Sparkling mead specifics

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DDxo

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Hi all,
I'm planning on brewing my first batch of mead (with strawberries).
I would love if it could be sparkling mead, but I have a couple of questions:
1. From what I've read, one must be careful about the type of bottle used for bottling. Does anybody know if a flip-top Grolsch beer bottle would work? Or would the seals not absorb enough of the carbonation?
2. I've also heard that the sparkling mead takes longer to ferment. If I started next week, do you think it would be ready in a little less than a year?
3. Can I ferment the mead directly in my bottles? I realize that this will mean putting more airlocks on than normal, but I was planning on using a balloon with an air-hole, and the small cases of bottles would make everything easier to transport during our upcoming move...I should know about in advance of using these? Does any plastic-y taste leech into the brew?
4. A potential alternative to #4 I've heard of is using plastic gallon water bottles. Would these be appropriate for sparkling mead? Are there any issues I should know about this option in advance? Should I be concerned about a plastic-y flavour leeching into my brew?
Any help is greatly appreciated!
DD
 

Maylar

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1) Depends on your desired level of carbonation. Beer level can be done in flip-tops. Champagne level needs champagne bottles.
2) You add carbonation after the mead ferments and clears. The only extra time is the 2-3 weeks to carbonate.
3) You'll want to leave the yeast and stuff (lees) behind when you bottle.
4) You can ferment in those, then transfer to bottles. Carbonation is done in sealed glass bottles.
 

bernardsmith

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Hi DDxo - and welcome.
Not a chemist , but for what it's worth here is my understanding. Water ain't wine. Water has a pH of about 7 and does not contain any alcohol solvents. Wine has a pH of about 3.4 (+/-) so it is quite acidic and may have 7-15% alcohol by volume. Plastic used to store water is not designed to withstand solvents like alcohol or acids that are in your wine. The problem is that many plastics will leach chemicals when subject to alcohol and acids and those chemicals can be toxic. That may not be something that bothers you. That's OK. But it may trouble those you share your wines with. That said, there is plastics that are designed to be stable storing acids and alcohols. Your call.
 
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DDxo

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Hi DDxo - and welcome.
Not a chemist , but for what it's worth here is my understanding. Water ain't wine. Water has a pH of about 7 and does not contain any alcohol solvents. Wine has a pH of about 3.4 (+/-) so it is quite acidic and may have 7-15% alcohol by volume. Plastic used to store water is not designed to withstand solvents like alcohol or acids that are in your wine. The problem is that many plastics will leach chemicals when subject to alcohol and acids and those chemicals can be toxic. That may not be something that bothers you. That's OK. But it may trouble those you share your wines with. That said, there is plastics that are designed to be stable storing acids and alcohols. Your call.
I appreciate the concern; thanks for bringing that up. Luckily, I found some big second hand glass growlers and large vodka bottles to contain most of the first batch (1$ for the lot!).
4. Plastic Problem = solved.
Thanks!
 

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DDxo

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1) Depends on your desired level of carbonation. Beer level can be done in flip-tops. Champagne level needs champagne bottles.
2) You add carbonation after the mead ferments and clears. The only extra time is the 2-3 weeks to carbonate.
3) You'll want to leave the yeast and stuff (lees) behind when you bottle.
4) You can ferment in those, then transfer to bottles. Carbonation is done in sealed glass bottles.
1)Darn. Corking seems like more trouble than I want to invite.
2)
3 & 4) Great, yes, I was planning on cycling from the full bottles to some empty ones after fermentation to filter out the lees. Luckily I came across some big glass bottles that will be more suitable for fermentation, so I won't have all that extra work.
Regarding the 2-3 weeks for carbonation; I hadn't considered this aspect and now I'm curious:
a. Ought I bottle/carbonate a few weeks before I crack it open (to let the fermentation process continue)? Or,
b. Should I bottle earlier? Is there such a thing as too long of a fermentation for mead? I had a friend tell me that it changes to vinegar, but I've read elsewhere that longer is better...???​
Thanks for your help!
DD
 

bernardsmith

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Ethanol (alcohol) will change to vinegar when the alcohol is infected with acetobacter in the presence of oxygen. If you keep your carboys filled to the top - no head room - then there is no place for oxygen to work with any of the problem bacteria and if you keep your fermenters sanitized and you use good fermentation protocols you eliminate the offending bacteria. You get vinegar only if you are careless OR if that is something you want. Using good fermentation protocol and ensuring that you do not keep live vinegar anywhere your fermenting meads or wines means you never have to worry about acetobacter. You should age mead for as long as it takes for the mead to reach its premium quality. With good protocol that can be a few weeks or months. With poor protocol that aging may need to take years. But mead under normal circumstances does improve with time - but aging should be to bring a very good mead up to being excellent and not so much to make a crappy mead drinkable...
 

madscientist451

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Answers to numbered questions:

1. Grolsch bottles work fine
2. If you use modern mead making methods you don't have to wait a year for mead to be done, but mead isn't beer and it does take some time.
3. No, don't ferment in the bottles you are using for packaging. If you want to make small batches, 1 gallon glass jugs work great.
4. Plastic Jugs water jugs would be a poor choice to use as a fermenter.

If you are just starting out in mead making, there are lots of useful videos on you tube as well an numerous podcasts to listen to.
 

Maylar

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1)Darn. Corking seems like more trouble than I want to invite.
2)
3 & 4) Great, yes, I was planning on cycling from the full bottles to some empty ones after fermentation to filter out the lees. Luckily I came across some big glass bottles that will be more suitable for fermentation, so I won't have all that extra work.
Regarding the 2-3 weeks for carbonation; I hadn't considered this aspect and now I'm curious:
a. Ought I bottle/carbonate a few weeks before I crack it open (to let the fermentation process continue)? Or,
b. Should I bottle earlier? Is there such a thing as too long of a fermentation for mead? I had a friend tell me that it changes to vinegar, but I've read elsewhere that longer is better...???​
Thanks for your help!
DD
The typical recommended procedure is to ferment your mead until it's done. Any bottle or bucket is OK for that - I know a guy who uses plastic trash cans and makes award winning mead. This takes about a month, depending on yeast, temperature, and protocol (nutrient schedule). When your hydrometer says the primary ferment is done, rack to clean vessels and allow the mead to clear. This can take another month or even more, and you want to minimize head space as Bernard mentioned. I always use glass for this, since I'm usually going to age the mead a while too. But I also have a Better Bottle PET carboy and have had no issues aging in that.

Once the mead has cleared, you rack again to a bottling bucket and add your priming sugar for carbonation. There are online calculators that can tell you how much of each kind of sugar (including honey) to add for the desired level of carbonation. Then you bottle in pressure-safe bottles and wait for the carbonation to happen - typically another 2-3 weeks.
 
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