Homebrewing 101: Bottling vs. Kegging (Part 4)
For years, I bottled my beer. I suggest that you do too until you are sure you will be in this hobby long term.
There are a variety of sizes of beer bottle available: 8 oz, 12 oz, 16 oz and 22 oz. Bottles should be rinsed with a water bleach solution and the insides scrubbed with a brush to remove any sediment.
Before bottling, the beer must have priming sugar added. For most five gallon recipes, this is 5 oz of corn sugar. Mix the corn sugar in hot water and after dissolved, add and swirl well into the batch of beer.
It is necessary to do this so your beer will naturally carbonate in the bottle.
I highly recommend the use of a stand alone beer bottle capper. It allows you to use your body for leverage to attain a better seal. I leave about an inch or an inch and a quarter of air space in each bottle.
The bottles are then left at room temperature to carbonate. The priming sugar will restart fermentation by the yeast- just enough to carbonate the bottle. Be careful and do not add too much priming yeast or you will have explosions from over-carbonated bottles!
I once made the mistake of not paying attention and using too much priming sugar…. as my family sat upstairs watching TV, we could hear the bottles in the basement explode. Often one explosion set off two or three more. It was a mess but I was too afraid to move the bottles from out of their cardboard box until all of the exploding and foaming was over.
As I said, only made that mistake once…
After couple of weeks, the bottles will be naturally carbonated and ready for chilling and drinking. All bottle-carbonated beer will have a small amount of sediment on the bottom of each bottle. There is nothing in this sediment that will hurt you, it is only yeast. In fact, some styles of beer such as wheat should be consumed while still cloudy.
However, if you are picky about drinking clear beer- tip your bottle and pour slowly.
While no one ever minds emptying bottles, cleaning them is a chore. Once you've gotten experience making beer and are sure you will remain in the hobby long term, I'm sure you will want to move up to a kegging system.
I warn you however, once you move up to kegging and let your friends know about it, you (and your kegs of homemade beer!) will never be short of invitations to parties, barbeques and other celebrations!
The favorite kegs for homebrewers to use are steel 5-gallon soda kegs also known as Cornelius kegs. Homebrew supply shops offer used/new kegs as well as CO2 tanks, beer line, taps and other necessary equipment.
Beer in kegs may be naturally carbonated with priming sugar, the same as bottles. However, most of us who keg beer prefer to simply attach it to the CO2 hose and allow the carbonation to take place. It allows for cleaner beer with no sediment. However, beer purists claim they can tell the difference. They believe that CO2 carbonation in the keg results in a harsher, less smooth, carbonation compared to if the beer yeast is allowed to do it naturally.
Myself, I have not been able to tell a difference. I guess I'm not a beer snob.
I turn up the CO2 to about 10 or 15 psi and give it a week or so to carbonate. If you are in a pinch and need carbonated beer ASAP, you could turn up the CO2 to 30 psi and it will be carbonated overnight. Beware, if you forget to turn down the CO2 to the dispensing pressure, you will have problems with excessive foaming.
I converted a chest freezer over to a beer 'fridge to store my kegs and keep them cool while I am dispensing beer from them.
With all of the beer and CO2 lines, there's barely enough room to fit the kegs and still close the door!
I purchased an exterior thermostat that allows me to set the inside temperature at anywhere between 20 – 80 degrees.
I usually leave it set at around 34 degrees to prevent the growth of mold on surfaces inside it. Although this is colder than ales should be served, I have no problem pouring my ales and then giving them some time to warm up before drinking.
My beer 'fridge holds six 5 -gallon kegs and one 2.5 gallon baby keg (usually we put homemade root beer or another soft drink in that). I cut a hole in the top door of the freezer and run the beer lines up into a wooden box I built myself. Each beer line goes to a stainless steel tap.
At the bottom of that is a stainless steel drain. A plastic tube runs from that into a collection container to hold any spilled beer or foam. It is removable so it may be rinsed and cleaned in the sink.
To pour beer from the keg with minimal foaming, the tap is opened all the way and beer allowed to run slowly down the side. As the glass is almost full, a head of foam is allowed to form.
If the beer has filled the glass without as much head as you'd like, you may now close the tap to only half-way to add some.
I hope that you have found this series of posts on homebrewing beer informative.
If brewing your own beer is something you've always wanted to do, I encourage you to go ahead.
You CAN do it!