How to Fix Mold in Wine, Beer, or Mead

by Karl Updated on October 30, 2021

On this episode of doing the most, the very serious topic of what to do when you have mold in your home brew?

There is a lot of very bad information out there on the internet about what to do if you get a mold infection in your wine, mead, cider or beer.

There’s a lot of very confidently wrong information out there:

  1. “What I would do is dissolve one camped tablet per gallon, and putthat into a new sanitized carboy, then carefully rack the wine out from under the moldy looking layer into a new carboy.”
  2. “I know there are no known pathogens that can grow in beer. I doubt wine as much different.
  3. “Scoop it out and let it ride. In my honest opinion.”
  4. “don’t toss it, distill it, assuming it has some alcohol content. Honey branding, ooooooh.”
  5. “Looks like an infection of some kind. I recommend racking and leaving that junk behind. After racking, give us some so sulfites.”
  6. “It looks like blue-green mold from pictures. These molds are common and belong to the penicillium genus. This type of mold was used to make penicillin. It’s usually found upon foods. You can probably safely skim it off.”
  7. “Personally. I would just run it through a filter, maybe flash freeze it. And continue on.”

The real answer, as disappointing as it may be is to dump it down the drain or into the compost heap.

Do not drink it.

Folks online will tell you a number of different things you can do to fix mold in your home brew, including dosing it with camped tablets and then racking it or pasteurizing it and racking it, or just scooping it right on out of there. And maybe racking it, or maybe just, you know, seeing what happens.

Or some folks will even tell you to stir it right back in and just wait for the alcohol to do its thing and kill off the mold. None of these are good ideas. All of these are bad ideas.

So what is mold?

Well, mold is a fungus and particularly it’s a fungus that grows in multicellular filaments. Contrast that against yeast, which is also a fungus, but is a single celled organism. In home-brewed alcoholic products, mold is treated as an infection and should always be treated as something that gets dumped out, not consumed.

Now, there are some forms of infection that will result in a product that while maybe not tasty will be drinkable on the other end. And it all kind of depends on what was in your initial recipe. Those types of infections are lactobacillus, pediococcus, and Brettanomyces.

And these are relatively simple to identify, especially for seasoned homebrewers who’ve seen them quite a bit. People online in your trusted home brewing communities should be able to help you identify any of these infections and let you know that your brew is indeed safe to consume. But again, maybe not delicious.

The reason lactobacillus, pediococcus, and Brettanomyces are drinkable forms of infection are because they do not create toxins in the way that some molds do.

Some molds produce compounds called mycotoxins and mycotoxins are bad for you and should not be consumed. Now, there are also a lot of molds out there that don’t produce mycotoxins including some strains that are cultured for producing some kinds of cheeses.

But just because it’s okay to eat some molds, that doesn’t mean that all molds are safe for human consumption.

So what the heck are mycotoxins?

Well, science and a large part doesn’t fully understand the role of mycotoxins play during the molds life cycle. There’s speculation that some mycotoxins exist to help the mold prepare its substrate for consumption, which in layman terms basically means they help the mold prepare its meal for eating.

And then there’s speculation that other microtoxins maybe exist as a stress response for the mold, or maybe even a defense mechanism for the mold colony.

And these molds that do create mycotoxins are just raining them down into your Homebrew and removing the mold does not remove the mycotoxins and there’s not a chemical or a heat way that you can do that on the homebrewing scale.

Once mycotoxins are in your brew, they’re in your brew. In modern conditions of food, storage and safety precautions, getting mycotoxins into the food supply line can be fairly rare, but it does happen.

For example, if livestock feed is stored in conditions that are perhaps too warm or too humid, mold can grow on the feed, it can create mycotoxins. Those mycotoxins are then transferred to the animal through its digestion, and some might be broken down in the liver and kidneys, but others are going to be excreted through the milk, or they’re going to be transferred into the muscle and arrive in your meat at the grocery store.

But again, this is relatively rare in countries with modern food storage and safety precautions. Another example might be that in communities with less stringent food safety precautions, particularly when they’re storing grains for their own consumption, mold can grow on or in those grains release mycotoxins and then people consume those. Mycotoxins just simply by eating their meals and end up getting microdosed over and over and over and over again with those mycotoxins.

And in mynewt amounts throughout your life, probably aren’t so bad, but the more consumption of mycotoxins you have, the more likely you are to have negative health ramifications.

And I like to think of it this way, breathing humid, air breathing, a little water vapor is not going to hurt you. You’re not going to drown, but if you suck a bunch of water into your lungs, you’re going to have a bad time.

And this is what we’re talking about with mycotoxins in your home brew. A little bit here and there in your food supply is probably not going to hurt you even long-term, a little tiny amount.

But when you’re talking about a mold infection in your home brew, where it’s been pouring mycotoxins in, and you’re going to be drinking a glass or two or three, or maybe a whole bottle of that, and it’s concentrated and you’re just filling your system with it, definitely can overload the systems in your body that are supposed to metabolize and process those things and get them out of you.

Now, for many of us, it may take more mycotoxin exposure than for others, for us to feel the negative repercussions. However, a full 25% of the world’s population has an immune response gene that inhibits their ability to metabolize and get rid of flushed their system of those mycotoxins. And you may be one of that 25%, but even if you’re not, your body is still susceptible to mycotoxins and you definitely don’t want to be consuming them on a large scale.

So what effect do mycotoxins have on the human body?

Well, some of them can build up just like microplastics or heavy metals, and it can become a compounding issue for your body, dealing with them over time. Others can poison you or outright kill you depending on the type and the concentration.

Even others can be carcinogenic. So you may drink your moldy Homebrew and feel fine. And years later come down with cancer. Mycotoxins are very dangerous. Despite what armchair experts on the internet might tell you.

So you’re probably wondering now and rightly so, what’s the risk to me or to you? Well, there are at least 50,000 different types of mold in the world. And of those only about 200 can create mycotoxins, which sounds fairly comforting on the face of it that only 200 out of probably 50,000 can create these harmful things. Well, the majority of those 200 that can create mycotoxins live indoors.

They thrive an indoor environments and wouldn’t, you know, it, that’s where the majority of us spend our time indoors. That’s where the majority of us do our homebrewing, indoors. So what are the odds? The odds are fairly decent that if you get a mold infection in your home brew indoors, that it could be one of the ones that could injure or kill you.

So why risk it? If it is a mold and not an identifiable pelical, the risk of consuming it in my opinion is not worth it.

I have been really very fortunate in my decade of homebrewing till I’ve only ever had one mold infection, which actually happened to me about a year ago when we were on vacation to the grand canyon.

I pitched some yeast into a session mead, and I guess it never took off the yeast colony never got going. It was probably dead yeast, dead on arrival. And when I got back, there were green fuzzy moldy blobs on top of my session mead and it had not fermented. And I dumped the whole batch.

I dumped the whole five gallons right down the drain. And it was really frustrating, Anna, well attest that. I said some choice words as I was dumping five gallons of mead down the drain, but it was worth it to me to not be at risk of consuming the mycotoxins that may or may not be present in there.

I’m not a microbiologist, I’m not in any related field that would be able to identify exactly what kind of mold that was and know whether or not I was safe. So for me, it made more sense to dump it. And again, that’s one mold infection in my entire time home brewing, and I chalked it up to good sanitisation, aggressive yeasts, and really keeping an eye on things to make sure I don’t get mold infections.

Don’t put myself at risk of having mold in my brew. Mold is not normal in any home brew, no matter what people will tell you online, no matter what you see in a YouTube video or in a blog.

Mold on wine or meat or cider or beer is not normal. And it has the potential to be dangerous enough to make you very sick or kill you. Please take it seriously.

And keep in mind just because you saw somebody’s blog or forum posts saying that they scooped out mold and they hit it with camped tablets and they drank it and they were fine. That doesn’t mean that you can do the same thing and you won’t get sick.

And it also doesn’t mean that they didn’t consume mycotoxins that are now hanging out in their body, just waiting to make them sick someday. I’m making this kind of boring video about this topic because this topic is incredibly serious.

And over the last probably six to eight months, I’ve seen a lot of folks online, not taking it seriously and telling people it’s totally okay to drink mold. It’s not okay. It’s dangerous, please don’t do it. And please don’t suggest that other people do it. Stop. You shouldn’t be telling people to do something that’s dangerous, particularly when you don’t know how dangerous it is. It’s irresponsible to be so flippant about this issue.

And it’s really kind of mind boggling to me that somebody would see moldy green blobs and say, you know what? That’s great. That’s this is going to be delicious. This is fine.

Google “mycotoxins” read like anything on the first page of Google. It’s dangerous. Why is this a conversation?

If your brew grows mold, dump it out, get some clout, dump it out. Now buy my t-shirt.

I hope you thought this video was helpful. If you have a moldy wine or mead or beer or cider, whatever, take a video and send it to me via email of you dumping it out. I’ll feature it on the channel somewhere. I don’t don’t drink it. Please don’t drink it for me. For, for Samantha the wonder dog don’t drink it.

There’s plenty of more wine to be made in the world and you can make it, but only if you’re alive because you didn’t drink the last moldy one. Why, why would people drink mold?

Join our discord, much love don’t drink mold. Cheers.

Karl S: Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.