…and drinking of course. As my friend Liz Knox asked for more quotes in my posts I will give them. Given we are about to bottle and store away the fruits of our labors to prepare them for consumption I thought this was appropriate.
Filled with mingled cream and amber I will drain that glass again. Such hilarious visions clamber Through the chambers of my brain — Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies Come to life and fade away; Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. – Edgar Allan Poe (American short-story Writer, Editor, Poet and Critic, 1809-1849)
This is the final post in our getting started series. I have to say they have been fun to do and have helped me analyze and question my own techniques and process, improving them along the way. As I noted in the first post of this series, brewing is a journeyman profession.
Equipment and Additional Ingredients
There are some basic equipment requirements when it comes to bottling beer.
1) Bottles – You can either reuse beer bottles from brews acquired at the store or go to a homebrew supplier and buy them there. If you reuse commercial beer bottles make sure they are not screw tops as these require additional equipment not commonly available at homebrew suppliers.
Ensure the bottles are made from dark coloured glass. Over exposure to bright light can cause the beer to get a skunky smell caused by a chemical reaction in the hop oil from an over exposure to ultraviolet light. Whatever your choice, the bottles need to be cleaned thoroughly and dried before bottling can commence using a bottling brush and some HOT water.
Bottles typically come in 3 sizes, either 12 oz, 16 oz, or 22 oz. There are others including growlers and wine bottles. The choice is yours. My only advice is to use a bottle that provides enough ale for a single serving. Remember homebrew ales contain live yeast and a small amount will settle to the bottom of the bottle as part of the priming process. We do not want any of the sediment to get into a poured ale which happens if the bottle is swished around while pouring from glass to glass or placed back on the counter half full, churning the yeast in the process. So either decant into a jug or pour a bottle into a single glass.
2) Bottle Caps and a Capper – Regardless of the bottle size you choose the bottle tops are one standard size (except the wine bottle) and one standard bottle cap though there are a couple of different varieties on offer. There is the standard pry-off cap, it can come in plain metal or decorated with a logo. Some commercial breweries sell surplus caps through homebrew suppliers. The second type of cap is a pry-off cap with a special oxygen-scavenging liner that can help reduce oxidation and staling, especially useful in higher alcohol beers such as Imperial IPA or Barelywine which bottle condition for many months.
Bottle Cappers come in a variety of shapes and sizes from automated to incredibly manual. I use a simple manual twin-lever device with a magnet to hold the cap in place.
3) Priming Sugar – In order to create the CO2 in bottled conditioned beer it is necessary to create a mini fermentation by adding some additional sugar for the remaining yeast to convert to CO2. The amount of sugar is too small to make any real change to the final ABV.
Each ale recipe can have its own priming ingredient and methodology. Typically cane sugar is used, it is easily consumed by the yeast and has no flavour, colour or aroma characteristics once fermented. It needs to be highly soluble and dissolve quickly into the beer. Some recipes call for Dried Malt Extract, or syrup, both which require boiling for 15-20mins and left to cool before adding to the bottling bucket. Unless mentioned, all recipes on this site will use confectioners sugar, typically 3/4 cup to 1 cup depending on the level of carbonation. Do not go over a cup or risk some mini explosions as bottle caps are forced off from too much pressure being created in the bottle. Confectioners sugar is very fine and dissolves easily into the beer.
1) After the ale has been in the secondary fermenter, typically for 5-7 days or as instructed by the recipe, it is ready to be bottled. First assemble the equipment outlined above, if the priming sugar has been boiled, ensure it has been cooled to room temperature before we begin.
2) Next, attach the siphon tube to racking cane. If any hops or other adjuncts were added to the secondary fermentation it may be necessary to attach a small filter to the end of the racking cane to avoid any particles getting into the bottled beer.
3) Remove airlock from the carboy, insert racking cane and siphon off into a clean bottling bucket being very careful to avoid the sediment sitting on the bottom of the carboy. I tilt the carboy forward as the beer drains to ensure we get as much beer out of the bottle leaving all the sediment behind.
Ensure the siphon tubing is coiled around the bottom of the bottling bucket and the beer does not splash as it enters the bucket. Splashing causes the beer to aerate. At this stage of the brewing process oxygen is our enemy. We need a little oxygen to re-invigorate the remaining yeast cells to replicate and consume the small amount of priming sugar, but too much will lead to stale beer. Too much oxygen can also cause the yeast to over produce leaving a lot of sediment and create cloudy beer with a heavy yeast taste, again bad.
4) Transfer the now filled bottling bucket to the bottling area, mix the priming sugar or solution to the beer and stir very gently so as not to aerate the beer.
5) Position empty bottle under the bottling bucket spigot and fill bottle leaving about 1/2 inch open at the top. Don’t worry about the oxygen in the top of the bottle, the CO2 generated by the priming sugar will force it to the top of the bottle and away from the precious ale.
6) Put caps on bottle and store in a dark cool place for as long as the recipe states. Two weeks is usually enough to test a bottle to check for successful carbonation, but I would let the ale sit for a couple of weeks before cracking open the case proper. Most ales will hit a peak at around 1 month in the bottle, higher ABV ales can rest for months and sometimes years. Yeah sure, not in my house.
Finally, sit back, crack open a brew, and pour (remember one single pour leaving the small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle) and quaff down the fruits of your hard earned labor. Brewing is a fun process, and its fun to discover the flavours, aromas, and colours created by the various combination of hops and grain and the various strains of yeast.
Have fun and please leave comments on the this page about any additional tips and tricks you have found helped you while on your own brewing adventures.