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Old 07-17-2009, 12:01 AM   #1
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Default Mead newbie question: how to make a bottle conditioned, sweet, sparkling mead?

I don't have the equipment or even space to put equipment for kegging or carbonating, so all of my stuff is always bottle conditioned. I was hoping to make a sweet or semi-sweet sparkling mead, but given these limitations, is it even possible?

The only method I can think of would be to let it ferment to close to the alcohol tolerance of the yeast, throw in extra honey/sugar, bottle, and then let it continue to ferment out. However this has some serious drawbacks, such the yeast being unpredictable and causing bottle bombs anyway, and possibly too much sediment ending up in the bottles and causing off flavors.

But I'm a complete n00b and would love to hear experienced opinions and advice.

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Old 07-17-2009, 12:29 AM   #2
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i have never done this but... if your corking your bottles you might not have to worry about bottle bombs. i would think the cork would push itself out before the bottle exploded. i believe that's why they suggest having the bottles sit upright for a few days after bottling. if your worried wrap the box you have your bottles in in a trash bag to catch any of the liquid should a bottle or two explode.

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Old 07-17-2009, 01:59 AM   #3
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I was wondering about this too. I'm new at this and I was thinking about getting a small keg and some CO2 and just making a little bit of sparkling with the rest as still in bottles... but it would be nice to at least do a test on a few bottles and see how it comes out.

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Old 07-17-2009, 03:13 PM   #4
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Corks are not a "sure fire" fix for potential bottle bombs (pun intended). They will more often than not blow out before the bottle explodes, but I have seen some cases where a cork was still firmly installed in the neck of a bottle that had disintegrated from built-up pressure. It doesn't happen often, but it is not something that I would risk.

The simple answer to the original poster's question is that producing a sweet or semi-sweet carbonated mead using natural bottle conditioning is best done in screw-top, plastic containers that can periodically be opened to relieve excess pressure in the event that the yeast doesn't know when to quit. I still would not do this, since although it is safer than tightly capping or corking a glass container, the potential for violent rupture still exists, even if you are careful about monitoring pressure. The best way to make a carbonated mead with residual sugars present is still to stabilize the mead, then carbonate in a keg with injected CO2. The next best thing to try is to sweeten with a non-fermentable sweetner. All other methods come with some significant risk.

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Old 03-02-2010, 06:37 PM   #5
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try making your best mead recipe as you always do, and bottle a six pack or so in beer bottles when your SG is within about 4 points or so of your target. Don't add any sweetener or alter your recipe at all.

Set the six pack aside for a month or two, and when you dare, open slowly. If you refigerate for a couple of days before opening it will help hold the C02 in as well.

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Old 03-02-2010, 06:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HoneyJack View Post
try making your best mead recipe as you always do, and bottle a six pack or so in beer bottles when your SG is within about 4 points or so of your target. Don't add any sweetener or alter your recipe at all.
THIS IS DANGEROUS!

If your target is wrong, or the yeast are just feeling perky that day, look out! If you don't want to (or lack the equipment to) force carbonate, your safest bet for make sweet sparkling batches is to put them in PET plastic bottles. They will get firm as the pressure builds, and if one ruptures it will just make a huge mess but won't send glass shrapnel flying.

If you insist on bottling in something other than plastic, don't use beer bottles. They aren't designed for more than about 50 PSI and yeast can EASILY exceed that. Champagne bottles are sturdier, but even they can explode so I don't recommend using them unless you are using procedures to know how much pressure you are going to generate (which is not easy if you are trying to leave it sweet).
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Old 03-02-2010, 07:19 PM   #7
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This is not quite bottle conditioned, but it is naturally conditioned and you dont need CO2. I offer it up, because I would not try to make a bottle conditioned sweet sparkling mead, unless I was back sweetening with artificial sweetener and using some sugar to carbonate in bottles (sugar that I measure and control closely).

I assume you can make a mead that will finish sweet. Start this off, and then rack it with about 15 gravity points left to go into a sanitized keg ($25). On the outlet, put a spunding valve (use the search function in the main forums) and dial in the pressure that you want for the temperature you have.

When you go to bottle, chill the keg down to freezing or a bit below (but still liquid) and bottle disturbing the liquid as little as possible. It would be useful to have CO2 at this point, but not required if you can make a siphon.

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Old 03-02-2010, 07:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfkriege View Post
This is not quite bottle conditioned, but it is naturally conditioned and you dont need CO2. I offer it up, because I would not try to make a bottle conditioned sweet sparkling mead, unless I was back sweetening with artificial sweetener and using some sugar to carbonate in bottles (sugar that I measure and control closely).

I assume you can make a mead that will finish sweet. Start this off, and then rack it with about 15 gravity points left to go into a sanitized keg ($25). On the outlet, put a spunding valve (use the search function in the main forums) and dial in the pressure that you want for the temperature you have.

When you go to bottle, chill the keg down to freezing or a bit below (but still liquid) and bottle disturbing the liquid as little as possible. It would be useful to have CO2 at this point, but not required if you can make a siphon.
Also to add here that you pretty much have to keep your mead cold forever using this. If at any point there is yeast that has survived and they get warm enough to start chewing away at leftover yeast...KABOOM!!

Also, this was a thread zombie with bad advice...and needs to just go back into it's hole and die as to not confuse the n00bs.
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Old 03-02-2010, 07:52 PM   #9
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Thanks for the info. I've done this before, but I never knew the term "Spunding." You learn something new every day.

Some yeast can tolerate and generate enough pressure to ferment through 15 gravity points because they'll keep going as the pressure is released even if the pressure has to build up high enough for the release valve on the keg lid to open - that happened on mine at about 120 PSI. The yeast can generate better than 8 atmospheres of pressure which is why I'm so vocal in urging caution when it comes to bottling active yeast. Adding sulfite tends to lower their their pressure generation (down to about 5 atm according to some sources) and lower pH also tend to keep the pressure from building as high, but doing it in a keg definitely makes the most sense to me (and drinking it out of the keg too).

Medsen

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Old 03-02-2010, 08:13 PM   #10
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If your SG is in the 1004-1008 range, your not going to blow anything up. Beer bottles can easily handle that kind of pressure.

I hear so many tales of exploding bottles, but haven't had anything blow up. I have 25 cases of a failed hard cider experiment that need to be opened outside, or somewhere you don't want to repaint again (like my kitchen).

Back sweatening between fermentation and bottling may well give you large bubbles that drink like roofing nails.

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Last edited by HoneyJack; 03-02-2010 at 08:23 PM.
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