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View Full Version : Help ! My corks won't stay put !



Misty
09-11-2005, 10:53 PM
Hi everyone, I'm new to meadmaking. I started my first batch based on Ken Schramm's no heat medium sweet orange blossom mead. Here are the details:
15 lbs. honey
enough spring water to bring up to 5 gallons
2 tsp. nutrient
1 tsp. energizer
2 packets Lalvin 71b-1122

7/8/05 Started in primary OG 1.110
7/23/05 Racked into carboy SG 1.022
9/9/05 Fermentation stopped, I waited about a week then tasted and measured SG, was very dry 0.998, added 2.5 tsp. potassium sorbate

Today (9/11/05) I racked into clean primary fermenter and backsweetened by adding 3 cups honey. FG 1.012

Bottled into 375ml blue stretch bottles with an automatic bottle filler and corked with #9 corks. Corks were submersed for one hour in a gallon of water with two crushed campden tablets and a few drops of gylcerin before bottling. They will remain upright for 3 days.

About 2-5 minutes after bottling some of the corks started coming out of the bottles, one actually popped out. Out of 48 bottles I had to recork about 12 of them, now as I look at them (7 hours later) about 5 more are coming out. I think I know what is happening but I don't know why. I thought by adding the potassium sorbate I halted fermentation. Maybe all the splishing and splashing during bottling has angered the mead gods? Also why did it end up so dry that I had to backsweeten it? Please help!

Brewbear
09-12-2005, 12:37 AM
Hi Misty,
Welcome to the forums ;D
According to your recipe and the mead calculator at http://www.gotmead.com/making-mead/mead-calculator.shtml
your mead would have an PABV of 14.8% or thereabouts. 71B yeast ferments to 14% alcohol but if you are in the warm parts of the country I wouldn't be surprized to see the yeasties out perform themselves. As for the corking....maybe your mead is anctious to please its maker, drink it up.
Seriously, there is a small amount of CO2 absorbed in the mead. If you moved the mead from a very cool place to a warm place for bottling, that CO2 will be released. Considering the fact that you backsweetened, you might be facing a fermentation restart.The sorbate will not stop yeast from fermenting, it only prevents restarts.Usually one chills the mead for about one week, racks on sorbate, degasses and then backsweetens and bottles. Those more experienced on the forum will chime in soon, they will probably suggest mixing K-metabisulfite and K-sorbate, wait a day or so and then bottle.
Worse come to worse, trade the corks for beer bottle caps. Cap yhe bottles and have a sparkling mead intead of a still mead. Just pray you will not habe bottle bombs.

Hope this helps,
Ted

Misty
09-12-2005, 01:27 AM
Thanks for the info Ted!

I'm in northern NJ, the temp in the house has been between 70-75 the whole time. I've kept the central AC set so the temp in the house won't go over 75, pretty expensive mead, but so far it's worth it. I would have used my basement but it is infested with millipedes that find a way to get into everything.

I just checked the bottles again, still looks like only 5 will need to be recorked. Does anyone know how long I need to wait before I can figure all is calm with these bottles? I thought maybe bottle bombs would occur more often with capped bottles, and was hoping with corked bottles the corks would be pushed out before a bottle exploded. Should I wear saftey glasses whenever handling these bottles?
Thanks everyone!

JoeM
09-12-2005, 01:44 AM
Hi Misty, Iím in Northern NJ too. From what you're describing (corks coming out immedicately after being placed) it sounds like you didnít leave enough head space in the bottles and there was too much pressure from the small amount of air being compressed (Iíve experienced this myself). Either this or the mead was still actively fermenting when you bottled it. How much head space was there in the bottles? Did the mead look like it was actively fermenting when you bottled it?

Misty
09-12-2005, 02:08 AM
Hi Joe!
The mead stopped fermenting about a week ago. No action in the airlock, and when I put a gazillion candlelight power flashlight on it, no bubbles were anywhere to be found. I filled the bottles to maybe 3 inches below the top, hard to say the exact measurement (see below I only work in millimeters). But when they were corked I could see 1/2 to 1 inch of airspace beneath the cork.

Shouldn't you be studying? I must admit I read some of your previous posts. I graduated from UMDNJ also. New Jersey Dental School 1998. No surgery rotation for you in a few hours right???!!! Good luck with your studies!.... Misty

Oskaar
09-12-2005, 10:36 AM
Hey Misty,

You bottled too soon. After there is no airlock activity for a week that doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't residual CO2 and yeast in the mead itself that can be liberated/stimulated by jostling/bottling/etc.

Once your mead has cleared, and you have racked to an aging vessel it is always a good idea to take brix/gravity readings about three to four times to make sure the SG is not still dropping. Good rule of thumb is to take gravity readings every other week for a month or two to verify that there is no residual fermentation occuring and that the gravity/brix has stabilized.

Once you've verified that, it is always a good idea to place your mead in the frige for a week and then rack onto some K-metabisulfite and K-sorbate to stabilize the mead before bottling. If you don't want to use sulfite and sorbate, then you need to let your mead sit longer while checking the gravity/brix (I usually go six months or so) as temperature changes etc. to ensure that no activity is going at all. Then it's fine to bottle them up.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

JoeM
09-12-2005, 01:17 PM
Small world isnít it? And youíre right Iím definitely not on surgery right now or I wouldnít be typing posts at 2 am!

I think there are a few things going on with your mead. First, I definitely agree with Oskaar that bottling one week after visible fermentation has stopped is way too soon. I usually bottle my meads at about 6 months the earliest, but more typically closer to a year (unless I intend them to be sparkling).

The other thing is that Ĺ an inch of headspace is a little tight for a corked bottle. In my experience, tight headspace will cause the corks to come up out of the bottles within minutes, while active fermentation in the bottle takes more like days to weeks. Of course your problem can definitely be a combination of both.

Oskaar
09-12-2005, 01:23 PM
Holy cow! I completely glossed over the corkspace issue. Joe's right, that will definately cause problems.

Here's a link to a photo of some bottles with the gap that I leave in my bottles.

http://207.5.69.177/omsoftnet/MeadAndWine.jpg

The wine bottle on the left is one that was at about the last of the batch so I was taking it up as high as I could, but I don't normally fill quite so close to the cork.

Hope that helps,

Oskaar

Misty
09-12-2005, 09:24 PM
Thanks for all the help!
Nice bottles Oskaar! I guess I'm just going to wait everything out and watch the corks over the next few weeks. The headspace is fine and the corks aren't moving anymore. If any pop I'll have no choice but to drink them! Oh well, I guess that's not so bad.