What's the difference in effect between a fermentation bucket and a demijohn (or carboy, etc)

Basically, I’m trying my hand at brewing some mead. I’ve previously had a go at making blackberry wine (in fact the reason I’m looking into mead is because I’m not going to have access to as many blackberries this year, so I’m hoping to make some blackberry mead in autumn) and I didn’t use anything but my demijohn (which I left the top off for the initial stages of fermentation).

The recipe I’m looking at says that the mead’s must should be left in a fermentation bucket for a few weeks before being transferred to the demijohn and ultimately bottled. As far as I can tell, both the bucket and demijohn are sealed containers with airlocks on them. Would it make a difference if I just used a demijohn for both stages (I have a spare one I can transfer the mead to) or will I have to get myself a bucket?

A carboy will be fine.

The transfer is the important part, not what it’s in. As long as you have a spare you can do the transfer to, then you’re set to go.

The purpose of the bucket would be to leave some of the muck (lees, old fruit, protein, etc) of the initial fermentation behind when you transfer to the demijohn.

It’s easier to clean a bucket, which is probably the reason for that instruction.

As long as it is food grade there is no difference.

The bucket is light tight and that could be what the recipe author was considering. I brew in a closet anyhow so that make no difference to me.

With beer you usually rack the wort to a second container or the bottles to allow for carbonation, I think. Unless you want bubbly mead, I would think this isn’t necessary.

The light shouldn’t really make much of a difference with mead. With beer, you can get lightstruck hops, which gives a “skunky” flavor to the beer, but I’m not aware of any such problem with mead. I do primary fermentations in plastic buckets or glass carboys–it’s just whatever happens to be lying around and is empty. I actually prefer the carboys to the buckets.

No, transferring to secondary is to get the beer off the lees and to reduce yeasty flavors. A beer that’s racked once or twice has “cleaner” flavors to it. It has nothing to do with carbonation. For carbonation, you reintroduce some sugar into the beer before bottling. (Or you can force carbonate.)

Correct, as the carboy has an airlock. I like second-fermenting ales because it seems to mellow the flavors a little.

lots of solids are easier to clean out of a bucket.

I pour the wort from my boil pot right into the bucket through a large strainer or cheesecloth. I would need a pretty big funnel to do that with a carboy and I think it would be more difficult.

Most people don’t boil honey for use in mead though, so you have to add/leave the fruit in there. It’s much more difficult to remove crushed and fermented fruit sludge from a carboy than from a bucket.

The major reason for using a bucket as a primary is to avoid clogging the airlock with gunk if the fermentation is a bit, shall we say, vigorous. The narrowing of the neck can cause a plug to form, resulting in a blowout.

This is seldom a problem with mead, however. But if the recipe calls for letting it settle in a secondary for a few weeks before bottling, the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’d say that about 30 weeks is minimum before bottling, and a year is better.

…who said it did?

Well, thanks for the advice. I can’t wait to get started…waiting.

Good luck with your mead making. I’m about to bottle a batch made from Orange Blossom Honey that has been bulk aging for about a year now.

Ah, okay. I have never done it that way so I didn’t know why it’s done.

Having made wine, starting in a bucket and racking off to a carboy, the primary reason to start in a bucket is the ease of mixing, and the ease of cleaning.

It’s far easier to mix things when you can stick a sterilized spoon into the bucket, instead of a stirring rod through the neck of a carboy.

Let’s be honest. A carboy is a pretty rotten fermenter. They’re made of glass, extremely heavy when full, tend to be slippery when in use, they transmit 100% of light, are nearly impossible to clean, you have to use a siphon to empty them, and if you drop one you will not only lose the entire contents but will also have giant shards of glass rocketing around.

How homebrew shops ever convinced people to use them is beyond me.

BTW, I have like 6 of them, so I’m not pretending to be smarter than anyone :wink:

This is my belief. In the first few days (of wine making, that’s all I’ve done) you need to frequently mix the solution. Also at the early stages a lot of gasses are produced which sit on the liquid, protecting it from o2. Later on the fermentation is much slower so there’s less gas given off, requiring a narrower neck.

HomeBrewTalk.com is a wealth of information on brewing and the like. Scroll down about halfway down the page, there’s a mead forum. They also have a recipe database with a mead section. Incidentally, mead made with fruit is called melomel.

Best of luck with your mead! :slight_smile: