How to easily bottle home brew beer (and condition it)

how to condition beer bottles

How to bottle and condition your home brew beer 

So once you are sure that fermentation is complete and you've let your beer sit for at least a week after the bubbles have stopped coming through the airlock  (or more properly, taken a gravity reading), then you're ready to bottle your homebrew.

Welcome to the big league boys, you're about to bottle beer!

What you need to bottle your beer
  • Enough bottles. If you have done 23 litres of beer then you would need 30 x 750 ml bottles. 
  • Bottle caps
  • A bottle capper
  • sanitizing agent
  • A big bucket receptacle for soaking bottles in
  • Ordinary sugar
  • Strong hands
What kind of bottles should I use for bottling?

You can use plastic or glass.

I use glass so I can recycle and feel good about saving the planet.

If you hate the planet you can use plastic.

The beauty of using plastic bottles is that if they over carbonate due to non complete fermentation or excessive priming sugar they will only split and not explode.

If you've ever seen a beer bottle explode spontaneously, you'll know what a damn mess it makes with glass everywhere!

You should also bear in mind that not all glass bottles are intended to be used for home brewing so may not be strong enough for both the fermentation process and the capping process so choose wisely - maybe even practice on the odd bottle to make sure it won't crack when you do the capping.

It's time to sterilise again

Just like you did when you prepared the beer batch, you are going to need to sterilize the beer bottles.

This is because the second round of fermentation is going to occur and again the yeast needs an opportunity do to its fermentation thing, free of microbes.

It's this secondary fermentation that puts the CO2 in your beer.

So get all your bottles in the receptacle that you are going to soak them in. I use a plastic washing basket that's big enough to hold all the bottles I need.

I then get some sodium percarbonate and add it to a cup of boiling water so it dissolves quickly.

I then add it to the basket and then get the garden hose and fill it up to the brim.

You will need to wrangle your bottles as they will try and float. Push them down with your hands and make sure they are all submerged to they all get the sanitizer in them.

They say you only need a minimum of 10 minutes to let them soak but having been burned before with a contaminate getting into my beer, I make sure there's little chance at the bottling stage. I leave them in to soak for a few hours and in direct sunlight if bottle.

As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

That or run them through the dishwasher on a hot setting. That's what I do a lot of these days.

If all that seems just too difficult, you just get a bucket and fill it with your sterilizing powder.

You can then just dunk the bottles in, give them a quick swirl, drain the water back into the bucket. You can get the water out of the bottle quickly by giving it a couple of flicks of the wrist in a circular motion - the water will swirl out rather than 'bubbling out.

Whatever you do, when you're happy, drain your bottles and place them where you wish to do the bottling.

Filling the beer bottles

There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by siphoning your beer into a second container and add your liquid sugar as you do so or you can add sugar to each bottle individually.

This is our preferred method as in our experience, it's less mucking around, which seems counter-intuitive but there you go.

A benefit of siphoning and then priming the batch is that there will be less sediment in your beer.

No one likes a beer gusher, so that's why I prefer batch priming as there is less chance of me screwing up.

While many beer brewers will suggest that you use a slightly heaped teaspoon of sugar for each bottle. I personally try and do a little less as some of my beers in the past have been over carbonated, due I think to too much sugar.

I like to use a small funnel to add the sugar in - it's quicker and less messy than trying to get the sugar in using just a spoon!

You are then ready to add the beer.

Simply place the bottle under the tap of your drum and you are good to go. Be wary of fast flowing beer.

Fill the bottles at a level that you would normally expect to see for commercial beer. That's about 40 mm from the top. As I understand it, that will assist with optimum secondary fermentation.

If you have a bottling wand, feel free to use it! Place it inside the tap. You'll need to be firm with it and also be aware that they can suddenly fly out with an open tap - meaning you'll lose beer.

So for that reason, I'd never wander away from the drum when there's a bottling valve in play.

It's also capping day!

When you've filled all your bottles it's now time to cap the bottles.

That process should be self-explanatory and relative to the kind of capper you have. The key thing to remember is to check that each cap has made a satisfactory seal.

If you can hear hissing from a bottle, the seal was not done correctly. Remove the cap and try again with a new cap.

I also mark all the seals with a Vivid or Sharpie so that I know what the particular batch is. This is pretty important when you have different batches and different kinds of beers on the go!

You may wish to give the successfully bottles a gentle tip or two to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid (not stuck on the inside of the beer neck) and has a chance to dissolve.

Bottling beer can be a time consuming exercise so either make sure you can be free from interruptions or you can choose to bottle in small groups e.g. 5- 10 bottles at a time when you have a spare moment. This won't cause any problems.

The best way to store and condition bottled beer

Temperature has a massive effect on beer both in terms of the brewing and condition.

In terms of bottle conditioning, it's best initially to store your beer in a warm place. This will encourage secondary fermentation (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning).

The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days.

HOWEVER, after that period, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C.

You should then leave the beer for a total minimum of three weeks since bottling date before some well-deserved consumption.

You should not easily dismiss this advice about correct temperature storage of your beer. I had an experience last year when in the middle of winter I just bottled the beer and left it in the shed for about a month.

When I when to crack open the first beer, there was no fizz, just cold flat beer.

No fizz on the second or third either.

I thought I had ruined my beer somehow. 'Had fermentation actually occurred'? I wondered. Of course it had. The problem was the cold. I brought the beers inside and left them in the living room. I waited a week for the yeast to warm up and do its secondary fermentation thing, and boom I had fizzy beer!

Winning.

The longer you wait, the better your beer will be.

Direct sunlight exposure can ruin homebrew


Never store your beer in direct sunlight.

The UV radiation can cause a chemical reaction to occur, making your beer taste awful or be 'skunked'. This particularly occurs for green bottled beer. Brown bottles not so much. Either way, you still need to keep your beers at the correct temperature and leaving them in direct sunlight will screw that up. 

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