How to maintain sanitation and successfully prime, bottle and condition your beer.
Bottles, caps, capper, bottling bucket, priming sugar, siphon, bottle filler and sanitizer.
You've learned how to make beer, and you have been away from your brew and equipment for some time now. Do you remember when it was stated, “sanitation is 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
Racking: You will have noticed your brew is now sitting atop a layer of trub, This sediment is made up of hop pieces, dead yeast and malt brewing materials. While not harmful to consume, it is not pleasant. Racking is the process of carefully moving beer off of the trub. We rack beer from primary to secondary fermenter and from fermenter to 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.<h3">Siphoning and Priming
Add your priming solution to the bottom of your empty bottling bucket:
Make sure the bottle bucket valve is closed.
Insert your auto-siphon into your carboy:
Your siphon should be deep enough so as to actually begin to siphon yet not so deep as to disturb and begin to move the trub. Start with your siphon about 3 inches deep into 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!
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.
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.
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 beer 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.
Why we carbonate beer: The same reason that you may not want to drink a flat Coke 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. Some brews are force carbonated through kegging but many that homebrewers work with are ‘bottle conditioned’. Bottle conditioning involves adding a measured dose of sugar to your brew that will cause a small, controlled fermentation in the bottle. The CO2 that is released from this mini-fermentation will carbonate the beer. We create this mini-fermentation by adding a priming solution to our beer prior to bottling.
Use the right bottle: Capping our bottles assures we protect our brew from any errant bacteria and it is vital that our caps, just like any of our other equipment, 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. Broken glass in our new brew = no brew.
Storing your beer: Store your beer in a warm (65-75 degrees Fahrenheit), dark area for two weeks to allow the yeast time to properly "condition" your beer. Once carbonated, the beer should be stored in a cool area for as long as it lasts.
The Wait is Over
You began a few weeks ago. Your brew day started the process of making wort. Your fermentation process made that wort into beer. You have carefully capped your bottles and primed them with sugar. After capping, you waited for the carbonation level to be just right. Today is the day.
Go ahead and chill your bottle and open just as you would any other beer. Carefully pour your beer into a glass to inspect color, carbonation, smell. 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 and discard. Ready to brew your next batch? Northern Brewer has plenty of kits to choose from!