Dry hopping is a fairly straight forward but decided to include it so you’ll see the full process of the Pond Ripple Pale Ale. Dry hopping is generally done 3-5 days before bottling or kegging to add aroma to the beer. The Citra hops in this recipe will add aromas of citrus, grapefruit, lime and tropical fruits. As per the recipe I dry hoped on day 11 of fermentation. Simply boil a small grain bag or hop sock in boiling water for 1 minute, remove from the water and add the hops, then tie up the grain bag or hop sock and add to the carboy. The important thing to remember is to keep everything sanitised. That’s why I boiled the bag, and as you can see my Star San Bath is ready for action. I simply put the bung and airlock straight into the bath after removing, added the hops (as you can see I also sanitised a spoon to push the hops in) then replace the bung and airlock, I just used a little of the Star San mix from my bath to replace the water in the airlock, easy!
Three days later and we are ready to bottle. To be honest the first few times I bottled it was a f#@&ing nightmare, and it still remains my least favourite step in the brewing process. Keeping your beer safe from infection, oxidation and getting carbonation right are the main considerations when bottling. After altering my technique I’ve settled on on the process below, I’ll go over kegging next week when I taste the Pond Ripple…
I only recommend equipment I’ve used myself, I purchased my bottling equipment from The Brew Shop Peakhurst, I’ve created some links to exact equipment I purchased, hopefully useful if your having trouble finding items yourself. You’ll need….
An Auto Syphon, if you get one elsewhere make sure you get the smaller one for 5L Carboys. The auto syphon works by displacing the liquid by pumping the plunger a couple of times…..dead easy to use.
A Bottling Bucket and Tap. You could use a variation of different containers for a bottling bucket, the two considerations you need to keep in mind though is you want food grade so you beer doesn’t become infected, and that you can attach the tap in a watertight manner. The bottling bucket I purchased was pre-threaded perfectly for screwing in the tap, I just had to drill out the hole.
A Bottling Wand/Filler, the bottling wand needs to be a tight fit into your fermenter tap, this is the case with the items I’ve created links, and I think it’s standard with most brewing equipment.
If you need bottles, I’ve only ever used these 750ml Swing Top Bottles, so I can’t give you any advice on capping. Be wary however if your saving bottles from beers you drink, alot of the major breweries have thined out the thickness of their glass because the beer does not require bottle conditioning. This means that you increase the chance of expolding bottles (bottle bombs) as they are not built to withstand the pressure. Update- At the Sydney Beer & BBQ Festival, I spoke to the guys from Cooper’s, their bottles are an exception as their beers are old school bottle conditioned so good to use for your own brews.
Besides the bottles, I thought it would be a waste of space and money buying the items above, but my view has totally changed. Bottling in the manner I do now has cut spillage and beer mixed with too much trub virtually down to zero making the most of my precious 5L batch. Bottling directly from the carboy, especially by yourself, is tedious and tricky. Keeping an eye on the siphon, to ensure it’s submerged, but not too much to be stirring up the trub, while filling bottles at a lower level so the siphon flow remains steady, it’s all too much! This method makes things easier by cutting the process in half, it allows you to easily mix in priming sugar if your batch priming by pouring it in to the bottling bucket or directly into the beer and then siphoning the beer. It also makes for a clearer beer removing alot of the trub before bottling . I’ll run you though it…
1) Sanatise everything! And before you sanatise everything, make sure its clean first.
The bottling bucket- just as you would a carboy, and like the carboy, don’t worry, a few Star San bubbles won’t hurt.
Your bottles- this is where the Star San Bath is awesome🤘 (my bath fits 2 at a time), just angle the opening of the bottle in the bath so it fills with water (pictured below), get it 60%-70% full and it should sink to the bottom, leave for a couple of minutes, empty the bottle out and then place on some paper towel soaked in Star San. I’ve only ever used swing top bottles so I also place the lid on without closing, if your capping just put some sanitised paper over the top. Sanatise your bottles first, and just before bottling tip out any Star San mixture that has reduced into liquid from the bubbles, if there’s still bubbles in there at this stage, don’t worry, its harmless to your beer.
Your siphon/bottling wand- siphon mixture from the Star San bath into your siphon, then let it and your bottling wand sit in the bath for 2 minutes or until your ready to use, release the Star San mixture from siphon back into the bath.
2) Make sure you put 250ml of the beer into you hydrometer test tube so you can get your FG (final gravity) reading. If your batch priming you’ll need to take a sample before adding the priming sugar, as I’m not today I’ll simply fill the test tube with the bottling wand. I use this beer as a taster to see how my beer is going, so I don’t sanatise the hydrometer as its not going back into the batch. For the Pond Ripple Pale Ale I’m pleased to say bang on target FG- 1.010 OG- 1.050 means our percentage alcohol is 5.25% (the recipe said to expect 4.9-5.5%)👌
3) There are many different points of view on priming sugar and bottle conditioning. Today I used 1 3/4 Cooper’s Carbonation Drops for a 750 ml bottle, some people recommend using 2 drops, others say its asking for trouble, I want to stay on the safe side. I’ve moved towards batch priming, but since I’m only bottling one bottle today and putting the rest in thr keg, its not practical . Both with carbonation drops and priming sugar, too much will result in your bottles exploding due to pressure (bottle bombs), not enough and your beer won’t carbonate, it’s a fine balance. You can use this Priming Sugar Calculator as a guide if you want to batch prime. I’m still working out the correct amount, so can’t offer defiant information. One piece of advice I can give is in winter and the cooler months, be patient, after 4 weeks bottle conditioning one of my beers was still flat, but after 6 weeks had carbed up nicely.
4) Alright, all santised, now let’s set up! You’ll need your carboy to be around one and a half to two meters higher than the bottling bucket to ensure a nice continuous siphon (pic 1). Ensure the end of the siphon is in contact with the bottom of the bottling bucket, you want to fill from the bottom up, this avoids splashing and bubbles which can lead to oxidation (a cause of off flavour in beers). If your batch priming, pour in the priming solutions cooled to room temp before starting the siphon. Pump the plunger while submerged in the beer a couple of times to start the siphon. With the beer flowing just concentrate on keeping the end of the siphon sumberged to keep the flow going, and when the level of beer gets low, just start tipping the carboy to one side to keep that siphon submerged. A little bit of trub won’t hurt your beer if you suck a little up right at the end….no problems! The main thing to avoid is sucking up trub any time before, as it will most likely clog the siphon tip, ruin the flow and you’ll be saying see you next Tuesday.😠
5) Thank #@& for that, siphoning over, it’s all down hill now!😌 With the bottling wand securely in the tap (pic 3), turn the tap on, insert your bottle over the wand (pic 4)and press the wand with a little pressure against the bottom of the bottle. You should get a steady medium flow, you can fill the bottles very close to the top, as when you remove the bottle, the volume displaced by the wand will leave you with the perfect amount of headspace. The wand won’t release beer unless the tip is pressed, so your free to go at your own pace, and conveniently cap each bottle immediately after filling if you wish. Just one thing to keep in mind, don’t cover or seal the top of the bottling bucket, this will upset the smooth flow from the wand.
6) Clean up, straight away! Your carboy, bottling bucket, siphon and wand are all now covered in sticky beer, the longer you leave them, the more difficult a task your setting for yourself, poorly cleaned equipment can lead to infections in your next batch. The carboy is the hardest, rinse it out a couple of times with warm water, then fill it halfway with hot water and some brewing glass cleaner and give it a good shake, fill to the top and let it soak for an hour, with some luck you won’t even need to scrub the inside.
6) Store your bottles in a cool, dark place or as per recipe guidelines to condition. Make note of the date of bottling, I use the BrewTracker App, it’s simple to use and a good way to document your beer rather than notes everywhere. It’s hard, but show some restraint and patience to allow for conditioning. I’m not great with patience which is why I made the investment in a mini keg, I’ll go into more detail about kegging and it’s benefits next week……
I’ll also be tasting and reviewing the final product, the Pond Ripple Pale Ale! Fingers crossed it’s met expectations 🤞
Until then, happy brewing!