It’s Bottling Time

It’s been about 16 days since homebrewing my first batch of beer and it’s time to once again play of the role of amateur, unprepared homebrewer. It’s BOTTLING TIME.

Simple enough, right? Wash the bottles, move the beer from fermenter to bottling bucket then bottle. Yeah, sure. I got this…

I threw in the kit’s DVD (which I already despised… bottling  didn’t help me like this DVD any extra) and watched the 5 minute section on bottling.

Sanitize and Priming Sugar

Bottles in dishwaster

Washing bottles – no detergent!

First step – sanitize. I think I’m getting this step down. I ran the bottles through the dishwater (no detergent) with the hot dry setting. Once this was done I used my sanitizer on all the equipment — bottling bucket, tubes, spigot, siphon, caps and hydrometer.

Sanitizing equipment

Sanitized bottling equipment

From here, as requested by my wife, I moved from the kitchen to the garage. Glad I did — more on this later. While this was going on I boiled three cups of water and diluted the priming sugar.

It’s been over two weeks since brewing the beer and I haven’t taken a peak since I put the lid on the fermenter. Very excited I opened it up and got a big whiff of hoppiness.

Hydrometer Reading

Next was to take the hydrometer reading to get the alcohol percentage. Being flustered while brewing the first batch I elected to not get the original gravity reading (I regret this but it’s not the end of the world). Therefore I won’t truly know the approximate ABV. I put the sample in the test tube and spun and dropped the hydrometer in. After it settled I got a reading of 1.02 for my final gravity. Yay, I did something right! Next I added the diluted priming sugar to the bottling bucket.

Transfer from Fermenter to Bottling Bucket

Now to transfer the beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket. Cool, where’s my thief? The guy in the video had a thief. The video claims to tell you everything you need to brew your first batch of beer and the kit claims to give you everything you need. Well if having a thief isn’t necessary, WHY USE ONE TO SHOW ME HOW TO SIPHON THE BEER?? Thankfully my buddy answered his phone and walked me through the process. But before I can siphon the beer I need to connect the rubber tubing to the plastic siphon. So I start fussing with them trying to get them connected. No dice. They will not connect, not even close. The video showed them already connected already. Hmm… [Ring Ring]. Called my buddy back up. He said I need to run the rubber hose under hot water to get it to loosen up. Over to the sink we go.

Transfer to bottling bucket

Transferring from fermenter to bottling bucket

After about a minute of running the hot water I’m able to get the tubing onto the siphon. I filled up the siphon/tubing with water and walked over to the setup — fermenter sitting on towel on cart with bottling bucket (let’s call the bottling bucket BB for now) on towel on the ground. By this point my wife has joined me because a lot of four-letter words were being thrown around after the tube connection debacle. She assisted me in lowering the siphon into the fermenter and the tubing into a cup next to the BB.

I released hold of the end of the tubing and water ran out of the siphon/tubing and beer started to rise up the siphon but stopped before it could “crest.” On the fourth attempt beer ran up the siphon and down the tubing where I plugged the end and transferred it to the BB. I unplugged the end and we waited for the fermenter to drain.

From Bottling Bucket to Bottles

After 10 or so minutes the BB was filled. I made sure that the siphon wasn’t plunged all the way to the bottle of the fermenter so we wouldn’t get unwanted sediment and yeast into the beer. Back over at the sink I ran the tubing under hot water to loosen it from the siphon and to connect it to the spigot and bottling connection. I forgot to mention earlier about connecting the spigot to the bottling bucket. It was very difficult to get it all the way into the BB’s hole and I didn’t want to force it like I did the airlock which broke when I was initially brewing. So I got the spigot about 2/3 of the way into the BB and tightened the bolt. Well I thought that’d be good enough but soon after opening the spigot a drop fell from the spigot/bucket connection. Then two drops. Then three. #@$%!!! We bottled as fast as possible, trying not to splash the beer into the bottle which would add oxygen to the beer (oxygen is bad at this point!). While I was bottling, my wife was capping the bottles. About 20 minutes later, with both legs asleep from sitting Indian-style (is that not PC anymore by the way?) on the concrete floor we finished. Exhausted, We moved the 47 beers into our pantry for storage for 2-3 weeks while they gain carbonation. If it wasn’t for the towels I’m sure I would have been cleaning the garage floor that night was well. But luckily we didn’t lose that much beer.

Lessons

It took my wife asking, “Aren’t you supposed to enjoy this?” for me to lighten up about halfway through this process. I guess I forgot this was a fun activity and it ended up being another great way for my wife and I to bond. I wouldn’t have been able to 1) keep my cool and 2) siphon without the extra help.

Next I’ll journey to the homebrew shop and pick out my next kit. Having learned some lessons I think the next batch will go smoother and am excited about it.

I’m gathering some funny homebrewing stories for an upcoming post. I’d really like to share as many as I can get. Shoot me  an email if you know it (hint: it’s the name of this blog [at] gmail dot com) or use the contact form on the Contact page to send me your story! I promise to credit you (link to your twitter, blog, etc.) if desired. Until then, please share any advice you have on the bottling process!

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