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OrionMead
05-20-2011, 03:42 PM
Howdy folks!

I just had a few questions, and wanted to ask if I'm going about this the right way.

My first question has to deal with filtering.
Are there any cheap solutions for this? When bottling mead, I still end up with small "floaties" of fruit and even sometimes lees. Is there anything out there that would stop this? My 1 gallon jug is too small to fit the nose of my siphoning cane into it, so I generally rack/bottle from 1 gallon jugs by using some tubing and sucking on one end and shoving that into the new container before it makes a mess. I then guide the end that's in the mead around slowly to avoid large chunks of fruit and streamers of lees that are starting to float up from the bottom (due to the suction). I've seen machines that take care of this...but wow they're uber expensive. Any ideas?

Forced & Natural Clarification:
My second question is, when a mead is clear to the point that you can easily see through the other side without the assistance of an extra light source, what does this signify? Is it "bottle-ready", "drink-ready", or "rack-and-wait more"? I have one mead that is extremely clear (and it's only a month old!), so I was wondering what the general rule of thumb was for this. The fruit was still at the top, however a good portion of the fruit was also sitting in the bed of lees at the bottom of the carboy.

In regards to the clarification process:
I brewed two batches of Strawberry flavored mead. In both instances, I used the same yeast, same number of strawberries, honey, and water - 1 gallon batches each. The first batch was pitched on 3/27/2011. The second batch was pitched on 4/14/2011. The 4/14/2011 has cleared very well (it's the one that I am referring to in question #2), while the first batch is still super-cloudy...you can't see a damned thing through it. There is very little lees at the bottom (I'm talking about slight dust trails here).

I wanted to pop it open during a party with some friends, but was afraid that the taste would put them off. It tasted GOOD to me, if a bit strong (still has that musty yeast taste). I tried adding about a tsp of Liquid Isinglass to it, gave it a good stirring, and then left it alone for a week - nothing happened. I have bentonite, and a few other chemicals for various purposes (which I've never used, except for the yeast nutrient in other meads), but I'm not sure if I should try adding bentonite to it to force-clarify it.

There IS one issue more with this, and that for about a week the mead was "bottled". What had happened, is that I was racking all of my meads according to schedule, and an emergency came up in which I had to head out of town for a day or two. I quickly put the cap onto the 1 gallon jug, not realizing that it was the one that had mead in it and not wine that was already finished! A week later, I finally realized what I had done, and...well, it's semi-carbonated mead. Seriously, it tastes awesome...except for the yeasty must smell and aftertaste. Short of cold crashing it (no room in fridge), is there any way to clarify it?

As for chemicals, I have the Winemaker's Additive Pack from www.home-brew.com (includes 3 packs Pasteur Champagne Yeast, 4 oz. Yeast Nutrient,1 oz. Pectic Enzyme, 3 oz. Acid Blend, 1 1/2 oz. Tannin Powder, 2 oz. (approx. 100) Campden Tablets.) and a pack of bentonite and liquid isinglass.

Throughout the whole process, I've bottled some mead that I brewed on 3/9/2011, but the ones from 3/27 and 4/14 have been "dipped into" - meaning that, in our eagerness to drink, we pour a glass or two a week for my wife and I. It tastes great in most cases (the bluberry/plum mix tastes more of a dark red wine, but still good), but my "larger" batches of mead should be coming of age soon so that I'll have some for aging and some for drinking occasionally. The first few batches were 1 gallon here, 1 gallon there - and I can't wait months at a time for a drink ;-)

Chevette Girl
05-20-2011, 05:42 PM
When bottling mead, I still end up with small "floaties" of fruit and even sometimes lees. Is there anything out there that would stop this? My 1 gallon jug is too small to fit the nose of my siphoning cane into it, so I generally rack/bottle from 1 gallon jugs by using some tubing and sucking on one end and shoving that into the new container before it makes a mess. I then guide the end that's in the mead around slowly to avoid large chunks of fruit and streamers of lees that are starting to float up from the bottom (due to the suction). I've seen machines that take care of this...but wow they're uber expensive. Any ideas?

Yeah, rack more often ;D When I have time, I generally rack a week before I want to bottle, that way I leave the last little bits of fruit and any lees that got sucked up the racking cane when I was getting it off the fruit get left behind. For really chunky musts like JAO, I often wrap a piece of cheesecloth around the end of my racking cane.

I take it you have one of those syphoning canes that you pump two or three times and it starts up? Mine won't fit in a 1-gal jug either, so what I did is saw a foot off the bottom of a regular standard racking cane and put the little black foot back on it. Cheap, and easier to navigate around fruit chunks than the end of a hose.




My second question is, when a mead is clear to the point that you can easily see through the other side without the assistance of an extra light source, what does this signify? Is it "bottle-ready", "drink-ready", or "rack-and-wait more"? I have one mead that is extremely clear (and it's only a month old!), so I was wondering what the general rule of thumb was for this. The fruit was still at the top, however a good portion of the fruit was also sitting in the bed of lees at the bottom of the carboy.
<snip>
I wanted to pop it open during a party with some friends, but was afraid that the taste would put them off. It tasted GOOD to me, if a bit strong (still has that musty yeast taste). I tried adding about a tsp of Liquid Isinglass to it, gave it a good stirring, and then left it alone for a week - nothing happened. I have bentonite, and a few other chemicals for various purposes (which I've never used, except for the yeast nutrient in other meads), but I'm not sure if I should try adding bentonite to it to force-clarify it.

Are these meads done? (no change in SG over a couple weeks)? I've had JAO's clear before the fruit drops and I've had a show mead go perfectly clear and still be fermenting at the same rate as your JAO offshoot from the other thread, clarity means about as much as absence of airlock activity... trust your hydrometer... If you want to clear it quickly, you need the yeast to be done its thing AND you need it degassed. 1-2 campden tablets per gallon should take care of the active yeast (add some potassium sorbate too if there's any sugars left, ie, SG is still over 0.995) and then stir it or swirl it a couple times a day for a week to make sure there's no CO2 left in it. THEN maybe your clarifier will work. Do some poking around with the search function regarding isinglass, sparkolloid and bentonite to compare them and choose what will work.




There IS one issue more with this, and that for about a week the mead was "bottled". What had happened, is that I was racking all of my meads according to schedule, and an emergency came up in which I had to head out of town for a day or two. I quickly put the cap onto the 1 gallon jug, not realizing that it was the one that had mead in it and not wine that was already finished! A week later, I finally realized what I had done, and...well, it's semi-carbonated mead. Seriously, it tastes awesome...except for the yeasty must smell and aftertaste. Short of cold crashing it (no room in fridge), is there any way to clarify it?


BOTTLE BOMB ALERT! If that's still under pressure, get it under airlock ASAP, carefully, especially if what you tasted was still sweet. If you want your mead sparkling, let it go dry and start to clear (this gets rid of the yeasty taste) and THEN add a carefully measured amount of honey to prime it. Then bottle it in bottles meant to handle carbonation. Anything else risks popped corks if you're lucky. A little time and it will carbonate AND all the ick will settle out. If it's still sweet and that's how you like it, you'll have to bring up the sweetness level with something nonfermentable, otherwise the yeast will just keep going with it until your bottles explode.

akueck
05-21-2011, 11:27 AM
As CG mentioned, a racking cane is your friend. These are stiff tubes (they usually come in acrylic or steel) with a 90 bend at the top. You attach your hose to the top and stick the straight end into the liquid. Usually these come with "tips" that direct the flow of fluid into the tube from above the tube (around a u-turn) instead of sucking the liquid from directly below the end of the cane. This way you can avoid picking up most of the lees even if you rest the tip basically into them. Larger chunks of fruit won't fit through the space between the tip and the cane either, though small bits can get through. A piece of cheesecloth, a mesh bag, pantyhose, and copper scrubbies have all been used to filter the mead as it's racked.

As far as clearing, you're going to want to wait more than a few months before bottling if you can stand it. Even a mead that looks perfectly clear can still have a lot of suspended particles (you just can't see them anymore). You can bottle, but you might end up with more sediment dropping in the bottles. Rack the mead again and see if anything else falls out after another few months.

Definitely confirm the mead is done before bottling. Stable SG is necessary but not sufficient to determine that your mead is "dead" and won't continue to ferment. If you have residual sugar in your mead, some sort of stabilization is recommended.

The one you capped early can just be returned to an airlock. The extra bubbles will dissipate on their own. If you want to make sparkling mead, I'd suggest starting a new one with that goal. If you don't have means to force carbonate, you'll need to make a dry mead of about 12% abv with a good bottle-conditioning yeast strain before attempting to sparkle it. [There are lots of ways of doing it, but this "traditional" method is probably the best place to start.]

For clearing, time is the best fining agent. Gravity works slowly, but it works. If you want to use a fining agent, they will work best (IMO) on a mead that is already mostly clear and just needs a little help with that last bit of haze. Fining agents come in two basic flavors: positive and negative charged molecules/particles. I can't remember what Isinglass is, but you can look it up. If one kind of fining agent doesn't work for you, try the other one. I have only used Sparkolloid myself, but I like the results I've gotten with it.

Lastly, you've got some really young mead there. Try to keep at least one bottle aside until it hits the year mark. You'll be amazed what time can do. While you're waiting, beer is usually ready after about a month. ;)

tweak'e
05-21-2011, 05:54 PM
Isinglass is fish protein. its really a very fine polish rather than a clearing agent.
bentonite is a clay which can help settle out yeast. however it tends to make very fluffy lees which can be hard to avoid racking over and take up a lot of liquid.
there is gelatin, Kieselsol, Chitosan or a combo of all of the above. what order you put them in does different things. either to increase the clearing ability or to remove the previous fining agent.

but time is still the best bet. one of mine that i fined (as needed to bottle quickly) has now settled out in the bottles. they look really icky with a clear looking slime down the inside of the bottle.

OrionMead
05-22-2011, 04:59 AM
Thanks for the advice!


BOTTLE BOMB ALERT! If that's still under pressure, get it under airlock ASAP, carefully, especially if what you tasted was still sweet. If you want your mead sparkling, let it go dry and start to clear (this gets rid of the yeasty taste) and THEN add a carefully measured amount of honey to prime it. Then bottle it in bottles meant to handle carbonation. Anything else risks popped corks if you're lucky. A little time and it will carbonate AND all the ick will settle out. If it's still sweet and that's how you like it, you'll have to bring up the sweetness level with something nonfermentable, otherwise the yeast will just keep going with it until your bottles explode.

Concerning this, I made the mistake of leaving out an important point and that was that I immediately put it back under airlock when I got home (I just dip into it occasionally for a taste). Bottle bombs, indeed!

I'd write more, but I just got back from a pretty tiresome BBQ at my bosses house, and must needs immediately get my arse into bed! I'll post again later!

Chevette Girl
05-22-2011, 02:26 PM
OK, good... Just making sure, we don't want no 'splody bits! :)