View Full Version : When to move to secondary?

05-29-2007, 11:11 AM

I'm a newbie to any kind of homebrewing and have wanted to try my hand at Mead for quite some time now. Finally took the plunge, got the equipment, and have two batches going. One is the 4 star rated "Quick Mead" from the recipes section which is doing quite nicely. The first batch we started was a regular style that takes longer.

When should it be moved to the secondary? I don't want it to sit on the lees for too long and pick up off flavors, and it has been about two weeks now. The bubbling in the airlock is about once every 12-14 seconds now (about 4 times a minute, compared to the more rapid and newer Quick Mead at 2-3 seconds per bubble). Is it too soon to move it to the secondary, smaller carboy? I've seen conflicting information about time vs activity.

We're aiming to be as natural and old-fashioned as possible with this particular batch (w/o chemicals, no added ingredients) except for the fact we started with yeast nutrient. Next time we will omit that, too. We'll see how that works compared to the Quick Mead with its clarifiers and tannin both on account of time and flavor. Kinda gives us newbies both sides of the spectrum. :)

We're looking at the Quick Mead being done just before Father's Day, so we might have to take a bottle out to try over the weekend if it all turns out!

Thanks for any advice you can offer!

05-29-2007, 01:17 PM
I rack when the airlock is bubbling once every 1-2 minutes, so IMO it is too soon for you to rack it to the secondary. Give it another couple days and it should get there. Off flavors from sitting on the lees don't start to happen until 6+ weeks, so don't worry about that. However, if you rack too early your fermentation can get stuck.

Hope that helps!

05-29-2007, 03:23 PM
Ditto what he said.

I introduced a world of problems in my 1st mead attempt by racking on a schedule rather than when I should have. Here's what I took away from that long, many-stepped, and very educational experience...

Don't rack until it's done!

If you're still registering bubbles per minute, it ain't done. When you move over into minutes per bubble, you can start thinking about racking.

If you've got some time, check here (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=2&topic=4848.0) for my adventures in restarting a stuck fermentation. It's a long read, and probably not the most concise source of any particular info, but I like to look back at it from time to time as a reminder to let nature take its course.

05-29-2007, 03:28 PM
Thanks so much to both of you! I'm glad I asked and that I also trusted my better judgement. I have another issue to contend with my other mead, so I will post in another thread to keep it separate for anyone else who is interested in the Quick Mead recipe.

05-29-2007, 07:33 PM
...snip Off flavors from sitting on the lees don't start to happen until 6+ weeks, so don't worry about that. However, if you rack too early your fermentation can get stuck.

Hope that helps!

The racking too early is definitely something to watch out for, I've seen this happen to a number of new mead makers.

There are some yeasts that you'll definitely want to rack off of as soon as the bubbling slows down. 71B springs to mind as one that the folks at Lallemand and Scott Labs recommend racking off of immmediately after the fermentation is done. Must of my ferments run between 7-14 days so in that amount of time there's not going to be a problem.



05-31-2007, 11:53 AM
This fermentation is going on about 18 days now... still under 20 seconds per blip. I suppose I'll keep watching to see how it does over the next few days. The yeast is the Pasteur Champagne by Red Star.

06-01-2007, 02:21 AM
Stop counting days! Stop it, I say! ;) That way lies premature fiddelation, stalled fermentation, and mutated by-products.

The best thing you can do is put your mead somewhere you can't see it. Go in once a week to check for airlock activity, maybe do a hydrometer reading if you're really curious. The mead will tell you when it's ready, not a calendar.

Trust me... I had to learn that the hard way!

06-01-2007, 07:01 PM
LOL, I promise I'm not counting days anymore. I actually went and checked and it is about 45 seconds per blip now, so it is indeed slowing. What I didn't expect is that the mead is also starting to clarify already! This should be interesting to watch, as I thought that usually took longer. The only thing we used besides water, yeast, and honey was some yeast nutrient. No clarifiers of any kind.

06-08-2007, 09:18 PM
Well, it's been just over another week. I'm now getting 5-6 minutes between bubbles. I am gathering that it would now be safe to rack this into the smaller carboy?

I guess I should also ask... I was told it was okay to primary ferment in a larger container to accomodate for some headspace and yeast activity. I hope this doesn't negatively affect this batch since it had a lot of headroom, but it was airlocked after three days per the recipe I was using.


06-09-2007, 12:46 AM
Sounds like the time to rack has indeed come.

Indeed, the headspace in your large, airlocked carboy is filled with lovely inert CO2 and need not be a source of concern. Your empty carboy, however, is full of nasty O2. Those who have been doing this for a long time recommend purging that empty with CO2 before racking, but if you don't have purging gear, don't worry. I don't either (yet!) However, you do want to "siphon quietly." Avoid splashing, put the siphon tube clear to the bottom of the empty carboy, and avoid aerating as much as possible.

06-12-2007, 01:37 PM
A successful move to the secondary! The quick mead is already clearing, :cheers: It will be ready to bottle very soon, and then we will try it on Father's Day and probably let the rest age a bit. The other 3 gal carboy is nice and full to the brim. My question is this: what is supposed to happen with the big batch? Do I let it sit until it clarifies since I am not using the chemical method on it?

Should it be doing anything else? It seems like you want to let it bulk age before it goes to bottles, plus it needs to clarify first.

Thanks! :)

06-12-2007, 03:07 PM
You'll want to let it sit and rack a couple-three times to make sure it's completely cleared. Then let it sit several months and measure the gravity every other month to ensure that the gravity is fixed and not moving (this indicates that the fermentation has completely stopped.) still, even with those precautions the mead can begin to referment when there is a temperature change, moving, bottling etc. because you have not completely eradicated the yeast.

You roll the dice when you don't stabilize. Most of the time you're fine. Once it's cleared you can let it go for a year, then rack it, cold crash it and bottle it if that's what you want to do.

Best of luck,