View Full Version : Clearing vs bottle conditioning (carbonating)

03-25-2015, 06:40 PM
Hi from Australia,
So I'm just making a plain mead to begin with...

8kg honey
8g Vintner's SN9 wine yeast
Staggered Vintner's Premium wine nutrients (day 1, 2, 4 and 1/3 grav) 18g each

My questions are...

So I'm fermenting and aging in a good beer fermenter with only a few litres head space (day 5 and no foam over but obvious fermentation and already tastes like nice sweet mead). Well sealed but obviously not as good as glass. I've left ginger beers for 3 months with no sign of oxidisation.
Too me, I don't see the point in clearing if I'm not too interested in aesthetics. Especially if clearing over time in the fermenter may lead to oxidisation. Are there any flavour reasons for clearing? I know there will be a subtle difference between bottle aging and bulk aging.

So my plan is to bottle (beer bottles and caps) when fermentation has appeared to have stopped (maybe over 2 weeks). I'm happy for it to carbonate over time so I don't plan on force stopping carbonation.
Does this sound safe? Any suggestions as to what a rough final gravity might be?

I think I'll invest in a few large carboys for next time.

Really interesting and helpful forum!

Thanks guys and gals

03-25-2015, 10:06 PM
I'm a little confused about the question... Do you mean that is it better to clear or to condition? The two are kind of apples and oranges. It's impossible to clear AND bottle condition, because there is always a little yeast on the bottom. But, you can clear and carbonate... in a keg. Basically force carbing. NOTE.... I am WASTED right now, so I may have missed the point. :)

EDIT: Now that I seem to have comprehended a little more your question about bottling when it's not quite done. That makes me a little nervous because unlike beer, a mead can slowly build up a LOT more pressure than beer. You run the risk of making bottle bombs.

My best suggestion is to read the newbie guide. I did that as well after the old timers yelled at me a lot. It helps.

03-25-2015, 10:26 PM
Here's the newbee guide I posted back up after the website update


03-26-2015, 07:45 AM
Yeah, I was interested in whether the clearing stage had any benefits other than aesthetic. Thanks for the link!

03-26-2015, 12:13 PM
The leftover yeast in the bottle can contribute some interesting flavors, some good (champagne) some horrible (fart water). So it basically keeps the mead from tasting like yeasty, bready, champagne, or even nasty sulfuric bottled fart water. For the most general kind of "why" There are a slew of others, but those are the big ones "off flavors"...

03-26-2015, 04:20 PM
EJM3, you have such a way with words!

Medsen Fey
03-26-2015, 07:24 PM
Bottling an active fermentation is playing Russian Roulette; good way to lose an eye.
Let your fermentation finish dry, then let it clear, then add back a measured amount of sugar to achieve a level of carbonation that you want (4 g/L gives 1 volume of CO2).

03-26-2015, 07:24 PM
EJM3, you have such a way with words!

Yeah but she's spot on!

03-26-2015, 11:43 PM
I don't intend on bottling while still active. I assumed that clearing wasn't necessarily related to fermentation activity but your answers seem to suggest that if it's not clear, it may still be fermenting.

03-27-2015, 02:11 AM
Yes. Cloudy mead is very likely to be still fermenting. There are some exceptions to that rule. Some yeasts can remain in suspension for a while after the ferment is complete but by and large one good indication that the yeast is finally done is when it all falls to the bottom. Generally assuming moderate temps this happens at 30 to 50 days. The only way to be sure is with a hydrometer.

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07-15-2015, 11:07 PM
Hi, I'm pretty new but have been reading a lot as Ive been making mead the past few months. I've already learned a lot here, as well as through trial & error, with lots more to learn still.

Thank goodness I finally found a thread that touches on what I was searching for. I understand that the preferred (by far from the reading) method of bottle conditioning (carbing) is to ferment dry and then add measured sugar back in for the "bubbles." Reading on a cider page, they offer an option to alternatively bottle just prior to the end of your ferment, when the SG is .003-.005 area. I'm curious as to anyone's experience with this, reliability, etc. I'd imagine using known honey harvest & a proven yeast would help to ensure you could trust the hydrometer & finishing SG. I'm hoping someone has input on it, worst case I may attempt this in PET bottles for safety reasons. The rushed bottling, I'd imagine would also result in a bit of bottle sediment since it likely wouldn't have time to clear I bet?

Also, similarly, I've started a 1 gallon palmetto honey traditional with 71b, starting gravity 1.085. A week later the hydrometer is at 1.050. My wife and I snuck a taste and she commented that she'd actually enjoy the mead in this state, I think the hydrometer had it at about 5% ABV and there was considerable co2 in the must (prior to de-gassing). My question is this, would it be crazy hit it with pot.sorb to stop the fermentation & then bottle at this stage? Ideally I'm wondering if the mead would retain this light carbonation from the active ferment, along with the taste. Again, I'd imagine there'd be considerable sediment in the bottle, but would this yield a low ABV, semi sparkling mead?

Thanks for any thoughts.

07-16-2015, 10:00 AM
It's not crazy to stop the fermentation at this stage at all especially if you like the way it tastes. However I think it will be difficult to keep the carbonation at the level you are experiencing now.

Maybe if you did a cold crash as close to 32F as you can (avoiding freezing of course) then gently racked it off the lees, then while remaining as cold as possible, added your stabilizing chems, you might retain the fizz but I've never tried it so I really couldn't say.

Sent from my TARDIS at the restaurant at the end of the universe while eating Phil.

07-16-2015, 10:41 AM
Thanks for the input Mannye, I really apprecaite it - cold crashing to try to clear it some before bottling would make sense.

I see you've been around for quite awhile, any experience you might have to offer on the end of ferment (.003) bottle conditioning? It would seem that with a hydrometer, catching it shortly before it runs out of available sugar would minimize overpressure problems, especially if you errd on the lighter side of carbonating and maybe even plugged it at .002. Hypothetical thoughts from an experienced person is very welcomed and appreciated.

07-16-2015, 12:02 PM
I personally wouldn't. I have had meads go well below 1.000 if the yeast are really happy.


While 1.003 to 1.000 would give you a nice light carbonation, 1.003 to .990 or so would give you bottle bombs.

Sometimes the yeast do what they want to do. This was D47 that was supposed to be a semi sweet mead and ended up giving me a dry 19% ABV mead.

So I personally would never bottle a still fermenting mead.


07-16-2015, 10:21 PM
That's a dry ferment for sure! I appreciate your taking the time to share your experience.

07-17-2015, 01:03 AM
Just in case you are interested at 19% ABV if all you had was water, and alcohol you would be down around SG 1.970 or so. That means There was probably still just a wee bit of sugar left even in this fermentation. It turned out wonderfully and is a nice dry mulberry mead, one of my favorites, though most don't consider it to be very dry.

Not only that but it went from that orange, to a very very deep red a year later when I looked at it again.

But I digress, the point is 1.000 is by no means as low as a fermentation could possibly go.


07-17-2015, 11:58 AM
Yeah. Bottling an unfinished primary is asking for trouble. I only bottle condition when I have total control over how much food the yeast is going to have. Usually no more than a cup of corn sugar or 2/3 cup of honey in 5 gallons.

Sent from my TARDIS at the restaurant at the end of the universe while eating Phil.

07-20-2015, 11:38 AM
I actually managed to bottle carbonate a plum wine and keeping it sweet. In the rule, its either dry and still, dry and carbonated or sweet. There's no sweet and carbonated unless you stabilize, add sugar and force carbonate. Anyway, the way this happened was as following:

I did a regular must with plums, hot water shower straight on the pulp, etc. like you'd do with grapes. I used bread yeast at the time and let it ferment normally until it stopped. I added sugar in steps since I wanted it sweet. Then fermentation stopped and it was a nice sweet plum wine, so I thought it had been so long (and at 15% abv) that the lowly bread yeast wouldn't go any further. I bottled it and set it away for 6 months.

Then, come next summer I cracked open a bottle and...cracked it did! Well, luckily not the bottle but man was it a fountain! Definitely 4 volumes carbonated or so. But after tasting it was STILL very sweet. Here's what I think that happened;

After the ferment went still, there was still enough sugar to make it sweet. I bottled and somewhere during the aging, the yeast became active for a small bit and fermented SOME of the remaining sugar before going still again. Result: sweet bottle-carbonated wine.

Case in point: this was a complete accident and completely uncontrolled. Every one of those bottles is a potential risk factor when handled. Bottling a still fermenting must, hell even one which went still for a long time, is a huge risk. Even bread yeast proved that it can do very extraordinary things unexpectedly. Yeast will rarely agree on your measurements and appointed gravities.

07-20-2015, 06:26 PM
So there you have it. You can bottle it before it finishes, but wear eye and hand protection when you handle it.

OR. Just force carb your backsweetened, stabilized wine. It's the option that won't put your eye out. And you know the old saying, "It's all fun and games until you lose an eye to an exploding bottle."

Sent from my TARDIS at the restaurant at the end of the universe while eating Phil.

07-20-2015, 10:15 PM
Thanks Swordnut & Mannye , I appreciate the feedback. If I do give it a run, I'll either 1) use PET bottles so I can monitor and worst case - no big harm in plastic splitting 2) bottles maybe half of the batch to bottle condition and monitor the other half in Carboy for final gravity, side by side.

Ideally I'd love a little carbonating system- I think from my poking around so far Id like a sparkling sweet mead 6-7% abv (hydromel, right?). This would be tough to pull off without carbing equipment. Thanks again, I appreciate the info.

07-20-2015, 10:43 PM
Here was my solution when I started.

I bought a Hand held CO2 system (about $25 in today's market)

Then I made several of the these $1.99 for two at Kragen Auto supply

and a car pressure nozzle about $5-6 and I was good to go.


07-20-2015, 11:17 PM
Thanks Jay, I'm fairly handy - I may just try to piece something together similar to yours.

07-21-2015, 07:37 AM
You can scour craigslist for frustrated beer Brewers selling off equipment which can result in some great deals. Sometimes it's so cheap I get it even if all I want is the carboy.

Sent from my TARDIS at the restaurant at the end of the universe while eating Phil.

07-21-2015, 08:55 AM
Here was my solution when I started.

I bought a Hand held CO2 system (about $25 in today's market)

Then I made several of the these $1.99 for two at Kragen Auto supply

and a car pressure nozzle about $5-6 and I was good to go.


There's also the carbonator cap gizmo -


... or the whole setup...


07-21-2015, 11:55 AM
If you want to spend the extra money, I purchased a couple of these and love them, you can both pressurize and serve through the same cap.


Took about 3 weeks to get here, but hard to beat for 12 bucks each.

Yes, I know they are out of China, but they were the only ones that I found that I could purchase these from. I think that they are actually out of Australia.

In addition it makes it real easy to fill a bottle from a keg which with the regular ones you always end up with a bottle that is half full of foam.

Just sterilize all your stuff, and then pressurize the bottle and then fill from the keg, as long as you keep pressure on the bottle by just cracking the cap a little and you have a line down to the bottom, no foam.


07-21-2015, 03:18 PM
$100.00 bucks aint bad at all to get started. Thanks for the information guys.

07-21-2015, 05:33 PM
Just don't say we didn't warn you when a couple of years down the line your wife wants to know why the basement, the garage, the tool shed and your child's bedroom if full of brewing equipment.


09-10-2015, 08:36 AM
How long can a mead be aging and still have viable yeast to bottle condition?
I.e. If I age a mead for a year (rack at least 3 times in the meantime) and prime the bottles with sugar should I expect all bottles to be sparkling or would at least some of them be still?
I assume the best yeast would be something like Ec-1118 (from newbee guide) but would another hardy yeast such as k1-v1116 do this reliably?

09-10-2015, 07:02 PM
If you're bottling in PET, force carbing is easy. Get a CO2 bottle, and PET carbing caps. They're awesome.

Here's an example, but I prefer the stainless steel version (http://www.amazon.com/LiquidBread-The-Carbonater/dp/B0064OKADS) Have a hunt about.
Or here's how to make them (http://www.brewgeeks.com/carbonator-cap.html)

09-10-2015, 07:13 PM
urrrh! I didn't see there were two pages. This information has already been posted. Apologies. Just know that they are indeed awesome, but they break regularly, so get the stainless steel ones.

09-10-2015, 09:05 PM
If you look around you can find stainless steel ones that are really neat. Not only do they take both the Gas in and the Liquid out fittings for ball lock connectors, but they have a connection on the inside for adding a tube that will reach the bottom of you bottle. In addition it comes apart for complete cleaning and if necessary (i.e. you get an infection) you can replace the poppets for a couple of bucks instead of replacing the whole thing.