Today we present part three of our guide on making beer at home. In the last two articles we described steps one and two including the basic equipment required to make beer at home, and the brewing process. In the final article of the series, we will walk through bottling, aging and drinking your first homemade beer.
Step 3 – Priming and Bottling
The final step before bottling your beer is called priming. Priming consists of mixing sugar in with the beer to carbonate the finished beer. The priming sugar will ferment and carbonate your beer.
Before you can prime and bottle, you again need to sterilize everything the beer will touch. Though your beer has fermented out, it still can be ruined by bacteria or by adding too much oxygen to it (i.e. don’t splash it around). Most brewers use a large plastic bucket or carboy to make it easy to mix the priming sugar in evenly. Sterilize the bucket thoroughly, and also sterilize your siphoning equipment, tools and of course your bottles.
Make sure your bottles are clean and free of debris before sterilizing – use a bottle brush to remove any deposits. Some people sterilize bottles by soaking them in a weak bleach solution and then rinsing well. I’ve also had some success with washing my bottles in the dishwasher, but you need to run it several times with no soap and hot water to avoid leaving a soap residue that will ruin the head retention on your beer.
Siphon the finished beer into your priming bucket, trying very hard not to splash it around or mix any air in with it. Add 2/3 cup of priming sugar (I recommend corn sugar) to your beer and very gently mix it in. Next siphon the beer into your bottles using your bottle filler. Be sure to leave at least an inch or more of empty space at the top of your bottle to aid in fermentation. Put the caps on each bottle as you go and use your bottle capper to secure them.
Step 4 – Aging
The most difficult part is waiting for your beer to come of age. While beers are drinkable after a few weeks, the average homebrew reaches peak flavor anywhere from 8 weeks to 15 weeks after brewing. Most homebrewers can’t wait this long. During the aging process your beer will carbonate and excess yeast, tannins and proteins that create off flavors will fall out of your beer and settle to the bottom of the bottle. This will substantially improve your beer. I personally recommend waiting about 3-4 weeks after bottling before sampling your first brew.
Store your bottles in a cool, dark place. Unless you are brewing a lager under temperature controlled conditions, do not store your beer in the refrigerator for the first two weeks after bottling. Give it two weeks to fully carbonate at room temperature. After the first two weeks, refrigerating the beer will help it improve more quickly because the tannins, yeast and protein will sediment faster at cold temperature.
Step 5 – Drinking
The blessed day has finally arrived to sample your creation. During the aging process excess yeast, tannins and proteins will leave sediment at bottom of your bottle. Get a clean glass, open your brew, and gently poor most of your beer into the glass leaving only the sediment and a small amount of beer in your bottle. Don’t worry if you take a little sediment into the glass – it won’t hurt you. Smell the fresh beer, admire the frothy head, and then sip (don’t guzzle) your first homebrew.
Thank you for your continued support of the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. If you have enjoyed this series of articles, consider subscribing to our blog for weekly email or RSS delivery. In the meantime, sit back, have a homebrew, and enjoy!
Related Beer Brewing Articles from BeerSmith:
- Bottling Beer: 10 Tips for Home Brewers
- How to Brew Beer: 5 Steps for Making Beer at Home – Part 1
- Filtering Home Brewed Beer
- 5 Home Brewing Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Bottle Bomb
- Carbonation Options for Your Home Brewed Beer
- Rapid All-Grain Beer Brewing Part 2 – Fermentation and Aging
- The Beer Gun and Counter Pressure Fillers: Bottling Beer
- Dry Hopping for Beer Revisited – Part 2 of 2
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