ABV. I'm one of the "4 out of 7" that has learned to do my own math to get what I need. So I hope my illustration helps.

I think if you just mix it to your own desire, you should be just fine.


























ave versaesa
 

edaskew

Got Mead? Patron
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Jun 19, 2018
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North Carolina and Mississippi
I made a cherry mead once that took on a chocolate flavor, and I had no chocolate in the mead. I think it came from the oak. It was an medium plus charred American oak. Anyway, one of these meads I made the cough syrup flavor come out by adding acid; it was a bench trial. Put enough acid in there to balance the bitterness out and you get Robitussin. That's my experience.
 

Burrowsforge

NewBee
Registered Member
Aug 19, 2021
3
0
1
Florida
Just an update,

I let it sit for a time and found it mellowed a bit. I cold crashed earlier this week and after cold crashing I added some sulfates (I don’t have the gear for free S02 so just went with ball park 1/4 tsp per 5 gallons). I also added 1 liter of tart cherry juice suggested. It now has a slight pucker quality, but still doesn’t taste very sweet which is surprising to me given the gravity reading.

I brought this to my Homebrew meeting after I was bullied by one of the members and it was revived quite well buy the attendees including someone who had judged mead competitions. They all liked the tart cherry pucker (thank you Squachy) and thought it had a warming character. The gentleman who judged mead prior said it was a semi sweet. Maybe I was just too hard on it and don’t have the pallet for high ABV meads.

I am mulling over my additions for cacao and vanilla and will add soon once I decide on how I want to proceed. I’d probably like it sweeter, but I’m waiting until the other additions are done.

Thanks all for the continued input, I’ll keep you posted. I am also now on my second listening of the podcast series on making mead that was suggested and I’m finding it very informative.

John.
 

Squatchy

Lifetime GotMead Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Nov 3, 2014
5,296
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63
Denver
Just an update,

I let it sit for a time and found it mellowed a bit. I cold crashed earlier this week and after cold crashing I added some sulfates (I don’t have the gear for free S02 so just went with ball park 1/4 tsp per 5 gallons). I also added 1 liter of tart cherry juice suggested. It now has a slight pucker quality, but still doesn’t taste very sweet which is surprising to me given the gravity reading.

I brought this to my Homebrew meeting after I was bullied by one of the members and it was revived quite well buy the attendees including someone who had judged mead competitions. They all liked the tart cherry pucker (thank you Squachy) and thought it had a warming character. The gentleman who judged mead prior said it was a semi sweet. Maybe I was just too hard on it and don’t have the pallet for high ABV meads.

I am mulling over my additions for cacao and vanilla and will add soon once I decide on how I want to proceed. I’d probably like it sweeter, but I’m waiting until the other additions are done.

Thanks all for the continued input, I’ll keep you posted. I am also now on my second listening of the podcast series on making mead that was suggested and I’m finding it very informative.

John.
Don't worry about FG. Every meads sweet spot will be different. Based on ABV. Tartness level. Tannins. And acids. Remember. Always let your tongue tell you what YOU want to taste. And screw the rest!!! ;)
 

MightyMosin

Got Mead? Patron
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Registered Member
Apr 13, 2021
128
64
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CA
after cold crashing I added some sulfates (I don’t have the gear for free S02 so just went with ball park 1/4 tsp per 5 gallons). I also added 1 liter of tart cherry juice suggested. It now has a slight pucker quality, but still doesn’t taste very sweet which is surprising to me given the gravity reading.
I also don't have equipment to test Free SO2; well I have a titret test kit but haven't used it yet and heard that they aren't all that accurate.

I found the below information on how much Free SO2 is needed based on the pH. A pH meter is pretty inexpensive and will/should help you figure out how much you need to add instead of a shotgun approach. Now this doesn't take into account how much is already in your mead but should get you to at least the minimum amount without wildly overshooting where you need to be at.

I'd love to hear from those with more experience on any CONs to this approach while acknowledging that an actual SO2 tester would be the best way to go with this.

SO2 amounts.JPG
 
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Squatchy

Lifetime GotMead Patron
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Nov 3, 2014
5,296
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63
Denver
I also don't have equipment to test Free SO2; well I have a titret test kit but haven't used it yet and heard that they aren't all that accurate.

I found the below information on how much Free SO2 is needed based on the pH. A pH meter is pretty inexpensive and will/should help you figure out how much you need to add instead of a shotgun approach. Now this doesn't take into account how much is already in your mead but should get you to at least the minimum amount without wildly overshooting where you need to be at.

I'd love to hear from those with more experience on any CONs to this approach while acknowledging that an actual SO2 tester would be the best way to go with
 

4give

Honey Master
Registered Member
Jan 1, 2018
319
26
28
Montrose, CO
I don't have the equipment either, and the main downside I see is not knowing what your current level of free SO2 is.

This site is an interesting tool that shows how other factors influence SO2, but I do not vouch for it's accuracy:

As an example, use 'white' for type of wine, and it will default .8mg/L for desired molecular SO2. Populate the other values, but leave Current and Desired free SO2 values at 0, and leave the % adjustment alone. You'll see a note at the bottom to plug a specific value in for Desired free SO2. Make the change, and it will give you your total amount of k-meta to add. The 'rule of thumb' is .3g of k-meta per gallon. A 5 gallon batch would then be 1.5g total. Using this tool though, a 3.3PH, with 13%ABV, at 70F gives you .5g of k-meta in total. That is 3x less. Personally, without the actual tools to run the right test, I'd look at that and think there is no way I'm only putting .5g of k-meta in a 5 gallon batch. If I do the math, it looks like I need about .9g

Using this tool will show you that ABV and temp make a difference as well. Other factors are if you're adding any solids in secondary. Even oak cubes will bind to some free SO2 when you first put them in. My understanding is that they don't continue to bind, so it's only when you first add them that you may want to fudge the dose upwards a little.

Some day I'll get more organized and save up to have the equipment and space for the proper tests and temps, etc. For now, things are working out pretty good.
 

MightyMosin

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Registered Member
Apr 13, 2021
128
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CA
I wrote a small program to do the basic math for me based upon what I wrote up above. Nothing complicated, just based on what I understand without taking into account ABV or temperature as I don't know how those affect the needed SO2 levels.

1640919765208.png
 
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