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Thread: Mead storage

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  1. #1
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    Apr 2005
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    I was reading in Schramm's The Compleat Meadmaker on p.74 that stainless kegs can be used to store mead w/ good CO2 control. This seems contrary to anything I've ever read about wine storage. With the similarities between wine and meads (melomels, etc.), how can this be? Any experience storing mead in stainless kegs? Affect on flavor?

    I've used the cornelius kegs for homebrewed beers with great success and it would be nice if I could do the same for mead. To date, I've been bottling my mead (cork sealed).

  2. #2
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    Cornies are great for mead, and wine too for that matter. The only caveats, as I see them, are two: one, you wouldn't get the same gradual oxidation over time as one would through a wooden barrel (or, to a lesser extent, through a natural cork). That's a good thing for whites; you can omit the buckets of sulfites that wineries use to offset O2. This might mean that if you wanted that oxidative character in say a bigger red that you're "laying down" for a while, you could rack it every six months or so to expose to air. Two, unpressurized cornies can "sip" air in around the racetrack gasket. For example, if the keg cools and atmospheric pressure gets high, there may be enough negative comparative pressure inside so have a burp of air intrude into the keg. Some will recommend putting 5 psi of CO2 onto the wine/mead, but it will soon dissolve into solution leaving little head pressure.

    In practice I haven't found this to be a problem. If it worries you, William's Brewing sells a larger, softer O-ring that should seal you more tightly (it's intended for leaker kegs that don't seal accurately).

    No flavor contribution. Most commercial wineries use stainless. There are even computer-controlled "micro-oxygenation" systems to allow the wine to age more traditionally.

    Note that mead in kegs will not be able to offgas, so make sure it's done unless you want a sparkling mead. Though it's easy enough to offgass a keg as you know! I tend to put in cornies after a couple/few months in glass.

    Dispensing could be done by nitrogen so as to not carbonate the mead. One can even rack by CO2 pressure to a new, purged corny, preventing any air contact at all. Cornies rock!

    The militant steel vs. wood argument, to my mind, illustrates the differences between winers and winemakers, if you catch my meaning, though there certainly are legitimate differences. Use the cornies.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Frederick, Maryland
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    4

    Default Re: Mead storage

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Brewcat View Post
    Cornies are great for mead, and wine too for that matter. The only caveats, as I see them, are two: one, you wouldn't get the same gradual oxidation over time as one would through a wooden barrel (or, to a lesser extent, through a natural cork). That's a good thing for whites; you can omit the buckets of sulfites that wineries use to offset O2. This might mean that if you wanted that oxidative character in say a bigger red that you're "laying down" for a while, you could rack it every six months or so to expose to air. Two, unpressurized cornies can "sip" air in around the racetrack gasket. For example, if the keg cools and atmospheric pressure gets high, there may be enough negative comparative pressure inside so have a burp of air intrude into the keg. Some will recommend putting 5 psi of CO2 onto the wine/mead, but it will soon dissolve into solution leaving little head pressure.

    In practice I haven't found this to be a problem. If it worries you, William's Brewing sells a larger, softer O-ring that should seal you more tightly (it's intended for leaker kegs that don't seal accurately).

    No flavor contribution. Most commercial wineries use stainless. There are even computer-controlled "micro-oxygenation" systems to allow the wine to age more traditionally.

    Note that mead in kegs will not be able to offgas, so make sure it's done unless you want a sparkling mead. Though it's easy enough to offgass a keg as you know! I tend to put in cornies after a couple/few months in glass.

    Dispensing could be done by nitrogen so as to not carbonate the mead. One can even rack by CO2 pressure to a new, purged corny, preventing any air contact at all. Cornies rock!

    The militant steel vs. wood argument, to my mind, illustrates the differences between winers and winemakers, if you catch my meaning, though there certainly are legitimate differences. Use the cornies.

    Hello,

    Thanks for the excellent information.

    I have a sweet mead that I am thinking about putting in a corny. It is quite clear and does not seem to be putting down lees, but there is not 100% confidence that it is ready to bottle. I would like to end up absolutely flat with no gassiness. Would minimal CO2 keep if from becoming carbonated or gassy? Could it be dispense it by siphoning it? I have never dispensed with CO2 and a keg so I do not know if only using CO2 pressure to dispense would add any gassiness and be a suitable bottling method. Is nitrogen easy to obtain in small ammounts and are there any implications for flavor etc?

    Thanks,

    Will Stapp

  4. #4
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    Oct 2004
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    Default Re: Mead storage

    Quote Originally Posted by stappmusic View Post
    I would like to end up absolutely flat with no gassiness. Would minimal CO2 keep if from becoming carbonated or gassy? Could it be dispense it by siphoning it? I have never dispensed with CO2 and a keg so I do not know if only using CO2 pressure to dispense would add any gassiness and be a suitable bottling method. Is nitrogen easy to obtain in small ammounts and are there any implications for flavor etc?
    Well, first make sure the sucker is finished for reals. Use a hydrometer. Then degas it using a degasser or whatever before packaging. Bulk aging under an airlock will also degas over time. You can dispense by siphon, but make sure that whatever is displacing the volume removed isn't air laden with contamination and/or oxygen... you can't siphon out of a closed system as suction will stop the siphon as negative pressure forms in the vessel. Pushing wine with nitro is common, but IMO it's kind of a hassle: bev nitro is actually a blend and requires a different regulator etc. If it were my mead I'd just rig the dispense so it needed minimal (even negative) pressure to come out the faucet like in a siphon, and then have very miminal CO2 on it just to displace the mead as it's removed, and only "live" pressure while you're pouring like for an evening but then shut off. That little pressure shouldn't dissolve an appreciable amount into the mead.

    Just re-read: if you're bottling (emphasis added above), don't worry about CO2, just siphon the degassed mead from the carboy into bottles and cork. If you're dispensing directly from the keg, read the above .
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Frederick, Maryland
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    4

    Default Re: Mead storage

    Thanks very much for the information.

    The mead in question is currently in a 5 gallon glass carboy that has been fermenting for about a year - it is a blueberry mead. The original SG was 1.12 and is now down to 1.036 (12.7%). I used Lalvin EC1118. I realize this SG is quite high to bottle. It tastes fantastic and has a nice but not overpowering sweetness. Fermentation seems to have stopped over the last month although I think it is still outgassing. This may be confirmed by the fact that it still has a very slight fizz on the tongue.

    This was my second batch of mead and I got greedy in that I added to much honey and blueberries which I think overwhelmed the yeast early. The next batch will be with less blueberries and a lower starting SG.

    If I wait another 6 months and it seems stable without any SG change can I bottle it safely? (it was 1.043 in February when I racked it and 1.036 now)
    That way I can skip the keg option this time.

    Best,

    Will

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    Lyons, CO
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    Default Re: Mead storage

    Yeah, something's not right there. That's a little over 11% or so from a strain that can handle 18% properly pitched, so it could limp along for years (including in the bottle). Options now:


    • Chillproof-and-rack (or stabilize with sorbate) and bottle as is. I personally wouldn't just age it and bottle without further insurance, though the more time goes be the less likely they'll wake and re-apply themselves.
    • Re-pitch with a healthy starter. Rehydrate in water (not juice, must or mead) and re-pitch, keeping at 65F. Maybe it's too cool?


    Or if you're going to keg it, keep it in the fridge until gone. That'll keep the yeast from working further.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
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    Northeast Tennnessee
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    That's great! Thanks for the insightful comments. Yeah, racking from one cornie to the next is a sweet maneuver.

    Looks like I'll need to order 2 or 3 more cornies, any good sources you'd recommend for some used ones?

  8. #8
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    Shop around... LHBS usually has as good a deal as most, once shipping is figured in. The Green Bay Rackers (Green Bay WI homebrew club) used to do orders where you could get 4 for, I dunno, ninety bucks or something, migh check them out. I got a few on trades, some from pepsi distributors, a couple from bartenders. I even got two 10-galloners from a guy who found them half-buried behind a barn.

    Get them sooner than later though, used ones aren't being "made" anymore. Soda's all done in bags now. You can still get brand new ones if you like shiny new stainless and hate your bank balance having so many digits [img]smile.gif[/img] .
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  9. #9
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    Apr 2005
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    Ben,

    Thanks again. Good point re "used ones aren't being 'made' anymore." I'd gotten 3 on eBay from a seller that took more than 2 months to ship.

    Ben -- brewing in Roan Mountain, TN

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    marlette Mi
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    Here is a upllier with really good prices on cornies. You won't see this price anywhere else. In fact they are selling them for a $1 chaeper than when I bought mine from them.
    http://www.homebrewing.org/index.html

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