bottling mead

not the fruit infused mead from a few weeks ago, but some that had been sitting in the closet for over a year.  with the holidays coming up it’s always good to have a couple of bottles lying around to give as gifts and open up with dinner company over.  below is basic bottling instructions. this is for mead of course, but could just as easily be for wine too.

what you need

a racking cane, 5 feet of food grade tubing to fit the racking cane, a bottle filler, enough corks for wine bottles plus a few extra, a corker, and a bottle brush.  all of this can be obtained from a home brew store.

in addition you will also need.

bleach, soap, and wine bottles approximately five  700 ml bottles per gallon of wine.

step 1. get mead moved

mead on the countertop

it needs to be high enough that you can siphon it into the bottles, a countertop is perfect.  you also want to do it with plenty of time to spare before bottling so any sediment on the bottom that gets churned up in the move has time to settle back down, move them gently.  i usually do this 24 hours in advance of bottling, but not everyone wants to have a bunch of jugs or carboys sitting on their countertop for that long. from left to right, a straight hard cider, a sweet cyser (apple cider mixed with honey), tart cherry mead, a mixed berry mead, a pear ginger dry cyser, and 2 jugs of elderberry port.

step 2. soak the corks.

corks soaking

i pulled the weight off that i had on top to keep them under water so you could see them.  the corks need to soak for about 4 hours.  corks can be acquired at a wine making store, here in detroit california wine grape is a great place to get wine making supplies, even if the help is pretty grouchy.  that’s just part of the experience to me.

cover the corks in cold water, bring them to a simmer for a few minutes, turn off the heat and then use a plate smaller than the inside of the pot to push them down and add a weight on top to keep them under the water.  in the meantime

3. clean and sanitize the bottles.

washing the bottles

i soak the bottles in a nice cleaning solution like doctor bronner’s salsuds for about a half hour then scrub them out with a bottle bush.  then they get rinsed, and then the sanitizing.  i fill up the tub with water and bleach.  how much bleach?  i’ve been bottling for over a decade so at this point so i don’t pay that much attention, but i usually go for just enough to make the water have a bit of a bleach smell, i’d guess a cup for the whole tub load.  you want to make sure the bottles are completely filled with the bleach water, it has to come in contact with the solution to kill the microbes.  at this point you are going to also need to wash and sanitize a few other items, a racking cane, about a five foot length of food grade tubing that will fit the racking cane and a bottle filler.  you could get away with nothing but the tubing, but racking canes, and bottle fillers don’t cost that much and they do make life oh so much better.  wash these and soak them in the bleach solution as well.  forget about them for about and hour.

step 4. getting set up.

while the bottles are soaking it’s a good time to get everything else together, some towels down on the floor to reduce the mess when you overfill bottles, the corker out and ready, the corks next to the corker, labels and pen to mark what you have bottled.

step 5 bottling

the bottling set up

ok so now you need to rinse the bleach water out of all the bottles and get them set up within easy reach of where you are going to fill the bottles.  next take the air lock off of the first jug you are going to fill bottles from.  then attach the racking cane to the length of tubing.  at this point there are a couple of ways to start the siphon, and i’ve tried them all and i decided this is the favorite.

fill the racking cane and tubing completely with water, then quickly flip the racking cane so it is facing up so water will not rush out and at the same time cover the tubing end with your clean finger.  then bring them up so that the top of the racking cane and the end of the tubing are at the same level, again the racking cane and the end of the tubing are facing toward the ceiling.  at this point you can take your finger off the tubing and shove the bottle filler onto it.  this all sounds much more complex than it is.

now stick the racking cane into the jug you are taking from and quickly drop the bottle filler into a pint glass or jar that you have next to the bottle you are going to be filling.  shove down on the bottle filler until you have expelled all the water in the line and then place it in the bottle you want to fill and start filling it.

the bottle filler is made so that it will leave the proper amount of room for a cork to go in, though sometimes you have to adjust for this, as it can be very hard to get the cork in if there is not enough space.  if you have a partner, they can put the corks in while you are filling, but if not it makes much more sense to go ahead and fill them and then cork them, just don’t leave them uncorked for any longer than necessary.  as you get to the bottom of the jug you will have to tip it to one side to get the last bit of mead, and take care to leave sediment at the bottom, no one wants a bunch of sediment in the wine bottle.

step 6 corking

corking

this little number is a floor corker, which will set you back about 100 dollars, well worth it if you make lots of mead or wine.  we are lucky enough to have a friend who is happy to loan us their floor corker anytime we need it, we just make sure it is returned with a bottle that it was used to cork.  we started out using a hand corker to bottle which is a lot of work, requiring me to put my full body weight on the corker to get it to go in.  for a small batch i might still use a hand corker, but now days we just do a big batch of bottling all at once and borrow the corker.

all the corkers work on the same principle, compressing the cork and then shoving it in the wine bottle, which is why so much force is needed, those corks don’t really want to go in that little hole.

step 7 finishing up

finished mead bottles

after corking, they get labeled and then sit upright for a few days before being stored in a cool dark place on their side until ready to drink.  since these have been aged for a year already in the fermenters they are ready to drink now.  some meads taste great young some taste great after some aging.  i’ve had batches that i thought terrible that after a year or two were amazing.  it’s another good reason to keep records.

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3 responses to “bottling mead

  1. Pingback: the art of making mead | little house on the urban prairie

  2. Where did you get those large brewing bottles from? and the gear that you used with it? Does it have a special name?

    • the bottles that i used to ferment in are one gallon carlo rossi and organic apple juice jugs. so if you drink either of these products or have friends that do you can simply get them that way. other option is to hit the recycling center, great for jugs as well as wine bottles. these are actually very small batches – most people brew 3-15 gallons at a time in large bottles called carboys, which you have to get from a homebrewing store. in detroit california wine grape of fort street is my closest connection. and then you need the airlocks that go on top – again at a homebrewing store.

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