- 2 5 gallon carboys. Use vessels made out of glass (fragile but funny:
it is possible to see what is going on inside) or stainless steel. Plastic
can be hard to clean but some of them seem to be usable for short periods
and wood is more suitable for ageing than for fermentation,
- 3-4 gallon pot (enameled or stainless steel as aluminum can react in
an acidic environment),
- 2 qt vessel for the starter,
- drilled rubber stopper + air-lock (figure 3),
- (thermometer to monitor temperature for sanitation of honey),
- (hydrometer to measure the specific gravity (density) of the must and
extrapolate the potential alcohol content),
- big spoon to stir honey while it is heated (avoid wood which is porous
and therefore hard to sanitize),
- funnel (big enough to avoid pouring out of the carboy (it is not easy
to aim when handling gallons of water)),
- transparent hose made of food grade plastic,
- 25 75 cl bottles + corks,
- measuring spoons for quantities as small as 1/4 or 1/8 tsp (tea spoon)
which are common for some chemicals,
- scale or equivalent to measure quantities of honey.
There are two solutions to avoid a bacterial invasion: having no bacteria
in the first place or killing them when they show up. Or both.
So it is necessary to take great care of the cleanliness of the material
to be used. Do not touch sensitive parts of the material (bottom of rubber
stopper, inside of carboy and bottle necks, etc.) with fingers. Keep contact
with air to a minimum to prevent bacteria from entering.
Conditions hostile to bacteria must also be maintained:
- small quantity of nutrients (sweeter meads having more sugar are riskier),
- low pH (acidic environment),
- high alcohol content,
- presence of antiseptic (sulfite).
These conditions are unfavorable for yeasts as well but yeasts have
been selected if not trained to withstand them. Wine yeasts can tolerate
an alcohol content around 15 % (30 proof) but -- most -- bacteria cannot
live when there is more than 2-4 % alcohol. Beer (8-10 proof) keeps for
a few months, wine (125 proof) for years and brandies (80+ proof)
forever. A vigorous fermentation produces alcohol quickly and within a
few days the must becomes inhospitable for bacteria.
May 28th 2002