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Nysrock
03-13-2010, 02:09 AM
Howdy,

I just racked my first batch of mead and had some questions about racking. For the initial recipe I used 16# of honey and enough water to make 5 gallons on my primary fermenter using the no-boil method and Lalvin 71b-1122 yeast. I let it go for almost 3 weeks before racking. At that time there was still some activity but no were near as much.

I noticed that when I put the mead into my 5gal carboy that there was quite a bit of headspace between the mead and the top. I forgot to take my OG but my SG at time of racking, if I'm reading it right, was 1.010.

What I want to know, is it common for there to be that much headspace at racking? I've read that you can either top off with water or mead to reduce headspace or use inert gas to drive out the oxygen. What works best and what is the pros/cons of either method? I just want to reduce any chance for oxidation.

Thanks for any help in this matter. Hopefully this is the first of many batches of mead to come.

fatbloke
03-13-2010, 04:25 AM
Howdy,

I just racked my first batch of mead and had some questions about racking. For the initial recipe I used 16# of honey and enough water to make 5 gallons on my primary fermenter using the no-boil method and Lalvin 71b-1122 yeast. I let it go for almost 3 weeks before racking. At that time there was still some activity but no were near as much.

I noticed that when I put the mead into my 5gal carboy that there was quite a bit of headspace between the mead and the top. I forgot to take my OG but my SG at time of racking, if I'm reading it right, was 1.010.

What I want to know, is it common for there to be that much headspace at racking? I've read that you can either top off with water or mead to reduce headspace or use inert gas to drive out the oxygen. What works best and what is the pros/cons of either method? I just want to reduce any chance for oxidation.

Thanks for any help in this matter. Hopefully this is the first of many batches of mead to come.
It's a regular thing to top up the batch, or use another method to take up the headspace.

Topping up can have a few issues, as it depends on what you're topping up with. Myself, I've been using Chenin Blanc grape concentrate recently, though some will just use water, others will use stuff like some honey diluted with water etc etc.

Others will use sanitised glass chips, or marbles or something similar.

Others will just rack into, say (presuming that you ended up with 4.5 gallons after racking losses) 4 x 1 gallon jug and something for the 1/2 gallon - all full pretty close to the top.

Chips etc, or smaller containers don't change the taste or strength, but if you top up with a liquid, you can be changing the taste and/or diluting the strength a little.

My chenin blanc concentrate just goes straight in, but it's convenient as it helps with back sweetening. A honey/water dilution will do the same but honey/water can sometimes cause a haze that takes a time to drop out....

Also if the top up has any fermentable sugar in it, you'd have to ensure that you've sulphited and sorbated the original batch as there's potential for it to start fermenting again......

So as you can see it's up to you and while meads don't seem to oxidise like "normal" wines can, there's no point in testing the theory.......

Oh and there's even the people who obtain quantities of compressed inert gasses, like argon, or nitrogen, or even CO2 - they'll "flood" the container with that to create a protective gas blanket.......

regards

fatbloke

Nysrock
03-13-2010, 05:24 AM
Thanks for the advice. As this is a first attempt maybe I'll just see how it goes and try some of the methods you mentioned in further batches. As this is something that I started with a friend I'll have to talk to him and see how he wants to handle it too.

We've already decided to go ahead and buy some more carboys so we can have several batches going at once. This way we can try different ways/styles until we find what we like best. At least I was smart enough to buy a journal to write everything down in.:)

Thanks again for the help.

AToE
03-13-2010, 02:53 PM
How much headspace is a lot of headspace? How many inches would you say there are from the liquid to the bottom of the slender part of the neck?

Nysrock
03-13-2010, 03:45 PM
About 6 inches from the top of the mead to the bottom of the neck.

But now I think I might have more problems. It looks like there is some white growth on top of my mead. I'm thinking somehow I got it contaminated.

Is there any way I can remove this and save my mead?:eek:

wayneb
03-13-2010, 05:18 PM
Rack the mead out from under it, then treat it with potassium metabisulphite (at least 50ppm free sulphite). But, first take a smell, then draw out a small sample and take a taste. I may just be floating yeast proteins and may be no problem at all.

Is there any way that you can take and post a picture of the scum, so we can see what you're talking about?

AToE
03-14-2010, 03:31 AM
#1 - that's way too much headspace, not only are you at risk of oxidization but O2 can help spoilage organisms take hold (which brings me to #2), so I'd think about ways to get rid of the headspace, I'm not sure what your best option is though.

#2 - yes, as Wayne said pics please, I've had batches I was SURE were contaminated and had white stuff growing on top, turned out to just be tiny bits from the honey (wax, pollin, bee particles, etc) slowly coming out of suspension and floating to the top, I get it on 95% of my batches. You might be fine, and I personally wasted about 1/2 of my first 6 gallons of mead trying to fight an infection that didn't exist. That said, it could actually be contaminated.:o

Nysrock
03-14-2010, 04:39 PM
Okay, so I took a couple of pictures of this. The first shows the formation on the top of the mead and the second shows that there is also some of the white stuff in the bottom and around the grooved areas. I also smelled the mead and it just had a slight yeasty smell to it. I know I have too much headspace but didn't want to change the flavor of the mead too much. I was thinking that if I added a little more water to it mixed with a bit more honey. It is a medium mead right now and I do not mind it being sweeter I just don't want it any dryer.

So, re-rack and add more honey/water and maybe some sulphite or add more honey/water and maybe sulphite to existing or just let it go and see what happens? Thanks for any advice in this matter.


http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs432.snc3/24871_1310891266717_1663689326_744217_7637638_n.jp g

http://photos-e.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs452.ash1/24871_1310891306718_1663689326_744218_1554390_n.jp g

wayneb
03-14-2010, 04:48 PM
I've seen wild yeast do this in other batches; to prevent some of the problems associated with some wild yeast strains, you could hit this with a dose of metabisulphite now. That will both stop any wild yeast activity and help to prevent excessive oxidation. But the best thing to do to prevent oxidation is to get it into a carboy that does not have so much headspace. That's way too big a volume to try to top up at this point, IMO. You could consider getting several one-gallon glass jugs and splitting the batch into those gallons for aging. It will require more airlocks, but it would be cheap insurance against oxidation.

I'd recommend at this point that you dose it with sulphite, then let it go until fermentation finishes. If that ends up being dry, then you can opt to stabilize and backsweeten later. Even if it finishes slightly sweet you will still want to stabilize before bottling to prevent re-fermentation and carbonation of your mead... in the worst case you could end up with bottle bombs.

Medsen Fey
03-14-2010, 05:11 PM
How long has it been since you racked?
Do you get any hint of nail polish or vinegar when you sniff it?
Does it smell stinky at all?

I ask because those discrete looking circular floaters look an awful lot like colonies of something growing. It is common to have some yeast and sediment get trapped floating on top due to surface tension, but it doesn't usually form such nice, discrete, circles. It might be overly cautious, but I'd probably rack underneath it leaving that top layer behind, and give it a good dose of sulfite. I'd definitely make sure it goes into a container with no headspace left - most spoilage organisms require oxygen to thrive. If you cut off the oxygen you keep them suppressed.

I hope I'm wrong here, but sometimes it is better to err on the side of caution.

Medsen

P.S. Yeah. What wayneb said!

Nysrock
03-15-2010, 05:14 AM
Yeah I realize that I need less headspace. But when I started the initial fermentation in the bucket I had it filled to the 5 gal mark on the side.

Should I be going past that mark to make sure that I have enough to fill my carboy?

Medsen Fey
03-15-2010, 08:41 AM
Should I be going past that mark to make sure that I have enough to fill my carboy?

That is certainly one good way to manage it.

Nysrock
03-18-2010, 06:15 PM
Well I went out and bought some 1 gallon jugs to transfer my mead into. Looking at that white substance and the way it seems to be foamy I am thinking it is just some yeast that got transferred. I am hoping that this transfer will help with the problem. This time I will do the transfer alone as I think my buddy stirred it up some last time.

I also figured that as long as I was buying the jugs I might as well buy an extra one and try JAO. I will keep you guys posted on how the new mead goes and how the transfer is helping with the first mead. If nothing else this will get rid of the headspace.

I was also thinking of trying to add a little more honey/water mixture to one of the jugs to see what happens. Depends on if I have any extra headspace in one.

Nysrock
03-20-2010, 06:39 AM
Ok so I was able to re-rack my mead into four 1 gal jugs. During the racking process I smelled and tasted the mead. There is no sour smells or taste so I'm thinking that white stuff was just some kind of yeast residue.

However my mead is not as sweet as I would like it to be. I made sure there is no headspace in the jugs so I really can't add anything to them right now. I'm wondering if I can let it age for a bit and then re-rack it again and add a little more honey/water mixture at that time?

Medsen Fey
03-20-2010, 08:43 AM
I'm wondering if I can let it age for a bit and then re-rack it again and add a little more honey/water mixture at that time?

Yes, you can always sweeten later. However, any sugar that is added may ferment if the yeast is not at its alcohol tolerance, or the mead is not stabilized.

dr9
03-20-2010, 02:50 PM
Yes, you can always sweeten later. However, any sugar that is added may ferment if the yeast is not at its alcohol tolerance, or the mead is not stabilized.


...or sometimes when the mead is stabilized....

ZachR
03-20-2010, 09:19 PM
...or sometimes when the mead is stabilized....

Well, it wouldn't be considered "stable" if it restarted fermentation would it? ;)

Nysrock
05-01-2010, 09:24 PM
Well my mead has sat in the gallon jugs for about 1 1/2 months now. The last couple of weeks I have observed no activity at all and it is showing some signs of clarifying.

Now, should I continue to leave this in the jugs to continue clarifying or would now be a good time to bottle it and let it finish aging in battle? I've decided against adding additional honey as I took a small tasting of one and even though it wasn't very sweet it still had a good flavor that I assume will improve with more aging.

Medsen Fey
05-02-2010, 08:47 AM
Unless you want a bunch of sediment in the bottom of the bottles, I'd suggest waiting to bottle until it is really clear - perhaps after another racking or two. It might be a few months.

Nysrock
05-03-2010, 12:35 AM
Gotcha. Looks I'll be running out for some more jugs to rack into. :D

That will work to my benefit though as I have been wanting to try and make some Dandelion mead and a couple other experiments. This will free up my other jugs for that.