Real Fermenting: Bottling the Blackpeach Gruit Ale

Monday, 2 July 2012

Bottling the Blackpeach Gruit Ale

In the absence of any inspiration, I decided on Blackpeach Gruit Ale as the name for this brew. It smells pretty awesome at this stage. In this article, I will bring you through a basic and sanitary bottling process. It doesn't need to be any more complicated than this.
Aaah, waiting bottles!


There are three main steps in this bottling process: Cleaning, Preparing the Vessels, Siphoning. I assume you already have the brew at hand.

Cleaning

Cleanliness. Very important. Ask your mother. What we are not going to do is sterilize. We homebrewers cannot sterilize our bottles. Sterilization is what hospitals do in autoclaves. We clean our glass bottles with a stiff brush and dish detergent (not soap, which leaves oils behind). Harsh caustic cleaners, such as used in dishwashing machines and for sanitizing brewing equipment often, are not necessary and will eventually damage your equipment. 
Give your bottles a good scrubbing with hot water then rinse very thoroughly. We don't want any detergent left behind. My personal rule is to rinse twice more after I can't see any bubbles forming in the bottle. Leave the bottles upside down to dry out.
The clean bottles sitting in my dishrack
The siphoning tube, which is hard to reach inside of to scrub, can be soaked in sanitizer (campden tablets or some other mix) for a few minutes. Better Bottle recommends using Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural 2X for cleaning all your brewing equipment. It's easy on the glass and plastics and tough on proteins, fats and sugars. Your tube should always be immediately rinsed out after use to ensure no matter remains to contaminate your next batch.
Finally, I like to lay down a clean cloth to work on at floor-level. It helps to keep the floor clean when you have the inevitable spillage.

Everything is ready. Preparation breeds success!

Preparing the Vessels

Whatever you are putting your beer into for conditioning (glass/plastic bottles, wooden cask, keg), you will be adding sugar for carbonation. The yeast has finished all the accessible sugars in the beer by the time you reach this stage, so we add a little bit of food now. In this constrained environment, the carbon dioxide produced becomes dissolved in the beer, rather than bubbling out of the airlock. I am carbonating the bottles by adding 1tsp sugar per 750ml. That means 1 spoonful in the 750ml bottles (obviously) and 1 and 1/3tsp in the 1L bottles. Some other technique for adding this sugar include dissolving it in water first and then adding it to the beer before siphoning, or adding this syrup and the beer to a different large vessel before siphoning the combination into bottles. Our way is the simplest, but the other have their advantages too. Use a funnel so you don't make a mess of the bottle tops.

Adding the sugar, organic evaporated cane juice in this case





Siphoning

Now we are ready to siphon the beer into the bottles. Fill the clean siphoning tube and racking cane with water, and place your clean finger over the bottle end. Put the racking cane into the fermenter carefully, so as to not disturb the stuff we don't want to siphon out from the bottom. Dead yeast and settled solid matter. Release your finger and let liquid run into a slops container until the water is all out. Replace your finger and stop the flow. Using a funnel, we will fill each bottle, taking care to not splash it too much, up to 1" of the opening. Move on to each bottle in turn. Once all bottles are full and your fermenter is empty, rinse out your siphoning tube! Then return to close each bottle in turn. The dissolving sugar will by now have filled this limited headspace with carbon dioxide, displacing the oxygen. We don't want oxygen in the bottles, which is why we don't splash the beer in. I aim the flow at the side of the funnel so it flows down the side of the bottle.
The last stage is to wipe up the bottles so they aren't sticky and label them. I have found an extremely inelegant but utilitarian method is to write on a bit of masking tape. Very simple, cheap and easy to remove later. Include the date of bottling or date to be drunk (as I have here), in case you get confused.
BPGA 7/30: Blackberry and Peach Gruit Ale to be drunk after 30th July
Good luck!

2 comments:

  1. How did it turn out ????

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  2. This stuff was great. I am actually drinking the successor brew to this one currently, which is blueberry and blackberry ale. I called it Contusion Ale. That was brewed with rye and hops.

    I am also planning a gruit herb garden currently, as I have just moved out of the ridiculous and prohibitive heat of Bakersfield, CA.

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