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Thread: Racking

  1. #1
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    Default Racking

    I racked my mead about two weeks ago after the primary fermentation had effectively ended. My difference in hydrometer readings adjusted for temperature worked out to about 18 1/2 % alcohol. I have watched 15 minutes for a bubble thru the lock and not had one vent so I think it is pretty well finished fermenting. It no longer tastes funky, it just tastes real yeasty. Now that it is in a carboy, the clarity is still really poor but there is a whitish foam substance in a lacy pattern accross the top. The bottom two inches are quite white and cloudy. It does not appear to be a solid cake of yeast. Should I rack it again now or give it some more time before racking it again? I think God is teaching me patience but I am having fun and want to do this right.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Racking

    At 18 1/2% alcohol...I'm thinkin' that your fermentation is pretty complete. There's no way air is getting inside...right? Othewise I might be concerned about that whitish foam substance across the top. A vinegar mother could be described that way. On the other hand, at that alcohol level it would take a brawny acetobacter to get cranked up very quickly.
    So, I'd leave it alone until it has cleared. As long you keep fluid in the airlock it can stay in the carboy....for many, many months, if need be.
    Last edited by beemandan; 10-28-2011 at 04:59 PM.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Racking

    How long since that rack? Racking is one of the reasons that airlock activity is a poor metric of fermentation (there are lots of others); the racking degasses the mead. Then even if it's fermenting, there appears to be little airlock activity since the CO2 has to saturate the mead again before offgassing re-begins. Frequent and frantic racking, which comes to us from the wine industry where it's important to drive off sulfites or oxidize or etc., isn't nearly as important and can even be harmful to meads. I'd let it sit... age accomplishes the clarification it sounds like you're lookig for much more safely.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Racking

    About two weeks since I racked it. I am satisfied to wait. So if the white lacing on the top keeps growing I am making vinegar? How do I figure that one out or kill it if necessary? I do not need six gallons of vinegar. I indeed have a fermentation lock with vodka in it kept filled.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Racking

    BIG MEAD THERE!

    Another way to tell if it is done is to look at the yeast alcohol tolerance compared to the current level. Also, if your reading is near 1.000 you can have greater confidence it is done.

    I do not count bubbles. I just let the thing sit a long time. I've found that racking stimulates further activity.

    If you are impatient there are things to do to clarify faster. God might want you to learn those things instead of patience. Then again, maybe God does not want you drinking. I like to think that I am turning water into wine for the wedding!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Racking

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    About two weeks since I racked it. So if the white lacing on the top keeps growing I am making vinegar?
    If you are over 18% alcohol and racked it two weeks ago....it ain't forming a visible vinegar mother that quickly. As I said earlier, an acetobacter that can survive and thrive in that level of alcohol will be very slow growing, in my experience.
    And if the carboy is sealed and has an operating airlock, those acetobacters won't be a problem.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Racking

    put it in a fridge to hasten clarification. only rack it again after it is 100% clear, being very carefull not to get any lees from the bottom......the yeasty taste will go away after aging, some meads take months, some years.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Racking

    Thanks all. I am content to leave it alone, I just don't want to neglect it. I guess my only option is to start a cyser that is supposed to get done quicker or at least sweeter and drinkable quicker. I also was sick and spent too much time on line. I found out plans for a still made from plastic buckets and a thermostatically controlled immersion heater! I guess I have to get some brewers yeast and use up some of the sugar i bought to feed this fall but didn't need!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Racking

    I got my new toy a wine thief and sampled. The SG is the same so i guess that was right. The lees have now formed a cake on the bottom of the carboy instead of looking like white muck. Not much clarity, but it is coming. I was able to top off and eliminate the airspace at the top with honeywater and the mead that has clarified from the lees I racked off from in the primary. The mead has lost the bitter grapefruit pulp taste it had and other than being hot at the back of the throat, it is not objectionable. It is on it's way I think. In a year or so it may even be very good.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Racking

    I have another problem with this mead. I have had a little more than a quart I salvaged off the lees by chilling it to the edge of frost. Since then I have stored it in the fridge and have noted a terrible evaporation problem. I was advised that this mead was going to take years to become drinkable, but it sometime evaporated twice a day now and is nearly gone! If I am not careful I may soon develope an oxidation problem due to headspace as I feel the need for frequent hydrometer checks! If this mead lasts to age out, I think it is going to be awesome.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Racking

    Vance,

    Mead is definitely a lesson in patience. My biggest (and hardest) learning experience with mead is to let is be! Far to often I have done more harm than good by fiddling with it. You should really only rack it after the initial fermentation phase if it's been 3 months since the last racking and there is a sediment (you can go longer without much sediment, but I still rack every 6 months at least to avoid excessive autolysis and enjoy a taste test).

    If you are at 18.5% it's a safe bet that you are not going to ferment any more (though careful adding in honey/water to top off - this will sweeten your wine, but also dilute the abv and could re-start fermentation - don't worry about your headspace too much, use a little metabisulfate or some sanitized marbles if you are really nervous about it, but I've never had issues with large headspace in meads before)

    That said, with an airlock on the carboy you shouldn't have "evaporation" of the mead (are you taking samples? I loose many meads to this type of "evaporation"). If you have a small batch in the fridge, you should treat it like the large batch - putting it in either an air-tight container or with an airlock.

    Clarifying is the bain of the vain in some cases - taste is a better indicator, and really what matters the most. I have had meads take up to 18-24 months before they cleared naturally, then again I have bottled great tasting cloudy meads with great results as well. However, once the others did finally clear they were beautiful and tasted amazing.

    You should think that it will take at least 9-15 months before your mead is good enough to bottle (once bottled you can't change anything). I have sped this up with clarifiers like bentonite and sparkoloid (I wouldn't recommend any others), but you should try using a quarter of the recommended dosage and waiting another month or more - I used the full strength of bentonite recommended once and while I got a very clear mead, it did strip some of the flavors and made the alochol more pronounced. Less is more, because you can always add more but never take away...

    Since you're working with a high alochol mead you shouldn't worry too much about it's safety too much - it is made to age, will age extremely well, and (so long as you have an airlock) should be fine in the carboy with some headspace. It will probably benefit from small amounts of potassium metabisulfate every other time you rack (to avoid oxidation), but it's not necessarily critical if you don't want to add chemicals - again, you can go pretty light on this too.

    I made an 18% carrot blossom mead that tasted horrible for the first 1.5 years, then cleared on it's own and tasted amazing. Time will tell. Oak might be a good addition (oak cubes for 2-4 weeks, to taste), I'd recommend French or Hungarian oak.

    Hope that helps!
    Joshua

    p.s. The white foam on top is probably offgassing bubbles, honey is a thick substance and it is normal to see this on top.
    Last edited by TheFermenteer; 12-29-2011 at 10:44 AM.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Racking

    Thankyou. It still sits in all it's cloudy glory and topped off under a fermentation lock. I tasted it the other day and no change there. I have lots of floorspace so there it will sit.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Racking

    Cool. Sounds like a fun project. What type of honey did you use? Do you mind sharing your recipe - I'm always interested in the recipes!

    Yea, I would forget you have it there for a while, come back to it every 3 months or so until it finally clears and then you can bottle it. Yum-Yum. If you ever want to trade some bottles, let me know!

    Cheers,
    Joshua

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Racking

    18 pounds dandelion/clover/alfalfa honey, yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, spring water to six gallons, EC1118 when I was supposed to use 71b-1122. If it every turns into something worthy of sharing, I will certainly consider a trade. How does one legally ship bottles?

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Racking

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    How does one legally ship bottles?
    UPS handles the wine comming in from a local winery to us.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Racking

    Yes, "legally" you cannot ship wine via USPS.

    I'm not sure if UPS will ship wine from non-commercial shippers, but it is worth asking...

    Sounds like a great recipe! I've got a blackberry honey mead aging at the moment, a carrot blossom mead in bottles and a few fireweed meads in bottles as well.

    EC1118 is a great yeast, should turn out fine. And at 3lbs/gallon, with a year or so of aging and complete fermentation the yeast type used is less apparent anyway.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Racking

    I started a pear mead about two months ago and I will not rack it until this weekend. Then I allow mine to wait for another two months a rack it again. Then after another month, I rack it again and bottle it. Then I try to wait for one year (total time) to start to drink it..... So far, that has been hard....

    Phil
    Grandchildren are the best.... Bees a close second....

  18. #18
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    ottawa, ontario, canada
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    Default Re: Racking

    good info thanks all

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