Is bottling beer really so bad?
In the world of home brewing, it seems that bottling beer has a place of honor as the least favourite part of the process – it is tedious, very labour intensive, extremely uncreative and is so easy to get wrong and ruin a few beers. So to make it simple and avoid the inevitable ruined bottles, I thought I’d explain, in full (with lots of pictures!), my beer bottling process.
I’ll take you through the steps and expand a little if I think it is unclear. So, to bottling beer:
2. Get the bottles out – I always get a few extra, just in case.
3. Get all the tools out:
- 1 litre measuring jug
- Big plastic sieve
- “Clean” container (a fermentation bucket that isn’t in use)
- Bottle brush
- Sterilizing powder (I use VWP)
- Hydrometer + measuring tube
- Wooden spoon
- Small funnel
- Digital scale
4. Make 2 litres of sterilizing solution (1 tea spoon of VWP per litre)
5. Put the sterilizing solution and all the tools in the bucket
6. Sterilize thoroughly and rinse all the tools (keep the solution in the bucket!)
7. Organize all the bottles in the sink
8. Use the jug and funnel to pour a small amount (about 50ml) of solution into each bottle
9. Stir the solution in each bottle, run the bottle brush through, pour out and rinse the bottle – repeat for all
10. Pour the settled beer (don’t stir it!) into the clean bucket via the sieve
11. Give the hops a good squeeze to get all the beer out (if you dry hopped)
12. Measure your FG (Final Gravity) using the hydrometer and check the temperature, adjust gravity to temperature
13. Calculate ABV (OG-FG/7.46); it will go up a little more in the bottle
14. Add dextrose to the final beer. A note: This part is called priming and it what creates the carbonation in the beer. This part should be carefully calculated – not enough and the beer will be flat, too much and the bottle can explode. Use this great calculator to decide how much dextrose (or other sugars) to add
15. Stir the beer with the dextrose very well
16. Using the jug and funnel fill up the bottles
17. wipe the top of each bottle with a damp kitchen towel – this makes sure you get a good seal on the cap
18. Rinse the bottles on the outside and let air dry
19. Start cleaning all the tools so you won’t be shouted at for making a mess in the kitchen
20. Label your beers – I write what style I think it is, date of make, special identifiers (if any) and ABV
21. Store the bottles in a dark place at room temperature for two weeks
22. Put everything away
That is all, not a single step missed. In the beginning bottling beer takes a lot of time, but you get a system over time, and by now it takes me about 45 minutes to bottle 8-9 litres (from the first tool out to a clean kitchen again).
I know this method is not the most efficient (in time and beer loss), but it keeps everything on the kitchen top and away from my 1 year old daughter, to that is what I stick with. Do you have a better method I can use?