Bottling time

Yesterday I received the bottling supplies from the brew store, so it was bottling time for Caelan and Drake. Caelan had cleared further with the bentonite - actually in the photo I'd already siphoned it off the clay and in the process moved the demi just slightly, so it was even clearer at first. But I am clumsey, and I've learned to live with that.
Both batches had been stabilised and showed no signs of life in the windowsill of my bedroom, so I think/hope they can be considered sufficiently done to pose no danger of explosion.
Here are the bottles I used - 0.75, 0.375 and 0.25 cl. The middle size I bought as it seems a lovely size to give away. The smaller size are recycled screw-tops and mostly intended to serve as samples. The larger size are also recycled. I also have some 1 litre bottles but changed my mind about using them as they seem overly huge. My batches are small, if the stuff does turn tasty in time it seems a shame to end up drinking almost a quarter of it in one go.
With the autosiphon and the bottling cane (flows if you depress the little pin at the end, stops the flow if you lift it) the transferring the mead was a painless and largely mess-less process. The corking was something else entirely!
I had ordered 'quality 3 corks' which were said to be for bottling up to 5 years. I knew not to expect the world, but what I got were 50 corks were about 15 weren't waterproof by any definition, and 20 which crumbled. I had to seriously search the box for a good one, and even then I ended up having to filter and re-cork three bottles because there was cork in the mead. Grrr. I called the shop and they said they're not supposed to be like that and they're sending me new ones, but unless those are significantly better I'll know either to invest in Really Good Corks, or switch to screw- or fliptops. (The reason I prefer corks is... it's cheaper because I can recycle any old bottle, and it's easier if I give away bottles that don't have recycle value like flip-tops would have. Plus, it's kind of a fuss to get white-glass fliptops. They're not cheap.
After I managed to cork as well as possible I put shrink caps on, except for one of the screwtop bottles which was too wide and got a cap of beeswax. Then I went and made labels. And then I went "Heee!" a lot and stored them in the wooden chest that is my coffee table.


I'm getting ready to bottle for the first time, so figured having a practice run with the corker would be good. The first cork I forgot to soak, so that was a problem to get in and crumbled on getting out. Tried it again with a soaked cork and it went easier, but there's a problem - the pressure pin of the corker leaves this deep indentation in the cork, and it crumbles the top edges. I'm pretty sure the cork will crumble when I uncork the cottle.
The second pic shows the business end of the corker and you can see that it doesn't put pressure on the edges of the cork.
You can click the pics for more detailed view.

Now these are old corks and an equally old corker - 15-20 years old in fact. Could this problem be due to the age of the corks? I was planning to buy new ones anyway. Or is the corker just not good and is that causing the problems?

Help me, interwebs - do I need new corks, a new corker, or both?

Chocolate Mead - oh dear.

I'm deeply tempted to give this a go: chocolate mead

Logistically it'd a bit of a trick to stow away a demi for that long, especially upright with an airlock. Pretty much the only place I have is the storage shed, which is not temperature stable. At all.
Plus I'm not sure if I'd have the patience.

But damn that sounds nice.


Added stabiliser. Then decided to add bentonite too. Not sure how much there is to gain with clearing, but I'm mostly just curious about how and if it'll work, so we'll call it an experiment :-)

I guess I ought to look how many bottles I have ready, and maybe have a practise go with the corker..

Alexis and Brynn

While I'm updating...

Alexis is nowhere near ready - grav 1.010, Alc 8%. It's still very hazy without a hint of clearing, but also seemed to have all but stopped - no more bubbles and no more fizzing. I decided not to rack as that would have killed it completely, and gave it a very small bit of energiser instead, hoping to give the process a bit of a kick. Looks like this might take a few more weeks.

Brynn it still bubbling at about a bubble every 10 minutes, but very slowly also starting to clear. I am really curious about readings but don't want to disturb the demi right now, so will leave that for a bit.

Taking samples currently requires using the siphon which is a HUGE hassle because I need to move the demi to set it all up. None of the commercial sample-takers fit my demi's, so I'm going to see if I can find something like a 100ml syringe and a bit of tube to make sampling easier.


Since the racking a week ago it's had the slightest trace of white foam on the surface, but no bubbling or fizzing, it looked completely still. Readings:
Grav 1.000 (again, no starting readings so nothing to compare to)
Alc 14%
I'm happy with that alcohol percentage and it doesn't taste bad. Not good enough to have a glass of, but not yeasty or disgusting, so I'm happy leaving it at this. I've racked it off the last bit of sediment and will see if it starts clearing further. If it shows no signs of life I will probably try clearing it with bentonite in a week or so. It's not really hazy but not clear either – kind of hard to tell because it's dark red.

Drake Done!

Since it had cleared so completely I had my suspicions that Drake could already be finished fermenting. Today I got the measuring tube I needed to take readings, and after some faff about how to get it full without stirring up sediment I managed to get it done with the siphon and bottling cane that I had foresightedly ordered at some point.
Gravity 1.002 (no begin readings so no real idea how that compares)
Alcohol 16% (!)

It tastes pretty icky at the moment, but it's icky-with-strawberries, and will hopefully improve with aging.
I've added potassium sorbate to stop the yeast from throwing a party later on when it's bottled, and I'm thinking about clearing it with bentonite tomorrow. It's pretty clear already so not sure if that would really make a difference.

I shall also take a reading off Caelan tomorrow.

Flat :-(

Both Caelan and Drake are still flat and haven't restarted bubbling, and I'm a bit worried. Caelan seems to be building a veeeeery slight bit of pressure and has the slightest trace of white foam on the surface. Drake is just flat and still, and I think it's definitely too early for that one too be done yet.
I'm wondering if I should add some nutrient tomorrow if it hasn't started by then.

more moving notices

Racked Caelan and Drake as they both had a hefty amount of sediment going on. Drake is the most wonderful colour especially in sunlight. Goldish orange. Awesome.
Sadly my green 5l demi turns out to be too narrow-necked to use the autosiphon from, which is a huge pain. Had to get it tranferred to a better demi by way of pouring. *grumble*. Yes I know you can siphon using just a tube. You can, I can't, because I'm super clumsey.
Have ordered two new 5l demi's and some more rubber stoppers.
Caelan did some bubbling straight after racking, but they were both still when I closed the curtains (they're in the windowsill) an hour ago. Let's home they've restarted bubbling by tomorrow.