Monday, 12 May 2014

Crash Intro Homebrew Ale - How To - 101 - Part 3 of X

Bottling.

This isn't a masterclass of style - just a crash intro to get your first 40 pints down the necks of you and your mates!

Is your brew ready to be bottled?

Make sure your beer has finished brewing (about a week but maybe two if your kitchen is a bit cold!) - if you bottle beer that is still brewing, the bottles may explode, the beer will be way too fizzy and sediment will be stirred up as soon as you take off the lid.

To make sure mine is done, I push down the middle of the bucket lid and seal the lid. I'll check every half hour or so for the next few hours and see if it has puffed up - if not, its done.

You can check with a hydrometer, but if you stirred it right at the start, and it went a bit wild on the first day and is now flat then you can be pretty confident its ready to bottle.

Even when ready, it will be fine in the bucket for a while - so you can wait till the next week end if needed.

Kit

I brew in a bucket with a tap near the bottom - it twists out the way to stand on the floor - but don't accidentally undo the thread(!) - while brewing I put a plastic bag over the tap with an elastic band so it stays pretty clean.

In addition you'll need a bottling wand (a long stiff plastic tube with a gravity close/push to open valve on the end).

Bottles enough for your whole brew - I use brown plastic PET bottles - brewing bottles are special as they are laminated with a oxygen barrier membrane to stop oxygen getting through the plastic and your beer going off, and the brown keeps the UV out - remember lids!. I reuse bottles and lids - a rinse/wash as soon as the beer is poured out to drink and packed away (upside down in the original box) clean for next time.

Sterilizing Solution.

Sugar (preferably bewers sugar) say 100g for 40 pints.

Stirring Paddle.

Tea Towels.

Botting - Prep

First wash your hands and sterilize your kit. (not the bottles yet).

Carefully put your bucket on a table with the tap over the edge where you will sit to bottle - no shocks and don't stir it up.

Put the sugar in a pan with boiling water (enough for it to fully dissolve.. probably bit less than a pint).

Gently pour the sugary water into your brew, stirring to mix - but try not to get air in, and try not to stir up the sediment. This sugar 'primes' the brew - it will wake the yeast up enough to give your beer a bit of fizz after about about a week in the bottle - needs to be reasonably evenly stirred in, but no need to go mad!

While your primed brew settles (any sediment that got stirred up) sterilize your bottles.

I put the caps in a jug of sterilizing solution

For the actual bottles I quarter fill one with sterilizing solution give it a good shake around pour the solution into the next and put it upside down to drain, back in the box (with a tea towel in the bottom - so cardboard doesn't get wet!). Soon get through them all.

Make sure the bucket tap is clean, fit the sterilized bottling wand.

Put the caps on a tea towel to drain.

Bottling

Turn on the tap (the wand valve should ensure it doesn't pour yet) - make sure the bucket lid is unsealed. Have a box of bottles to hand, then one by one, push them on the want 'till the brew is at the top, and take the bottle off. Moving the bottle off the wand will stop the flow, and as the wand comes up the level will fall slightly, so with a bit of practice you can go to the top without spilling, and then have a small air gap.

Pour yourself a small taster - it should taste OK - probably just a bit bland and flat.

Put a cap in the bottle (use a cloth - you can get blisters tightening 40 odd bottles!) - wipe the bottle of any spillage, put it back in the box right side up... repeat 40 times :)

To get the last few bottles out (just above the sediment), you'll need to tip the bucket and mess around trying not to stir up the sediment - improvise! Sediment isn't fatal - all bottles will have a bit anyway from the yeast that makes it fizzy.

Wash up the bucket - all that slimy sediment(!) and the crusty ring around the top from the initial brew... and all the other kit.

Wait a week - give a bottle a daily squeeze, you'll find it gets firmer as the yeast adds the fizz (and a bit more flavour) - try a bottle... another week try another bottle... once you find it OK, you (and your friends) can drink the lot - or it will keep pretty much for ever...

Pour carefully - there will be sediment - rinse the bottle as soon as its poured and it will all wash out with no fuss - when clean/dry store it upside down back in the box, ready for your next brew.

If your beer is too fizzy (overdid the priming sugar 85g won't but 100g+ might) it will fizz up and stir up the sediment... making it impossible to pour a clear glass - if this happens just go through all your bottles opening enough to hear the hiss then immediately closing... repeat this for a few days as required(!).

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