Congratulations!!! You have made it this far. If this is your first batch, you probably spent more time than you expected on brew day. You then went and checked on your fermenter every 2 hours to watch the bubbling coming from the airlock. Now it is time for the most tedious task (outside of drinking the beer, but that is enjoyable), bottling home brew beer.
Here I will outline the steps that you should take to bottle your beer. I will also include some shortcuts to avoid so your beer will be everything that you expected and more.
Sterilize Everything – You are so close you don’t want to miss this
As with every step of home brewing, you want to make sure you sterilize everything that will come into contact with your beer. Here is the equipment you will need when bottling home brew beer so you only have to sterilize once (in order of when you need them):
- Turkey Baster – Weird right? You will see below, but this could be a time saver
- Siphon – You will use it to transfer your beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket
- Tubing – This can easily be overlooked, but your beer will be going through it
- Bottling Bucket – Your beer will sit in here as you patiently fill 48 bottles
- Bottles – The beer will go in here. I would recommend sanitizing 50 to 54 bottles. That way you are covered if you don’t fill enough in each bottle
- Bottle Caps – Your beer shouldn’t touch the caps, but better safe than sorry
Give it a Taste – Focus on the Flavor
You will open your fermenter and there will probably be a film on the sides and some stuff floating on top…perfectly normal. Here is a good time to test how you did sanitizing your fermenter and controlling the fermentation temperature. If you had a misstep then your beer will taste far different than you expect (I would say worse, but someone will like the taste).
This is where the turkey baster comes in. Dip it down into the fermenter (below the floaties) and move some of your beer into a glass. You should give it a sip to test the flavor. Remember, the beer will be uncarbonated (flat) so it won’t be what you are expecting. Flavor and aftertaste are what you are looking for. If it tastes good then start the process of bottling home brew beer.
Transfer to the Bottling Bucket – Remember to sanitize the tubing
Add any priming sugars (usually come with the kit) to your bottling home brew beer bucket. Use a siphon to move the beer. I highly recommend not using your mouth to start the siphon or you risk contaminating your beer. Careful where you put the bottom of the siphon though, keep it about 1 to 2 inches off the bottom of your fermenter. There will be a sludge of settled grains and you want to minimize what transfers over.
As your beer transfers, you should move your siphon down until you see the sludge layer at the bottom. You can slowly and carefully tip your fermenter once you get near the sludge to ensure you get the most beer out, but don’t shake up the sludge.
Any floaties or sludge that do transfer are fine. It will still contain some yeast that will be needed to carbonate your beer. This also means you should NOT filter your beer. Your bottles should come out with solids in the bottom, but it will not affect your beer.
Time to Bottle – Grab a chair
You are going to want a nice solid and level surface to set the bottles on. If you can find a partner who you trust is clean enough to not contaminate your beer you should enlist their help bottling home brew beer. Set all of your bottles so that you can reach them from the chair you have and get comfortable.
Open the valve on the bottling bucket and fill your bottle about 1/3 to 1/2 up the neck. Pass to your partner or cap the bottle yourself. A few notes on bottling:
- Bottle Type – If you have saved bottles from your weekly drinking (highly recommended), they must NOT be twist off. Your bottle caps will not seal and your beer will not turn out.
- Caps – The caps are pretty self-explanatory, but here are the steps to cap your beer
- Set the bottle on a flat surface as you want everything in a line
- Place the cap on the bottle and make sure it is centered
- Put the capper over the cap and bottle and check alignment again
- Squeeze the capper to seal the beer
It is critical that you have everything lined up. You have to put some force on the capper to get it to seal. I have had plenty of bottles slide out from under the capper and spill. Make sure you are pushing straight down to close the capper
More Waiting – This is the last time I promise
Your recipe should tell you how long to keep the beer in the bottles before enjoying, but at least one week is what you will be waiting (two is a better timing). You can always drink the beer earlier, but it will be flat and more than likely ruin the experience. Make sure to put the beer in the refrigerator a couple days before you plan on drinking it so you don’t have to drink it warm.
If you have any questions about bottling home brew beer, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org