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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Mead Forum > Aging in a Bottle v. Aging in a Carboy
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Old 12-21-2012, 02:57 PM   #1
hiphops
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Default Aging in a Bottle v. Aging in a Carboy

Assuming you have a stable gravity reading indicating all fermentation has ceased, what is the difference between aging in a carboy v. bottling the mead and letting it age in the bottle?

The issue is this: I am debating whether to purchase another glass carboy because I don't want to put a carboy out of commission for months on end while the mead ages, when it can be used to brew beer. (I have extra plastic buckets, but I'm told that its not good to age mead in a plastic bucket.)

Thanks everyone!

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Old 12-21-2012, 04:44 PM   #2
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Nothing that I can find. A lot prefer to bulk age. But you HAVE to get rid of the headspace and I believe make it air tight.

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Old 12-21-2012, 04:54 PM   #3
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Unless the mead is SUPER clear already, leave it in bulk. Most of us will age until it's reached that level of clarity so that we don't get a metric ass-ton of sediment in the bottles.
I go a minimum of a year from mixing to bottling for my low ABV meads (for me, that's 14% and under).

I have developed my own guidelines for aging mead.

<14%, plan on a year from mix to bottling.
14-16%, plan on 12-14 months mix to bottling.
16-18%, plan on 14-18 months mix to bottling.
18-21%, plan on 18-24 months mix to bottling.
21%>, plan at least two years.

These are the guidelines that I've found to work really, really well at least with traditional meads, and the melomel I've made so far.

As for what to use for the vessel, it really depends. More recent postings/threads have indicated that a quality PET/HDPE carboy is 'safe' for use for extended aging. Since you'll probably be racking it every few months (2-4 is normal), look at it that way. Personally, I just use sanke kegs that I've adapted for fermenting in.

Something else to keep in mind. Once you bottle the batch, you're done with any changes/tweakings/etc. So, if you try some later and think "damn, this could have been oak aged", guess what... Too late. If you leave it in bulk, you can put it on oak for a while and then take it off. You can do a lot more with it too. IMO, 10000 times better off just letting the batch age in bulk form.

As for the head space in the vessel... IF it's one you can seal up right, you can use CO2 there. Plenty of sources you can use to get the CO2 into it. If you're looking to keg, you can use a corny keg, fill it with the mead (to age) and purge the head space as normal. Just be sure to vent out the CO2 pressure (once the lid is sealed) so that you don't carbonate it. Unless you WANT a carbonated mead that is.

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Old 12-21-2012, 05:17 PM   #4
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What better excuse do you need to get another carboy??? I have used the bulk aging excuse many times and it works very well to build your carboy stock. WVMJ

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Assuming you have a stable gravity reading indicating all fermentation has ceased, what is the difference between aging in a carboy v. bottling the mead and letting it age in the bottle?

The issue is this: I am debating whether to purchase another glass carboy because I don't want to put a carboy out of commission for months on end while the mead ages, when it can be used to brew beer. (I have extra plastic buckets, but I'm told that its not good to age mead in a plastic bucket.)

Thanks everyone!
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Old 12-21-2012, 05:23 PM   #5
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What size batch is the mead? When did you start it?

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On Tap: Caramel Ale, Mocha Porter II, MO SMaSH IPA
Waiting/Carbonating: 12.5% Wee Honey II, 8.9% Old Ale, English Brown Ale, Lickah ESB, Mocha Porter II
Fermenting
K1:
K2: Epic mead
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On Deck: Caramel Ale
Aging:mead
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Old 12-21-2012, 06:40 PM   #6
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I'm new to mead. I just did 2 one-gallon batches. seems like a pathetic waste, given that it takes so long to make it. I think i'm just going to go out and get another 5 gallon carboy. I already have 3, which works well for brewing (and they all fit into my closet). The only issue is space: I live in a one bedroom apt in NYC.

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Old 12-21-2012, 06:46 PM   #7
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I did a single one gallon batch, as a recipe test (was going after a flavor profile, it worked so I'm not working on a larger batch). Since then I've made 3-5 gallon batch sizes. Most of the time about 4 gallons in my 1/6 barrel sanke kegs. Small footprint there. Plus, you can completely seal them up once fermentation is complete.

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On Tap: Caramel Ale, Mocha Porter II, MO SMaSH IPA
Waiting/Carbonating: 12.5% Wee Honey II, 8.9% Old Ale, English Brown Ale, Lickah ESB, Mocha Porter II
Fermenting
K1:
K2: Epic mead
K3: TripSix
On Deck: Caramel Ale
Aging:mead
Mead [bottled]:Oaked Wildflower Traditional, Mocha Madness, Blackberry Melomel, maple wine
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Old 12-21-2012, 08:47 PM   #8
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Lampshades and a nice carboy cover makes a nice conversation piece to get people to talk about meadmaking when you get visitors. When we lived in a townhouse when we were first married we had a bench in the hallway that I filled with carboys, everyone thought I had a pretty cool wife to let me do that WVMJ

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I'm new to mead. I just did 2 one-gallon batches. seems like a pathetic waste, given that it takes so long to make it. I think i'm just going to go out and get another 5 gallon carboy. I already have 3, which works well for brewing (and they all fit into my closet). The only issue is space: I live in a one bedroom apt in NYC.
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Old 12-22-2012, 07:47 AM   #9
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Ok, so think of it like this.....

Historically, wine makers would make their brews in barrels until they were fermented and then clearer before storing in oak to achieve the correct levels and taste, then bottled and stored to age. This was all done in temperature/climate controlled caves and wine cellars in the mid-50s (ferments and earlier stuff also done at the appropriate temp etc as different from the storage temps etc).

Now if you visit a commercial winery they ferment etc at ambient temps then after clearing etc, bottle and store at similar temps as historically achieved in climate controlled storage.

So the home brewers compromise is to bulk store and if available keep the batch at a lower temp (basement or similar). If lower temp area wasn't available then you're still achieving consistency. Which is object of the exercise. If you age in bottles you risk inconsistency of product as the possible temperature variations of the individual bottles can cause this.

So you just get it to a stage where it's ready to bottle (as different from being ready to drink) then just make your mind up as to the most practical method that suits you. Whether as Golddigie point out and you're happy and won't want to do any further mods to the taste then bottle away but if you might need a bit of acid, or find that it needs a bit of acid or maybe a little extra spicing or whatever then obviously its best to store in bulk.

All the above tips are good you just have to decide which suits you best. I'm happy to admit I bulk store all my brews and just bottle one when its ready to drink as gallon batches seem to take up less space and 5 gallon batches take up less room than gallon batches (though once bottled take up more space).

So your choice as to which route you prefer....

Plus if you read around the bazaars, you'll note that even the great Ken Schramm suggests a mix of bottle sizes as you could more easily monitor a batches aging process and you consume/waste less if you keep some in, say small 33cl beer bottles with crown caps....

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Old 12-22-2012, 11:03 AM   #10
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If you had an ideal setup at home, lots of carboys, and an enormous amount of patience (some of my older winemaker friends are losing this) keeping 5 gallon carboys of mead setting in the basement for a couple of years each would be perfect. Sometimes if I already have the same type of wine bottled I let the carboys set until the next year, they are very drinkable after 1 year bulk aging, 2 is even better. I like to read the post where the guy found an old carboy of wine he forgot about, popped off the top and had the best wine he has had for a long time, these are usually the guys who have to store their carboys in the closet

Bloke, when you going to update your blog and make something else interesting, maybe a boxing day mead?

WVMJ

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