Barrel or Bottle?

Bookmark and Share


Bottling takes longer and is a bit more effort than using a barrel, but in our opinion is better for lagers and it makes storing some in the fridge a lot easier – unless your lucky enough to have a huge dedicated beer fridge.  It is more convenient to grab one from the kitchen fridge than to head out to the garage – which is where we store our barrels of brew.  Bottles do not let any CO2 escape and therefore the brew will be fizzier - ideal for lagers and cider.

Bottles can be reused and we use the different coloured caps for different brews, but you could also label the bottles if you have several brews. 

You can buy glass or plastic PET bottles.  Plastic are cheaper than glass ones and they use screw tops which are reusable and can be resealed.  They hold twice the capacity of a glass bottle.  The bottom of the plastic bottles has a dip, like a coke bottle which catches the sediment nicely.  You can recycle any plastic bottles that have a screw top and use these so long as they are suitable for handling pressure. If they have had a fizzy drink in them previously then they will be fine. It’s a personal choice.  We prefer glass and always use these. Glass are better for long term storage.

Compared to using a barrel, sterlising and rinsing the bottles takes a lot longer. Filling them can also be quite a long and messy process, especially on your first time!  We recommend a little bottler as this will makes things a lot easier!


Boil 80g of sugar in 1 pint of water.  This is your priming solution. If you prefer your beer more fizzy then add more priming sugar (up to 120g)

Sterilise and rinse a suitable container (ideally another fermenting bin) and add the boiled sugar priming solution.

Place you beer on a table or kitchen work surface and the clean fermenting bin on the floor.

Fill a plastic syphon tube completely with water (no bubbles) and cover both end with your thumbs. (Wash your hands prior to this to ensure good hygiene).

Quickly place one end of the syphon tube into the beer and then slowly lower the other end into the bottom of clean fermenting bin. Remove your thumb and let the liquid transfer. Ensure that the ends of the syphon remain under the surface of the liquid at all times but be careful not to disturb the yeast sediment when you get near the bottom. If you carefully tip the beer at the end it enables you to get more of the liquid out without transferring the sediment. Don't worry if a bit goes in, your beer will be fine. Take a final hydrometer reading.

Place your beer on a high surface and syphon (without splashing) into your clean, sterilised bottles or use a fermenter + tap and little bottler. Leave about 2.5cm of air space at the top to allow enough C02 to form.

If you using glass bottles and crown caps, Boil your lids for 5 minutes to sterilise, allow to cool and then use a capper to seal your bottles.

Keep the beer somewhere warm for a week to allow the priming sugar to ferment then store for another week or so to allow to clear. Chill as required before serving. There will be a small amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle so be careful when pouring and leave the last bit in the bottle so you do not disturb the sediment resulting in cloudy beer. Don't worry of you do though, it will taste fine and will do you no harm!

You'll be impressed with the results!


Barrels are good for ale as you don’t want ale too fizzy.  They are easy to clean and sterilise and the beer can be syphoned straight from the fermenter into the barrel. You may require additional C02 to be added to the barrel to replace the beer, as you drink it otherwise you can create a vacuum which may mean that you cannot extract the beer from the barrel. If you drink the beer slowly then it will produce CO2 which should reduce the need for additional C02 to be added. If barrels are moved then you will need to allow them to settle again for a couple fo days otherwise you will get cloudy beer.

Beer will keep in the barrel for up to a year but ensure that the barrel is kept away from direct sunlight.


Clean and strelilise your barrel. Dissolve 80g of sugar in some boiling water and allow to cool. Add this to the barrel.

Syphon the beer from the fermenter into the barrel, do this as gently as possible to avoid additional air getting into the beer. Rub some vaseline around the seal on the inside of the lid of the barrel and screw tight. If you are using a barrel with a CO2 dispenser valve, ensure the valve is tightly screwed in to avoid pressure escaping.

Leave the barrel at room temperture for a week to allow the priming sugar to ferment, then move to somewhere dark and cool for storage, a garage or cellar is ideal.

Cornelius Keg

The Cornelius draft system is a stainless steel canister which was created for dispensing fizzy drinks in pubs. They hold 19 litres of beer (so not quite the 23 litres in a usual brew) but you can bottle the bit left over. They are small enough to fit in a fridge. They do not require priming sugar as CO2 is used to dispense the beer therefore they are portable as there is not yeast sediment at the bottom. They need a small amount of CO2 to be added immediately after the beer is added to ensure that a good seal is obtained.

The Cornelius system is expensive but is easy to use and great with lagers. Beer is added in much the same method as the standard barrel.

They are only available reconditioned.

Check out our great brewing forum for tips, advice and brewing banter.