Monthly Archives: March 2011

European Brown Ale: Bottling

This baby has been in the secondary for 2 weeks:

It’s time to bottle it! We’ve been saving bottles for months, piled up in Heather’s house and my closet, and they are finally ready to be used.

We begin by laying out all of the secondhand bottles and picking which ones we’ll use. The batch is roughly 5 gallons, so I expect to fill about 50 12-ounce bottles.

The bottles are selected and washed by hand with soap and warm water. I try to keep the selection as consistent as possible by choosing bottles of similar design. (Mostly Sam Adams – I’m digging their Winter Classics collection!)

After washing, all of the bottles are loaded into the dishwasher for sanitizing. The dishwasher is set to run a normal hot wash cycle, but without soap. I just want the heat to sanitize the bottles. So, the dishwasher runs… And runs some more.

It must have taken between 1 1/2 and 2 hours for the dishwasher to finish. Meanwhile, Heather and I walk into Culver City to get a pizza. Then we watch a bicyclist receive a ticket from the police and get taken away in an ambulance outside my house. Definitely going to choose another method for sanitizing next time.

Before bottling, a mixture of priming sugar (dextrose) and hot water is added to the beer, which then sits for about half an hour. However, I forget about this step and don’t realize it until after the dishwasher is done. Trying to make the most out of the time, Heather and I practice using the auto siphon on a bucket of water to get a handle on the technique before we apply it on the actual beer.

30 minutes later, we’re bottling! We organize a setup with one person pumping the auto siphon and the other depressing the siphon output end into empty bottles. When a bottle is filled we place a sanitized cap on it and move it from the bottling station to the table.

Transferring the beer takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. This batch fills 45 12-ounce bottles and a bonus 750 ml as well.

I make sure to clean the carboy right away to avoid any sticky residue buildup inside. Here are some action shots. Epic cleaning!

Capping is a breeze. Of course, it’s difficult to resist the temptation to try the brew right now, what with so many uncapped bottles about.

It’s tasty! Flat, of course, but good. Somewhat yeasty, not very hoppy, slightly sweet. I’m very excited to know what this batch will taste like after carbonation, which should take about 20 days. After that, I’ll crack one open, snap a few beauty shots, and close the documentary of this batch with some taste notes. ’till then:

European Brown Ale: Racking

The yeast really begins to get to work approximately 4 hours after sealing the fermenter. The most vigorous fermentation period is within the first 24 hours. Here is a shot of the primary fermenter shortly after it was sealed:

Here is the fermentor before racking, 6 1/2 days later. The yeast has multiplied significantly. The early stage produced some amount of foam (kreuzen). The kreuzen residue is visible around the top sides:

A yeast cake – about 1-inch thick – has developed at the bottom:

Transferring the beer from the primary to the secondary (carboy) goes smoothly. It is the shortest part of the hour-long racking process. The additional time is spent on preparation (mostly sanitation) and cleanup.

The only caveat is to make sure to remove the airlock and stopper from the fermenter before opening the flow valve leading to the carboy. Otherwise, the water in the airlock will be sucked into the fermenter and mix with the beer.

After mostly drained – below the level of the flow valve – the lid on the primary is removed. The smell of beer is strong! The fermenter is tipped to drain out as much beer as possible.

Peeking inside the primary gives us a better look at what’s been going on. The yeast cake is heavy and comprises the remaining contents. The kreuzen residue is visible as a ring on the walls around the top of the fermenter and on the underside of the lid, too.

After the primary is drained of as much beer as possible, the carboy is sealed and secondary fermentation begins. I expect it will spend 14 days in the secondary before bottling.