My mead tastes sour like dry white wine!

I made a batch of mead this January, just under 10L. It was made from honey that had fermented a bit (I got it cheap), but I boiled it with the water, so that would have been killed.

It was poured on two 5L jugs that were disinfected, and added some herb "tea" (also boiled), thyme in one, christmas-themed spices in the other.

I used port-yeast. I have previously made a batch from the same batch of honey that turned out fine, but then I used baking yeast.

Today I tried pouring over the mead from the jugs to bottles as it had cleared beautifully and stopped bubbling. The tops of the jugs has been covered with standard fermenting tubes with water in them.

As I poured, I tasted a bit, and it tastes nothing like mead.It's very sour, like a dry white wine. I don't like dry wine, so I think it tastes awful. But if I actually made honey wine, I don't want to toss it but rather give it away to someone who does like dry wine.

What is more likely? Is it honey wine, honey vinegar or just spoiled? Or did I just make a very dry mead? Is the yeast to blame?

  • 1
    What was gravity before and after fermentation? What was honey to water ratio? And what kind of sour is it? Dry wine sour, vinegar sour, pickles sour?...
    – Mołot
    May 16, 2016 at 15:46
  • I have not tested the gravity. The ratio was 450g honey to 1L water. And I'd say it's dry white wine sour. Most definitely not pickles sour.
    – Kitalda
    May 16, 2016 at 16:03
  • Dry wine sour is usually safe. But please make gravity testing a habit. What's the gravity now?
    – Mołot
    May 16, 2016 at 16:06
  • I don't have a hydrometer, unfortunately (but I will buy one soon).
    – Kitalda
    May 16, 2016 at 16:11
  • From the advice here and the advice from a acquaintance, I have decided to age the mead and maybe back-sweeten it. It seems I just made some very dry mead.
    – Kitalda
    May 17, 2016 at 6:34

2 Answers 2


If I had to guess I'd say what happened is that when you made it with bakers yeast you did not completely ferment the honey. If I remember correctly, bread yeast only ferments to ~5% abv and port yeast will ferment to closer to 20-25% abv. This would have dried your wine out completely. This is just an educated guess based on what you describe but if it dosen't taste foul or smell off and only tastes really dry I think it should be fine.

  • From past experience I've used Flieschmann's(sp?) bread yeast and fermented up to ~13%.
    – Slayter
    May 16, 2016 at 19:58
  • Hmmn I'll have to keep that in mind for future use thanks.
    – Gremwatch
    May 16, 2016 at 19:59
  • If I understand him correctly, OP said he user a port wine yeast.
    – Robert
    May 16, 2016 at 21:59
  • Bakers yeast can go as high as 16%, but port yeast will go a lot higher. You are probably right.
    – Kitalda
    May 17, 2016 at 6:27
  • @Robert I used bakers yeast for a previous batch that turned out really delicious, but used port yeast this time. And I'm a she, not he ;)
    – Kitalda
    May 17, 2016 at 6:36

Honey shouldn't be heated above 140°F or the organic acid Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMS) is formed. Toxic compounds in honey.

The list of its negative effects is long, causing death in test animals, fatal to bees, and other negative effects in fermentation.

Many dark beers that have Maillard malt notes like a dopplebock have elevated levels of HMS too.

This acid may be why the mead is sour. With a dry fermentation there is no sweetness to balance the acid taste.

There's not much science on the effects on humans, though their is a RDA of the compound.

  • 1
    Which temperature scale are you talking about? Because I'm pretty sure it only got to 100°C... Also, heating honey for mead is the traditional way of doing it here. And we use it a lot for cakes and bread. Do you have any sources on this? If you are talking about something that is only at "elevated levels", then that is probably not why my mead tastes sour, as that takes a lot of acid...
    – Kitalda
    May 17, 2016 at 6:32
  • 1
    I did a bit of research. As long as I like to drink coffee every day, the amount in my mead will make no significant difference. It is also most definitively not the source of the sour taste, as it is measured in mg/kg.
    – Kitalda
    May 17, 2016 at 6:44
  • Bochet? beesource.com/forums/…
    – brewchez
    May 17, 2016 at 10:55
  • @brewchez No, not caramelized, just heated enough to kill wild yeast and bacteria.
    – Kitalda
    May 17, 2016 at 11:10
  • @Kitalda Not celcius, edited. HMS levels are used to determine the freshness and quality of honey, since it can form from just dehydration too. Just give it a google. But as for your mead, I think the elevated HMS and the dry fermentation has made the sour, since there is no residual sweet to balance the organic acid. May 17, 2016 at 13:17

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