How to Bottle Beer at Home Ready to bottle your first batch of home brew?
Learn the science behind bottling and how to bottle beer with this beginner's guide.
You've got your brew on, your first batch is ready for bottling. Now what? Let us guide you through the next stage step by step so that in just a few weeks (we know, but it's worth it!!) you'll be ready to decant your first home-brewed delight. There are a couple of stages you need to carefully observe to make sure you achieve the carbonation you want and don't get any unexpected nasties turning up in your brew.
Here's our guide to how to bottle beer.
Step 1: Assemble Your Tools
To bottle beer you need bottles and caps, right? Yes, but you'll need a few specialized pieces of kit besides this. Based on a 5-gallon batch, you'll need: 54 standard 12 oz bottles OR 38 half liter (16.9oz) bottles bottle brush bottle capper bottle caps bottling bucket dextrose (corn sugar) racking cane and siphon bottle filler sanitizing chemicals Check out our great range of supplies to make your bottling experience easy as pie.
Step 2: Prepping the Bottles and Kit
This is an important stage, so you don't want to cut any corners. If there is any dirt or mold left in the bottles before you begin bottling, you'll have serious issues down the line. You could get a build-up of bacteria that could make you sick, or at least affect the taste of the beer. Make sure that you thoroughly clean every bottle, using the bottle brush first. Then, following the guidance on the sanitizing chemicals, scrupulously clean your bottles. At the same time, use the same solution to disinfect your bottling bucket, racking cane, siphon, caps and bottle filler. Sanitize your racking cane and siphon on the inside by first filling them with water. Then put the end in the solution and open the valve to draw the solution through, taking care of the inside. Once everything is clean and sanitized, you're ready to start working on the batch.
Step 3: Prepare the Brew
The most crucial step in how to bottle beer actually occurs away from the bottle. What you currently have in your bucket is a fermented batch with a yeast cake at the bottom. Good stuff, but not eminently drinkable. What's needed is carbonation and now you're going to make that happen. You need to prime the beer - that means creating the conditions for carbonation to occur by adding extra sugar to the batch. The sugar then reacts with the yeast, creating the desired bubbles. First, bring to the boil two cups of water and boil them for about 5 minutes to sanitize the water (the volume will also reduce in this time considerably). Next, off the heat (we're not making caramel here) add 3/4 cup of dextrose and stir well to create a clear sugar syrup. Allow this to cool completely. This will also sanitize the sugar. The final step is to combine the beer batch with the priming solution. Pour the sugar solution into your sanitized bottling bucket. Now, carefully siphon the beer from the brewing bucket or demijohn into the bottling bucket. Many racking canes have a spring loaded tip. This ensures that it racks off the beer above the yeast cake, not from the bottom of the bucket. You do not want the yeast from the yeast cake in the bottles - there's enough at the top for carbonation to occur. This is why the beer needs to be siphoned off, rather than simply poured into the bottling bucket.
Step 4: To the Bottles!
You've got your bottles ready and your brew is primed and bottling. Now comes the fun part - getting it into the bottles. Make sure that you have an appropriate bottle filler that has a pressure valve at the end. What this means is that it will only fill when you apply pressure to it, allowing you to control the flow of beer into the bottles. Attach the tube to the tap on the bottling bucket. Take your siphon with attached bottle filler and prep it for filling. Open the tap to start the flow of beer. Then, applying gentle pressure to the end of the filler, allow the beer to cascade through the tube and fill the bottle. How far should I fill it? This is where you need to be careful - overfill, and there won't be enough room for carbonation. Underfill and you'll get too much carbonation. A good rule of thumb is that the filler, once removed, will free up enough space for carbonation. Therefore, you can generally fill up to the lower lip of your bottle. Then remove the filler, which will expose about an inch of space at the top - just what you're looking for. Depending on the amount of wastage due to sediment at the bottom of the brewing barrel, it should be possible to fill between 48-54 12oz bottles from a 5-gallon batch.
Step 5: Capping the Bottles
Do not even begin this process if you do not have a bottle capper at hand. It's important to get the bottles capped as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of any contaminants getting into the brew. Simply place a sanitized bottle cap on top of the bottle. Place the bottle capper on top and push down on both levers to seal the bottle cap in place.
Step 6: Wait, Then Enjoy!
Now your beer is prepped, bottle and sealed. There's just one final process - waiting for carbonation. Generally, you'll need to allow 2 or 3 weeks for this to occur, but consult the guidelines you are using the specific brew you're creating to confirm the length of time you should wait. When the time comes to enjoy your beer, don't just knock it back straight from the bottle. There will likely be some yeast settled on the bottom that you don't want to drink. Instead, carefully decant into a glass, ensuring you leave the final dregs in the bottle. Now you know how to bottle beer and it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor!!
How to Bottle Beer: Summary
As you can see from the points above, get the right kit and the bottling process is easy. The takeaway is - make sure you sanitize everything so that nothing taints the end product. For all the supplies mentioned in our how to bottle beer guide, get yourself over to our products page.