View Full Version : Bulk Aging, or Bottle Aging?

Brego Brew
01-10-2011, 10:41 PM
Is there a limit to how many Threads you can start? :p

This is slightly different than what you asked, but I have bottled a batch straight from cold crashing (it was done fermenting, just cooling to help it clear) in order to keep the trapped CO2 that hadn't escaped solution yet. This batch was barely done fermenting when I cooled it. The result was a lightly sparkling mead, and since I racked it there was little sediment.

This is what I want to do!!!
(yes, I stole this quote from another thread. Sorry akueck, I didn't want to hijack the other thread)

I've read so many threads about "Bulk age your mead!" but I need my carboy more often than every six months. I would like to go ahead and Sorbate, Sulphite, Cold Crash it, Backsweeten it and then sparkolloid it (to remove honey haze), all over the course of about two months, and then bottle it to free up my carboys and let it age in the bottle with some high quality corks. (any high quality cork suggestions?)

I'm looking for opinions or experiences. Who's done it, how did it turn out? or, why would you not perform this technique?


Medsen Fey
01-10-2011, 11:23 PM
There's no limit to the number of threads you can start, but it is expected that you will take some time to do a bit of searching before asking things that have been discussed. For example, if you used the advanced search and type in CORK limited it to titles you would easily locate a thread entitled "Finding Top Quality Cork (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11987&highlight=cork)"

I don't wish to discourage your participation, but I do wish to encourage you to try to get comfortable using the search function. This forum has a wealth of knowledge that has been accumulated over several years, and while the search function has many shortcomings, it really will help you find really useful information if you target your searches just a little. You also have the ability to search the Mead Lovers Digest Archive on the main GotMead Site (not the forum). Between MLD and these forums, you'll be hard pressed to ask a question that hasn't been asked (and answered) previously.

Brego Brew
01-11-2011, 12:07 AM
Medsen, I do respect (and have taken) your advice about using the search function, and it is repeatedly bringing forth less than satisfying results. While I do agree, a 'cork' search would have brought up many useful bits of info., I'm having trouble finding "Concrete" answers on bottle aging. Most of what the search function has brought up is, "Hey!", o.p., "can I just age it in the bottle?", random patron, "Sure you can! Just be sure to let us know how it turns out!". This is what I'm having trouble with, most all the search references are bits and pieces scattered about deep in threads of a dissimilar topic.

Now, there have been some Really good search results, I do use the search function on multiple forums religiously, but like I said I'm just not finding that "ah! That is the info I was looking for." kinda post.

I will try to use the search function more than I am, but I might just burn it out! I've spent Hours on it.If I made threads of every question the search has answered for me already, it might just firestorm your server. ;D


Dan McFeeley
01-11-2011, 02:50 AM
Hello Jonas --

I've tried both, bottle aging and bulk aging, and my preference is for bulk aging. I've found that even with a crystal clear mead, after a few years or so bottle aging there will be a sediment left on the side of the bottle. I'd rather bulk age for the same period, then rack off any sediment that forms and then bottle.

The down side of bulk aging is that it does tie up your carboys, and you have to invest in a few extra carboys to keep the meads going while the rest is aging.


01-11-2011, 01:38 PM
Like Medsen said, a little searching helps. I know it can be frustrating, but with some practice, you should be able to get a general idea of your questions' answers before posting.

I've read/said this in a few other posts, but the two downsides I've encountered to bottle aging are 1) each bottle will potentially age differently than the one next to it, giving you inconsistent results. And 2) you're much more likely to drink your mead before it's prime. Personally, #2 is my biggest problem, since I want to drink my mead now instead of next year. The problem is then that I'll never know what the bottled batch's potential could've been, since it was easy to have a bottle here and a bottle there, until there aren't any left.

There's no real reason to not bottle before aging if you don't mind sediment in bottles, not saving it, or variations between each bottle if you do. Otherwise, my vote is for bulk aging.

Again, I know these exact questions have been asked before, so spend a little time practicing with the search function using &, +, and "" to help narrow down specific topics.

Hope this helps. :)

Medsen Fey
01-11-2011, 02:39 PM
I'm sorry if I sound persnickety about the search function, but it seems to be often overlooked. In this case, searching for "bulk aging" AND "bottle aging" (using the entire phrase as written in bold) will bring you several threads that touch on this issue. However, it is likely that none of them will give you a definitive answer because, to the best of my knowledge, no one has done a thorough comparison (If I'm wrong, someone please post up the info).

Oskaar has written:

Re: Bulk aging?
Bulk aging presents several key benefits to the home mead maker, which in my estimation are:

1. Visualization: it is much easier to see what is going on in and around your carboy than it is to inspect each bottle of a batch you bottled several weeks earlier. Airlock activity, sedimentation, stratification, infections and secondary fermenations are all easier to visualize in bulk storage (kegs would be an exception)

2. Manipulation: it is easier, safer and more convinient to treat your mead in bulk vessels than in bottles, growlers, etc. By treatment I mean, oak, tannin, spice, fruit, pH, etc. Blending is also easier from bulk vessels into another bulk vessel.

3. Stabilization: in a couple of senses of the word, stabilization is simpler. The bulk vessel is less susceptible to temperature swings than bottles. It is easier to stabilize a batch in bulk because it's all in one place, and any stabilization steps you take will affect the entire batch instead of a portion of the batch. Bulk aging is also less susceptible to vibrations due to the size and weight of the vessels, whereas bottles on a shelf will transmit vibrations more readily, while the rack may even amplify vibrations.

4. Relaxation: more gradual esterifcation, phenolic evolution, oxydation, oak character extraction (if used or stored in oak) The volume of the mead will tend to act as a control in many cases.

4. Comparison: less mead is consumed when thieving samples from bulk than when opening a bottle. (that is unless you're planning a spillage party, then all bets are off!)



I usually bulk age. I do this for several reasons:

A. I generally let them clear on their own before bottling and that may easily take 6-12 months.
B. I'm lazy and hate cleaning bottles.
C. I like to leave things sitting on oak for extended periods - less oak; more time works for me.
D. I don't want to waste time bottling something that isn't good. If I was certain something would be good, I might go ahead, but usually I'll wait for it to declare itself before I bottle. If it stays crappy, it won't ever get bottled.
E. Having accumulated a few bulk batches that are quite mediocre, I hope to refine my blending skills which bulk aging will allow. I'm been using some heavily over-oaked OB traditional in some pyments recently with good results as an example. Once you've bottled, you're stuck with it unless you want to try blending in the glass (which can be fun).
F. A Corny keg takes up a lot less space than 2 cases of bottles.

There are potential disadvantages to bulk aging including:

1. Risk of spoilage organism. If you have a bottle spoil the others my be fine, but if it spoils in the carboy, you've lost the whole batch.
2. Risk of oxidation. The contact between a stopper and the neck of a carboy may only be a couple of millimeters around a large opening. Factor in that they tend to frequently loosen, and pop out, and you may very well not be protecting a batch from oxygen exposure. Compare that to a bottle where you have a narrower opening that will have a full 1.5-2 inches of cork providing the seal, with a more positive contact with the glass, and better adherence than a stopper. Over a period of a couple of years, you may very well have a lower exposure to oxygen than with a stopper in a carboy.
3. Risk of cracked/broken carboy with loss of entire batch. Since I use kegs this really isn't an issue for me.
4. Risk of excessive tweaking. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a mead is as much "nothing" as possible. If you fiddle adding oak, and acids and tannins, and whatnot, you may be worse off than if you had just let it age in a bottle.
5. Risk of Light exposure. In dark bottles (or in a closed case), the mead may be protected from UV where in a carboy it may not be (unless covered).
6. It is heavy to move and not as transportable.

Brego Brew
01-11-2011, 05:44 PM
Medsen, I used your search method and it worked Much better. I do believe that I have found enough information to satisfy my curiosity.

And, Thank You, YogiBear, Mcfeely and Medsen! That is good Solid info that will remain satisfactory for me and anyone else who uncovers it in their searching. 'I Know', I could do a search, but how many gallons does your corny hold, Medsen? I'm thinking about a 15 gallon Demi-John. Once i produce a sound recipe, that is.

Thank you all!

01-11-2011, 07:21 PM
6. It is heavy to move and not as transportable.

7) Excessive sampling, leaving not much left to bottle ;-)

Medsen Fey
01-11-2011, 09:18 PM
..., but how many gallons does your corny hold, Medsen? I'm thinking about a 15 gallon Demi-John. Once i produce a sound recipe, that is.

Most Corny kegs are 5-gallon size.
I have a few 10-gallon ones that I really like.
I have 1 15-gallon one that gets too heavy to move when filled.

01-11-2011, 10:14 PM
What a great thread... although surely a repeat somewhere. I've learned a few things. Thanks all

Chevette Girl
01-11-2011, 10:20 PM
Definitely, thanks to Jonas for asking the question and Medsen for divulging a few more hints about how to get results out of the search engine :)