View Full Version : Bottling and sanitizing

08-02-2016, 02:30 PM
So, some of my family members are being really skeptikal with my new hobby and are concerned about how safe is it to drink homemade mead.
First of all i havent had any problems so far but their comments made me revise my methods and it is possible that i am missing a couple things.
When it came the time to bottling my first mead i came here for some answers and i found most of them, but im not so sure now im doing everything corectly.

I sanitize the fermentation buckets with 1% metabisulfite spray, let it there for 24h, then rinse it. But when it comes to bottles (i recicle the ones from wine), y just wash them and add 1/3 of the volume in boiling water, and shake them for around 30s. Then i just put the mead into it. But maybe that is not enough, altough i am not sure. Its probably worth mentioning that my mead is chemically stabilized with K sorbate and K meta (around 50ppm)
Then i use a hand corker to cork the bottles, but i dont rinse, wash or sanitize the corks first. Should i? and if so, how?

Also, something happened in a previously bottled batch. in the neck of the bottle it has formed some foam that seems to be... yeast? i am not sure if that makes any sense. The batch was stable for weeks and had k meta and k sorbate so i doubt its alive if its yeast, but it doesnt look pretty. is this common? should i worry?

Well that about covers it. Thank you guys for the patience. Any notes or comments are apreciated.

08-02-2016, 02:48 PM
NewBee here but, I think your introducing new bacteria when you rinse.
A lot of people use a no rinse "Star-San".

08-02-2016, 02:48 PM
Your mead should be perfectly safe to drink. Pathogenic microbes like E coli will be killed by only 2-3% alcohol. Additionally, your sanitation practices are more than adequate, provided your recycled bottles are clean from any dregs from their previous contents.

08-02-2016, 04:04 PM
About the dregs: I personally give them a rinse as soon as I get them to wash old wine which hasn't yet dried. If I use them even months later I then rinse them again with a sanitized solution but I'm confident that there at least are no dregs in the bottle. If I leave the bottles unrinsed when I first get them it can be such a huge pain to really clean them out later. Sometimes when that happens I just throw away the bottle, especially since I have so many clean ones on hand.
About your method: I'm not sure rinsing with a bit of boiling water for such a short time is *technically* enough. I find that when I introduce hot water to a large volume of glass, the glass quickly absorbs much of the heat. Some no-rinse sanitizer is the IDEAL way to go, but I can assure you many people don't do things the ideal way. You're probably safe most of the time

08-02-2016, 04:15 PM
I typically submerge in a non foaming chlorine sanitizer (pink powder) dissolved in hot tap water for about 5 min then rinse with hot tap water and dry on a bottle tree.

Never had an issue even with beer which is alot more finicky than mead.

+1 on rinsing out the wine bottles ASAP. A real PITA once the wine had dried out and crystallized.

08-02-2016, 04:42 PM
Agree with Stasis. I personally submerge my bottles in StarSan for a few minutes and then let them drain on a bottling tree. Working with room temp StarSan is a LOT easier than working with boiling water. The key to killing stuff with boiling water is contact time, so in order to be 100% sure you're killing anything on the surface of the bottles you might want to submerge the bottle in boiling water for a minute or two. Like I said, using StarSan is a lot easier. ;)

An important distinction to make is that the purpose of sanitization is to kill off wild yeast (Brettanomyces) or bacteria (Lactobacillus, Pediococcus) that can alter the flavor of your mead. The amount of alcohol in mead is more than enough to prevent anything that will make you or your loved ones sick from growing in it. Your family members can enjoy your mead without worry.

08-05-2016, 03:10 PM
Back when I lived in the city, and you could smell the chlorine in the tap water, I just washed with hot soapy water, and rinsed with hot water. Later, when I got a dishwasher with a sanitary cycle, I used that (but, already clean (rinsed out) bottles and no dish washing detergent). Moved to the country, well water - iron bacteria- and would then wash using the sanitary cycle AND then bake the bottles in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Never had an infected bottle (people often refer to these as 'bottles of rope' as they get all sorts of slime and stuff in the bottle), and if you have ever tasted a bottle of infected mead or wine (called a 'corked' bottle when wine), believe me there is no doubt. Hot, vinegar, sour milk - Yeah - no doubt. Undrinkable.

But, I still had all these cases of 'really' hot glass sitting around to cool, and many of the bottles cracked due to the heat.

These days I use Star-San. I mix up a 5 gallon bucket (I think it's an ounce of Star-San for this much water) and drop the stuff in, holding bottles down so they fill with solution. Recommended contact time is 2 minutes. Pull the bottles (or whatever) out and pour the contents back into the bucket. Leaves a small amount of foam and bubbles in the bottle. You will hear 'don't fear the foam' - I was skeptical and really wanted to rinse those bottles, but resisted and filled them with mead. No problem. This is now my go to method. Everything gets 2 minutes in the solution. Have not had any trouble at all. And no burning hot water or glass.

One thing I will say, my daughter read that the active ingredient in Star-San can be used (by bad guys) to remove fingerprints. I would concur as after one particularly long bottling session (lots of my hands in the solution putting stuff in and taking stuff out) my fingers felt pretty weird. Really smooth. I figured it was just something in the solution that was slippery. Wrong. My finger prints, while not 'gone' were significantly reduced. Felt that way for a few days until they grew back. No other ill effects. Now I just try to limit my skin to solution contact, but I don't worry about it.

Last item. I do not dispose of the solution down the sink into my septic tank. May be overkill, but if the stuff is as good as it appears at sanitizing stuff, I don't want it killing off all the bacteria in my septic field.

Wish I had discovered this stuff years ago.

When I use corks (rarely - I have gone to screw top bottles) I just boil them in water for 15 minutes or so. Yeah, they float so you can only do 1 layer at a time.


08-07-2016, 02:08 PM
I use 100% recycled bottles, and I've never had a problem. Most of them came from co-workers and friends of co-workers (i.e. who knows where) and had dirt and old wine residue inside when I got them. I use bleach as my main bulk sanitizer for carboys, bottles, and pails because it's cheap and I don't mind rinsing everything. I save the pricey no-rinse stuff for quick spot applications; I make up a little bit at a time and keep it in a spray bottle.

Whenever I reuse a bottle for the first time, I get the old label off and scour the outside with a Brillo pad to remove any adhesive. On bottling day, I make a bleach solution that is strong enough to peel my hands if I get any on me, fill the bottles, and let them soak for at least an hour. At the end, I scrub each of them with a bottle brush to get the dirt out. I then rinse each bottle about 3-4 times until I can't smell bleach anymore. Only then do I consider a bottle ready for re-use.

If a bottle is one I've used before, I just give it a rinse before putting it in the garage with the others. On bottling day I clean those with a normal-strength bleach solution and rinse them before reusing. I know which bottles are which because I keep them separate from ones I've never used before.

08-07-2016, 02:20 PM
I dunk my bottles in a bucket of 1 Step (cleaner), pour out, then dunk in a bucket of StarSan (sanitizer). I Sanitize the corks in StarSan as well. Anything the bottles touch (the "christmas tree" bottle drying rack, and any part of the corker that the cork will touch) gets a wipe down with StarSan as well.

I only use new bottles, and so the 1Step Cleaner step is probably over kill. However, I've never had a problem regarding bottling, so I do not intend to change my method. If I were to use recycled bottles I would say the cleaning step is essential.

All my meads are over 14% ABV, so Im not concerned really with "harmful" bateria - ie, dangerous to humans- but just dont want my mead to turn to vinegar when they are in the bottles from some stray wild yeast/bacteria.

08-08-2016, 06:17 PM
I'm pushing 18%. I don't worry about anything... I could give to a nursery of babies and a nun and feel good about it.

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08-08-2016, 06:19 PM
Think about it... How do you think Vikings did it... Was it sterile. Probably not alcohol kill it

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