Bottling is perhaps one of the most time consuming parts of the process of making Mead. There are many options for how you intend to bottle, some requiring a little more equipment, but none of them are particularly difficult. Examples of bottling options are:
- Wine, beer or plastic bottles.
- Capped or flip-top beer bottles (Note – do not use beer bottles that were made for screw off caps).
- Corked or screw-top wine bottles.
- Artificial or natural corks.
Depending on your style of Mead, the bottle option will change. If you are not someone who drinks a whole wine bottle in one sitting, then maybe the 12 oz. beer bottles are the best choice. If you intend to drink the Mead fairly quickly, then screw-top bottles may be the most convenient. Once you have decided what type of bottle you will use, following these guidelines will help reduce spoiling a batch or making “bottle bombs”.
1. About a week before you intend to bottle, rack the Mead one last time. This will remove the chances of the yeast lees being transferred into the bottles. It will also show you if the Mead is still active as fermentation may start back up again. It is at this point that chemicals such as Metabisulfites and Sorbates can be added to stop fermentation (see below for the instructions and use). If you are making a sparkling Mead, do not add any chemicals as this will prevent the fermentation of the priming sugar that creates carbonation.
2. Thoroughly sanitize all of the bottles, corks or caps, racking cane, tubing, and bottle filler.
3. Drain the bottles and line them up below the fermenter.
4. If you are making a sparkling Mead, rack it into a sanitized fermentation bucket with some priming sugar before you begin to bottle. Use ¾ cup of sugar per 5 gallons (2 ½ Tbs. Per gallon). Do not mix too vigorously as this may oxidize the Mead.
5. Proceed with siphoning the Mead, leaving enough head room in each bottle to account for the cork plus air. The easiest way to do this is to insert the tube or bottle filler all of the way to the bottom of the bottle, then fill the bottle to the very lip before stopping the flow. As you remove tube, the level of the Mead will drop just the right amount for the headroom. If too much headroom is left in the bottles, the corks will actually be pushed back out a bit when inserted.
6. If you have a way to blanket the Mead with CO2, do this before sealing the bottles. This will help reduce the oxygenation in the bottle.
7. Seal each bottle.
Store your bottles in a cool and dark location until you are ready to drink them.
Potassium Metabisulfite or Sodium Metabisulfite. Potassium metabisulfite is added to wine to inhibit bacteria and yeast growth, as well as slow down oxidation. It may leave an unpleasant aftertaste in wine if the dose is too high. This chemical is also used in a water solution as an antiseptic rinse to sanitize equipment. It is identical to, but better than, Sodium Metabisulfite, because it does not add sodium to one’s diet. CAUTION: Some people, particularly asthmatics, can have a severe allergic reaction to this substance.
Use: For wine: 1/8 teaspoon (1 gram) of powder per gallon of wine provides 150 ppm free SO2. A little bit goes a long way, so be careful! Generally speaking, the target free SO2 for red wines is 20-30 ppm and 25-40 ppm for white wines.
Potassium Sorbate (stabilizer). Potassium Sorbate prevents renewed fermentation in wine that is to be bottled and/or sweetened. Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon per gallon.