Planet Beer

This is a blog about making beer, primarily ME making beer. However, it will also teach you how to homebrew---either all grain or with little cans of goo. Enjoy!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bottling and Carbonation

Once you've got a batch of brew in the carboy, you'll notice that the airlock happily bubbles away for a couple of days. Then, the bubbling slows. There are two ways to determine if your beer is done. The first is to take measurements with a hydrometer. If the specific gravity is the same for three days in a row, you can be pretty sure it's finished. If you don't have a hydrometer, no worries. Once the rate of bubbling has slowed to one every 90 seconds, you can feel confident that bottling time is nigh. If for any reason it isn't convenient to bottle that day, no problem. The beer can sit for a month in the carboy if necessary---though it would be best to bottle sooner. One other comment I think I missed---try to keep the temperature of your fermenting brew under 74 degrees F. Strange tastes can develop if the brew gets too warm! You'll need the following supplies to bottle five gallons of beer:

1. 60 twelve ounce bottles or equivalent in big bottles
2. 3/4 cup of corn sugar or 1.25 cups dry malt extract or 60 Cooper's carbonation drops. (you can use other things, but don't!) I've found that corn sugar is the best.
3. More than 60 caps. Buy a whole sack.
4. A capper, any design
5. A five gallon racking bucket, with a nozzle preferably.
6. Some hose to go on the nozzle
7. An autosiphon or hose for siphoning.
(Incidentally, I'll be posting photos of all this gear later in the blog.)

Hopefully, you have already secured some beer bottles, preferably the dark brown glass. You can use whatever size you like, of course---but when you've bottled as much as I have, you're going to like the large bottles better. (In fact, I've gotten down to ONE big bottle, but that's another story.) You need to make sure the bottles are thoroughly sanitized, and the labels removed. Bass Ale bottles are my favorite, the labels come right off. Eventually, you'll learn to rinse bottles after you're done drinking the beer three times. This will keep mold away so that cleaning becomes easier when it's time to bottle.

The way I do the cleaning is to fill a large wash tub with hot water, and add two ounces of bleach. Then submerge the bottles. Let them soak until the labels come off easily. You will need to rinse the bottles in hot tap water to get any nasty goop out, and also to eliminate any chlorine that may remain inside. Do that before filling the bottles.

There are a couple of different bottle rinsing devices on the market, one is a small brass piece that screws on the faucet, the other is a connector with a hose and long plastic wand. I use the latter because you can also clean the carboy with it.

The yeast will have dropped to the bottom of your carboy in large part, but some still remains suspended in the beer. You'll need to give it something else to eat, which we call priming, so that you'll get the beer properly carbonated. That's where the corn sugar comes in. First, sanitize the bucket with a chlorine mix and rinse with hot tap water. Make sure you work the valve when draining both, so that the valve is sanitized as well.

Take a small saucepan and bring to a boil one pint of water mixed with the corn sugar or dry malt extract, if you are not using carbonation drops. Let the mix boil for a couple of minutes and remove from heat.

Pour this mix into the bottom of the bucket. Place the carboy with the beer in it on the counter above the bucket. Place the siphon into the carboy and the tube end into the bucket and begin transferring the beer into the bucket, on top of the primer mix. Sanitize your plastic spoon and have it available. When the beer is finished transferring (now and forever after called "racking"!) place the carboy somewhere else, and put the bucket on the counter.

Now you're ready to bottle. You can either attach the hose to the bucket nozzle, or just use the same siphon as you used to rack the beer to the bucket. The nozzle/valve method is a bit easier at first, but after you get the hang of cutting off the flow of beer by bending the hose, that's easy too.

Stir the mix in the bucket with your sanitized plastic spoon, then put beer into bottles. Cap them. In 7 days, your beer should be ready for drinking. Easy, right?

If you want, you can sanitize a mason jar and pour the yeast at the bottom of your carboy into it. Don't screw the jar top on tightly, leave it loose. Put the jar in the refrigerator for your next batch of beer. It will stay good for about a week.


At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Jeff Cicotte said...

That seems like a lot of work. Can't you just go and buy some beer? Or better yet, go over to a friend who makes his own and drink his.

At 2:15 AM, Blogger jrwalt said...

Kevin, The Ball jar is a nice tactic, but I think I have one better for you. I use a Ziploc brand freezer baggie for yeast collection. It is sanitary inside, and as long as you don't touch the inside, it will safely hold your yeast for a couple of wweks until it is called into action again.

At 6:25 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

I know some folks like the plastic bag thing, but...How do YOU know it's sanitary? Also, when I'm ready to harvest yeast, I pour it out of the carboy. It sure would be a neat trick to try and hit a baggie with a 5 gallon jug! For other people, that is.


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