7 tips for the perfect bottle conditioned beer
Conditioning is the term used to refer to the process by which the yeast cleans up any by-products created during the fermentation process. Bottle conditioning simply means that this process is carried out inside a bottle.
Many professional breweries filter or centrifuge the yeast out of their beers and force carbonate, which is a cost prohibitive method of producing carbonated beer for the majority of homebrewers. Therefore we believe bottle conditioning is a fantastic option for carbonating your home brewed beers.
Bottle conditioning has its own unique effect on your beer, when you syphon the beer into your bottles and add your priming sugar you are reintroducing fermentables and essentially kicking off the fermentation again. This means the yeast goes through the same process of consuming sugar and producing alcohol and CO2 (bottle conditioning can actually increase the ABV of your beer by around 0.2%!).
This means that the yeast also produces by-products that it has to clean up again and it is this process that can introduce new flavours that would not be present if you were to cask or keg your beer.
Bottle conditioning is great for beers that require higher carbonation levels and has also been proven to be foam positive (meaning bottle conditioned beers often produce a better head than non-bottle conditioned beers). Another benefit to bottle conditioning is that it makes it easy to play around with secondary effects such as adding Brettanomyces.
Despite these positives many home brewers find that results can be inconsistent, here are some tips we’ve picked up over the years of bottle conditioning to help you produce the perfect bottle conditioned beer, consistently.
1. Use at least 1 PET Bottle – this allows the ‘squeeze test’ to give you a quick gauge on the pressure inside the bottle, when it’s feeling pretty solid you know the batch is carbonated and ready for drinking
2. Use the correct qty of sugar – . Use our calculator to work out the correct pitching weight here. This will also be effected by temperature and the type of sugar that you use.
3. Ensure 100% that your primary fermentation has finished – As well as overdosing priming sugar, this is the second most common cause of over carbonation and even worse bottle bombs. Before transferring to bottle, ensure that you’ve hit your expected F.G and have a consisted hydrometer reading for two consecutive days – if in doubt leave it a further 48hrs and test again.
4. Condition warm – As important as temperature control is for primary fermentation, it’s just the same for the secondary fermentation that’s happening inside the bottle. I recommend at the very least you should be conditioning at the same temp as your primary, if you go warmer this will encourage ester production (great for styles like Hefeweizen and Belgians). Remember to keep out of direct sunlight though and ideally somewhere with a constant temperature.
5. Chill for at least 48hrs before serve – transferring your bottles into a fridge or cold space for 48 hours once they’re carbonated is a good way to help drop out any remaining yeast that’s in suspension and slows down any yeast activity so you’re more likely to get a smooth and controlled pour and carbonation.
6. Pour slowly and in one go – into the appropriate glassware, without glugging, to ensuring that the yeast sediment layer at the bottom of the bottle stays in the bottle and as little as possible transfers into your glass.
7. Set some aside and keep tasting notes – It’s great to taste your beer intermittently throughout this process, even before it’s ready right through to several months afterward. This will allow you to see first hand how the beers flavours and carbonation profile changes over the weeks and months after brew day.
If you have any other tips to share from your experiences of making bottle conditioned beers, please add them in the comments below.