To bottle or not to bottle?

Author: LadySylvia
home brew supplies - wine bottles

Clear wine bottles show off the color and clarity of your mead

There are several ways I try to determine if my mead is ready to bottle.

The flashlight method:
The first, easiest, and most concrete way is to take a flashlight and shine it through the mead (mine are generally in large glass carboys by this time). I look to make sure that the mead is free from floaties and particulates. There shouldn’t be any bubbles travelling in your mead (if there is, your yeast are still active).  I am looking to see if it is CLEAR. The flashlight picks up particulates that your eye may not. I am also looking to see if anything has settled to the bottom in the past few months since the last racking. If both the bottom and the mead seem clear (and it has been awhile), I will probably bottle it. This method is less helpful when you are doing a melomel and it is dark, like with blueberries or blackberries.

The Specific Gravity Method
This is the more sciency method. You will need an original gravity reading and a present gravity reading. You can do some calculations to figure out the alcohol content of your mead. Some hydrometers have the potential alcohol already figured out for you, which means all you have to do is subtract the first and last readings. In addition, you will need to know the alcohol tolerance of your yeast. This information can sometimes be found on the package, but can also be found on the website of the manufacturer. With these two pieces of information, you can determine if your yeast have reached their tolerance. In other words, if your yeast can tolerate 14% alcohol and you’ve reached 7%, you need to wait. If you have reached 14%, and it looks ready, you can go ahead and bottle you mead.

The “It tastes good to me” Method
You can use this method, but I recommend that you use this ONLY if you are going to drink your mead this weekend, in its entirety. If not, you will end up with yuck on the bottom of your bottles (if you’re lucky) and exploding bottles (if you’re not).

The Chemical Method
You can add chemicals to halt the fermentation. This is a method I have never used. I am brewing predominantly for an audience that is looking for beverages that are truer to a medieval beverage (with modern cleanliness). Therefore, I drink it young (like a quick mead), or I wait for it to do it’s thing all on its own.