Bottling your beer is one of the most enjoyable parts of brewing… said no one ever. There are, however, a few key steps to take to ensure you do it right and get a good beer at the end of it.
You will need:
- Bottles and caps – a regular 19-23L beer does 24-30 750ml bottles
- Bottle capper (if using glass bottles)
- Sugar for carbonation – dextrose (or white sugar) or carbonation drops
- Sugar measure
- Bottling wand
- 50cm plastic spoon
First off, make sure you have thoroughly cleaned all of the bottles with a bottle brush and then sterilize them with the caps just before bottling. Check out our cleaning and sterilizing article if you’re unsure how to do this.
For carbonating your beer there are three options:
- Carbonation drops: put two inside each 750ml bottle, or one inside a 330ml bottle
- Priming sugar in bottles: use the appropriate sugar measure (330mL, 500mL or 750mL) and drop white sugar through a funnel straight into the bottle before filling with beer.
- Priming sugar in the fermenter: measure the total amount of sugar for the whole beer using a carbonation calculator, mix with 200 mls of pre boiled water, add it to the brew an hour before bottling and stir it in. Try not to stir up the yeast too much while mixing in the priming sugar. Adding the sugar solution an hour before bottling lets everything settle out again so you don’t get too much trub in your beer.
The first two options are fine for most brews, but we prefer to use the third option if we are going to bottle as it gives us the option to carbonate to different levels for different styles (i.e. a British Ale shouldn’t be as carbonated as a German Wheat beer). Correct carbonation levels can be calculated using an online carbonation calculator. The calculator takes into account beer style, volume and temperature to dictate how much sugar to add.
Be careful not to add too much sugar as it will over carbonate your beer. This can easily over pressurize the bottles which will eventually cause them to explode.
Use your sterilized bottling wand to fill the bottles with beer and then cap them as soon as possible. Ideally you want minimal time between sterilizing your bottles, filling them and having them sealed to eliminate any chance of rogue bacteria spoiling your brew.
Store your bottles in a dark place to mature and carbonate. It is important they are not stored in the light or you may notice your beer goes stale or skunky. Most beers will carbonate in a week or two, but give it a month to guarantee carbonation and good maturation.
When it’s ready for drinking make sure it’s properly chilled, pour into the appropriate glass and enjoy!