Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A beer journey: from start to finish: Part 2

Previously on Beer Journey....

We last saw out hero, the beer, chilling in the garage...

Tonight on Beer Journey we bottle our hero.

First the equipment must all be assembled. I keep all of gear in a Rubbermaid container.
The bottles must be washed and sanitized. First I rinse them out with my bottle washer. This is one of the "must have" optional accessories for a homebrewer. I try to rinse every bottle out after I drink its contents. This bottlewasher rinsing is meant to remove any other dirt or dust or bugs that have found their way into the bottles.
Here is my bottle lineup after washing and rinsing. Notice that in this case I am using 22 oz bottles. I have acquired many of these over the past year or so. Many came with beer in them from Rogue brewing. These beers are awesome, but the price in MN has jumped to over $4 a bottle. That's too much for me. Fat Tire is cheaper and still very good.
At this point I should show a picture of the bottles in the dishwasher. For whatever reason, I didn't take a picture of this. Sorry. Imagine all of these bottles and 12 12oz bottles upside down in a dishwasher....

Good job. Let's move on...

While the dishwasher wash and sanitize cycle runs the rest of the bottling equipment gets a soak in sanitizing solution (note: the dishwasher is NOT used to wash the bottle, only to sanitize them. Very little water gets sprayed into the bottles. Detergent must also NOT be used. Any residual detergent will ruin head formation and retention.). This is my bottling bucket, racking cane, spigot, tubing and bottling wand.
As a added sanitizer, I use Everclear in a spray bottle. In MN, Everclear is sold as the 75.5% variety because the good MN government doesn't trust the general population to control themselves with the 95.5% stuff. I spray this on any surfaces that may not be fully sanitized. Paranoia? Yes, thank you.
This absolutely stunning picture is of the priming sugar in water after being boiled for 10 minutes. Wow!!! It's about 5 ounces of corn sugar in 1 pint of water.
The beer gets transfered by siphon from the carboy to a sanitized bottling bucket. Gravity gets the job done.
The bottles are unloaded from the washer and placed on the floor. The bottling bucket is placed on the counter. A tube is connected from the spigot to the bottling wand (a picture of this would have been nice. Sorry:(). Here is a picture of the first bottle being filled. The bottling wand has a spring loaded valve. When it is pushed down on the bottom of the bottle, the valve opens and beer fills the bottle from the bottom. This is important because oxygen is evil.
How this for a close up.
Almost to the top.
While the bottles are being filled, the caps get sanitized in boiling water. It's the easiest way, but if left too long in water, they will rust. Too long is 30 minutes or so.
Ouch, that's a lot of kinetic energy!!
Each bottle gets a cap.
Uncrimped cap on a bottle.
The capper on a bottle (a different one from above). Obviously, two hands are typically used. The towel is there to mop up any spilled beer on the bottom of the bottles. Hey, it happens.
And here it is. All the goodness sealed inside.
And here is the finished product. I have the combination of 22 and 12 ounce bottles. I've labeled all with a "P" for pilsner.
And here they sit in the garage, chilling at about 40°F. I hope the kids don't want to go on a wagon ride. The answer will be "NO."
That's the end. That's it. That is all there is to it. Oh, except the worst part about the whole process: waiting. This beer will not be carbonated for a few weeks. It is drinkable right now, but not carbonated.

When this beer is first cracked (maybe in April), I will finish this beer journey.

Until next time....


milkshake said...

Rogue beer bottles do not have paper vignettes. This got me thinking: maybe you can simplify the bottling process by putting these bottles all into the oven and baking the hell out of them, then just letting them cool down in the oven and off you go, bottlin. Not much timesaver I suppose but no work is needed - you can watch Futurama while your stuff is baking.

(If there is some unwashed leftover left in those bottles, your beer will acquire additional toasty flavor)

marcus said...

Great 2-Part post. Makes you think how much goes into process of making beer, but its worth it! Thanks for going through the trouble of taking pics and posting. Can't wait to hear what it taste like.

Chemgeek said...

Milkshake, I'd actually love to autoclave things. That would take care of everything.

Marcus, thanks. I can't wait to taste it either. I of course tried some before bottling and it was good.

mjenks said...

Wouldn't you be afraid of potential nasty carryover from the autoclave? I haven't met an autoclave yet that didn't smell like death and rot.

To that end, what about popping them in a pressure cooker, set up on a rack so that they don't get immersed in the hot water?

art fan said...

In order to sanitize completly your bottles you can use this kind of bottle washer, I know this is tippicaly used by small brewers but if you make beer often it can be interesting.

Marc (from Quebec)

Fred-√Člie Rocher said...

Im suprised someone else is using aquatech ! i though that i was the only one.. im a big fan of beef also