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Open Primary Fermentation versus Closed Fermentation


Grandmaster Brewer
Master Brewer
Aug 13, 2007
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I am seeking advice/opinions on an 'open' primary ferment pail versus a 'closed with airlock' primary ferment pail for mead.

Steve Piatz in his "Complete Guide to Making Mead" advises an open fermentation pail with a loose cover and stirring vigorously three times per day during the primary fermentation process. 

Ken Schramm in his "The Compleat Meadmaker" advises a closed fermentation pail with an air lock and does not focus on stirring vigorously on a daily basis.

My personal experience is that use of the SNA protocols causes lots of vigorous must activity in the fermentation pail, especially when stirred. For a six gallon batch of mead I use a 16 gallon food grade primary fermentation pail with a loose fitting lid.  During the initial stirring I have observed the must raising three to four inches based on the foaming activity.  How this excess gas would be released without stirring is a puzzle to me.

So the question in my mind is -- open or closed primary fermentation pail.

Opinions and new knowledge are sought on this topic. 


Staff member
Grandmaster Brewer
Apr 5, 2003
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I use a large plastic pail but I do keep the cover on it when I'm not working on it, just to avoid the off chance of infection.  When I need to degas or push down the fruits I will remove the cover, work on the mead and then close it back again.