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Bottle carbing mead

I am about to start my first batch of semi-sweet mead and am giving some thought to how I will bottle it. I am leaning toward using a swing top type bottle and trying to bottle carb. With that being said I have heard a few horror stories about bottle carbing meads.

What I am intending is to allow a long secondary fermentation (2 months), followed by an extended bottle conditioning (3-4 months). I am hoping that the yeast will attenuate to near 100% in secondary and then very slowly carb the bottles over the long bottle conditioning. Thoughts on this plan?

Does anyone have any success stories bottle carbing a sweeter mead? Any proven methods of success?

I am months away from the deed but like to plan ahead…

Havent tried with a sweet mead, done a long aged braggot and a barley wine. I’d say it’s tricky.

If almost all of your yeast has come out then there is nothing to do the carbonating. I’ve added 5g US-05 just before bottling and added priming sugar for low carbonation but found it a bit lower than expected. When I try again i’ll add 11g (for a five gallon batch)and see if that works.

I hope someone with more experience adds something on this point but I don’t think you can slowly carb while aging. If most of the yeast has fallen out, you prime, then bottle, there won’t be enough healthy yeast in the bottles to get the job done. If there were enough but you then stored it at cellar temps the yeast growth would be retarded and you would end up trying to shake up the yeast and move the bottles to warmer temps later.

I’d recommend adding fresh yeast and priming sugar at bottling time, keep it at 65-70°f for two weeks, then cellar it. Do two or three 12oz bottles and try one at two weeks to see if it is working if not let it sit warm and try another a week later, etc.

Hope that helps

dob

Personally, I’d let the secondary fermentation go a bit longer because a mead can take a fairly long time to ferment (depending on the strength).
Just a note though…you don’t mention your recipe and the honey/water ratio… but unless I’m missing something, if you’re aiming for 100% attenuation then the result won’t really be a semi-sweet mead, it will be a traditional dry mead.

If you’re looking for residual sweetness, you may have to keep an eye on the bottles as they condition, since I’m betting (from experience) that over time they could potentially build up quite a bit of pressure. FWIW (and again, I don’t know your procedure) I have left meads in secondary for up to a year to make sure the ferment is complete.

What’s your recipe?

Bottle conditioning a semi-sweet mead is a hazardous proposition. Yeast are unpredictable and you aren’t going to be able to tell exact what the gravity will be when they stop. It could be off by a few gravity points. Unfortunately those few gravity points can be enough to seriously over-pressurize a bottle leading to flying glass from a bottle bomb. If it happen to blow at just the right time, you may spend the rest of your days with a white cane and a furry companion.

Yeast are capable of generating pressure capable of exploding bottles. It takes more than 7 atmosphere of CO2 pressure to reliable stop yeast. That’s 100+ PSI, and definitely more than beer bottles can tolerate. Champagne bottles can tolerate a lot more pressure, but even they have limits and glass shatters unpredictably (talk to any materials science engineers if you have doubts). Even Champagne makers have glass blow from time to time, and they have experience with this.
Each volume of CO2 equates to about 1.5 gravity points. If your fermentation happens to to go 2 or 3 points past where you expected, you could be in a range to have beer bottles exploding.

This is why the Method Champenoise was developed, and why they ferment things dry, then add enough fermentable sugar to achieve the desired level of carbonation, then let the yeast die under pressure (which occurs after 6-9 months) during which time they get all the yeast to settle in the neck of the bottle, after which they freeze and remove the yeast. Then, they add sugar syrup as desired to sweeten it in the bottle and recork it before the carbonation escapes. It is a tricky process, but safer than the idea you propose.

A much easier alternative is to force carbonate your semi-sweet and sweet meads.

You can bottle condition in PET plastic bottles without fear of harm.

If you insist (against advice) on trying to bottle condition something sweet in glass, at least bottle some in a PET soda bottle and monitor it. When the PET bottles start to firm up, you know the carbonation has occurred and you want to immediately stick the glass bottles in a fridge to prevent further carbonation and pressure build up. Keep those bottles cold and do not let them warm up.

I hope that helps.

Medsen

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