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Bottling mead - Caps vs Corking mead - either method superior?

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WinsomeLass

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Hello!

As the post count will reveal I'm a mead noob [hello!] with luck, hoping to start one by the end of the month.

I have done some reading and searching but am not sure what to think about bottling. Is using either using caps or corks superior to the other?

I have a bottle cap press - free, working, and to hand. I wasn't sure if that would be OK for mead. Schramm discusses it in his book and it seems fine, but I was just wanting to ask the community.

When reading about capping/bottling spirits - do the same concepts that apply to beer apply to mead? Or are they two different animals and I should just concentrate on mead-only resources?

Thank you for any help/advice/leads/links, I do appreciate it! :)
 

hightest

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I'm not sure if there is a superior method. I've used crown caps, corks, Champagne, and filp-tops. I tend to use Champagne, caps, & flip-tops for carbonated mead, and corks for still mead.

Regardless of the bottling method, I've never had any problems... ;)
 

DragonTail

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I've capped and corked my meads.
If I carbonate them, them I definitely cap them, I haven't tried the cork and cage thing yet.
My still meads get corked.
Some of every batch, a sixer, gets the 12oz capped deal, just in case they are great, and I want to enter them in a comp. :)
 

summersolstice

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IMO, mead is much more closely related to wine and that's why I've primarily used wine bottles and corks. After all, when you buy mead commercially, that's the way it's sold 90% of the time. Having said that, I too use crown caps on beer bottles, especially when bottling a half dozen "tasters" at bottling time to assess the mead's progress as it ages without having to uncork a full bottle. As the previous posters said, it all works, though corked wine bottles would be best for long term storage.
 
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WinsomeLass

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Oh interesting. Why is corked better for long term? Better oxygen blocking?

I'm just trying to avoid the expense of a corker at the moment, though reusing wine bottles is easier for me than getting beer bottles. I do want to do what's best for the mead, though.
 

summersolstice

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Yes, corks supply a better seal, assuming you have decent quality corks and you lay the bottles on their sides to prevent the corks from drying out. Bottles sealed with synthetic corks can remain upright but synthetics aren't as good a top quality corks, though still better than crown caps.

Crown caps are fine. If you don't want to spend the $$ for a corker, use crown caps and you'll be safe for a year, and perhaps even more. Remember that you can also crown cap most domestic sparkling wine bottels as well.
 
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WinsomeLass

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Thank you summersolstice! I didn't know why bottles were kept on their side; now I know!

I won't be making huge batches so a year and perhaps more should work out OK. If this first batch ever gets made and is decent, I suspect I'll be giving a lot of it away. :D
 

Delkarnu

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If you are giving out bottles as gifts, I'd suggest corks. For people who don't know mead, they immediately associate it with wine, and won't be as shocked by the alcohol content if they drink it like wine and not beer. It also is better presentation for gifts, IMO.

Also better for long term storage for reasons listed above.

If they are for you, do what you want. I'd suggest making friends with someone who drinks Grolsh and give them a bottle for keeping you supplied with empties.
 

Cheesehead

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I just bottled my first two meads a bit back. I went with corks and wine bottles (had the bottles, think corks are "traditional"). If you do go that way it was suggested to me to let the corks soak in water overnight to help get them into the bottles. I found that filling an empty jar, putting the corks in, topping with water and putting the cap on the jar let the corks soak up more water than just laying them in a bowl and hoping the drink up. BTW did you ever get your mead made? What did you end up with?
 

biochemedic

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I very briefly boil my corks (I actually use synthetic corks) and I've found that this not only softens them slightly, but they soak up some water which helps with the initial seal. I store the bottles upside down for at least the first couple weeks to really set the seal on the lower end of the caps, and then I'm less concerned, but If I have a case that I'm planning on forgetting a while, I invert the box to keep the corks wet. I've also thought about adding wax seals for ones that I plan to age for an extended time, but I've not tried that yet. I think I remember reading in Papazian's book that he feels this provides a superior seal for aging a long timie,and guards against cork drying.

EDIT: Oh, and I also do cap at least a couple bottles here and there, and over the short term (a few months) I've not noted any problems...I do/would use oxygen absorbing caps, though.
 

RandallT

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Winsome,
I bought some tapered corks that you just tap in with a mallet. My understanding is that these are fine for short term storage which is what I intend.
 

Kauai_Kahuna

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I tend to do a primary, then a secondary, and do some final conditioning in a keg under a little pressure. Just enough to seal it initially but it does slightly carbonate it.
I have only had one cork blow on me with mead, I'm thinking a bug got in there and started a little party.
I have also only had one cider blow a cork on me.
It really breaks down to using corks if I want to age it for possibly ever, the stuff I'm going to drink soon is capped.
Also mentioned above, if I'm giving it to friends, corking is a "must" (please forgive the pun).
 

MedsenFey

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If you look at wine studies, particular the AWRI research, the verdict is pretty clear - the Stelvin screw cap does the best job of preserving a white wine for long term aging. Since few of us can afford a Stelvin machine at home, that's not really and option, but the next best thing may be a crown cap. On the other extreme, the closures that allowed the most oxidation of the wine were the synthetic corks.

Crown caps are used in Champagne Production; the crown cap is removed after riddling when they are ready for corking. Sometime they age for decades with the crown cap on before they remove the yeast, so crown caps have the potential to age for a very, very long time. Some folks advocate waxing the crown caps, and that is certainly an option though I don't know if it is necessary.

I currently have a comparison between good quality natural cork (Scott Labs USS grade), Zorks and crown caps using a dry mango melomel. I'm due to update it, but so far, it appears (with blind tasters and triangular tasting) that the crown caps have preserved the aroma the best, with Zorks a close second, and the natural cork had the least fruitiness. This is only one batch, and I wouldn't generalize these findings without some more tests, but I did find it interesting.

The problem with using crown caps is the perception of the people opening the bottle. I had one friend say, "why the cheap caps?" and it seems clear that unless there is a cork, people are inclined to judge your wine/mead as being cheap/inferior - a very unfortunate misperception.

Medsen
 

KLAAYHAUS

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I currently have a comparison between good quality natural cork (Scott Labs USS grade), Zorks and crown caps using a dry mango melomel. I'm due to update it, but so far, it appears (with blind tasters and triangular tasting) that the crown caps have preserved the aroma the best, with Zorks a close second, and the natural cork had the least fruitiness. This is only one batch, and I wouldn't generalize these findings without some more tests, but I did find it interesting.
Medsen
I currently have three meads going and will want to store some of them long-term. I bought some Zorks and was wondering how well they will hold up. This comparison you did, how long of a time span did your test cover? Also, I have only found these for sale at Midwest Supplies (http://www.midwestsupplies.com/winemaking-equipment/wine-bottling/corks-closures.html), have you found them elsewhere?
 

KLAAYHAUS

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Yeah, I am trying to get mine to start stocking them as well but for now I will continue to order them.
 

MedsenFey

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I bought some Zorks and was wondering how well they will hold up. This comparison you did, how long of a time span did your test cover?
It is just past the 2 year point now.

The Zork manufacturer says they are good for aging up to at least 5 years. We really need some long, long term tests with meads. Given that meads may be much less oxidation prone than wines, Zorks might allow for much longer aging of meads. We need to find out.

Medsen
 

KLAAYHAUS

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It is just past the 2 year point now.

The Zork manufacturer says they are good for aging up to at least 5 years. We really need some long, long term tests with meads. Given that meads may be much less oxidation prone than wines, Zorks might allow for much longer aging of meads. We need to find out.

Medsen
Thanks, I agree that we do need to see some long term studies.
 

Jeebas

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If I chose to bottle my mead in wine bottles with corks, the preferred storage method would be bottles on their sides (to keep the corks from drying out) out of any direct sunlight?
 

MedsenFey

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Yes, if you use natural cork, keeping the cork moist is ideal. You do want to let them stay upright for a couple of days after bottling to allow the corks to fully expand and allow pressure to equalize before turning them on their sides.
 

smyrnaquince

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I'm in the "got a capper, don't want to spend the $$ on a corker" category.

Reading this thread, one post said that caps were only good for about a year's storage because they let in too much air, but another said that they were good for long-term storage:

Caps for short-term storage (~1 year)
Yes, corks supply a better seal, assuming you have decent quality corks and you lay the bottles on their sides to prevent the corks from drying out. Bottles sealed with synthetic corks can remain upright but synthetics aren't as good a top quality corks, though still better than crown caps.

Crown caps are fine. If you don't want to spend the $$ for a corker, use crown caps and you'll be safe for a year, and perhaps even more. Remember that you can also crown cap most domestic sparkling wine bottels as well.
Caps for long-term storage (>1 year)
If you look at wine studies, particular the AWRI research, the verdict is pretty clear - the Stelvin screw cap does the best job of preserving a white wine for long term aging. Since few of us can afford a Stelvin machine at home, that's not really and option, but the next best thing may be a crown cap. On the other extreme, the closures that allowed the most oxidation of the wine were the synthetic corks.

Crown caps are used in Champagne Production; the crown cap is removed after riddling when they are ready for corking. Sometime they age for decades with the crown cap on before they remove the yeast, so crown caps have the potential to age for a very, very long time. Some folks advocate waxing the crown caps, and that is certainly an option though I don't know if it is necessary.

I currently have a comparison between good quality natural cork (Scott Labs USS grade), Zorks and crown caps using a dry mango melomel. I'm due to update it, but so far, it appears (with blind tasters and triangular tasting) that the crown caps have preserved the aroma the best, with Zorks a close second, and the natural cork had the least fruitiness. This is only one batch, and I wouldn't generalize these findings without some more tests, but I did find it interesting.

The problem with using crown caps is the perception of the people opening the bottle. I had one friend say, "why the cheap caps?" and it seems clear that unless there is a cork, people are inclined to judge your wine/mead as being cheap/inferior - a very unfortunate misperception.

Medsen
So, which one is right?

Also, would it make a difference if a crown-capped bottle were kept on its side so there was a liquid seal against the cap?
 

MedsenFey

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Also, would it make a difference if a crown-capped bottle were kept on its side so there was a liquid seal against the cap?
No that won't make a difference. With natural corks, the cork has to be kept moist or it will contact and reduce the seal. With crown caps and other closures, that is not necessary so you can keep them upright.

The biggest potential negative for using crown caps for long aging may be the possibility of developing reductive sulfur odors. There is some evidence of this having happened in a melomel that I've been following for a couple of years now.
 

roadymi

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It is just past the 2 year point now.

The Zork manufacturer says they are good for aging up to at least 5 years. We really need some long, long term tests with meads. Given that meads may be much less oxidation prone than wines, Zorks might allow for much longer aging of meads. We need to find out.

Medsen
But who can let a good mead sit for longer than 5 years?
 

TLProulx

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I use cork for the aesthetic look of the cork. Also because I got my corker at a special discount rate (20$).
Also I like the look of the bottle with the heat shrink. I don't think it can be done with crown cap.

For carbonated mead, I'll use american sparkling wine bottle. These bottle let you use either crown cap or cork.
Since crown cap is cheaper, I'll go with crown cap. It's important that you buy crown cap with seal. I read somewhere that the guy bought crown cap but they were decorative cap (without seal). His mead or beer never cabonated because the CO2 was leaking out.

2012-12-02 02.40.55.jpg
 

NewBee727

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what's the verdict on PolySeal Screw Caps? are they viable for storing still mead long term?
 

MarshmallowBlue

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I use cork for the aesthetic look of the cork. Also because I got my corker at a special discount rate (20$).
Also I like the look of the bottle with the heat shrink. I don't think it can be done with crown cap.

For carbonated mead, I'll use american sparkling wine bottle. These bottle let you use either crown cap or cork.
Since crown cap is cheaper, I'll go with crown cap. It's important that you buy crown cap with seal. I read somewhere that the guy bought crown cap but they were decorative cap (without seal). His mead or beer never cabonated because the CO2 was leaking out.
I crown and cork each batch about 50/50. Let me clear up some misconceptions with the post though.

You can use heat shrinks on beer bottles, Mission St's Anniversary Ale uses them. and they are caped underneath with Standard size crown caps.


Not sure what you mean by caps with a seal. If you mean the air barrier, that's also not necessary. I've carbed over 50 bottles with the cheap gold caps from the home-brew store. You can not however, re-use crown caps, or corks for that matter.
 

Frognostic

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I have a bottle corker but lack corks.

I worry that if I bottle my mead and lay it on its side so that the mead contacts the cork it will spoil the mead - i.e. it will be "corked".

Looking for corks online I read a few bad reviews for a variety of products and I'm worried that I will buy bad corks.
 

bernardsmith

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I think that the likelihood that any cork will taint wine is tiny... Tiny that is unless you use bleach as a sanitizer. Bleach will react with cork to produce TBA which is what causes the taint. And once you have introduced this mold into your "winery" - it does not leave quietly. which is one reason that wine makers shake their heads when they hear of people using chlorine bleach to clean or sanitize anything that comes into contact with any piece of wine making equipment.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cork_taint
 

bigbeer

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Oh interesting. Why is corked better for long term? Better oxygen blocking?

I'm just trying to avoid the expense of a corker at the moment, though reusing wine bottles is easier for me than getting beer bottles. I do want to do what's best for the mead, though.
pretty sure a lot of home-brew/wine shops rent out corkers and cappers. i rent for 2$ a day
 

Izzie1701

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We just returned from the Rhine area of Germany touring many vineyards. I was very surprised to learn that most high end wines are leaning away from cork and going to screw tops. The reason it hasn't been seen yet in retail stores is the higher end wines are bottle conditioned for longer periods so since they have started leaning away from corks not many wines have been brought to the market place. Cork apparently will start to change the flavour of the wine over long periods of time. They were also finding that it would break down and you would get the "spoiled bottle" of some occasionally. Apparently the screw times are air tight and will not break down. Also this way the wine can be conditioned up right or laying down. They most superior way to cap was using s glass cap. I had never heard of them. There basicly a glass cork with rubber to seal around it. A few vineyards on there very high end wine were using this. I talked a vineyard into giving me 2 to try on my next mead. You moisten them with star San and then push them into the bottle my hand. The synthetic corks are apparently terrible and let the wine oxidize as well as break down and impart plastic flavours into the wine. This opened my eyes as I always looked at the screw top wines to be a cheaper less quality wine then corked wines. They expect within 10 years 80% of wine will have screw tops. I am however not sure if you can cap at home with a screw top though or if they require a press.
 

fuelish

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Meh, I just use 12 oz recycled beer bottles and crown caps......have never had a problem, but then again, have likely not had a mead be around for 2 years in the bottle (but on the other hand, anymore I bulk age in tertiary or quaternary, quinary, senary, whatever it takes to clear and settle, so....they might be well aged when bottled, anymore). I find the 12 ozers to be a nice size....nice size to gift to someone who doesn't know what to expect of mead, nice size when your wife doesn't want to join in enjoying your oaked ginger habanero sack mead ;) ....you can always open more 12 ozers, but when a big bottle is opened, it must be consumed ;) Plus, I have all the leftovers from my beermaking days of years back, so it makes sense in my case
 

bigbeer

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Would anyone recommend used screw top wine bottles for long term storage or go with cork?
 

Deafmeadmaker

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I just bottled my first two meads a bit back. I went with corks and wine bottles (had the bottles, think corks are "traditional"). If you do go that way it was suggested to me to let the corks soak in water overnight to help get them into the bottles. I found that filling an empty jar, putting the corks in, topping with water and putting the cap on the jar let the corks soak up more water than just laying them in a bowl and hoping the drink up. BTW did you ever get your mead made? What did you end up with?
If you let them soak for as little as five minutes, corks are easier to put in. I've never had a problem with breakage either. The only time I broke a bottle was when I was capping my beer.
 

CKuhns

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I was going to reply and then read Fuelsih response

Ditto me too!
 

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If I think it's good stuff, several wine bottles corked and some beer bottles capped with oxy barrier caps. That way you can open a beer bottle every 6 mo to a year until things taste worth opening a big bottle, or you know it's worth serving to company. If I'm not sure it's that good, or it's high ABV, I've started putting it all in beer bottles with the barrier caps....
 
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