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  1. Default clean & easy way to measure SG?

    my foray into mead began when my wife bought me a kit last Xmas. so far one relatively successful batch. the kit instructed me to watch how many bubbles were coming out of the airlock to know when to transfer to secondary fermentation. I am now aware this is probably bad practice.

    how can I cleanly take a sample to put in a hydrometer test tube? and what benchmarks do I want to hit for each step? (transfer to secondary, and know when its time to bottle and drink)

  2. #2


    Hi. Those are sort of relative questions. If you learn a method/protocol, execute on it, and it turns out great, then you think all is well and that can be replicated over and over. However, we're dealing with a different biomass each time no matter what you do the same. What happens when things go wrong, or you want to try something different? My point is you need to understand why you're doing what you're doing. You can do that a lot easier by investing the time in the GotMead podcasts for modern mead making protocols starting back in Sept 5, 2017.

    As to your question, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Of course, make sure everything is sanitized first. What I do is take basically a large turkey baster, suck up the mead, deposit it into the tube, and repeat until I have enough volume to take a reading. If there's a lot of foam, I'll suck that off the top. When done, I put the must in the tube back in the fermentation vessel. Check out

    Benchmarks will vary based on starting SG, yeast, and other factors. In general, I'll usually take a SG reading at the end of day 2 to see how things are progressing. There is such as thing as too fast, and I have that problem more often than not. Once a fermentation is going at a good pace (generally), I'd say 7+ gravity points per day is a good start, but a little less doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem. Your biggest benchmark is the 1/3 sugar break and/or the 7th day if you're using SNA (Staggered Nutrient Additions). Whichever one of those comes first should be your 4th/last feeding. The main point is that SG is moving down. Once you get 3 of the same SG readings (different days), then you're ferment has likely stopped.

    At that point is when you can start thinking about racking, stabilizing, aging, bottling, etc. The more you test, the more you'll find that a good ferment means the mead is very drinkable, if not downright really good right after fermentation. It only gets better with a little aging, but it doesn't have to be that long. If you really like it, and want to drink it right away, then go for it!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2018


    I've had a thin piece of string (think lycra unraveled from pantyhose or similar) tied to the end of my hydrometer for about 2 years: sanitize it all, drop in the carboy / jar, shine a light at the right angle to make out where it stopped... served me well for 17 batches

    I have a wine thief now (it's also useful for taking samples for tasting), and I have an iSpindel calibrating in my latest batch (I made 4 of them, I'll have to see if I can make them read consistently or I need to calibrate them individually).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Ottawa, ON


    For anything bigger than a 1 gal carboy, I have a wine thief that my hydrometer fits inside, so I sanitize the whole thing, hydrometer and all, and pop the valve end into the must, draw some up till I can take my measurement, then when I'm done, I press the valve against the side of the fermenter to let the must back out, and then I rinse the tester and hydrometer and set them to dry... For my 1 gal carboys, I have been known to tie a piece of dental floss to my hydrometer and sanitize the whole works (I always used waxed so it would grip the hydrometer a bit better). I used to use a turkey baster but I always found sanitizing it made the bulb degrade really fast and it also leaked out the end as I was transferring, the wine thief was well worth it, in my opinion.
    "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, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Saratoga Springs , NY


    There is really two parts to the question about when to transfer from primary to secondary - and why - A few of us have answered how do you best measure the gravity of the mead in your primary but that does not really suggest WHEN you might consider racking (transferring) the mead to the secondary and that is really bound up with the reason for racking.
    Most of us will use a vessel, far larger in volume than we need to simply hold the must we begin with. This is for a few reasons: one is that we expect there to be some froth and foam if the yeast is very active and a second is that we may want to add nutrients and other adjuncts and often if the additions are in powder form powder can create points of nucleation in the liquid and those cause the CO2 to erupt creating volcanoes. Using a two gallon bucket to make aa single gallon of mead (or a 7 gallon bucket to make 5 gallons) inhibits such volcanic eruptions from painting ceiling and floor. A third reason is that buckets allow us to remove CO2 by stirring and that stirring keeps the yeast suspended.

    BUT the use of large buckets with lots of headroom makes good sense only when the yeast is very active pumping out CO2 to blanket your mead. When the yeast's activity slows or ceases, the production of CO2 slows or ceases and your mead then has no protection from the air (or ethanol eating microbes). It is as the yeast's activity is coming towards the end that you want to rack the mead. Not after all activity has stopped for days.
    But this involves a nice balancing act. Rack too soon and you may have removed so much of the yeast that it will take a great deal of time for the yeast still left to reproduce enough to continue fermenting the remaining sugar. Rack too late and you have left the mead without a protective blanket of CO2. I tend to rack when the gravity falls below 1.010 - and is close to 1.005.

    I generally ferment in a bucket and so I aim for a target starting gravity rather than a specific volume and that target gravity ASSUMES a volume in excess of the volume I want to transfer. In other words, I start by making a volume I know will fill the carboy that I intend to rack into when the time comes. I do not start with the volume I imagine I want to bottle...

  6. Default

    This info right here was exactly what I was looking for! I feel like I'm panning for gold while casually looking through the forums. =) Thanks, using this for my next batch.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    NW Florida


    Quote Originally Posted by Chevette Girl View Post
    For anything bigger than a 1 gal carboy, I have a wine thief that my hydrometer fits inside
    You've mentioned this thief before, but I have not been able to find anything that seems to be similar. can you share a source?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2018


    Amazon has them if you're in North America, otherwise they should be available at your local brewing suppliers for 2-3 times more legal tender

    edit: I couldn't for the life of me get a reading by putting the hydrometer in the wine thief, there's too much foam (both from the mead and from starsan), so I unload it in a measuring cylinder to get a reading.
    Last edited by m0n5t3r; 02-28-2020 at 06:35 AM.

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