This week has been a marathon of beer and cider bottling. It wasn’t really planned this way, and I’m kind of happy I won’t be bottling again for at least two weeks.
In the homebrewing world, cleanliness is the absolute most important aspect. I knew I would be bottling about two cases between the beer and cider so I pulled out some bottles to clean.
Most of them are recycled commercial beer bottles, which means they still had labels on them. Removing them was as simple as filling the sink with hot water, mixing in some OxyClean, and letting them soak for a few hours while I went back to work.
The majority of the labels slid right off as I pulled the bottle out of the water. A few were still stuck on and didn’t budge. Those went into the recycling can.
So now I had two cases of clean bottles ready to receive their beverage.
Thursday: Raspberry Apple Cider
Thursday morning I decided to sweeten a hard apple cider with raspberry juice. The plain cider was a little too dry for my taste.
After some calculations, and re-calculations and re-calculations, I figured out how much juice I would need to get the cider to a sweet 1.015 hydrometer reading. Then I mixed the cider and juice and bottled.
By adding juice to the cider, I added way more fermentable sugar than a typical bottle needs to carbonate. In order to stop the in-bottle fermentation and carbonation, I needed to kill the yeast via pasteurization. If I just let it go without monitoring, the bottles would explode.
Thursday was kind of stressful.
Friday: Blonde Ale
I have a blonde ale that has been in the primary fermenter for a little over two weeks. I wanted to give it a good 2-3 weeks in the bottles to have ready by my birthday to share.
This was my first batch where I made more than a single gallon. Because of this, some of the process was new. It probably took about twice as long as it should. I’m hoping with practice I can dial it in and bring the time down significantly.
I felt a little flustered during the entire prep since I wasn’t sure exactly what I should do next. But the actual bottling (and cleanup, of course) was standard.
Monday: Hard Cider
After bottling on Thursday, I decided to try making more hard cider with the same yeast by simply putting more cider on top of it in the fermenter. So I bottled the raspberry cider, and instead of cleaning the jug, I just poured more cider in to ferment again.
With this cider, the plan was to not let it ferment all the way. This way it would be more of a sweet cider and still retain a good amount of the apple flavor. I checked it a couple times and today it was where I wanted it to be.
So again, I got all the bottling equipment out and bottled it up. I’m using the same technique of monitoring the carbonation level with a plastic bottle. Since I’m effectively stopping fermentation halfway, it will continue to ferment in the bottle. And I definitely don’t want bottle bombs.
So that was my week in homebrewing. I have a pale ale fermenting right now that will probably be ready for bottling in a couple days, but I’m just going to let it sit for a while longer.