PDA

View Full Version : Headspace Reduction Idea/Questions



Daddywags
07-02-2010, 08:58 PM
Hi Everyone,

I'm completely new to meadmaking: I just started 3 gallons of meadowfoam sack mead, which is bubbling merrily away in my brand new primary bucket. Unfortunately, being a newbee, I've also made some mistakes: In retrospect, I should have made 4 gallons, to account for racking losses.

I've been extensively reading the forums for ideas on headspace reduction and the idea that I like the most is to buy glass marbles/aquarium gems/stones and drop them into the secondary.

Unfortunately, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of putting something in that could potentially leach heavy metals/chemicals into my expensive mead. Call me paranoid, but it just seems that there have been way too many scandals involving toxic toys and pet products (frequently, though not always from, China.)

I have an alternative idea: Pyrex rods! Glassworkers buy these borosilicate rods to use in glass sculpture. They come in many different diameters: I could buy them in a diameter that just fits through a carboy's mouth. Another great feature is that I could cut them to lengths that would allow me to lower them gently into the carboy, instead of dropping marbles all the way from the neck to the bottom (with a sickening clacking sound.) I could also probably weave a racking cane past the rods and all the way to the bottom, which could eliminate the mead loss that some people complain about when using marbles.

Here's the website I've been looking at: I'm not affiliated with them in any way.

http://tinyurl.com/2cjapog

I've been doing some calculations: The glass is sold in 5 foot lengths, and I'd need about 8 of them (at 20 mm in diameter) to fill a gallon of space. The bill would come out to about $108 plus shipping and handling, which is a lot more than I'd like to pay. But I'm hoping that I won't need to fill a whole gallon of space.

Do you think this idea will work? Assuming that I have 3 gallons of mead in the primary right now, how much space in a 3-gallon carboy would I need to fill with glass rods by the end of the process? I'm planning on racking once in about 5 days, and then again at the 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year marks. How much mead should I plan to lose each time I rack?

Thanks for any input!

-Daddywags

Medsen Fey
07-02-2010, 09:19 PM
Welcome to GotMead Daddywags!

It is always neat to see some creative thinking on how to handle a problem. My concern with rods would be that they might crack and break during handling, but I'll be interested to hear how they work if you use them. There are lots of fun ways to deal with headspace - the thing I've been using lately is synthetic corks. I like them because they float on top, can be easily added or removed as needed, and they are nice and soft so I have no worries about chipping anything.

Still, there are lots of ways to skin the cat, and these rods may be a good alternative.

In a three gallon batch, I'd expect to lose about 1/2 gallon.

Let us know how it goes.

Medsen

kc0dhb
07-03-2010, 02:26 AM
Have you looked at adding an inert gas or CO2 to your carboys before racking? It is generally pretty inexpensive after startup cost. For me it is around $13 to fill a 10 lb tank of CO2, which if you are only using to void your carboys should last for quite a few years. I also force carbonate beer and certain meads with excellent results, so I already have the equipment. You can get a CO2 tank for paint-balling rather cheap, but without a regulator it will release CO2 _very_ fast and may be a health hazard in an enclosed space, as well as slightly dangerous to let loose without a regulator as it will chill things _very_ fast. A key thing to remember when using CO2 is that is is heavier than air (or at least the stuff you want to breath).

Tannin Boy
07-03-2010, 06:01 AM
Have you looked at adding an inert gas or CO2 to your carboys before racking? It is generally pretty inexpensive after startup cost. For me it is around $13 to fill a 10 lb tank of CO2, which if you are only using to void your carboys should last for quite a few years. I also force carbonate beer and certain meads with excellent results, so I already have the equipment. You can get a CO2 tank for paint-balling rather cheap, but without a regulator it will release CO2 _very_ fast and may be a health hazard in an enclosed space, as well as slightly dangerous to let loose without a regulator as it will chill things _very_ fast. A key thing to remember when using CO2 is that is is heavier than air (or at least the stuff you want to breath).
I think I will be heading in this direction (CO2) soon.
Alas, the currant shortfall of funds is delaying progress :(

I have just bottled 100 liters of wine and I used 1 of these
canisters. It is a cost effective way short term to use inert
gas.

http://www.thevintnervault.com/index.php?p=view_product&product_id=1309

PitBull
07-03-2010, 10:22 AM
I think I will be heading in this direction (CO2) soon.
I think I'll bite the bullet real soon as well (perhaps this weekend) and get a gas system. I'm still not sure if I want CO2 or argon. A 5-pound CO2 system can be had or around $110 with shipping, sans gas. A 20 cubic foot argon system for $140 shipped, sans gas. The CO2 system has the advantage of of being able to be used for forced carbonation and distribution from a keg. But the argon is arguably "better" for wine making.

I'm leaning toward an agron system from Cyberweld (which also requires an additional 5/8" fitting for the regulator to the external tubing). Perhaps a 40 ft3 pre-filled tank with regulator for around $210 to $220 delivered. A 10 lb CO2 set-up from Bvereage Factory be about $150 to 160 after adding gas.

For you experienced gas system users out there,

How huch of a hassle is gas compared to synthetic corks/marbles? How often do you have to re-inert to compensate for gas leakage out of carboy? Is a 40 ft3 argon or 10 lb. CO2 system a bit of an overkill vs. the smaller size? Do you know of a better place to buy a system (price and service)? Other advantages/disadvantages?

Much thanks,

PB

fatbloke
07-03-2010, 04:06 PM
I think I'll bite the bullet real soon as well (perhaps this weekend) and get a gas system. I'm still not sure if I want CO2 or argon. A 5-pound CO2 system can be had or around $110 with shipping, sans gas. A 20 cubic foot argon system for $140 shipped, sans gas. The CO2 system has the advantage of of being able to be used for forced carbonation and distribution from a keg. But the argon is arguably "better" for wine making.

I'm leaning toward an agron system from Cyberweld (which also requires an additional 5/8" fitting for the regulator to the external tubing). Perhaps a 40 ft3 pre-filled tank with regulator for around $210 to $220 delivered. A 10 lb CO2 set-up from Bvereage Factory be about $150 to 160 after adding gas.

For you experienced gas system users out there,

How huch of a hassle is gas compared to synthetic corks/marbles? How often do you have to re-inert to compensate for gas leakage out of carboy? Is a 40 ft3 argon or 10 lb. CO2 system a bit of an overkill vs. the smaller size? Do you know of a better place to buy a system (price and service)? Other advantages/disadvantages?

Much thanks,

PB
Well here, it's not so straight forward. The actual prices for the gas and regulator aren't so much of a problem - the major issue is that most (if not all) of the gas suppliers charge a considerable sum for "bottle contracts" on an annual basis......

As for argon being "better" ? I'd doubt that.

It's relatively unproven, that it would or could have no effect on the actual wine/mead.

whereas, they're fermented products, they produce CO2 naturally and if you do "over do it" it's relatively straight forward to remove in one of the usual manners...... you couldn't guarantee that with argon.......

Hell, in theory, you could also use helium, then in the worst case scenario, you'd end up drunk, shivering and with a squeaky voice.......

regards

fatbloke

Daddywags
07-06-2010, 07:01 AM
Hi Everyone,

Thanks for the response! I have ultimately decided that both a CO2 system and the pyrex rods are out of my price range, at the moment. I'm currently considering a layer of mineral oil, and I'm curious as to how many people have used this method successfully, and whether it's really a good option. I'd also be curious to know...

When racking/bottling, does mineral oil get into the racking cane? If so, is it a problem, and can it be prevented?

How thick a layer of mineral oil is necessary?

How difficult is it to remove mineral oil residue from a glass carboy?

Does anyone have a favorite brand? Or is one mineral oil much like another?

Medsen Fey
07-06-2010, 09:52 AM
When racking/bottling, does mineral oil get into the racking cane? If so, is it a problem, and can it be prevented?

Yes, it coats the outside and it does get into the inside of the racking cane as well. I haven't figured out a way to prevent it completely, but there are some things that help. First of all, if you are racking from one carboy to the next while letting the mead age and clear, I don't think you need to worry about the oil, and you can rack it over with the rest of the mead so that you don't have to replace the mineral oil with each racking.

When bottling time comes, I use a turkey baster to remove as much of the oil as possible before racking. In my 1 gallon containers I can eliminate almost all of it before I rack. When it is not possible to remove the oil before the final racking, I haven't (yet) figured out a good way to prevent getting some oil in the racking cane. I tried holding my thumb over the tip that connects to the hose when inserting the cane, and that lessens the amount of oil that goes into the cane initially, but it doesn't stop it completely.

I have thought about trying to make a little wax plug for the tip of the cane and then inserting it into the mead and blowing just enough to pop the wax plug out as a way to get the tip under the oil without getting oil into the cane. I haven't tried it yet. I'm sure open to other good ideas if anyone has some creative solutions.

In any case, if there is a bit of oil in the racking cane, you just rack the first couple of ounces of liquid into a cup and after that the oil is gone and you continue racking (or bottling - I usually rack away from all the oil and then do the bottling, but that isn't necessarily a requirement). You do want stop the racking before you've moved all the mead and get to the oil so you have to leave some mead behind.

The good news is that if you do mess up and end up with some mineral oil in you mead, if you are using the food grade (laxative) mineral oil it is harmless if you ingest it. If you took enough of it (a couple of teaspoons) you would get the laxative effect, but that's not going to happen. The most that you would have is a tiny thin film in your glass that would be less than a drop.



How thick a layer of mineral oil is necessary?
I've read 1/4 inch. I usually use 1/2 inch just for overkill.



How difficult is it to remove mineral oil residue from a glass carboy?
Warm soapy water will take it right out, as will PBW and other cleaners. BUT, a slippery, oily carboy is a disaster waiting to happen so wear long pants, good shoes that cover your feet and exercise caution.




Does anyone have a favorite brand? Or is one mineral oil much like another?
I think they are all pretty similar, but I would stick to the ones that are labeled as laxatives as you know those are safe to ingest.

I have found that the mineral oil works, but it is a pain to work with.

Daddywags
07-10-2010, 04:44 PM
Wow...thanks very much for the detailed responses! I just purchased a bottle of mineral oil, and plan to use it. Which leads to my next questions:

Yesterday I racked into my 3-gallon secondary carboy, and tasted my mead for the first time. It's drier than I expected: about 13.9% ABV according to the mead calculator, which seems to be right on the money in terms of D47's tolerance. The original gravity was about 1.112, so I'm a little surprised that it has such a bite on the first tasting; but perhaps this is normal.

As it stands, I definitely plan to stabilize and backsweeten: should I do this now, or after the mead has aged for a while? I plan to age for a year in the carboy, under mineral oil, with a couple of more rackings throughout.

If I add more honey, and for some reason fermentation restarts, will the layer of mineral oil hinder the gas transfer in some way? Or will the CO2 simply bubble off through the layer of oil?

AToE
07-10-2010, 09:19 PM
Let it clear before stabilizing (less yeast to shut down), and yes, any gas will bubble right through that oil.

fatbloke
07-11-2010, 05:43 AM
Damn! I know that the theory is sound about using a barrier method to prevent oxidation/air exposure, but I can't help but be negative to the idea of using a mineral or any other type of oil.......

Why?

Well if you think of engineering machinery like lathes. Now the "coolant" or is it a lubricant...... is an emsulsion of oil and water.

Obviously, they don't naturally mix, so they have to be emulsified - Ok so far yes ?

Well, isn't it possible that rather than the detergant materials in lathe coolant/lubricant being the emulsifying agent that the alcohol in the wine/mead/etc, could act in the same way ?

Where by giving a similar thing to chlorination of water i.e. that's it's not toxic or anything like that (technically speaking) but it could give the wine/mead an oily taste/appearance ?

As it's quite normal to recover waste oils from lathe coolant/lubricant, but it needs to be heat cracked to seperate the two to recycle the oil and then make the water element available for purification/disposal - which, then logically, the heat wastes/evaporates some of the alcohol (and probably flavour/aroma elements) at the same time.......

Sorry, as I say, I know that the theory might be fine, but in practice, I wouldn't go anywhere near my meads and wines with oil of any kind (remember that some fruit have an oil element naturally - which we tend to do our utmost to remove, in a number of ways/methods).....

Your call.....

regards

fatbloke

p.s. and yes I'd go for "heavier than air gas", probably CO2.......... at atmospheric pressure........

Daddywags
07-11-2010, 06:13 PM
Thanks for the contrasting opinion, fatbloke...

According to OSHA's website on mineral oil:

"Solubility: Insoluble in water and alcohol; soluble in benzene, chloroform, ether, carbon disulfide, petroleum ether, and oils."

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthguidelines/oilmist/recognition.html

Reading this makes me less worried about mineral oil being emulsified by the alcohol. On the other hand, Wikipedia's article on emulsions claims that Honey is a food-grade emulsifier!

I'm not sure what to conclude from this, but I figure I'll still give the mineral oil a shot. I've already made the investment, and I'm a cheapskate by nature. :)

The Wikipedia article also states that emulsions need some form of agitation or active mixing to form, so with your concerns in mind, I'll try to keep everything as stable as possible (with no shaking of the carboy, etc.)

I'll let you know what I think of the end product. In the meantime, if anyone else wants to chime in (hopefully some others who have had success with the mineral oil method) that would be great!

Thanks Again!

Daddywags

Tygia
07-25-2010, 01:11 AM
This is my first post to this site..so here it goes

As a glass wroker (lampworker) for 5 years, I would not recommend glass rods, even Pryex. If a rod breaks, and they do, they can splinter, leaving undetectable crystal clear slivers in your mead, light enough to be sucked up with a racking cane.

As a Brewer of one type of concotion or another for 8 years-I use polished quartz river rock to top off low carboys. You can get them at craft stores like Michael's. I boil them before I use them for about 10 minutes-cool them with cold tap water, dip them in 1step and drop them in...Works awesome.

Also a side note about marbles- most colors in glass come from metals/minerals. Glass that has a silver sheen is colored by surface reduction of the metal, and that will definitely leach out into the brew. I would not personally use colored marbles. I have used clear marbles. I just like the rocks better!

Blessed Be the Bees!
Tygia

Daddywags
07-28-2010, 06:50 PM
That is an excellent point about the miniscule glass slivers. I hadn't even thought about them getting sucked into the racking cane. I don't think I'll pursue the glass rod idea any further.

Tygia: Do you remember how much these quartz river rocks set you back?


I appreciate the input!

Tygia
07-28-2010, 07:14 PM
Tygia: Do you remember how much these quartz river rocks set you back?

I appreciate the input!

Hi Daddywags...
I can usually pick them up for about $2-$3 a bag - You may even be able to find them at Dollar Tree if you have one near you.

Cheers!
Tygia