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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Mead Forum > When do I bottle my mead?
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Old 05-12-2012, 01:42 AM   #1
brill
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Default When do I bottle my mead?

I just bottled (in mason jars) my first batch of mead after about four months of it being in the gallon jug with the airlock. The airlock had stopped bubbling (to my knowledge) so I thought everything was done and ready to be thrown in a bottle. I just went and checked on the mead, and it had bloated the tops of the mason jars. When I released the screw cap, air hissed out. Is it still fermenting? I don't know what the exact alcohol content is, but it should be about fifteen, according to the guy that sold me the yeast.

What should I do?

Should I put it back in the gallon jug with the airlock?

Is there risk of contamination from other yeasts still, even with the alcohol content high?

Thanks a bunch for helping me. I'm a nube.

- Brill

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Old 05-12-2012, 03:01 AM   #2
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Sounds like it is. Rely on your hydrometer, not the airlock, to tell you when fermentation is complete, assuming you took an original gravity reading. If not, post your recipe and we should be able to help you figure out your og, give or take a few points.

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Old 05-12-2012, 07:45 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by brill View Post
I just bottled (in mason jars) my first batch of mead after about four months of it being in the gallon jug with the airlock. The airlock had stopped bubbling (to my knowledge) so I thought everything was done and ready to be thrown in a bottle. I just went and checked on the mead, and it had bloated the tops of the mason jars. When I released the screw cap, air hissed out. Is it still fermenting? I don't know what the exact alcohol content is, but it should be about fifteen, according to the guy that sold me the yeast.

What should I do?

Should I put it back in the gallon jug with the airlock?

Is there risk of contamination from other yeasts still, even with the alcohol content high?

Thanks a bunch for helping me. I'm a nube.

- Brill
As well as the yeast, it's the amount of fermentable sugars (and with meads, the nutrients available) that dictate the possible strength of the brew.

If you know the starting gravity and what it's at, at the moment, you can then work out the possible strength.

Airlock activity is a very poor way of judging the likely state of your brew, because while in the early stages there's plenty of CO2 being released to keep the airlock bubbling, in the later stages, it can sometimes be the case that there's little to no bubbling yet the yeast is still doing it's thing.

Hence the use of a hydrometer to physically gauge it to see where it's at.

An additional possibility, if the brew wasn't finished but wasn't showing much bubbling either, is that during the bottling into the jars, you've added enough air to get another growth of yeast cells - and hence the stretching of the jar tops - or even changes in air pressure in your storage location (i.e. external weather changes) can cause it to "off-gas" and increase the air pressure in the air space in the jar(s).

So it might be best to decant it back into a suitably sized fermenter and airlock it off. That way you can leave it to age/clear gently, and you only have to keep an eye on the liquid level in the airlock......
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Old 05-12-2012, 12:01 PM   #4
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Airlocks are really just one way valves to let co2 out and keep excess o2 and bad stuff from getting in. Visually its nice to see the bubbles but as far as an indicator of fermentation, they are really only indicative of it's start not it's finish.

By 4 months, do you mean from the begin of the brewing to bottling? Never been racked into another container to clear/finish? Not that its an absolute requirement to do so but it is often very helpful, even though at 4 months you'd think the yeast would be done, transferring it out stirs the yeast up some and any still viable cells going back into suspension that finds sugar, nutrients and a little oxygen is going to start eating and replicating.

I wouldn't stress, as already suggested, gently pour it back into a fermentation vessel, throw an airlock on it and use/get a hydrometer, give it a few days then start checking the gravity, once you have 3 readings that are the same spaced out by at least a few days then you know fermentation is done and you can rack into another container to age if there is any sediment or you can go back into your mason jars (I like that btw, cool packaging idea) and you should be golden. Just be meticulous about sanitizing everything and I think you'll have no problems.

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Old 05-12-2012, 07:35 PM   #5
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Thanks to all.
I'll buy another airlock (the one I used before is my only one, and it is now back in use making Maple Wine) and pour my mead back into a jug.
I'll purchase a hydrometer, too, since it looks like brewing is something to stick with.

- Brill

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Old 05-12-2012, 07:47 PM   #6
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With my meads, I go at least 9 months from pitching to bottling. At that young, you'd be best to stabilize the mead so you don't get bottle bombs. As already mentioned, moving mead around can kick off another round of fermentation.

Was the mead CLEAR before you decided to bottle/jar it? I'm talking crystal clear here, not just mostly clear. It's more difficult to say with darker honey, but you should be able to look through it (at least not see anything in suspension). Shine a light on the other side of the vessel (in bulk) and see how clear it really is.

Personally, I'm not bottling any mead until it's at least 9-12 months from start. I have three I started in December that are resting now. Two are formulated to 14%, but the third was set for 21%. I've not taken final gravity readings, yet, since I'm not even close to bottling them up. I racked, last, about three months ago (the 14% batches). I'm thinking of racking again to get the batch off of whatever may have settled out.

Generally speaking, a 15% mead shouldn't be bottled for at least 6-12 months. Also, just because the yeast can go to 15% doesn't mean the batch did. Without knowing how much honey you used in the total must volume, you cannot say what it's going to go to, or did. Since it sounds like you failed to take an OG reading, it's virtually impossible to say what you've got for ABV%.

I suggest looking at the Got Mead? forums for how it's done.

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Old 05-12-2012, 11:32 PM   #7
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Since it sounds like you failed to take an OG reading, it's virtually impossible to say what you've got for ABV%.
That's not entirely true. If he can figure out his FG and he knows how much honey he used and his batch size he can get pretty darn close with the gotmead calc.
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Old 05-13-2012, 12:32 AM   #8
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That's not entirely true. If he can figure out his FG and he knows how much honey he used and his batch size he can get pretty darn close with the gotmead calc.
Unfortunately, that assumes a certain percentage of sugar content. I've found that different harvests, and honey from different sources can vary more than a little on that. So, it's not 'safe' to assume the GM calc is 100% accurate. It's a decent guesstimate, but you really NEED to confirm it with your own reading. OR, make a sample that you CAN test at the same strength. For example, 1oz (dry weight) of honey in a 8oz (liquid volume) total volume must will give you 1#/gallon strength. You can modify the amounts to mirror what you mixed for the original must, or for what you want for the must.
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Old 05-13-2012, 01:48 AM   #9
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Unfortunately, that assumes a certain percentage of sugar content. I've found that different harvests, and honey from different sources can vary more than a little on that. So, it's not 'safe' to assume the GM calc is 100% accurate. It's a decent guesstimate, but you really NEED to confirm it with your own reading.
All very true.....however he's not needing to label this to satisfy the liquor control commission......just for his own satisfaction. Seems to me close would be close enough?....no big deal to me and I don't mean to be argumentative........just sayin sometimes we don't have to be so scientific......Golddiggie your way is obviously the correct way but he missed out on an OG reading I was just suggesting the next best alternative.
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Old 05-13-2012, 02:14 AM   #10
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I'm not talking about satisfying anyone else. I've seen enough difference between what the calculator assumes and reality of what you have on hand to throw the recipe off by a good amount. I'm talking enough of a shift that you'll either have a must that is far too strong (hitting many gravity points higher than it estimated) or far lower in gravity that you need to seriously adjust the mix.

For instance, it assumes maple syrup is 66.2% sugar. The syrup I've been getting (grade B, which the calc has just one syrup listing) was in the low 50's... Over 10% off. While that might not seem like a lot, it is. Luckily, I did take an OG reading on mine, so I was able to figure out the concentration in time to correct the mixture. Moving forward, I'll be making the small scale (1/16th) mixture in order to get the actual concentration. Or I'll simply use the high brix reading refractometer I now have (goes to over 80 brix). Then I'll KNOW what the sugar level is of the source and be able to formulate accurately.

BTW, with my first batches of mead, I used the calculation tool. I assumed it was correct. I shouldn't have. I formulated to leave the batches in the area of 1.010. They ended up in the area of 1.024-1.026 due to the higher sugar level of the honey used.

I would rather KNOW what the OG is than use a tool that assumes too much. Unless you don't care that the batch you thought would finish semi-sweet in fact finished dry (or desert level) due to the honey/sugar source having a lower/higher percentage.

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On Tap: Caramel Ale, Mocha Porter II, MO SMaSH IPA
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K2: Epic mead
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