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I have a mead in secondary right now. It's been there for about three weeks. It spent two weeks in primary. I was given the impression from my source material (The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm) and limited experience that it would clarify in about a month. It's my first 5 gal batch and I wasn't planning to age it for months on end in the carboy, simply bottle it when it cleared because I want to make a sparkling mead and I'll need active yeast to do that. However, even after three weeks, it's still pretty cloudy with no real discernible amount of change towards clearing at all.

The honey itself is local and was decently filtered and only a little hazy. I've made two previous 1 gal batches with this same honey and simply left it in primary until bottling and they cleared wonderfully after about a month or so. I can still see some tiny bubbles at the surface. Is this evidence that fermentation is still slowly ongoing? I forgot offhand what my finished gravity was supposed to be, but I remember that I thought it was pretty spot on. So I don't know. I'm just wondering, will it ever clear on it's own? What kind of timeline am I looking at? Is this just the result of scale? Or will I have to resort to clarifying agents? Or, because I want sparkling, should I bottle soon to ensure the yeast is still active and it should clarify in the bottle?

  • I can't speak for mead, but as far as cider making goes, it can take at least 2-3 weeks for fermentation to finish (depending, of course, on many factors, like temperature). The only really reliable way to check if fermentation is finished is to take a gravity reading. Past ciders I've made have taken at least a month to clear up, so I'd give your mead some more time. – Ryan Nov 2 '16 at 14:27
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There are a lot of questions/comments in there, so I'll try to address them below. A quick tl;dr though: It will probably clear eventually, but the 5-gallon will probably take longer than the 1-gallons. If you can cold-crash it, it will speed things up. You can try clarifying agents, but they may mess up your plan to bottle carb. I don't know, though, I haven't tried it.


I was given the impression from my source material (The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm) and limited experience that it would clarify in about a month.

I ran into the same problem with the Compleat Meadmaker starter recipe. I ended up bottling way too soon, and those bottles now live in the fridge, so they won't harm anyone. For all the information in that book, it can be pretty vague in spots. Sometimes these things are clarified later on in little, one-sentence comments that are easy to miss.

However, even after three weeks, it's still pretty cloudy with no real discernible amount of change towards clearing at all.

Three weeks in secondary isn't all that long, for a standard, traditional mead. When I made that recipe, it took about 9-12 months before I declared it ready for consumption. It's still good mead, though.

I can still see some tiny bubbles at the surface. Is this evidence that fermentation is still slowly ongoing?

Not necessarily. Unless you actively degassed during primary, there is probably still a bit of CO2 in your mead. This will slowly dissipate over the next few weeks. If I remember correctly, though, that recipe has you rack early and it finishes out slowly over the next few weeks. The only real way to tell if it's still fermenting will be to check your gravity.

I'm just wondering, will it ever clear on it's own?

Probably.

What kind of timeline am I looking at? Is this just the result of scale?

As long as it takes. Yes, larger batches take longer to clear naturally, in my experience. The amount of other particulate in your honey also matters. For example, I had a 3-gallon batch of mead from a super-waxy honey that refused to clear after about 3 or 4 months in secondary, even though my 1-gallons of the same recipe cleared in ~1. I bottled it, assuming it would just be waxy. 2 months later all the bottles were crystal clear, with a decent amount of sediment on the bottom. FYI, if you heated your must, it can take a little longer to clear.

[...] will I have to resort to clarifying agents? Or, because I want sparkling, should I bottle soon to ensure the yeast is still active and it should clarify in the bottle?

If you want it to be sparkling, then you should not use clarifying agents, unless you plan on kegging and force carbonating. Of course, you could always try to cold crash it, if you have the means to refrigerate a 5-gallon carboy. Also, keep in mind that if you've hit your yeast's ABV limit, then it may not carbonate when you add priming sugar or honey later on. Of course, there are solutions to that, if that's the case.


FYI, if you're concerned with the timetable on this one, don't get discouraged. While you wait for that to clear up, try some other beginner recipes to learn some more techniques, like staggered nutrient additions (SNA) and back sweetening. The BOMM (Bray's One Month Mead) and Joe's Quick Grape Mead are good, quick starter recipes that can help you build a base of techniques that you can carry over to other recipes.

  • Wow! Thank-you for your thoughtful answers to my many questions. I made the medium show mead recipe. A couple of days ago I bottled some cider and sampled the mead and oh boy was is bone dry. I was not expecting that, at least that was the impression the recipe gave with that much honey and D-47. Gravity was below zero, still pretty hot, but when it softens I think I'll be pleased with the results. – brock Nov 8 '16 at 5:08
  • I have no keg or forced carb gear, so priming and bottle carb it is. I'm not gonna screw around with higher alcohol tolerant yeast. If it carbs, then great, if not, then I get some added sweetness - it's all good. Based on your experience (and mine with small batches of this honey), I won't use clarifying agents, just bottle, in time, and wait for it to clear naturally. I'll def check out those "quick" meads. Thanks again! – brock Nov 8 '16 at 5:10
  • Just a quick update. It has been about a year and this mead has indeed clarified and the alcohol hotness is mellowing. However, it barely carbonated and is a little on the sweet side. That's a little disappointing, but hardly worth dwelling on in the long run. Def drinkable. What a kick! – brock Aug 29 '17 at 17:19

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