Wine off-gassing smells like chemicals

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Hi folks,
I just started a 1 gal batch of strawberry wine using the C.J.J Berry recipe:
For anyone unfamiliar - here it is:
Ingredients
Method:
Wash the fruit. Mash the berries well and mix with the sugar and four pints of water. Leave for 24 to 36 hours then strain the liquor in to a fermenting jar; add a further two pints of water to the pulp, mix well and immediately strain again, then add the acid, tannin, yeast nutrient and yeast and make up to 1 gallon with cold water. Stir thoroughly, fit air-lock and continue as usual.



So, in doing this - I sanitized all my equipment (I may have forgotten to sanitize the bowl I had the strawberries in and(initially) the potato masher I used. Otherwise everything was sprayed down/filled with star-san. The fruit was not sanitized (though it was washed) for obvious reasons.
Once pulped, the strawberries were put into a (sanitized) big mouth bubbler to sit with the sugar for ~36 hours, then the other ingredients were added.
The first few hours of fermentation were rather....energetic(let's say) and I had to swap out the airlock with a blowoff tube as it had completely filled with strawberry mush and/or krausen gunk. Things have since died back a little and I've dumped out my blowoff container and put an airlock back on.

My initial SG was 1.095(I find SpGr easier to grok than Brix, but that's me).
However - I'm noticing that the off-gassing of the brew has a distinctly solvent-like smell. A quick google search says:
  1. A nail-polish like smell(I guess this could be characterized as that?) indicates that I have definitely, absolutely, most assuredly $100% made vinegar.
  2. If it's early fermentation, don't worry because that can generate all kinds of weird smells.
So, I'm not sure what to believe and whether or not I should be worried...
  • One potential salient point is that when we bought the strawberries (from the supermarket) one of the punnets was moldy so we returned it. My wife thinks she saw a bug (probably a fruit fly) come out of the bad strawberries. The ones I did use looked fine, and after unpacking the groceries, we kept the good berries in the fridge away from the bad. But I don't know if it's possible the "good" fruit also contained fruit fly larvae and they've made me a nice gallon batch of vinegar...
  • Another is that I filled my wide-mouth bubbler up about 3/4 of the way and then gave it a good shake to oxyegenate the must and prevent rhino farts from stressed yeast (I've had that happen before)

Can someone enlighten me on:
  1. What I did wrong
  2. How I can fix this (if at all)
  3. How I stop it happening again

Much appreciated.
 

Rice_Guy

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* can you describe the smell? Vinegar would smell like salad dressing.
* vinegar is a reaction product when Acetobacter consume ethyl alcohol in the presence of oxygen. If you are early in the fermentation it is unlikely that there would be enough ethyl alcohol for this. What is the gravity/ how many days into this?
* normal early in a fermentation where it is actively producing gas would be a yeasty/ bread like smell
* in the recipe you are two days steeping (room temp) without adding yeast. This seems like a long time and would not be permitted in a food facility. Your goal is to extract flavor and sugar, my way to create mush would be to freeze the fruit at least two days, when thawed the juice will just weep out of the fiber. Fruit pulp will float. Normal for extracting juice is to mix the pulp (grape skins) so they stay wet and don’t mold. , , , is your flavor sort of mold like/ sweet fruity.
* nail polish is ethyl acetate, there are small quantities produced. This normally is a reaction product from vinegar (acetic acid).
 

sour_grapes

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A nail-polish like smell(I guess this could be characterized as that?) indicates that I have definitely, absolutely, most assuredly $100% made vinegar.
  1. If it's early fermentation, don't worry because that can generate all kinds of weird smells.

Welcome to WMT!

I am going with #1.
 
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* can you describe the smell? Vinegar would smell like salad dressing.
* vinegar is a reaction product when Acetobacter consume ethyl alcohol in the presence of oxygen. If you are early in the fermentation it is unlikely that there would be enough ethyl alcohol for this. What is the gravity/ how many days into this?
* normal early in a fermentation where it is actively producing gas would be a yeasty/ bread like smell
* in the recipe you are two days steeping (room temp) without adding yeast. This seems like a long time and would not be permitted in a food facility. Your goal is to extract flavor and sugar, my way to create mush would be to freeze the fruit at least two days, when thawed the juice will just weep out of the fiber. Fruit pulp will float. Normal for extracting juice is to mix the pulp (grape skins) so they stay wet and don’t mold. , , , is your flavor sort of mold like/ sweet fruity.
* nail polish is ethyl acetate, there are small quantities produced. This normally is a reaction product from vinegar (acetic acid).
* best way to describe it is like paint thinner or some kind of solvent. I guess maybe nail polish remover. Definitely not vinegar, it's ore...um...complex than that. It also smells like strawberry too.


Welcome to WMT!

I am going with #1.
thank you, that's releiving because it smells vile
 
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I am surprised your quick googling didn't shout: "ETHYL ACETATE."
It did, but I can't get a handle on how serious (or not) that is, if it's fixable, whether the wine will be drinkable or unsalvagable etc. My quick googling also made a very quick transition from "ethyl acetate" to "you made vinegar", whilst the above comments seem to suggest that may not necessarily be the case (or maybe it is the case, I'm not sure - I'm a newbie :) )
 

VinesnBines

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What is the SG now? Have you tasted it? If you are still fermenting, I say let it go. If it is dry, sulfate and go to bulk and see what you get.

I have a fig winager or vinwine - pretty much vinegar that I'm trying to raise to wine. I've done most everything I can think of. Next step, put it in the attic and see if it will oxidize to a sherry or madeira. That's on the agenda for today.
 

Rice_Guy

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get a handle on how serious (or not) that is, if it's fixable, whether the wine will be drinkable or unsalvagable etc.
I have taken wine with ethyl acetate to the vinters club and had two reactions 1) this wine does not taste like the named fruit on the label therefore it would never place in a contest. 2) this really is a pleasing flavor so I will have a second glass.

The question for you is this flavor disagreeable? I have concluded that foods with made up names are easier to formulate. I have been p1$$ to have cyser in contest with the label cyser with cinnamon getting a blue and the next contest just calling it cyser and judging comments come back with “there seems to be a cinnamon flavor” we will give it a red ribbon.
Food wise I do not like 24 hours of unknown growth. Once there is 5% alcohol most micro will not grow so it is stable/ low risk of food poisoning.
 
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What is the SG now? Have you tasted it? If you are still fermenting, I say let it go. If it is dry, sulfate and go to bulk and see what you get.

I have a fig winager or vinwine - pretty much vinegar that I'm trying to raise to wine. I've done most everything I can think of. Next step, put it in the attic and see if it will oxidize to a sherry or madeira. That's on the agenda for today.

I'm actually not sure. It's been a couple of days, do you think I should take a SG reading, or should I just let it continue and leave it be?
I have taken wine with ethyl acetate to the vinters club and had two reactions 1) this wine does not taste like the named fruit on the label therefore it would never place in a contest. 2) this really is a pleasing flavor so I will have a second glass.

Interesting. This smells very strong, so I guess we'll see. I did taste some of the liquid from the blowoff tube bottle (though I didn't swallow it) and it just tasted like very strong strawberry. I didn't swallow it though because it was (initially at least) filled with star-san(I know that's technically safe to drink, but I don't particularly want to drink star-san, lol)

The question for you is this flavor disagreeable?

Dunno. If it tastes like it smells, then yes. I'm not in the habit of drinking nail polish remover or model aircraft glue.

I have concluded that foods with made up names are easier to formulate. I have been p1$$ to have cyser in contest with the label cyser with cinnamon getting a blue and the next contest just calling it cyser and judging comments come back with “there seems to be a cinnamon flavor” we will give it a red ribbon.
I'm not sure what that means
Food wise I do not like 24 hours of unknown growth. Once there is 5% alcohol most micro will not grow so it is stable/ low risk of food poisoning.
Are you saying I shouldn't have let the berries sit for more than 24 hours? Should I take a gravity reading and see if there's more than 5% alcohol?
 
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1. Take a SG reading and see where you are in fermentation.
2. If you are willing to taste the stuff in the blow-off tube bottle, why not taste the rest of it?

  1. Will do
  2. I was just hesitant because of the horrid smell. Also in case whatever is wrong with my brew contaminated my graduated cylinder and other equipment beyond what I could clean with star-san
 

Steve Wargo

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Hi folks,
I just started a 1 gal batch of strawberry wine using the C.J.J Berry recipe:
For anyone unfamiliar - here it is:
Ingredients
Method:
Wash the fruit. Mash the berries well and mix with the sugar and four pints of water. Leave for 24 to 36 hours then strain the liquor in to a fermenting jar; add a further two pints of water to the pulp, mix well and immediately strain again, then add the acid, tannin, yeast nutrient and yeast and make up to 1 gallon with cold water. Stir thoroughly, fit air-lock and continue as usual.



So, in doing this - I sanitized all my equipment (I may have forgotten to sanitize the bowl I had the strawberries in and(initially) the potato masher I used. Otherwise everything was sprayed down/filled with star-san. The fruit was not sanitized (though it was washed) for obvious reasons.
Once pulped, the strawberries were put into a (sanitized) big mouth bubbler to sit with the sugar for ~36 hours, then the other ingredients were added.
The first few hours of fermentation were rather....energetic(let's say) and I had to swap out the airlock with a blowoff tube as it had completely filled with strawberry mush and/or krausen gunk. Things have since died back a little and I've dumped out my blowoff container and put an airlock back on.

My initial SG was 1.095(I find SpGr easier to grok than Brix, but that's me).
However - I'm noticing that the off-gassing of the brew has a distinctly solvent-like smell. A quick google search says:
  1. A nail-polish like smell(I guess this could be characterized as that?) indicates that I have definitely, absolutely, most assuredly $100% made vinegar.
  2. If it's early fermentation, don't worry because that can generate all kinds of weird smells.
So, I'm not sure what to believe and whether or not I should be worried...
  • One potential salient point is that when we bought the strawberries (from the supermarket) one of the punnets was moldy so we returned it. My wife thinks she saw a bug (probably a fruit fly) come out of the bad strawberries. The ones I did use looked fine, and after unpacking the groceries, we kept the good berries in the fridge away from the bad. But I don't know if it's possible the "good" fruit also contained fruit fly larvae and they've made me a nice gallon batch of vinegar...
  • Another is that I filled my wide-mouth bubbler up about 3/4 of the way and then gave it a good shake to oxyegenate the must and prevent rhino farts from stressed yeast (I've had that happen before)

Can someone enlighten me on:
  1. What I did wrong
  2. How I can fix this (if at all)
  3. How I stop it happening again

Much appreciated.
I had a similar experience making a fruit juice wine. The odor generated was the result of the air temps reached inside the fermentation room 84-F degrees, let alone the liquid temps reached in the juice due to the additional heat fermentation creates. The gas smell was more like acetone than vinegar. For me, The issue with the fermentation was the air temps and heat created by the fermentation process. So the unhappy wine yeast created a lot of foul smells because of it. It never turned to vinegar. In my case Sanitation nor fruit flies had anything to do with it. BTW I've found a fruit fly in a low alcohol percentage slurry starter that I forgot about, that did turn to vinegar. Vinegar is hard to make once a wine reaches above a certain alcohol percentage, if not impossible. At least vinegar has never happened in a higher alcohol wine, that I've made.
 

BigDaveK

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I enjoyed C.J.J. Berry's book and have used variations of his recipes. Some of his procedures are dated, though. For example, everything goes into a jug with an airlock right off the bat. But then early in the book he mentions 2 possibilities for a stuck fermentation is not enough oxygen or too much CO2. Well...imagine that.

Are you sure about your initial SG and/or are you using Imperial values? 2 lbs of sugar in 1 gallon (US) water should give 1.088.

Have you made wine before? Could you be smelling alcohol?

Smell and taste are great when they work together and that's what we want. Sometimes, though, things are wacky and it's a clue we have to do something. I recently made an experimental wine that actually smelled OK - not good, not bad. The taste, however, was the most vile, disgusting, horrible experience I've had in a long time. Give your wine a taste! It won't kill you....probably.
 

AaronSC

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Hi folks,
I just started a 1 gal batch of strawberry wine using the C.J.J Berry recipe:
For anyone unfamiliar - here it is:
Ingredients
Method:
Wash the fruit. Mash the berries well and mix with the sugar and four pints of water. Leave for 24 to 36 hours then strain the liquor in to a fermenting jar; add a further two pints of water to the pulp, mix well and immediately strain again, then add the acid, tannin, yeast nutrient and yeast and make up to 1 gallon with cold water. Stir thoroughly, fit air-lock and continue as usual.



So, in doing this - I sanitized all my equipment (I may have forgotten to sanitize the bowl I had the strawberries in and(initially) the potato masher I used. Otherwise everything was sprayed down/filled with star-san. The fruit was not sanitized (though it was washed) for obvious reasons.
Once pulped, the strawberries were put into a (sanitized) big mouth bubbler to sit with the sugar for ~36 hours, then the other ingredients were added.
The first few hours of fermentation were rather....energetic(let's say) and I had to swap out the airlock with a blowoff tube as it had completely filled with strawberry mush and/or krausen gunk. Things have since died back a little and I've dumped out my blowoff container and put an airlock back on.

My initial SG was 1.095(I find SpGr easier to grok than Brix, but that's me).
However - I'm noticing that the off-gassing of the brew has a distinctly solvent-like smell. A quick google search says:
  1. A nail-polish like smell(I guess this could be characterized as that?) indicates that I have definitely, absolutely, most assuredly $100% made vinegar.
  2. If it's early fermentation, don't worry because that can generate all kinds of weird smells.
So, I'm not sure what to believe and whether or not I should be worried...
  • One potential salient point is that when we bought the strawberries (from the supermarket) one of the punnets was moldy so we returned it. My wife thinks she saw a bug (probably a fruit fly) come out of the bad strawberries. The ones I did use looked fine, and after unpacking the groceries, we kept the good berries in the fridge away from the bad. But I don't know if it's possible the "good" fruit also contained fruit fly larvae and they've made me a nice gallon batch of vinegar...
  • Another is that I filled my wide-mouth bubbler up about 3/4 of the way and then gave it a good shake to oxyegenate the must and prevent rhino farts from stressed yeast (I've had that happen before)

Can someone enlighten me on:
  1. What I did wrong
  2. How I can fix this (if at all)
  3. How I stop it happening again

Much appreciated.
This is definitely caused by a microorganism living on the fruit that is active in parallel with the yeast you added. If you had sulfured the fruit before beginning fermentation you would have likely avoided this, but not necessarily. All may not be lost, though. In 2021 I got both cinsaut and picpoul from a vineyard in Lodi -both were fermented on the skins. I added sulfur and got ready to wait 24 hours before adding yeast. In the meantime both batches started spontaneously fermenting with a super-strong acetone smell as of the next mounting. I changed course on the yeast (and wait time) and added the fastest, most aggressive fermenter I had (Lalvin D254). I thought I was screwed though and that these two batches were a complete loss -4000lbs of fruit!. Within about 6-8 hours the smell went away as the cultured yeast took over and things progressed normally after that with the sweet smell one would expect. I thought this was ruined for sure, but the wines that came from this ended up being really nice. My lessons were 1) some vineyards have especially pernicious local microorganisms and extra care needs to be taken. I have heard from other winemakers that valley fruit from certain areas can be like this, 2) don't give up, and intervene immediately to try and save the wine!

Good luck with this!

-Aaron
 
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Are you sure about your initial SG and/or are you using Imperial values?

I'm a Brit living in the states so things are a bit mixed. I think I may have begun with imperial values(US imperial, not British imperial) then switched over to grams (because imperial makes my brain hurt). I'm pretty sure about my initial SG (though I neglected to take a picture as I usually would, sadly).

Have you made wine before? Could you be smelling alcohol?

Yes, and possibly (respectively). Though I have smelled alcohol before when making wine and it doesn't usually have that cloying gag-inducing acetone quality. I will say that I transferred the brew to my basement where it's lesser and the smell _seems_ to have lessened...so it could've been that the high temperature in my kitchen (about 75F) was upsetting the yeast. My basement is usually closer to 65-70. It currently smells a little more like strawberry.

Smell and taste are great when they work together and that's what we want. Sometimes, though, things are wacky and it's a clue we have to do something. I recently made an experimental wine that actually smelled OK - not good, not bad. The taste, however, was the most vile, disgusting, horrible experience I've had in a long time. Give your wine a taste! It won't kill you....probably.

Gave it a taste and it has that same acetone taste to it too (or it did when I last tasted it, that may have gone by now)

This is definitely caused by a microorganism living on the fruit that is active in parallel with the yeast you added. If you had sulfured the fruit before beginning fermentation you would have likely avoided this, but not necessarily.

Yeah, I recently bought a strawberry cream cake that had fresh strawberries in it from the grocery store. I bit into one of the strawberries and got that same taste and my immediate thought was "OMG. Maybe it's the strawberries that have that taste and not something dumb that I did" so it's possible that the strawberries from a particular grower that's supplying people just have a weird flavor this year.

All may not be lost, though. In 2021 I got both cinsaut and picpoul from a vineyard in Lodi -both were fermented on the skins. I added sulfur and got ready to wait 24 hours before adding yeast. In the meantime both batches started spontaneously fermenting with a super-strong acetone smell as of the next mounting. I changed course on the yeast (and wait time) and added the fastest, most aggressive fermenter I had (Lalvin D254). I thought I was screwed though and that these two batches were a complete loss -4000lbs of fruit!. Within about 6-8 hours the smell went away as the cultured yeast took over and things progressed normally after that with the sweet smell one would expect. I thought this was ruined for sure, but the wines that came from this ended up being really nice. My lessons were 1) some vineyards have especially pernicious local microorganisms and extra care needs to be taken. I have heard from other winemakers that valley fruit from certain areas can be like this, 2) don't give up, and intervene immediately to try and save the wine!

Good luck with this!

-Aaron
Yeah, I decided to let it run and see where it ends up. I figured that any damage is already done so I may as well see if it fixes itself.
 
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This is definitely caused by a microorganism living on the fruit that is active in parallel with the yeast you added. If you had sulfured the fruit before beginning fermentation you would have likely avoided this, but not necessarily. All may not be lost, though. In 2021 I got both cinsaut and picpoul from a vineyard in Lodi -both were fermented on the skins. I added sulfur and got ready to wait 24 hours before adding yeast. In the meantime both batches started spontaneously fermenting with a super-strong acetone smell as of the next mounting. I changed course on the yeast (and wait time) and added the fastest, most aggressive fermenter I had (Lalvin D254). I thought I was screwed though and that these two batches were a complete loss -4000lbs of fruit!. Within about 6-8 hours the smell went away as the cultured yeast took over and things progressed normally after that with the sweet smell one would expect. I thought this was ruined for sure, but the wines that came from this ended up being really nice. My lessons were 1) some vineyards have especially pernicious local microorganisms and extra care needs to be taken. I have heard from other winemakers that valley fruit from certain areas can be like this, 2) don't give up, and intervene immediately to try and save the wine!

Good luck with this!

-Aaron

I let it go and the acetone smell went away and was replaced by an eggy smell. I treated that with a crushed campden tablet and it too has gone away and left me with a very sour, bitter strawberry wine at 0.990SpGr. I'm contemplating degassing and adding maybe 1/3-1/2 cup of sugar to take it back to maybe 1.0050-1.0100. Thoughts?
 
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I let it go and the acetone smell went away and was replaced by an eggy smell. I treated that with a crushed campden tablet and it too has gone away and left me with a very sour, bitter strawberry wine at 0.990SpGr. I'm contemplating degassing and adding maybe 1/3-1/2 cup of sugar to take it back to maybe 1.0050-1.0100. Thoughts?
If there is still an off taste after backsweetening, I would assume mercaptans formed. Treat with a very light dose of ascorbic acid. This may take 3 to 6 months to eliminate the mercaptans.
 
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If there is still an off taste after backsweetening, I would assume mercaptans formed. Treat with a very light dose of ascorbic acid. This may take 3 to 6 months to eliminate the mercaptans.
Good to know, thanks. By "ascorbic acid" you mean vitamin c, right?
 
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