Bottling Day

Like I said above you will want to know fermentation has stopped so there should be no activity from the airlock. If you have a hydrometer use it, check the hydrometer reading on consecutive days it should be low between 1.010 – 1.016 and not of changed at all between those 2 consecutive readings. If the reading has changed the beer is still fermenting, be patient and leave the beer another few days

Now this is the part of brewing that most people agree is a chore. You are going to obviously need some bottles to put your beer in, all these bottles need to be sanitised.You can get various equipment like drying racks for your bottles and brushes. If you find this makes it easier then go for it, either way they all need doing.

Another thing is to do more than you think you need it’s always a pain to have to stop because you haven’t got enough bottles. The best bottles are brown glass ones as this stop light from effecting the beer. Just save the ones from the beer you buy from the shops. Like I said before plastic PVC bottles with screw caps are just fine and make no difference to the taste.

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How To Use A Hydrometer

Using a Hydrometer

One of the tools that is essential to a home brewer aside from a thermometer, is a hydrometer. Knowing how to use a hydrometer is important because it can tell us a lot about the beer, so let’s take a look.

A hydrometer is a simple measuring tool that measures the density of liquids. Plain and simple water from the tap has a base density of zero. It is when you start adding sugar to the water, which is what the brewer is doing by steeping malted grains in water that the density changes. The more sugar present the higher the density of the liquid.

There are a number of things that using a hydrometer will tell you about the wort. The whole purpose of it is to tell you the amount of dissolved sugar in the wort. The first reading you would need to take is before you pitch the yeast in the wort.

How To Use A Hydrometer

All you do is float the hydrometer in the beer. Usually the hydrometer will be supplied with a trial tube for this. Again make sure everything is sanitised before taking a sample from the beer. The hydrometer will float at a certain depth according to the density of the wort or beer. This density is called the gravity and because it is measured before fermentation the reading is the Original Gravity or OG.

Throughout the fermentation the amount of sugar in the wort will decrease as the yeast begin to consume it. This process makes CO2 and alcohol, meaning when you measure the gravity again the hydrometer will sink lower into the beer. Using the gauge on the stem of the hydrometer you will be able to see just how far along fermentation is, usually if you are following a recipe the original and final gravity’s are provided.

One thing to note when using a hydrometer is the level where the beer meets the stem of the instrument. If you look closely you will see the surface of the beer curve up where it meets the stem of the hydrometer. This effect is caused by the surface tension of the beer which is called the meniscus. When you take a hydrometer reading you need to note the level of the beer, not where the meniscus curves up to meet the hydrometer. Although this sounds a little complex it becomes second nature after a few readings.

How To Read A Hydrometer

Calculating Alcohol Content – ABV %

The density of water is 1.000 on a hydrometer, so when sugar is added the gravity reading will increase to say 1.040. When beer ferments there will be sugars in the wort that are non-fermentable this means your gravity will not finish exactly at 1.000 but say 1.010 for example. Using these readings however we can work out the Alcohol by Volume% (ABV) with a simple calculation. What you want to do is work out the difference between the 2 readings so 1.040-1.010 = 0.030 then multiply this by 131 so 0.030 x 131 = 3.93% ABV.

That’s all there is to it. There are calculators on line to do the calculation for you but its pretty simple anyway. The one thing to watch out for though is must Hydrometers are temperature calibrated so will only give the correct reading when at a certain temperature usually 20C. Again there are calculators online to adjust for temperature and hydrometers are usually supplied with temperature conversion charts.

Testing Extraction and Brewing Efficiency

When you brew “all grain” without using any malt extracts the home brewer will need to know how much sugar is being extracted from the malted grain. Using a hydrometer you will be able to tell how efficient the mash was at extracting fermentable sugars from the grain. This is important when you formulate recipes for knowing how much grain you’ll need to use to achieve the desired alcohol content for the beer.

Malted grains have a upper limit as to how much sugar can be extracted under ideal conditions. When we use the malt to make beer we can only extract a certain amount of that, this percentage tells us how efficient the brewing process is and the hydrometer is needed to test it.

If you are only just starting to brew all grain you don’t really need to worry to much about brewing efficiency. It can help down the line as you begin creating your own recipes but to begin with it is much better to just get started, not worrying about numbers.

 

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Carbonating Your Beer

Carbonating BeerAt this point, just before bottling the beer is flat so we want to give it some fizz. To do this we need to prepare some priming sugar. Depending on you beer kit, there may be a recommended amount of sugar to add so follow the advice in the instruction. If however there is no clear advice and you have brewed 5 gallons of beer all that is needed is to boil roughly 100 grams of sugar in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. This is to sanitise, allow the sugar mixture to cool to room temperature.

Its always a good idea to rack the beer on to another vessel before bottling if you can because this will decrease the chances of sediment making it into the bottle. If you are racking put the priming sugar in the new vessel and syphon the beer on top of this without splashing it. If you can’t do this don’t worry just take it easy and try not to disturb the sediment too much. Add the sugar mixture and mix the priming sugar in by stirring gently to avoid splashing with a sanitised spoon.

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How To Syphon

How To SyphonOne basic technique of home brewing that you need to master is how to syphon (or siphon). At first glance it seems so easy and trust me it is easy, however it takes practice. Being able to syphon properly and easily without any splashing or bubbles is not only important, but necessary for brewing good beer.

Why You Need To Know How to Syphon Properly

The thing with home brewing is, you will mostly be making large quantities of beer that needs to be moved from one vessel to another. Whether that be from your boiler to the fermenting vessel or to keg/bottle. There are a couple of reasons why you will need or want to syphon, one is that pouring that quantity of beer or wort from one place to another is just not possible because it’s too heavy or just not safe, the other is that getting oxygen or air into the beer is not good. One of the common off flavours of beer (not just home brew, commercial beers too) is oxidation.

Oxidation will be present in all beer to some extent because it in the air but moving around beer and causing splashing or bubbling in it after fermentation will make oxidation much worse. The flavour most commonly associated with oxidation is wet paper or cardboard. Good syphoning technique can drastically reduce the exposure to oxygen and mean oxidation is not noticeable.

How to Start A Syphon

As you are probably aware there are all sort of bacteria that want to get into your beer and take over. Starting a syphon with you mouth by sucking it is not really a good idea here. We want to start the syphon with as little contact as possible. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Take your clean and sanitised syphon block one end with your finger and fill it about 2 thirds full of water. Some would say to use pre-boiled water, I just use tap water. It’s up to you.]
  2. The vessel you want to syphon beer from has to be higher than the one you are syphoning into. Syphoning works with gravity the exit end of the syphon tube needs to be lower. Put the clear end into the beer, don’t let any water from the tube into the beer, if it’s too full, drain some water out.
  3. With the tube now in the beer, take the blocked end lower down than the fermenting vessel (or whatever you’re syphoning from and release your thumb.
  4. The water will drain out, so you need to catch it in a jug or something. At the same time beer will be pulled up through the syphon until it reaches the working end. Cover over the end and begin syphoning into the new vessel.
  5. Make sure the outlet end of the syphon tube is submerged in the new vessel as soon as possible. This will ensure the minimum amount of air can get into the beer. Basically don’t create any splashes.

Practical Tips For Syphoning

Reading the above points it makes syphoning seem complicated. I assure you it’s not, all it takes is practice. Before you start syphoning your home brew practice with water and get the hang of it. It doesn’t take long to master.

If however you want to make life a bit simpler there are some tips and gadgets available to make syphoning easier.

Using a detachable tube to get the syphon started is one such tip. All you need to do is take the tube of something like a turkey baster, which is tapered to one end. This narrow end can be inserted into the syphon tube and then you can suck to get the syphon started. Once it’s going just pull out the tube. This will remove all risk of sanitary issues.

The one thing I see many people using and having used one myself I can see why they are so popular, is the auto syphon. Basically it’s a syphon that you can get started by pumping a couple of times and away it goes. It does make life a lot easier and if you hate syphoning it’s a brilliant gadget.

Out of all the syphoning paraphernalia getting a racking cane and clip is I think the best way to make life easier. A racking cane is basically a rigid tube that attached to the inlet end of the syphon which means it goes straight to the bottom and you don’t waste any beer. It has a sediment trap on to stop to much trub or yeast being sucked up and the clip attaches it to your fermenter meaning you have your hands free. A simple solution to a simple task.

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Bottling and Capping

Crown CapperRight, now we now need to get the beer from the fermentation vessel into the bottles. You will need a syphon tube for this (sanitised of course). Usually you will have a length of tube with a sediment trap on and a cane so you can push the tube to the bottom of the vessel. On the other end you can have a clamp type device to control the flow. One thing I would recommend is something called a bottling wand, instead of the clamp, you have a rod that when you push against the bottom of the bottle allows the syphon to work and when pulled away shut the syphon off. This device will make the whole process so much easier and smoother.

If you haven’t syphoned before then have a practice with some water, get the hang of the process and it becomes easy. When you are ready fill up all your sanitised bottles and work your way through all of the beer.

Capping

Finally we need to seal the bottles. Unless your are using screw top bottles you will need a device called a crown capper (these come in various shapes and sizes so ask at your home brew store) and of course some caps. Soak the caps in a sanitising solution before beginning. Make sure the beer is roughly an inch and a half from the top of the bottle we don’t want to much head space at the top and not full to the brim.

Seal the bottles using your capper or screw the lids on, you can do this as you fill each bottle to seal them as soon as possible so they aren’t exposed or at risk of spilling as you work.

Now it is time to have some patience, the priming sugar you added to the bottle will need to ferment, store the beer in a place at room temperature for about 10 days, this will allow time for the yeast to work and carbonate your beer. Around two weeks after bottling is an ideal time to try your first home brew.

There we have it, your first home brewed beer, once you have the first one down, try a different beer kit or maybe take a look at some more of the articles here and try some other options for brewing with raw ingredients.

Happy Brewing!

 

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