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drunkmonkey
09-18-2010, 06:02 PM
Hey all, I can imagine the reasons needed to aerate/rack a mead but is it really necessary?

I ask this because I didnt rack mine and it seemed to turn out just fine.

What exactly is the real benefit to racking?

AToE
09-18-2010, 06:09 PM
Racking actually isn't to aerate, it's to avoid aeration once fermentation is done, while getting the mead off the sediment - which is the purpose of racking. To get a clear mead generally it will need to be racked several times, probably over the course of at least a year before it stops dropping sediment.

So the first reason is getting it clear, but there's more than that. Some yeasts will impart nice characteristics if you leave the mead to age on the lees, so you might wait longer between rackings, while some will impart negative characteristics so you might rack more often.

When fermenting with fruit the lees will contain not just yeast, but plant matter, which can impart negative characteristics while it deteriorates, so racking to get off of this is very important.

Medsen Fey
09-18-2010, 06:36 PM
Even if there is no fruit or other material in your mead, leaving it on the lees can sometimes produce sulfur odors and other off flavors, so racking helps prevent that while giving you nice clear mead.

Laissez Faire
09-18-2010, 10:09 PM
I just made my first batch about a week ago and there is already about half an inch of lees. I was wondering how quickly it could impart an awkward taste to your mead if left there. I don't want to rack it too soon since obviously it's only been a week and still fermenting quite a bit, but should it stop bubbling completely before the first rack or should it be racked within about 3 weeks regardless?

fatbloke
09-19-2010, 03:58 AM
I just made my first batch about a week ago and there is already about half an inch of lees. I was wondering how quickly it could impart an awkward taste to your mead if left there. I don't want to rack it too soon since obviously it's only been a week and still fermenting quite a bit, but should it stop bubbling completely before the first rack or should it be racked within about 3 weeks regardless?
A couple of weeks isn't a problem. The sediment so far (presuming a traditional type mead with no fruit) will be made up of dead yeast cells etc. It's when the mead is sitting on some sediment for months, that this issue can arise

Use a hydrometer to ascertain whether it's finished or not. A good guide being 3 measurements taken in a week giving the same gravity reading - if they're the same then start to think about racking.

It's fair to point out that some yeasts are suitable for "sur lie" ageing i.e. where you rack it off the sediment for the first time, but them just leave it, as the small amount of sediment that drops out can add some flavour/complexity to the finished product.

You also have to factor in some "racking loses". Me ? I'll usually use my racking cane which has a 1 cm high up turned cup, I'll hold the cup on the bottom of the fermenter so if a little bit of the first lees goes through the syphon then that will drop back out later on.

You will need to think about topping up to reduce the air space at the top, and unless you have something like the "concertina bottles" (like used for photographic chemicals, again to remove air space) then topping up will be required.

What to top up with ? Well, if you have one available, a similar mead. If not, then as long as you've added sulphite/sorbate when racked, you can use a honey/water mix, or grape juice, or sugar syrup, or hell even just water (or even vodka, which will increase ABV, but might increase ageing time as well). Bare in mind about the possibility that if the air space is too large and you need a lot to top it up, you can lose a little body/viscosity - which is an issue that can be dealt with in other ways.....

regards

fatbloke