Posts Tagged bottling

Week 3 Brew 2: The Brown

The time has come to place this beautiful liquid into bottles. The smell is awesome– a kind of sweet and malty sourness that gives me every hope that this concoction will turn into delicious beer. I started by washing all my bottles in the dishwasher to clean off any dust or other particles that may have been on there. Then I filled a bucket with sanitizer solution, which consisted of a pack of powdered Star San that came with the kit. While the bottles were washing and the other parts were sanitizing, I went to the store to get some sugar.

IMG_1896At this point the beer is just about ready, but still needs some final settling in the bottles and carbonation. To do this, the remaining yeast particles still suspended in the beer need something to feed on. To do this, sugar is added to the mixture. Some kits come with stuff pre-made, but mine did not. So I got some corn sugar and mixed it in about 2 cups of water on the stove. While this came to a boil, I transferred the beer to another bucket to further reduce the yeast crud leftover. I took care to make sure it didn’t slosh around, as adding too much oxygen can make the beer taste stale. I also took this opportunity to take what is called the final gravity. This is the same thing as the original gravity, but much more of the suspended yeast is now fully fermented, so the number is lower. Using the hydrometer again, I came up with an alcohol content of about 5%.

Now, of course, I forgot to take the temperature of the mixture, as I was supposed to. This is because temperature affects how the yeast reacts in the beer during fermentation. Keep it too hot and you risk killing the yeast; keep it too cool and the yeast may not be active enough to initiate fermentation. No matter; the difference in temperature according to the scale on the hydrometer is a matter of .5%. Plus, we tasted it straight from the hydrometer container from which we took a sample and it tasted great– pretty much like the smell.

IMG_1894After the corn sugar was dissolved and cooled to make a syrupy mixture, I stirred this into the beer bucket. I allowed it to cool a bit more as I put the washed bottles into my sanitizing bucket, taking care to not let them knock into one another too much.

Then I set the bottling bucket up on the counter above the dishwasher. The idea was to use the dishwasher door to catch any overfilled bottles or other spills. You see, beer in this form tends to be quite sticky when spilled.

Once again using the auto IMG_1899siphon, I attached it to filling wand, which is basically a tube with a ball valve at the bottom and I filled each bottle rather quickly. A friend helped me by capping the bottles. I hope the result is something more drinkable than my last attempt, but nonetheless, this has been a fun experience and anything but my last…

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So now they sit for another week to “bottle condition,” during which time they will also (hopefully) carbonate.

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Day 4 Brew 1- Bottling

Hey beer fans,

BottlesToday is the last step in actually “making” beer. We moved it from the secondary fermenter to bottles. Of course, as with the rest of this whole process, it was not as simple as that. First, we had to arrange everything on the counter around the kitchen, as that is the best place we have for such an operation, such that we had a place for the bottles, bucket, carboy and capper.

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After rinsing, washing and sanitizing everything, we went to work. First, we had to get the brew from the secondary fermenter to a bucket for easier racking, or filling, of the bottles. To do this, we placed the carboy and a clean bucket with a spigot with a packet of priming sugar in the bottom next to each other on the floor and used the auto siphon to transfer the beer from the carboy to the bucket, making sure to avoid touching the bottom of the siphon to the bottom of the fermenter. You see, when those wonderful little yeast do their work, they create waste and even die in the process of fermentation. All this junk (yeast poop and carcases) sinks to the bottom of the vessel and you don’t want that in your beer. ‘Twould make it a bit…chewy, methinks. This took a good 10 minutes to fill the bucket. IMG_1500

That done, we moved the now filled bucket onto the counter above so that gravity could help us with the next step: actually filling the bottles. We removed the hose from the auto siphon (we’ll get more hose for future brewing). Making sure to sanitize both hose and spigot, we attached the hose. At this point, I remembered we never took a gravity reading before we started this process and I was curious. After fumbling around with the hydrometer, which measures the specific gravity of the beer (reading the instructions for something I don’t yet understand that well was yet another lesson in humility), we placed it into a separate sample cup of brew. It didn’t float as it should. So, we decided that we would just take the reading from the brew in the bucket we had just transferred to. After sanitizing it, we carefully lowered it into the beer. We had to wait for it to stop moving around to see the reading. It read a 1.04. HydrometerNot having the slightest idea what this meant, we consulted the chart the tool came with. I don’t want to say I was disappointed (I’ll actually be surprised if this stuff is even fit for human consumption), but the chart seemed to indicate that our beer was a paltry 1.4% alcohol. Of course, it was about 90 degrees outside today, so in the house it was probably…90 degrees and the chart’s warmest temperature range was 74 degrees. So much for that. We didn’t take a reading after the initial boil as we were supposed to anyway (read instructions carefully, kids!), so we would have had nothing to compare even an accurate reading to.

Next we set to prepping the bottles. Looking around the kitchen we could find no more suitable a place to keep them, as we have no bottling rack, than the dishwasher. So we lined them up and sprayed them down with sanitizer and let them air dry. This was probably the only part in this entire process where we actually let sanitizer dry out or evaporate off of something that would come into contact with our beer. Hey, our beer will at least sanitize your insides…IMG_1506 Finally, it came time to fill our prepped bottles and cap them. This took a little getting used to, as we had to make sure there were no snags in the hose coming from the bucket spigot, but after a couple of sticky spills, we got a system down. All told, we filled 47 of the 48 bottles the kit came with. Not bad, considering our rough estimate was that we would fill those 48 and still have some brew left over. Turns out we were bad guessers, and we have almost two beautiful cases of what is hopefully a tasty beer. I’ll let you know in 10-14 days when we are ready to crack one. IMG_1509I just hope none of these bad boys explode in my closet!

Until then, happy brewin’!

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