Subject: Mead Lover's Digest #994, 16 February 2003

Mead Lover's Digest #994 Sun 16 February 2003


Forum for Discussion of Mead Making and Consuming
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor



Re: plastic carboys (Dick Dunn)
siphon starters for small batches (Ben Snyder)
Re: Plastic Carboys (David Chubb)
Braggot suggestions (E Johnson)
Plastic as a primary ("Wallinger")
dry ice (
Re: Mead & Sulfites ("Norm Allen")
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #993, 11 February 2003 (Rick Dingus)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #993, 11 February 2003 (
The Compleat Meadmaker (Ken Schramm)
help needed for first batch (Linda Short)


NOTE: Digest appears when there is enough material to send one.
Send ONLY articles for the digest to
Use for [un]subscribe/admin requests.
Digest archives and FAQ are available at There is
a searchable MLD archive at

Subject: Re: plastic carboys
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 09:59:21 -0700 (MST)

"Arthur Torrey" <> wrote:
> No problem with plastic in a primary fermentation, as the CO2 generated
> by the fast fermenting yeast keeps the pressure in the vessel high enough
> to keep the oxygen from diffusing through the plastic into the must and
> damaging it through oxidation…

Not true. It seems logical, but it's not the way the physical chem works.
The inside/outside pressures of different gases act independently; O2 will
still move through the wall of the fermenter if it's permeable (which for
food-grade "buckets" it is).

The real reason it doesn't matter much for the primary fermentation is that
it doesn't last very long and the yeast are using some oxygen (at first)

Dave Polaschek <> wrote:
> If you're talking about the plastic carboys from bottled water, I'm a little
> leery of them, as they don't seem terribly sturdy. Things get banged around
> in my kitched sometimes, especially when I'm wrestling large containers of
> water, honey or malt around during brewing…

Dave, I've also wondered about how strong those bottles are, but the thing
that argues in their favor is that bottled-water companies use them, and
keep re-using them. I'd think that if they survive being banged around,
loaded into a truck and bounced around, then banged around some more on
their way to the cooler, they can't break very often or the water suppliers
would be upset and demand a different solution.

They are clearly (oop) a different material from the opaque plastic
buckets, but what are they? PET?

The question that bugs me about them is this: OK, they're rated just fine
for *water*, but are they really OK with *alcohol*? Holding a 10% solution
of ethanol in a container for a month or two might be a challenge that
wasn't really considered in designing a water container. Will the alcohol
dissolve or leach out anything not-nice?

Dick Dunn Hygiene, Colorado USA

Subject: siphon starters for small batches
From: Ben Snyder <>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 12:40:54 -0500

hi all

can anyone recommend a siphon starter for small 1 gallon batches?

so far i've tried one which was a sort of ball-check valve. it gets
installed near the end of the racking cane, shaking the cane starts the
flow. probably works better on larger batches though as i can't get it to

i'm getting a little tired of the old fashioned way 🙂


  • -ben

Subject: Re: Plastic Carboys
From: David Chubb <>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 15:20:37 -0500

>Derek King wrote:


>>Does anybody know if there is an issue with using plastic carboys as a
>>primary fermentation container?


>I've had no problems with using plastic buckets as primary fermentation
>containers (making sure to use food-grade plastic). I've even had a primary
>fermentation in one for nearly a year with no bad results that I can detect
>(I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't panic if you don't get to siphoning
>to the secondary on time, either).


>If you're talking about the plastic carboys from bottled water, I'm a little
>leery of them, as they don't seem terribly sturdy. Things get banged around
>in my kitched sometimes, especially when I'm wrestling large containers of
>water, honey or malt around during brewing. But then I've already got plenty
>of buckets with lids for primaries and glass carboys for secondaries.

I have used both the Plastic "Water cooler" carboys (I get them for $2 each
from our water supplier at work) and Nalgene shipping containers that a lot
of chemical companies use. (Washed, sanitized, etc very well)

The "water cooler" carboys are not completely air permeable. They are better
than say milk jugs and soda bottles. They are fine for primary and even
secondary fermentation stages, but I wouldn't use them with anything that is
going to sit for a prolonged period of time (6 months) Also, the plastic
tends to pickup off flavors from whatever is brewed in them. I had a friend
borrow one from me to brew a batch of beer in and I made a batch of light
meade in it after he was finished and the product had a decided beer like
nose to it after primary….it aged out though. They aren't as durable as
some vessles…but for the cost they are fine. I have a rack in my basement
for brewing….I don't knock things around as much and they are safer than
glass if you drop them.

The Nalgene containers are MUCH better IMHO. They don't pickup off flavors
and scents as easily and are much less oxygen permeable. They are
considerably more durable as well. (And some even come with handy carry
handles. And you can get them as large as 15 gallons.) They are
expensive…but I get mine for free from a friend who works at
Hoche-Celanese plant down the road from me. I give them a triple neuralize,
scrub, wash, sanitise (pure grain alcohol) and I only grab containers that
have stored non-volitile or poisonous materials (well at least none of the
really bad stuff). Most of the containers I grab contained 3 mol HCL.
However, if you don't want to go through the effort of cleaning them
thoroughly….US Plastics stocks them. (


  • –David Chubb


Subject: Braggot suggestions
From: E Johnson <>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 14:43:07 -0800 (PST)

I have been brewing meads for a while and recently
made my first beer. Now I want to try my hands at a

I am wondering if anyone out there has made a braggot
that they really liked and was willing to share the
recipe or at least some incite into making a recipe.
I am curious how much malt to use relative to honey,
steeping grains, better with or without hops, ale or
wine yeast, these sorts of questions.

Having never actually tasted a braggot — how much
honey character makes it to the final product? Or are
they just a waste of perfectly good honey? 😉

Erik Johnson

Subject: Plastic as a primary
From: "Wallinger" <>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 22:17:50 -0600

I support all of the support for the use of a plastic bucket as a
primary fermenter. I am writing, though, to clarify one remark that was
included with one of the posts:

>No problem with plastic in a primary fermentation, as the CO2 generated
by the fast fermenting yeast keeps the pressure in the vessel high
enough to keep the oxygen from diffusing through the plastic into the
must and damaging it through oxidation.<

Actually, diffusion has nothing to do with pressure, and everything to
do with the relative concentration of the molecule in question on both
sides of the medium. In this case, after fermentation, there is
essentially no oxygen inside the bucket, and plenty outside the bucket.
So, pressure or not, the oxygen will diffuse through most plastics into
the contents of the bucket. Beer has until recently not been stored in
plastic, even though the contents are under pressure. It was not until
oxygen impermeable plastics were developed to prevent diffusion that
plastic bottles for beer became practical.


Subject: dry ice 
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 03:38:51 EST

hay any one eve used dry ice in making mead i was thinking of usling it to
clear the oxigen out of the carboy befor i put the must in . and i might be
handy to chill a mead to make the lees settel out . any ideas experences on
this ?

chris anderson

Subject: Re: Mead & Sulfites
From: "Norm Allen" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 11:27:29 -0500

Thanks for the info Dan.

Why do commercial meaderies still add sulfites then? Sounds like they're
unnecessarily cutting themselves off from a potential market..

Oh well… – All the more reason for me to keep making it at home! 🙂

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #993, 11 February 2003
From: Rick Dingus <rick.dingus@TTU.EDU>
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 10:47:14 -0600

On 2/11/03 10:25 AM, "" <>

> On another topic, I'd like to get your advice:
> I am considering increasing the size of my batches. Fermentation and
> maturing take some time, consuming goes much faster so it is difficult to
> age mead if you don't make a lot. I'm thinking about making 1 or 2 "big
> batches" a year on top of the smaller batches I'm experimenting with. This
> way, I would have enough to store and age for a while. Also, I realized
> (the hard way) that it was much better to add fruits in the secondary
> otherwise most of the flavor goes away, so I could use my biggie for plain
> mead + dispatch some in different secondaries with different fruits. I'm
> thinking 20 gallon batch size. I am considering the purchase of a big
> polyethylene conical fermenter (25 gal). It's cheaper than steel but still
> steep (around $400). I was thinking I would get the same end result with
> more consistency,less labor, no need for multiple carboys, less need to
> rack (conical) but more investment $$ and more risk (if a batch goes
> wrong). I was wondering if
> 1) you experienced people think it would be a good investment or a waste of
> my money
> 2) what you think about polyethylene conicals
> 3) you have any tips to make sure my big batch doesn't flop (i.e.,
> increasing the size of the starter yeast or other considerations) as a big
> batch may not behave like a small one


> Thanks for your input
> Vince Galet
Before you spend $400 on a polyethylene conical, you might check with your
local homebrew supply shop and see if they would save you a couple of their
used plastic malt extract dispensing containers. My local store just gave
me one for free–they normally throw them out when the malt is gone. (Since
it's free, you can replace it if you're worried about sanitation after a few
uses.) I haven't used mine yet, but the shop owner has used them before for
primary batches of about 12 gallons of beer (he was careful to leave plenty
of head space for his beer–but since mead doesn't foam as much, you might
be able to ferment a bit more in the primary without worrying so much about
blowoff.) My container holds somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 gallons
and has two screw cap openings and a sturdy handle on one end. One of the
caps can be taken off and fitted with a standard cork and airlock. You
could probably fit it with a "Fermentap" for inverted yeast harvesting if
you really want, or just use a longer racking cane (a 30" racking cane might
work, or improvise a longer one with some cpvc pipe and tubing to fit from
Home Depot.) Just be sure to fill it in a location where it can remain
without being moved until after racking (and high enough for the gravity
flow of racking) because it will be heavy once it's full and you won't want
to be lugging it around.

I would at least double the amount of yeast, or make a half gallon yeast
starter ahead of time, to kick off the fermentation quickly.



Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #993, 11 February 2003
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 13:58:10 EST

In a message dated 2/11/03 9:09:11 AM, writes:

<< > Does anybody know if there is an issue with using plastic carboys as a
> primary fermentation container? >>

I'd like to contribute an idea that has really simplified my mead (and home
beer) making procedures. Line the plastic carboy with a low density, F. D. A.
approved polyethylene bag–the kind that hospital supply firms use to keep
doctors' instruments clean. You can get them from your local plastics company
or look in the Yellow Pages under medical supplies. Usually an 18" X 36" bag
with a 2 mil thickness will fit nicely inside a plastic carboy.

Although you can sterilize the bag if you feel the need, frankly over the
past 5 years I have stopped doing it. The bags were extruded hot, after all,
and folded or rolled immediately for shipment, so I just stuff a fresh one
into my plastic carboy. They work great for the priming vessel too, if you
are making beer.

And another side benefit is that if you remove the bag carefully, you can use
it to trap the trub. That stored trub, at least for homemade beer, is great
for pitching your next batch. Given the long fermentation of meads, however,
I'm not sure how viable the leftover yeast would be.

Needless to say I'm not recommending using a plastic garbage bag or dry
cleaning clothes bag. Use only FDA approved low density polyethylene bags
intended for food or medical applications.

Jay Ankeney
220 39th St.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-3983

Subject: The Compleat Meadmaker
From: Ken Schramm <>
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 19:33:51 -0500

Vince Galet inquired about the book. I have gone through my last set of
revisions, with the help of the copy editors and a demanding tech editor
whose work has helped to strengthen and improve the content
considerably. I submitted what may be my last revisions last night. My
understanding is that the book is still on a timeline to be released May
31, although I would not be at all surprised if it was delayed a bit.
Hopefully not too much.

I have the Mazer Cup '03 brochure prepared as a Word document. Please
contact me at my address and I'll E-Mail you a copy. The entry fee is
$7 per entry this year. The Mazers will be thrown by Rick Pruckler, who
did the Mazers for the first two years of the competition. His work is
very elegant, and his glazes are beautiful. I am delighted that he has
signed on again. Nicole Henry, who did the Mazers for the last few
competitions, is expecting very soon and won't be at the potter's wheel much.

Ask for Mead.

Ken Schramm,
Troy, MI

Subject: help needed for first batch
From: Linda Short <>
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2003 11:29:51 -0800 (PST)

My friend down in Huntsville just started his
first batch of mead. This is his first time
brewing anything. It's a traditional mead.

He used champaigne yeast. The fermentation seems
to be stuck. It's only been in the carboy for 4
months. He's wondering whether to rack to another
carboy or bottle.

The liquid inside has begun to clear, but right
now it's only clear enough to see the light from
a flashlight. It isn't clear enough to read a


  • -Linda-


End of Mead Lover's Digest #994