Bottling has a reputation for being a hassle but if you follow our simple tips the whole process can be a little less painful. It should take about 1 hr to bottle a 20 litre batch, including sterilising the bottles.
There are some major advantages of bottles. They can be refrigerated so ideal for lagers. They can hold more pressure then standard barrels making them suitable for more carbonation. They are also more portable, ideal for parties and they make a great gift.
Most bottles can be reused which can drastically cut down on recycling. Different coloured caps can be used for different beers making them easily identified. If you want to look even more professional then you can design your own labels. Just make sure you affix with a low bond glue so they are easy to remove. Another popular method is to affix with milk. This works very well and is very easy to soak off afterwards.
Bottles come in glass or plastic (PET). Plastic are cheaper and they use screw top’s making them reusable. The bottom of most plastic bottles has a dip, like a coke bottle, which catches the sediment nicely. The downside of plastic is that some of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process can leech into the liquid if stored for long periods. Plastic can also look little amateurish and cheap. Plastic will also need to be replaced after a few batches. There’s a range of plastic bottles available in 1 litre and 500ml sizes.
Glass bottles generally require a crown cap unless you purchase the ceramic swing top style. To apply the caps you will also require a capper but allows you to recycle most commercial bottles after you’ve consumed the beer! If you are planning on doing a fair amount of bottling it is definitely worth investing in a bench style capper as they are much easier to use. Glass is better for long term storage and looks more professional. With a printed label, the bottles can look just like commercially produced versions.
Whether you choose glass or plastic, make sure that they are suitable. If they have previously contained carbonated liquids then they should be okay although some breweries are now using lightweight glass to keep costs down. These are okay for carefully controlled carbonation but if you over prime them they are likely to explode. Exploding glass bottles can be very dangerous to its very important that you ensure you use the correct quantity of priming sugar and also that the beer has completely finished fermenting before you bottle.
If storing beer then it’s also best to avoid any colours except brown. This is because blue light will react with the hops in the beer and give something called light struck. This creates a skunky smell when you open the beer but is avoided by brown material. If you want to experience this buy a commercially brewed beer like Becks and leave out in the sunlight for a few hours then open.
Cleaning and filling 40 or so bottles can be a labour intensive operation but if you follow our method it will be as painless as possible. Just remember the advantages you will get once it is bottled and the money you are saving compared to purchasing 40 bottles of commercial real ale!
Clean and sterilise your bottles.
The easiest way is to use a non rinse steriliser like star san, a bottle rinser and bottle tree. Apply a quick squirt of star san into the bottle using the rinser, then leave to drain on the bottle tree before filling. If reusing bottles then rinse them out with cold water as soon as you have finished with them, this will stop the yeast sediment drying out which will be hard to remove later. If you store them upside down using something like a fast rack then this will prevent dust and inserts from going in them and also allow the to dry.
Boil the appropriate amount of sugar in a small amount of water. For most styles this will be around 3.5g/L. This is your priming solution.
Sterilise and rinse a fermenter with a little bottler fitted to it 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 use the little bottler to fill the bottles one by one. Leave about 2.5cm of air space at the top to allow enough C02 to form.
If you using glass bottles and crown caps sterilise them 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!
REMEMBER TO RINSE TO BOTTLES OUT THROUGHLY AFTER USE SO THEY DON’T NEED CLEANING NEXT TIME.