Batch #1 – Bottling Day

Fermentation is Done

I took a hydrometer reading on Monday, and found it hadn’t changed in the last three days. That means two things.

  1. Fermentation is DONE!
  2. Bottling day is HERE!

The Final Gravity is 1.016 making ABV 6.53%. As I’ve said before, that’s too high for this style, but the taste has been improving every time I’ve tried it. It still tastes like a high octane beer, but the other flavors are definitely starting to come through. Clarity is also improving, but I think this might wind up being a cloudy beer.

Here’s a photo of the last hydrometer sample:

BeerFermented

Bottle Prep

The one thing I’ve been dreading since day one is getting the bottles ready. And now that I’ve done it, I understand why kegging is such a popular option with home brewers. This step is a PITA.

I did a little research before I dove into the bottling stage, mainly on how to get the labels off. I soaked the bottles in hot (REALLY hot) water and detergent. One trick I figured out is to fill the bottles with the hot water so they stay submerged.

BottlesInCooler

I let the bottles soak for about an hour before I tried to clean them. The longer they soaked, the easier they came off. Using a cooler keeps the water hot longer, too. I saw a YouTube video from one home brewer that used a plastic ice-cream scooper to scrape the labels off. The curve in the scooper loosely fit the curve of the bottle. Not having nor wanting to invest in a new ice-cream scooper, I searched around for a disposable flexible piece of plastic with a semi-sharp edge. I settled on a disassembled 3.5” floppy disk. That seemed to do the trick, and lasted through nearly two cases of bottles. I could bend the floppy case to fit the curve of the bottle which cut down on the number of swipes I had to make to get the label off.

BottleScraper

I found that the brand of beer makes a huge difference in how easy it is to remove the labels. I had bottles from The Boston Beer Co. (Various Samuel Adams beers), Long Trail Brewery (Long Trail Ale), and Lake Placid Craft Brewing (Ubu Ale). The Sam Adams beer bottles were by far the easiest to de-label. The Ubu Ale’s were the worst. Their labels were so hard, in fact, I’ve decided to not collect them for my home brew any more. (That doesn’t mean I’ll stop drinking it though. Of the three, it’s the tastiest beer).

I also found it’s best to attack this job in three stages. First is to soak the bottles and get the paper off without worrying about the glue. Keep the bottles in the hot soapy water for a while longer, and then go back for the glue with one of those green scrubby sponges. Once the gunk is off, you can then focus on cleaning them out with a bottle brush, and sanitizing them.

This is not a job you want to have to rush through. Believe me, you’ll just get frustrated. It took me about two hours to de-label and clean 80 bottles (That’s after the 1 hour soak and before the sanitizing). In my case, it was a beautiful fall day, so I decided to take a few hours off work, grabbed a Sammy Adams, and got to work. My friend Eli served as chief bottle inspector. He kept a close eye on my work, and made sure I didn’t goof off too much.

EliSupervisor

Bottle Fill

Once the bottles were de-labeled, cleaned, and sanitized, I moved inside and set up my bottle filling assembly line.

BottlingSetup

I mixed 5 oz. of priming sugar with 2 cups of boiled water, put that into a clean bucket, and siphoned the beer over from the secondary fermenter. I had a little trouble getting the siphon to work during the bottle filling stage for some reason, but once the tube and bottle filling wand was full, bottling went pretty quick. I lined up a dozen bottles on a cookie sheet to catch any spillage. Once these were filled, my assistant Isaac switched them out for empties, and capped the full ones.

FillUp

Bottle Conditioning

The last step in the beer making process before drinking day is called conditioning. The extra sugar mixed in with the beer before bottling will re-start yeast activity inside the bottle. Since there’s no place for the carbon dioxide to go, it gets absorbed into the beer, giving it some fizz.

The beer is now resting comfortably down in the cellar. We’ll see in two weeks whether all this effort has been worth it.

CaseAndaHalf

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