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Thread: Risks of bottling

  1. Default Risks of bottling

    First, I think this is a terrific website and from the posts I have read it seems like great people behind it.

    I started my first mead in early June. Its a straight mead started with 12 pounds of honey, 5 gallons of water, and I used Lavlin 71B-1122 yeast. I was a little silly in not buying a hydrometer in the beginning so I have no idea what the starting level (Sorry beginner speach as I cant remember what the term is). So a month or so went by and I racked it to another carboy, still very cloudy. It had a very bad taste. Added the additional 3 pounds of honey as the recipe called for and let it go another month or so, racked it and it tasted pretty good. It had completely stopped bubbling in the airlock at several points but all the sudden it started again the other day after I moved it. I liked the taste of it where it was so I used sorbate about a week ago and it still continues on.

    I guess my question is, how do I know when it is ok to bottle it and begin the aging process without the bottles exploding? I am going to use mostly wine bottles and cork it. But I wanted to put some in a few nice beer bottles I have and cap it. So I could pass those out to friends for tasting.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

    Geoo

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Well two things....

    1. DO NOT BOTTLE UNTIL IT STOPS FERMENTING!!! Bottle bombs are dangerous and messy!!!

    2. You may stop it from fermenting by a number of methods (chemical, cold, filtering). However, a batch stopped via cold storage may restart once it is warmed again.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Geoo,

    Welcome to the forum!

    You will find a wealth of info here, and lots of great people willing to help.

    Don't forget to use the search option (small search button - works better than the search in the green header)

    Specific Gravity is the term you are looking for, and yes without a hydrometer you are going to have a much less precise means of determining when it is "safe" to bottle.

    Your restart on fermentation is not uncommon. It will continue to ferment until either 1. you stop it using sorbate and sulfites (or sterile filtration to remove all of the yeast cells). 2. it reaches the alcohol tolerance of the yeast. 3. the must runs out of fermentable sugars.

    Not knowing where you are with sugars and alcohol content, your best bet is to stabilize with potassium metabisulfate, and potassium sorbate, then bulk age it for 6+ months.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes.

    David
    David Baldwin
    Michigan Meadery LLC

    www.michiganmeadery.com

  4. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Thanks for the replies and the info about the search function.

    So, even if I purchased a hydrometer now it wouldnt do me any good for determining if all the yeast was dead? I thought I might possibly be able to use it now and then a week from now and if there was a difference I would know that it was still fermenting.

    Do you have to have a new hydrometer for each measurment or can you re-use it?

    The fermenting thing is what really confuses me. I just dont know when done is really done.

    Thanks
    Geoo

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Geoo,

    A hydrometer is one basic piece of semi-durable equipment that you will want. It is a floating (usually glass) instrument that measures the specific gravity of your liquid. You fill the cylinder with must (liquid) and drop in the hydrometer. It take some practice to learn to read it accurately and quickly, but a good 3 scale hydrometer will tell you % alcohol potential, % sugar, and... now I can't remember the 3rd scale...

    I call it semi-durable because you can reuse it over and over - until you drop it in the sink - onto the floor... They are a bit fragile.

    It's not too late to start tracking your specific gravity. You may want to check out the batch calculator to come up with an approximate OG Originating Gravity. That will give you a relative benchmark for where your must is at now in the process of fermentation.

    Yeast turn sugars into alcohol and CO2. Fermentation is done when the yeast die of alcohol poisoning (reach their alcohol tolerance) or when they consume all of the available sugar. Otherwise you need to stop fermentation at a certain point with filtration or chemical stabilization.

    The other must have is Ken Schramm's book - The Compleat Meadmaker.

    David

    David Baldwin
    Michigan Meadery LLC

    www.michiganmeadery.com

  6. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baldwin
    A hydrometer is one basic piece of semi-durable equipment that you will want. It is a floating (usually glass) instrument that measures the specific gravity of your liquid. You fill the cylinder with must (liquid) and drop in the hydrometer. It take some practice to learn to read it accurately and quickly, but a good 3 scale hydrometer will tell you % alcohol potential, % sugar, and... now I can't remember the 3rd scale...
    Yeah, I'm using my girlfriend's mom's hydrometer from when she used to make wine back in the day. I tells % alch potential, % sugar and Brix (I'm not sure what a Brix reading is for, though.)

    Although it was great that there was one just lying around waiting to be used, they are still cheap enough to pick one up at the LHBS, they're around $5-$7 at the one I shop at.

  7. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Just to follow up

    I didnt want to confuse anyone by stating this upfront but I actually have three 5 gallon meads going at the moment. I have a Christmas Cyser, a Concord pyment, and the straight mead. My initial post was about my straight mead because it was the one I was concerned about the most.

    So, I went and bought a hydrometer today and I am totally shocked by what I perceive the results to be. I figured that straight mead and the concord pyment was about ready to bottle, and that the Christmas cyser was a long way off. Below are the results.

    Current temp was 70f for all three meads so I didnt figure that I needed to adjust for temperature.

    The straight mead called Honeymoon Mead is very sweet and has a terrific flavor by the limited standards I have to judge it on. But the hydrometer read 1.050

    The Concord Pyment is also very sweet with just a little bite to it and it was at 1.036

    But the Christmas Cyser almost tasted like a beer. It wasnt sweet at all, or barely, and it read .994.

    I was wrong about the yeast type in my initial post. The straight mead was actually created with White Labs Sweet Mead Wine Yeast #WLP720. The Pyment were created using the Lavlin 71b-1122. The Cyser was created with Lavlin EC1118

    So it would seem to me that the straight mead and the pyment aren't close at all and I wonder what the sorbate is going to do to it now. I think that the cyser probably consumed all the honey sugars and died but when if I add more honey to sweeten it up a bit, I wonder if it will start fermenting again or not.

    I am a bit perplexed at how to proceed but I will say that buying the hydrometer is something I should have done a VERY long time ago.

    Geoo

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    OK, all is not lost.

    Sorbate will keep a stopped batch from restarting - it won't stop an active fermentation.

    If you haven't hit it with sulphites yet, I think your pyment and straight mead should continue to ferment out.

    The 1118 performed exactly as expected. If you want the cyser sweet then let it clear, then rack it to another carboy and treat it with K-sorbate, (K-sulphite too if you want). Then you can add additional honey to backsweeten. Bulk age to make sure fermentation doesn't kick back in.

    Try the search function on the words sorbate and sulphite. You will find a wealth of information discussed about the pros and cons of these stabilizing chemicals.


    David
    David Baldwin
    Michigan Meadery LLC

    www.michiganmeadery.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Geoo,

    I second the recommendation that you get The Compleat Meadmaker. It will be the best investment you ever make in meadmaking... seriously...

    Good luck!
    Pewter

  10. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Quote Originally Posted by Pewter_of_Deodar
    Geoo,

    I second the recommendation that you get The Compleat Meadmaker. It will be the best investment you ever make in meadmaking... seriously...

    Good luck!
    Pewter
    Ahh, I should have mentioned in my post that I did order it this morning along with a wine/mead recipe book so that I could get free shipping via Amazon. I looked for the book at barnes and noble and my local brew shop yesterday but neither had it.

    I really appreciate the advice and everything from you guys. I'm pretty sure you understand the nervousness of a first batch of mead, not to mention three first batches. If I had it to do over again I might would have gone with smaller batches just in case I mess it up.

    The cyser is still extremely cloudly and its been in the secondary fermenter since July. I'm not quite sure how clear it is supposed to look. Hopefully the book will help.

    Geoo

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Geoo,

    We all have been in your shoes and gone through that same nervousness. For me, every time a newcomer posts about it, I smile because of the pleasant memories it brings back. Welcome to Gotmead and more important, welcome to the hobby!

    Pewter

  12. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baldwin
    The 1118 performed exactly as expected. If you want the cyser sweet then let it clear, then rack it to another carboy and treat it with K-sorbate, (K-sulphite too if you want). Then you can add additional honey to backsweeten. Bulk age to make sure fermentation doesn't kick back in.
    The Cyser-
    I had actually added a little more honey inbetween my post and yours so I am going to let it sit for a bit and then do as you have suggested. However, it is amazing how much clearer it is now (Third racking) than it was.

    The Pyment-
    If a mead is much to sweet after all is said and done, is there a way to make it less so? Dont forget this is one that I had treated with sorbate so I dont know that I can pitch more yeast. Little confused about that one.

    Geoo

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Geoo,

    If it is too sweet at the end of it all, you can always make another batch - plan this one to ferment dry - and blend the two.



    David
    David Baldwin
    Michigan Meadery LLC

    www.michiganmeadery.com

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Haaaaay,

    How did I miss out on the party? No one told me it was try on Geoo's shoes day? I hope everyone was wearing socks!

    Seriously, that hydrometer is a good piece of equipment to have around as mentioned below. One of the main reasons is that you'll need it to be sure that your mead has stopped active fermentation. Taking a gravity reading on a periodic basis to make sure the SG is not still dropping is really necessary in order to be sure that fermentation has indeed stopped, and you can proceed to bottling.

    The other thing that is very important is to research what yeast you are going to use BEFORE you make your must. I can't stress this enough. To me, many problems with "too sweet, or too dry" situations are due to poor yeast research, and poor must design to accomodate the yeast.

    cheers,

    Oskaar
    Is it tasty . . . precious?

  15. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Hum

    I thought the newbie section was the place for others to help me try on my shoes? I can go play in another playground though if I am being annoying with my questions. I could possibly just be being over sensitive it wouldnt be the first time. But just so any concerned folks would like to know... I am starting to feel like I shouldnt ask questions. There are forums out there like that.. and its expected that only people in the know discuss things.. but since Gotmead had a newbie section I didnt get that impression.

    And just in case you missed it the last 10 times.. I am using the search function. Yep. I found it.

    Thanks
    Geoo

  16. #16

    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Hey Geoo,

    We Do Not want you to go away, You're questions are welcome here, as are you!

    Hi, I'm Anthony, and I'm a mazer. Started in the hobby about 7 months ago, have learned as much as I can from reading, doing, asking every question that coems to mind and taking the advice of those who offer it, even if I don't admit to it.

    From a couple of resent batches bottled, I learned the hard way what folks here had been telling me. Unless your mead is extra dry (no sugars left in it), use K-sorbate before you bottle. I've been very lucky in that my bottles have only blow the corks, and none have burst.

    Welcome to the forums,

    Anthony

  17. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Thanks Anthony, and I really have gotten some great help. Its just that I am becoming a little frustrated at the "You should use our search tool" line. Because I have and some of the comments I dont know whether to take as just fun kidding, or as an invitation to leave.

    You and I have been in it about the same about of time. Its been 5 or 6 months for me. I had a really good teacher and source of information but halfway through I lost that contact so not I am floating down stream without a paddle. I guess I am too afraid that I am going to ruin $100 bucks worth of honey. I should look at it more as an experiment.

    I did learn something today though. I learned how to use that "Mead Making Calculator" and my pyment is about 12.5% abv. But I am not sure what my yeast tolerate and I cant find it on the Wyest website. You would think they would make that obvious.

    Anyways, I am rambling. Sorry if I ranted earlier. Just a frustrated mazer-wanna-be

    Geoo

  18. #18

    Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Better off than me, I still cant use that damn calculator, hahah...

  19. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoo
    But I am not sure what my yeast tolerate and I cant find it on the Wyest website. You would think they would make that obvious.
    Opps I used Lalvin 71B-1122 and not the Wyest Sweet Mead Yeast that the recipe called for. Cornfused myself Just noticed that.


    Geoo

  20. Default Re: Risks of bottling

    Geoo,

    There is a good group here on this board...Better than most other hobbie-type forums that I have visited. I am certain that no one means any comments negatively. The suggestions to use the search function are given for your benefit...You may not get a speedy response to a question if it is a repeat. Also, a lot people who give good, long-winded responses may not want to spend time re-typing.

    Angus recently made a nice post listing yeast types and alcohol tolerences. See it here: http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?opt...22100#msg22100
    I have had a tough time finding alcohol levels for Wyeast strains myself and most of the commonly used ones are on the list.

    Peace.

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