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Revision as of 12:23, 10 September 2003 by Taryn (talk | contribs) (Basic descriptions - prior to seal-type splitup)
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Bottling is usually the second last step in the brewing process - transferring your beverage to bottles for convenience. A slightly more period alternative to bottling is kegging.

Modern-day bottling tends to fall under one of two categories, and depends on the type of beverage that you are intending to bottle. The two types are distinguished by the method in which you seal the top of the bottle.

Crown Seals are generally used for bottling beer and similar beverages - generally carbonated drinks with a (comparatively) short shelf-life (measured in months rather than years/decades). Crown seals are a metal cap that is forcibly moulded over the lip of the bottle and is strong enough to hold in the pressure of the carbonated drink within.

Corks are generally used for wines of various types. the cork is longer-lasting and allows the wine to breathe a little - thus allowing the wine to mature. However, they do not stand up to the pressure of carbonation. If a "sparkling" wine is to be bottled - it must be put under a specialised cork assembly used for bottling champagne.

Period bottling

Cork bottling is supposedly very late period.

Step 1: Acquire Bottles

You can either purchase bottles from the pub and empty them manually, or purchase pre-emptied bottles from a brew store. Screwtop bottles can be used with bottling caps - you may occasionally experience sealing problems. 750ml longnecks are convenient, but it's a matter of personal preference. Brown glass bottles prevent possible problems with light strike. Bottle caps should not be reused - buy new ones from a supermarket or brew store.

Step 2: Clean Bottles

The easiest way to clean dirty bottles-

  1. Put them in a bathtub.
  2. Put in the plug.
  3. Put a spoonful of Napisan in each bottle.
  4. Fill the bottles with warm water.
  5. Fill the bathtub to above the bottles with hot water.
  6. Wait until water has cooled, and all gunk has floated out of the bottles.
  7. Empty bathtub. Clean and rinse bottles.
  8. Dry bottles on a bottle tree.

Note that steps 4 and 5 are not interchangable - if you try, all your bottles will fall over.

Crown seals should also be sanitised before use. Give bottles a second rinse before use.

Step 3: Fill Bottles

Always remember to sanitise anything that will come in contact with your brew.

  • Figure out how you're transferring your beverage from your fermenter to the bottle. One method is to rack your brew from the fermenter into a sanitised vessel with a tap.
  • You may want to consider using a bottling wand - a tube with a pressure valve on one end. Attaching the wand to your fermenter outlet allows you to fill bottles by pushing the bottom of the bottle against the valve. This fills the bottle in a controlled manner, introducing the minimum amount of air.
  • Once you've filled your bottles, you may need to prime them - your recipe will let you know if this is necessary. This involves adding extra sugar to restart a small fermentation inside the bottle. This adds carbonation - the technique is known as bottle conditioning. Sugar dispensers and carbonation drops are available to make sure that this additional sugar is controlled. Be careful with this step - if you're not, you may end up with glass grenades.

Step 4: Seal Bottles

There are many different bottle cappers available - from cappers that you hit with a hammer, to complicated lever-operated bench cappers. Pick one that suits your needs, budget, and skill with a hammer.

Simply cap the bottles until done - there's no mystery here. Make sure the caps are sanitised before use.

Step 5: Wait

Wait until you're ready to drink. If you primed the bottles, you should wait an appropriate time before storing them in the fridge to allow for carbonation.