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20 lbs. Forest Honey

12 lbs. Blueberries

water to 6 gallons

5 grams of D-47

4 tsp. Fermaid K + DAP

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After the initial vigorous fermentation, I opened my primary to discover the most horrible sulfur smell. I read online how to fix the problem by using copper and oxygenating the must, but never really found any info on what exactly happened. Never happened before or since. Any thoughts?

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Previous answer was a bit overwhelming. Here's the skinny with a simple remedy for if this happens again.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is the rotten egg odor you smell, and it usually forms at the end of fermentation. Most home winemakers won’t notice a smelly problem until the first racking. If you do smell rotten eggs, the quicker you can act, the better your chances of saving the wine. If your wine is not treated promptly, hydrogen sulfide will react with other carbon compounds in the wine to create mercaptans, and later into disulfides. These are extremely difficult to remove from your wine once they are present, so the faster you can detect and treat your wine for hydrogen sulfide, the better.

Many sources suggest that you add copper sulfate to your wine, but most vintners advise against this. While a very, very, VERY small amount of copper sulfate will take care of your H2S problem, it is poisonous. Big wineries use copper sulfate, but there is a kinder, gentler approach, using chemicals that most winemakers already have on hand.

First, measure the level of sulfides in your wine using a SO2 Test Kit if you can. If the wine is deficient, treat the wine to 50 p.p.m. sulfides.

Next, rack the wine two or three times, making sure to splash it around a lot as the wine is transferred between vessels. This aeration introduces oxygen to the wine, and will help counteract the hydrogen sulfide.

Replace the airlock, and let it sit overnight. This should take care of the problem in most cases, but if it still stinks, perform these extra steps:

  1. Buy a piece of copper flashing from a home supply store.

  2. Hold the piece of copper in the neck of the carboy while the wine is being racked, so that the wine runs over the copper surface and into the carboy. Fine and/or filter the wine.

  3. By now, that stinkiness should be greatly reduced. If you STILL detect a smell, try gelatin finings in the amount stated on the package.

  4. After fining, we suggest running the wine through a filter.

  5. If you’ve taken all of these steps to no avail, you could try using copper sulfate. But BE CAREFUL! Add NO MORE than 0.5 ml per gallon. Afterward, be sure to fine the wine with bentonite or Sparkolloid according to package instructions. Either of these will remove the copper sulfate. Then filter to remove the fining agent.

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4

I got a little carried away here, so here's a quick summary.

TL;DR: Your yeast was probably either A) nutrient starved, B) Fermenting at too high of a temperature, or C) a combination of both. Regardless of your temperature control situation, I think A (nutrition) is the most likely cuplrit here.


While it's true that some yeast strains are more prone to SO2 production, this can be avoided altogether with proper nutrient additions and temperature control.

First, when your mead starts smelling sulfury, try adding more nutrients. There are several threads regarding this on GotMead and HomebrewTalk. This is also hinted at in the BJCP's list of mead faults:

Characteristic

Sulfury Hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide. Rotten eggs, burning matches, and other sulfur-based aromas and flavors. Generally unpleasant.

Possible Solutions

Provide sufficient nitrogen-based nutrients. Check for infection. Check water for excessive sulfates. Check yeast health. Check for yeast autolysis (mead left on yeast too long at warm temperatures). Try another yeast strain. Cut back on sulfite additions.

If you are more interested in why I think nutrition is likely the culprit here, I've included a detailed breakdown below. If not at least remember this: If you followed the directions for the number of tsp per gallon on the Fermaid K + DAP, those are likely meant for wine, which already has a large amount of free amino nitrogen in the must itself. Since honey is pretty nutrient deficient, it will need way more.

Another consideration is your fermentation temperature. D47 is a pretty finicky yeast, and maxes out at 68 F (20 C) before it starts throwing crazy off flavors and smells. Remember, that's fermentation temperature, not ambient. Yeast metabolism throws off a lot of heat, so once you start hitting the 5 - 7 gallon range, internal temperature can become an issue.

Keep in mind though, the sulfur will probably age out, or you can splash rack it or try the copper trick. I've heard you can either rack through a copper scouring pad or throw either said pad or a length of sanitized copper tubing into your carboy for a week or two.


Nutrient Breakdown

There are a couple of tools we can use to determine if you were under your recommended YAN for your batch.

There are some other calculators out there, but for this, I'm just going to keep it simple and use the first two.

First, using the GotMead mead calculator, we can estimate that your 20 lbs of honey + 12 lbs of blueberries would hit an SG of around 1.128. Assuming your D47 pushed all the way to its 14% tolerance, that would leave us around 1.021 as a final gravity.

Now, if we head over to the MeadMakr Batch Builder, you can adjust the sliders to match your approximate values from the mead calculator:

Batch Volume:     6 gallons
Yeast ABV:        14%
Sweetness:        1.02
Nutrient Regime:  Fermaid K/DAP

Batch Specs
Target OG:      1.124
Starting Brix:  29
YAN Provided:   250

Honey Needed:             21.3lbs
Dry Yeast Minimum Weight: 12g
# Dry Yeast Packet(s):    3 (15g yeast)
Go-ferm:                  18.75g
Fermaid K:                11.4g
DAP:                      21.6g

You can see in that calculation, to achieve 250 ppm YAN, you would need 11.4g Fermaid K and 21.6g DAP if you were using Go-Ferm and pitching at a higher rate (we'll ignore those parts right now to keep it simple). If we follow the approximations from this thread and this thread on GotMead, then that would be 2.85 tsp Fermaid K + 5.4 tsp DAP, for a total of 8.25. This is more a little more than double the amounts used in your particular batch. Sure, your blueberries definitely added some FAN, but there's no way it was enough to make up the difference.

Now, I was just using one of the built-in calculations, but if you wanted, you can head over the The MeadMakr Advanced Nutrient Calculator and input your ratio of Fermaid K:DAP. Here's an example input for a 2:1 Fermaid K:DAP ratio:

Total ppm YAN:           250
Must Volume (Gal):       6 
Fermaid O Effectiveness: 0
Enforce Limits:          Unchecked
Configure limits:        Unchecked

DAP:       33.33
Fermaid K: 66.67
Fermaid O: 0

Output total g to add
  DAP:       9.01  (~2.25 tsp)
  Fermaid K: 37.86 (~9.47 tsp)

Keep in mind, if you are following a staggered nutrient regimen, those are total amounts per batch, not per addition.

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2

Some yeast strains give sulfur smell during fermentation. That's perfectly normal. If it's in the air, it's no longer in your brew! The fact you can smell it so strongly indicates it is, literally, going away now. It comes from metabolism of sulfur amino-acids. Sooner they are degenerated and sulfur is released, the less chance it'll get released in the bottle.

Don't bother trying to correct it, unless it's there after two, three weeks of fermentation. No need to. Not yet.

And if (small chance) that's infection, correction is impossible. But again, that you can know in few weeks. I wouldn't be scared of that.

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