Homebrewing: Bottling Your Beer

When you’re certain that the homebrewed beer you’ve lovingly crafted is fully fermented, retrieve the bottling equipment and get ready to start the bottling procedures.

Setup starts with sanitizing all the necessary bottling equipment, which includes bottles, a bottling bucket, a bottling tube, and a plastic hose. In addition to the items to be sanitized and a sanitizing agent, you need a bottle brush, a bottle capper, bottle caps, a bottle washer, 3/4 cup dextrose, and two small saucepans.

You’ll also need your hydrometer and cylinder to measure your beer’s gravity, but those items don’t need to be sanitized.

Follow these steps to bottle your beer:

  1. Fill your utility tub or other designated sanitizing basin about three-quarters full of cold water. Add bleach or another sanitizing agent, as directed on the package, and submerge all the bottles needed to contain the full 5-gallon batch of beer.

  2. While the bottles are soaking, put 3/4 cup dextrose into one of the saucepans, dissolve the dextrose in a pint or so of water, cover, and place the pan on the stove over low heat.

  3. Into the other saucepan, put enough bottle caps for the number of bottles you have soaking plus a few extra. Fill the pan with enough water to cover all the caps, and place the pan on the stove over low heat.

  4. Allow the contents of both saucepans to come to a boil. Then turn off the heat and allow both to cool.

  5. When half an hour has passed, clean the bottles.

  6. Drain the bottle-cleaning water out of the utility tub and place the bottling bucket in the tub. Fill the bucket with water and the sanitizing agent of your choice. Then place the bottling hose and bottling tube in the bottling bucket and allow them to soak.

  7. While the bottling equipment is soaking, retrieve the still-covered fermenter from its resting place and put it on a sturdy table, countertop, or work surface about 3 or 4 feet off the ground.

  8. Set up your bottling station, making sure you have the priming sugar (dextrose) and bottle caps — still in their respective saucepans — as well as the bottle capper and bottles.

    If you’re taking gravity readings, have your hydrometer and cylinder ready to use, too.

  9. After half an hour, drain the sanitizing solution from the bottling bucket through the spigot on the bottom. Then thoroughly rinse the remaining pieces of equipment, along with the bottles, and bring them to your bottling station.

  10. Place the bottling bucket on the floor directly below the fermenter and connect the plastic hose to the spigot on the fermenter, allowing the other end of the hose to hang inside the bottling bucket. Pour the dextrose-and-water mixture from one saucepan into the bottling bucket.

  11. Open the spigot on the fermenter and allow all the beer to run into the bottling bucket.

  12. Prepare to take a gravity reading.

  13. After the last of the beer is drained, close the spigot, remove the hose, and put all the equipment aside to be cleaned after you’re done bottling.

  14. Carefully place the bottling bucket up where the fermenter was. Connect the rinsed hose to the spigot on the bottling bucket and attach the bottling tube to the other end. Arrange all your bottles on the floor directly below the bottling bucket.

  15. Open the spigot on the bottling bucket and fill the bottles.

  16. After draining the bottling bucket, close the spigot, remove the hose, toss the hose inside the bottling bucket, and set everything aside to be cleaned later.

  17. Place all the bottles on your table top or work surface, place a cap on each bottle (as insurance against everything that can go wrong), and cap one bottle at a time. Pull down on the capper lever slowly and evenly.

  18. Store your liquid lucre in a cool, dark location (such as the place where you kept the fermenter) for two weeks.

    Your homebrew needs to undergo a two-week conditioning phase, during which the remaining yeast cells chow down on the dextrose and carbonate your beer.

    Putting your brew in the fridge isn’t a good idea (at least for the first two weeks) because overly cold temperatures stunt the yeast’s activity.

  19. Thoroughly rinse your brewing equipment in hot water and store it in a place that’s relatively free of dust and mildew.

After two weeks have passed, check to see whether the bottles have clarified; the yeasty cloudiness should have settled out. Chill a bottle or two for taste-testing.

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