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Bottling Mead: Tips, Tricks and Techniques
I answer some of the most commonly asked questions including: "How do I know when it's time to bottle my mead?" This page also has a youtube video that explains all these points. It is at the bottom of this page.
Here are the six points I cover in this article:
1. When should you bottle your mead?
2. What types of bottles can you use?
3. What corks should you use?
4. Simple bottling with no fuss.
5. How to sweeten then bottle your mead
6. How to carbonate your mead so it is sparkling like champage then bottle.
1. When Should you bottle your mead?
There are several rules of thumb that you can follow in knowing when it is time to bottle your mead. The first, and most accurate method is to use a hydrometer to check the specific gravity of your mead. You take a reading when you first mix it up then you continue to take readings every week or two. When the specific gravity falls to about .1 of the original reading it is ready to be bottled.
More ways to know: First off you can just wait it out! Wait a minimum of 8 weeks and your mead should be ready to be bottled. This will vary depending on honey, amount of honey, and what other ingredients you put in the recipe.
And, finally you can just watch the airlock on the mead carboy. Once the airlock stops bubbling you can wait an additional two to three weeks and the mead should be ready to be bottled.
2. What types of bottles can you use?
Well, There are three different size wine bottles: 375 ml, 750 ml and the larger size 1.5 liter. For standard mead I generally use the 750 ml size. If you are making a very sweet dessert style mead you may want to use the half size 375 ml bottle. If you are making a table mead you might want to go with the 1.5 liter size. The picture at left shows three bottles. (750 ml size) The end bottles are the Bordeaux Claret style and the center bottle is the Burgundian style. The picture also shows three of the common colors. I prefer the clear claret bottle on the right. For mead I prefer clear glass so I can see the beautiful color of the mead.
Bottles come in four general types:
Bordeaux (My preference, also called Claret)
Champagne (stronger and thicker)
Flute (very long neck)
I prefer the Bordeaux also called Claret. If you are sparkling or carbonating your mead you should use champagne bottles because they are thicker and stronger.
Amazon.com now carries the swing top bottles. These are really neat bottles and people are always asking me about them. They just have that old fashioned feel which is very mead like. There is definitely something beautiful about this type of bottle.
3. Corking - This can be a matter of preference but I like to use #9 corks that are 1.5 inches long. These make for a good fit. And to prepare the corks you boil some water and remove from heat. Add the corks to the pan and cover for about 5 minutes. The hot water and steam will soften the corks. Take each cork out of the pan as you are corking.
4. Simple Bottling
If you just want to get your mead into bottles without too much fuss or you are a beginner then all you have to do is to siphon the mead into the bottles and cork it. If you want to go a step further i recommend you use a product called Potassium Sorbate. Adding this chemical to the mead before bottling will preserve the color and flavor of the mead over a long period of time.
5. Sweetening your mead
This is a common question and lots of meadmakers like to sweeten their mead before bottling. But there is a bit of care you have to take when doing this. I recommend, and this is absolutely a matter of taste, but I recommend you add a cup of honey per five gallons of mead for sweetening but.... before you do that you need to stabilize and halt the ferment of the mead. This is what you should do: Add two chemicals to the batch of mead, potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite. Follow the manufacturers instructions as to quantities. These two chemical will stabilize the mead and prevent a new ferment. Let the mead sit for two days then add in your cup of honey, stir it well and bottle it.
6. Carbonating your mead to make it a Sparkling mead like Champagne.
This is really fun and can make for some great mead but there is a caution that you should follow. Use champagne bottles, champagne corks and the wire cork restraint when doing this. Sparkling your mead will cause a pressure build up and you don't want the bottle to explode! Do this to make it sparkling: Just before bottling add 2/3 cup of honey per five gallons of mead - then bottle it!