Regardless of the reason why you brew your beer at home, or your level of brewing experience, you will need to eventually package it. And when that time comes, there are basically just two options – bottling and kegging.
You may be wondering, “which method should I use?”
We will give a little insight into bottling vs kegging homebrew, and try to help you make an informed decision.
Most advance homebrewers struggle with determining whether or not they should continue bottling their beer or transform into kegging. It’s essential to look at the advantages and disadvantages of both to choose the best option.
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Pros and Cons of Bottling Homebrew
Most homebrewers start by bottling their beer. Depending on their preferences and budget, they may continue doing so for an extended time. Because bottling beer comes with its benefits, most homebrewers don’t mind using it all the time despite its flaws.
For a better understanding, the following are the pros and cons of bottling homebrewed beer.
Here are a few reasons why you may want to bottle your beer.
You don’t have to break a bank to start homebrewed bottled beer. You only require a bottling bucket, transfer tubing and bottling wand, bottles, caps, and a bottle capper.
The cost of these items is relatively cheap. In fact, besides the glass beer bottles, most of the equipment needed will already be included in a complete beer making kit.
More so, you don’t need to keep on buying the bottles every time you package. You only need to thoroughly clean and reuse them.
Takes Up Less Storage Space
After filling and capping the bottles, they can be placed back into the cardboard box they came in, and be stacked in a corner of any room. You can refrigerate the beer bottles as needed.
The bottling method is usually more practical for those who are limited on space or brewing out of an apartment or condo.
Easier To Transport
Bottling your beer is easy to transport and share with people. Bottles make it easy to give your homebrew to family and friends as a gift, or take to special events and parties.
Also, if you ever plan on entering your beer in a beer competition, you will also want to package the beer in a bottle, with one of your custom beer labels.
Better For Aging Certain Types Of Beer
Many beers including Belgian ales, Barley Wine, and other strong beers are best when they are bottled.
These types of beers are much better when they are allowed to “age” in a bottle. You can let these beer styles sit for many months or even years while they develop cleaner and more complex flavors.
Better For Small Batch Brewing
If you are only interested in brewing 1 or 2 gallon beer batches, bottling this small amount of beer is the preferred method. Instead of manually filling and capping 48 bottles, you will only need to fill about 10 bottles for a 1-gallon batch.
Purchasing a complete kegging system for this amount of beer hardly seems worth the investment.
And here are a few reasons why you may want to give up bottling.
For many homebrewers, bottling day is their least favorite part of the complete brewing process.
Cleaning, sanitizing, filling, and capping 48 or more beers could take up two hours of your time. Not to mention the extra cleanup time after you are finished.
Also, bottle conditioning usually takes a minimum of two weeks before the beer is carbonated and ready to drink.
Anytime you expose your beer to air, you run the risk of the beer becoming oxidized.
With bottle conditioning, you transfer the beer from the fermenter to a separate bottling bucket along with a priming sugar solution, and then fill each bottle one by one.
Any extra splashing or stirring can introduce unwanted oxygen into the beer.
Under and Over Carbonation
Bottling can also cause carbonation problems.
Adding too much sugar to the bottle can build up enough pressure where you create exploding “bottle bombs” and a giant mess. On the other hand, if you don’t add enough sugar, you will have a flat and under-carbonated beer.
It is always a good idea to use a priming calculator to help you figure out the right sugar to beer ratio.
Pros and Cons of Kegging Homebrew
Kegging you beer is not a difficult process, and it’s a great way to store and serve your home brew. But just like bottling, there are both advantages and disadvantages with this packaging method as well.
Here are a few reasons why you may want to keg your beer.
Kegging Saves Time Over Bottling
You can keg a 5-gallon of beer much faster than if you were to bottle, saving a bunch of time.
With a kegging system, you only have to clean and sanitize a few parts compared to a bunch of bottles and caps. All you do is siphon the entire batch into the one vessel, put the lid on and apply CO2.
Ready To Drink Sooner
Sometimes the hardest part of brewing is waiting to drink the beer. Anytime you get to drink your beer sooner is a good thing.
Force carbonating your beer rather than waiting for it to carbonate naturally will allow you to drink a perfectly carbonated beer within a days, or even a few hours if you choose.
You Still Have The Option To Bottle
Kegged beer allows you to have a taste of the bottled homebrewed beer. You can put your kegged beer in bottles and take it to your friends or another venue like camping.
Kegging and pressurizing with CO2 produces consistent carbonation for serving, and can eliminate under or over-carbonated bottle conditioned beer.
Not all craft beers are created equal. Specific beers are best enjoyed when they are pressurized at a certain psi level for a better pour.
Low Oxidation Risk
While not a must, transferring the beer to a keg can be done with a closed transfer. This reduces the chances of oxygen or other unwanted things like bacteria entering the beer.
Kegging Looks Cool
Lot gonna lie, having your beer on tap is pretty cool. There are not too many things better than being able to pour yourself, family and friends a glass of your own craft beer.
And here are a few reasons why you may decide against kegging.
There is definitely a higher upfront cost with kegging your beer compared to bottling.
However, after the initial purchase of the kegging supplies and equipment, your kegging system could last for many years and many brewing sessions.
Here is a quick look at what you will need to keg homebrew.
- Keg with connectors
- Beer and gas lines with clamps
- Dual-gauge regulator
- CO2 tank and gas
- Kegerator or keezer
More Space Is Needed
If you choose to keg your beer, you will need to consider the space required. Unlike being able to put a few bottles in the back of a refrigerator, a keg must be kept cold at all times.
In order to chill the beer to the optimal drinking temperature, you will need a kegerator, either buying one or converting a fridge to one, or taking on a DIY project of making a keezer yourself. A jockey box is another temporary option for keeping your keg cold while camping or at a party.
As stated above, if you are limited on space or live in an apartment, bottling might be your best option.
Kegging will require a bit more upkeep and maintenance, unlike bottling.
Keeping all the beer lines and beer faucets clean is a must. You will need to regularly clean and flush out the beer lines as well as keeping the beer faucets free from mold.
The more beers you have on tap, more maintenance will be required.
Better For The Environment
If green living and looking out for the environment is something you do, kegging your beer can help you do that.
Kegging vs bottling is a way to save environmental waste. Glass or plastic beer bottles can be used over and over, but glass will eventually break and plastic bottles will also eventually need to be replaced.
Both glass and plastic bottles can be recycled, but many will also end up in the landfills.
As illustrated above, the botting vs kegging has no definite answer. You don’t have to be locked into either one, as both options can be ideal, and each method’s pros do outweigh the cons.
It really does come down to many factors, including time, cost, and space. Depending on which one you are more concerned with, you should be able to decide which will work best for you.
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