View Full Version : Topping Off - necessary?

11-15-2004, 08:31 PM
How many of you top off after racking? What do you use?

I mentioned on another forum that I don't top off after racking, and I got chastised for "saying such misleading things when there are newbies around?" I find that it isn't that important, as long as you are very gentle in racking and efficient enough at racking that you don't lose that much mead in the process.

So, what's the consensus?

11-15-2004, 08:51 PM
I agree with Scott. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I don't think it hurts if it is not exposed for a significant length of time. I usually bottle within a month of racking so its not that important. Mead doesn't ruin that fast. In fact a little oxygen sometimes improves it. Besides for oak flavor, thats why they age some mead in barrels. It allows it to breathe and the slight oxidation adds some character along with the Oak. The rules were written for newbies but with a little experience they can be bent without adverse effects.

11-15-2004, 09:18 PM
What I do (and this might not be a great idea) is rack to a secondary, then I swirl it around just a little. In theory, not enough to oxidize, but enough to release some CO2 and give it a protective layer.

11-15-2004, 10:00 PM
I am not sure there are any absolutes, but I believe that taking chances with oxidation may be a lot like taking chances with sterilization. Cosmic has a good idea in that CO2 is heavier and will protect the must from free oxygen to some extent, but I believe that in general, after fermenation is completed, you need to avoid headspace if you can.

The sterilized marbles idea makes a really easy method without having to worry about how you fill headspace without worrying about whether you use more must or water and the resulting dilutions or changes you might get from whatever you choose to add. My problem is that I've lost all of my marbles... :o ::)

11-15-2004, 11:19 PM
Headspace is usually something created of my own testing and tasting, if I have a really great batch going and I want to taste frequently, or pull a gravity if I'm seeing some secondary activity. I generally don't worry about topping off unless I'm going for a set volume for one of my friends who is funding a batch.

I generally use a honey/water mixture to top off, or depending on the type of mead that I'm making I'll use the base ingredients of honey and something else to bring the volume back up to snuff.

I make it a point to follow good aseptic technique when I pull a sample and I haven't had any problems. I do make sure that I treat both the bung and the mouth of the carboy once I've taken my sample, and I'll leave a small piece of plastic stretch wrap over the mouth while I'm futzing around with things to keep any dust, pollen, molds etc from floating in and claiming squatters rights.



11-16-2004, 11:44 AM
i used to top off but now usually dont and have never really seen an appreciable difference to tell you the truth...especially not one proportional to the big fuss everyone makes about it!

11-17-2004, 03:58 AM
I have had a few go brown from oxygenation - but it was to be expected:

It was with the left over portion of about 400mL, placed in a 600mL PET bottle, with no sulfiting. So it was no surprise 8).

I would definitely top-up if:

No sulfites
head space > 5% of volume (arbitrary value)
level is low enough that maximum surface area of mead is exposed to the headspace (less surface area the further up the neck of the carboy the level is)
Any peach/strawberry/?? mead with subtle flavours that would be adversely affected by "Sherry" flavours.

Since I sweeten ALL my meads now (due to the honey flavour :-/), I top off with honey or water or both, usually because I am in the process of tasting and sweetening after the mead has clarified.
(In my next batches, I will try to use the attenuation of the yeast to achieve the sweetness I require and hence avoid all the extra fiddling with the mead).