Friday, October 1, 2010

Bottling: like kegging... but smaller

There is a very different process when bottling than when kegging. Though different; the concept is the same, make sure everything is very clean and put it in a new container. Some brewers have a slightly different methodology of bottling beer, that being said, this is mine. I am not saying this is the only way or that there are not better ways of bottling, but this is the process I use.

Sanitization: The first thing I do is grab my trusty fermentation bucket, I don't use the sanitization bucket because the beer will be touching the vessel. Since my sanitization bucket has acquired an abundance of scratches (bacteria hide-outs) I only use it to soak equipment in. Fill with water and place 2 tablespoons/five gallons of iodophor to sanitize. Place the hydrometer in the water for sterilization and proceed to the dishwasher. Taking my bottles from their storage boxes I hold up to a bright light and visually inspect each bottle. Ensuring there is no visible trub left over from the previous bottling. If there isn't, I place it upside down in the bottom rack of the dishwasher. It is important that bottles are visibly clean or the probability of off flavors in your beer goes up to around 100%.

The settings of the dishwasher are important here. Some modern dishwashers have a "sanitize" setting and that is just what you need, to sanitize your bottles. If it doesn't, set to the highest heat setting with drying. Turn any energy star settings off this is not going to be efficient. The heat, not the water, is what does the heavy lifting on dishwasher sanitization. Do not add any cleaning solution to the dishwasher, pure water will work great as long as the heat is there. In the top rack I place my siphon, and a bottle cap filled strainer. This will sanitize all your equipment along with the bottles and be ready for you when the bottles are. I chose not to put the hydrometer in dishwasher because I don't know if it is dishwasher safe or if its going to break since it is a sealed vessel. This precision measurement isnsturments accuracy may be damaged by the intense heat. So this is sanitized in the fermentation bucket as described above.

Preparing for Bottling: Now that the dishwasher has started you've got some time to kill, the heating/drying cycle will take longer than normal. The next step after the dishwasher cycle is completed is to empty the fermentation bucket of its iodophor solution and place below the secondary fermenter. Now slowly begin the siphon of the beer into the sanitized fermenter. While transferring you should boil 1-2 cups of water and dissolve 1 cup of corn sugar into the boiling solution. The sugar will give the yeast something to produce CO2 and carbonate the beer once in sealed bottles. There will be a very small increase in alcohol but nothing to write home about. You can use more or less sugar for more or less carbonation but I have found that 1 cup is perfect. However, too much sugar can leave you with exploding bottles.
Quickly cool the sugar water and cover. Once the beer has completely transferred take a gravity reading and record. Add the cooled (~80 °F) sugar water to the beer solution making sure to minimize aeration.

Bottling: Place the now full fermenter on up high and begin transferring to bottles once you clean the siphon. This next process works best if you have a beer wench, or someone else helping you. Using the siphon and a bottle filler fill each bottle as close to the top as you can. When the bottle filler is removed it will displace just the right amount for airspace in the top of the bottle. Place sanitized caps on the top of each bottle and using a capper to seal it up.
Now the hard part wait for about a week while the beer carbonates. Below is a picture of my bottles that I had laser etched with my logo. This is pretty expensive but my friend works for a laser etching company and he and I spend several evenings etching these little guys. Totally worth the beer and pizza.

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