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Home - Brewing University - Beginners Guide
Beginner's Guide To Brewing Great Beer Bottling

Once fermetation is complete, you have beer. Flat beer. In order to carbonate it, you need to bottle it with a small dose of "priming" sugar. The best method of doing this is to add the priming sugar to the bottling bucket before you siphon the beer in from the fermentor. You will need two saucepans.

TIP - You should only use brown non-twist-off type beer bottles. The twist-off type bottles will not seal properly with the equipment you have. The brown bottles are designed to filter out the harmful UV light that will kill your yeast. You need your yeast to survive in order to properly carbonate your beer. UV light is the enemy of the homebrewer. Always store your beer in a dark place that is not exposed to vibration or wide temperature fluctuations. Your kitchen pantry or a closet is probably the ideal place. Basements and garages are not so ideal because there is no control over temperatures and your beer will not develop as well if it is too hot or too cold.

Priming Sugar: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in saucepan #1. Stir in � cup table sugar. Boil for 15 minutes then turn off the heat. After the solution has cooled to room temperature, you can go ahead and add it to the bottling bucket.

One note of caution. Do NOT, under any circumstances, add more than the recommended amount of priming sugar to your bottling process. It really does not take very much sugar to carbonate beer. In fact, if you were willing to wait long enough, you probably wouldn't have to add any at all. If you add too much suger, then you will have a real mess when the overcarbonated brew explodes the bottles.

Bottle Caps: Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil in saucepan #2. Turn off the heat and add the caps to the water. Because the water is over 200 degrees when it boils (the exact boiling point depends on your elevation and the barometric pressure at the time) it is plenty hot enough to sterilize the caps (over 160 degrees for 15 minutes). However you do not want to melt the rubber seal on the caps by keeping the burner on. Simply add the caps to the water and cover. After 15 minutes the caps will be sufficiently sterile. Drain and set aside until you are ready to cap the bottles.

Cleaning bottles is a repetitive task that could potentially become your least favorite part of the brewing process. It is the primary reason many homebrewers turn quickly to kegging. That said, if done properly, it isn't at all difficult and can be accomplished relatively quickly. By far the easiest way to clean your bottles is to simply keep them clean from the outset. Everytime you pour a beer, immediately rinse out the bottle. This will ensure that no beer dries inside and will inhibit wild yeast and mold from growing inside your bottle. You can easily make or buy a bottle drying rack to dry the bottles after you rinse them out, and keep it near your sink.

Using your bottling brush, wash each bottle with soap and water, then soak for 5 minutes in sanitizer.

Thoroughly rinse each bottle after it comes out of the sanitizing solution and set aside (unless you are using well water, in which case, you will need to make sure you drain the bottles totally, but do NOT rinse with well water). If it will be any more than just a few minutes before you are going to fill the bottles it is a good idea to cover the bottles with plastic wrap to prevent contaminates from settling in the bottles.

If you haven't poured the dissolved priming sugar into the bottling bucket yet, then do so now. You will need it in the bottling bucket before you siphon because as the beer flows into the bottling bucket it will swirl around and mix with the priming sugar.

Attach the clip to the racking cane and insert it into the primary fermentor. The small black end on the racking cane helps to keep the tip off the bottom of the fermentor and also aids in separating the trub (spent yeast, proteins, and left-over hops) from the beer.

Put the bottling bucket on the floor and the fermentor with racking cane on your kitchen counter. The difference in elevation between the floor and counter will be plenty to siphon the beer quickly from one bucket to the next.

Getting a siphon started requires creating a vacuum in the siphon tube that will draw the beer out of the fermentation bucket and into the bottling bucket. Do not use your mouth to get this process started. Your mouth isn't clean. The best way for the beginning homebrewer to do this is to carefully fill the 6' of tubing with water. Attach one end of the water-filled tube to the racking cane while holding the other end at an equal elevation. Having a friend help you at this point makes it easier, but you can do it by yourself if you have to.

Once the water-filled tube is attached securely to the racking cane, swiftly lower the other end to the bottling bucket. The slug of water will pull the beer out and start the siphon. Place the tube down in the bottom of the bottling bucket and try to prevent air from mixing with the beer. Air mixing with beer at this point is bad, that's why we're siphoning it instead of pouring it into the bottling bucket.

Now that the beer is in the bottling bucket, you are almost finished. Put the bottling bucket on the counter, and attach one end of your six feet of tubing to the bottling bucket's spigot and the other end to the bottling wand. Make sure you are comfortable and can easily reach all your bottles.

Holding each bottle well below the level of the counter, fill each bottle with beer. The bottle wand will perform this task with a minimum of waste. You will want to leave about an inch of space at the top of each bottle, which is conveniently about as much beer as the bottling wand displaces anyway.

This process will only take a few minutes. Once all the bottles are filled you are ready to cap them. Be very, very careful not to touch the inside of the cap that will be exposed to the beer. The oils from your fingers WILL (not maybe, not might) contaminate the beer in the bottle. Don't breath on your filled bottles, don't breath on your caps, keep the pets away, and no cooking while you are bottling.

Hold the caps by the edges. Place the cap in the capper and carefully place it on the bottle. Pushing straight down, clamp the cap onto the bottle. This requires twenty or so pounds of pressure on the wings of the bottle capper, so be careful. You may want to practice on a few "unfilled" bottles to make sure you understand how this works before you commit to doing it on your first batch of homebrew.

Once you've capped all your bottles, you are finished. It's a good idea to go ahead and clean up all your equipment before beer dries onto it. If you can't clean it immediately, at least put the bottling wand, bottling bucket spigot parts, and plastic tubing into a bucket of water so that beer doesn't dry inside.

It takes two to three weeks to properly bottle condition beer. It may be somewhat carbonated after a week, but you won't have the full tight-headed carbonation for at least two weeks. Given the right amount of time your homebrew will come out great. Most beginning brewers sneak and have a sample brew before they are totally carbonated. The important thing to remember is to store your bottles in a dark place at a controlled temperature between 65 and 75 degrees. UV light will destroy the yeast that are supposed to be carbonating your beer. Dark brown bottles will help to filter out the harmful light, but it's best to keep the bottles in a place that is not exposed to light. That's it, you're finished! If you need pointers on how to drink your beer, just give us a call. We'll come to your house and show you how.

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A drunken man gets on the bus late one night, staggers up the aisle, and sits next to an elderly woman.

She looks the man up and down and says, "I've got news for you. You're going straight to hell!"

The man jumps up out of his seat and shouts, "Man, I'm on the wrong bus!"
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