Okay, so I made a really sweet mead with 18 lbs clover honey, so it's pretty dark. Do you have to rack more often to try to clear meads with more honey? And also, how often can I rack, and how many times? I have only racked once into secondary fermenter. Thank you!
From my experience, unless you are trying to stop/stun an active fermentation, you should not rack until your primary fermentation is either done or mostly done. If you racked too early, then there may not be enough yeast left to finish cleanly in a reasonable time, which could lead to yeast stress, a stalled ferment, or a very sluggish finish. You'll need a hydrometer to tell for sure, though.
After that first racking, you should rack when you need to. For some yeasts, this means you can let it clear completely in secondary, which would give you 2 racks: 1 after primary, 1 before bottling to get it off the lees. Others, like Lalvin 71B, can throw off-flavors when left on the lees too long, and may need to be racked more often.
On average, I rack 3 times:
- After primary
- Mead is 80% - 90% clear
- Before bottling
This is really on a case-by-case basis, though.
As an example, let's take your honey and look at a sample recipe:
18 lbs clover honey Lalvin D47 (tolerance: 14% ABV) Fermaid K + DAP Water to 5 gallons OG: 1.129 FG: 1.022 (sweet)
So, since D47 in that recipe has a tolerance of 14%, and the OG was around 1.129, you can estimate that the FG will be at or around 1.022, or 14.02%. In this example, you would rack around then.
After that, I would let it clear in on its own in secondary, and then rack once more before bottling. You can also speed up clearing by cold crashing, adding finings, or both. I prefer to let mine clear on its own, though.