Okay, now that you have made sure that your homebrew is completely fermented (not sure, go back and read 'Bottle Bombs'), you are ready to start thinking about bottling your homebrew.
Before you start, make sure you are prepared and that you have the following bottling equipment sanitized and ready:
- Bottling Bucket (one with a spigot makes bottling easier with less chance of transferring any sediment to your bottles)
- Enough clean amber coloured* PET or glass bottles**
- Bottle Caps - PET or Oxygen lined metal caps for glass bottles (you will need a bottle capper for these)
- Siphoning Tube
- Bottle Filler
- Long Handled Spoon (if you are using priming sugar)
You will also need:
- Carbonation tablets or a priming sugar mixture (both are fine, carbonation drops will be more consistent bottle to bottle)
If you are using priming sugar, you may start that process now. You will need approximately 2.5 ounces per 3 gallons of beer. Boil the priming sugar in 16 ounces of water and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Once you have all of your sanitized equipment ready, it is time to transfer your beer into a bottling bucket. Use a siphoning hose to do this, try not to disturb the sediment in the bottom of your fermenter. Once you have the beer in the bucket and the priming sugar at room temperature, slowly add it to your beer and stir gently.
If you are using carbonation drops use one drop in each 12-ounce bottle or 2 drops in a 22-ounce bottle.
Attach your siphon or bottling wand to the spigot on your bottling bucket and start filling your bottles. If you are bottling without a spigot from a bucket, fermenter or carboy you may use a racking cane and siphon. If you are using this method, try not to get any of the sediment at the bottom of your vessel in your hose.
Now cap your bottles and put them in storage - that is correct - put them away. Your newly bottled homebrew should be stored in a dark, warm place for at least 2 weeks. When I say warm, think of when you were fermenting and allowing the yeast to do its thing, now it is time for the priming sugar or carbonation drops to do theirs, so somewhere around 70 F. Many experienced homebrewers will wait a minimum of 4 weeks before chilling and trying the beer from their batch, most new beer makers are impatient and will try much sooner. While tasting your brew prior to 2 - 4 weeks it may seem fine, just think of the flavour and aroma if it is left to age a while longer.
*The 'skunky smell' in your homebrew can be attributed to two things, light and the alpha acids in hops (lagers seem to suffer from this the most). It is the ultraviolet and blue wavelengths that start this process and amber/brown bottles seem to be the best at keeping these wavelengths out. Another name for 'skunky' beer is lightstruck, that is why many prefer to keg their homebrews.
**You may have heard people say to save your store bought beer bottles for using with your homebrew. The truth is - if those bottles used twist tops (a threaded bottle top) the metal caps will not work, as the caps are meant to be solidly crimped around the top of the bottle lip. If you do try and use them with threaded bottle tops you will find that you have leaks. Many brewery bottles are made with thinner glass and you may encounter breakage, and then glass contamination of your brew when using the bottle capper.