I'm just in the process of making my first gallon batch of a pretty traditional mead. I started it at the end of December, racked to secondary a little over a month later, and then racked it again a few weeks ago after a bunch more of the yeast had settled out. I used 71b yeast, and right now the mead is crystal clear. However, despite it being very clear when i last racked, I have accumulated a bit more lees. There is a layer that covers the bottom of the jug so yo can't see through it, but it really has no more than a couple of mm depth, if that. I keep reading about how bad it is to leave mead on the lees of 71b for any length of time, and my plan was to bulk age for several more months if i can - do i need to rack again, or is the problem with bad flavours really only when there is a more significant amount?
I recently made a melomel with 71-B at the beginning of February, racked at the end of the month. My plan is to wait 3-4 months before racking again. Its coming up on 2 months at this point with no issues/off flavors. I do have an oak stave in it though that I stir once a week or so, this does kick up the lees at the bottom and prevent them from autolyzing quite as fast. I don't see any issues with your plan. What temp is aging at?
Welcome to the forums, groovymoose
You have two options. The real problem with lees is leaving them clumped and piled up at the bottom in big ammounts and for long times. So you either stir every now and then, or you rack every few months. When the layer of lees is thin, you can leave them for a longer time in there without worries, because they are not preasured by the lees above. So you can leave it two or three months and then rack again without worries. I would jsut wait two or three months then rack.
Once you get more informed you will see that you dont need to rack so early as you did. Its better to wait one or two months after the ferment is done, stirring everyday to prevent the lees from piling too long in the bottom, before racking for the first time. This is because the lees eat some of the bad flavours and odours left after the ferment and when they are stirred they bind to each other, making bigger clumps, that are easier to remove. That way when you rack, you will remove most of the lees in one go, and end up with a mead taht tastes good faster.
Thanks for the info guys!
Lees are a good thing- if done correctly!
They add body to the wine/mead but have to stirred every few days to keep the yeast active. Sur-lie ageing, like oak ageing, is one of the most under-used technique in mead making.
Page 40-42 describes how to do this.