Bottles, caps, capper, bottling bucket, priming sugar, siphon, bottle filler and sanitizer.
You have been away from your brew and equipment for some time now. Do you remember when it was stated, sanitation was the
most important task of the entire brewing process? It is worth stating again here. Prior to bottling your brew, you will
need to sanitize anything that will come in contact with your beer.
Equipment to be sanitized and used in bottling:
- Bottling Bucket
- Beer Bottles
- Bottle Caps
- Priming Sugar
Why we carbonate beer:
The same reason that you may not want to drink a flat soda product. For most, carbonated beer simply tastes better, the
carbonation imparts a wonderful means of rounding out flavors and quenching your thirst. As a matter of fact, different beer
styles call for different levels of carbonation. Beer can be carbonated in kegs or through the process of bottle conditioning.
Bottle conditioning involves adding a measured dose of sugar (priming sugar) to your brew that will cause a small, controlled
fermentation in the bottle. The CO2 released from this process will carbonate the beer.
Using the right bottle:
Capping bottles protects your brew from errant bacteria and oxygen. It is vital that bottle caps, just like any other equipment
that comes in contact with the beer, are sanitized and in good condition. You can cap any bottle that is a pry off style. Screw
top bottles are not compatible, often missing the lip required by the capper and presenting an uneven sealing surface which can
lead to breakage.
You will have noticed your brew is now sitting atop a layer of trub; sediment made up of hop pieces, dead yeast, and malt brewing
materials. While not harmful to consume, it’s not pleasant. Racking is the process of carefully moving beer off of the trub. Beer
gets racked twice during the brewing process: during fermentation as described earlier and during bottling as the beer gets
transferred from the fermenter to the bottling bucket. Racking to a bottling bucket allows you to fully mix your priming solution
and beer. Mixing in the priming sugar will allow the yeast to carbonate your beer in the bottle.
Gravity is Your Friend: When racking, your filled container must be at least several feet higher than the empty vessel
which you intend to fill.
Siphoning and Priming
Prepare the priming solution by boiling 16 oz of water in a sauce pan. Then remove from the heat and stir in your priming sugar
(usually about 5 oz for 5 gallons). Once the sugar is completely dissolved, cover the pan until you’re ready for the next step.
Add your priming solution to the bottom of your empty bottling bucket:
Make sure the bottle bucket spigot is closed. Allow the priming solution to cool somewhat, then pour it into the bottom of the
bucket. Siphon the fermented beer into the bucket, which will help mix the sugar solution.
Insert your auto-siphon into your carboy:
Your siphon should be deep enough to pull out the beer, but no so deep as to disturb or draw out the trub. Start with your siphon
about 3 inches below the surface of your beer and slowly move deeper as your liquid is displaced into the bottling bucket. When
close to the trub watch closely, you will want to stop siphoning prior to pulling any sediment. Siphon smart!
How Long is Your Tube? Have enough tubing to allow the tube to rest within your bottling bucket, this way, your beer
won’t splash as it enters the bucket.
Move your carboy and siphon off to the side, you will now focus on your bottling bucket:
You may need to reposition this bucket so that you can open the valve and insert a beer bottle.
Filling and Capping
Fill your bottles:
The best way to bottle is to use a bottle filler attached by a short length of tubing to your bottling bucket’s spigot. Fill your
bottles so as to leave about 3/4 inch of headroom at the top of your bottle.
Cap your bottles:
Carefully place your cap onto the bottle, then position the capper atop both, and, with equal pressure on the capper handles, pull
down to the side of the bottle, crimping the cap to the bottle.
Once all of your bottles are filled and capped securely, move them to a safe place to condition. During this time, the remaining
yeast will consume the priming sugar and carbonate the beer. Keep the bottles close to room temperature so that the yeast is active.
The beer should carbonate in about two weeks.
After two weeks, choose one bottle, chill it, and enjoy. If the carbonation seems low, allow the rest of the bottles to condition
for another week.
The Wait is Over
You began a few weeks ago. Your brew day started with making wort. Fermentation transformed that wort into beer. Carbonation was
achieved through priming sugar and bottle capping. It’s been a long wait, but today is the day.
Go ahead. Chill your bottle and open just as you would any other beer. Carefully pour your beer into a glass to inspect color,
carbonation, and aroma. Keep in mind, this is a homebrew, you may find a small amount of yeast sediment at the bottom of your bottle.
This is residual from the use of priming sugar, it is what brewers call bottle conditioned. Stop pouring just prior to this sediment
Ready to brew your next batch? Northern Brewer has plenty of kits to choose from!