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The first step in how to bottle beer at home is to verify that your primary or secondary fermentation is complete by checking the specific gravity two or three days apart. If the reading is the same on both days it is safe to bottle, otherwise you should wait until you get the same reading. This will prevent over-carbonation or exploding bottles.

A typical 5 gallon batch of beer will require 48 12-ounce bottles or 26 22-ounce bottles. Clean and sanitize your bottles(and caps) before you start the bottling process. Avoid using bleach and instead purchase a non-rinsing sanitizer like One Step, Easy Clean, or Iodaphor. You might save a penny using bleach but you’ll need an extra hour and lots of rinse water. It isn’t worth the risk to your $35 batch of beer.

(Sanitized)Equipment needed to bottle homebrew:
  • spring-loaded bottle filler
  • bottling bucket and siphon hose(or a carboy, racking cane, and siphon hose)
  • bottle capper
The bottling bucket is a regular brew bucket with a spigot near the bottom. This is convenient in that you can let gravity move the liquid without inducing a siphon. You can also use a carboy with the siphon hose attached to a racking cane. An Auto-Siphon is an excellent option to avoid inducing a siphon by mouth if you are using a carboy instead of the bucket. The bottle filler is one of the neatest inventions since sliced bread for the home brewer. It’s a tube with a spring-loaded valve in one end that opens/closes by pushing/releasing against the bottom of your bottles, allowing the beer to quietly fill the bottle and not drip in between fills.

Boil ¾ cup priming sugar(or 1-1/4 cups dry malt extract) in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes and let cool. This is especially critical if using a glass carboy to avoid cracking the glass. Pour the cooled liquid into your bucket or carboy, then siphon the beer from your fermenter leaving any sediment behind. Make sure that the siphon hose is at the bottom of the bucket so the siphoning action evenly mixes the sugar water with the beer for uniform carbonation.

Now it’s time to fill the bottles. If you are using a bottling bucket, attach the siphon hose to the faucet then the bottle filler to the other end of the hose. Insert the bottle filler into a bottle, then open the spigot and press the bottle filler against the bottom of the bottle to start the flow.

If you are using a carboy and racking cane, attach the hose to the racking can then invert and fill both with water. Fold/pinch the end of the hose, then quickly insert the racking can into the carboy, release the hose to allow the siphon to start, and then insert the bottle filler onto the end of the hose. With an Auto-Siphon, attach the hose to the Auto-Siphon and the bottle filler to the other end of the hose and pump the inner wand to induce the siphon.

Fill the bottles to 1” from the top and lift the bottle filler to stop the flow. Fill the remaining bottles in the same way. Then cap and let sit for 2-3 weeks at room temperature(they won’t carbonate in the refrigerator
if you are using ale yeasts). Then chill and enjoy!

If your carbonation seems fine after 3 weeks but seems to be over-carbonated after 5-6 weeks on a consistent basis, reduce the amount of priming sugar by 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons. This may extend the carbonation time but will eliminate long-term carbonation.

Tom Frank
Adventures in Homebrewing