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I tried making cherry mead again (the first time I tried this it got infected). I tried again yesterday, and it looks like I've got another infection of some sort.

This time I thought that everything was OK, at first. The foam that I usually see from yeast fermentation appeared within 30 minutes of pitching the yeast, but when I got home tonight, it was the much more vigorous bubbling that I saw along the surface. Specific gravity went from 1.076 to 1.028 in a little more than 24 hours. The taste is a bit off - not as bad as last time, but not as good as it should be.

Things I did differently from last time:

  • No fresh cherries, just pasteurized cherry juice.
  • The juice bottle was only opened moments before adding it to the must.
  • Added two cinnamon sticks with the cherry juice (for supposed antibacterial properties)
  • I brought everything up to the boiling point for a few minutes before letting it cool and pitching the yeast.
  • Sealed a plastic bag over the top of the fermentation jar (to keep out fruit flies).

This is the second time it's happened... I'm guessing now that it's either the cherry juice itself (supposed to be pasteurized, but who knows), the equipment (it's all glass and stainless steel, but one food-safe plastic piece - maybe that one needs to go?), something in the air?, ...maybe the yeast is bad?

Anyway, I'm going to throw a few campden tablets in there and then put it in the fridge to chill. Does anything think this can be saved? I know I'd have to re-pasteurize it and add more honey or sugar - or is infected must not even salvageable?


Update:

I saw that it was still slightly bubbling in the fridge this morning. That's after I put in 3 campden tablets (The guy at the wine store said 2 is usually enough for under 5 litres) and left it in the fridge overnight. It's either very hardy yeast or a very hardy infection. I'm not going to give up hope yet, I'll test it again when I get home tonight.


Second Update:

Just tested it again. Specific Gravity is only down to 1.026 so not much fermentation has happened in the last 24 hours, I guess the bubbling this morning (and even this evening) was just gas that was already there being released. The surface is still clear (save for small clusters of bubbles) and the taste is not as bad as yesterday. The smell is like sour cherries though (and I used sweet black cherry juice!).


So guess I most of the panic was due to my inexperience with fruit meads, and not knowing what to expect. I'm guessing the cherry juice was a very good yeast nutrient - I'm used to pitching dry yeast without adding nutrients or energizers, so I guess I was just surprised by the vigorous and intense reaction I got here, as well as the sudden and strange change in taste and smell.


2012-01-13

So I finally had one of these bottles yesterday. It was nice but the cherry flavour was very mild, much more so that I thought it would. Next time, I think I will use at least 50-50 blend of sour cherry and black cherry juices (or all sour cherry), and use much more juice and much less water.

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Granted, I've only made 4 meads, but none of them has tasted good for the first couple of months. I can taste the underlying elements of what they may taste like in the future, but it takes 6-12 months for them to really start tasting like something I want to actually drink. Slow down. "Have no wine before its time." –  baka Sep 7 '11 at 15:57
    
@baka: In my experiences, they usually taste OK (although way too sweet for my tastes) during fermentation, and I've served them after only "aging" them for a week or two after bottling, and most people seem to think they're quite nice (then again, none of them, nor I, have had professionally made mead, so none of us would know the difference ;) ). What made me think of infection last time, was the overwhelming taste of vinegar (and a faint hint of it this time). –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 7 '11 at 16:04

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Slow down a second, DWRHAH. What makes you think this batch is infected? Vigorous fermentation is usually just a sign of good yeast health. Most of my batches of beer are done with the bulk of fermentation 24-48 hours after pitching. Honey, unlike malt, is mostly monosaccharides, and is actually easier for yeast to ferment, thus would progress even faster.

However, there can be a lot of waste from this quick fermentation which the yeast will need time to clean up. Even if it smells or tastes a little off right now, I would hold on and see if it is just natural off flavors that the yeast can clean up. Off flavors will also diminish naturally with age.

If there are no floating masses that are obvious infections and it doesn't taste or smell completely terrible (usually infections are REALLY apparent) then I would just let the mead sit for a few months, forget about it for a while, and come back in the winter when you are really craving it.

But maybe I'm way off and you have a terrible infection. Either way, good luck!

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I was basing it on my previous experience, where going from 1.076 to 1.028 would usually take 3 or 4 days. It also looked like the previous batch, which tasted like really awful vinegar within 4 days. The major difference is that previously, the meads I made were just honey and sometimes some spices. This is only the second time I'd tried a fruit mead, and the first time I've tried cherry, so maybe it's just a different experience... It's still bubbling slightly this morning, after spending the night in the fridge, with 3 campden in 5 litres! –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 7 '11 at 13:18
    
There was no floating mass, the smell wasn't horrible but the taste was... well, I couldn't swallow it but it didn't trigger the instant "spit it out!!!!" reaction like last week's. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 7 '11 at 13:32
    
Also, what does "DWRHAH" mean? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 8 '11 at 2:12
    
See the updates... looks like you talked me down from dumping what might end up being a very nice brew. I'll slow down and be a little more patient next time! ;) –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 8 '11 at 2:49
2  
Awesome, glad to hear it! And DWRHAH is Don't Worry, Relax, Have A Homebrew. Wise words to live by. –  pjreddie Sep 8 '11 at 6:06

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