Bottling: The less glamourous side of home brewing

Read any home brewing blog and you'll see lots of posts about beer recipes, grain, hops, brewing techniques and indeed talk about tasting the beer when it's been made. What you won't see so much about is the bottling of the beer. Bottling must be the most hated task of the home brewer. Compared to the fun of planning the recipe and brewing the beer it's just tedious, it's the last finishing step that has to be gotten out of the way before you get to the good part which is drinking the beer.

It has to be done though and this week I bottled my polar beer which I brewed back in January. It's been sitting almost unnoticed in the shed getting nice and cold.

I've developed a bit of a system to deal with the pain of bottling. I put a load of bottles to be sterilized into a plastic box. The plastic box means I don't get sterilizer all over the kitchen counter as it can stain it. I then use a funnel to pour the sterilizing solution into the bottles until they are full. If I'm using swing tops I then close the bottles and leave the solution to do it's work. I then rinse them until there is no smell of sterilizer from them. I don't usually leave the bottles to dry though I suspect I should.

I boil up the recommended amount of sugar with water and let it cool. I pour it into a sterilized better bottle which acts as the bottling bucket. Using a sanitized tube I transfer the beer from the primary fermenter to the bottling bucket.

At this stage I usually need help to move the full better bottle up onto the table. I then attach a bottling wand to the tap of the better bottle. Bottling wands really help with not losing the will to live while bottling.

I get all the bottles and caps I'll need together on some newspaper and then put a bucket under the bottling wand to catch any drips. Then I bottle away and hope that it doesn't take too long.

Usually I measure the final gravity of the beer. This time however I forgot to take a sample before I put the sugar in so the reading I took is wrong. Ah well I'm sure it fermented out and the required amount of alcohol is present. Very precise I know.  

I usually have a husband helper to close the bottles if they're flip tops and cap with crown caps if needed. I can recommend a helper as it speeds up the process and you also have someone to talk to. Some people recommend opening a home brew from the previous batch when bottling and this is also very sensible advice. For more on bottling see Barry's excellent guide to bottling.

I don't know even blogging about bottling is getting to be as tedious as the act itself. So that's enough of that. On to the results of the sneaky taste of the beer. I can't wait to taste this beer when it ages a bit more and is fully carbonated. It's nice and clean with no yeast profile which is what I was looking for. It's malty but I couldn't fully work out what was going on with the malt from the taste I had. I was impressed by the hop profile, it's got a lovely bitter hit just at the end and no real flavour or aroma. All in all it's looking very promising for the polar beer.

11 Responses to "Bottling: The less glamourous side of home brewing" (Leave A Comment)

The Beer Nut says
March 18, 2010 at 6:07 AM

Because I'm an extremely tedious person, I actually quite enjoy bottling. More than brewing, since it can be done at its own pace and doesn't involve spinning four or five plates, some full of boiling sugary liquid, at once.

I'm interested in your funnel method of sanitising. What are you pouring from, and isn't it very heavy?

Alistair Reece says
March 18, 2010 at 7:05 AM

That is one of the joys of having a dishwasher, just chuck the bottles in, no detergent, heat dry to sterilise and let it sit and do it's thing for an hour or so.

The biggest problem though with bottling is when you make more beer than you drink, and end up with a storage space heaving with beer. I think I need a couple of party pigs to relieve the pressure.

Skuld says
March 18, 2010 at 10:12 AM

My friend brought down some of his home brew to me the other week, his second. His first brew was so flat, as in, flatter than water. This time he went a bit too far in the other direction, but I really enjoyed in none the less. Fizzy, but good.

Bionic Laura says
March 18, 2010 at 12:40 PM

@The Beer Nut: I pour from a jug of sterilizing solution so it isn't that heavy. I make up the solution in a 5L bottle and transfer from there to the jug.

@Velky Al: I have a dishwasher but I don't think the bottles will stand up in the dishwasher so that they will get a wash. Do you sterilize them first and then just use the dish washer to dry them out? That might work, good idea, I'll have to try it!

Velky Al says
March 18, 2010 at 3:10 PM

I put them upside down in the rack - ours has little pole type things, then put it on a standard wash with the heat dry.

Leigh says
March 19, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Oh Christ, I HATE it!! REally, its the only part of the process I really can't stand! So dull!!

UnderMeOxter says
March 20, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Whenever you're next bottling or doing anything brew-ish that needs a helping hand please give me a shout. I would absolutely love to give it a go. My Dad used to brew his own beer and wine and it's something I'd love to get into someday.

I can bring along my Tunisian Crochet Hooks for a bit of a tutorial, if you'd like, by way of recompense - á lá Skill Swap thread on Rav

Oblivious says
March 22, 2010 at 3:36 AM

Not a fan of bottle, kegging is just to easy and quick!

Mareth says
March 23, 2010 at 4:56 AM

I don't actually mind the bottling too much. It's CLEANING said bottles beforehand that wrecks my head.

Be Grim says
March 23, 2010 at 9:32 PM

Your post cracked me up because I just finally forced myself to bottle earlier this week, and I was fussing about it all day! In fact, I don't brew nearly as much as I used to, 'cause I'm so tired of the bottling. Seriously considering checking out the keg thing. Hmm, at least now I've a cupboard of delish, hoppy IPA to sip on!

Reuben Gray - TaleOfAle says
April 1, 2010 at 4:21 PM

Once I started kegging I never looked back. Except once when I was going to bottle my Dubbel, I had the bottles ready and at the last minute I chickened out and decided to keg instead.
Glad I did as it was fantastic in the keg.
Northern Belgium style Dubbel on tap was a good time.