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After a long few weeks, your homebrew has finally finished fermenting (say that 3 times fast) and now it’s time to package your beer. Now you have to decide if you are going to bottle or keg your beer.
Of course, this guide is about bottling your beer, and how to do it right.
Bottling day is essentially the last step in the beer brewing process, but it’s also one of the most important steps. Sloppy bottling could spoil and ruin your all your hard work up to this point.
There is no fun in sharing one of your home brewed beers with a friend, only to see them crack open the bottle and wither away from a flat beer with little or no carbonation.
Table of Contents
Equipment and Supplies for Bottling Your Homebrew
For a five gallon batch of craft beer, which is the amount of beer you will be brewing with a beer ingredient kit, you will need about 48 12-ounce glass bottles and crown bottle caps.
How To Bottle Beer At Home The Easy Way
There are 5 basic steps to bottling beer at home:
- Cleaning and sanitizing
- Preparing the priming sugar solution
- Transfer beer to a bottling bucket
- Bottle filling and capping
- Bottle conditioning
Cleaning & Sanitizing
Before you are ready to bottle your fully-fermented brew, you must make sure that all of your bottles and bottling equipment is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
There are a few good brewing cleansers and sanitizers available, but never use dish soap or any other scented cleaner.
After cleaning all of your equipment, use Star San or IO Star to sanitize ALL of the brewing equipment that will come into contact with the beer. We also prefer to use Star San because there is no need to rinse your equipment after sanitizing.
Preparing the Priming Solution
There are two different ways you can add priming sugar to your beer:
- Sugar solution
- Carbonation drops/priming sugar tablets
Priming Sugar Solution
Mixing up a priming sugar solution is the most common way to carbonate your beer, and the preference for many homebrewers.
With this method, you will add a priming solution to the entire batch of beer before you bottle. It will be completely mixed with the beer before you rack the beer to the bottles.
You can use either corn sugar or cane sugar, but if you are using a beer ingredient kit, a bag of priming sugar will be included. You will need to boil 2-cups of water then add the priming sugar (5 oz) and boil for about 5-minutes.
For an exact sugar to beer ratio, use a priming sugar calculator from Brewer’s Friend..
Do not try to add loose sugar to each bottle, unless you want to wake up to the sounds of exploding bottles!
Priming Sugar Tablets
Individual sugar tablets can make bottling day a little more simple.
All you do is add one table to each 12 ounce bottle. These tablets guarantee that you will have the same amount of sugar in each bottle.
If you plan on using these sugar tablets, be patient. Sometimes in can take a little longer to fully carbonate your beer.
Racking the Beer to a Bottling Bucket
Without cooling, pour the priming sugar mixture into a clean and sanitized bottling bucket. If you are adding a flavoring extract like peach, apricot, coconut, etc, this is also the time to add that to the bucket as well.
Using an auto-sipon or racking cane, transfer the beer from your fermenter to the bottling bucket. Try to avoid transferring any of the sediment that has dropped to the bottom of your fermenter.
Also avoid any excessive splashing as this will add oxygen, which is not what you want at this time.
Stir the beer gently for about 1-minute using a sanitized spoon or paddle after you have racked all the beer to the bottling bucket.
Filling the Bottles and Capping
This step is much easier if you have a little help.
Most friends will happily help in exchange for a few bottles of your homebrew. Of course, you cab do it by yourself, but it will just take longer. Take your vinyl tubing, attach one end to the siphon and the other end to the bottle filler.
Using an auto-siphon with your spring-tip bottling wand is the easiest way to get the job done without making too much of a mess. We like to put the bottles back in the box and then set the box on top of the open dishwasher door to help keep your floor clean and dry.
Once the siphon is in your bottling bucket, pump the wand to fill the vinyl tubing with beer. Place the bottle filler into the bottle and press the tip against the bottom of the bottle. This will open the valve and begin filling the bottle.
Fill the bottles until the beer reaches the top of the bottleneck, and then stop the flow by lifting the bottle filler or wand. This should leave about an inch of room at the top of the bottle.
Now, take your now sanitized bottle caps, place them on a bottle, and crimp it with a clean and sanitized bottle capper. This process should be done as quick as possible to avoid contamination, and to limit the time the beer is exposed to air.
That is why this part of the process is best with two people. One can fill while the other crimps the caps.
Make sure you have a good quality bottle capper on hand so you get an airtight seal between the bottle and the cap. If you need a new bottle capper, check out our review page of the best hand and bench cappers here.
Your beer is bottled… all done, right? Not quite, they need time to naturally carbonate.
You need to place your capped bottles in a cool (64° – 72°), dry location for at least two weeks, depending on the style of beer you are making.
If this is your first time bottling, you may want to anticipate that there could be a mess if the sugar mixture isn’t right, or some capping was done incorrectly. To prevent more mess, place a tarp or a large baking tray to catch any spillage that may occur.
All good chefs sample their work before sharing, and your newly bottled beer is no exception. Feel free to crack one open after a week and see what the flavor and carbonation is like.
There are two questions to answer at this time:
1) When you open the bottle, do you hear a hiss of escaping carbonation? If so, your beer might be ready to drink, but it would even be better if you wait another week or so.
2) Do you like the taste? If so, and you answered yes to #1, then go ahead and put a few in the fridge, call your friends, and clean off the patio furniture because it’s almost time to celebrate your hard, frothy work.
One thing to keep in mind. There will likely be a layer of sediment at the bottom of the bottle, which is completely normal in homebrewing. It won’t hurt you, but in order to avoid drinking the trub, pour the beer slowly into your glass to avoid disturbing that layer.
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