Home Brewing: Priming and bottling
Priming sugar may be added in granule or syrup form to home brew. Measure out the sugar required precisely and dissolve it in a little of the beer. The quantity of sugar used is quite critical. Five ml (1 level teaspoonful) per 1.15 litres/1 quart is quite adequate. If the beer to be bottled has been removed from its sediment, stir the syrup into the beer before bottling. If the beer is still on its sediment, distribute the syrup evenly and pro rata between the bottles, e.g. twice as much in a litre or quart bottle as in a half-pint or pint bottle.
Before adding the priming, make quite sure that fermentation has finished. To this end, it is good practice to siphon the beer from its sediment when you think fermentation has ended into a sterilized container and leave it covered for two days while a further deposit is formed or fermentation starts again. The racking releases dissolved carbon dioxide and the admission of oxygen from the air sometimes invigorates the yeast and renews fermentation.
Use only proper beer bottles avoiding mineral water bottles and non-returnable beer bottles since neither of these is strong enough for home brewed beer. Wash clean, sterilize and drain the bottles, then fill them to within 5 cm/2 in of the mouth of the bottle – no more. Some head space is essential to enable the right pressure to build up.
Seal the bottle with astopper on which there is a good rubber washer, or with a crown cap. Then shake the bottle gently to dissolve and distribute the sugar and also to test the seal. If any hissing sound is heard the seal is imperfect and must be made again.
Leave the bottles in a warm room for a few days to ferment the sugar, then store the beer for several months if possible, but at least for several weeks. This enables the beer to develop a good condition so that it pours cleanly, produces a good head and remains lively throughout its period in the glass.
Before putting the bottles away it is best to label them in some way with at least the style of the beer and the date it was brewed. It is also helpful to provide yourself with a reminder as to which kit the beer was brewed from or if it was from malt extract and hops, or grains and hops. A notebook is useful for-keeping such data – you can also record in it the success rate of the brew. Some splendid decorative labels are available that give the bottle a professional finish.
If you get through a 22.75-litre/5-gallon brew fairly quickly, it might be worth your while to invest in one or two pressure casks of which there are several varieties on the market. When fermentation is finished and the beer has been fined and cleared, siphon it into a sterilized cask and prime it at the rate of 14g/1oz sugar per 4.5 litres/1 gallon. Dissolve the sugar in some of the beer first and stir it in. Seal the cask and leave it in the position from which you can conveniently draw off the beer. Condition the draught beer for two weeks before chinking.