These instructions are meant as a basic guide for the homebrewer who is just starting out in brewing. These instructions will help you bottle your first few batches of homebrew, and outline the basic principles of bottling beer at home. As you become familiar with homebrewing and bottling, you may find that you may want to follow a slightly different system... and as long as you always remember that sanitization comes first, you should be fine.

As with all of our instructions on this website, we have formatted them so that they will print neatly with most browsers and printers. Also keep in mind that the quantities and descriptions that follow pertain to a typical 5-gallon batch.

Bottling

a) The first step in bottling your beer is preparing your fermenter. Whether you did just the primary fermentation or also did the secondary fermentation, you'll need to be careful with this step. At least an hour before you plan on bottling, ideally the night before, you'll need to carefully lift your fermenter up on to a counter that is at least a couple of feet off the ground. You need to be careful not to disturb any of the trub (the hops and yeast solids that settle to the bottom of your fermenter), as you want this to be left behind when you move your beer into the bottling bucket.

b) Next, make sure that you have all of the proper equipment and materials on hand. At the minimum you'll need:
  • A bottling bucket with spigot
  • A bottle filler
  • Siphon equipment (we recommend using an auto-siphon and racking cane)
  • Tubing for siphon equipment (4' - 6') and bottle filler (3")
  • Bottles (approximately 2 cases of 12 oz. or 22 oz.)
  • Crown caps (if using cap-able amber bottles*)
  • A bottle capper (if using cap-able amber bottles*)
  • A small sauce pot
  • A spoon
  • 5 oz. of priming sugar
*We strongly recommend that you avoid using clear or green beer bottles!

c) Make sure to sanitize everything but the capper, pot, and spoon. The easiest way to do this is to put 6 tablespoons of One-Step or B-Brite into the bottling bucket (make sure the spigot is closed!) along with the bottle filler, siphon equipment, and tubing... then fill it to the brim with warm tap water. In a small bowl, put the crown caps with a small sprinkle of sanitizer and fill that with warm tap water as well. In a large laundry sink, or container, mix an appropriate amount of One-Step or B-Brite with warm tap water and submerge all of your bottles in the solution. Let the equipment and bottles soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

d) After 10 or 15 minutes, quickly rinse the bottles out and put them on a bottle tree or upside down in their original cases. Next, empty the bottling bucket through it's spigot... this will ensure that there's no bacteria hiding within the spigot. When the bucket is drained of sanitizer, rinse it, and the equipment within, making sure that there's no sanitizing chemicals left behind. Don't forget to let some water drain through the spigot as well!

e) Delicately attach 4 to 6 feet of tubing to the cane within the sanitized auto-siphon and attach the other end to a racking cane. Next, carefully slide the auto-siphon into the beer that is sitting on the counter. Make sure not to jam the bottom of the siphon into the trub at the bottom! Then place the bottling bucket on the floor beneath the fermenter. Place the racking cane into the bottling bucket. Gently start the auto-siphon and siphon the beer to the bottom of the bottling bucket. Make sure that the racking cane is at the very bottom of the bottling bucket so that no splashing occurs. It's a good idea to place a lid on top of the bottling bucket at this point... you won't be able to put it on all the way obviously (becuase of the racking cane), and that's okay. You're just trying to prevent any germs from falling into the bucket as it fills.

f) As the beer is siphoning into the bottling bucket, pour about a pint of filtered or distilled water into the pot and bring it to a boil. When the water begins to boil, add all of the priming sugar from the 5 oz. packet that was provided with your recipe kit. Stir the sugar to dissolve. Boil the sugar water for a few minutes and then turn the heat off. When the beer is almost done siphoning into the bottling bucket, gently and evenly pour the sugar water into the beer (it's okay that the sugar water is hot). Use the racking cane as a spoon, and carefully, but thoroughly, stir the the sugar into the beer. It's extremely important to make sure that the sugar is evenly distributed throughout the beer so that all of the beer bottles carbonate evenly later on!

g) Once all of the beer has been siphoned into the bottling bucket, move the fermenter and siphon equipment out of the way, and then carefully lift the bottling bucket up on to the counter. Make sure you have a lid on top of the bucket and that the spigot is facing you and pointing down. Now, carefully attach the bottle filler to the spigot with small piece of tubing (same diameter tubing that you used for siphoning, just a few inches is fine). Once the spigot is securely connected to the bottle filler, open the spigot up... the beer will flow to the bottom of the bottle filler.

h) It's finally time to bottle! Pour the sanitzer out of your bowl of caps and rinse them. Make sure that your bottles and capper are nearby. Grab a bottle and bring it up to the bottle filler, allowing the bottle filler to slide inside the bottle... as soon as the bottom of the bottle filler hits the bottom of the bottle it will begin to fill. Allow the bottle to fill all the way to the top and then quickly remove it from the filler... the beer should drop to about half way up the neck. Carefully grab a crown cap, trying to avoid touching the inside of the cap (to help prevent infections later on) and place it on top of the bottle and cap it with the capper. Don't push too hard with the capper! If you see a dimple in the cap after capping, then you probably pushed too hard.

Conditioning

a) Once your beer is bottled you will want to store it for at least 2 weeks at the right temperature. For ales, room temperature is ideal (around 68°) and for lagers, the high 50's to low 60's is best. Usually the basement suits this purpose perfectly for most households. If you don't have a basement, a closet will work. By no means, do you ever want to condition or store your beer in the garage! Keeping your beer in the garage is about the same thing as keeping your beer outside, and the yeast will suffer from the temperature fluctuations as the day turns into night and night into day. In short, keep your beer in a place that consistently has a temperature that is as close as possible to the ranges mentioned above.

b) After two weeks or so, you should test one of your bottles for carbonation. Open it up and listen for positive "phhfffssst!" sound that you're used to hearing when you open any good bottle of beer. If that sound is there, then pour some of the beer into a glass and look at the carbonation... If it looks carbonated, taste it. If you are happy with the level of carbonation, then you can continue to store the beer where it is, or put it in a fridge. If the beer isn't completely carbonated, then the only thing you can do is wait. Sometimes homebrew will carbonate quickly and sometimes it will take longer than expected. A biological process is occurring in each and every bottle that you capped, and just like everything else in life, you can't always predict what will happen. Most average beers should be completely carbonated within a month if they are stored at the right temperature. If you bottled beer that is higher in alcohol, this can greatly increase the time it takes to bottle condition... some beers are known to take months to carbonate!

Drink!

a) At least two weeks have passed and you've waited until the beer had a good carbonation level. Now it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor!. Assuming you didn't make any major mistakes, you should be enjoying a beer that is probably better than you expected... and it will only get better!

b) Despite what a lot of larger breweries tell you, you don't want to drink your beer as quickly as possible. "Born On Dates" are a gimmick used by companies that want to move lots of beer, and move it fast. But you are a homebrewer... you've produced a beer that is better than most commerical beers, and you're just starting out. Even the lightest of homebrews will get better with age. Pilsners and lagers will develop better and better flavor for 3 to 6 months after bottling. Then they will plateau for another 3 to 6 months... giving you up to a year to enjoy your homebrew. If you brew bigger beers, they can develop even more flavor and age even longer. As a general rule, the more alcohol and/or hops a beer has, the longer it can age. Barleywines, some IPAs and stouts, etc., don't even hit their full potential until they've aged 6 months to a year!

Cheers!