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Old 01-29-2011, 07:02 PM   #1
KJohnson
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Default Aging a mead

Is it ok to age a mead in the primary fermenter for three or four months before bottling or kegging?

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Old 01-29-2011, 07:04 PM   #2
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yes. I have one that's been in primary for 3 months now, and I was going to let it go for another month or two before I transfer it to back sweeten it, then let it age for another 6 months.

Edit: oh by the way, Welcome to the forums!

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Old 01-29-2011, 07:11 PM   #3
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Thanks

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Old 01-29-2011, 11:32 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by KJohnson View Post
Is it ok to age a mead in the primary fermenter for three or four months before bottling or kegging?
Well how about "sort of".......

If the fermenter (don't get to hung up about the terms primary and secondary) is the same one that the brew was started in, but only has a small amount of airspace, then it should be fine.

But if it's got too much airspace then it's sensible to move/rack it to a fermenter/storage jar that gives it as little airspace as possible/practical.

If the ferment has finished, then in a lot of cases, it's best to rack it off the yeast sediment anyway.

I do bulk age mine, but in 1 gallon jars/carboys that have been topped up with either a similar mead/wine, or something added to back sweeten or even vodka.

My back sweetening is done either with honey/water syrup or grape juice concentrate (Chenin Blanc is good as it usually tastes like watered down honey anyhow - plus it adds some body/viscosity). Vodka can reduce the body/viscosity but obviously it increases the alcohol content.

It's true to say that it's ageing all the time it's clearing etc, but I only consider it as being aged when it's already cleared, sweetened if necessary and other wise finished etc......

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fatbloke
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Old 01-30-2011, 01:39 PM   #5
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If the fermenter (don't get to hung up about the terms primary and secondary) is the same one that the brew was started in, but only has a small amount of airspace, then it should be fine.
I have 5 gallons in a 6 gallon carboy, primary fermenter, 1 gallon of headspace, 3 months so far. Why would headspace be so bad in primary fermentation? As long as the fermenter wasn't opened for an extended period of time after fermentation to allow it to air out, there still should be nothing but CO2 in the headspace, so the possibility of it getting oxidized is very slim. Unless you know of other reasons why headspace would be bad?
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Old 01-30-2011, 02:25 PM   #6
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I have 5 gallons in a 6 gallon carboy, primary fermenter, 1 gallon of headspace, 3 months so far. Why would headspace be so bad in primary fermentation? As long as the fermenter wasn't opened for an extended period of time after fermentation to allow it to air out, there still should be nothing but CO2 in the headspace, so the possibility of it getting oxidized is very slim. Unless you know of other reasons why headspace would be bad?
Initially, it's not so much of a problem because the CO2 will become a protective gas blanket, but it depends on the recipe, like if it's a traditional, at 3 months, it should be pretty much finished. So in most cases it's better to get it off the sediment to clear it i.e. depends on the yeast but a lot of wine yeasts aren't good for "sur lie" ageing. So to prevent autolysis you will have to get it off the lees and that will remove the CO2 blanket as well as start any de-gassing and expose it to possible oxidisation.

Hence apart from when it's in primary or you just do the whole ferment in the same container where you can rely on the CO2 for protection, it's a better habit to be in to make sure that you keep your airspace to a minimum.......

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Old 01-30-2011, 08:24 PM   #7
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+1 to that.

It seems best to minimise the head space to prevent oxidization. I made the mistake on one of my first meads and it now has a sherry (oxidized) like flavor. So unless that is what your going for I would rack at least once. If you want a clear mead with no sediment on the bottom I would recommend a second or even third or fourth racking.

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Old 01-30-2011, 10:00 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by fatbloke View Post
Initially, it's not so much of a problem because the CO2 will become a protective gas blanket, but it depends on the recipe, like if it's a traditional, at 3 months, it should be pretty much finished. So in most cases it's better to get it off the sediment to clear it i.e. depends on the yeast but a lot of wine yeasts aren't good for "sur lie" ageing. So to prevent autolysis you will have to get it off the lees and that will remove the CO2 blanket as well as start any de-gassing and expose it to possible oxidisation.

Hence apart from when it's in primary or you just do the whole ferment in the same container where you can rely on the CO2 for protection, it's a better habit to be in to make sure that you keep your airspace to a minimum.......

regards

fatbloke
So I think we may be on the same page that oxidation is slim in the primary fermenter due to the CO2 blanket.
I also agree, it IS good practice to limit the amount of headspace, whether it be in primary or secondary.
But, on the issue about autolysis, I don't think it going to be an issue at 3-4, even 6 months. I've heard of beers and wines left in primary for 6+ months with no ill effects from autolysis. I aged my apfelwein in primary for 4 months with no signs of autolysis. Quote from EdWort's Apfelwein recipe instructions: "In the 4th week, the yeast will begin to drop out and it will become clear. After at least 4 weeks, you can keg or bottle, but it is ok to leave it in the carboy for another month or so. Racking to a secondary is not necessary"
"Apfelwein really improves with age, so if you can please let it sit in a carboy for up to 3 months before bottling or kegging, then let it sit even longer."
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Old 01-30-2011, 11:40 PM   #9
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So I think we may be on the same page that oxidation is slim in the primary fermenter due to the CO2 blanket.
I also agree, it IS good practice to limit the amount of headspace, whether it be in primary or secondary.
But, on the issue about autolysis, I don't think it going to be an issue at 3-4, even 6 months. I've heard of beers and wines left in primary for 6+ months with no ill effects from autolysis. I aged my apfelwein in primary for 4 months with no signs of autolysis. Quote from EdWort's Apfelwein recipe instructions: "In the 4th week, the yeast will begin to drop out and it will become clear. After at least 4 weeks, you can keg or bottle, but it is ok to leave it in the carboy for another month or so. Racking to a secondary is not necessary"
"Apfelwein really improves with age, so if you can please let it sit in a carboy for up to 3 months before bottling or kegging, then let it sit even longer."
I'm entirely in agreement with the unlikely event of oxidisation in a primary fermenter (presuming it's airtight/impermeable).

As for the possibility of autolysis ? well yes, a lot of us will have left meads on the yeast longer than might be recommended or suggested by a recipe or even, occasionally a manufacturer. But it's fair to point out, that unless you've chosen a yeast for it's ability to be left to age without a problem, it's probably, generally, preferable to get a must racked off the lees. I don't know what might actually trigger autolysis, whether it's heat or light or whatever. IMO, it's better to try and prevent problems than to try and cure them after the fact.......

As ever, they're your brews so it's up to you how you want to manage them. Some faults in wines, meads etc, well the reasons are clear/known, but some faults occur for no obvious reason.....

regards

fatbloke
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Old 01-31-2011, 01:07 AM   #10
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You can age a mead in the primary on top of a whole bunch of lees and it may work okay with some recipes, but in others, a dense pile of lees may produce some really nasty sulfur odors. This becomes more likely in batches with fruit. In 3-4 months you probably will get some autolysis - this can be good, like lees aging a wine, where it give some increase body and softens the wine while adding some bready/toast/yeasty notes. On the other hand it can produce off odors and flavors, particularly if the lees are not stirred with a battonage protocol.

Normally, having a large headspace in primary is not a problem. However, once the fermentation is over, if you open the container for any reason, air rushes in and fills that space where it has the potential to damage the mead and stimulate acetic acid bacteria and other spoilage organisms. As a general rule it is a bad idea.

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