View Full Version : Head Space in Carboy/Bottling

04-25-2013, 02:28 PM

Here's another newbee question:

I just recently did the second racking of a five gallon batch of wildflower traditional (sweet). I have heard that air space in the carboy can have negative consequences. After the second racking, the mead comes up to where the glass carboy begins to curve, maybe ten inches from the lip.
If this can produce off-flavors, what is the best method for fixing this? I wasn't sure if I should go through with bottling now, because it is hard to tell from the carboy if the mead is clear enough yet, since the honey is a dark color. I took a sample of it a couple weeks ago and it wasn't clear yet, though it was starting to taste pretty decent.
The mead will be three months old next week. Unfortunately cold crashing is probably not an option due to limited fridge space. I wasn't sure if I should add a clearing agent and bottle asap, or concentrate on filling the empty space, or if it will be fine as is for a while.

Your advice will, once again, be greatly appreciated.
I'm sure I'll be asking more questions as I'm trying to brew a new batch every two to three months.;D

17 lbs Wildflower Honey
4 gallons Spring Water
5 tsp Nutrient
2.5 tsp Energizer
Lalvin D47 Yeast

04-25-2013, 02:58 PM
Actually, I may have adequate space in the fridge to cold-crash if this is the best option...

04-25-2013, 05:40 PM
transfer to a smaller carboy(s), top up with a already finished mead or add some marbles(lead free) to raise the level.

I don't think you should ever rush a mead to clear.

04-25-2013, 10:11 PM
Yeah I suppose keeping a couple six gallon and five gallon vessels around would alleviate lower levels after racking off spent yeasties.


04-25-2013, 11:12 PM
I know that this may sound like a "Who Is Buried in Grantís Tomb?" kind of question, but how much mead does a 5 gallon carboy actually hold? My liquid level is similar to maxmurder's after the second racking. Did I really lose that much mead in racking, or if you fill a 5 gallon carboy to the neck does it actually hold more than 5 gallons?

For bulk aging, I assume it is best to get the mead level into the neck. I think that I will transfer to a 3 gallon glass carboy and some smaller 1 gallon and/or half-gallon jugs.


04-25-2013, 11:36 PM
I know my primary fermenter is 6.5 gallons. I assume my glass carboys are 6 gallons, but to tell you the truth I'm not positive. I'm also assume my local brew store sells both 6 gallon and five gallon carboys, and the ones I have now are 6...

04-26-2013, 12:35 PM
I just checked my carboys and when 5 gallons is poured in, the liquid goes up to the bottom of the neck. This means that after two rackings, about a half gallon is lost. I guess adding an extra half gallon in the beginning might be the way to go.

04-26-2013, 03:21 PM
Hate to hijack my own post :P but I've decided to turn this batch into a peach mel. I added about five pounds of peach puree and some potassium sorbate as to not reignite fermentation. This brought the level up far enough that I shouldn't have to worry about oxidation.

04-26-2013, 11:50 PM
Somewhere on this site a read a post that suggested that when you rack from a bucket used for the primary fermentation into a carboy or jug for secondary fermentation it is a good idea to top off with a honey/water mix of the same ratio as the original recipe. I suppose that you could top of after each racking, but it seems that once the fermentation has stopped this would actually just be back sweetening.


04-27-2013, 12:25 AM
Yea, I though that too. I read here and was also suggested by someone at my homebrew store to start out making six gallons and during first racking, fill a one gallon carboy and then a 5 gallon. Then, during subsequent rackings, if the level drops off, add in from the extra gallon.

Chevette Girl
04-28-2013, 01:47 PM
Sorbate alone will not stop fermentation if there are still active yeast, all it does is stop them from replicating. You need some sulphites (campden tablet or potassium metabisulphite) in there too. Also there are certain bacteria that, if present in your must, can eat sorbate and turn it into a non-removable geranium flavour.

And yeah, I always try to make a half-gallon extra on a large batch, excess can be stored in wine bottles for topping up later. One of the advantages of buckets :)

04-28-2013, 07:13 PM
Thanks for the tips!
I made a note of the sulphites. Luckily there is no sign of fermentation but I'll keep note for future use. And yes, I like the extra wine bottles idea. I'd imagine you'd have to airlock them cause they might still be bombs?

04-28-2013, 09:16 PM
maxmurder, you should probably add the sulphites soon. HERE (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=20876) is a thread where I got the same advice from several experienced members of the forum.

You could also do a search for "geraniols."


04-28-2013, 11:40 PM
Thank you, folks, for the tips!

I will head to the brew store tomorrow and pick up some potassium metasulfites or campden tablets. I will also pick up some pectic enzymes for clearing purposes.

What would be the recommendation for adding this? Can I just add it straight to the carboy, or would it be best to siphon the batch into a bucket and stir it in? In my past experience, I have not used either of these additives.

04-29-2013, 12:08 AM
This was fatbloke's reply to my question, "Should I gently stir the crushed metabisulfite into the carboy before bottling or just drop it in? i.e. What is the correct balance between getting the metabisulfite mixed in vs. concerns of aeration/oxidation."

Yes, just crush a campden tablet and gently stir it in, so there's not splashing action. If you're not actually doing anything else with the batch, you can just drop the tablet in as it will dissolve over a day or so.

Since I was going to bottle my mead the next day, I crushed the campden tablet, dropped the powder into the carboy and gently stirred.

By the way, although my mead had sat for months between adding the sorbate and sulphite, it did not develop any off flavors. It is better to be safe though, and I am convinced from what I read that the sorbate and sulphite should be added together.

04-29-2013, 12:41 AM
Yes, I saw that.
I added the potassium surbate, Friday I think. I will add the metasulfite tomorrow and hopefully there won't be any issues.

Medsen Fey
04-29-2013, 04:46 PM
What is the correct balance between getting the metabisulfite mixed in vs. concerns of aeration/oxidation.".

You don't have to worry about oxidation from just stirring in your chemicals - just keep the headspace to a minimum.

05-01-2013, 01:45 AM
In reference to Chevette Girl's comment about making an extra 1/2 gallon for topping off:
To allow for headspace, would it be ok to put enough honey for a 6 gallon batch in a bucket filled to 5 gallons for primary fermentation, but add water to 6 gallons before racking into a 5 gallon carboy and 1 gallon jug for secondary fermentation?


Chevette Girl
05-10-2013, 10:43 AM
Danr, that would depend on the SG, if it's really high it might be a hard start and result in a stuck fermentation that may or may not finish when you dilute it. If it's a moderate ABV batch where your SG with an extra dose of honey would still come in under around 1.120 or so and you make a good starter if it's not as robust a yeast, that would probably work out fine, just makes the math a little wonky when you try to figure out your final alcohol level.