Bombers Ahoy! Bottling Big Batches of Beer

So, you’re ready to bottle your beer. What to do, what to do?You made the jump to making 10 gallon batches and now you have a lot of beer from that big batch you made.

When you're bottling a big batch of beer, use what you like!There are so many options: 12 ounce crown-cap bottles, 16 ounce flip-top bottles, 22 ounce crown-cap bottles (bombers), 32 ounce flip-top bottles, and half-gallon growlers. What is the right solution?

Well, like everybody on the Internet, I’ll give the standard answer: “It depends.” What are you trying to accomplish? How much of this beer do you want to have to drink in one sitting? How much beer do you usually drink in one sitting? Are you in a perpetual time crunch(I know I am most of the time)?

If you’re like me and you’re time-poor, just buying a case of growlers seems like the easy solution. The problem is then you have to drink a half-gallon of beer every time you want to have a beer. I mean, I’m all for an excuse to have a beer, but a half-gallon at a time is little more than I want every time.

On the flip-side, filling twelve ounce bottles takes a while. It’s not quite twice as many as if you go with 22 ounce bombers, but it’s pretty close. But 12 ouncers are nice if you’re going to share your beer with others. Some of the guys who help me drink my homebrew don’t like more than 12 ounces at a time.

I’ve found a mix of bombers and 12 ounce bottles is a nice compromise. I enjoy the size of a bomber, rather than needing to open two bottles. But having half the batch in 12 ounce bottles is nice for sharing. I can grab a six pack when I’m heading out the door, where bombers can be a bit more awkward to carry.

I usually end up filling my five gallon bottling bucket twice when I bottle. If my growler is empty, I’ll fill that first, then I fill as many bombers as I have available. It takes about 24 to bottle five gallons, depending on your fill level, etc. Hopefully that will get me through the first five gallons, which goes pretty quick. Then I bottle the rest in regular 12 ounce, crown cap bottles.

I haven’t used the flip-top bottles, but there are lots of guys who love them. Experiment to find out what works for you.

Eventually, I hope to upgrade to a kegging system. There is still a lot of work making sure your keg is totally clean before you rack your finished beer into it, but then you only have a couple big bottles to fill.

When it comes time for bottling your big batch of beer, it doesn’t have to take all night. Once you figure out a system that works for you, bottling becomes less of a headache.

What is your preferred size of bottle or container?

What’s that Flavor?! Bottle-Conditioned vs Force-Carbonated Part 4

I started this article series earlier. Read: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Bottling Day

Here’s where our paths diverge to see if there is a difference in kegging vs bottling. Unfortunately, I forgot to take some pictures of the process.

Andy and I met at his house on a Thursday evening after work. I was dreading the task of bottling because it always seems to take all available time plus, at least an hour. Someday, I’ll post a story about the relational dangers of homebrewing and thinking, “This will only take about an hour.” All I can say is, “Don’t. Just don’t go down that road of thinking.”

Anyway, I got to Andy’s about 6:15 and as I started unloading my bench capper, bottles, bottling bucket, sanitizer, etc(bottling big batches of beer takes a lot of equipment), Andy was running water for a batch of sanitizer. He had his keg prepped and we got everything in place. I carried the beer from his basement upstairs to his kitchen. After placing the fermenter on his serving freezer, we realized the critical error I just made: I placed 110 pounds on top of all the beer available to drink. Oh well, it ain’t moving till we’re done.

We sanitized Andy’s keg and started racking the beer into it. We were a little too frantic on brew day to truly appreciate the benefits of using half-inch siphoning equipment. It goes a lot faster than standard 5/16-inch. I swear, it took about 2 minutes to fill Andy’s keg.

Once we got the keg taken care of, we sanitized our bottles and boiled a batch of priming liquid. We wound up with about six gallons of beer, so we used a little extra DME for priming.

With two of us working, Andy filled the bottles and I capped. I’m not sure exactly how long the bottling took, but it didn’t take nearly as long as I expected. This probably took about a half hour.

Cleanup probably took about twenty minutes. We just rinsed stuff out and I finished my normal cleaning regiment when I got home. I probably spent another 20 minutes making sure all my equipment was cleaned and sanitized before putting it away.

I was expecting the process to take at least 3 hours, since that seems to be about how much time I spend bottling five gallons. 10 gallons usually takes me about 4 hours for cleaning & sanitizing, bottling and clean-up. As I said earlier, I got to Andy’s about 6:15 PM. at 7:45, I was calling my wife to let her know I was on my way home. I even got to tuck my kids in to bed.

If you have friends who like to help drink your homebrew, I highly recommend convincing one of them to help you bottle. It’s not a lot of fun, but it’s much more enjoyable and more efficient with a helper.

Now, we’re just waiting for the bottles and the keg to carbonate. I’ll post an update with our tasting notes when that happens. It might be a few weeks.


Solving for Prime

Bottles primed & ready to carbonatePriming just means feeding your yeast again while it’s in the bottle to generate the co2 to make my beer bubbly as well as delicious. The simplest food for yeast is some sort of sugar, and the most common, in my experience, are:

  1. Corn Sugar (Dextrose)
  2. DME (Dry Malt Extract)

You can go to any homebrew forum, blog or book and see that other options include table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, fresh wort, partially fermented beer (Krausening), agave nectar and just about any other form of sugar out there. And on some of the forums, arguments break out about the fineness of carbonation bubbles and smoothness of head.

Maybe I’ll do a batch and carbonate some with table sugar, some with dextrose, some with DME and some with honey. I am not a fluid dynamics specialist, but I do not thing co2 creates different sized, yet still invisible bubbles in solution. I think there are other factors that come in to play.

My guess right now is that since DME has some unfermentables still in it, it may build up the body of the beer. Since corn sugar ferments out (nearly) completely, it doesn’t contribute anything to the body.

I chose to use DME from the get-go. I didn’t do that for any reason I found on forums or in books. I did it because on of the people I share my beer with is allergic to corn. He is sensitive enough he got hives after drinking New Glarus’ Fat Squirrel.

Looking back, I enjoy the symmetry of using DME to prime by homebrew. A fellow homebrewer commented he liked the idea of DME for priming because you’re just putting beer into beer. I couldn’t have said it better myself.