Simple Instructions for Bottling Beer
Step 1: The first step in bottling beer at home is to verify that your primary or secondary fermentation is complete by checking the specific gravity two or three days apart. If the reading is the same on both days it is safe to bottle, otherwise you should wait until you get the same reading. This will prevent over-carbonation or exploding bottles.
Step 2: A typical 5 gallon batch of homemade beer will require forty-eight 12 oz bottles or twenty-six 22 oz bottles along with the same amount of bottle caps. Clean and sanitize your bottles, caps and all other equipment before you start the bottling process. We recommend using a non-rinsing sanitizer like Iodophor or Star San.
Equipment Needed to Bottle Homebrew
(Be sure to sanitize all equipment prior to beginning the bottling process):
- Bottling bucket and siphon hose (or a carboy, racking cane, and siphon hose)
- Bottle filler
- Bottle capper
The bottling bucket is a regular brew bucket with a spigot near the bottom. This is convenient in that you can let gravity move the liquid without inducing a siphon. You can also use a carboy with the siphon hose attached to a racking cane. An auto-siphon is an excellent option to avoid inducing a siphon by mouth if you are using a carboy instead of the bucket. A spring-loaded bottle filler is one of the neatest inventions since sliced bread for the home brewer. It's a tube with a spring-loaded valve in one end that opens/closes by pushing/releasing against the bottom of your bottles, allowing the beer to quietly fill the bottle and not drip in between fills.
Step 3: Assuming you have 5 gallons of beer to carbonate, in a small pot/vessel boil 5 oz (3/4 cup) priming sugar (or 1-1/4 cups dry malt extract) in 1 cup of water for two minutes and let cool to approximately room temperature (quick tip: you can quickly cool the small pot in a sink filled with about an inch of cold water). The cooling process is especially critical if using a glass carboy to avoid cracking the glass. Pour the cooled liquid into your bucket or carboy, then siphon the beer from your fermenter leaving any sediment behind. Make sure that the siphon hose is at the bottom of the bucket so the siphoning action evenly mixes the sugar water with the beer for uniform carbonation. When siphoning is complete, gently stir the beer with a sanitized spoon.
Step 4: Now it’s time to fill the beer bottles. If you are using a bottling bucket, attach the siphon hose to the spigot then the bottle filler to the other end of the hose. Insert the bottle filler into a bottle, then open the spigot and press the bottle filler against the bottom of the bottle to start the flow.
If you are using a carboy and racking cane, attach the hose to the racking cane then invert and fill both with water. Fold/pinch the end of the hose, then quickly insert the racking can into the carboy, release the hose to allow the siphon to start, and then insert the bottle filler onto the end of the hose. With an Auto-Siphon, attach the hose to the Auto-Siphon and the bottle filler to the other end of the hose and pump the inner wand to induce the siphon.
Fill the bottles to 1” from the top and lift the bottle filler to stop the flow. Fill the remaining bottles in the same way. Then cap and let sit for 2-3 weeks in a dark place at room temperature (the bottles won’t carbonate in the refrigerator if you are using ale yeasts). Then chill and enjoy!
Final Thoughts: If your carbonation seems fine after 3 weeks but seems to be over-carbonated after 5-6 weeks on a consistent basis (or if you just prefer less carbonation), reduce the amount of priming sugar to 3.7 oz per 5 gallons of beer. This may extend the carbonation time but will eliminate long-term carbonation. If you have less than 5 gallons of beer to carbonate, then prorate the amount of priming sugar you use on bottling day.