Step 12: Kegging or Bottling

After the dry hopping and secondary fermentation, your beer is essentially ready, except for one thing:  it's flat!

If you've got an expensive force carbonation rig, or if you're using a keg system, you can start drinking your beer right away.  However, most homebrewers will need to bottle condition their beer.

Basically, we add some corn sugar to the beer before bottling it, to restart the yeast.  With the beer under pressure in a mini keg or a bottle, the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast will be forced into solution, creating those carbon dioxide bubbles we all know and love!

The first step is to sanitize all your equipment again--you can't be too careful!  I must have made a mistake with one of the kegs, it got an infection, swelled up and burst!

When done, heat up a little water and about 1/2 a cup of corn sugar on the stove, stirring until it's completely dissolved.  Pour that mixture into your bucket (preferably with a spigot at the bottom).

In a process called racking, use the siphon to move the beer from the carboy to the racking bucket, doing your best to leave behind the dead yeast at the bottom and the mess of hops at the top.  

Once it's all in the bucket, it's time to put the beer into the final receptacles.  Using a hose attached to the spigot on your bucket (or the siphon again, if you don't have a spigot) simply fill each bottle or keg as high as you can.  Make sure you're doing this on a towel, I always make a mess.

One reason I like grolsch bottles and mini kegs is the ease of capping them.  With the bottles, you simply use the wire bail on top to seal them.  The kegs have a bung at the top that presses in.  If you're using standard bottles, you will need bottle caps and a capping tool.  Simply heat up the caps and use the capping tool to press each one onto a bottle.

Finally, return the bottles and kegs to the closet and give them another week or two to carbonate.

Here's a quick video of the process: