Getting Started: Bottling Equipment

Here is a link to the page of shops suggested to purchase brewing equipment.

The following list was found in Ken Schramm’s The Complete Meadmaker:

  1. Bottle Filler: This stops the flow of mead into your bottles as you fill them. They use a valve to cut off the flow, closed either by spring or gravity.

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2. Bottle Cappers: There are two different types of cappers-the Bench Capper and Lever Capper. Bench cappers sit on a bench, table, or floor, and press the cap down onto the bottle using a single handle. They are easier to use only wen the bottles are uniform in size. Lever Cappers have two or three claws that squeeze the cap down. However they do not work well on bottles with large diameter necks.

Lever Capper Lever Capper

3. Bottle Brush or Bottle Washer: All bottles should be cleaned prior use. A jet bottle washer attaches to the spigot above your sink and channels the water flow into a copper pipe with a valve. A bottle is pressed upside down over the pipe to release the jet of water. But if you have really dirty bottles then a bottle brush is more suitable.

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4. Bottles: 5 gallon batches of mead fill about 53 12oz bottles or 25 750ml Champagne-style wine bottles. American sparkling wine bottles are great to recycle as mead bottles because they will accept a crown cap and can withstand the pressures that build up in a sparkling mead. Avoid using regular wine bottles because if your fermentation is not complete it can result in glass breakage.

Sanitized bottles with some foam

Sanitized bottles with some foam

5. Bottle Caps: Crown caps are the easiest and most economical choice. They come uncrimped.

6. Siphon Pump: Used to transfer beer from kettle to carboy, or carboy to carboy.

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However I if you choice to use the corking method rather than capping, then you need the additional following:

  1. Italian Double Lever Corker

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  1. Corks: Using corks will allow some oxygen to seem into the bottle, a process that is called micro-oxygenation. This can benefit the flavor of the mead. 
Corks

Corks

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