Topping up options for secondary.

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RIptidedylan

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Hi everyone, I have a large number of cider batches that are all getting near the end of primary fermentation and ready to be racked into glass carboys for secondary fermentation...

Some of these may have up to a gallon of head-space and was going over potential fixes/ways to top up but I wanted everyone's advice.

1. Sterilized glass marbles --this seems to be a great option for my 1 gallon batches and batches that don't need too much topping off, 3 lbs = 1 L of liquid displacement.

2. Top off with a different cider that has also undergone primary fermentation. Should I top off with another batch even if it has different yeast, once both are completely dry?

3. Top off with fresh cider from orchard not pasteurized (if I did this I should sulfite and sit first right?)

4. Top off with pasteurized store bought apple juice (I've heard lots do this, but it will start re-fermenting and then won't I need head space in the carboy anyhow/need to re rack?)

5. Top off with water

I'm leaning towards a mixture of sterilized marbles and lightly sulfited fresh cider from the orchard, thoughts?

Thanks!
Riptide
 

Maylar

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Topping off with anything but fermented cider will dilute your alcohol level unless you allow it to restart fermentation again. That's OK if you're willing to wait for it, and the amount of lees you get from a small addition of fresh juice should be minimal. Depending on the yeasts you used, you might have a conflict doing bottle conditioning (carbonation) though most ale strains can coexist no problem. I've used sanitized marbles (actually glass flower vase stones) for small volumes with no issues. It takes a lot of them though...
 

Yooper

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I've used commercial finished wines or homemade wines for topping off my wines and apple wine for apple cider (if I don't have finished cider), but my preference would be first to simply rack to smaller vessels. If you can't get a smaller carboy, then my next preference would be simply to use the other ciders (yeast strain really doesn't matter at this point, since fermentation is nearly done) to top up.
I would not use new juice, as fermentation will start again. And then you'll have to rack to a smaller vessel because of headspace, and have the same issue.
I would not use water because watered down cider isn't what you want.
Marbles work- except they tend to be glass and can break when you put them in, and they are difficult to rack from when you have lees, and it takes a LOT of them. Glass carboys are heavy enough without adding five pounds of glass marbles!
 
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RIptidedylan

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Thanks everyone! Also, I got a 10$ disposable can of argon gas made for preserving opened wine bottles from amazon. Is that useful or useless in this? Should I fill the head-space with argon (I've read that it can be dangerous if breathed in--is that serious?). And also how much head-space would you leave for a secondary, just a few inches or absolute zero? Thanks again!

I'm leaning towards fermenting a 3 gallon batch of something basic--with a quicker fermenting yeast, and using that once it hits 1.000 to top up the various carboys.
 

Corey Fish

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Thanks everyone! Also, I got a 10$ disposable can of argon gas made for preserving opened wine bottles from amazon. Is that useful or useless in this? Should I fill the head-space with argon (I've read that it can be dangerous if breathed in--is that serious?). And also how much head-space would you leave for a secondary, just a few inches or absolute zero? Thanks again!

I'm leaning towards fermenting a 3 gallon batch of something basic--with a quicker fermenting yeast, and using that once it hits 1.000 to top up the various carboys.

As a doctor, the only reason argon would cause a problem is if you were breathing only argon and nothing else. The problem is that these types of gasses don't trigger a hypoxic breathing response (the thing that makes you breathe if you hold your breath for long enough). I.e., if you were in a room full of nothing but argon you would feel fine, not air starved, and happy as a clam right up until the point you passed out and expired.

I haven't tried this myself, but they make CO2 canisters for bicycles that are 16g. That's about 8 liters of volume. Since CO2 is heavier than air, I've often thought you could shoot one of those CO2 canisters in your carboy first, then rack your beverage into the carboy and that should cover some of your headroom. However, I'm no physicist so I don't know how long this would last before the gas reaches an equilibrium with the liquid and with the outside air and stops becoming protective.
 

Chalkyt

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I have tried glass marbles, and agree that does take a lot of them to occupy much volume.

For what it is worth, next year (our Fall starts in March) I was planning to add tannin via strong black tea to some batches. This will double up as a top-up to the secondary after primary because you lose a bit of volume when discarding the lees. Will it work... dunno! I understand that the rate is about a cup per gallon.
 

Maylar

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CO2 (or any other gas) as a blanket will eventually diffuse through an airlock and become mixed with air. It'd work in a tightly sealed container but not with any sort of rubber bung. Even the liquid in an airlock is permeable.

What works for me is have a selection of glass carboys that I can rack into. A 5 gallon batch for instance typically racks to 3 + 1 + 1/2 gallons for aging. Assorted wine bottles are handy to have around for those odd small quantity leftovers. Rubber bungs are available even in beer bottle sizes.

For marbles, I use sanitized lead-free glass stones sold in crafts stores for flower vase fillers. Cheaper than marbles. I'll use them to bring a half gallon up to the neck.

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ten80

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Never water!

Marbles have worked well for me in conjunction with racking to a slightly smaller carboy as Maylar said above

Purging headspace works for only so long. There is eventually gas transfer through the airlock material over long periods of time and this is why minimizing the surface area of the liquid is the most effective manner to prevent oxidation. Even a solid rubber of silicone bung is gas permeable over the long term (6+ months).

If you have a screw-top lid, then you can purge with an inert gas, then add a little SO2 and cap. That should be fairly effective in the long term.
 
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