If you’re new to The Beer Saga, please check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 before continuing.
Travis is back with the 3rd and final chapter in the Beer Saga – This time he is talking all about the priming and bottling process and giving tips and suggestions where he can. :)
Since I missed this in the first two posts I’ll cover it now. You must thoroughly clean (using PBW) and sanitize (using StarSan) anything that touches your brew. Both are very easy to use (just follow the instructions on the packaging.) PBW should be used with hot water to thoroughly clean and StarSan should be used with cool water to thoroughly sanitize. The picture bellow shows my bottle washer that I use to sanitize my bottle caps and bottles.
You will want to sanitize your bottling bucket. The easiest way to do this is to fill it roughly 1/4 – 1/2 way and add StarSan. You can also take any bottling equipment (racking can, bottle filler, tubing, etc) and place it in the bucket. Fill your bottle washer up using this solution as well. For added sanitation I also hold the bucket over the sink and crack the valve open for roughly 5 minutes to make sure the valve itself is sanitized.
Now that everything is sanitized carefully get your fermentation bucket onto your kitchen counter or at least elevated higher than your bottling bucket stands while its on the floor. DO NOT slosh your brew around. Be very careful when moving the fermenting bucket because there is a high amount of trub on the bottom. The trub is sediment containing hops, yeast, grains, etc. If this is mixed with your beer it can make it taste fairly awful. Obviously you can remove your airlock equipment before moving the fermenting bucket however I would suggest leaving the bung in place to keep you beer off the floor. When you have your fermenting bucket elevated you can pull of the lid. This will take a bit of effort as most industrial air tight lids sold for these buckets seal very tightly. Just be careful when removing to not knock your bucket to the ground.
Read your instructions for priming as you may have to add your priming sugar into the bottling bucket now before you start the siphoning process. I added mine after I siphoned.
Place your racking cane into the bucket and secure it using the clip. You will want to push it all the way to the bottom of the bucket and then bring it up around 2 – 3 inches to get it above the trub. You will now need some sort of container to start the siphoning process. Take your vinyl tubing and fill it with water / sanitizing solution. Attach the vinyl tubing to the racking cane while placing the other end into your container. When you release the water it will start pulling beer through the tubing. DO NOT place it directly into your bottling container. If it pulls trub through the tubing you will need to reposition your racking cane upward until you get beer. When you are only pulling beer through the tubing, move it over to your bottling bucket and siphon all of the beer out of your fermenting bucket.
To prime my beer I had to mix my priming sugar with 2 cups of boiling water and then let it cool. Priming is the process of adding just enough sugar to allow the beer to ferment just a bit more while its bottled. This fermentation in the bottles adds pressure which in return carbonates the beer. You can drink the beer as it is now however it will taste very flat and fairly watered down. In fact I always take a small sample before adding my priming sugar to get an idea as to how the beer is going to taste when it is finished.
This is an example of trub. This is what you do not want mixing with your beer.
When your beer is completely transferred to your bottling bucket you must mix your priming sugar in. Again read your instructions as a lot of kits request that you do this before you move your beer into the bottling bucket. I mix mine in using my racking cane making sure that the trub is cleaned off and its sanitized. Now elevate your bottling bucket so you can start bottling. Attach your vinyl tubing as well as your bottle filler. Start sanitizing your bottles. StarSan is a no rinse sanitizing solution. You do not need to rinse after the bottles have touched StarSan. You drain the StarSan out and then fill the bottle with beer. Rinsing will actually introduce things such as chlorine, minerals and bacteria that you do not want in your beer.
Start filling the bottles one by one. I fill around 6 at a time and then cap them. When insert the wand into the bottle and press it against the bottom. This depresses the valve and releases the beer. You must fill the bottle to the tippy top because when you pull the wand out of the bottle it will leave just about an inch from the beer to the top of the bottle. The filler was designed to do this perfectly every time and is the optimal amount of air to have in your bottle. This air pocket allows enough air for carbonation and enough air space in the bottle for expansion. I won’t get into physics however air is much easier to compress than water. If there was not enough air in the bottle the bottle could break from the pressure of carbonation.
You will probably make a mess as I know I do every time I bottle. The best thing to do is place a towel or some old newspapers under your bottles that your filling.
After your done filling around 6 bottles put your caps on. Always use sanitized caps. With the capper I have you basically place the cap on top of the bottle, place the capper on top of the cap and depress the handles downward toward the bottle while holding the capper in place. You will know when it kinks the cap enough. If you go over this point you can crack the bottle or even complete break off the neck of the bottle. The capper is big enough to protect you in case this happens however it can make you gasp when it happens and if your like me you’ll be a bit mad that you just wasted a bottle of beer.
When you’re done capping wipe the bottles off with a wet rag to remove any beer and place them into the cases that they came in or even old beer cases. Be sure to wipe off the bottles because nobody wants to hold on to a sticky beer bottle while their drinking it. When you have all your beer bottled and in the case, close the case and tape it shut so no light can get in.
It is now time for carbonation. Place your cases of beer in a dark room, closet or bedroom and make sure the room stays around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Optimal carbonation temperature is usually 68 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Some brews may call for different temperatures so again read your instructions. Carbonation will usually take around 2 weeks however it may take longer depending on the type of beer. Some beers will also use this phase for the aging process so you could be waiting up to 6 weeks.
Once your beer is carbonated… well… bottoms up! It’s time to enjoy your well earned beer that you made with all your hard work, effort and time. Take note that you just made an all natural beer and that it has no preservatives in it like many store bought shelf beers. Most home brewed beers have a shelf life of around 30 – 90 days after carbonation. They can last longer if kept dark and cool.
Please, drink responsibly and remember… stay thirsty my friends.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I’ll send them Travis’ way. This is the last chapter in his area of expertise and I think he did fantastic – he’s pretty wordy! ;) He might have a knack for this blog thing, if only he had the time. How did he do ladies? Are your men ready to brew?