MacBourne's Musings

Time to go back to the land: Planning to be as off-grid as I can - in the process there'll be music, guns, guitars, a smattering of politics (really kind of over that), CNC routing, yeah - a bunch of other stuff, too. Conservative with libertarian leanings - no wookie suit, yet. Μολὼν λαβέ - ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒE

Month: March 2017

Bottling Homebrew Beer – Equipment and Steps

Bottling Day – what’s the process?

So the “brewing beer” part is done and your beer has been in secondary for at least two or three weeks now. Let’s look at the process and equipment needed for bottling homebrew beer. We’ll need to gather and sanitize bottles, caps (or PET bottles and caps), a bottling bucket, a bottle filler, a bottle capper, and priming sugar. Of note – many (most) – of these items will come standard in a brewing starter kit – making that an excellent option.

bottle in a row

Row o’ bottles


The first step will be to elevate your fermenter bucket– kitchen counter or workbench height works great. I usually move my beer at least several hours ahead of time to allow any sediment to settle. It’s also a good idea to put a book (or a board) under the back side of your fermenter to tilt it so you have the maximum depth above any sediment for your racking cane.

*Note to self: Don’t use your brewing books for this as you might need them for reference! (DAMHIKT)

Mix a small batch of One Step to sanitize your bottle caps – just leave ’em submerged in the sanitizer until you need them. Dissolve 3/4 cup (4 oz) of corn sugar into 2 cups of boiling water, cover and let cool. You can substitute 2/3 cup of white sugar if that’s what you have on hand. Rack your beer into your bottling bucket and gently stir in your priming sugar solution with a sanitized brew spoon.

Let’s get to it – Bottling Homebrew beer

Now it’s time to move your bottling bucket onto your counter or bench. Using your bottle filler, slowly and gently fill each bottle to within 3/4 inch of the top. The level will drop a bit when you remove the filler leaving the perfect amount of headspace. I replace the stock bottling bucket spigot with this which allows me to attach the filler directly spigot – no tubing needed – filling the beer bottles by just lifting the bottle up to touch the filler tip. Put a cap on your freshly-filled bottle and crimp it on using your bottle capper.

Using a Red Baron (Emily) capper for homebrew bottling

Using a Red Baron (Emily) capper for homebrew bottling


Set them aside in a cool dark place to let the yeasties do their carbonating magic! Give ’em two weeks (or more if you can stand it)!



Bottling Supplies

Oxygen Absorbing Bottle Caps, bottling homebrew beer

Oxygen Absorbing Bottle Caps - 144 count – This will be enough for a couple of 5-gallon batches.

Amber Beer Bottles (24 Pack), 12 oz

Amber Beer Bottles (24 Pack), 12 oz

24 12oz Amber long neck bottles – Sure you can save ’em, but this is faster and they are already CLEAN!

Red Baron Bottle Capper (Ferrari Emily Wing Capper, Red Plastic)

Red Baron (Emily) Bottle Capper

This is the type of bottle capper included in most kits – easy to use, and sturdy. You may have problems with some bottles – it prefers the standard “longneck” style.

Super Agata Bench Capper

The Super Agata Bench Capper is a nice upgrade – this is my go-to capper. It works with a wide variety of bottle sizes  and types (it has a nice adjustment range). Unlike handheld cappers, the shape of the bottle neck is not critical.

Corn Sugar

Corn Sugar

Corn Sugar - 4 lbs.

This will last you quite a few batches!


Another Method for Bottling Homebrew Beer

PET Bottles and Carbonation Drops

A neat option for bottling is Coopers PET bottles used with Coopers Carbonation Drops – I have been quite impressed with the results.  I bottled half of my last

Coopers Carbonation Drops

Coopers Carbonation Drops

couple of batches using traditional methods and the other half in PET bottles with carbonation drops. I could not tell the difference myself, nor could beer aficionado friends detect a difference in blind tastings!






Bottling Beer - Bottles_in_Pantry_3.jpgBy jppi -

Bottle conditioned beer.



What about Kegging?

At some point along your brewing journey, your thoughts will turn to kegging – I’m just an enabler by suggesting it so early, right? 😉

Check over here for more information…


Potato Planter- the lazy way to higher yield

Potato Planter?

Why on earth would you want a potato planter, anyway? Don’t potatoes grow just fine when direct-sown in garden soil? They certainly do – but higher yields with less work are very appealing to me. Forcing the plants to grow vertically conserves garden space, and increases your harvest!

Retro Farm Fresh Potatoes - for more produce build a potato planter.

There’s no fresher produce than home-grown.

The concept –

Instead of direct planting, some folks use tires, buckets, or tubs as planters to grow “lazy bed” potatoes. This planter box method has some distinct advantages. Made with recycled pallet lumber, cedar, redwood, or even pressure treated boards, this design works quite well. I know there’s controversy over the safety of pressure treated in contact with food plants – so you’ll have to research and make that decision for yourself! For purchased lumber, I’ve found fence or deck boards to be the most cost-effective.

Note: If you are fortunate enough to have a supply of black locust lumber readily available, call me!

What does it look like?

This simple design shown below allows you to add layers of compost-rich soil, along with the boards of your choice as the ‘tater plants grow, causing the potatoes to grow upward. This creation of vertical space gives the plants more room for a higher potato yield as the season progresses. It also provides an opportunity to unscrew a bottom board and sneak in an early harvest of new potatoes!

Let’s build one –

You’ll see that constructing your very own potato planter is simple. You’ll need four vertical stakes, a pile of boards, some Torx T25 wood screws, seed potatoes, and some composted garden soil mix. Dimensions are really not critical – just use what you have readily available.

For mine, I ripped some 2-by lumber into 1 ½” x 1 ½” x 48″ stakes. I cut a point on each of them using my miter saw. Again using the miter saw, I cut the fencing boards for the sides into twelve pieces measuring 25 ¼” and twelve pieces measuring 24″.  Next, I used my Irwin Quick Grip Clamps to clamp the top and bottom 25 ¼” boards to two of the vertical stakes – leaving a 5/8″ overlap on each side. I pre-drilled all of the screw holes to limit splitting. It was much easier to lay all of the boards out on each side and do the pre-drilling at once.

Space the bottom board at least 12″  up from the pointy end of the stakes. This will allow tapping them into the ground with a rubber mallet. Repeat this procedure for the opposite side. I continued assembling mine on my workbench, then took it out to the garden for final installation. When you first plant, you will start with one or two “courses” of boards. You will then add composted dirt mixture and side boards as the potatoes grow. Time, water, mulch and in a few months:

Potato harvest

potato harvest

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