20.6.12

Make Beer at Home. Part 3: How to Bottle Your Homebrew

By Ed

Homebrew Beer Bottling



Is your hydrometer down near zero?   Has it stayed there for a day or so?  Oh yeah, it is bottling time! 


The other, less precise, way to check if your brew is ready (i.e. the way I usually use) is to wait till your carboy looks like a big mug of flat beer.  No bubbles likely means fermentation is complete.  You should also see a thick layer of sediment has settled to the bottom.  If that sounds like what you have in your brew closet, then congratulations, you're ready to bottle.


(Are you just jumping into this series today?  What we are going to do in this step actually requires about 10 days +/- of brewing and waiting.  You can get started now, just go back and check out Part 1 for the equipment list and Part 2 for starting your brewing.  It's totally worth it.)


Here're the details on bottling your homebrew...







How do you know you are ready to bottle? 

Well, as I mentioned in Part 2 - those with a need for precision can get a hydrometer and wait for it to settle to around 0 SG (zero Specific Gravity) for a couple consecutive days.

Homebrew Beer Bottling


I basically just wait 7-10 days and look for that "Flat Beer" appearance to your jug (little sign of carbonation, few -if any- bubbles on the surface) and a clear appearance to the beer with a definite layer of sediment on the bottom.





Stuff you'll need for bottling:

  • 1 cup of corn sugar
  • Measuring cup with 1 cup boiled water 
  • Spray bottle with sterilizer solution in it (I will be using Bleach/water mix on my glass bottles)
  • Siphoning rod and hose
  • Primary fermenter with a tap in it (or super-syphoning start-stop skills; more alliteration!)
  • 60 glass beer bottles, unsealed caps and capper
  • 45-500mL, 22-1L or 12-2L pop bottles and screw caps (you can reuse soda caps if you need to)


1.  Clean your bottles. 

I fill my laundry sink with bottles and give each a spray with some sterilizer.  Clean the screw caps as well.  If you use bleach/water like me, you will need to put extra effort into rinsing after the fact. Metabisulphite works too and needs less rinsing, but takes a longer sitting time.

Do not skip this step, even if you have new bottles!   

Clean is your friend and the only way you can ruin your beer at this point is not having clean bottles to store it in.



2. Rack. 

Clean and rinse your Primary Fermenter and Siphoning hose (see above point about Clean being your friend).  Carefully start a syphon from the Carboy to rack your finished beer to the Primary Fermenter.  (You need some yeast to transfer, but most of the scummy sediment can stay in the Carboy).

Homebrew Beer Bottling


3.  Sugar = Carbonation. 

While the racking is taking place, mix 1 cup of sugar with the pre-boiled water and stir.  This extra sugar will ferment in the bottles and create CO2 to carbonate your beer.


If you like more bubbles, add more sugar.  Never add more than 1.5 total cups of sugar, as your beer will turn into over-carbonated, gag-beer that sprays all over guests (or you, or your Father-in-law when he is visiting - sorry Will).





Pour your sugar-water mix into your primary fermenter with the Racked Beer.  I usually stir a bit with the syphon hose, but if you pour it early enough in the syphoning, it will mix while it racks.  


Homebrew Beer Bottling


Notice how bubbly things are getting in there?  This is normal as the sugar-water and syphoning beer combine to froth a bit.  It will go away.   Elevate your beer jug. 


Homebrew Beer Bottling
If you can keep everything as undisturbed as possible, you can syphon right down to the sediment and still have clear beer.  A syphon rod-hose assemble is worth its weight in hops.  Now, how to get the hydrometer out...?



4. You can't be too clean.

If you haven't yet - rinse your bottles and caps.  See how I keep harping on clean/rinsed stuff?  Set up the bottles in easy to reach rows near your fermenter.  Have a capping station nearby too.  


Homebrew Beer Bottling


5.  Fill your bottles. 

If your jug has a tap, start filling!  If you don't have a tap, you will have to do a dance with a syphon hose.  I have done both methods and I cannot say enough good things about having a tap on your primary fermenter.


 Homebrew Beer Bottling



6. Caps. 

Cap your bottles using your chosen caps.
Homebrew Beer Bottling
My capper is crazy-old.  It is a cool, old brass number that does a great job and makes you feel manly.

7. Wait. 


Put them somewhere warmish for at least a week.  If you use plastic bottles, you will actually feel them get solid as they carbonate.  You will also notice a small layer of sediment form in the bottom of each.  This is normal and OK (all the expensive, Belgian White beers have it).  It is unavoidable in natural carbonation (what you are doing). 




8.  Wait again, but not much longer. 

After a week to ten days, move your beer to a cool location (I use my basement floor) or beer fridge.  Test your first bottle about 2-3 weeks after bottling (I typically can only wait about 1 hour after I move it to a cool spot, but it does get better with a bit of time).  


9.  Drink.

Pour it carefully into a cool glass (leaving the sediment in the bottle) or drink it from the bottle, not caring about the sediment (it won't hurt you, but your beer will be cloudy).  Enjoy.

Troubleshooting: 
  • Not enough carbonation? Return to a warm spot for a bit longer.  
  • Too much carbonation?  Keep it extra cold and pour into a big glass over the sink, it's gonna get messy.  
  • It tastes bad?  You probably didn't wash and rinse like I warned you.   Sorry, had to get that one last dig in.

Got any questions?  



The Make Beer at Home Series:

Part 1: Simple, Foolproof Equipment
Part 2: Simple, Foolproof Brewing
Part 3: Bottling
Part 4: DIY Homebrew Kegging
Part 5: Simple Tips to Make Your Beer Better


2 comments:

  1. I'm happy to report that we bottled last night and I started another kit today! I tried a little bit out of curiosity and it is really good for home brew! Can't wait until it sits for a few weeks. Oh and I got one of those bottle wands for under $4 to attach to the spigot and it is awesome - highly recommend! Thanks for all your tips on the process!

    -Cindy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cool! The new kits are a lot better and give more consistent results; glad to hear yours turned out nice.
    I have a bottle wand that I use with wine bottling. Never thought about trying it with beer - thanks for the tip.

    ReplyDelete

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