The final step to making a batch of homebrew (apart from drinking it) is to bottle or keg the brew.
At the end of the fermentation process when the bubbles stop coming through the airlock you should take a hydrometer reading. This reading should be below 1.016 before the beer is bottled to avoid “bottle Bombs”. However if the reading is exactly the same for two consecutive days, the fermantation process has finished and the beer can be bottled.
The bottles to be used must first be washed and sterilised. Never use any sort of washing liquid. A good method is to put the bottles through the dishwasher with no powder in the machine and then remove them and then wash them with steriliser them rinse them obsessively.
Bottle prime or batch prime?
The priming sugar can then be added into the bottles and the flat beer syphoned into each bottle. The amount of sugar depends on the bottle size, around a teaspoon per 750ml bottle. I use half a teaspoon for 500ml bottles and a touch more for 660ml bottles. The bottles are then capped and the beer left in the same place as before to secondary ferment for a while, (this is the hardest part of homebrewing!!). The other method you could use is called Batch Priming. This is where the sugar is dissolved in a small amount of boiled water and added to an empty sterilised fermenter. The amount of sugar should be 8grams per litre. The beer is then syphoned into fermenter and mixed with the priming solution. The beer is then syphoned into the bottles and capped as before. I have used both methods and have found no advantage of one over the other in terms of quality of beer or time saved.
The other option is to put the beer into a keg. The keg should be cleaned and sterilised first, and the priming sugar solution added to the keg as above. The beer is then syphoned into the keg and the lid is sealed. The beer as before is left to secondary ferment. This method is alot quicker than sterilising a large number of bottles. I have found though that if you require your brew to be fizzy as say in the case of making lager, then it pays to spend the extra time and use bottles. The keg does allow the beer to carbonate but i find its better with bottles. So in summary if you have made an ale, use the keg. If you have made a lager or cider then use bottles. This is if you are using a plastic type keg which is only designed to be used at a low pressure and the beer carbonated by a secondary fermentation. The other type of keg that can be used is the Cornelius or “cornie” keg. Basically these kegs were once used for soft drinks but can be adapted really well for homebrew. The cornie can take high pressure (sometimes up to 100psi) so what you can do with this type of keg is syphon the brewed beer into the keg and then carbonate it with higher pressure carbon dioxide over a period of time. The beer must go into the keg bright and clear, this method does not need priming sugar.