Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Save 4 steps in bottling your beer

Bottling can often be a dreaded component to brewing.  A lot of people will switch away from bottling to kegs and never look back.  Yet even with kegs, there are times when bottling may be necessary, be it for a competition, aging the beer, or even to free up kegs for future batches.

Here is a way to ease some of the bottling pain.  But first, lets look at the steps to bottling... let's examine the pain.

Steps involved with bottling the traditional method.
  1. Clean and sanitize all the bottles and caps.  I usually put in the dishwasher without soap on the sanitize setting.
  2. Mix the priming sugar and boil the solution for 10 min.  Cool it to the temp of the beer.
  3. Get out the bottling bucket from the top of the closet and sanitize it.
  4. Sanitize the racking cane, hoses, and bottling stick.
  5. Add the priming sugar to the bucket.
  6. Rack the beer into the bottling bucket.
  7. Clean the carboy, racking cane and hose.
  8. Attach the bottling stick to the faucet on the bucket, open the faucet and begin filling
  9. Cap bottles after filled, label and put away.
  10. Clean the bottling bucket.
  11. Clean the carboy, canes and hoses.
There is an alternate way through utilizing the kegging system.  It will save time, hassle and up to 4 steps in the process.

In preparation, first rack the beer from primary fermentation directly to a keg for secondary, and purge remaining oxygen.  During secondary, pull the air release pin once a day to relieve any large/moderate build up of pressure.  A little pressure is fine.  Since active fermentation will be mostly complete, there won't be too much pressure if managed well.

And here are the steps in this alternate method.
  1. Clean and sanitize all the bottles and caps.  I usually put in the dishwasher without soap on the sanitize setting.
  2. Mix the priming sugar and boil the solution for 10 min.  Cool it to the temp of the beer.
  3. Get the keg and CO2 tank, put 2-3lbs pressure on the keg, and drain off the settled layer of yeast from the bottom through your picnic tap.
  4. Open the keg and add priming sugar to it.  Close, pressurize 2-3lbs and purge any oxygen that may have crept in.  Swirl and lightly shake the mix in the sugar solution..
  5. Attach the bottling stick to the picnic tap and fill bottles
  6. Cap bottles after filled, label and put away.
  7. Clean the keg, cane and picnic tap
You can also carbonate the beer in the keg and then lower the pressure to fill bottles with carbonated beer. Pay attention to temperatures and CO2 volumes with this method.  It is advised to make the bottles the same temp as the carbonated beer to avoid a lot of foaming (thanks Bionic Brewing).  I've found it is easier to bottle flat beer than carbonated beer.  Plus I think there is nice aspect to naturally carbonating the beer.

Bottling only for competition or to give a few away to friends?  The method above will work great too.  Stop after you fill the desired number of bottles and keep the remaining beer in the keg.  You will have priming sugar in the keg, so let it naturally carbonate, keeping an eye on the pressure and adjust later as needed.

Happy bottling!