Perhaps it is a direct result of my neglect to keep posting, but things have turned foul! A little over a week after my last post I did a tasting and found the mead to be well on its way. The flavour was smoothing out and fermentation had stopped; hydrometer read 0.990- the density of water. A friend came over and we sampled it, great feedback- we could have polished off a pint for sure.
The level of the mead has been dropping, and ut needed topping up to avoid oxidization. Esther than dilute the mead, I chose to mix in some sugar to kick off another fermentation to keep it at about 10%. Even during that fermentation, the mead was nice. I’d been watching sediment build up for some weeks, and knew that a racking was in order.. I put it off as long as I could bear, but last week I could take it no longer. I used boiling water to sterilize.the initial fermentation bucket and the siphon, then started racking. That’s when the problems began. The bucket couldn’t hold all of the carboys contents, so I scrambled to get another smaller bucket for the rest. I also realized that I hadn’t sterilized the lid of the main bucket, the mead sat there. In open air!! I gave the lid and the mini bucket a rinse and finished racking the mead. After a rinse of the carboy, I racked the mead back into it, using a funnel to pour the contents of the mini bucket. I had also pouired the sediment into a couple of jars to let it settle again and recover as much mead as I could. These sat in the fridge for an hour or so, at which point I also poured them in by funnel. Now I had to top up again, and mixed in some more honey-water with a couple table spoons of honey (pasturized it). Fermentation kicked off and all seemed well, until I tasted it this past Saturday; things had done awry. It was tart! SOUR! Unpleasent, harsh.
What happened? The main possibilities were that the additional fermentation had left some unpleasentness that would settle out, though the astringent element seemed somewhat excessive considering for this possibility considering the nominal amount of honey I had used. Another possibility was oxidization: exposure to oxygen that results in a tart, cardboardy flavour.. Now I didn’t taste cardboard, though oxidation is a distinct possibility, and one that doesn’t she out – this is what makes sherry taste like sherry. Finally, there is bacterial contamination. At 9% alcohol this risk is reduced, but risk exists until about 12%, and I had just added a bunch of oxygen to the mix before diluting it.. Danger ville. Bacterial contamination is perhaps the worst one could imagine- those little fuckers take my previous and supple mead, the use oxygen to convert ethyl alcohol into acedic acid, leaving me with sour wine, which translates to french as vin aigre- better known as vinegar.
At this point I’m still not sure whether my mead is suffering from fermentation, oxidation, or contamination, and desperately hope that a second fermentation (which would likley be rather intense considering the extra oxygen in the mead resulting from a double racking). Perhaps my yeast is just stressed, producing more unfavorable waste than usual. Now that I think of it, the added oxygen would result in some aerobic energy production in the yeast, which converts sugar not to alcohol and CO2, but H2O and CO2, meaning the added sugar will probably result in a slightly more watered down end product (especially considering the water I added).. I suppose that this is no surprise, as when I tasted it last night, the real flavor of the mead seemed somewhat muted, though the tartness does seem to be subsiding somewhat.
A few notes for next time:
- need ph testing strips.
- get a proper santitzing solution.
- get some campden tablets so that I can fight contamination If it happens.
- consider avoiding bee pollen in the must (though it works as a yeast nutrient, it leaves the mead cloudy from what ive read.)
- consider adding Irish moss to the must (a kind of seaweed, natural clearing agent)
- have more patience! Rack less frequently and never twice in a row.