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Thread: 4 Gallons in a 6 Gallon Bucket: Oxidation Risk?

  1. Default 4 Gallons in a 6 Gallon Bucket: Oxidation Risk?

    I've got 4 gallons that have been stabilized in a 4 gallon bottling bucket. I would like to leave it there for a month or so and then taste to determine if I need to make any adjustments to the taste. That's a lot of head space, but it has been stabilized. AM I at risk of oxidation? Would a CO2 blanket help?

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    Forgot to mention that this is a mixed berry melomel.

  3. #3
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    There's no risk. Go right ahead. Just make sure it's sealed off from fresh air and you'll be good to go. Purging the air with CO2 will definitely help negate any worries.

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    I wouldn't worry about oxidizing the honey or alcohol (honey is difficult to oxidize by nature, and the alcohol should be safe if you've stabilized). I _would_ worry about oxidizing flavor-compounds from the berries though; leaving half an apple exposed to air turns it brown and "non-fresh", I'd gather the same would happen with juice in a mead. If I remember correctly there's a huge juicing-market that specializes juicers that specifically do not oxidize the juice, like cold-presses and other thingamajigs that doesn't outright shred the fruit for juice.

    That said, if you leave the container undisturbed and airlocked (apart from the taste-tests) I don't think the impact will be noticeable; it's splashing and vigourous stirring you'll want to avoid, which becomes a non-issue once you've bottled and reduced the headspace.

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    Asking out of ignorance here but how would you create a blanket of CO2? The CO2 is likely to dissipate very rapidly into the air so after a few hours (certainly days) that "blanket" is going to be rather thread- worn. Are you prepared to check how well the CO2 is covering the mead on a very regular basis? IMO, you want to transfer the 4 gallons into a 3 gallon and a 1 gallon carboy. Then all concern is removed.

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    CO2 is heavier than air so it would settle a form a barrier between the mead and the air in the headspace. At least that's what I thought.

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    If CO2 would settle on the mead and not be pushed out by the air then my sense is that we would all be long dead from suffocation as we breathe out CO2 and that heavier than air gas would be the gas we would be walking through, sitting in and breathing instead of air... but I don't know that anyone even folk who hardly leave their homes are gasping for air after a few hours... So, yes, CO2 may be molecularly speaking heavier than air but my money is on the air tearing into and pushing out the CO2 in such a way that every few days you will need to top up your vessel with gas. But I could be wrong - I often am. But my money is still on the air replacing the CO2...

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    Food for thought, for sure. The only rebuttal I have is that the CO2 would be in an airtight and very still space. Not saying you're wrong. Just trying to figure it out, myself.

  9. #9

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    It's less of putting a blanket on and more of filling the headspace. When your mead naturally puts off CO2 during your ferment, it fills the space and pushes out the airlock. If you keep your setup closed, most of whats in your carboy/bucket will remain CO2. If you open it near the end of fermentation and introduce some normal air when its still degassing, and then open it up later, the effect is more noticeable. If in this example, I had 4 gallons in a 6 gallon carboy, I'll notice that the top gallon is more like normal air, but if I put my head in the bucket below the 5gallon mark, I can notice the concentrated CO2 sitting on the must, because it will make your nostrils burn.

    Once you open it at this stage though, you're pretty much dispersing whatever is left. To put CO2 back in as a protective layer, you can't just spurt a little in. The air currents from doing that alone won't let it settle. You have to purge it, by filling up all/most of the headspace with CO2, with the lid on to trap as much as you can. I know a lot of beer brewers who purge their kegs like this before kegging, although it seems like a waste of CO2 since you'll be purging with CO2 after you transfer, but they are nuts about oxidation.

    And Bernard, the CO2 in the atmosphere is like 0.04%. Even if it did settle, you wouldn't notice it I think. For our purposes in the bucket, we would be looking at like 50% or more.
    Squatchy also mentioned in another thread that topping off with CO2 isn't an effective long term protective measure, especially compared to sulfite additions. I know wineries use inert gasses like Argon, I imagine because its inert and won't react with anything over time, but CO2 might. But CO2 is cheap and argon is not, and its certainly helpful even if only by a little.

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    Understood.

    Nitrogen might be a cheaper alternative to argon.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken2029 View Post
    Understood.

    Nitrogen might be a cheaper alternative to argon.
    Probably cheaper than argon, but more expensive than CO2. Plus nitrogen is lighter than oxygen, so probably less effective than either of the others by some degree.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by henrik.peytz View Post
    I wouldn't worry about oxidizing the honey or alcohol (honey is difficult to oxidize by nature, and the alcohol should be safe if you've stabilized). I _would_ worry about oxidizing flavor-compounds from the berries though; leaving half an apple exposed to air turns it brown and "non-fresh", I'd gather the same would happen with juice in a mead. If I remember correctly there's a huge juicing-market that specializes juicers that specifically do not oxidize the juice, like cold-presses and other thingamajigs that doesn't outright shred the fruit for juice.

    That said, if you leave the container undisturbed and airlocked (apart from the taste-tests) I don't think the impact will be noticeable; it's splashing and vigourous stirring you'll want to avoid, which becomes a non-issue once you've bottled and reduced the headspace.
    If you look into it deeper you will find that alcohol it'sself will oxidise.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

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    Thanks, everyone. I am going t go ahead and get it bottled up. It's already quite drinkable after two months. I doubt if I would have altered it if I had waited.

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