Getting Started: When to Bottle?

It is very important to know when it is the appropriate time to bottle your mead. Because mead ferments slowly, it is possible to bottle mead that still ferments while in the bottle. The mead can become a “sparkling mead” and the fermentation can create enough pressure to cause the glass to break. So please be cautious when bottling.

There are many different methods to determine when your mead is done fermenting.

  • 8 weeks method: Wait a minimum of 8 weeks before you bottle your honey. This method however varies with the type of honey used, amount of honey, and the ingredients used in the recipe. Hence, I recommend other methods first before resorting to this.
  • Airlock method: Once the airlock stops bubbling, wait an additional 2-3 weeks to bottle.
  • Flashlight method: Take a flashlight and shine it through the mead. Check for the clarity of the mead-if there are any particles floating or bubbles traveling in your mead, then it is NOT ready to bottle. Also check if the top and bottom of the mead is clear. If there is still some dead yeast that has settled at the bottom, even after re-racking, then it is still NOT ready to bottle. FYI: this method is not useful for melomels because they tend to be too dark.
  • Chemical Method: Fermentation can be stopped manually through the addition of certain chemicals. Potassium sorbate can be added just before bottling to prevent any additional fermentation from occurring BUT it will not stop an already active fermentation. Potassium metabisulfite (Campden Tablets) prevents wild yeast, bacteria growth, and oxidation in your mead.
  • The Specific Gravity Method: This is the most scientific and accurate method to determine if fermentation has stopped. This requires an original gravity (OG) reading and a present gravity reading. When the specific reading falls to about 0.1 of the original reading, then it is time to bottle. Another way is to multiply the OG by the rate of the attenuation of your yeast (which is on the yeast packet) and subtract that result from the OG. That number is your target gravity (TG). Then take a current gravity reading of your mead. If that gravity reading is the same as the TG, then it is time to bottle.

References:

  1. Target/Final Gravity Question
  2. To Bottle or Not To Bottle?
  3. Mead-Lovers FAQ
  4. How to Halt the Ferment of Mead
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