Many brewers don’t use a hydrometer and have never had exploding bottles. One day their luck will run out! Brewers Yeast is a living organism and, as such, may perform differently from brew to brew. We recommend the use of a hydrometer for checking that fermentation is complete before bottling. The hydrometer is a simple device which, when floated in a sample, gives an indication of the density of the brew. Two separate samples over 24hrs with the same reading indicates that fermentation is complete (Final Gravity - FG). Once FG is achieved, have a taste and a smell of the brew (an infection is usually a sour taste). If it tastes and smells like beer you can bottle confidently in the knowledge that the correct amount of priming will produce the right amount of fizz with no explosions!
For more information, click to watch our how-to-video on Hydrometer Use.
A brew is most at risk of spoilage when the yeast is not active. This may be at the start of the ferment (prior to or just after the yeast is pitched) or at the end of the ferment (when the yeast has sedimented to the bottom of the brew). A brew, fermented with the lid on or clingwrap, should have a protective layer of CO2 gas and may be perfectly fine for several days after fermentation is complete. However, the majority of brewers cannot produce a completely sterile environment for their brew so the longer the brew is left to sit the greater the risk of spoilage. Sample the brew prior to bottling - if it smells like beer and tastes like beer it is probably okay to bottle.
Since 2000, Coopers DIY Beer has provided PET bottles as an alternative to glass, because most commercial beer is packaged in single use glass bottles, which are too thin to stand up to the rigours of continual washing and capping. The main advantage to using PET instead of glass is that if the brewer unwittingly bottles infected beer or beer that hasn’t finished fermenting, they won’t have exploding glass bottles to contend with.
PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, which is the same plastic used to make soft drink (soda pop) bottles. PET bottles are BPA free and recyclable when they eventually need replacing.
Our PET bottles have re-usable caps with a tamper evident collar that breaks off after the first use; this does not affect the airtight seal. When the caps eventually wear out, replacement caps can be purchased separately.
Note: PET is temperature-sensitive and should not be cleaned using hot water. PET bottles should be triple rinsed with cold water immediately after use and allowed to drain dry. Do not put the cap back on a bottle until it is completely dry. Before refilling, they can be sanitised using a mild bleach solution and rinsed several times - until no chlorine odour is detectable. There are several “no rinse” sanitising products based on phosphoric acid available through specialist stores that are very effective and “water friendly”.
There are a couple of options open to you when it comes to kegging. If you are in a hurry for the beer (a party on the weekend) and it will be consumed within a couple of months, then artificial carbonation is the best option. Natural conditioning will give you a better beer in our opinion but the conditioning period is much longer (several weeks as opposed to several days). Well made, naturally conditioned beer will last as long in the keg as it does in bottles (at least two years or so). Artificially carbonated beer will deteriorate after a few months.
Clean and sanitise the keg thoroughly.
Prime with sugar at the rate of 4g per litre.
Rack via a piece of sanitised, flexible tubing so that the beer runs to the bottom of the keg. Leave 5 – 10 cm of headspace at the top.
Seal the keg then invert and give it a shake to mix the sugar and check that the seal is good.
Store at 18°C or above for a week, then allow the beer to condition for at least two weeks.
Refrigerate for a day or two, momentarily release the keg pressure, then connect the gas at required pouring pressure 35 – 100 kPa, depending on your system. (Fifty litre kegs through a temprite or miracle box may require up to 300 kPa).
Artificial Conditioning (Force Carbonating)
Clean, sanitise, purge (purge by connecting the CO2 bottle to force the air out of the keg) and rack as per the natural conditioning procedure, without the priming sugar.
If you are in a hurry for the beer, seal the keg, pressurise to 300 kPa and shake it about 100 times (for an 18 – 20 litre keg) with the gas connected. If there is no rush or you’re not feeling energetic, leave the gas connected with the regulator set at 300 kPa for 2 – 3 days. CO2 will be absorbed more quickly if the beer is refrigerated.
Place in the fridge for several days then adjust to pouring pressure. The beer will be drinkable as soon as it is cold, but will improve for several weeks in the fridge.
For crystal clear beer, rack into a sanitised, airtight, food grade container (flush with CO2 first) and refrigerate for a week. Once the beer is clear, keg and carbonate artificially.
Degassing the keg over a day or two will usually rectify over-carbonation. Agitate the keg and release the CO2 several times a day until the beer has reached the desired level of carbonation.
If the beer is pouring badly but appears to have little or no carbonation, check to ensure that there are no kinks or holes in the beer and gas lines.
Contrary to logic, heady beer can be a result of low gas pressure and increasing the pressure via the regulator will often fix the problem.
A short beer line may also be the cause of heady beer. Look to use about 3m of 5mmID line, 2m of 4mmID line or an in-line restrictor.
A well made DIY Beer, being naturally conditioned in the bottled, can be stored for longer than most commercial beer. Generally speaking, a beer style with higher bitterness, alcohol content and colour lasts longer in the bottle and even benefits with bottle age! A beer such as Mexican Cerveza may be consumed within 6 mths while an Imperial Stout may be successfully stored for several years. We suggest tasting a bottle of each brew periodically to gauge how it’s progressing to determine optimum drinking age for your own preferences. Other factors to consider for longevity are the quality of the beer in the first instance, integrity of the pressure vessel and storage temperature (stable and cool).