As promised a couple of weeks ago, it is time to bottle the beer. The American Wheat beer spent a week in primary fermentation, then 4 weeks in secondary. As a result our friends the yeast cells have created 5 gallons of beer that is approximately 4.5% ABV and very clear. Woo hoo - beer! - but it is not quite ready to drink. Why? Because it is awfully flat.
The homebrew that I make is carbonated in the bottle, that means I have to rely on the yeast cells to create the CO2. But because the yeast has already eaten up all the sugar in the beer I've got to give them just a little bit more. The trick is to give the yeast just enough sugar to create the right amount of CO2, too much and we'll have beer bottles exploding all over the place! So, I take two cups of water then add a cup of dry malt extract and simmer until the DME is dissolved to create a little bit of wort.
Next I pour the wort into the sterilized bottling bucket. This is a food grade plastic bucket with a spout at the bottom. Here is a photo of the bottling bucket sitting on a milk crate. The next step is to siphon the beer from the secondary fermenter into the bottling bucket. Pouring the wort into the bottling bucket before siphoning ensures that the sugar is thoroughly mixed into the beer.
Once the beer is in the bottling bucket I'm ready to start bottling. Five gallons of beer fills roughly 52 empty 12-ounce bottles. I sterlize my bottles by soaking them in a bleach and water solution. Luckily I have a bathtub in my basement brewery that is perfect for this task. To make things even easier, I've replaced the standard showerhead with a hand-held shower head that gives me more flexibility and really helps speed things up.
To cap a bottle you put a now sterile cap on the bottle mouth
Voila! Now we wait 3 weeks while the yeast creates the CO2 and carbonates the beer. By July 4th we'll be enjoying our new beer!