Beginner’s Guide to Home Brewing – Bottling

Now that fermentation is complete, your brew is ready to be transferred to containers that provide optimum storage and aging conditions. While kegging is an option, beginners prefer to use bottles. For the 5 Gal batch we whipped up, about 50-55 12-oz. bottles will be needed. A good way to get refillable bottles is the returnable ones. When choosing bottles remember paper labels are easier to remove than the foil ones since a scraper blade might be needed. Brown bottles are necessary since they keep out the most light. With sanitation being all-important it is a good idea to inspect the bottles prior to sanitizing procedures. Again, to insure cleanliness soak all the collected bottles in a B-Brite solution a few days, with the labels falling right off and any grime easy to brush away. The jet bottle washer attachment for faucets cuts time and water usage.

All the bottles should be prepped well before brew day and stored upside down in the original box if it’s clean. On brew day check each bottle as you place them in the dishwasher, add a little B-Brite wash and rinse hot. Be sure the dishwasher is free of jet dry since the residue would destroy the desired head of foam in the glass. Leave them in the dishwasher to cool with the door open. The door can now serve as a clean shelf to fill the bottles. If filling the bottles outdoors take the bottles out of the dishwasher and place them right side up in the clean case box and cover with clear plastic wrap until ready to use. If you’re not using a dishwasher a quick bottle washer rinse of properly clean and stored bottles should work out fine. If you’re worried, a dip in Star-San solution and inverting bottle is advised. Fully fermented beer has alcohol and therefore has less of a chance to become contaminated. At this point remember to avoid splashing and aerating the beer because it could cause off-flavors to occur.

At the completion of fermentation the beer is flat with little CO 2 in solution. To carbonate the beer requires the addition of primer sugar equally in each bottle. It is not advised to add some to each bottle for obvious reasons, so we will mix up enough for the whole batch. To do this we will prepare the primer and add it to the clean bottling bucket, then transfer the beer on top of it. For a 5-gal batch use 5/6 cup of corn sugar in 1-½ cups of water, boil and cool in the pan. With a clean paper towel wipe the pan and pour the primer into the bottling bucket with minimal splashing. Place the bucket on the floor with the transfer valve turned up and the carboy on the counter, or if outside, the bucket on the deck or patio and the carboy on the picnic table. Connect the racking cane and tubing and clean and fill with SSS to get ready. Rack the clear beer, avoiding the sediment, from the carboy to the bucket with the corn sugar solution. Carefully take the S.G. avoiding any contamination of the priming bucket. This is called the final gravity. You could gently stir with the hose before taking it out of the bucket to help with the mixing. Try not to aerate the liquid while racking or stirring since it could cause a cardboard-like off flavor in the beer. I like to cover the bucket with clear plastic wrap. The best way to fill bottles is
to use a bottle filler tube. Check it out to see that the end has a spring and shut off feature. Connect tubing to the bottle filler and siphon cleaner and SSS through. The bottle filler works great since it fills without aerating and when shut off and removed it allows the proper amount of headspace in the bottle.

New caps are clean so I just count out about 60 and put them is a pan with SSS. There’s no need to boil them since this can damage the plastic seal. Set the bottling bucket on the table or counter turn the transfer valve down and hook up the tubing assembly. This system also works on gravity so height difference is required. Open the valve and insert the bottle filler in a bottle press down and see the beer filling the tube. Once it is running all beer, release the pressure and start filling all the bottles. As each bottle is filled I like to place them on the clean floor or deck and put a cap on right away. After they’re all filled crimp the caps on with the capper. Wipe the bottles and place them in the case boxes. Dry the caps and mark each one with a magic marker 1 for your first batch. Congratulations! You did it!! Now comes the wait. Everybody is going to wonder what the alcohol content is of your new brew. Well there is a way to get an approximate percentage by volume. Subtract the final gravity from the original gravity then divide by 7.5 Example 42 – 11 = 31 = 4.1 % 7.5

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