Hello all of you lovely fermenters! Have you made mead yet? If you haven’t, you should start with my How to Make a Gallon of Mead post. Once you do that you will probably want more… a lot more if you’re like most people! So your next step is my How to Make 5 Gallons of Mead, and soon you will have a 5 gallon bucket of some lovely honey wine bubbling away in a dark corner of your house. Once it sits for about 6 weeks, you will need to transfer it to bottles to age for as little or as long as you’d like. Here I will show you how to bottle 5 gallons of mead, as the process is a little different from bottling a gallon of cider or mead.
Note that you can use these instructions for any type of wine that is fermented in a 5 gallon bucket, it’s not specific to only mead. Dandelion, elderberry, or even regular old grape wine can all be bottled in the same way.
First you’ll need to gather the bottles that you want to use, enough for 5 gallons of liquid. I have a lot of kombucha bottles so that is what I tend to use, especially because it’s easy with the screw top lids. If you are wanting to age your mead for any length of time you should use regular wine bottles (save your bottles!). If you do that, you will also need new new wine corks (you can’t reuse old ones, unfortunately) and a wine corker of some sort. I will show you how to use the inexpensive handheld Mini Corker, which is great for doing a few bottles here and there, but if you plan on corking lots of bottles at one time you might be better off with a Lever Corker of some sort.
You will also need a bottling bucket, auto siphon, tubing and a bottling tool (wand). I suggest that you buy a homebrew kit like this one before you start your brew, because it has everything that you’ll need for a good price.
First and foremost in the bottling process, however, it is very important that you sanitize everything before you start. All of your bottles, lids and bottling equipment need to be sanitized. Basically anything and everything that will touch the brew. I like One Step because it’s super easy to use, but there are many different brands that work well.
Alright, now that we have all the boring stuff out of the way, it’s time to open up the lid on your mead. I love this part!
All the life has been sucked out of the berries and is now in the delicious elixir that you will soon be drinking. Carefully put this bucket onto a table or counter with a hand towel underneath it to prevent it from slipping.
Put the bottling bucket (it’s the one with a spigot on it) on the floor. Use the auto siphon with tubing attached to transfer the mead from the fermenting bucket into the bottling bucket. All of the berries and sediment (called “lees”) from the fermenting bucket should stay. Put it in your compost!
Once you get all of the mead transferred, put the bottling bucket up onto the towel on the counter. Take the tubing off of your auto siphon and attach it to the spigot on the bottling bucket. Then attach the bottling tool (wand) to the other end of the tubing. Get all of your bottles lined up on the floor with towels underneath.
I’m using one regular wine bottle here to show you as an example, but you can use any sort of bottles that you might have. If you’re going to use bottles that have a completely airtight seal such as wine bottles with a new corks or grolsch style bottles with flip top lids, please make sure that your mead has completely finished fermenting before bottling or else you may end up with a champagne style exploding mead! Trust me on that one.
Ok, here’s your corking demo! Put the bottom half of your Mini Corker onto the neck of your wine bottle with a new cork in it.
Then put the top half of the corker on top of the cork and push down with all your might! It really takes a lot of pressure to get the cork in. We’ve used a rubber mallet with the mini corker in the past and it worked well for many bottles… until a bottle broke on us and mead and broken glass went everywhere! Very sad to lose that precious brew, plus a big pain to clean up. So now I recommend using good old muscle force only.
Corked, baby! This can sit in a cool place for months or years. If you use bottles with screw tops I wouldn’t let them sit for more than a few months as they are probably not totally airtight. You don’t want mead vinegar, do you? (Hmm… might have to try that!).
Now all you have to do is enjoy your mead! The color is always so beautiful and a cold crisp glass of dry mead is something I crave at the end of a hot day! Tasty and healthy. Yes, healthy! Homebrewed beverages are full of probiotics, and in the case of this berry mead, antioxidants. Plus honey is naturally antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal. So drink up for your health!