Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bottling Day - Thursday June 13

So we are finally ready to bottle! Yay! But wait, before you can start filling 50 little bottles full of all your hard labor, your going to need 50 little bottles... On average a 5 gallon batch fills about 50, 12oz bottles, or about 25, 22oz bottles (bombers).

As days neared my scheduled bottling day, I had collected only about 20, 12oz bottles. I started to get frantic and texted some friends to see if anyone had extra in their recycling bin. Luckily I scored big with my friend Brad from BeerRunners who had about a dozen, another co-worker brought in a few empties to the office, and some of my kind neighbors left bottles at my doorstep. All in all, I had about 45 collected, so that would mean I'd also need to prepare some of my growlers as back up too, luckily I had 3 of those. On average a growler holds about 5 beers, 64oz.

Of course I could have bought all clean, shinny, new bottles at BrewCamp, but where is the fun in that? No hard labor, no hours spent scrubbing and soaking bottles in water or GooGone (sold at DollarTree!). That would be just too easy. Plus I couldn't rationalize paying for empty bottles, I mean... they're empty.

A couple of days before bottling day there needs to be some prep-work and that starts with: scrubbing, cleaning, and sanitizing your bottles. There are definitely some bottles that work and some that don't, here's a list of what I've come across.

Bottles that rock for home-brew bottling:
New Glarus & Dogfish Head Their paper labels slip right off after soaking in some water and require minimal scrubbing, they also have the classic bottle shape.

Leave these bottles in the recycling bin:
ALL Twist-offs.
They don't have the secure air-locking system on the cap. Nothing is worse then scrubbing a bottle for about 20 mins and then realizing it's a twist-off... another Leignkugle sneaked it's way in!

Great Lakes, Ohio Brewing, & Thirsty Dog
The glue on the bottles is almost impossible to remove, it repels water and GooGone (see photo on left).

Anchor Steam & Pacifico
They have a different bottle shape, neck, and a shorter top near the lip. The clamping system on the capper device can't lock/secure the cap at the shorter height (see photo on left).

Two Brothers
They use water resistant sticker labels rather than good old fashioned glue and paper, which requires more work to remove. 

OK, now you have naked bottles, the labels have been removed and they've been scrubbed. Now they need to be sanitized and sterilized. Use a StarSan water solution in one of your buckets and completely submerge each bottle to sanitize. Then if you have a dishwasher you can load the washer with all the bottles and set the machine to sanitize to blast it with super hot water to kill any bacteria, this should sterilize your bottles. Do Not put any dishwasher soap into the machine. You don't want those chemicals leaving residue on your bottles and contaminating your beer. If you want to use anything you can use a tiny bit of StarSan, it goes a long way. If you don't have a dishwasher, you can let the bottles air-dry. Most home-brew shops have a bottle tree you can buy that will help let the liquid drain and speed up the drying process.

I used a dishwasher and panicked after I found out some of my bottles had condensation in them after the machine had ran through its cycle. I wasn't sure if the moisture would contaminate the beer so I tried blow-drying a few of the bottles before use. No, for real, I did this... (see photo on left). I'm sure in hindsight, this was overkill, but I was super cautious with my first batch. Moving forward I'd suggest running the dishwasher the day before so that the bottles are fully dry and room temperature. Remember yeast are very temperature sensitive, you don't want to fill hot bottles with your beer and kill the yeast.

OK, now bottles are ready, let's prepare the beer to be transferred to the bottles!

Bottling Day Steps.
Step 1: Measure and Remove.
Use your hydrometer to take the last measurement for the ABV calculation, record it and determine the alcohol content for your beer. With a sanitized utensil, remove any second fermentation additives, you may have used. 

Step 2: Rack your beer.
Move your beer, using your siphoning tool, from your fermentation bucket to a bottling bucket with spigot. Remember to leave the yeast poop in the fermentation bucket, you don't want that in your beer.

Step 3: Add priming sugar.
Boil water and the priming sugar until completely dissolved. Before adding the solution, make sure to bring the temperature back down so you don't scald the yeast.

Step 4: Prepare and transfer.
Gather all your bottles so they are ready to be filled. Attach one end of your tube to your spigot and the other end to your siphoning bottling filler. This will allow your beer to flow from the bucket into your bottle. It streams beer through the tube and only allows beer to flow out once the spring tip is compressed, at the base of your bottle. You'll want to leave 1 inch of air space at the top of the neck to allow the yeast to create some carbonation. A good measure for this is filling your beer to the capping line and then removing the bottle filler. Once the device is removed the liquid usually drops about an inch from the top.   

Step 5: Seal bottles with the bottle capper.
This might be my favorite new tool, I love capping! It's super easy to use just place an unused cap on the bottle and bring down the clamp with both of your hands... Bam! You just made a beer!

Step 6: Store in a dark place around 64-72 Fahrenheit. 

And now we wait 2 weeks for the beer to become carbonated and tasty....  

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