Tag Archives: bottling

Oct 202315Sun

Approximately 8 litres went into a 10 litre MJ mini keg which was then put on 15 PSI brew gas, think it’s 70/30 mixture. Not really too bothered if this doesn’t add any carbonation, I’m just keen to get it out of the fermentor and put away.

I also bottled 6 or 8 plain 330 ml lager bottles, each with 30 ml Erythritol and one carbonation drop. The sugar was poured straight in and hadn’t really dissolved when I checked a week later, but the carbonation drops were gone. Let’s leave these alone for a couple of months and see what happens.

Dec 202219Mon

Geronimo and Yeti Hit the Road

We’re across with family for Christmas, and although I toyed with the idea of taking a couple of party kegs with me I decided against it in the end; it’s a short visit, I’ve only one decent dispense tap, and I still haven’t sourced (let alone tested) a Sodastream bottle for mobile use. All of which meant that I could put it off no longer, it was time to finally break out the counter-pressure bottle filler I thought I badly needed when I started out kegging.

It was actually fairly easy to rig up, with the most difficult part being a lack of compatible ¼” Duotight connectors, but that was soon overcome with a section of slightly smaller diameter beer line and a heat gun.

Purging and filling the bottles too was fairly easy. I started with Geronimo, which had been sitting at 15 PSI / 4℃ for 6 days by this point. The first bottle filled with just half an inch of foam thanks to some bubbles in the line, but subsequent bottles had no head at all. Maybe I should have tested the brew first – was it still not quite ready?

After 7 bottles were done I switched over to sanitiser and flushed the lines with about a litres, before switching to Yeti and again flushing through about half a litre. For this one I used 330 ml clear lager bottles, and these didn’t want to stay upright as readily as Geronimo’s 500 ml standard brown flasks. They were also a tad shorter, which meant the counter-pressure filler’s (CPF henceforth) bung had to be carefully moved to the extreme end of travel and monitored for blow-out. The carbonation was a little higher on Yeti, and combined with the narrower bottles I found that foam made its way more readily up the neck than with Geronimo. It’s difficult when you’ve only got one gas line running into the Kegerator…

All-in I had a positive experience with the CPF. It was a bit messy in places and took a few minutes to clean and sanitise, but on the whole I’d use it again, though perhaps for bigger batches. One thing I will definitely do differently next time is to rig up some kind of CPF suspender, because it’s quite a big old lump to delicately balance on an empty bottle while capping the one you’ve just filled. Live and learn.

Yeti and Geronimo, ready to go

Geronimo III: First Taste

Great hop flavour, maybe 5% too bitter for the style. Aroma could do with being more floral too. Mouthfeel isn’t quite there yet and neither is carbonation, so I’ll give it another 2 days at 15 PSI and then take it down to 10 since I’ll be away over the festive period. Generally OK.

Feb 202209Wed

I just put away 40 silver crown cap 500 ml bottles of Trip to Oslo and 45 of the same for Best Wellies using the traditional racking cane method. Each brew was first transferred to a clean bucket containing 850g Erythritol and 200g Brewing Sugar dissolved in in hot water to make up 1.5 litres. A single 500 ml PET bottle was also filled for each brew in order to test carbonation progress.

I decided to go with Erythritol rather than Xylitol because it doesn’t share the latter’s laxative effects and because I wanted to increase the sweetness and carbonation from Allotment Riot, which received 550g Xylitol / Erythritol mix and 150g Brewing Sugar. Will be interesting to see if this works out, though ultimately I think we need some real cider apples if we want to make the kind of brew that doesn’t need to hide behind a ton of artificial sweetener. Maybe just stick to apple juice for the next harvest and resume cider operations in a year or two when the new trees start to bear significant fruit.

Dec 202115Wed

This has been cold-crashing in the fermentation fridge for 11 days now and as I need it tomorrow for Mostly Maris I‘m going to have to turf it out, not that the Riot looks any clearer than it did when it went in.

After racking to a clean vessel I stirred in 550g of Xylitol / Erythritol and 150g of brewing sugar, all dissolved in about half a litre of boiling water, then racked to sanitised bottles using the cane in the normal manner. We have:

  • 19 x 500 ml brown crown caps (silver)
  • 6 x 1000 ml PET screw-tops
  • 9 x 750 ml clear flip-tops

These were then moved to the server room for conditioning, where they‘re sitting at about 22 ℃.

Nov 202115Mon

Nine days of cold-crashing at 1.0 ℃ ought to just about do it, time to get her put away. I don’t own a cork press, and in any event 750 ml might be too much of this in one go, so I chose to fill some clear 330 ml crown-cap bottles instead.

Final gravity comes in at 1.000 exactly (1.002 @ 7.7℃) which makes for a final ABV of 8.7% – not bad at all. Colour is a lovely pink and there’s some excellent clarity, with quite a bit of gunk having dropped out during cold-crashing. The only thing that worries me is the decrease in 2 gravity points during crashing hints at some fermentation still in progress, and I didn’t leave a lot of headspace in the bottles. Maybe I should have added another Campden tablet before bottling? I’ll keep an eye on them as we progress. At least I had the presence of mind to also fill a single plastic screw-top which can serve as a pressure gauge.

Finally, some weird red crystals had formed on the insides of the Brewtools bucket and on the dip tube. These were quite hard and regularly spaced – wonder what’s up with that?

Jun 202107Mon
Time for Bed! Good Night Vienna, 14 days after starting Primary

Pressure transfer to Cornelius Keg

The Fermzilla version of this one’s been cold-crashing for 3 days now, time to get it into a Corny keg. Standard setup this afternoon; brought the ready purged keg up to 9 PSI matching the Fermzilla, connected the Bouncer filter between the liquid out posts, popped the PRV on the keg to get things going before connecting the gas posts with a straight line. I left the Fermzilla in the fridge the whole time, and there was enough height difference to the keg for gravity to do it’s thing, filling it in around 20 minutes.

I’m not 100% convinced I need the Bouncer filter when doing a pressure transfer via the floating dip tube as that doesn’t really pick anything up, especially on a cold-crashed beer where everything’s well and truly dropped out. If anything, the Bouncer is a bit of a pain as it doesn’t handle pressure too well and is just one more thing to clean at the end of the day.

15 Lager Bottles

The 5 litres or so that I moved to the SS Brewtech Mini Bucket ahead of applying pressure to the Fermzilla has been bubbling very, very slowly while it’s sister vessel was cold-crashing, so I’m going to call time on this one and also put it away. This time I used Bag-Thing on top (but forgot to refill it) and added 1.5g of Dextrose to each of the 15 clear lager-style 330 ml bottles before filling those via the bottling wand and tube attached to the bucket’s lower spigot. I started out by also priming the first bottles with CO2 from the cylinder, but noted that on drawing out the wand I will have sucked air back in as the level went down, so I gave up on the CO2 figuring that there’s no finishing hops to be oxidised anyway, and that the reaction of beer on dextrose did produce some gas which had the caps lifting a little while they were waiting to be fixed.

Some Gravity

Even though I kegged the Fermzilla first I set it aside before measuring OG, and instead bottled the SS bucket then measured OG there from the inch or so that was below the dip tube. The brew bucket came in at about 1.017 and when I got around to grabbing a sample from the Fermzilla’s collection jar I thought there was a discrepancy, because that weighed in at 1.019 to 1.020 – difficult to say due to carbonation. It soon dawned on me that I was seeing a difference because the Fermzilla was still at chiller temperature, so anywhere between 4 and 6℃. Plugging those values into Brewfather’s hydrometer temperature correction tool soon had my numbers lining up.

May 202124Mon

Put away 41 gold crown-capped 500 ml bottles this afternoon. I was going to use the Beer Gun again but the plastic FV doesn’t have a spigot, and the racking cane wouldn’t fit onto the gun. Instead I used the cane with usual bottling rod and purged the bottles before and after with CO2, so perhaps the results will be as good as the Beer Gun anyway. I’m quite happy with the layout of this bottling station now; priming, filling, and capping six at a time seems to be a good number.

Gravity was measured at 1.010 / 14℃ which equates to 1.009 and 4.6% ABV. Happy with that. Carbonation via 5 ml Dextrose per bottle, off to the server room for a week at around 25℃.

May 202122Sat

Pretty straight forward kegging / bottling session today; filled the 10 litre MJ mini keg and 14 x 330 ml Steinie bottles with black caps. I left Bag Thing attached from cold-crashing as I moved the 25 litre SS Brewtech bucket out of the fridge and plumbed in a T-piece so that I could feed in CO2 from the keg as it filled and wouldn’t need to keep topping up the bag from my cylinder in order to prevent oxidation. The plastic bag acts as a great buffer in this respect and prevents any vacuum locks – not that I think O2 elimination is particularly important for this brew, but good practice all the same.

Once the keg was filled I plumbed in the Beer Gun and started to fill some Steinies, 4 at a time primed with 2.5 ml of Dextrose using a baking spoon and putting on a sanitised black crown cap as soon as the final blast of O2 was deployed. I’m sure I had about 18 litres in the fermenter and as 10 of those were kegged there should have been 24 Steinies to fill, but I only got 15 from what was left. To add insult to injury I had to chuck one of those away between capping and warm-conditioning as I noticed cracks in the upper neck of the bottle due to a manufacturing defect. Best not to risk an explosion or internal injuries from glass shards. Tough call though.

On a positive note I did recoup some yeast using a sterilised (boiling water) spoon and a sample tube which was from a batch originally purchased for Geocaching purposes. There was easily enough for another 1 lb honey jar in the bottom of the FV but I only grabbed enough for a small vial, reasoning that I’d probably use all of that to make a starter so there should be enough.

May 202109Sun

An easy couple of hours in the brewery tonight; sanitised 40 bottles and put Wherry away using standard racking cane, 4-5 ml dextrose, gold crown caps. I also filled one 500 ml PET plastic bottle in order to keep tabs on fermentation – a trick I picked up online and loosely based on the fact that you can squeeze a plastic bottle in order to feel how much pressure is in there.

FG looks like 1.015 at best, which is higher than the claimed 1.014, but nothing’s been happening for a couple of days here so I’m confident in calling it a day.

Wherry 12 days into Primary

40 brown 500 ml bottles with gold crown caps are staying in the server room for about a week, then it’s out into the cold for conditioning.

May 202107Fri

Finishing hops were added two days ago, time to get this into a couple of kegs and some bottles! I used my original bottling cane throughout, filling one 5 litre mini keg followed by as many bottles as I could, then repeating the process for the other variant. Managed to package 15 bottles in total;

  • 7 black crown caps of dry-hopped ale, and
  • 8 silver crown caps using Hot French Randall.

The dry-hopped ale went first and looked as well as smelled like you’d expect, but the HFR variant had practically no aroma at all, and when I tasted some it reminded me of a traditional bitter rather than a pale ale. To be fair it was warm, young and not carbonated, but I was hoping for some more hoppiness right from the outset. I had a quick taste of the dry-hopped variant too, but that was from the slops bucket where I’d primed the racking cane, so there may have been a trace of sanitiser mixing things up. Still, I’m almost tempted to say it tasted better than HFR, but that would be unfair.

The bottles are now up in the server room digesting the 5 ml of dextrose that was added during bottling, along with a pre- and post-fill blast of CO2 from the line, because why not. Let’s give them a week in the warm before turfing them out to the garage for conditioning.

Both kegs meanwhile are in the beer fridge, temperature somewhere between 5 and 7 degrees, pressure cranked to 13 PSI since I’ve also got Twisty Listy in there and want to enjoy that without a foam party on each pour.

Two halves of Thirst Scratch please!
Apr 202109Fri

Took just over 24 hours to get from room temperature down to 4.0 ℃ in the brew fridge. I had that dialled to ‘med’ for the first half and then just below ‘max’ for the second as I didn’t want to freeze the 19 litre keg of Golden Wave that was already in there, nearing the end of it’s conditioning phase. Three days later I’m ready to put this, my third extract brew, into final packaging.

I don’t want to tie up both 5 litre mini kegs and also put some bottles away to share, so it makes sense to try and guess the number of bottles I could fill while also using as much of one keg as possible. In the end I went for 8 x 500 ml silver crown-caps and hoped for a nearly-full keg to allow room for carbonation, but realistically kegged somewhere between 3.5 and 4 litres.

For the bottles I used the Blichmann Beer Gun again, and thinking about it this may have been it’s first outing with actual beer. I set the SS Brewtech Mini Bucket onto the lab platform (plastic palette over the bath) and relied on gravity to pull liquid through my Bouncer filter from the bucket’s spigot and into the beer gun. Even with this modest drop in elevation the flow was enough. Gas was routed to the beer gun via one ⅜ line with another feeding Bag Thing on top of the bucket behind a John Guest tap and T-piece. Absolutely no flaws in setup here; both gas and liquid being delivered efficiently even if I did forget to purge the filter with CO2 before starting. Oops. Each bottle was primed with 5 ml of dextrose – conveniently using a baking measuring utensil I found in the kitchen. Hopefully it’s near the 3.3g that I need for 2.4 vols, according to the calculator. She’ll be right.

Once bottling was done I was about to start rigging up the necessary equipment to fill a 5 litre mini keg with sanitiser and then flush it with CO2 when I realised that, actually, this is just a really big bottle which will get drunk as soon as it’s carbonated in a week’s time. I still had the beer gun set up for bottling so I just used that, giving the keg a decent blast of gas and then filling it until I started seeing bubbles coming from the bucket. I couldn’t remember how low the dip tube was set and was keen to try my new filter, so I gave the spigot a clockwise turn until it started drawing liquid again. One or two lumps could then be seen making their way towards the Bouncer but not beyond, so I kept fiddling with the spigot until no amount of turning would result in more beer. That’s eight bottles and almost a 5 litre keg. Nice one!

Mar 202131Wed

After spending a day in the cold I’ve decided that not much more is going to drop out of this beer, so it’s time to hit the keg and free up the fermenter for my next concoction. There being just under 22 litres in the Fermzilla I opted for a fully closed transfer to a 19 litre Cornelius keg and the rest into bottles, and it almost went without a hitch.

Starting a fully closed transfer was as simple as connecting the liquid out posts of the two pressure-balanced vessels with my newly rigged transfer line (2 bits of silicone hose and a large Bouncer filter) and then briefly popping the PRV on the lowered keg in order to start the syphoning process. As soon as beer is in motion the two gas posts were connected with a straight pipe between two disconnects – simple. Naturally the keg was purged of air beforehand by filling it with sanitiser and then pushing that out with bottled CO2, doing the same with the filtered beer line and also flushing the gas line in the process.

I initially gave both the Fermzilla and the keg just 5 PSI because I didn’t want to risk blowing the silicone hose off my filter’s barbs, but increased it to 12 PSI when I noticed that the piece of hose downstream from the filter was ¼ full of tiny bubbles which I first took to be an air leak despite the enthusiastically tightened plastic union. Seems that it wasn’t an air leak but carbonation escaping my beer as it rushed through the filter, and increasing pressure back to serving PSI fixed that.

Using the Blichmann Beer Gun was less successful, largely because even the slightest bit of pressure caused beer to squirt out of the muzzle due to the design of the silicone bead at the end. To get any level of control I had to purge the Fermzilla of pressure entirely and rely on gravity to dispense the already carbonated beer, which wasn’t nearly as clean as it sounds and resulted in just two bottles filled, barely justifying the amount of cleaning that was necessary afterwards.

Ending on a positive note, I rigged a clumsy arrangement of silicone and carbonation cap so that I could use the beer gun with the same transfer line as I’d used for the kegs, which was relocated from the floating pick-up tube to one of the posts on the Fermzilla’s collection jar. By a happy coincidence the level of settled trub was just below this post, and I was able to draw quite a bit more beer than the floating dip tube would have given me.

I’d like to say I’ll use this method again, but chances are that if I’ve used the Fermzilla then my beer will be at least partially carbonated by the time it’s ready to bottle, and unfortunately this really isn’t the beer gun’s strong side. Nice try though.

Mar 202118Thu

After eight days in the chiller it’s time to put this one away, and I decided to fill one of my 5 litre kegs with the rest going into bottles, hopefully letting me form a comparison not only between this brew and my first extract blonde, but also between keg and bottle versions of the same batch.

Eliminating Oxygen

Keg or bottle regardless, I was keen to prevent as much oxygen from getting at the beer as I possibly could. Bag-Thing was already rigged up to the mini bucket while it cold-crashed in the fridge (used between ¼ and ⅓ of a filled bag over the week, for the record) so it was just a matter of topping up the carbon dioxide bag as I drained the beer. This was easily achieved by fitting a John Guest splitter between the bag and the bucket and splicing it to the CO2 regulator so that it could be manually topped up as needed.

Using Bag-Thing as a CO2 buffer while bottling / kegging

Before I started drawing off beer into the keg I wanted to make sure that my dip tube wasn’t about to suck up dead hops and other trub, which took some leap of faith since I had no way of telling how much was in there and nor any means to filter the output. In the end I decided that cold-crashing should have settled everything as much as it was ever going to be settled, so I rotated the dip tube to its highest setting by turning the spigot clockwise – a neat feature to have.

But I still didn’t know if the tube would be clear of the sediment, so the only way to find out was to fill a cheeky tumbler. Immediately I started getting bits of hops but the stream soon cleared up, must have just picked up some random particles while adjusting the tube. The beer wasn’t anywhere near as clear as Bure Gold – the first one I ever cold-crashed – but then again that was too was cloudier during kegging than nearer the end. This did however taste wonderful, not as bitter as the first extract attempt and with slightly more hop punch. Time for one last check of the bag setup and let’s get it done.

Kegging from the SS Brewtech Mini Bucket

Once I was confident that no oxygen would enter via the top, putting this into a sanitised & purged keg was as simple as connecting a piece of silicone hose from the elevated bucket’s spigot to a barbed beer disconnect and popping the pressure relief valve now and then. That last step grew old very quickly so I fitted a gas disconnect as well and just kept topping up the CO2 at the bag end while the keg vented it to atmosphere. I realise now that with the bag being such an effective buffer I could easily have used the extraneous gas from the keg to top up the bag and made for a truly closed loop – definitely something to try next time.

I used the “cold finger” method again and left the keg with about 2 inches of head space before pressurising it to 30 PSI and putting it in the chiller. I’ll reduce this gradually after 3 or 4 days to 10 PSI serving pressure, hopefully that should then be ready to sample.

… and now Bottling

I really wanted to use my Blichmann Beer Gun to continue the oxygen-free theme but there was one small problem: I needed the JG 2-way splitter in order to provide the gun with gas, but that piece was in use by Bag-Thing. (sorted for next time: an adapter is on the way)

To overcome the equipment shortage I temporarily borrowed the CO2 supply and crudely purged some clear flip-top bottles by flushing them with carbon dioxide after I’d dropped in two carbonation drops in each, targeting 750 ml. Yes, overdoing it a bit there, but those drops were all I had left and I couldn’t be arsed to mess about weighing out loose dextrose for the sake of a couple of bottles. Once they were gassed and carbed it was easy to rest the flip-top stopper on the mouth of the bottle until each could be filled via the same silicone tube I used while kegging, just without the disconnect attached.

All this went fairly well until I started drawing bubbles halfway into the first bottle – guess that dip tube must be quite long after all. Seeing bubbles during filling is never good, but I kept telling myself that it should be OK since the bottles were filled with CO2, and it’s better to splash some gas about than set the tube too low and draw in unwanted rubbish. This method of constant adjustment saw me filling four 500 ml clear flip-tops while lowering the dip tube gradually before I hit the hops on the fifth bottle.

While cleaning the vessel after bottling I noted that the trub-line was roughly equal to the conical part. Obviously this will vary wildly depending on what’s added to the brew during fermentation, but it’s good to have this guide and reassuring to know that there’s quite a bit of adjustment on the dip tube – the guys at SS Brewtech have clearly done their homework.

In closing, one thing’s just occurred to me: by cold-crashing before bottling I may have removed the yeast that I need to turn my carbonation drops into carbonation. If these turn out to be flat then I need to learn from this, and draw off that part of the batch which is to be bottled before cold-crashing. As always, fingers crossed …

#wisdom: cold-crashing the mini bucket for a week uses between ¼ and ⅓ of a filled Bag-Thing, no need to worry about having to refill it partway.

#wisdom: if filling a purged keg from the brew bucket, use the gas that’s being driven out of the keg to refill the bag on top of the bucket.

Mar 202115Mon

A late session today saw me putting away the S&B cider 7 days after starting primary. The flavouring was added 24 hours ago so it’s too late to worry whether or not I should have left it for another couple of days, time to get it packed.

I started by taking another gravity reading out of habit, although I suspected it might be invalid with all that flavouring in there. Wasn’t disappointed – she registered 1.013 which I’m taking as additional non-fermenting sugar (i.e. the sachet of pear and strawberry flavour concentrate) combined with no further fermentation of what was already in there. I’m therefore recording the reading of 1.013 on this log but using 1.011 from yesterday as the final gravity, producing 5.25% ABV against an expected 4.7%. Had we made it all the way to 1.007 we’d be looking at 5.78%. Yikes!

All Change

With the sample taken it was time to set up the racking cane / auto syphon as usual, and while doing so I decided to do two things differently this time: fill one of my small kegs and carbonate with CO2 in order to see if it impacts the taste compared to primed bottles, and try out my new Blichmann Beer Gun on its first bottling run.

I cleaned and sanitised a 5 litre mini keg but didn’t bother purging it with Star San and then CO2 as I would while doing a closed transfer from the Fermzilla, as there seemed little point in trying to keep oxygen out when racking from an open bucket. Instead I filled it to within a couple of inches from the top using the bottling cane and then cranked it to 30 PSI before popping the PRV a couple of times (may as well get some oxygen out) and putting it in the fridge next to my other 5 litre keg containing the last of my Bure Gold. Time to try out that Beer Gun.

A Small Error

A cursory glance at the new gadget showed it came with a black disconnect, so I started by racking the remaining cider into a clean 19 litre Cornelius keg using the still connected bottling cane. It looked to be around 17 litres and since I was almost out of carbonation drops I decided to weigh two of them, the recommended dose per 500ml bottle, and multiply the resulting 5g by 17 to tell me how much dextrose I need to add. That was around three hours ago, and it’s only now that I’ve pulled up the Beer Priming Calculator in order to see if my quantity of priming sugar tallies with Brewer’s Friend that I’ve spotted the mistake: there’s two bottles per litre not one. I’ve therefore added half as much as I should have, which explains why Brewer’s Friend recommends 160g of Dextrose for a fruit lambic – about the closest to cider in my opinion. Oh well, looks like it’ll be a slightly sparkling cider this time around.

That was three hours ago and I carried on in blissful ignorance, adding the sugar to the Corny keg as the bucket emptied. Once I had all the cider I was going to get from the bucket I capped the keg and hooked up the gas, again popping the PRV a couple of times in order to dump some oxygen from the top of the vessel. The beer gun was quickly taken apart for inspection and sanitation, and I saw the first problem: the gas line was designed to screw onto a male regulator post, which I didn’t have. I did have a John Guest T-piece and some more beer / gas line, so I used that instead of the gas line that came with the beer gun. Not ideal since it’s quite stiff and made the process unnecessarily cumbersome, but I was determined to try it out.

Ready … Aim …

Once back together the beer gun worked very well, letting me purge oxygen from each bottle before filling it to the top and purging some more while drawing out the nozzle, then capping straight away. I think it’s a very slick tool and once I’d cranked up the pressure to around 15 PSI I was able to fill bottles at a good rate, though doing this with partially carbonated beer straight from the Fermzilla might require a bit more experimentation as there’s bound to be some foam, whereas the cider was totally placid. Might end up using a fair bit of gas though, so perhaps reserve it for ultra-hoppy beers?

Then again, this is the first bottling run following my first kegging session, and I’m inclined to agree with everyone who sings the benefits of kegging thanks not only to the superior taste of draught, but also due to the simplicity and speed of the kegging process compared to cleaning bottles, filling them while watching out for oxygen, capping them, and washing up afterwards.

And if you cock up the carbonation it’s as easy as cranking up the regulator.

Feb 202103Wed

It’s been three whole days (and a bit) since this one was dry-hopped, time to stuff them into bottles.

FG didn’t come down to 1.011 as predicted (managed a comparatively mild 1.016 for 3.68% ABV) which is a pity but airlock activity had ceased and SG was stable for 4 days so it’s not as if I was being premature. Got 7 x 500 ml brown bottles from each FV, added two Fox’s carbonation drops and toped them off with gold crown caps.

First impressions of the taste were good; the dippy one was tasted first straight from the sample jar after taking a reading (huge head!) and had a cloudy consistency with nicely rounded mouth-feel, but also a tiny little bit of twang, which I’m hoping will dissipate with ageing. The hoppy one was tested towards the end of bottling when I didn’t have enough to complete another 500 ml brown bottle, so I drank the dregs instead. Much better taste than the un-hopped version, same mouth-feel but also great if simple aroma of hops with no noticeable twang.

Not sure if it was the hops that I need to thank or if the twang was due to something I did differently with the other vessel, but this half of the experiment was definitely the winner. Next time around I’ll add finishing hops to the whole batch, and may play around with more than one type and / or adding it at different stages.

Feb 202102Tue

Hops bags went in two days ago, let’s send this doggy home. There was still some very slight airlock activity and in fairness the FG had dropped a point (maybe two) in two days, but I was also starting to get traces of that sweet & sour taste that somewhat spoilt the last batch so I’m willing to risk having gushers if they’re drinkable. Fingers crossed there’s no bottle bombs though!

As with the batch of Nog I bottled recently I went for batch priming here, racking to a clean vessel after adding 95g of brewing sugar / dextrose, this time dissolved in some boiled water instead of powder in a wet (sanitised) cup. Much easier to deploy. As before my figures came from the Brewer’s Friend Priming Calculator, going for 2.0 vols across 21 litres at 20 ℃. To be honest I think 2.0 vols would be on the low side for a DIPA but at the back of my mind I’m wondering how much more fermentation this beast has in her (the first batch went to 1.009 – 4 points lower – but picked up some nasty flavours) so I want to give her some room for error in case I really do create a caseload of bombs. Mind you, German Wheat Beer tops out at 4.5 vols according to the calculator, so I’m hoping the crown-capped bottles can take that kind of pressure, even if the contents turn into a fountain.

Regardless, 59 Steinies (19.47 litres then – oops!) were bottled and sealed with yellow caps, off to the server room for a couple of days. The instructions actually specify a week in the warm for secondary fermentation (Eh? Thought we were just carbing?) but I don’t want to give those off-flavours any more chance to develop so I’d rather cut that short and give it longer in cold conditioning, maybe even the same 56 days that are demanded by the similar strength Wheat Tripel.

Jan 202131Sun

17 days after starting primary and Nog is finally ready to drop anchor. Gravity looked to be steady at 1.014 as it was two days ago, so I decided to call time and get her put away.

Only after I’d washed the bottles (first time using Chem San rinse instead of Milton) did I notice that I was out of carbonation drops, so I thought I’d have a go at batch priming – why not make it two firsts in one night. The Brewer’s Friend calculator recommended 91.1g of table sugar for 20 litres of beer at 20℃ in order to achieve 2.0 vols, which is the base of what’s recommended for Porter and Stout and the upper end for British Ale.

I had about 20 litres and no table sugar, so I used 100g of brewing sugar (Dextrose?) instead since it dissolves quickly. Measured it out into a mug which was flushed with boiled water, then added it to a clean FV followed by Nog from the original FV, using the bottling wand and avoiding aeration whenever possible. A slight stir was necessary once half of the beer was transferred across since I didn’t want to risk uneven carbonation, but I think I did OK.

36 x 500 ml brown bottles were filled from the secondary bucket without issue, capped with black crowns, batches of 8 at a time. I had a good little production line going (getting slick now) and couldn’t help but try a few of the caps to see if they’d spin. Nearly all of them did, some more easily than others. That’s always been the case, but at the back of my mind I’m wondering if they were a bit easier this time around than before. What was different? Well, I was only capping the bottles with one movement, whereas before I’d spin them 90 degrees after the first ‘crimp’ and then give them another squeeze. I also soaked the caps in Chem San (ChemSan? Chem-San?) for the first time instead of Milton, and this no-rinse sanitiser does have a certain sappy quality when wet. Apparently that’s normal, as is the foam. Just ignore it and keep filling.

Once the beer was bottled and everything washed up we had dinner and watched a film, then maybe 3 hours later I went back to print labels and put them away for warm conditioning. At the back of my mind I was thinking about those spinning caps, so I took a permanent marker with me and resolved to identify any spinning caps with an LC so that I could see if there were any effects on carbonation at serving time. Trying each bottle in turn as I applied the label I found only 4 or 5 which would spin bare-handed, whereas before it was most of the batch. That’s tremendously positive, since I can attribute it to the caps being wet at bottling time, possibly aided by a slippery sanitising solution. The relevant labels were marked, and I’ll give them another spin before popping the caps when it’s time to serve. Have a gut feeling that they’ll all be rock-solid, and any perceived loss in carbonation will be shared between those marked LC and those not marked at all.

Jan 202118Mon

Airlock activity on this one has also stopped in the last 12 hours or so, and I’m going to take a gamble and bottle it straight away rather than waiting two days for the same gravity reading. And because I’m lazy, and have the production line all set up for the Cherry variant today.

Like that one, this blueberry brew fizzed actively when I dumped 5 ml of Erythritol into each bottle, and maybe for a few minutes afterwards but at a much reduced level as I fitted the flip-tops. Total yield here is 7 x 500 ml, each bottle getting two Easybrew carbonation drops aimed at 500 ml.

Final gravity came in at 0.997, so two points lower than the Cherry and making a total of 6.89% once the cider base was factored in. Taste is a little sharp with a synthetic finish, hopefully that’ll settle down with gentle conditioning as the bottles carbonate.

Off to the server room @ 25.7 ℃ for a couple of days and then out into the cold.

Jan 202118Mon

Absolutely no change here since I checked two days ago, let’s get this bottled. Total yield is 7 x 500 ml flip-tops, each with one Cooper’s carbonation drop and one Easybrew carbonation drop (total target = 600 ml) as well as 5 ml Erythritol. There was a good amount of fizz as the sweetener was added but things soon settled down a few seconds later.

Like the Blueberry variant also bottled today there’s a bit of a synthetic aftertaste that may calm down with conditioning and when that Erythritol kicks in, though both brews will likely be better when they’re carbonated and chilled – much like myself.

Off to the server room @ 25.7 ℃ for a couple of days and then out into the cold.

Jan 202117Sun

Having imbibed the precious portion of hops over the space of 3 days it was time to stuff this, the last of our 2020 cider, into clear 500 ml flip-top bottles. I took a quick gravity reading before commencing the ritual and was surprised to find 1.003, a whole 3 points higher than when I added the hops, but then again there was very little greenery on the surface (compared to a dry-hopped beer) so I suppose all that organic matter must have some impact. 1.003 from 1.046 translates to 5.64% ABV which is just fine with me. As always there was some experimentation at bottling time:

  • 01 – 15 got 3 carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) and 10 ml Erythritol
    • 01 and 02 (stopper marked ’R’) were bottled un-hopped 3 days ago
  • 16 – 25 got 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) and 10 ml Erythritol
  • 26 – 30 got 3 carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) and 15 ml Erythritol
  • 31 – 35 got no carbonation drops and 5 ml Erythritol
  • 36 & 37 nothing at all

There were also two (unnumbered) green Heineken crown-caps, one 275 ml and one 330 ml, which received 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) and 10 ml Erythritol. Watch out for those two!

Jan 202115Fri

Checked the gravity again today as it’s been 48 hours since hops were added, and she’s moved up a point to 1.015, possibly due to the inclusion of those hop pellets, which had well and truly broken up and dispersed.

Cause for minor concern are what looks like a very thin film of mould on some of the bubbles covering the top of the brew. I took care to leave these as undisturbed as possible but a large cascade of trub was visible through the side of the FV as I placed her on the window sill for syphoning. Let’s hope that the cleansing power of the hops is enough to prevent infection.

Bottling went otherwise OK and I took the opportunity to try some more over-carbing by giving 10 bottles 3 carbonation drops aimed at 750 ml, capping these with yellow crown caps. The remaining 29 bottles each received 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) and a red crown cap. One solitary 275 ml Heineken bottle at the end was filled with dregs and received 2 carbonation drops, so almost double the recommended dose. Careful with that one.

All bottles were moved to the server room for two weeks, present ambient temperature 25.4 ℃.

Jan 202113Wed

SG is still sitting at 1.020 (maybe a smidge below) so I decided to go ahead and bottle this brew today, filling 24 of my newly arrived 330 ml ‘Steinies’. I added 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) since I want a bit more fizz with this one, hopefully none will go bang in the night.

Must remember to update the forum thread with the results when I open one… and to clench my teeth while drinking, because I forgot to fit the gauze net to the bottling wand. 🤭

Storing these in the server room at 22 – 25 ℃ for 10 days, then the garage for ‘ripening’ over 6-8 weeks!

Jan 202108Fri

I’m running short of purchased bottles so in the spirit of this brew I went all-out ghetto and re-used a bunch of assorted 500 ml cider and beer bottles, including a 660 ml magnum. Each received 2 Easybrew carbonation drops except the 660 – that got three. Red crown caps all round to match the contents.

The sample from the trial jar was OK. Not as good as Farting Thrush but I daresay with enough ice it’ll be just the ticket on a hot summer’s day. Gravity was difficult to measure due to foam, but I think we’re at 0.996 which makes for 6.2% ABV – not too shabby.

I’m going to do the same as with Farting Thrush and store these in the server room (currently at 20.2 ℃) for 4 days and then it’s off to the garage for 10 days before we take the plunge and crack one open.

Couldn’t even be bothered to peel the old labels off… Pure Ghetto.
Jan 202107Thu

It’s now two days since finishing hops were added so I decided enough was enough. As I’m running a little low on bottles I had to use a mixture today, totalling 37 x various 500 ml plus 3 recycled Fischer flip-tops which were probably closer to 600ml. Pretty good yield! The FG of 1.004 against OG 1.048 promises 6.25% ABV, which is also nice. Each bottle was treated with 2 x Easybrew carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) except the Fischers which received 2 x Coopers carbonation drops, target = 750 ml. There was a slight configuration error with the labelling machine which resulted in the numbering sequence being truncated to one digit, so we have bottles 0 through to 9 four times over.

Finally, the sample from the trial jar tasted amazing – why have I never thought to add hops to cider before? I’m now glad that I’ve misplaced the bag of hops that came with the Pink Grapefruit IPA because there’s going to be 50 grams of Citra left over from the replacement bag when it arrives from Amazon. Think I might have to throw that in Type 22a on secondary, maybe with a little blueberry juice.

Jan 202106Wed

Tastes luv-a-ly and weighs in at 6.5% ABV – huzzah! To think I was only expecting 5%. Just seven clear flip-top 500 ml bottles on this batch, all with 2x Cooper’s carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) and no sweetener. As with the Type 25b I’m gambling a little with the carbonation but I don’t want it to be perfect for beer, I want it a tad more sparkly. Hope they don’t blow up in the server room, where they’re staying for the next 4 days before moving out to the garage for 10 days of conditioning.

Jan 202106Wed

Rocketfuel. The experiment to see how high I could push our own apple juice by adding yeast and sugar has yielded eight bottles of highly delicious, moderately debilitating fruity beverage – and that’s just an early sample from the trial jar. Crucially I neglected to get a gravity reading after adding the last batch of sugar at the start of December, but I have faith in my calculations at the time. Either way she’s at 0.996 at time of bottling. Going to write this one down as a conservative 8%, definitely to be repeated.

Another small hiccup was when I realised that the bottling wand doesn’t fit into the narrow hole on this demijohn. Instead of fudging something with a spare piece of tubing I decided to carefully decant into another vessel and syphons from there, with the risk that there will be some aeration and sediment in the bottles as a result. I briefly considered leaving the decanted brew to settle in the garage overnight before bottling, but the aeration was giving me doubts – better to put up with a small amount of sediment and get it bottled. Hope I’m right.

Anyway, we have eight clear flip-top 500 ml cider bottles, individually numbered:

  • Bottles 1-4 have 15 ml Erythritol and 2x Cooper’s carbonation drops (target 750 ml)
  • Bottles 5-8 have 10 ml Erythritol and 2x Easybrew carbonation drops (target 500 ml)

I realise I’m playing with fire by carbing so high on half my precious batch, but whenever I’ve used a target of 500 ml on my beer brews they haven’t been what I would call fizzy. OK for beer, but not what I’m hoping for with high-percentage cider. I’m storing these in the server room at 20.5 ℃ for 5 days and then moving to the garage for conditioning. Fingers crossed.

Jan 202106Wed

Today I bottled Mangrove Jack’s Blueberry cider into 41 blue crown caps using various recycled Okells bottles. Each bottle also received two Easybrew carbonation drops (total target = 500ml) but no non-fermenting sugar since I added the whole 5g sachet of sweetener at the start.

The bottles were then moved to the server room where it’s presently 20.5 ℃ and I’m going to leave them there for exactly 5 days as instructed, before conditioning for another 7 days. I read somewhere that the blueberry flavouring doesn’t make for a very long lived brew, but at the same time I don’t want to rush it either.

Dec 202016Wed

When I took delivery of my first batch of 500 ml crown cap bottles I immediately started playing around and noticed that quite a lot of them allowed the caps to be spun under force, no matter how hard I leant on the capping tool. They didn’t twist too easily, and in most cases I’d have to use a tea towel to stop my hand from getting chewed up, but eventually most of them did spin and I began to worry that I might end up losing carbonation once I started using them in earnest. To that end I bottled Razorback in a variety of vessels; the purchased crown-caps, some recycled 500 ml bottles capped using the same tool (most of which didn’t spin) and a couple of clear 500 ml flip-tops for good measure.

I’ve since opened some of the brews that were bottled with those crown caps and purchased glass bottles, am pleased to report that I’ve had no flat beers at all, and those that I’ve tried to spin several weeks after bottling have been solid as a rock. So the demons are put to bed?

Almost. When I bottled Honey Porter and Wherry 36 hours ago I left them in the brewery with the heating cranked up at approximately 26 ℃ since the instructions just called for “somewhere warm” for two days. The cider which was also in there was moved out at the same time, so the only things in there are the Porter and Wherry. And it smells very strongly of CO2 just like it did when I added yeast to the latest batch of cider. Question is, can I attribute the smell to leaking crown caps on Wherry and / or Honey Porter, or am I just smelling the remnants of my biggest bottling session to date? For what it’s worth I’ve tried twisting some of the bottle caps from those two recently bottled batches and they all seem tight, despite most of them being slightly loose still just after bottling.

Making this entry in case I come to find some flat bottles amongst these two batches weeks down the road.

Dec 202014Mon

Stuffed this one into 38 purchased 500 ml brown crown-caps tonight, 13 days later than it should have been according to instructions, FG 1.014. Each bottle had 2x Fox’s Carbonation Drops, aimed at 500 ml total. Black crown caps used.

I’ll be moving this to the garage for conditioning on 17 December and it should be ready to taste on New Year’s Eve. Final ABV only around 4.07% versus advertised 4.5% but the taste is very good, so I’m not complaining.

Dec 202014Mon

Bit of a bottling frenzy tonight with both Wherry and Honey Porter decanted into purchased 500ml crown caps. The first few from this batch to hit the bottles produced quite a bit of head as a result of the bottling wand, which left some unwanted space in the top of the bottles. Once the heads had settled I filled this using a funnel and a jug, but I wonder if in doing so I’ve also introduced a bit of oxygen. On a few bottles I went nearly to the top, which may have been a bit much in hindsight. Hope they don’t go pop.

This brew of Wherry resulted in a total of 39 bottles; 17 with 2x Fox’s Carbonation Drops (totalled at 500ml) and 22 bottles with 1x Coopers Carbonation Drop, aimed at 375ml because I ran out of Fox’s. I was going to follow instructions and use half a teaspoon of sugar, but that seemed to be roughly equal in mass to one Coopers drop, so in the interest of laziness I used those.

Bottles are being stored at around 23 ℃ for two days until they go into the garage for conditioning on 17 December, should be ready to sample on New Year’s Eve. ABV is around 4.2% against advertised 4.5% so not too far out.

Nov 202025Wed

This hasn’t been moving in quite a while and I don’t want to ruin it with further experiments or tertiary fermentation. Tested out at 1.005 and a good deal sweeter than the cider we pressed around the same time, but I’m still going to add varying amounts of non-fermenting sugar at bottling because I see perry as a dessert drink, not a session quaffer. Pleasant hints of bubbles on the palate, and I’m going to improve that further with some carbonation. There were just eight individually numbered bottles in this batch:

  1. Unsweetened
  2. Unsweetened
  3. 10 ml Erythritol
  4. 10 ml Erythritol
  5. 15 ml Erythritol
  6. 15 ml Erythritol
  7. 15 ml Xylitol
  8. 15 ml Xylitol

2 Fox’s carbonation drops (target = 500ml) were also added to each bottle.

Nov 202024Tue

Measured the FG at 1.009 (7.35%) and decided this wasn’t going to go any lower, so along with very minimal activity in the airlock it was time to bottle today. I used 41 purchased 500ml brown glass bottles with yellow crown-caps, numbered individually as follows:

  • 13 bottles with one Cooper’s carbonation drop (375ml target)
  • 28 bottles with two Fox’s carbonation drops (500ml target)

When adding the drops there was a brief fizz of very fine bubbles resulting in a miniature head forming. Two bottles didn’t fill 100% so I marked their caps with a black cross and will try them first.

Nov 202022Sun

No change in gravity, so bottling today with FG of 1.010, 36 standard brown purchased crown cap 500 ml bottles in total:

  • 15 bottles with one Cooper’s carbonation drop for 375 ml (bottles #1 – #15)
  • 21 bottles with two Fox’s carbonation drops for 500 ml (bottles #16 – #36)

I’m storing these in the brewery at 22 ℃ until Wednesday 25th November at which point they’re going into the garage for a couple of weeks.

Nov 202020Fri

Decided to go ahead and commit some of this batch to bottles as it’s clearly not going anywhere now. From the 25 litre bucket I bottled the following:

  • 9 bottles with 15 ml Erythritol
  • 7 bottles with 10 ml Erythritol
  • 7 bottles with 5 ml Erythritol
  • 3 bottles with 10 ml Xylitol
  • 3 bottles with 5 ml Xylitol
  • 10 bottles unsweetened

Each of the above was bottled into a clear flip-top and received 2 carbonation drops aimed at 500ml. According to the ABV calculator (and not allowing for carbonation drops) we should be looking at around 5.91% ABV.

I’m storing these in three brown cardboard boxes in the server room at between 20 and 22 ℃ until they’re ready for conditioning.

Nov 202015Sun

FG at 1.011 still, decided to bottle. Racked off into clean vessel and added 100 g Priming Sugar (from kit, labelled ‘best bitter’) before filling 38 bottles:

  • 12 clear glass flip-top (bottles #1 – #12)
  • 14 brown glass crown caps (purchased, bottles #13 – #26)
  • 12 brown glass crown caps (recycled, bottles #27 – #38)

All of the crown caps could be spun with varying amounts of pressure except the recycled Chaplin & Cork’s and Guinness Originals, which were also difficult to cap and remove from the device.

Nov 202015Sun

Bottled this batch today, adding a combination of Xylitol and carbonation drops in order to evaluate and get a feel for what we want to do with the two 25 litre buckets we collected today from the 25 September batch. FG came in at 0.998 (so no change in 2 weeks) and bottle numbers (release candidates) are as follows:

  1. No priming sugar, 5g Xylitol
  2. 1 Coopers carbonation drop (375 ml) and 5g Xylitol
  3. 2 Crafty Fox carbonation drops (500 ml) and 5g Xylitol
  4. No priming sugar, 10g Xylitol
  5. 1 Coopers carbonation drop (375 ml) and 10g Xylitol
  6. 2 Crafty Fox carbonation drops (500 ml) and 10g Xylitol

I’m storing these in a brown cardboard box in the server room at between 20 and 22 ℃ until they’re ready for conditioning.