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The last step in the brewing process is to bottle your beer. When there’s no bubbles in your fermentor for 24 hours, you know it’s time to bottle. In this post, I’ll show you how to bottle your beer and let it start conditioning.
1. Prep And Cleanliness
I’ve said it over and over, but the easiest way to ruin a perfectly good brew is to contaminate it. You’ve come this far, it would be a shame to ruin it with a dirty bucket or hose. Mix yourself up some more cleaner and sanitizer and clean out:
- the bottling bucket
- spigot fitting
- bottle filler
- auto siphon
- large mixing spoon
- bottle capper
- bottle caps
You also need to clean all the bottles as well. This is where the wallpaper trough comes in very handy. It can fit 6 bottles at a time in it, so fill it with cleaner water and let each bottle soak for about 30 seconds. Pick each up with cleaner still in it and cap it with your thumb and shake. This will clean the bottle and any residue inside it. Pour the bottle back into the trough and set it to dry. Continue this until all your bottles have been run through the cleanser.
TIP: You can use a clean, sanitized dish drying rack for this, but it can get a little precarious with how the bottles sit. I recommend one of two options. A clean dishwasher is great for setting the bottles upside down to dry, or better yet, a bottle drying rack is perfect, and not too expensive at all.
Once each bottle is clean, its time to move on to sanitizing. Pour out the cleaner water and mix up the sani water. Repeat the steps for cleaning.
When the bottles and all tools are clean and sanitized, it’s time to get the priming sugar ready and move on to bottling.
TIP: When you’re done sanitizing the bottles, don’t pour the sani water out just yet. Use the sani water in the trough to keep your tools while you aren’t using them. This will keep them clean between uses.
2. The Big Transfer
You will use the auto-siphon to transfer the beer from the fermentor to your bottling bucket. This is the same method used when transferring INTO the fermentor. There is a lot more sediment now, so make sure to NOT transfer the sediment. This can be tricky, but try to pay attention to where the siphon end is in the fermentation vessel. When you have all the beer you can get out of the carboy, it’s time to start bottling.
TIP: Keep the hose as close to the side and bottom in the bucket as possible. We want to aerate the beer as LITTLE as possible at this point. The less agitation the better.
3. Final Gravity
Before you move on, though, it’s time to check the FG, or Final Gravity, of your beer. This reading, along with the OG reading you took before fermentation, will give you the ABV of your beer.
Once the beer is in the bottling bucket, place your hydrometer into the bucket, making sure there are no bubbles around where it comes out of the beer, and that it isn’t touching any sides. Take your reading. For this beer, we’re looking for a reading between 1.012 and 1.015.
At this point, without getting very technical, if this is low, you will generally have a lower alcohol beer. If it is extremely low, then something went wrong in the fermentation process. Either way, Keep going and in a later post, we will talk about how to fix these issues, since it is a little too intense to talk about here.
Use this formula to determine your ABV:
(OG – FG) x 131.25 = ABV%
(_____* – _____**) x 131.25 = ____%
*OG from Step #8
**FG from Step #10
So, if you got the high end for your OG and FG, this would be the example:
(1.055 – 1.015) x 131.25 = 5.25
So, your beer would be 5.25% ABV, given this example.
4. Get It Primed
With the ABV figured out, it’s time to prime and start bottling. Assemble the spigot on the front of your bottling bucket. Make sure the O-ring is on the inside, and make sure the spigot is OFF. Check this with some sani water just to be safe. Boil 2 cups of water and mix the priming sugar into the boiled water. Pour this sugar water into the bottling bucket.
As you add the sugar, stir the beer gently. We are trying to aerate the beer as little as possible here. Stir it until you feel the sugar water mix is fully integrated. Next, we start bottling!
5. Get It In The Bottles
We are finally ready to bottle. For this step, The bottling bucket should be on something higher, like a counter top. If you have a dishwasher, opening the door and setting the bucket above it on the counter is perfect. This way, you can get the bottles out one by one while keeping everything clean. The open door will catch your drips. If you can’t do this, setting it on the counter with a bucket under for drips is fine as well.
Using a roughly 3″ piece of hose (just cut it from your existing hose) place the hose on the bottle filler, and attach both to the spigot. This way, the filler connects to the spigot with as little slack as possible. If you don’t have a bottle filler, cut a piece of hose an inch longer than your bottle and use this.
The bottle filler is great because the valve on its end opens when pushed on the bottom of the bottle, and stops when the bottle is taken off.
If using the filler or hose, keep each fully submersed in the bottle until the beer gets to the very top, then remove the filler. This will give you the perfect amount of head room. Once the bottle is filled, it must be capped. I keep my caps in the wallpaper trough covered in sani water. Take one cap out, place it on the bottle, and use the capper to seal it. Place the capped bottle in the box.
Continue this for every bottle.
6. Storing And Conditioning
When every bottle is filled, it’s time to let the priming sugar work its magic. This sugar will wake up the yeast left in your beer and carbonate your beer. This is known as Bottle Conditioning. Store the bottles in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks. After the 2 weeks, you should (hopefully) have a finished, ready to drink beer!
7. Clean Up
Make sure to clean EVERYTHING before putting it away. Take the bottle bucket spigot off and clean it, as well as all your other tools. This will make them ready for your next brew.
That’s it! I know this was long-winded, but I am trying to explain everything as much as possible. For a shorter version that is more like a checklist, go here.