Posts Tagged ‘bottling’

The Oh So Important Bottle

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
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Where would our beer be without bottles?

In cans most likely. Actually, the can is mostly superior to the bottle when it comes to storage and distribution of beer. Think about it…

  • Cans are much more “space-efficient”. More cans in a truck means more profit.
  • Cans are lighter, requiring less fuel to transport an equal amount of bottled beer.
  • Cans protect beer better. They keep out all light and oxygen. Even brown bottles let light in (skunked hops) and bottle caps can leak
  • Recent advances in “can technology” keep that metal taste out of beer with a fancy coating inside the can

The one thing that bottles have going for them (and that cans have going against them) is the fact that the equipment required to have a canning line for beer is exponentially greater in cost than equipment needed to bottle. This is the main reason why most small breweries (micros and craft brewers) bottle their beer. You can pick up a bottle capper and a gross of caps for under $25 retail.

The cheap cost of bottling makes it ideal for the home brewer. Pick yourself up a case of your favorite beer in a pop-top brown bottle and you’ve got your first set of home brewing bottles and some “free” beer. Now, back to bottling that home brewed beer.

For new brewers, bottling can be difficult to get right at first. There are a few variables that should be considered.

Time
Its very common for a novice to try their freshly-bottled beer too soon and be disappointed when their beer is flat or under-carbed or just plain tastes bad. Time is your friend here. The general rule is 3 weeks at room temperature to carbonate and about 1 week in the refrigerator prior to consumption. Some lighter beers will take less time and some stronger beers will take much longer. This time allows the beer to properly carbonate and adjust to the cooler temperature of the refrigerator after carbonation is complete.

Beer becomes carbonated when the suspended yeast leftover from fermentation produces additional CO2. The CO2 cannot escape from the bottle so it diffuses back into the beer. In order to get the yeast to produce CO2 after being bottled, fermentable sugar (often corn or cane sugar) is mixed with the batch before being bottled.

Time is also important with respect to taste. Over time, the flavors of the beer will meld together and off-tastes and overpowering flavors can fade out. If your new brew doesn’t taste very good. Try it again in a few months. You may be surprised at what a few months can do for a “rough” beer.

Temperature

Yeast are more active at warmer temperatures so, beer that has been bottled and stored at a warmer temperature will tend to carbonate quicker than bottled beer stored at cooler temperatures.

Process

You will most likely want to transfer the beer from the fermenter to another container to bottle from. This transfer allows you to transfer just the beer and keep the sediment from fermentation, in the fermenter. This container (a ‘bottling bucket’ is commonly used) will also provide space for you to mix in the sugar which will jump-start the remaining yeast and allow carbonation to occur.

Dissolving the sugar in a small amount of water and then boiling will ensure that the sugar solution is sterilized so as not to infect the beer. Adding the sugar solution carefully (so you don’t splash and oxygenate the beer) will ensure even carbonation once bottled. Care should be taken, especially with glass bottles, that the proper amount of sugar is used. Too much can be very dangerous as over-carbonated glass bottles can explode spontaneously or when bumped and send shards of glass in all directions.

Keep these considerations in mind and you should wind up with a delicious home brew. Anyway, enough home brewing lecture for now.

– Overclocked

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