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Archive for the ‘Bottling’ Category

After yet more bottle cleaning, I was ready to bottle the Merlot that had been clearing. Having had issues when syphoning the Strawberry, I bought a new syphon from the homebrew shop. I also attached an extra length of tube to the tap, so that this could be fed to the bottom of the bottle, as well as meaning the tap was no longer the last part of the syphon.

I followed the same method I used for the Strawberry, and I’m pleased to say that with the new syphon, it went very well. Again I had knocked up some labels to imprive the bottles appearance, as well as to identify the wine.

With the win bottled, corked and labelled I placed it on the rapidly filling wine shelf in the brewery. I only managed to get the equivalent of 5 full sized bottles of wine, which is one whole bottle less than i should have done. This is quite a hit on such a small amount of wine. I did actually get a further quarter of a bottle, which I am looking forward to having with my Sunday lunch today šŸ™‚

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The next task for the weekend was getting the Stout bottled. Having got the laborious job of cleaning all the bottles done, I added 60 grams of sugar to some freshly boiled water and stirred it until it was dissolved. I went for 60 in the hope it would come out a little less fizzed than my previous brews as I thought this would better suit a stout. I then very gently mixed this into the stout, and left it to settle.

While I left the beer to allow the sediment to settle down again, I set about knocking up some quick labels. I was happy to keep them fairly similar to previous ones:

Once these had been designed, printed and cut down to size, I was ready to bottle. I went for the same setup as I had done previously, with the beer on the kitchen side and a tube attached to the tap, bottles lined up along side the capper and caps, labels, milk and a brush. The process went very smoothly, leaving me with 45 bottled John Bull Masterclass Irish Stouts.

After filling the last bottle, I filled a small glass with the dregs. Even flat, and a fraction cloudy, this smelt and tasted wonderful. It had a delicious deep coffee flavour. If the final brew tastes as good as this glass, this will be an awesome beer.

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At last I finally had a free weekend, so I had lots of brew related stuff to do. I started by bottling the Strawberry wine which has been clearing for about a month. I had already knocked up some labels:

As it had been my girlfriend who had wanted me to brew this wine, I decided she could take pride of place on the label.

So, back to the bottling. I soaked 3 full sized wine bottles, 6 half sized bottles and 3 third sized bottles in sanitising solution. I shouldn’t need them all, but i wanted to be prepared just in case. I rinsed these, lifted the demijohn onto the kitchen side and inserted the syphon. The syphon had a tap at the end, and I didn’t have any tubing to put on the end of this and insert into the bottles, so I decided I would just insert the end of the tap in the bottle and hold it on the edge to minimise bubbles. I started the syphon with a quick suck, and we were off.

The first bottled filled without any problems at all. I had previously purchased a corker, but this would be the first time I used it, so wasn’t sure how easy it would be.

I had already placed some corks in a bowl of warm water to soften, so I inserted one of these into the corker, placed the pincers over the top of the bottle, and squeezed the handles. Effortlessly the cork went into the bottle. Easy šŸ™‚

I continued with the next two bottles without any problems. However, the forth bottle wouldn’t fill. The syphon stopped sucking wine through, and even another suck on the end of the tube couldn’t get it going again. This was a real pain given I was dealing with such a small amount of wine (compared to the beer) and I really didnt want to damage over half the batch. I decided to remove the tap and see if it would come through better. It did, but too quickly now. It raced into the bottle filling a full-sized in a couple of seconds. I tried to stem the flow by squeezing the tube, but this just increased the speed the wine came out at, so I grabbed the next bottle and filled that. I continued until the wine dropped below the level of the syphon in the demijohn. All of the wine filled without the tap was massively aerated of course. I’m really hoping this doesn’t adversely affect the wine too much. I had a taste of the wine that was syphoned without problems and it tasted great. It wasn’t a very strong strawberry taste, but it was a lovely subtle and light rose style wine. It would be horrible if half the batch was ruined. I did taste some from the aerated batch, and this too tasted ok so fingers crossed. When I tried to lower the syphon in the demijohn to bottle the last bit I only succeeded in disturbing all the sediment, so I called it a day with the equivalent of 5 full bottles filled.

Having corkered all the bottled I then attached the labels and placed the bottles on the wine shelf (well it is now) in the brewery.

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Yesterday I finally got round to bottling my second home brewed beer. It had been about 6 weeks since I first started it going, so hopefully it will come out ok.

I started off by knocking together a new set of labels:

Linthwaite Light Label

I wanted to make the label a little different on each brew, so while the basic label layout is the same, the logo (shown above) is slightly different. I printed out 6 sheets of 8 labels and during breaks in other preparation, I cut them neatly down to size.

I lifted the brewing bucket onto the work surface in the kitchen and tried to attach the sanitised tube to the tap. I found it hard to put on and came across another useful tip – pouring a little recently boiled water over just the end of the tubing loosened it up a lot, and it easily slipped over the tap then.

When bottling my first brew I found that adding the sugar to the bucket worked well rather than the faff of priming each bottle individually, so I decided to repeat it this time. The first brew has ended up being fairly fizzy – probably too fizzy for an ale, but given this latest brew is supposed to be fairly light, I’m hoping that a similar amount of fizz this time will make for a very nice relaxing summer drink. Therefore, I added 80 grams of brewing sugar to a sanitised jug and added just enough freshly boiled water to cover it, and stirred it until all the sugar had dissolved. Having covered the jug with cling film and made a few holes in it, I popped it in the microwave until it started to boil again, just to ensure it was sanitised. I then left this to cool and later slowly added it to the bucket, very gently stirred all the time.

And then, onto the laborious job of cleaning the bottles šŸ˜¦ Even with the bottle tree, this is still a slow and boring job, but given I had cleaned and rinsed all the bottles when I first got them, I felt a soak in sanitising solution and a good rinse was sufficient for each bottle. Some time later, I had 45 clean bottles ready to fill. With the last few bottles, I also dropped 45 caps into the sanitising solution, and then rinsed them off ready for use.

I took a quick gravity reading before starting the bottling:

Light Final Gravity

I took this to be a reading of 1.010, which surprisingly had therefore dropped a little after I stirred up a little of the yeast a few days ago. However, after 6 weeks, I decided not to wait any longer to check it had finished. Hopefully this wont come back to get me later. At 1.010, this has now reached the upper limit of the target final gravity, so hopefully this won’t be as sweet as the IPA.

As before, I setup a nice conveyor belt, of filling, capping, and then labelling (applied with milk of course):

Light Bottling Process

I had originally decided to use about half proper thick-glassed bottles, and half the thinner lager bottles (after none of them exploded last time šŸ™‚ ) but when I realised I had enough proper bottles to do them all, I decided to just do a test sample of 5 thin bottles again, to further assess them.

Finally, some considerable time later (it somehow took me over 3 hours from starting the labels to being completely finished) I finally had 45 Linthwaite Lights bottled, capped and labelled:

Bottled Linthwaite Light

For the more astute of you, yes – I did take this picture before I finished, hence there only being 37 bottles in the photo.

Given the missus and I needed to make room in the kitchen for the imminent arrival of our first dishwasher, it made sense to store all our beer in The Brewery, so with the addition of the Linthwaite Light it now looks like this:

The Brewery

Its slowly starting to look like a brewery. When I get time, I’ll be adding the wine and champers we have to the top shelf, and somewhere I’m sure there is some more commercial ale, but for now, I’m pretty happy with it.

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Munton’s IPA bottling day

Muntonsā€™ IPAĀ Label

At last, the time had come to get my beautiful beer into bottles. I’d spend a lot of time working out exactly how I was going to do this, so I felt well prepared.

I started off by filling the trial jar I bought on Saturday using a sanitised tube connected to the tap. Using the hydrometer, I confirmed that the gravity was still around 1015, and also confirmed that the beer was coming out of the tap ok – it was cloudy but with no noticeable sediment from the bottom of the bucket. I took a taste and found the flavour very mild and rather shallow, but pleasant none the less. Hopefully with time in the bottle the flavour will develop, but I was pleased to still find no unwanted flavours at all. I lifted the bucket from the floor of the brewery, to the work surface in the kitchen.

Next I needed to add the sugar. After lots of indecision (worrying – thats what homebrewers do while waiting for their brews to do their stuff), I finally decided to add the sugar into the bucket before bottling, rather than added sugar to each individual bottle. This was considerably quicker and easier, and some research had reassured me that a gentle stir would not bring up the sediment from the bottle of the bucket. I weighed out 80 grams of glucose. This might be be slightly preferable to granulated sugar in terms of flavour but it is unlikely to be noticeable with such a small amount. In all honesty, I used it as it came with the beginners equipment I was given. I used 80 grams rather than the 85 recommended partly because by beer was already above the target gravity (and so slightly over sweet) but this also matched some recommendations from the web. I added the glucose to a jug, and poured on freshly boiled water – just enough to cover it. With a quick stir it was all dissolved. I covered the jug with clingfilm and made a couple of holes in the film before placing the jug in the microwave on full power until it began to bubble. This should ensure the sugar is sanitised. I left this to cool for a while, and later added it to the beer, very slowly making as little splashing as possible. I very gently stirred the beer for 20 seconds with a sterilised stirrer. Before adding the sugar, I had noticed quite a lot of clumps of a soft brown substance floating on the top. I hoped these wouldn’t be a problem.

Next it was onto the bottles. Thankfully the 48 bottles that Phil had ordered me as part of my Christmas present had now been delivered, so I didn’t have to complete the cleaning of all the donated bottles – that can wait for the next batch. I also included 4 of the cheap lager bottles I bought previously, as a tester for using more of them next time. During my trip to the brew shop on Saturday I had also bought a bottle tree, thinking that this would be the easiest way to dry 45 bottles at once. Having constructed the bottle tree (only 5 large pieces) and sterilised it, I filled the sink with water and sterilising solution and placed in 8 bottles. For about the next 45 minutes I continually took out 4 bottles and place them on the bottle tree, and added 4 new bottles to the sink. I always aligned 4 bottles facing towards the taps and 4 away in the sink, and with the most recently added bottles resting on top, so I could always see which bottles had been in the longest. I returned every 5 minutes to swap the bottles, so each bottle got 10 minutes of soaking. With the final few bottles, I also dropped in the crown caps to sterilise them.

I was certainly correct about the bottle tree – what an awesome purchase – I don’t know how I would have coped without it.

Bottle Tree

Once all the bottles were done, I removed them all, emptied the sink and, after rinsing the bottle tree, and proceeded to rinse each bottle in cold water and place it back on the tree.

In the gaps between cleaning, I had finished cutting out the labels I had printed out (using a craft knife and ruler). I laid these on the floor alongside a bowl with a little milk in, and a pastry bush. Between these and the beer bucket I laid the sanitised and rinsed crown caps in a bowl, and the capper which I got with my original equipment. I attached the sanitised tube to the tap again and let this fall to the floor and into a sanitised washing up bowl.

BottlingĀ setup

Finally it was time to actually put my beer into bottles. I pushed the tube right to the bottom of the first bottle and slowly opened the tap. The first couple of bottles I filled too quickly, giving them something of a head inside the bottles. This also didn’t give me enough time to cap and label the bottles. I quickly found a nice slow pace was best. I also discovered that lifting the tube a little when the bottle was almost full allowed me to easily fill to within a couple of centimetres of the top of the bottle. I also added a clean towel to my setup, on which I placed each just filled bottle. This dried the bottom of the bottle and also allowed me to wipe any beer from the bottle ready for labelling. I spent the next 45 minutes repeatedly filling, capping and labelling. Having everything laid out for this turned out to be a very good idea:

Bottling Process

The first 30ish bottles all filled easily and without incident. However, after that, I started to find that bottles would only half fill and then the flow would slow or even stop completely even though the tap was still open. I found this was due to the clumps that had been left floating on the surface of the beer being drawn into the tap. I couldn’t see any sensible way of preventing this, so I continued bottling. I found that lifting the tube up a little would often free the flow, or failing that, opening the tap further worked (all be it with the occasional sudden overflow). Given these bottles would now likely have these clumpos in, I decided to label them as such, and put a small “L” on these bottles to remind me which were bottled later in the process. As I got to the last few I added “VL” for very late, as these were picking up quite a lot of the clumps. I even bottled a couple of extra bottles by tilting the bucket up. This were capped with a different colour cap (mostly because I had used the 40 blue caps now) but this was also a useful further indication that these last 2 would definitely not be ones for sharing.

It was a very satisfying sight when I finally had 42 capped and labelled bottles on the kitchen floor.

Bottled Muntonā€™s IPA

I took the 4 beers in the thin lager bottles, and a couple of standard bottles and put these in a big black bin in my study. Hopefully, these will be fine, and I can use more of these thinner bottles with the next brew. However, if something does go wrong, at least the damage should be contained.

Thin Bottles Test

I must have been on a roll on bottling day, as I managed what I now think was another very good idea. In addition to labelling the last few bottles, I managed to keep all the bottles in the order I had bottled them. I maintained this order when putting the bottles on the shelf in the brewery, so that when picking a bottle to drink, I will be able to tell when it was bottled. This will be useful not only for seeing the effects of the clumps and any sediment that got picked up in later bottles, but also for seeing if the sugar (and so fizz) is equally distributed, or whether it dropped down the bucket while I was cleaning all the bottles. It will also allow me to select bottles for friends and family from whichever part of the bottling produced the best final beer.

If I felt satisfied after I finished labelling the last bottle, I felt even better when I had them all neatly shelved.

Shelved IPA

Job done. Now we wait…

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