April 11, 2013

The braggot is done. It is bottled. And it is good.

Actually, I started bottling the braggot last night, rather late. I stayed up cleaning and sanitizing equipment, before beginning to rack. I checked the SG, which I found to be at 1.016. This means the braggot has a rather high sugar content still, and an ABV of 10.5%. Of the four gallons, I bottled only two last night, producing ten wine bottles worth. No added sugar, since it is plenty sweet. But I did add 1/4 tsp of potassium sorbate per gallon, just to be sure. And there was just enough left for tasting – I mean testing – immediately.

I labeled and cleaned up some more, and decided it was getting late. So I racked the rest, sealed with air locks again, and went to bed.

This afternoon I finally got back to it over lunch. I sweetened each of the two remaining gallons with about an 1/8 cup of honey each. I then proceeded to bottle, producing 21 12oz crown cap bottles. Once they were all marked for identification, I boxed them up.

Now, my recipe for braggot doesn’t specify any time for aging, though it does suggest 2-4 weeks with the suggested honey-priming to allow for carbonation. I think I’ll spread out the opening of both the larger, non-carbonated bottles and the small, carbonated ones. This should allow me to see if there is any difference. Many mead recipes call for a longer aging: a year or even more. I doubt I’ll be waiting that long. Having repeatedly tasted the braggot over the course of its making, I already appreciate the flavor.

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I wish it were always this positive, but I must admit I’m a little frustrated with myself. Yesterday morning I lost a bottle of my recently completed apple wine. Sorbated and everything, too. Still blew the cork off. Odd thing is that unlike before, it has very little built-up carbonation. And rather than being dry from the extra sugar fermenting out, it is still sweet. Not sure why the difference. I did have some smaller corks. Maybe they aren’t providing the same amount of resistance. Not even sure those smaller corks were used on that batch. Ugh.

I lost one bottle, but then caught another one before it blew the cork, so was able to save it. Worse, I see two more of that batch are starting to push their corks out. That’s four out of five for that batch. I am just not quite getting the hang of sweetening at his point.

I guess I know what to do and am just not doing it, hoping for “better” things. Potassium sorbate really isn’t enough to stop fermentation. It just prevents reproduction of yeast, to my knowledge. To really ensure that things are stopped, you have to use something like potassium metabisulfite. Then again, I wanted to avoid using too much, as some people can have adverse reactions to it. I guess anything commercially produced has way more of the chemical than I will ever put in to ensure fermentation is stopped. Still…

Ultimately, I’m being impatient. I’m not giving enough time to ensure things have stopped, and even if it is clear they have, I’m being a little naive to think I can skate through without issue. I’m just glad I didn’t sweeten the corked bottles of braggot!

Strawberry melomel and plain mead are still fermenting away. We’ll give them some more time.

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