Friday, June 18, 2010

First Time Home Brewing - Bottling (Part 2 of 4)

Firkin Around...The Kitchen.

Beer in the raw
Bottling day has come.  Is it beer yet?  No not yet, but it is getting there.  Before you get down to bottling, tap off a few ounces of the beer and taste it.  Go on, don't be afraid...try some.  If you are lucky, it will taste like flat beer.  That's a good sign.  If it is a bit sweet and sugary, it will need to ferment for a few days longer.  The sweetness means that the yeast hasn't eaten up all of the sugars form the HME.  Mine was fine.  It was not carbonated, murky in color and not sweet.  All these will be corrected during the bottle conditioning phase.

Okay, it's time to get the beer into the bottles.  Two days ago, I moved the keg from its slumber in the closet back into the kitchen.  I kept a towel wrapped around the keg to keep it in darkness.  The reason I moved it two days ahead of bottling, was to let any suspended particles settle down to the bottom of the keg.  As I walked it down the hallway, it sloshed a bit in the keg.  So move it ahead of time. A good practice if you want the clearest beer possible.

Sanitizing the bottles
Next  thing was to get the other half of the sanitizer remaining from brew day and mix a batch to pour into each bottle.   The same preparation goes into the sterilization process; anything coming into contact with the beer must be thoroughly sanitized.  So caps and measuring spoons go into the sterilizer.  I also purchased a short length of clear aquarium tubing to extend to the end of the keg tap.  This will allow the beer to fill from the bottom of the bottle without splashing and introducing oxygen.  Oxygenation is the enemy of your beer at this point, so handle it carefully.  Be sure to sanitize the tubing with the other components.  Shake the bottles vigorously and let them stand for ten minutes.  Pour out the sanitizer; skip the rinsing.

Bottle conditioning is the key.

Adding priming sugar
Follow the instruction pamphlet's recommended amounts for sugar, used to prime each bottle.  There are different ratios for each bottle's ounce size.  A small sanitized funnel is handy for this purpose to help get the sugar into each bottle.  You can choose corn sugar (preferred) or plain white table sugar.  It will be the food for the yeast to consume as it bottle conditions for the next two weeks.  The CO2 dispelled will naturally carbonate your brew.  Okay, priming is done, so now it's time to fill the bottles.

Filler' up!
Connect the tube to the end of the tap spout and insert into the bottle.  Pull down on the tap handle and fill the bottle just up to the crown of the bottle neck.  You should leave about 2.5 inches of space in the neck to allow a space for the CO2 to build up as it conditions.  Cap the bottle tightly and rock the bottle back and forth to incorporate the priming sugar into the beer.  Repeat until all eight bottles are filled and capped.  You will notice if using the PET plastic bottles, they will get hard at this point as the magic begins to happen. You can now open the top of the keg and see how much beer is left over.  I had a little extra left over and was lucky enough to have a ceramic bail-top  12 ounce beer bottle with a rubber gasket handy.  I sanitized the bottle and its components, primed with the correct amount of sugar for the smaller bottle size and filled with the remaining beer.  Waste not, want not!  It will become my 'tester' bottle for two weeks from now, allowing me to sample a bit early.

Back into a cool and dark environment for another two weeks.  Again, sit back and be patient.  Ideally, let them bottle condition for two more weeks.

Firkin Making The Beer!

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