After a few weeks of waiting, and a few panic attacks about the malfunctioning air conditioning unit in my house, the fermentation process is complete.
My brew has been fermenting for a little over two weeks, and after a few days of consistent specific gravity, it is time to get this sucker into bottles and get one step closer to drinking my spoils.
Here are the basic steps.
1. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. If it touches the beer, sanitize it.
2. Prepare and add priming sugar to bottling bucket.
3. Siphon the fermented beer into a bottling bucket and gently stir.
4. Fill bottles, cap, and store for two weeks at room temperature.
And the required equipment:
1. Bottling bucket
2. Plastic tubing
3. Bottles and bottle caps
4. Bottle capper
5. Auto siphon
6. Bottling wand
Again, sounds simple, right?
Well, 5 gallons of beer yields about 46 12oz bottles (or, in my case, 24x 12oz bottles and 12x 22oz bottles). Including the hoses, buckets, nozzles, hydrometer, floating thermometer, bottle caps, ginormous spoon, and 36 bottles, that is a whole lot of sanitizing to do.
*TIP* – Have instant hand sanitizer handy. Otherwise, every time you pick up the beer you should be drinking, touch your pants, or open a drawer, you will have to wash your hands again. My fingers looked like I’d been in a hot tub for hours by the time I was done.
Enlist a friend. Bottling will go by much faster if there is another set of hands to make for an assembly line. Entice them with free homebrew. Worked for me.
Wash hands again.
Once everything has been sanitized and is sitting out to dry, stop, take a deep breath, and have a beer. (This would be the part where I say “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” But that would be plagiarism. Plus I don’t have any homebrew to drink yet.)
Next, you need to get your soon-to-be-beer siphoned out of the primary fermenter and into the bottling bucket. Before you can do that, you have to add the priming sugar in order for the carbonation to make it into the beer. I used roughly 2/3 cup of light brown sugar boiled in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes. The priming sugar is added to bottling bucket before moving the beef over.
Wait…did I just run my hand through my hair? $@#%#$^@#. Sanitize again.
The bottling bucket was a fantastic last minute addition to my collection of gear, and one I’m quite glad that I made. It is basically a 6-7 gallon bucket with a nozzle at the bottom that makes bottling significantly easier. And possibly, with a few of those plastic ice cubes, a decent margarita dispenser.
Once the beer has been transferred to the bottling bucket, give it a gentle stir. Using the bottling wand, fill each bottle all the way to the top. The wand displaces just the right amount of beer so that, once removed, it leaves the correct amount of air in each bottle before capping.
With the bottle capper that came with my kit, the act of capping the bottles goes by quickly. I was surprised at how quickly that part went.
Compared to brewing, bottling is much more tedium and much less near-crisis. But I’ve always said that if you don’t like chopping vegetables, then you don’t like cooking. It is all about the process and the work with making your own beer. If you really hate that, then the awesome, tasty end product may not be worth it for you. I enjoy the process.
Now that I have bottled my first batch, I’m already thinking about what is going into my next batch. Part of me wants to wait to taste the first beer, but at this point, it is what it is going to be, so why wait?
Speaking of waiting…now comes the single most difficult part of homebrewing…..There is nothing left to do but let time pass and after 10-14 days, enjoy the fruits of my labor. That is, assuming that I didn’t over-sugar my bottles and half of them don’t explode over the next few weeks. Time will tell.
Next: The final step…tasting
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog