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Q2XL
04-15-2010, 07:41 PM
I will be transfering my mead into the secondary fermenter tomorrow. I know that I need to reduce the headspace in the glass carboy. I was going to use a lot of marbles, although they are a bit pricey. I then thought of using some type of polished stone that I might be able to get at Home Depot or Lowes for cheaper(not sure on the cheaper part).

Is sanitized polished stone or sanitized clean stone a good idea to use in reducing the headspace?

AToE
04-15-2010, 11:20 PM
That probably depends on the stone, there are a lot of different kinds, some are porous and might cause problems, some might have mineral content that is soluble in water or alcohol and might wind up in the taste. Good question, definitely cheaper than beads or marbles.

Dan McFeeley
04-16-2010, 03:04 AM
Best kind of marbles to purchase for filling headspace are the ones you get from the pet store, for fish. If it's safe for fish, it's safe for your mead. Hobby marbles can contain chemicals that can leach into your mead.

Polished stones are probably ok, but check first to see if the stone is chemically inert in solution. Pet store marbles may be cheaper.

--

PitBull
04-16-2010, 10:49 AM
Best kind of marbles to purchase for filling headspace are the ones you get from the pet store, for fish. If it's safe for fish, it's safe for your mead. Hobby marbles can contain chemicals that can leach into your mead.

Polished stones are probably ok, but check first to see if the stone is chemically inert in solution. Pet store marbles may be cheaper.

I agree. Many stones, such as polished limestone, react with acid. Wine is acidic. I would be very leery of using any stone, unless I knew for with 100% certainty, that it would not leech any mineral into my mead.

McFeeley,
Much thanks for the advice on the pet store marbles. I could not even find hobby marbles at any of the toy stores or toy departments in my area.

Q2XL,
You might also consider using sanitized synthetic corks to take up headspace. I have not yet tried that method, but was considering it for my next batch when I was unable to locate marbles. But I’ll be checking my local pet store soon, as per McFeeley’s advice.

Dragonslayer
04-16-2010, 11:45 AM
When I was a kid on the farm we always had pickles or other such things "cookin" in those big crock pots. My folks used a board and a big rock to hold the veggies down in the brine. Both the board and the stone had been coated with wax. Made it easy to rinse them off and prevented off-flavors, etc in the pickles. May not be practical if you are using something with aq small opening so you require large amounts of small stones. Personally, I'd go with the marbles regardless of cost. The peace of mind is worth it.

Angelic Alchemist
04-16-2010, 01:43 PM
I just put a bunch of sanitized synthetic corks in a gallon of mead and I'm having two issues: nucleation points and sediment settling on the corks themselves. I tried shifting them around to knock off the bubbles and sediment. Will try clay to clarify next and follow up on my progress.

AToE
04-16-2010, 02:03 PM
I'm looking forward to switching to synth corks for this purpose, but what the heck am I going to do with the $100 worth of marbles I already have?! I just like the cork idea because they float.

Q2XL
04-16-2010, 02:20 PM
I'm looking forward to switching to synth corks for this purpose, but what the heck am I going to do with the $100 worth of marbles I already have?! I just like the cork idea because they float.

Sell them to me for $20. lolol

I checked all around and have found some but they are expensive. 1lb for on average of $6-$7. It would cost me quite a bit. I think I might just go and buy some smaller carboys.

Angelic Alchemist
04-16-2010, 02:25 PM
I'm looking forward to switching to synth corks for this purpose, but what the heck am I going to do with the $100 worth of marbles I already have?! I just like the cork idea because they float.

Put them on the ground to prevent erosion in your garden, or you can break them with a hammer and then take up making mosaics.

Medsen Fey
04-16-2010, 04:21 PM
I'm having two issues: nucleation points and sediment settling on the corks themselves.

If the fermentation is still ongoing, you don't really have to worry about the headspace so you might have waited to add the corks until a later time.

Angelic Alchemist
04-16-2010, 07:24 PM
If the fermentation is still ongoing, you don't really have to worry about the headspace so you might have waited to add the corks until a later time.

I don't think there was active fermentation going. It was a blend of two meads: a bone dry blueberry mel and a traditional that was crystal clear. All I can imagine is that there was air or sugar inside the synthetic corks? I dunno, it's a wild guess.

Angelic Alchemist
04-16-2010, 10:43 PM
Yeesh, taking good photos of tiny bubbles and fine sediment is not easy on my camera. Here's the best shot I got - I'm noticing the Chaucer's corks are more troublesome than the Yellow Tail corks.

Angelic Alchemist
04-17-2010, 04:12 PM
Benonite + corks = fail (see photo). I knocked them around with a clean butter knife to get the sediment off, but I'm not seeing any advantage of corks over marbles at this point.

AToE
04-19-2010, 11:52 AM
I'd just give the jug/carboy a quick spin to shake the sediment off. You might have to do it a few times, but each time more will settle on the bottom and less on the corks. I do this (but more gently than you'll need to I imagine) with my batches that have the beads, to shake the lees down to the bottom of the carboy so that I can rack without sucking lees off the beads. It works well but it takes weeks of giving it a little twist every few days to really get them clean.

Angelic Alchemist
04-19-2010, 11:57 AM
I'd just give the jug/carboy a quick spin to shake the sediment off. You might have to do it a few times, but each time more will settle on the bottom and less on the corks. I do this (but more gently than you'll need to I imagine) with my batches that have the beads, to shake the lees down to the bottom of the carboy so that I can rack without sucking lees off the beads. It works well but it takes weeks of giving it a little twist every few days to really get them clean.

Yes, I've been knocking them around with the butter knife - will try spinning too since I'll reduce my chances of oxidizing the must, though I'm still wondering what all those bubbles are about. It's getting better, just kind of a pain in the butt. I would imagine that, as long as you used an end cap for racking off marbles, it would be better than this technique.

AToE
04-19-2010, 12:12 PM
I'd guess that though the mead was done fermenting that it had not finished degassing. I have a blueberry mead with oak cubes right now that's been done fermenting for months, but those cubes still collect lots of bubbles. I don't know much about the physics of gas coming out of solution, but from what I do know I'd guess that adding nucleation points like cubes or corks might speed up degassing.

Medsen Fey
04-19-2010, 12:38 PM
It these were previous-used corks, then air may be coming from inside the cork where they were punctured by the corkscrew. Or it may just be degassing.

I'm trying this out now with a batch I racked over the weekend. It had been fully topped up in a gallon jug, and now there is more than 1.5 cups of head space. I used some unused synthetic corks that I had been keeping in the closet never planning to use in my meads. I figured, this is worth a try, and they are a darned bit less slippery than mineral oil. This mead was fully degassed, and there were no punctures of the corks and I have no little bubbles forming.

This batch is already clear so I don't expect sediment to be a problem, but I will swirl as necessary to shake loose any that form so it can settle to the bottom.

One thing I like about this is that you can easily remove them if you decide to add a bit more liquid - very handy. As a potential problem, if a surface dwelling spoilage organism ever grew in a batch with corks floating, you'd have a devil of a time trying to rack from underneath without disturbing it.

Angelic Alchemist
04-19-2010, 02:10 PM
I agree that this technique is going to be better applied with musts that are already clear. Using new synthetics also seems like a good thing, judging by the results of this little experiment. The must I was using was essentially "throw-away" must from the bottom of two carboys I had racked. Since I had the corks on hand, I figured I'd try it out and see what happened. Yay for learning through trial and error!

I'm thinking that, once this must finally clears, I'll backsweeten it with some blueberry honey I got for my birthday then give it to my friend who likes wine that tastes like koolaid. I'm pretty sure she won't care about any flaws if I cover them up with yummy.

Edit: Swirling with benonite and corks = FAIL. I think I got more sediment up onto the corks than I knocked off of them. I'm sticking with my butter knife.

PitBull
05-05-2010, 11:57 AM
Best kind of marbles to purchase for filling headspace are the ones you get from the pet store, for fish. If it's safe for fish, it's safe for your mead. Hobby marbles can contain chemicals that can leach into your mead.
I went to my local Petco and they did not have actual marbles. They had "Top Fin" brand marble-like "jewels" that look like a partially flattened small marble (available in a few different colors). I would estimate about four packages would be enough for a typical 5 or 6 gallon racking loss. They are fairly inexpensive at $1.99 for 12 ounces. Are these the pet store marbles to which you were referring?

The package did not actually state that they were made from glass. It did state that they were non-toxic, but the package also stated to never wash with soapy water. I'm hoping that's because any soap left on the surface is bad for fish. But could it be that these are not actually made of glass and absorb liquid? The package also states "Made in China" which I find a bit discomforting with the recent rash of lead-contaminated product scares.

d.j.patterson
05-06-2010, 05:05 PM
Nothing that is to go into an aquarium should be washed with soap. Any soap film remaining on the marbles is highly toxic to fish. All aquarium decorations come with this warning.

You can also be fairly sure that they are free from Lead as this is also highly toxic to fish.

PitBull
05-06-2010, 07:05 PM
Nothing that is to go into an aquarium should be washed with soap. Any soap film remaining on the marbles is highly toxic to fish. All aquarium decorations come with this warning.

You can also be fairly sure that they are free from Lead as this is also highly toxic to fish.
d.j.

Much thanks. That puts my mind at ease. One of the best things about a forum is that people know quite a bit about things other than mead. But that knowledge is sometimes applicable to the mead making process.

AToE
05-06-2010, 07:56 PM
Those are what I use.

teejay58
06-12-2010, 12:54 PM
I wonder about using broken bits of ceramic tile, pottery, etc. Folks that makes a lot of pie crusts often have ceramic beads that they put on the crusts to keep them from bubbling up and deforming. Why couldn't you visit a tile store and often to help them get rid of broken ceramic tiles? :D Btw, I think those ceramic beads made for pie crusts are more expensive than aquarium beads.

AToE
06-12-2010, 11:03 PM
You'll want to watch for lead in the tile glazes, but other than that I guess it'd work.

BMB
06-12-2010, 11:53 PM
I wonder about using broken bits of ceramic tile, pottery, etc. Folks that makes a lot of pie crusts often have ceramic beads that they put on the crusts to keep them from bubbling up and deforming. Why couldn't you visit a tile store and often to help them get rid of broken ceramic tiles? :D Btw, I think those ceramic beads made for pie crusts are more expensive than aquarium beads.

As a ceramist, I can tell you this is a clever idea, albeit somewhat of a gamble and I can't recommend it. Most clays, with the exception of some high-fired porcelains, have some degree of porosity. Even if it's minor, you'd still be running the risk of introducing spoilage organisms into your mead unless the alcohol content was sufficient enough to kill them, and sanitizing them would be a pain. Commercially produced tile you'd find at a hardware store isn't designed to be food-safe, so you most certainly wouldn't want to put that in your mead. Microorganisms aside, some of those glazes could potentially leach heavy metals like cobalt, chromium, manganese, etc. If you had clay "beads" which were entirely covered in a proper glaze, that would be a different story, but you might be hard-pressed to find something like that. Just my two cents . . .

AToE
06-13-2010, 04:06 AM
Just to play devil's advocate - even given the porous natue, you could sanitize with heat, which would penitrate well.

Chevette Girl
06-14-2010, 07:30 PM
If you had clay "beads" which were entirely covered in a proper glaze, that would be a different story, but you might be hard-pressed to find something like that. Just my two cents . . .

I'd imagine the baking beads aren't glazed (my mom was a potter, there are always imperfections because the glazed object has to rest upon SOMETHING while it's being fired), and like my boiling stone (unglazed ceramic "pot watcher") they'd end up discoloured and probably absorbing flavours even if they're technically sanitary, but what if you coated them with beeswax? That would seal the porosity, shouldn't have enough temperature shrinkage to crack, if you're gentle they shouldn't make like crayons and get wax all over everything and I don't think the alcohol would incorporate the wax the same way it can absorb oils... or am I way off base here? I've used beeswax to seal drinking vessels before... On that note, would "marbles" of beeswax work if you didn't mind floating ballast? You could probably get them roughly round with judicious use of a candle flame or hair dryer and cold water?

BMB
06-14-2010, 07:52 PM
You're exactly right; the glazed bead, platter, or whatever has to sit on the kiln shelf while firing, and if it's completely covered in glaze it will fuse to the shelf. Commercial dinnerware is completely covered in glaze because factories have elaborate systems of doing multiple glazings and firings with slightly different temperatures that the average studio potter doesn't have access to. They can afford to pay engineers and materials-scientists to come up fancy-pants systems like that. I also agree with your second concern - even though the beads could be sanitized with heat (like you sanitize a porous aeration stone), if they're sitting around in multiple batches of mead for extended time, I think it's inevitable they'll pick up flavors. Finally, a safety concern is that some clay bodies have poor thermal shock resistance, and could potentially shatter or explode if they were quickly removed from boiling water. Ceramic bakeware is made of very specific clay bodies to prevent that.

As for the wax idea, I really have no experience with anything like that, but it seems plausible. Perhaps some of the more experienced mead making rockstars who have more chemistry experience can chime in with how wax would react with alcohol or other sanitizers?

Since I don't have kegging equipment to bulk age and am fairly cheap and lazy, I've been using glass beads. They seem to do the trick, and with my relative lack of experience I like the low-tech approach - for now.

WRATHWILDE
06-15-2010, 05:24 AM
I never concern myself with headspace, just do what I do.

Start with a 6.5 gallon batch of mead in a brew bucket.

After 3 days of fermentation use a funnel and pour it in a 6.5 gallon carboy.

At the first racking, rack into a 6 gallon carboy.

At the 2nd racking, rack into a 5 gallon carboy and let bulk age.

No need to fill headspace using this method, and no need to introduce potential problems. Spend your money on proper sized carboys instead of marbles or corks. Hit up the local brew clubs, chances are you'll find someone willing to part with a few carboys cheap.

Cheers,
Wrathwilde

AToE
06-15-2010, 11:58 AM
:eek: But losing that much mead makes me want to cry! That's a gallon and a half of lost mead, when in a traditional there would probably have only been a max of a 1/4 gal or so of lees, and maybe 3/4-1 gal of lees in a melomel.

I can see the apeal of that method though. What I've been doing is just leaving everything in primary until ferment is finished (starting with an extra 1/4 gal for something with less lees, and an extra 1/2 gal for something with more lees), then rack to secondary. Generally works out for me, and I usually get a little extra (1/4-3/4 gal) than I was expecting, which gives me top up fluid for when I rack into tertiary for bulk aging (and I just keep the extra in a smaller jug with some glass beads until that time).

icedmetal
06-15-2010, 06:39 PM
Is using an inert gas not cheaper and easier? Dumping CO2 into a carboy prior to filling it, then filling any heads pace again once more (being thorough) has always worked for me, and I've left some head space that makes anybody cringe. No oxygen in the head space, no problem...

And I've still not ever tasted the liquid cardboard...

AToE
06-15-2010, 07:02 PM
I think that is the best way, assuming one can afford/store the equipment.

icedmetal
06-15-2010, 10:18 PM
I guess it depends on how many marbles you're buying... you can get a brand new tank and guage from micromatic for around $100. Filling it will cost you another $10 or $15.

Two benefits:
- With CO2, there's always enough to fill the head space, unless you run out of CO2 ;D (which happens rather rarely considering just how much CO2 it takes to weigh 5lbs)
- You don't have to sanitize CO2 or worry about contamination. This point is the true salesman for me; attempting to keep large volumes of small objects clean and sanitized just sounds painful.

Negatives:
- up-front cost. $100 will buy a lot of marbles.
- storage. You can store marbles just about anywhere, whereas a CO2 tank should be stored in an upright position, and if you're lazy like me, with guages attached. Meaning, don't knock it over!

And, think of all the fun uses you can put to a tank. Forget about those air cans for dusting the computer. But the most important use of all: dispensing some awesome homebrew from your corny keg. Yeah yeah, corny keg sold separately.

AToE
06-16-2010, 01:19 PM
Ha, that's not a bad point. I think I may have actually spent that much on marbles...

Pewter_of_Deodar
06-17-2010, 10:59 AM
I use the same system that Wrathwilde mentioned. 6.5 to 6 to 5 gallon carboys. I have active fermentations going in the 6.5 and 6's so headpsace is not an issue. When I do a final racking from the 6 to 5 I usually end up with no headspace in the carboy and a couple bottles worth of spillage to share and enjoy.

I did marbles for a while but it seemed like it took a 1 gallon can of marbles to fill in a quart or so of headspace. Then there was a lot of waste with the mead down amongst the marbles when I did a final racking to bottle.

I am in the process of getting set up for CO2 and will likely use that to aid my process in the future.

jayich
06-17-2010, 01:37 PM
I strongly concur with icemetal. I put a 2-holed stopper on top of my carboys with one hole used for a ferm. lock and the other containing a disconnect valve that can be flushed with CO2. I use corny kegs for my last racking and then I can either store the mead for drinking or to top off other meads, or I can bottle them using a Blichmann Beer Gun. You can also carbonate your mead to make it sparkling. I'm also considering getting a tank of argon, which is less soluble than CO2, to more effectively blanket headspace- I admit I'm a bit compulsive!

PitBull
06-17-2010, 05:17 PM
I did marbles for a while but it seemed like it took a 1 gallon can of marbles to fill in a quart or so of headspace. Then there was a lot of waste with the mead down amongst the marbles when I did a final racking to bottle.

I am in the process of getting set up for CO2 and will likely use that to aid my process in the future.
I recently measured the volume that the marbles displace. A 12-ounce package of "Top Fin" (Petsmart brand) aquarium marbles displaces about 4 1/2 to 5 ounces of mead. At $1.99/package, your typical one quart loss during racking will use 7 packages, or about $14 worth. Not a bad price to pay unless you have several batches going at once, then it can really start to add up.

I'm hoping an inert gas set-up is in my near future.

Pewter_of_Deodar
06-18-2010, 09:24 AM
Not a bad price to pay unless you have several batches going at once, then it can really start to add up.

That is likely the key. With 20 or so carboys going, that just ended up being WAY too many marbles... and racking out from amongst marbles was not a good thing.

icedmetal
06-18-2010, 04:35 PM
On the bright side, you can use a couple of the marbles to weigh down the grain sock with the oak cubes in it... You do use oak, right? ;D

PitBull
06-19-2010, 11:23 PM
On the bright side, you can use a couple of the marbles to weigh down the grain sock with the oak cubes in it... You do use oak, right? ;D
Yes I use them for oak cubes, and to weigh down spice bags as well. So they will not go to waste when I finally get an inert gas system.

markspend1
09-06-2013, 10:26 AM
Hey Pitbull well i think that your comment is absolutely right about that topic.Thanks for sharing!!