Racking Mead for a Delicious and Complex Beverage

, often referred to as honey , is a delicious with a rich history dating back thousands of years. It is made by fermenting honey with and sometimes with the addition of fruits, spices, or grains. Like any fermented beverage, mead undergoes a natural process of sedimentation, resulting in the formation of lees and other particles that can cloud the liquid and affect its taste. This is where the process of racking comes in.

What is Racking?

Racking is the act of transferring the clear mead from one container to another, leaving behind the sediment or lees that have settled at the bottom. This process not only helps to clarify the mead but also improves its overall flavor and complexity.

The Equipment You'll Need

To rack your mead, you'll need a siphon, which is a tube that allows you to transfer the liquid without disturbing the sediment. A siphon typically consists of a racking cane, a flexible tube, and a racking tip. Additionally, you'll need two containers – one for the mead you are racking and another for the sedimented lees.

The Racking Process

1. Sanitize: Before starting the racking process, ensure that all your equipment is thoroughly sanitized to prevent any contamination.

2. Set up: Place the container with the mead on a higher surface than the container for the lees. This height difference will create the necessary pressure for the siphoning process.

3. Start the siphon: Fill the siphon tube with water and attach the racking tip to the cane. Submerge the racking tip into the mead, ensuring it reaches below the level of the sediment. To start the siphoning, gently suck on the tube until the mead begins to flow into the other container. Be cautious not to ingest any mead during this process.

4. Transfer the mead: Once the flow is established, carefully move the racking tip to the bottom of the container, making sure it doesn't disturb the sediment. Allow the clear mead to flow into the new container, leaving behind the lees.

5. Monitor the process: Keep an eye on the siphoning process and be prepared to adjust the height difference between the containers if needed to maintain a steady flow. Avoid transferring any sediment as much as possible.

6. Complete the transfer: Continue the siphoning process until you've transferred all the clear mead, leaving only the sedimented lees behind.

7. Storage and aging: Seal the container with the transferred mead and store it in a cool, dark place to allow further aging and clarification. It's recommended to rack whenever there's approximately a half inch (1.3 cm) or more of sediment on the bottom of the container.

Why Rack Mead?

Racking serves multiple purposes in the mead-making process. Firstly, it helps to remove any unwanted particles and sediment, resulting in a clearer and visually appealing finished product. Additionally, racking allows for the separation of the mead from the lees, which can contribute off-flavors if left in contact for too long.

Furthermore, by racking periodically, you can promote the development of complex flavors and aromas in your mead. As the mead ages and clarifies, it tends to become smoother and more refined, making the racking process an essential step in achieving a high-quality end product.

When to Rack Mead?

The timing of racking can depend on various factors, including the specific recipe, used, and desired outcome. However, as a general guideline, it is advisable to rack whenever there is a half inch (1.3 cm) or more of sediment at the bottom of the container.

For meads with an content of 10 percent ABV or higher, it is recommended to wait approximately nine months before considering bottling. This extended aging period allows for the development of complex flavors and ensures that fermentation has fully completed.

Racking as a Stopping Strategy

Racking can also be employed as a strategy to halt fermentation early, particularly when combined with the use of sulfites and sorbates. This can be useful when aiming for a specific sweetness level in the mead. However, it is worth noting that some mead makers prefer to let the fermentation fully finish and then back sweeten with a sweet mead to achieve the desired sweetness level.

Addressing Stuck Fermentation

In some cases, fermentation may stop before the mead reaches its final gravity, resulting in a “stuck” fermentation. If you encounter a stuck fermentation, there are a few potential solutions to try. These may include gently stirring the mead to re-suspend the yeast, adding yeast nutrient to provide additional nourishment, or even repitching new yeast to restart fermentation.

Racking is a vital step in the mead-making process that helps to clarify the liquid, enhance flavors, and promote aging. By following the proper racking techniques and timing, you can achieve a high-quality mead with optimal clarity and complexity. So, grab your siphon, embrace the art of racking, and enjoy the journey of creating your own exquisite mead.

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What Does It Mean To Rack Mead?

Racking mead refers to the process of transferring the clear mead from one container to another, while leaving behind any sediment or impurities that may have settled at the bottom. This is done using a siphon, which is a tube that allows the liquid to be moved without disturbing the sediment.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to rack mead:

1. Prepare the equipment: Make sure you have a clean and sanitized container to transfer the mead into, along with a siphon tube and a siphon starter (optional).

2. Set up the containers: Place the container containing the mead that needs to be racked on a stable surface, preferably at a higher elevation than the empty container. This will help facilitate the siphoning process.

3. Attach the siphon tube: Insert one end of the siphon tube into the mead, ensuring that it reaches the bottom of the container. The other end should be placed over the empty container.

4. Start the siphon: If using a siphon starter, follow the instructions provided to initiate the flow of mead. Otherwise, you can manually start the siphon by sucking on the end of the tube until the mead starts flowing. Be careful not to ingest any of the liquid.

5. Control the flow: Once the mead starts flowing, you can regulate the speed by adjusting the height of the containers or by gently squeezing the tube to slow down or stop the flow temporarily.

6. Transfer the mead: As the mead is being siphoned, carefully move the tube around the container, making sure to avoid disturbing the sediment at the bottom. This will help ensure that only the clear liquid is transferred.

7. Monitor the process: Keep an eye on the mead as it flows into the new container. If you notice any sediment or impurities entering the tube, you can pause the siphoning, adjust the tube's position, or stop altogether to prevent them from being transferred.

8. Complete the transfer: Continue the siphoning process until the desired amount of clear mead has been transferred. Leave behind any remaining sediment or impurities.

9. Store the mead: Once the racking process is complete, seal the new container and store it in a cool, dark place for further aging or clarification, if needed.

Racking mead helps improve its clarity and taste by removing unwanted particles that may affect its quality. It is a crucial step in the meadmaking process, ensuring a clean and enjoyable final product.


Racking is an essential process in the production of mead. It involves transferring the clear liquid away from the sediment and any other impurities that may have formed during fermentation. By using a siphon, you can carefully separate the mead from the lees, allowing it to age and develop its flavors.

Racking should be done periodically, typically when there is a noticeable amount of sediment at the bottom of the container. This ensures that the mead remains clear and smooth, improving its overall quality. It is recommended to rack under CO2 if possible, as this helps to prevent oxidation and maintain the integrity of the mead.

For meads with a higher alcohol content, such as those with 10 percent ABV or more, it is advisable to wait at least nine months before considering bottling. This extended aging period allows the mead to develop complex flavors and aromas.

In some cases, racking can also be used as a strategy to halt fermentation early. This is particularly effective when combined with the use of sulfites and sorbates. However, it is generally preferred to let the mead finish fermentation completely, usually resulting in a slightly off-dry mead. If desired, sweetness can be added later by back sweetening with a sweet mead.

If you encounter a “stuck” fermentation, where the mead fails to reach its final gravity, there are a few remedies you can try. These may include adjusting temperature or yeast nutrient levels, or even adding more yeast to restart fermentation.

Understanding the importance of racking in mead production and implementing it correctly can greatly enhance the quality and taste of the final product. So, whether you are a seasoned mead maker or just starting out, make sure to include racking as a crucial step in your mead-making process.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.