Beer bottling might be the most exciting part of the entire homebrewing process as the hard work and waiting period combine into one last action.
The primary step in the beer bottling process is to make sure the second fermentation has been completed. You can do this by checking the gravity two days apart. Once the reading is the same on both days, you can say it’s safe to start bottling. In case it still isn’t the same, you should wait until it is. This way, you’re preventing over carbonation of your beer or even exploding bottles.
The beer bottling process is pretty straightforward. It consists of three basic steps:
- Mix the beer with sugar water
- Portion the mixture into bottles
- Attach the caps
Sanitizing the entire equipment is crucial, as it is essential to keep it sanitized every step of the way. You wouldn’t want to infect your hard-earned beer with something nasty. It’s also vital to avoid splashing the beer during the process because it may expose it to oxygen and give it unpleasant flavors.
Once you cap the bottle, you should stash it in a closet and give it approximately two more weeks to carbonate until it’s ready to drink. The waiting part is probably the hardest one of all.
Your career as a homebrewer has two big days: bottling day and drinking day two weeks later. As for the first big day, everything you’ll need to get started is listed below:
- Bottlebrush (your kitchen bottle brush will work perfectly fine)
- Bottle caps
- Bottle capper
- Bottling bucket
- Siphon hose
Start by preparing your bottles. Your typical five-gallon beer batch requires 48 12-oz bottles. Make sure to sanitize and clean every inch of them before use thoroughly. In case you want to use old bottles, check them for dirt and mold on the inside. You may need to use a bottle brush and scrub to get the bottles completely clean.
Always clean the bottles first, then sanitize them.
You also need to sanitize the bottle caps before you use them. The easiest way to do this is to soak them in the solution. If you’re using flip-top bottles, you can sanitize the ceramic part along with the bottles and then sanitize the rubber seal by soaking them in solution.
To provide carbonation to the beer, always add the priming sugar right before you start bottling.
Adding Priming Sugar to Beer
Prepare the priming solution by boiling ¾ cup of corn sugar and two cups of water. Once it boils, remove it from the stove, cover the pan and let it cool.
The best way to combine beer and the priming solution is to use a bottling bucket. It should be a second container the same size as the one you use for fermenting. Make sure to clean and sanitize it before you start mixing.
Next, pour the cooled priming solution into the bucket. Then, slowly siphon the beer from the fermenting bucket into the one with the sanitizer. Don’t let the beer splash. Make sure it slides into the bucket in a swirling motion, so it mixes well with the solution.
Of course, you can do all this without a bottling bucket by pouring the primary solution into the fermenting bucket and gently steer. If you choose to do it this way, make sure to let the mixture sit for half an hour before you proceed to pour it into bottles.
Bottling and Storing
Carefully pour the primed beer into the bottles and put a cleaned, sanitized cap on every bottle. Cramp the lid using a bottle capper. Many brewers ask friends to help with this step and let them work with the capper while they fill the bottles.
Once the fermentation is finished, you will need some equipment for the bottling process. You won’t need to call NASA for the equipment as everything can be found in Acasi Machinery store. Sanitize all the equipment so that nothing hinders the overall taste of your homebrew.
Beer bottles come in two main sizes, 12-oz Longneck and 22-oz Bomber. You can’t go wrong with either one of them as both are the perfect option and maybe even combine to spice up things.
While it’s true that 12 oz bottles are fantastic for personal use, bombers are smashing when sharing with friends. The bottle collar is also an important detail to look at because you may get imported bottles that won’t work with your capper.
American breweries usually use bottles with a flat collar, and those work perfectly with the cappers commonly found in the US. However, an imported bottle may cause the capper to keep slipping.
Look at the bottle collar (right under the lip) and check if it’s flat or rounded (you probably need flat).
The color of the bottle is also essential because, as you know, beer likes to be in a dark place until it ferments. Avoid using clear or green bottles, no matter how fancy they may look. The typical dark brown color of the bottle keeps the UV rays away from the beer and protects it from excessive light exposure.
While they may seem super-convenient, especially since you can find them in large quantities in your beer-drinking neighbor’s recycle bin, twist-off bottles aren’t for reuse. If you try to put a standard cap on a twist-off bottle, it will undoubtedly leak. More importantly, it may result in getting an infected beer, and that certainly isn’t what anyone wants.
You can choose between standard bottle caps and oxygen-absorbing ones.
Standard caps will finish the job, keeping the air out of the bottle, and you won’t have to worry. They are used more often and are compatible with any of the bottle cappers out there. Moreover, they come in diverse colors and styles, which adds flair to the entire batch.
Oxygen-absorbing caps are equipped with a unique liner designed to retain oxygen found in the headspace between the beer and the lid. It can prevent or reduce oxidation if it happens, which hinders the flavor. These kinds of bottle caps are used if you plan on keeping your beer batch for longer than three months.
If you plan on a more extensive production, you might look into bottle capping machines, but if you are more for manual capping, you can choose between two types.
Wing-style triple-hinged capper is the most common bottle capper used in homebrewing conditions, and it is relatively easy to use. The magnetic tray keeps the cap in place, and it has three hinges and two handles with which you crimp the lid onto the bottle.
The second type is the bench capper, a more expensive option but also a quicker one. It is relatively easy to use as you can hold the bottle with one hand and apply pressure onto the cap with the other one.
Siphon Hose and Bottling Bucket
A siphon hose is used to transfer your beer to a bottling bucket. Bottling buckets come in many sizes, but the standard is five gallons. As already mentioned, it’s possible to mix the priming sugar and beer without a second bucket, but it’s much easier and more efficient if you have one.
Bottling your homemade beer isn’t hard, but it does take some planning and skill. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend to join you in the process. It’s usually a fun and rewarding experience, even though the main reward comes in two weeks.