Bottling your Homebrew - 101
A post back in November drew a response from Zak of Sydney in relation to bottling your homebrew and I thought this a good chance to discuss a few homebrew related chores and maybe seek out a few suggestions from the homebrew web. I’ll also throw in some gems of wisdom gleaned from our own experiences.
Homebrew is coming along great. Got a batch of Cooper's Draught ready to pop on Saturday. I actually started this one on the 13th of October but didn't bottle it til the 17th this month due to laziness and the dreading of bottling (which in the end, as usual, is not so bad). Do you know if this extra month in the fermenter affects the brew at all? The final gravity or whatever didn't change so I'm guessing not.
Bottling your brew is one of those things that lingers in your planning thoughts like a visit to Grandmas’; you fret over it a bit, you can think of things you’d rather be doing, but once it’s done, it’s done and things get back to normal fairly quickly. And, like Zak says, it’s rarely as bad as you think it will be. But there are some DO’s and DO NOT DO’s that can make bottling your beer as easy as putting liquid into a glass container.
First, while it’s good to let your beer rest before drinking it, it is better to have it resting in individual stubbies rather than in one big fermenter. Having said that, you probably won’t break the beer by leaving it in the tub, it just won’t be at its best. This is mainly because, as the yeast burns up and fades away, its dead cells can impart a ‘dud’ note to the finished beer, particularly if there is any disturbance of the sludge at the bottom of the fermenter. The beer will be a little ‘yeasty’ or ‘bready’ in the nose. It’s just better to let the yeast do its thang, wait two or here days after fermentation has ceased to let the yeast sediment settle to the bottom and then remove the beer sooner rather than later.
The other issue is that, with some yeasts, if left to die off too much there may not be enough viable stuff left over to kick start the bottle conditioning. The finished brew may be left under carbonated. If you have brewed a Bitter or a nice mild pale ale, then stand back and shout “HurrAh!” If you wanted a lively pilsner or a crisp, refreshing and bubbly lager, then you may want to slap your forehead and utter a small “D’Oh!”.
Now to the bottling. The main reason homebrewers dislike bottling is that it can be a fairly ‘drone-like’ procedure which lacks the artistry of the cooking and pitching and fermenting performance. It’s just all a bit boring, really. Of course, it’s a much easier job when it’s shared and bottling with a mate not only cuts the time taken by MORE than half, but it gives you someone to talk beer with – and someone to crack a coldie with to finish the bottling session and to toast the new brew. If it costs you a half a ‘D at the end of the lagering stage, then that’s a small price to pay. And is there a better gift than the gift of beer?
I’ll describe our particular bottling process here and readers who want to can also surf the web for some interesting variations – in particular from those crazy American homebrewers who seem to have to make everything they do a convoluted and arse numbingly difficult procedure! I’ll bust it up into separate posts so it’s not so long. And boring for those who don’t homebrew. But, so those people don’t skip over it altogether; and to reward those who do, I have strategically hidden some boobies in amongst the information. See if you can spot them!