While researching this blog article I decide to take a step back. Before you begin bottling your homebrew you should make sure that the fermentation process is complete, here are a few things to consider so that you don't end up with bottle bombs.
First and I can not stress this enough - make sure that your beer is completely finished fermenting. How do you know if it is done fermenting - well that depends on a few things.
Checking your airlock is a good place to start. Do you see any bubbles, if not record when you last saw any activity. Normally fermentation will be complete in two to three weeks, but one can never be sure.
What type of container are you using to ferment your homebrew? If you are using a plastic bucket, is the lid on tight? Buckets lids are very tricky to close (and once closed try and get them open without using some sort of tool), if they are not completely sealed some of the gases may be leaking out. If the gas is leaking from an improperly sealed bucket lid then your airlock may not be tell the whole story. Another place to check for gas leaks is your stopper. If it is new it shouldn't have any cracks, but old improperly stored stoppers may have dried out and have cracks or small pieces of rubber from around the edges that may have chipped out.
The best way to tell if your brew has stopped fermenting is to take hydrometer readings. These readings should be done two or three times, each a day or two apart. Once you get the same reading for 3 consecutive times you know that your yeast is finished doing its work.
If you disturb your fermenting vessel while drawing your samples you might notice that you are starting to get air bubbles in your airlock again. Time to wait a few more days and take more readings.
If you are making fruit beers using fresh fruit, remember that fruit contains sugar and yeast loves sugar. If you are in a rush to finish your brew and get bottling or kegging and are looking for some extra fruitiness, it is best to use a fruit extract or flavouring as these should not cause any more fermentation to take place.
Don't get impatient, make sure you are letting your homebrew ferment to the fullest.
Next Week: I am ready to bottle my homebrew - now what?
Comments or suggestions - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org