Author Topic: Mead smells and tastes a bit like green olives  (Read 727 times)

Offline Ravenous Travis

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Mead smells and tastes a bit like green olives
« on: October 16, 2018, 09:19:45 PM »
Hey everyone, I'm new here and to home brewing so I apologize for being uninformed. I'll give a little background before I dive right into what's going on.

So sometime about 10 months ago I tried making mead, which came out okayish at best. I bought 4 1-gallon glass containers from a local brewing shop along with 2 airlocks, a bottle of starsan, and 2 packets of yeast, one was "red star premier rouge" and I can't recall the name of the other packet. I then made a trip to walmart and bought 6 pounds of walmart brand honey and 3 gallons of distilled water. One gallon of water was used to make sanitizer, and the other two mixed with 3 pounds of honey each to make my must. My process was essentially this for each container:

-sanitize ALL equipment with starsan, and per bottle instructions allow to dry.
-pour honey directly into distilled water jugs and pour a little water off the top then shake until all honey was in solution.
-I dumped the yeast directly into the must and mixed as per brew shop employee's recommendation. This was a mistake I think, and might be where I went wrong initially.
-Attached sanitized airlock, and filled to fill line with sanitizer.
-Stuck in a room temperature dark place until further notice.

So my first issue here was that I noticed the fermentation really wasn't taking off like people said it would. This could have been due to my negligence in activating the yeast properly, or might be the lack of yeast nutrients. That being said, about a week or so later I dumped in some raisins after reading that they're commonly used in mead. I then read that raisins are a poor yeast nutrient, so I sliced up an orange and stuck about 1/4 of a large orange (sliced semi-thinly) in each container. I also pitched the rest of the yeast packets in each one. This seemed to work, but fermentation was still slow. I didn't rack this until the 30 day mark, which by that time there was a good bit of sediment forming on the bottoms and the oranges were looking pretty used up. I racked again about every 2 or so weeks, making sure to sanitize each time but this time without allowing equipment to dry (I read that starsan wont really hurt the flavor in the mead and that the yeast will actively consume it anyways). It is worth noting that I used my mouth to get the siphon going each time I racked after reading that many people do this with no problems, but that seems to be a probable source of contamination to me. Eventually sediment stopped collecting at the bottom of each container and I capped the containers and stuck them in the fridge. Along the way with each racking I noticed an olive like smell and taste becoming more pronounced in both containers. I figured this could be due to the slow fermentation or maybe letting it sit on sediment too long, and I didn't mind the flavor so much so I just figured I'd do better next time.

After finally getting through a gallon of the stuff I decided to make more so that I wouldn't find my glass empty while waiting for another batch to finish fermenting, this time taking care not to repeat the same mistakes. I know this post is already getting a bit long, but in order to try to give as much information as possible I'll describe the process for this batch. I used the same brand honey, distilled water, and went with the Premier Rouge again. I wanted to get a little creative this time though so I decided to dice up a watermelon and cook it down into a pulp which I ran through a strainer and filled a gallon fermenter about 3/4 of the way full, and the rest with honey and water that was brought to a boil. I know I don't have to heat the must, but I was taking extra steps to be cautious this time. I also sliced up a grapefruit to drop into the fermenter. After allowing the must to cool to room temperature I activated and pitched the yeast per packet instructions. This time the fermentation took off like a rocket, I'd suspect due to the sheer amount of pulp for the yeast to feed on. It actually blew the airlock clean off the top of the fermenter, which I cleaned and reattached the following morning. After only a week of fermentation I decided to rack this one, with the thought that perhaps the off flavors were from sitting on sediment for too long. I continued to rack basically every week until today. It's been about 6 or 7 weeks now and the mead (or watermelon wine I guess) is a very clear golden color. I've been tasting it along the way and I believe I can very faintly taste olives again. It's nowhere near what it was in the previous batch but I think it's still there.

Obviously my first thoughts are that olives are in a vinegar brine, and that perhaps my wine began turning to vinegar. This had occurred to me long ago when I first detected it in my first batch, but I kept a careful eye on each fermenter since then and saw no signs of any unwanted life playing around in my mead. If it is turning to vinegar however I'd like to know what I might be doing wrong, I feel like I'm being maybe even overly cautious with sanitation, except for using my mouth to begin the siphon. Maybe I just have a dirtier than average mouth? I wouldn't be surprised I suppose.

I've done some googling but this doesn't seem to be a very common problem, so I figured I'd post here to see what people think might have happened and what steps I can take to prevent it from happening again. I personally don't hate it but I feel that I can't give bottles to friends and family so long as that flavor persists. Any input or general recommendations to improve my process and the flavor of the final product is welcomed.

Sorry for the long post, and thanks for reading!

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Mead smells and tastes a bit like green olives
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2018, 09:26:08 PM »
Brettanomyces yeast, Lactobacillus, and/or Acetobacter bacteria (and probably an assortment of other wild beasts) make Basque ciders taste like green olives.  You probably have an infection of one or more of these.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2018, 09:30:14 PM by dmtaylor »

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Offline Ravenous Travis

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Re: Mead smells and tastes a bit like green olives
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2018, 09:41:57 PM »
Brettanomyces yeast, Lactobacillus, and/or Acetobacter bacteria (and probably an assortment of other wild beasts) make Basque ciders taste like green olives.  You probably have an infection of one or more of these.

So it's as I feared. Perhaps I should get an auto-siphon despite what people say is fine. Thanks.

Offline dannyjed

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Re: Mead smells and tastes a bit like green olives
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2018, 10:59:45 PM »
There are a lot of incidents where you could have wild yeast contamination. The multiple rackings, adding fruit, using your mouth to siphon, etc. I rehydrate my dry yeast, never heat the honey, sanitize all my equipment, add yeast nutrient all at once or staggered for 3-5 days, and only rack once after primary fermentation is done (around 3 -4 weeks). Hope that helps.

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Offline rburrelli

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Re: Mead smells and tastes a bit like green olives
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2018, 04:08:49 PM »
I agree on the mouth siphon not being the issue.  There were a lot of places for “things” to happen to this brew. When I HAD to resort to starting a siphon by mouth, it never affected the beer results.
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Offline joe_meadmaker

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Re: Mead smells and tastes a bit like green olives
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2018, 01:20:49 AM »
You said that you're racking every week.  That's way too often.  Sitting on the sediment for a while won't hurt your mead.  I usually do a first racking after a month.  And then wait 3-4 months before racking again.

I'd also make another recommendation.  In the write-up of your process you stated that you're using distilled water.  I would recommend against this.  I've searched around and there doesn't seem to be an "official" water profile that's best for mead.  But the yeast will still need certain minerals to be happy and healthy.  You'll be better off using a spring water.  Or tap water and just use a campden tablet to remove the chlorine.

I also agree with your mention of getting an auto siphon.  I have also used the mouth technique in the past without issue.  But  an auto siphon will remove that as a possible contamination point.

Hope your next batch goes well.  Cheers!