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winonageek
11-06-2009, 04:13 PM
I started my first batch of mead at the beginning of October. JAO of course since this seemed like the best recipe to start with since I'm new.

For those that are curious, I followed Joe's recipe to a T. The batch is in a 1 gallon glass carboy and stopped burping about a week ago. The fruit hasn't dropped yet, but as I've read many times over on this forum, I'm just waiting and being patient. In the mean time I've started to think about bottling. I've got 4 used wine bottles set aside to put the mead in when it's time. My question to you all is what kind of equipment will I need to bottle?

I priced out what I think I need, but would like your collective thoughts if this is it or if I'm missing something.

Here's my list:

Plastic top corks.
My wine bottles are standard size, meaning they're 3/4" dia. and so will accommodate these corks. Also, I don't plan on storing this batch for longer than 6 months. (I don't I can be that patient either.) I thought about buying either #8 or #9 corks and a hand corker, but am trying to keep costs down and see if this is a hobby I'll enjoy before I invest any more money than I have to. Will these corks work for the short-term? 6 to 12 months?
http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/tasting-cork-qty-25.html


4 feet of 5/16 siphon hose
Will 4 feet be long enough?
http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/5-16-id-siphon-hose.html


Small tubing clamp
Used to stop the flow of mead when the bottle is full.
http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/small-tubing-clamp.html


5/16 auto siphon racking cane.
I can't tell from the product description if the racking cane will connect to the tubing or if i need some sort of connector. Does anyone know?
http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/auto-siphon-5-16.html


Also, will I need a device to hold the racking cane off the bottom of the carboy, above the sediment, while I'm bottling? Is this what I need? http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/racking-tube-holder.html
If so, how will this work with a carboy? I see how it'll work with a bucket, but I'm not clear on if it'll work for a carboy?

What's the difference between a racking cane and racking tube? Besides the words cane and tube of course. :p

I've search the forums and read the NewBee guide, but while it has answered some questions, it's really only made more questions for me.

I'm hope that someone(s) can help me refine my list of items needed for bottling. I'm also hoping that this can make it easier for the next person that has these same questions.

Thanks.

wayneb
11-06-2009, 04:38 PM
Hi, winonageek! Welcome to the "Gotmead?" community! Let me take a shot at answering your questions.

First of all, tasting corks do not do a good job of making an airtight seal in bottles, so I would recommend buying some actual wine corks. I'd also recommend investing in a floor corker, since hand corkers are a literal pain in the wrist, especially if you are using synthetic or #9 natural corks. If you have a LHBS nearby you might be able to rent a floor corker for a day - a cheaper alternative to buying one if you're not ready to take that step.

I use 5 foot sections of tubing, but that's because I have a higher shelf for my carboy than some other folks.

Instead of a tubing clamp which will fatigue your tubing with time (and they seem never to completely seal the tubing, at least not for me), I'd recommend a bottle filler. They allow you to get a uniform fill every time, and they work well for both beer and wine bottles. See here: http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/fermtech-bottle-filler.html

Racking canes and racking tubes are two terms for the same thing. If you can afford an auto-siphon, that is a much better alternative than an old fashioned single-piece cane, IMO. Oh, and the tubing fits snugly directly onto the cane - no other attachment is needed.

Finally, to hold my auto-siphon at the level I want to use for racking, I use one of these high-tech devices: http://www.picturesof.net/_images_300/A_Large_Paperclip_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_081 212-136047-231018.jpg

They're cheaper than any cane clip I've found at a homebrew store! ;) Just affix the cane or auto-siphon in place to it using a large rubber band.

akueck
11-06-2009, 04:58 PM
I'll second the bottle filler (spring-loaded tip!). I also find those hose clamps to not work at all. The floor and some cabinet doors got cleaned when I found that out.

I use another high-tech device for keeping the racking cane in place: left hand. The right hand holds one end of the tube, the left the other. Also works if you use a friend's left hand since then you can concentrate on one thing at a time. (I say "honey, hold this tube. yes, right there. that's it." ;) )

I've got several lengths of tubing. It depends on the height of your counter, if you put the bottles on the floor or a low table, how tall your racking cane is, etc etc. Get more than you think you need--it's cheap, and you can cut off what you don't need.

winonageek
11-06-2009, 05:02 PM
Wayneb, thanks for the quick reply.

I think I'll take your advice on the cork caps and switch to #8 corks but use this plunge style hand corker instead. http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/plastic-plunger-corker.html
I just can't afford the floor corker now, but I do recognize how it would make my life easier if I'm doing more than a few bottles.

I like the idea of the bottle filler. The one you linked to says 3/8" OD bottle filler in the description. Will that work with the 5/16" ID (7/16" OD) tubing I linked to? Or will I need some sort of connector?

Still not quite clear on the auto-siphon racking cane. Will that connect to the tubing I listed too or will I need a connector. I just want to make sure I get everything the first time and don't have to either order more parts or try and rig something from the local home improvement store.

Thanks for your idea for the clip. Ha! Simplest solutions right...:)

Again, thanks for the quick reply.

ZachR
11-06-2009, 05:11 PM
Please take the advice to spend an extra couple bucks to get an auto-siphon, you will save yourself a ton of time and frustration.

I haven't used a spring-loaded bottle filler, but I can tell you that the gravity ones leak a lot, and you might lose quite a bit of your mead unless you are super careful. I usually bottle beer in a pyrex dish so I can catch any leaks/overflow.

Also, StarSan + Spray Bottle = Awesome. It makes sanitizing equipment so much easier, and you can make a bottle of StarSan last for a really long time.

wayneb
11-06-2009, 05:14 PM
I use 3/8" ID tubing for racking; the 3/8" fits (albeit not a super-tight fit) the auto-siphon as well as the bottle filler directly - no adapters or other parts required. The smaller diameter tubing can be forced onto the bottle filler, but I prefer the slightly faster flow from the bigger diameter tubing.

wayneb
11-06-2009, 05:17 PM
Interesting that you've found the gravity-type fillers to leak. I have one that is over 20 years old, that I still use, that doesn't. Wonder if quality control on those gizmos is less than it used to be?? ;D

ZachR
11-06-2009, 05:18 PM
The 5/16" tubing should work for both the bottle filler and the auto-siphon. You just slide the tubing onto the L part of the auto-siphon; it will be pretty tight.

winonageek
11-06-2009, 05:25 PM
So my updated shopping list:
1) 4 feet of 5/16" ID tubing http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/5-16-id-siphon-hose.html
2) 5/16" auto-siphon racking cane http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/auto-siphon-5-16.html
3) Plastic plunger hand corker http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/plastic-plunger-corker.html
4) 30-pack #8 corks http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/first-quality-8x1-75-corks.html
5) Spring tipped bottle filler http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/spring-tip-bottle-filler.html

So what about the suggestion for star-san? Do I need it or would a bleach water solution work for the tubing, auto-siphon, and bottle filler. And maybe boiling the corks.

Maybe this question should be in it's own thread, but has anyone tried the Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface spray to sanitize things? The bottle says it kills 99.9% of bacteria on hard, nonpourous surfaces. Would that work for sanitizing the equipment too?

Thanks everyone, you all are very helpful.

ZachR
11-06-2009, 05:40 PM
Bleach is cheap and effective, but you have to be really careful when you wash.

The advantage of StarSan is that it is a "no-rinse sanitizer", meaning you don't have to worry about rinsing it at all, and it won't hurt yeast or contribute off flavors. Also, it will suds up which makes it easier to make sure you got everything. With a spray bottle, you just clean your equipment and spray it with the StarSan right before you use it... it works almost immediately, and it turns out to be really cheap because you can stretch one bottle really far this way.

There is a great podcast with the guy who invented StarSan, where he also talks about effectively using bleach as a sanitizer. I highly recommend it.

Go here http://www.basicbrewing.com/index.php?page=basic-brewing-radio-2007 and scroll down to (skip to ~10:30 for the interview):

"March 29, 2007 - Sanitizing with Bleach and Star San
Charlie Talley from Five Star Chemicals tells us best practices in using household bleach and Star San in sanitizing equipment."

wayneb
11-06-2009, 05:41 PM
The Clorox product is dilute chlorine bleach (read the label). As such, it will leave a residual amount of chlorine that will taint things if not rinsed. Bleach is an effective sanitizer but if it isn't rinsed away completely it can spoil the taste of your mead. Rinsing with tap water is problematic in itself unless you're sure that your tap water and faucet are both completely organism-free. Save yourself a lot of grief and invest in a small bottle of StarSan. Since it is no-rinse when diluted according to directions, you can safely and effectively use it to sanitize everything, and you don't then have to worry about contaminants re-attaching to your equipment from the rinse water or about the off-flavors of chlorine taint.

DON'T BOIL CORKS! Boiling natural or agglomerated corks breaks down the cellular structure of the cork, which will cause them to fail prematurely. If you're really worried, rinse them with lukewarm water and then soak them for a short while (10-15 mins) in a potassium metabisulfite solution to sanitize them.

Vino
11-06-2009, 05:49 PM
Keep in mind that if you use the spring tipped filler instead of the gravity type with an auto-siphon you'll need a third hand.

If that is not an option then the gravity type (springless) is a better choice.

jaxn slim
11-08-2009, 09:50 PM
4) 30-pack #8 corks http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/first-quality-8x1-75-corks.html


I don't think you want the #8 corks. Those are for 375mL bottles, I believe. You probably want the #9.

I could be wrong.

storm1969
11-09-2009, 09:19 AM
Nope you are right

wayneb
11-09-2009, 11:36 AM
While #8's work in 750 ml bottles, they don't hold as tightly as #9's so they will tend to fail quicker (often after only a fraction of a year, in my experience). So for anything that you wish to age for some time, #9's are by far the best way to go.

storm1969
11-09-2009, 12:08 PM
I've had #8's leak around the cork when on their sides....

jaxn slim
11-09-2009, 01:39 PM
When you guys bottle, do you use any shrink foil or wax? I noticed that all the commercial guys do this. Is it really that necessary, or are they just covering their bases due to really large batches, automated process with errors, etc?

wayneb
11-09-2009, 01:43 PM
While there is some belief that wax seals augment the sealing that is provided by corks, there is no such belief about the shrink-wrap conformal caps. My opinion is that they are primarily cosmetic in nature - they make for a more professionally finished seal - not necessarily a better one - than cork alone.

Medsen Fey
11-09-2009, 02:02 PM
I have read where folks have had bottles that experienced some refermentation that started pushing out the corks, but the ones with capsules didn't have the cork pop out as the capsule helped to retain it. Before you consider this a big positive, keep in mind that a bottle developing pressure that cannot push its cork out, may decide to explode instead.

As I mentioned in a thread elsewhere, I use heat shrink capsules or wax often. I like my meads to look as much like a commercial bottle as possible. Appearance makes a huge difference in peoples perception of quality. I have personally watched folks taste the same mead coming from different bottles - one with fancy label and capsules, the other from a beer bottle with cap. Guess which one got all the raves... all I could do was smile. :)

jaxn slim
11-09-2009, 02:35 PM
I have read where folks have had bottles that experienced some refermentation that started pushing out the corks, but the ones with capsules didn't have the cork pop out as the capsule helped to retain it. Before you consider this a big positive, keep in mind that a bottle developing pressure that cannot push its cork out, may decide to explode instead.

As I mentioned in a thread elsewhere, I use heat shrink capsules or wax often. I like my meads to look as much like a commercial bottle as possible. Appearance makes a huge difference in peoples perception of quality. I have personally watched folks taste the same mead coming from different bottles - one with fancy label and capsules, the other from a beer bottle with cap. Guess which one got all the raves... all I could do was smile. :)

Ha. Yeah. That's a good point. Perception is reality. As a performing musician, I've always said that most people listen with their eyes. (Hence the need to dress up, have light shows, choreography, stage presence, etc.) Surely the same applies to tasting. :mad:

winonageek
11-09-2009, 04:37 PM
While #8's work in 750 ml bottles, they don't hold as tightly as #9's so they will tend to fail quicker (often after only a fraction of a year, in my experience). So for anything that you wish to age for some time, #9's are by far the best way to go.

This is good to know. Unfortunately I've already ordered the #8 corks. But I don't plan on keeping the bottles for very long, wink wink. :)

In the future I'll just stick with the #9 corks.

I'll keep you posted on how long the #8's last too.