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Thread: headspace in a carboy

  1. Default headspace in a carboy

    I set up some apple malamel and have a question about racking it.
    I used 6 L pressed cider I made myself from 17 Lb apples, 4 Kg honey, 4
    4 cinnamon sticks, and 5 cloves and 1 T nutmeg. The honey water was boiled and the spices added and boiled a few minutes longer. Added water to bring to 5 gallons and campden tablets and let sit covered overnight in a primary pail. 24 hours later I added 4.5 t acid blend, 2T yeast energizer and read the SG at 1.095. Added started K1V-1116 yeast. Put on lid with cork/tube and let ferment.

    After 2 weeks the SG stabilized at 0.98 so I siphoned it into a carbuoy to age. Problem is, because of the homemade apple juice/sludge, when I racked it there was almost a gallon of yeast apple sludge that just would not rack over...so my carboy isn't full. NO way to get out the last of the good from it so I just had to let it go... The secondary is only about 2/3 full. It's in a dark place to settle and age until bottling.

    My question is - Is this going to cause a problem for the mead? I'm so pleased with how it's going so far and I would hate to have it go off from too much air...any ideas? I was going to just leave it, but I'm wondering if there is something I can do besides putting the mead into a few smaller carboys (since I don't have any). I am a microbiologist so I'm science savvy...I feel like there is always more I could be doing when I make beer/wine. This is my first go a mead so I'd appreciate any advice if this is an issue I should fix.

  2. #2
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    Probably easier to get hold of some smaller containers, sooner rather than later. As oxidation is possible over time. It shouldn't occur that quickly, so no need to panic, but arranging anything to remove airspace once it finished its ferment and racked off the gross lees is likely to benefit it.

    Obviously, the marbles or glass chips trick is out of the question, and some of the other tricks have dubious merit (balloon blown up inside the carboy, because of the rubber material contaminating with off flavours etc), so I'd suggest as above.
    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geosomin View Post
    ...The secondary is only about 2/3 full. It's in a dark place to settle and age until bottling. ...
    In primary you can leave 2/3 full because of the co2 buildup, but If the carboy is only 2/3 full in the secondary I think that leaves to much air space(a lot of contact area between the wine and oxygen to react).

    I just asked the same question in this thread .
    A little resume from that thread.
    Traditional seems to resist oxidation far better than fruit meads(example apple) ...I got that from post #16.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chevette Girl View Post
    ... For some reason traditionals resist oxidation far better than something like Classick's strawberry mango in the Patron's section... It's probably that honey is not subject to oxidation anywhere near as badly as fruits are (take a bite of an apple or banana, see how long it takes what's left to turn brown, that's oxidation) . ...
    See post #5 in thread : for possible solutions, many good answers in that thread. Some of them might be useful to you ...

    Anyway:
    -I quess filling it up with the same spices(and/or other spice) and honey water and make it do a secondary ferment would be a solution that would give you less sediment ...

  4. #4
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    Hello Geosomin,

    Welome to GOTMEAD?

    I left a cyser with headspace for over a year with no ill affects. I do not recommend this as a course of action, of course.

    To prevent this in future bathes, it is probably best to make extra to count for loss. Maybe make 8 gallons to fill a 6 gallon carboy. This will leave you 1 gallon of gross lees and 1 gallon to top off after later rackings. And for tasting.

    Note that the point of racking in to remove the mead from the gross lees. Try to leave a good half inch of clear, undisturbed liquid when racking.
    “Give a man a beer, waste an hour. Teach a man to brew, and waste a lifetime!”

    slàinte mhath

  5. #5

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    I'll not be using one gallon carboys as primary fermenting containers again due to the loss at racking. But I did come up with a good solution so as not to have too much head space for the 4 one gallon batches I did primary ferment in the one gallon carboys: I racked into 3L glass wine jugs which turns out to be perfect size for the amount I ended up with when racked from the one gallon carboys.

  6. #6
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    Hey, Geosomin.

    Where abouts are you? I know Canadians like to mix and match metric and imperial units and Europeans do too, we don't see the Americans doing that so much

    One of the other tricks when you have a lot of sludgy yuck that you don't want to rack over into secondary but you want to get the liquid out of - Fatbloke's trick of putting the sludge into a jar in the fridge and then letting that settle. It really does make things settle out and compacts the lees layer in many cases. Oh, well, things to try for next year... I started pressing my own cider last year and it's almost painful to think of pouring almost a gallon of hard work down the drain (I put mine in a bucket and covered it with a towel and let it go to cider vinegar).

    In your case right now, if you don't mind adulterating your nice home-pressed cider with icky storebought, you could always get some storebought cider or apple juice and top off with that, adding honey to match the original SG (or not, I've done both ways, and even the stuff with potassium sorbate in it fermented out the rest of the way).

    It's only been two weeks so there's probably still some degassing going on, I wouldn't worry TOO much about leaving this for a few weeks while you figure out what to do with it but just remember, every time you open it, oxygen will be getting in so I'd try not to touch it.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  7. Default

    Yup -I'm Canadian. I work in a lab so I apologise if I throw random metric and standard measurements around...they're sort of interchangable to me.

    I figured the simplest solution was to just go out yesterday and get a 3 gallon and 1 gallon carboy. Not only does it mean I now have an extra carboy (he heh) but the 3 gallon is nice and full and clear with about an inch headspace, and the more sludgy appley stuff form the bottom of the racking off is in the 1 gallon one, keeping the 3 gallon rather nice and clear. They have an airlock on them bock and are tucked away out of the light I heard a blub or two last night, but since the SG was down to 0.99 it's pretty much done fermenting. I think they should be quite happy to sit there for months now and do their thing until I bottle them.
    Now to think of what to make in my spare carboy

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geosomin View Post
    Yup -I'm Canadian. I work in a lab so I apologise if I throw random metric and standard measurements around...they're sort of interchangable to me.

    Now to think of what to make in my spare carboy
    Wahoo, always good to see another Canuck on the site. There is a location indicator in your profile (check the user cp options)... there are a handful of us scattered about the site (and about the country, mostly Ontario and Alberta these days) and knowing who's near who is always nice. Generally, full-on metric folks are from Europe, full on-imperial from US and mix and match from Canada. But a lot of us regardless of location still measure our fruit in pounds, our small weights in grams and our small volumes in teaspoons... it's often the liquid volumes in litres that give it away. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into this

    Yup, a few months in a dark corner oughtta be just what it wants...

    And as for what to make in your spare carboy, start making a list, the possibilities are almost infinite. Hehe, new carboys always come with a free hefty dose of the urge to fill it with something
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  9. #9
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    This is an issue i run into with every mead. I've added water to top up the carboy, tea, honey/water mixuture but if you've racked more than once, say 3 or 4, then i would imagine you don't want to keep diluting or adding other flavors or even honey water that will make the fermentation keep on going. I've basically said screw topping up the carboy as long as i'm not going to leave it for a long time, (say 6 months or so). Putting your mead into 5 smaller carboy's doesn't appeal to me either. As long as the carboy's approx 3/4 or more full I don't worry about it. I would assume that the little CO2 that is produced during the slow fermentation would drive out the oxygen that is in the headspace? I could be wrong but i haven't had any oxidization problems so far.

  10. #10

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    My normal route to get around the head space issue is to make a slightly larger primary. If I plan on a one gallon batch I will use a 2 gallon bucket for the primary and make a 1 3/4 gallon batch in it. When I rack I fill a full 1 gallon secondary and a full half gallon for using later to top off if needed. If it's a 5 gallon batch I use the 7 gallon bucket and make a 5 3/4 and rack into a 5 gallon carboy and a half gallon carboy. Works every time

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryguy16 View Post
    As long as the carboy's approx 3/4 or more full I don't worry about it. I would assume that the little CO2 that is produced during the slow fermentation would drive out the oxygen that is in the headspace? I could be wrong but i haven't had any oxidization problems so far.
    I've done this with no problems too, but only if it was still bubbling enough that I knew CO2 would displace the oxygen in the headspace, and then no touching the airlock until you bottle it or put it in a smaller carboy.

    I have a lot of carboys and none of them seem to be exactly the same size so I often can juggle carboys when racking so that each batch gets racked into a slightly smaller carboy to make up for losses, and once there's not enough for the 4-gal, I've got 3 gal carboys and 1.5 litre jugs, which work quite well...

    But really, once you've racked off the gross lees (stuff from primary fermentation) and any fruit, that's your biggest loss right there, and as long as you're careful, future rackings should not lose THAT much, I generally rack things on average about twice before I bottle them and usually don't lose enough to need to top off, it just gets a little lower down the neck of the carboy.
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  12. Default

    Get a canister of inert gas and float it on top. I'm taking food and wine pairing classes and that's what they do with the half empty bottles of wime to help preserve them. They say argon is the best, but carbon dioxide works as well.

  13. #13

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    Hey. Anybody body been using Carbonation Drops to drive some co2 into the headspace of the carboy?

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by jens183 View Post
    Hey. Anybody body been using Carbonation Drops to drive some co2 into the headspace of the carboy?
    That would only work if you still have active yeast to go at those sugars.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by TAKeyser View Post
    That would only work if you still have active yeast to go at those sugars.
    Is Carbonation Drops just sugar? In that case it was no better idea than just using honey-water. I never used Carbonation Drops, I thought the Carbonation Drops was reacting in some kind of way releasing co2 ...

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by jens183 View Post
    Is Carbonation Drops just sugar? In that case it was no better idea than just using honey-water. I never used Carbonation Drops, I thought the Carbonation Drops was reacting in some kind of way releasing co2 ...
    They are just pre-measured Sugar containing 27% glucose and 73% sucrose.

  17. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chevette Girl View Post
    [COLOR="Purple"]I've done this with no problems too, but only if it was still bubbling enough that I knew CO2 would displace the oxygen in the headspace, and then no touching the airlock until you bottle it or put it in a smaller carboy.
    Gases don't work that way. CO2 will not displace O2. Their partial pressures are independent of one another. The only influence CO2 has on O2 levels is by affecting the equilibrium of a chemical reaction. If O2 is on one side of the reaction and CO2 is on the other side, increased CO2 concentration can keep the O2 from reacting, but you're talking about the headspace, where, presumably the various gases can diffuse separately from one another.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by victorengel View Post
    Gases don't work that way. CO2 will not displace O2. Their partial pressures are independent of one another. The only influence CO2 has on O2 levels is by affecting the equilibrium of a chemical reaction. If O2 is on one side of the reaction and CO2 is on the other side, increased CO2 concentration can keep the O2 from reacting, but you're talking about the headspace, where, presumably the various gases can diffuse separately from one another.
    Hey, welcome to the forum.

    Yes, you're absolutely right in a steady-state situation where there's nothing going into or coming out of the system, the law of diffusion states that the gases will mix, regardless of their molecular weights. However, if the must is degasing or the yeast are still converting sugar to alcohol and CO2, the headspace is not in a state of equilibrium as your statement suggests, because there is CO2 being added to the system (headspace).

    There is no O2 in the must because the yeast consumed it all, and the yeast are producing CO2 which stays in solution for some time before it's all released, even after the yeast are done producing it. So no O2 is coming into the headspace, and the only O2 in the headspace is whatever came in during the last racking, or by diffusion the last time the airlock was off, and CO2 is coming into the headspace from the must, so even if you assume it's completely mixed right from the get-go (which it may not be, CO2 can make blankets in very still conditions and confined spaces) and you just go with the proportions, the CO2 coming out of solution is going to dilute the O2 significantly even if it doesn't displace it with no mixing.

    I'm not going to get into the numbers, it's too been damn long since I've used it and all my textbooks are all buried under wine stuff in the basement, but think of it this way - fill a pop bottle with tap water. Fill another with a carbonated beverage. Empty half of each out so you've got 50% headspace. Give them both a good shake and then crack the seal so you can let any gases coming out of the liquid a chance to escape. Repeat a couple of times until you're not getting a hiss anymore from the carbonated one (indicating that it's now completely degased). You already know what happens when you shake up a closed bottle of soda water versus tap water, which headspace do you think has more oxygen in it? I'd lay a bottle of my best mead on there being insignificant amounts of oxygen in the one from the carbonated beverage, and your standard atmospheric average of around 21% in the other. Anyone who's got a gas meter and is willing to run the experiment and prove me wrong is welcome, the proof for me would definitely be worth the price of shipping a bottle to you!
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend to....um, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  19. #19

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    I invested in extra carboys, You don't have to get them all at once. Get a 3 gallon this month & next month get a 6 gallon. Also, Buy a 1.5 Liter bottle of wine & keep the bottle. The mouth on that bottle is big enough for a drilled stopper.

  20. #20
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    I am by no measure an expert on this, however, when I have headspace issues after racking I flow CO2 into the carboy and then install the airlock. If there is an issue with the gasses mixing, I figure that there is at least less O2 in contact with the mead. I have seen no problems after using this method although I am a newbee and none of my meads have sat around for that long. Just my 2 cents.

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