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Displaced Hick
04-13-2009, 02:07 AM
I started my first 5 gallon batch of mead on 04/04 using a mead kit my sister-in-law purchased at the local homebrew shop. My brother gets all his beer stuff from them as well.

The recipe that I followed had me mix 11.5 pounds of honey in hot water in my primary fermentor, which is a 6.5 gallon food grade plastic bucket, along with a 3.5 oz mead blend (mix of nutrients, tannins, and acids). After the must is cooled to room temp (72 F that day) I added one 5 g pack of re-hydrated yeast to the must, and am supposed to add the second pack when I rack the must to the secondary fermentor. All that is said about when to rack to the secondary is when fermentation activity slows considerably or stops. I am using Lavlin K1-v1116 yeast for this first try.

My starting gravity was 1.096 @ 72 degrees F

My questions are :
1. Has anyone here heard of splitting the times when the yeast is pitched in the must?
2. If this is not a good way to do it how do I fix the error?
3. Everything I have read here says that using the bubbles escaping the airlock isn't a great way to tell how fermentation is going, what is?

Oskaar
04-13-2009, 03:12 AM
Would you give is the exact recipe and process please? Including the name of the brewstore and recipe that you purchased along with what type of mead this is that you're making.

To be honest, I'm not liking what I'm seeing so far so please don't be shy about letting us know who is selling that mead kit with the acid, tannin, etc. In order for us to give you a good breakdown of what the purpose is for everything you're doing, we'll need to see the breakdown of the recipe, ingredients and process.

Oskaar

Displaced Hick
04-13-2009, 03:24 AM
Ingredients :
11.5 lbs of Pacific NW Honey
Mead Blend
2 - 5 gram Lavlin K1-V1116 yeast
Campden tablets (sterilizing sulfite)
Potassium Sorbate (stabilizer)
Two Part Wine Finings (clarifier)

Method of mixing ingredients for must :
1. Put 2 gallons of hot water in primary fermentor and add honey stirring well, making sure not to leave any sticking to bottom or sides of fermentor. Add more water to bring the level up to about 5.5 gallons and stir again
2. Add the package of Mead Blend and stir vigorously. You want to have a lot of air added here.
3. Check the temperature of the must. It needs to be at room temp before pitching the yeast. At the proper temp take a “starting gravity” and record # (approx. 1.084-1.090)
4. Pitch the yeast in a 2 stage fermentation. Pitch the first at primary and the second after must is racked into secondary fermentor. Follow instructions on package for re-hydrating yeast.
5. Seal up the fermentor and stash at room temp for the first 8-36 hours and raise it to 78-80 for the net 1-2 weeks until fermentation activity slows considerably or stops.
6. Rack off must to secondary fermentor and take a second gravity reading. Pitch the second batch of yeast and wait 2-3 more weeks at which time there should be no more fermentation activity. Add the two part Wine Finings (following directions of course) and allow two more weeks for settling.
7. Take final gravity reading and rack finished mead to clean container. Crush the 5 campden tablets and dissolve in one cup of hot water, stir into mead after thoroughly dissolved (sterilizes the must and help prevent bacterial infection from settling in) and the package of Potassium Sorbate (stabilizer that prevents any remaining yeast from becoming active again).

This recipe is for a dry still mead.

I don't want to name the store I purchased the kit from just yet. I don't like trash talk about places. If it is a really bad recipe then I will give the name and a warning about it though.

wildaho
04-13-2009, 03:51 AM
Hi Displaced and Welcome To The GotMead? World!

I've never heard of splitting yeast like that, especially in a kit. I would pitch it all up front after proper re-hydration with Go-Ferm (do a forum search on re-hydration, all the specifics have been gone over a few hundred times).

One of the problems with kits is that they can be put together somewhat haphazardly sometimes, especially by an LHBS that specializes in beer without much true experience in making mead. Beer and mead do share some similarities but they are definitely not the same. Each has it's own little quirks and trying to do one like the other can lead to problems.

I'm especially worried about the "mead blend" with the nutrients, tannins and acids all in one go. Does the packet list what the composition of the nutrients are? And the amounts of tannins and acids? Throwing them all together in one big plop could definitely have some detrimental effects on your fermentation speed and the quality of your mead.

I'll point you to the NewBee Guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14) for some of the reasons I worry. Staggering your nutrient additions and adding acid AFTER fermentation is complete are two of the biggest reasons.

Chances are that this will make a decent mead. It may take some additional time during fermentation and especially during aging but it may turn out fine over time. At this point, without knowing the contents of the "blend", it's hard to say how long that will be.

Now, for your specific questions:


Splitting yeast between primary and secondary: Don't worry about adding the second package of yeast after racking. Your yeast has either taken off and multiplied and done it's job or it hasn't. That yeast in particular, the KV-1116, should take this mead to complete dryness with no problems. Adding yeast to the secondary will add little or nothing to the process. The majority of your fermentation (at least 90%) should happen in the primary. That's what primary is for! Secondary is for settling, clearing and integration, not further fermentation.
How To Fix: You need to take some measurements. You obviously have a hydrometer. Use it daily! Aerate twice a day until you reach the 1/3 Sugar Break. In other words, aerate until your gravity has dropped by 1/3 of your OG (1.096 -1/3*(1.096) = 1.073). After that, gently swirl it (without aerating) daily to keep your yeast in suspension where it can do some good. If it's loafing on the bottom, it can't do it's job.
Bubbles in airlock: Yes, this is not a good way to follow your fermentation kinetics. Your hydrometer is your best friend, use it often!

Other Issues:


Check your pH either with strips or a pH meter. Honey musts work best with a pH of 3.4 - 4.0. Depending on the amount of acid in your "blend", it may go too low and stall. That's why the guru's here add acid only to balance the flavor after fermentation is done. This is fairly easily corrected though.
Keep your temperature around 65F (or lower, down to 60F) if possible. Higher temps lead to higher levels of fusel alcohols. Fusels give that "Rocket Fuel" taste that can take years to mellow out.
Check your gravity again. Using the Mead Calculator (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=745&Itemid=16), I get an OG of 1.085 rather than the 1.096 you measured in 5 total gallons with 11.5 pounds of honey. Honey can vary quite a bit but that's a pretty big swing. At this point (1 week later), it's probably moot but it's something to be aware of.

I hope this helps! Don't be afraid to ask any questions but realize that a forum search can usually help you quicker. There are damned few questions that haven't been asked before!

:cheers:
Wade

wildaho
04-13-2009, 04:10 AM
Hey Displaced,

I took too much time putting my answer together but Pete/Oskaar beat me to the punch with the heart of the matter. Your details help clarify a few things.


I don't want to name the store I purchased the kit from just yet. I don't like trash talk about places. If it is a really bad recipe then I will give the name and a warning about it though.

If you don't feel comfortable with giving a name, etc. for this kit's "author", that's cool. But think about this. This kit is WAAAAAAAAY far from "best practices" and, like I pointed out, makes potentially bad or (at least) seriously delayed mead. Their temperature recommendations in particular scare me. It's a guaranteed batch of rocket fuel!

Low fermentation temps, staggered nutrient additions, frequent aerations to the proper point and NO upfront acid additions can almost guarenty a nice, readily drinkable mead. This one may still be salvagable but it's gonna take longer before you really enjoy it.

:cheers:
Wade

Displaced Hick
04-13-2009, 04:27 AM
I would like to thank you for your guidance in this. I think I am going to put together a recipe grubbed from the ones in this forum and give it another go with, hopefully, more knowledge than the first try. I will definitely keep an eye on my first batch and see what happens. If it turns to rocket fuel, oh well. I have the patience to do things slow, since another passion is barbeque (although this needs constant watching for quality smoke rings).

I should rack it to the secondary when my gravity readings stay constant or barely change for a few days right?

wildaho
04-13-2009, 04:51 AM
Using the KV-1116, your mead should go down to below 1.000. I'd guess more like 0.996 or so. Look for readings along these lines before racking. If it stops much before that, there are problems but I think we can fix them (to a point).

Just keep it cool and gently swirl everyday if you are already below the 1/3 sugar break.

And if it does turn into rocket fuel, don't worry. Just let it sit for a few years. Charlie Papazian had a whole chapter dedicated to burying his mead for years before drinking them. Based on his recipes, I can see why he had to.

I've done 5 gallon batches of 21% mead that fermented to completion in 3 weeks and never made it out of the secondary. It was gone within 6 months from start of fermentation to the final gulp (damned quality control sampling!) Pete has done them even quicker, do a forum search on "strawberry panty remover". I can't remember the actual title but those words will find it!

BBQ is a good analogy. You already understand patience. You just need a little more for mead. 6 hours vs. 6 months or a year (or two to five years if you don't understand the process).

A lot of people have had great luck with their next recipe by putting it up here on the site for review. We are pretty helpful here. Don't be afraid to throw out your ideas. And any suggestions we have are "tried and true". You might want to check out the "Joe's Ancient Orange" thread. It's a recipe that is guaranteed to please if you follow the recipe exactly. It's kind of an oddball in that it doesn't follow "best practices" but it still is a great intro to making mead.

Displaced Hick
04-13-2009, 06:39 AM
I have already copied down the recipe for JOA and plan on making some as soon as I get everything together.

As for my second stab at mead (other than JOA) I am thinking of going with some fruits. There is an orchard just over the mountains that puts out peaches that are better than georgia peaches in my opinion. I was also looking at doing a batch with Rainier cherries (they are really cheap around here).

But back to the 6 hour comment. Mine takes 20 to 24 hours or more. Ask any smoker, and I don't mean tobacco, how long a good brisket takes. :)

Displaced Hick
04-13-2009, 05:37 PM
I just checked the sg of this bizarre thing and it is at 1.080, and the 1/3 sugar break should be at 1.064 correct? I also tasted some and noticed that it seemed off to me. The best I can describe it would be to compare it to the tangy/unusual taste of orange juice that has started to ferment in the fridge, but without the orange taste itself and not nearly as intense. I could still make out the taste of the honey, but barely over this tang.

Anything I can do at this point? I will be heading down to Kirkland tomorrow and there is another LBHS there if I need to pick up any nutrients or other such things. I was going to be stopping by there anyways to pick up some pH test strips so I can be way more prepared for the next round.

wildaho
04-13-2009, 09:06 PM
The "tangy/unusual" taste is probably the acid and tannin blend. Definitely pick up those pH strips and maybe some potassium bicarbonate too while you're at the LHBS. This one seems to be moving pretty slow. It's nine days old now and the majority of fermentation should have been done by now.

Displaced Hick
04-13-2009, 09:54 PM
Can anything be done to bring the fermentation closer to a normal speed or should I just let it keep plodding along as it is?

akueck
04-13-2009, 10:12 PM
The short answer is yes, there are things that can speed up fermentation. But really you want to first know why things are slow and then correct the problem(s), which will then speed things up.

With the "mead blend" in there, our best guess is that it included some sort of acids. A low pH will slow and/or stall the yeast. Measuring the pH will tell us if that is the case. You could take other corrective measures such as raising the temperature, but that might not help if pH is your problem. pH strips are pretty cheap and while they are not the most accurate things ever, they should give us an idea of where you are and will direct future adjustments.

Oskaar
04-13-2009, 10:42 PM
I don't want to name the store I purchased the kit from just yet. I don't like trash talk about places. If it is a really bad recipe then I will give the name and a warning about it though.

Well I understand not wanting to turn this experience into a "LHBS" bashing party. However, you would be doing people in your area a favor (along with saving them money, time and a bad mead making experience that may sour them to mead altogether) by letting them know that this mead kit is not going to turn out a mead that will really win fans.

While this recipe will give you a dry still mead, it will take a long time to mellow out the fusels and higher alcohols that will be produced at that temperature during the course of a two week fermentation. This is someone who is used to red wine fermentations and the high temperatures associated with them that thinks you can do this with mead. This is not the case in my experience. I'm not saying it can't be done, but, I live in Southern California and have fermented many batches of mead during the summer with temperatures into the 80 and 90F range. Trust me when I say a cooler ferment yields what in my opinion is a better, mead that is more aromatic, smoother, fuller in taste and body as well as drinkable much sooner than a high heat, closed early ferment mead.

Please consider this before protecting someone who is selling (for profit) a kit of this kind to people who have little knowledge of or experience with mead.

Cheers, Oskaar

dogglebe
04-14-2009, 09:55 AM
I'm especially worried about the "mead blend" with the nutrients, tannins and acids all in one go. Does the packet list what the composition of the nutrients are? And the amounts of tannins and acids? Throwing them all together in one big plop could definitely have some detrimental effects on your fermentation speed and the quality of your mead.

I add a mead blend of my own with each batch I make. For a six gallon batch, I use 2 tablespoons of acid blend, 2 tablespoons of yeast nutrient and 1/2 teaspoon grape tannin. Generally, I use these amounts when I'm using fifteen pounds of honey. I've always had healthy fermentations with this method.




You need to take some measurements. You obviously have a hydrometer. Use it daily! Aerate twice a day until you reach the 1/3 Sugar Break. In other words, aerate until your gravity has dropped by 1/3 of your OG (1.096 -1/3*(1.096) = 1.073). After that, gently swirl it (without aerating) daily to keep your yeast in suspension where it can do some good. If it's loafing on the bottom, it can't do it's job.

Daily hydrometer readings? That sounds a bit extreme to me. It's a waste of mead and constantly opening the fermenter increeases the chance of some airborne yeasts getting in. I usually take readings each time I rack.

My two cents.


Phil

STLBrewer
04-14-2009, 10:41 AM
Daily hydrometer readings? That sounds a bit extreme to me. It's a waste of mead and constantly opening the fermenter increeases the chance of some airborne yeasts getting in. I usually take readings each time I rack.

I take readings each time I rack as well, but with the methods that some employ and the use of SNA's, there is a need for daily (almost daily) gravity checks until the 1/2 sugar break...

I personally am a fan of the 'put the hydrometer in the carboy and leave it the whole time' method.

wildaho
04-14-2009, 05:14 PM
@dogglebe:

I won't get into a pissing match with you. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder about something. But I have to ask, have you actually tried the techniques espoused here on this site as "best practices" or are you saying they are "bad" out of hand? How fast are your ferments now? How soon are they ready to drink?

There are a lot of ways to make mead. After all, man has been making mead for many thousands of years. Some of the more recent methods work better/faster/cleaner than others. Some older methods take years and still produce crap. Other methods fall in between somewhere.

You are free to make mead however you like. I HAVE tried various methods, always looking for ways to improve my mead. I started with Papazian's recipes, wine techniques and a plethora of others. To date, the "best practices" I've found here on this site have led to the fastest and cleanest ferments and shortest aging times.

I'm open to new methods as they come along too. That's what we do here: share what works well and what doesn't work so well. But we don't reject things out of hand without having tried them first. It's been proven many times that acid additions up front CAN and WILL (if excessive) slow or stall the ferment. And yes, it's one of the things I have tried. Acid does nothing to enhance a honey must fermentation and can cause more harm than good.

Again, you are free to make mead as you please. But I encourage you to split a batch. Try your tried and true technique on half of it and then the best practices approach on the other half. Let us know they come out.

:cheers:
Wade

dogglebe
04-14-2009, 05:38 PM
I won't get into a pissing match with you. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder about something.

A chip on my shoulder? I merely pointed out how I make mead. Sounds like you're projecting.




There are a lot of ways to make mead.

Apparently there isn't, judging by the way you respond to my post.




It's been proven many times that acid additions up front CAN and WILL (if excessive) slow or stall the ferment. And yes, it's one of the things I have tried. Acid does nothing to enhance a honey must fermentation and can cause more harm than good.

Excessive is the key word, here. From my experience, I get a quick start with fermentation when the must pH is between 3.4 and 3.6.


Phil

Displaced Hick
04-14-2009, 07:07 PM
Okay, I checked the pH using the little strip things and it looks like it is around 3.2 (I always did hate lithmus paper since readings are never very precise, oh well its the best I can do right now). The SG is down to 1.076. That tangy taste I described before is still there, but it doesn't seem as pronounced. Maybe it was because it was my first tasting of this since it started fermenting.

The 3.2 is on the low side isn't it? With a reading like that I can't believe there was much acid added to the mead blend.

wildaho
04-14-2009, 07:42 PM
3.2 is on the low side for sure. Low pH readings mean high acid. pH will flucuate as the fermentation progresses. Measure it again tomorrow after a gentle swirl and see if it's changed much one way or the other. Did you pick up the potassium bicarbonate while you were at the LHBS? If so, I'd go ahead and mix a tsp into a cup of water and add it to your must just to be safe. Like you said, those little strips are hard to read.

Oskaar
04-15-2009, 12:16 AM
Hey DH,

Wade is spot-on about the pH and hydrometer readings.

pH in the range of 3.2 is very low for most yeasts K1V and DV10 can run an effective fermentation in that range, but they will ferment slower and the 80F temperature range this kit is recommending will produce a very hot mead that will take significantly longer to age than one done at a lower temp.

The acid addition up front is unnecessary as is the use of irish moss and boiling/heating/pasteurizing. These are old brewing techniques that I used many time and turned out good mead. However, when I dropped the heating and up front additions of acid, my ferments started faster, were more vigorous and generally run10 days or less. I found (as did the people who were drinking the mead I was making) that the mead produced without acid additions and heat was better.

I still add tannin up front to some of my dry mead recipes that I'm styling after certain wines, and will sometimes add acid at the end if the mead needs it, which it generally does not.

Phil and Wade if you want to debate this take it to PM, further barbs in posts will be moderated. PM me if either of you want to discuss this further and I'll be happy to carry on the conversation.

Oskaar

Displaced Hick
04-15-2009, 04:09 PM
Checked everything again today and the SG is down, but the pH is still reading the same. The new SG is 1.072. Yesterday I added a tsp of potassium bicarbonate to the must and gently stirred it in. I added another 2 tsp today and stirred. I'll check again tomorrow and see where everything is at.

akueck
04-15-2009, 05:18 PM
How much does a tsp of the carbonate weigh? I've only had one experience so far with too-low pH in my yeast test batches. (curiously all 4 experienced the same low pH, must be must-based vs. yeast-based.) I added 1/2 g of carbonate to slightly less than 1 gal of mead and that helped fix the stall at about 1.025. My initial pH reading using the paper strips was 3.0, I never did measure the final pH though....

Displaced Hick
04-15-2009, 10:50 PM
I am not sure how much the stuff weighs as I don't have a scale right now.

On another note, my airlock is bubbling away around 1/sec. I know that it isn't the best way to check on fermentation rates, but it is a little reassuring to see drastically more activity in the airlock. Before I was getting a bip every 10-15 seconds.

Displaced Hick
04-16-2009, 04:58 PM
Good signs for this today. The pH is reading around 3.3 to 3.4 and the gravity is 1.056ish. I noticed that after spinning the hydrometer in a couple seconds it starts to rise so I have been taking readings as soon as it stops spinning and I can see the numbers.

My question is this: Should I dose it with another round of carbonate? It seems to be fermenting well, but I am not sure if the pH is still too low.

Medsen Fey
04-16-2009, 05:00 PM
The pH is fine at that level. I'm glad it is going well

Displaced Hick
04-17-2009, 04:49 PM
My daily check showed no change in pH and a SG reading of 1.048. The rocket fuel taste is increasing though. The way this thread is going it is starting to look more like a brew log than anything else.

akueck
04-17-2009, 05:17 PM
You'll notice the alcohol flavors more and more as the sugar is depleted. I wouldn't worry about it much right now, you're still in the fermentation stage and those flavors will mellow over time.

Displaced Hick
04-18-2009, 08:22 PM
Today's SG 1.036, so I will check on this again in a couple days. The fermentation seems to be going pretty steadily at this point.

wildaho
04-19-2009, 01:04 AM
Looks like nice steady progress! Isn't it great what a measurement or two can do for you?

Displaced Hick
04-24-2009, 12:52 AM
Today's SG reading is 1.003, so it looks like this one is fairly close to being ready to rack into the secondary. This stuff smells like straight grain alcohol right now, is this something that should be expected given the troubles this batch has had so far?

wildaho
04-24-2009, 05:29 AM
Glad to hear the gravity has dropped! Yes that rocket-fuel odor is most likely a result of the problems this had. It's probably going to take a looong time to mellow.

STLBrewer
04-24-2009, 10:55 AM
It's probably going to take a looong time to mellow.

That's true, but it should be worth it in the long run! I bet it will turn out great after a year (or more) of aging!! :)

Teufelhund
04-24-2009, 11:18 AM
Several points of observation:

1) As Pete pointed out, it's going to be bone dry with just 1 gallon of honey to a 5 gal batch and the 1116.

2) daily hydrometer checks, while perhaps not entirely necessary, ARE very helpful in immediately noticing any problems with that fermentation. Observant sanitation practices will eliminate any possible iinfections. It's good practice, at any rate.

3) You'll get better mazers with honey attitude than vinegar attitude. I've got a sh*t attitude and see where it got me!:D Wade's been doing this for how many years now? His suggestions should be at the least, acknowledged as the voice of experience.

That's MY .02 worth!

DD

Displaced Hick
04-26-2009, 09:04 PM
SG readings have stayed at 1.001 for the last couple days so I figured most of the fermentation has happened and racked it into a glass carboy for bulk aging. I will check on the airlock weekly to make sure it isn't dry. The mead itself I will do a taste test on Halloween. The sample I had today was better than expected. It does have the burn of hard alcohol, but not the kind that shreds your throat. I also picked up a hint of lemon in there.

Displaced Hick
05-08-2009, 08:31 PM
This is looking better now. It is clearing fairly well, I can see through it with although there is still some blurring. As soon as it clears I plan on racking again (mostly because there is too much head space in the carboy and to get rid of the yeast caught in the surface tension.) I am going to get a 3 gallon carboy and another gallon jug, my JOA finished up last weekend and it is now sitting bottled in the closet. I was thinking of adding some fruit to one of the gallons, but I don't want it to start fermenting again. Should I sulfite/sorbate this before I rack for bulk aging?

wildaho
05-09-2009, 12:17 AM
... my JOA finished up last weekend and it is now sitting bottled in the closet. I was thinking of adding some fruit to one of the gallons, but I don't want it to start fermenting again. Should I sulfite/sorbate this before I rack for bulk aging?

I think you best best would be to go ahead and add the fruit, let any extra fermentation happen, and then sulfite/sorbate after the fermentation is done. It's always easier to backsweeten after the s&s than to try to hit it by stopping and then adding fruit.

Remember, sulfite and sorbate don't actually "kill" the yeast. It mostly stops it from reproducing and breeding new yeasties and lets the existing yeast either die naturally or go dormant. I'm not sure about what the extra nutrients from fresh fruit would do to it afterwards, I've never tried it. So let your yeast do it's thing and adjust sweetness/acidity afterwards. That IS a proven technique.

But then again, if you do s&s and add fruit, let us know how it turns out! We're all about exploration here. Please report your findings though!

:cheers:
Wade

Displaced Hick
05-13-2009, 04:39 PM
Yesterday I racked this out of the 5 gallon secondary into other containers. I decided not to sulfite/sorbate at this time. In the 3 gallon carboy there is now 4 lbs of fresh strawberries (cleaned and cut into quarters. ), a gallon jug with 1.5 pounds dried cherries re-hydrated in preservative free apple juice, and a gallon jug with nothing added. I also added 1.5 tsp pectic enzyme to the 3 gallon carboy and .5 tsp to the gallon jug. All 3 are stashed out in the garage chilling out at around 50 F. I also took a sample to check SG and it is down to 0.999. I lucked out in this as with the fruits all 3 were filled to about .5 inches below the airlock stoppers.

I was kind of surprised at how quickly the strawberries changed the color of the mead. I was grabbing something else out of the garage and glanced over to see 3 gallons of pink mead. Today it is getting to the point where I would call it red rather than pink.

Displaced Hick
05-16-2009, 05:12 AM
Gave all three of my recently racked meads a taste test today, and the results are promising. For the strawberry the first taste that hits the tongue is a mildly tart/tangy taste followed closely by the strawberries. This one will need to be racked to another container in a few days time, I read in a post that you want to rack off the strawberries once all the color in them is gone to avoid getting a rotted fruit taste.

In the gallon batches that same tart/tangy taste is at the fore. The dried cherries added a nice mild fruit taste to the mead, not as intense as with the strawberries but I like it anyways.

I have noticed as the mead has leeched the flavors and colors from the two fruits is that for every piece of strawberry that sinks one of the cherries has floated to the top.

In the two carboys that I can see the bottoms of, I can see no sediment what-so-ever. This is encouraging especially since the gallon of straight mead was the last to be racked off and I had to tip the 5 gallon carboy to get enough to fill the gallon to the neck. Thought for sure some of the lees would have transferred then.