In this article, you will learn a step-by-step guide on how to bottle beer at home.
Sometime after his death in 1602, Alexander Nowell, an Anglican priest, was credited by historian Thomas Fuller with the accidental invention of bottled beer. As the legend goes, Nowell had been fishing and left a bottle of ale behind.
He returned a few days later and, upon opening the forgotten bottle, was greeted by the startling sound of a gun. According to this tale, Nowell’s beer had undergone secondary fermentation in the bottle, resulting in a highly carbonated brew that released its pressure with the loud pop Nowell described.
When I set out to bottle my own beer, I hoped that a few pieces of specialized equipment–along with proper sealing and storage–would help me achieve appropriate carbonation levels while avoiding any explosions.
By this point, my beer had been bubbling away in a fermentation bucket for two weeks, and my first-ever brew day seemed like a distant memory. It was time to check the specific gravity and prepare to package the beer in bottles. I took a reading with my hydrometer and waited two more days to confirm that the beer had completed fermentation.
Then I waited another day… and another… all the while being haunted by visions of spilled beer, bottle bombs, and the time-consuming chore ahead of me. Finally, knowing I couldn’t put the task off any longer, I recruited a few friends with the promise of shared beer.
Packaging beer can indeed be a messy and monotonous project, but with a few extra hands on deck and a step-by-step guide on how to bottle beer at home, we were toasting a successful bottling day in no time.
Materials needed to bottle a 5-gallon batch of homebrew:
- 48 x 12ounce brown bottles
- 48 x bottle caps
- Bottle brush
- Bottling bucket
- Bottle filler
- Bottle capper
- 4oz priming sugar
- Small saucepan
- Spoon or brew paddle
Step 1: Clean and sanitize all equipment
If I’m reusing bottles, I typically rinse them out immediately after use and store them with my brewing equipment. Then, on bottling day, I use a bottle brush to scrub out any residue before running all of my bottles through the dishwasher on a hot cycle.
Avoid using detergent because soap can impact the head retention of the beer. Then use a no-rinse sanitizer like star san to sanitize bottles and all other bottling equipment. A dishwasher can serve as a bottling rack here; stage bottles upside down to allow sanitizer to drain before filling.
Step 2: Prepare priming sugar
For a five-gallon batch, mix 4oz of priming sugar with 1 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then cool this mixture to room temperature. The priming sugar will start secondary fermentation in your bottles by giving the yeast more fuel to eat, resulting in carbonation.
Step 3: Rack the beer to the bottling bucket
Once the priming mixture is cool, add it to the bottling bucket and siphon in your beer. To start your auto-siphon, place the bottling bucket lower than your fermentation vessel so that gravity can pull the liquid from one container to the other. You will want to put the pump end of the siphon in your fermentation vessel and the other end of the tube into the bottling bucket.
Give the siphon a couple of pumps to start the flow. While transferring, try not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of your fermentation bucket. After racking the beer to the bottling bucket, stir with your paddle to ensure that the beer and priming solution is evenly mixed.
Step 4: Fill your bottles
Begin to fill your bottles by attaching the bottle filler to the spigot of your bottling bucket with your siphon tube or another short piece of tubing. Next, you’ll insert the bottle filler into an empty bottle, open the tap on the bottling bucket, and press the bottle filler against the bottom of your bottle.
Fill from the bottom up, leaving about an inch of headroom. Stop the flow of beer by relieving pressure on the bottle filler before moving to another bottle and so on.
Step 5: Cap your bottles
This works best with a friend! One person fills, and the other caps. Place a bottle cap on the top of a full bottle and center the bottle capper over the lid. Then, carefully apply even downward pressure to the handles on both sides of the bottle. This seals the cap to the bottle.
Step 6: Store properly and wait
Store your bottled beer in a dark, room temperature space for two weeks, allowing it to condition. After two weeks have passed, open and test out a bottle to see if the carbonation is to your liking.
If you’re happy with the results, move the bottles to your refrigerator, chill, and enjoy! If your beer is not quite as carbonated as you’d like, you can let it condition for another week before testing another bottle.