Say, you made a batch of a very specific recipe of mead that you wanted to try for a long time. You observe that the fermentation has completed and the bubbles have settled. You cannot practically carry around a jug of mead. Therefore, you know you need to prepare to bottle your mead. It can be a bit complicated but do not worry. We have it all sorted out for you.
Which bottle to use
The first step is for you to decide which bottle would be suitable for storing your mead. This will depend on two factors- the level of carbonation in your mead, and its alcohol content.
Wine bottles or beer bottles?
Beer bottles and champagne bottles are your options if you have a highly carbonated drink because they are made with thicker glass and a gradual neck that can stand the pressure of a sparkling mead. A wine bottle is comparatively thinner and would result in a bottle bomb.
However, beer usually has a lower ABV as compared to wine, and also contains only a one-time serving of the drink.
Some people who make mead like to bottle it in wine bottles if it is to age for long. A corked wine bottle lets in tiny amounts of oxygen. This is called “micro-oxygenation,” and it can be good for the flavor of the mead. There are many different types and sizes of wine bottles, and all of them can be used to bottle a still mead.
If you are using a corked bottle, keep a corker handy, which mead makers usually own. The best way is to use a floor corker, but hand corkers work just as well and cost less.
Is the fermentation complete?
You want to be 100% sure that the fermentation has stopped in your mead. If it continues to ferment after it has been bottled, you might witness bottles burst. There are two popular and accurate techniques to know if your mead has fermented:
The airlock bubbles test
Check the airlock on top of the carboy. You know mead has finished fermenting when no bubbles are moving through the airlock. If you still see bubbles, it means that the fermentation is yet to complete.
You should also check to see if the mead is clear or cloudy. Haziness doesn’t always mean that the mead is still fermenting, but clarity confirms that it’s almost ready.
The specific gravity test
Check the specific gravity with a hydrometer. Depending on how it was made, the specific gravity of a fully fermented mead can be anywhere from 1.01 to 1.035.
Sweet mead has a pH between 1.015 and 1.025. The trick is to see if the specific gravity has gone down and is staying the same.
Say your first reading for specific gravity was 1.03, and you may now have 1.025. Most of the time, a drop of 0.005 means that the mead has started to ferment. But for a few days, this drop in specific gravity should stay at 1.025 to show that the fermentation is done.
If you still have your doubts, you can use Potassium sorbate to prevent further fermentation from happening.
Gather and sanitize your equipment
- Your bottles
- An auto-siphon with tubing
- Bottling tool
- Automatic bottle filler (optional)
You do not want to contaminate your mead. So, ensure that you are sanitizing all the equipment that will touch the mead. While it is better to use a good sanitizer, potassium metabisulfite does the job too while also sweetening the mead. You can lay the bottles on a towel on the floor.
Start bottling mead
- To begin, put the gallon jug or bottling bucket on a countertop so it is on a raised platform.
- Attach one end of the auto-siphon to the bottling bucket and the other end to a sanitized bottle. You might need someone to hold this for you.
- If you are using an auto-filler, attach it with the siphon at the end of the bottles.
- Make sure the end in the carboy does not disturb the sediments settled at the bottom.
- With a couple of pumps, the mead should start flowing easily.
- Fill the bottles starting from the bottom, rising to the top. Leave some space for the cap to fit. You must prevent aeration at all costs.
- Once a bottle is filled, take out the siphon end or the auto filler and place it inside the next bottle.
Repeat this process until all the bottles have been filled.
Aging the mead
You must now cap your bottles. If you have filled flip-top bottles, this will be easier for you. But if you have used beer bottles or champagne bottles, you might need crown caps and a capper to seal them airtight. In the case of wine bottles, you will need to use corks and a corker. You must always moisturize the corks using the steam from boiling water before you fit it at the brim.
Once you are done bottling mead, it is time to store it. You should always store your bottle in a dark and cool place and let it age for at least three weeks before tasting the smooth and seasoned drink you made from scratch.
The main challenges when you bottle mead is to prevent aeration of the drink and keep equipment sanitized. Remember never to use an untested tool or technique unless you are very confident about it. If you ace this technique, you can pat your back and enjoy your own mead.