This is a process post, for those out there interested in understanding how you get beer into a bottle, then into your belly. As any home brewer out there knows, making beer is mainly about avoiding bacteria and germs. I always thought those people who use Purell twenty times a day and touch door knobs with the outside of their shirt sleeve would make the best home brewers. Home brewing is also about lots of waiting. You spend most of your time prepping and sanitizing equipment, sitting around waiting for your boil to finish, quickly cooling the wort to a desirable temperature for yeast pitching, then a whole bunch of waiting as it ferments, more sanitizing and prep work to bottle or keg, and finally some more waiting as the beer carbonates. All told, the ratio of brewing to cleaning/waiting is incredibly lopsided. That’s where tonight comes in, as it’s time to bottle my Oatmeal Coffee Stout.

The stout has been cold conditioning for a little over a month now. I’ve been kegging most of my beers lately, but decided to switch it up for this one, primarily so I could more easily share some of it with friends. Also, I still have a couple gallons of my IPAin’t in the corny, and I’m getting tired of seeing the stout sitting in the carboy every time I open the beer fridge to pour one. The stout was one of my better brews from last year, and I tweaked the recipe a little this time around, adding some more oats as well as 16 ounces of Starbucks Breakfast Blend.Sanitizing the bottling bucket and siphon

So step one of bottling is sanitizing the bottles and caps. I use my dishwasher, which has a sanitization setting that washes everything with extremely hot water, then dry heats to kill off any bacteria. I don’t use any dishwashing liquid, of course, as that could introduce unwanted fragrances and residue that could mess things up.

Racking from the carboy to bottling bucketOnce the bottles and caps are sanitized and cooled, I start the siphoning process from the carboy into the bottling bucket. Again, I sanitize the siphon and bucket before it touches the beer (and it’s now accurately referred to as beer, since it contains alcohol). I also dump between three to five ounces of priming sugar into the bottling bucket before I start racking the beer, as it mixes more thoroughly with the full 5 gallon batch to provide the remaining yeast something to munch on and naturally carbonate the bottle. I take care not to splash the beer as it fills the bottling bucket, as excess oxidation can wreck the batch instantly.

The racking typically takes 15-20 minutes. Then it’s simply a matter of filling up each bottle, leaving about an inch to inch and a half of head space, which gives the yeast just enough oxygen to do their thing (sounds counterintuitive, but remember in the primary, aerating wort before you pitch is essential for proper fermentation). The actual bottling is the worst part of the process, in my opinion. You sit there for what feels like an eternity, monotonously watching each bottle slowly fill, one after the other after the other. After the bottles are filled, I use my capper to securely crimp each cap, resulting in a professional looking, nicely bottled beer.

As is the theme with home brewing, it’s again more waiting, between one and two weeks before most beers naturally carbonate in the bottle. Until that day, I’ll be impatiently waiting to enjoy this year’s Special Release. And man did it smell good coming out of the carboy…the coffee is definitely there, with lots of smooth, oatey malt. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this is gonna be a winner.

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