So your beer is ready, and it’s time to package up the goodness! Lesson 103 is designed to help you bottle and/or keg your beer. If you’re just tuning in, I recommend that you go back and read the previous posts about the equipment needed and the brewing process.
The above video shows “racking” your beer, simply transferring it from one container to another.
This process is much easier with a second set of hands, so grab a beer-loving friend and impart them with some homebrewing knowledge along the way!
- Clean and sanitize all the equipment you’ll be using, including bottles and crown caps. Remember that anything which comes into contact with the beer at this stage can cause contamination if not properly sanitized.
Tip: Place the bottle caps in a bowl of water-sanitizer solution until you’re ready to seal your bottles.
- Prepare the priming sugar by dissolving it in 2 cups of boiling water (takes about 5 minutes). Pour the mixture into a clean and sanitized bottling bucket.
- Place your fermenter on a countertop or other stable, waist-height surface and place the bottling bucket from step 2 on the floor directly under the fermenter.
- Using a racking cane and siphon, carefully transfer the beer into the bottling bucket. Avoid siphoning the sediment (dead yeast and other particulate) from the bottom of the fermenter. Gently stir the mixture for about a minute and do your best not to agitate it (keep air bubbles to a minimum).
- Set the nearly-empty fermenter aside to be cleaned. Lift the bottling bucket with the beer onto the counter. Attach the bottle filling wand to the tubing.
- Touch the wand to the bottom of a bottle to start the flow. Once the beer reaches about half an inch from the top, release the pressure and the flow will stop. Continue until all bottles are filled.
Tip: Offer to buy that friend a beer (or donate some homebrew), as the bottling and capping can take a while!
- While one person is bottling, another can be capping. Simply crimp down the caps with the hand capper. Continue until all bottles are capped.
- Clean your equipment thoroughly, let air dry, then store for next time.
Tip: Wash bottles as you drink them and store with your equipment to reuse next time!
- Put your bottles in a dark, room temperature place for about 2 weeks. The remaining yeast in the bottle will “wake up” to eat up the priming sugar you added, creating CO2 in the process, which is what carbonates your beer!
- After the 2 weeks is up, place the bottles in the fridge for a couple hours. Finally…
- Clean and sanitize all the equipment you’ll be using, including your keg and beer lines. Remember that anything that comes into contact with the beer at this stage can cause contamination if not properly sanitized.
- Using your siphon and racking cane, transfer your fermented beer into the keg. Try to minimize aerating your beer in any way at this stage. You don’t need to add any priming sugar because your beer will be “force carbonated” via CO2.
- Turn the regulator on your CO2 tank up to 10-12 PSI for 20 seconds or so, then pull the release valve to release the residual oxygen in the keg. Repeat this process a few times.
- Turn the regulator up to 15-18 PSI, then place the keg in the fridge overnight (temperature should be around 40°F). Be sure to turn down the pressure the next morning and keep it steady at about 12 PSI. You may have to adjust the pressure upon serving, but your beer should be fully carbonated in just a few short days!
One last note to consider… People often ask how long a beer can be stored for. It’s really dependent on the style of beer. Low ABV beers (like lagers or “sessionable” ales) and hoppy beers (like pales ales and IPAs) are best drank fresh, usually within 90 days of bottling/kegging. Stronger or very dark beers can continue to improve with age and are sometimes at their best after 6 months or longer.
I’ll do a separate post about cleaning and sanitizing and its importance later, but this should give you a basic starting point for now!
Homebrewers: I want to hear from you! In your experience, have you found any improvements to the process? What has made your life easier on bottling day? Do you prefer to keg your beer?
Want to know more? The final post in this series will cover common homebrew problems and solutions, helpful for even the most experienced homebrewer!