• Mead Faults

    Characteristic Possible Solutions
    Acetic Acetic acid, vinegar. Also known as volatile acidity in winemaking. Sharp sourness, vinegary aroma/flavor. Check process and ingredients for sources of infection. Check health/purity of yeast strain. Check for post-fermentation oxidation sources (acetobacter is aerobic). Check handling of fruit additions, since bacteria may be introduced on the fruit skins. Check sanitation of any ingredients added post-fermentation.
    Acidic low pH. Tart, sour (basic taste sensation), often with an indication of tart sharpness in aroma. Check level of acid additions. Check acid levels in honey. Check acid levels in any fruit used (some fruit have higher acid levels, unripe fruit has higher acid levels). Check for infection, particularly lactobacillus. Check sweetness levels and attenuation (an over-attenuated and drier mead than expected might seem acidic if less sweetness is present than what was planned).
    Alcoholic/Hot Ethanol and higher alcohols. Hot, spicy, vinous aromas and flavors, warming or burning mouthfeel and aftertaste, increased bitterness. Lower fermentation temperature. Let mead age longer before consuming. Use less fermentables. Use a less attenuative yeast strain. Check yeast health. Use sufficient yeast nutrients. Check for possible infection, which could have caused more attenuation. Stabilize mead to prevent further fermentation.
    Cardboard Oxidation. Stale, papery, wet cardboard aroma and flavor. Check for oxygen being introduced into mead post-fermentation. Don’t splash when racking/bottling. Check caps and/or keg seals for good fit. Purge bottles/kegs with CO2 prior to filling. Store mead cool. Drink mead when fresh.
    Chemical Chemicals in the mead above taste threshold levels, presence of undesirable chemical substances. Chemical, vitamin, nutrient flavors, possibly with bitterness or saltiness. Use less nutrient additions, check purity and cleanliness of water sources, check use of cleaning chemicals.
    Cloudy Obscured with visible particles (of any source). Hazy appearance, obscuring particulates, floating flakes (floaties). Fine with clarifying agents, troubleshoot stuck fermentation, try different clarifying agents, allow sufficient time for clarifying agents to work properly, add pectinase, mechanically filter.
    Cloying Excessive sweetness unbalanced by acidity or tannin. Also known as “flabby” in the wine-tasting world. Overly sweet, syrupy flavor. Heavy body, tongue-coating mouthfeel. Lack of acidity or tannin in flavor. Sometimes accompanied with a raw honey flavor, but this isn’t required. Ferment more completely (troubleshoot fermentation), use less honey or sugary adjuncts, add balancing acid and/or tannin.
    Floral Flower-like aromatics. Flower blossom, perfume-like aroma and flavor. Select a honey variety with the desired varietal characteristics. Not typically a fault, unless in a variety that shouldn’t have these characteristics.
    Fruity Estery. Fruity aroma or flavor (may include apple, banana, pear, grape, strawberry, citrus, or others). Lower fermentation temperature. Try a cleaner yeast strain. Oxygenate must sufficiently. Reduce original gravity. Pitch a sufficient quantity of yeast (avoid yeast stress). Bottle condition and age mead longer at cellar temperatures to reduce esters. Try a different variety of honey.
    Harsh Rough, unpleasant flavor and finish. A rough, biting or stinging sensation in the mouth, often with excessive bitterness. Look at sources of acids, alcohols and tannins (see Acidic, Alcoholic, and Tannic descriptions for specific controls).
    Metallic Containing metallic ions, especially iron. Flavor of iron, copper, coins, or blood. Check water for metallic ions. Reduce water salts. Reduce nutrient additions. Check equipment condition for rust. Make sure stainless steel equipment is properly passivated. Fully rinse sanitizer. Try using reverse osmosis water and add salts as needed.
    Moldy Mold-like character. TCA (cork taint). Stale, moldy, musty cellar-like, earthy, compost-like, mushroom-like aromas and flavors. Wet cardboard and old rag flavors. Avoid oxidation. Check sanitation. Check water for freshness and taste. Use fresh ingredients. Check for mold in corks or use artificial corks.
    Phenolic A large group of organic chemicals often having plastic, medicinal or tar-like aromatics. Spicy, smoky, plastic, band-aid, medicinal, clove, or vanilla aroma and flavor. Check for infection. Check yeast strain and health. Check honey variety. Check for oak usage. Check cleanliness of water source.
    Sherry Post-fermentation oxidation. Sherry, nutty, almond aroma and flavor, possibly with an increased bitterness level. Check for sources of oxygen being introduced after fermentation is complete. Check airlocks to make sure they haven’t dried out. Don’t splash when racking/bottling. Check caps and/or keg seals for good fit. Purge bottles/kegs with CO2 prior to filling. Store mead cool. Drink mead when fresh.
    Solvent Fusel alcohols, ethyl acetate. Hot burning on palate, harsh finish and aftertaste. Headaches. Nail polish remover or solvent. Lower fermentation temperature. Pitch a sufficient quantity of healthy, active yeast. Check for infection. Try a different yeast strain. Ensure sufficient nitrogen-based nutrients are available.
    Sulfury Hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide. Rotten eggs, burning matches, and other sulfur-based aromas and flavors. Generally unpleasant. 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.
    Sweet Basic taste associated with sugar or honey. Too much sweetness is referred to as a syrupy or cloying quality. Sugary or honey-like flavor and aroma. Use less honey, encourage a more complete fermentation, aim for a lower finishing gravity, try other honey varieties.
    Tannic Polyphenolic. Astringent, bitter plant polyphenols that either bind and precipitate or shrink proteins.Astringent, mouth-puckering mouthfeel, lingering harshness, grape skin character, increased bitterness, dry finish. Avoid use of raw spices, fruit pith and fruit skins. Reduce tannin additions. Use less oaking.
    Thin Lacking in body (also generally lacking in honey flavor impact). Thin palate, mouthfeel, and finish. Watery palate impression and body. Insipid character. Reduce attenuation, back-sweeten with honey, use fewer adjuncts, try a different honey variety, add glycerine (glycerol syrup, wine finishing formula).
    Vegetal Smell or taste of plants or green vegetables. Cooked, canned or rotten vegetable (cabbage, celery, onion, asparagus, parsnip) aroma and flavor. Encourage a fast, vigorous fermentation (use a healthy, active starter to reduce lag time; this is often due to bacterial contamination of must before yeast becomes established). Check sanitation. Check for aged, stale, or old ingredients.
    Waxy Characteristic flavor of beeswax. Wax-like, tallow, fatty flavor and aroma. Try a different variety of honey. Filter honey. Avoid oxidation.
    Yeasty Yeast-like character. Bready, sulfury, yeast-like aroma and flavor. Use a more flocculent yeast strain. Allow yeast sufficient time to flocculate. Filter mead or use clarifying agents. Avoid carrying over as much yeast. Age the mead longer. Try another yeast strain.