This is a continuation of a guest post by Timothy Sprague.
About 5 to 7 days later, it’s time to move the fermenting wort from the “primary” fermenter to the “secondary”, which is a 5-gallon glass carboy. You can see the sludge at the top from where it was gurgling and fermenting for the past week. One of the main reasons for moving it to the other container is to filter out this unpleasant leftover goo. Some of it always remains as sediment, which will be filtered out again in the bottling process. Once it’s all in the glass carboy it will continue to ferment a few more days.
When the brewer feels it is ready, the prep for bottling begins. Learning when it is ready develops the more you brew. Technically, you are supposed to do a “gravity reading” and bottle when the gravity is at the right level. Gravity is a measurement of the amount of solids vs. liquid in the beer. I don’t do it because every time I have in the past, my beer never gets to the right gravity level. I instead wait 10 to 14 days, usually closer to 14. The nice thing with beer is it will continue to get better the longer you wait before you drink it.
The bottles get sanitized before being filled (use a tub or sink of VERY hot water) and in addition I use a 5-liter keg. On this occasion, I was using a new stopper and had a hard time getting it to stay in the top of the keg. My solution was to use a mallet, but that was after having to empty the keg back into the carboy a couple of times. This factored into the final product, in my opinion, which I’ll talk about later. The sugar (3/4 Cup Brewers Sugar) is boiled with a few tablespoons of water in a saucepan on the stove, which is then poured into the carboy. Then it’s time to fill the keg and bottles.
The caps get squeezed on to the bottles one at a time. But I primarily use the large hinge-top bottles these days.
The photo below was taken about 17 days after bottling. At least 2 weeks is required for carbonation, but it’s best to give it a bit longer. The end result has a nice color and carbonation, but also a strong banana odor that should not be present. At this point, it also had a “diacetyl” flavor, which is a technical term for a mildly unpleasant after-taste. This usually indicates that the beer needs more time in the bottle. My guess is that my somewhat sloppy efforts when bottling may have affected the flavor. Especially since I had to make a couple of attempts at filling the keg and had a bit of an overflow when I added the Brewer’s Sugar. But that’s one of the great things about brewing. If it doesn’t taste right after a few weeks, give it longer and it will most likely improve with age.
The taste had improved somewhat by New Year’s Eve, when Sarah and I sampled it after The One Day Play, but still didn’t seem quite ready. Sarah, who is not a beer fan, did like the taste and said it wasn’t as bitter as other beers she’s tried. I am going to let the keg and remaining bottles sit tight until next month’s Poker Tournament fundraiser at The Eclectic Company Theatre in Valley Village-hope you can join us for a drink!