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Old 03-07-2012, 08:37 PM   #1
dogprince
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Default Topping up a 55 gallon drum of mead

I am in possession of several food grade stainless steel 55 gallon drums. I want to do a massive batch of traditional, and should have no problem fermenting in one of them. I figure I can do 46 gallons in the barrel as to leave enough headspace for it to do its thing. All that is fine and dandy.

My question (I didn't find anything searching the forums) is about secondary and aging. When I transfer to secondary (another drum) and tertiary there will be a massive amount of headspace left in the barrel. This is much too much to simply fill with water. I also don't want to have to make a barrel and a half fill us to fill up secondary.

Hit me with your suggestions!

My thoughts at the moment are:
-Finding something to drop in the drum, much like the glass marble method. (what would it be? Big risk infection, as well as a hassle)
-Topping up the remainder of space with more honey and water in secondary. (walking away with close to 52-53 gallons instead of 46) (this would up my ABV, and may blow the airlock, maybe?)

I'm open to anything.

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Old 03-07-2012, 09:17 PM   #2
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Possibly take some co2 from a small tank you can get at a pair all supply shop used to blanket the top if the mead would work.

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Old 03-07-2012, 10:49 PM   #3
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I would ferment in two barrels, with approx 29 gallons in each one. Rack both into one barrel for secondary.

I've done something similar a few times before. Three of us would make a barrel of mead. When summer rolled around, we got a bunch of fruit that was in season. Racked the mead into some 15 gallon barrels. One barrel got raspberries, another got blueberries, etc, etc. It was an easy way to make a number of different meads.

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Old 03-07-2012, 11:13 PM   #4
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Default Multiple Barrels

I could certainly do that. Much like you mentioned, the goal is to make a giant batch of traditional, that I can then separate into metheglins, melomels and what-not.

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Old 03-08-2012, 12:58 AM   #5
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Fill 2 5gal carboys with sanitizer, cap well, and set in bottom before racking. If a cap does come off, it won't be the worst thing in the world. Then rack into 15gal containers for the additions.

Yup

Or what he said, 2 25+ batches prim, secondary age together.

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Old 03-08-2012, 01:14 PM   #6
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Or you get a few sanitized gallon or 2-gallon glass or plastic jugs and fill them with water, screw tops back on, and toss them in the drums. (I'm assuming, of course, that the drums have removable lids.)

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Old 03-08-2012, 01:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bhunter87 View Post
Fill 2 5gal carboys with sanitizer, cap well, and set in bottom before racking. If a cap does come off, it won't be the worst thing in the world. Then rack into 15gal containers for the additions.
Have you been hittin' the mead again?


-Most of the SS barrels I've seen are "closed head" and the lids don't come off.
-You can't use those carboys for as many months as they are in the barrel.
-If the carboy caps come off, you are diluting your mead with 10 gallons of water, not to mention all that sanitizer. A "Don't fear the foam" attitude is one thing, but ten gallons of sanitizer in your mead is another.
-If the carboys break, you'll be straining the glass out of your mead that now contains all that water and sanitizer.
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Old 03-08-2012, 01:33 PM   #8
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Personally, I have not had any taste difference with headspace or no headspace in my 5-6 gal batches. So I personally wouldn't worry about it. Live with the headspace and just let it go. With such a large volume you may wish to go with a pump and filter method rather than a standard racking. I know many of the smaller winereys will rent out their pumps and the like. For a large batch I imagine that the effects would be even lesser due to the amount of surface area is less/per gallon. But then I have not made a batch as large as 55 gallons. If the headspace needs to be accounted for then perhapse the method described above with the water filled jugs or 2 liter bottles may be best. Be sure to check the plastic rating to see if it will be safe in the alcohol.

One other thing that occurs to me that may help as well with degasing and aggitation. I have read where stirplates and the like have been hooked up and provided better results in mead for an aggitation effect. Mounting a small motor or floating a motor inside to continiously stir the must may be bennificial in the primary fermentation. This way it will be stirred continiously and thus aggitated to where the yeast can perform their best and have less yeast stress, read as a better overall flavor. Sure beats trying to swirl it by hand.

Also, if you are planing on spliting it into secondaries of mels and meglathins then why are you worrying about head space, you shouldn't have any in the new vessel you are putting it it with the fruit and/or spices.

Matrix

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Old 03-08-2012, 02:25 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matrix4b View Post
With such a large volume you may wish to go with a pump and filter method rather than a standard racking. I know many of the smaller winereys will rent out their pumps and the like.
I've been part of a number of 50+ gallon projects. Early projects were racked, simply because we didn't have a pump. Racking works, but you have to plan ahead. Maybe put some cement blocks under the primary barrel, so you can still use gravity to rack out of it. We've actually had to use a car jack to raise a full bourbon barrel, so we could empty it with a racking cane. I've since gotten a few pumps and it is much, much easier, but I wouldn't consider it essential.

For degassing I use a wine whip or wine degasser in my cordless drill. It works great, but you have to do it SLOWLY or you will be taking a mead shower.
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:44 PM   #10
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argon/ co2 blanket

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