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In short
After approximately 5.5 month my airlock full of vodka has lost 60% of its volume and now has trapped a couple dozen of fruit flies. Should I be concerned for my batch of Mead?

What methods can I use to test the mead (taste and smell)? Is this common and preventable?

In depth
Last November 25th I started my first 5-gallon batch of Joes Ancient Orange Mead following the recipe here: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f80/joes-ancient-orange-mead-49106/ (multiplying most ingredients by five save for the yeast and the cloves).

I believe everything went well. The airlock was furiously bubbling for a time and continued to bubble for many days after. However, after the initial few days I added more water to the carboy (as described in the directions) and believe I may have damaged the airlock. I cannot say how as the airlock appeared to still work though I did hear a loud pop when I returned it to the bung/stopper.

As directed I did not touch the carboy for months. My aim has been to wait six months (which will be in 14 days) before attempting to bottle (regardless the fruit still has not dropped, but that is another matter). In the last week I noticed a discoloration of the air lock. I have caught some fruit flies!

Airlock one Airlock two Mead one 167d one Mead one 167d two

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Your airlock looks fine in the photos, so I don't think you damaged it. Not sure what the 'pop' you heard was. –  Graham May 13 '13 at 12:19

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Probably there's no infection. Even though the airlock was mostly dry, there shouldn't have been a way for rhe flies to get into the carboy.

The liquid in the airlock evaporates over time, and vodka will evaporate faster that water. You should check the airlock every few weeks and top up (without removing from the carboy) when required.

Fruit flies carry acetobacter which will turn alcohol into vinegar. If your mead tastes like wine vinegar, you can blame the fruit flies.

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As a precaution right now, i would add that he should take off that airlock and sanitize it really, really well before returning it to the bung. And be sure to cover the bung hole (snicker snicker) with some tinfoil while its being cleaned, if there are fruit flies hanging around! –  Graham May 13 '13 at 12:21
    
Considering that there may be acetobacter present should I add anything like sulfites and potassium to the mead while I wait for the fruit to drop? –  Jonnybojangles May 13 '13 at 23:52
    
A good question, but one to which I have no answer. Maybe someone else knows if k-meta or potassium sorbate would help with a possible acetobacter infection. –  Tobias Patton May 14 '13 at 0:22
    
PS. I cleaned and replaced the bung and airlock last night. I took the opportunity to sample the batch and it was smooth, sweet, and warm. I did not notice any vinger like flavors. Unfortunately, this morning I noticed that the bung poped off homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/9962/… –  Jonnybojangles May 14 '13 at 17:32

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