Everywhere you look in homebrewing communities you see people talking about how much they hate bottling and why kegging is superior. Complaints typically are about the time and effort involved in bottling as well as how bottling ruins beers. While the latter may be true for some styles such as the NEIPA it is not true for all. Something like a mixed fermented sour ale is much nicer in a bottle where it can age in a cellar and be enjoyed at the drinkers leiser as the flavours develop. Still the issue of time and effort comes up. I hear some people talk about how packaging in bottle take 3 or more hours for 5 gallons. So how do we shorten that to a more reasonable time? How does one make bottling easier and more efficient? Over the course of a few year I have developed a way to get everything done in under 45 min. Start to finish.
What you will need:
- A bottling bucket/vessel (spigot not needed) BV
- Auto siphon/tubing/bottle wand (tube length TBD)
- A counter to stand at while working
- Something to put the bottling bucket on such as a milk crate
- Something to wedge under the bottling bucket to keep it on an angle
- Bottle blaster
- Bottle rinser
- Bottle tree
- Enough bottles for your batch that are all the same size
- Capper (preferably a bench capper)
- Small pan
- Priming sugar
- This priming sugar calculator
- OPTIONAL: Dishwasher
- OPTIONAL: SaniClean
- OPTIONAL: BAC of 0.00. Sober work is fast work. Have a beer (or 4) after.
Most of this stuff you probably already have on hand. Before you get started on bottling day you need to be a responsible drinker. After consuming a bottle RINSE IT. Do not let it sit there festering and growing mold. Rinse that and keep it clean. If you have a dishwasher it isn’t a bad idea to run it on a rinse cycle with your bottles the day before packaging. Just in case. Ok bottling time.
Step 1: Sanitize you bottling vessel and auto siphon/tubing/bottle wand (transfer gear). I like my transfer gear to be 3/8″ ID for faster transfer. Your vessel should be able to be covered with a lid. Make sure to have already taken an FV reading.
Step 2: Place a people weighing scale on the ground with your bottling vessel on top. Tare it. Proceed to transfer your beer from the FV to the BV. If you are just ball parking the volume range skip the scale and just transfer to your BV.
Step 3: As the transfer is happening fill a small pot with about 250 ml of water and begin to heat it. Also fill your bottle rinser with StarSan or SaniClean (I prefer SaniClean). Sanitise the bottle tree. Set out you milk crate, capper and cup full of sanitizer/caps at your packaging. Put your bottles out by the blasting and rinsing station.
Step 4: Read the weight and convert it to volume. 1 gal is about 8.35 pounds. 5 gal = 41.75 lbs. Cover the BV and use the priming sugar calculator.
Step 5: Add the calculated sugar weight to the 250 ml of boil water. Boil for another 5 min with the lid on to steam/sanitize the inside of the pot.
Step 6: Begin blasting the bottles. This is just another way of making sure you don’t have any built up junk in there. Just a 3-4 second blast and move the bottle around.
Step 7: With the freshly blasted bottle still in hand now rinse it with the StanSan/ SaniClean solution. 2 pumps and dip the neck before putting on the bottle tree. Sanitize.
Step 8: Remove the boiling pot from the heat after 5 min. Add directly to the BV full of beer and put the lid back on. Continue step 6/7 filling the bottle tree.
Step 9: Put the BV up on the milk crate, Prop your 2×4 (or whatever) under it to put it on a slant. With your auto siphon sanitized again stir the beer very slowly about 5 time. Clockwise because of OCD.
Step 10: Place your auto siphon in the BV with the end of it at the lowest point. Put a few bottles on the counter with the bottling wand in one bottle attached to the tubing and auto siphon. The tubing length is important here. Too much and it’ll be slack possibly knocking bottles over. Not enough and the wand wont be in the bottom of the bottle.
Step 11: Start the flow. Here is where things get fast. Once the bottle is full pull the wand out and place it in the next bottle.
Step 12: As the next bottle is filling take your current bottle, put a sanitized cap on top and run it through the capper. Repeat until all of the liquid is in the bottles. I find it is easier to have cases to place my capped finished bottles in so that I am not knocking them over as I run around.
Step 13: Wait for ~2 weeks, chill to desired temp and enjoy.
This process will take a few attempts to get correct and without having spills but once you get into the flow of thing this is almost as easy as kegging.
TL;DR – have the carboy higher than the bottles and fill with gravity. While filling you cap the previous bottle.