Author Topic: Mead and Medicinal Flavors  (Read 3489 times)

Offline gogreen437

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Mead and Medicinal Flavors
« on: May 10, 2012, 05:09:49 AM »
So I made a mead a while back (year ago) where I underpitched and probably didn't use enough yeast nutrient.  It had a really strong medicinal/cough syrup like flavor that I assumed was a result of underpitching/lack of nutrients that has taken almost a year to start to fade. 

To my surprise, however, I got a commercial example from a local winery that tasted twice as medicinal/cough syrupy as mine.  Confused I tried another mead from a company that specializes in mead here in Michigan.  The medicinal notes were not nearly as pronounced as in mine, or the first commercial example, but they were still pretty evident.  I've searched the internet for explanations, but while I've come across other people who have noted the same issue, the responses were lacking.

Is all mead cursed to have these flavors to some degree? Or will proper fermentation take care of it?  Or am I just crazy?

Offline nateo

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Re: Mead and Medicinal Flavors
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2012, 05:33:46 AM »
You might be crazy, but you're right about medicinal mead. Most of the commercial meads I've had were not-so-good, usually because they're too medicinal. I've had a couple really awesome meads without medicinal flavors, though, so it can be done. One of which was made by Schlafly.

A new pro meadmaker was showing off his wares at an AHA rally I attended, and most of his meads had an unpleasant medicinal quality. His buckwheat mead was especially medicinal, so I think it has a small amount to do with honey variety.

I was chatting with one of the partners about fermentation, what kind of ferm. kinetics they were monitoring and adjusting, etc. I mentioned keeping the pH in line, and he basically said "It ferments quickly enough we don't have to worry about that."

If you want to make your own mead, follow Curt Stock and Kris England's advice, and I'd bet you'll end up with a pretty good mead. My own meads were a trainwreck of off-flavors before I started monitoring and adjusting pH and using staggered nutrient additions, and above all, keeping ferm temps low.

The last batch I made ended up really limp and pepto-bismol-y, because I added too much alkalinity. I added grapefruit juice to it, and then it really popped. So like with winemaking, having the proper acidity level makes a world of difference. I think the grapefuit juice added a bit of structure, too. You might try using a wine yeast known for production of mouthfeel, like BM45.

I did some trial ferments with a lot of different yeasts, and found RC212 to be my clear favorite, though hardly any mead recipes I've seen use it.

« Last Edit: May 10, 2012, 05:47:38 AM by nateo »
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Offline gogreen437

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Re: Mead and Medicinal Flavors
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2012, 09:56:17 AM »
Thanks for some good direction!

Offline nateo

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Re: Mead and Medicinal Flavors
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2012, 10:19:55 AM »
I would really like to try BM45. In my trials I used:
a)71B
b)K1V
c)RC212
d)Cote des Blanc
e)Premier Cuvee.

They were all pretty similar, though RC212 provided the most "fruity" flavors of the bunch. D and E were more vinous than the others. A was the most neutral, and B had a bit more character, though not as much as C.

C was the worst attenuator and produced the most acid, which in these samples was pretty nice, since there was more residual sweetness left, and more "brightness" than the others.   

Once I adjusted the acid levels, the slight differences became even less pronounced. So really, any wine yeast should give you decent results, providing you can dial in the tannin and acid levels.
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Offline punatic

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Re: Mead and Medicinal Flavors
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2012, 11:46:39 AM »
It's hard to say what might be the cause of the flavors you describe without knowing what the ingredients in your mead are.   It's quite possible that your mead is not infected or suffering from wimpy yeast activity.
Ingredients (and honey varieties) sometimes manifest themselves much differently after being fermented than before.  You may have made a mead with ingredients that combine to give the perception of being medicinal.

I've been making mead for decades and have never had a batch turn out with medicinal flavors in it.

Comercial mead-wise, I've tasted quite a few over the years. I have not found many that tasted medicinal to me.  But then again, I haven't found many commercial meads I would bother to buy a second bottle of either.  I know what I like in a mead, and I make it myself.

I have tasted many homemade meads that were absolute nectar.  The three competing for BOS (Meadmaker of the Year) at the 1996 NHC come to mind in particular.
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