This is my third time priming and bottling my home brew (Australian Pale Ale this round), and I was getting a lot better at doing it. Here are some tips that may be of help to you.
Tip #1 Use a syringe for priming
OK, let me first say that you will not get accurate results with this, so if you’re the sort who does gravity measurement, this may not be for you. Obviously, I don’t bother to measure the gravity. I just leave the beer fermenting for 3 weeks and bottle directly. I just want my beer quick and easy.
Previously, i tried using icing sugar without dissolving it, and the results were catastrophic – i got little to no carbonation. Or the carbonation took forever to happen.
The idea of using a syringe came from someone else but i don’t remember from which forum i read about it, so i can’t give proper credit. I measured the sugar by weight (6g per bottle for 30 bottles = 180g) and water by weight as well (3g per bottle for 30 bottles = 90g, with the rough assumption of 1g = 1ml, plus a little more to compensate for evaporation). I injected 3ml of the sugar syrup into each bottle, but in the end, there was leftover sugar syrup. I suppose the sugar contributed some volume, and the evaporation was less than expected, so i injected a little bit more into each bottle. Anyway, the instructions says 6g per 740ml bottle, and my bottles were 630ml, so having some leftover sugar syrup was right.
I found out that it takes 4 weeks for the yeast to go through cane sugar to properly carbonate the beer, so don’t be too anxious to drink it! Anyway, the beer would be better conditioned (i.e. better tasting) after 4 weeks as well.
Tip #2 Find bottles that can hold the siphon in place
I discovered that the shorter profile bottles, like Thai beer bottles, work very well for me. It is able to hold the siphon in place, hands free. This frees me to do other preparatory work while the bottle fills up. The beer would flow down the side of the bottle nicely, which minimizes oxidation. It takes about 30 seconds for each bottle to fill up, so this actually gives me enough time to do bottle capping while another bottle is filling up.
Tip #3 Don’t worry too much about sanitation
I still did sanitation of course, filling each bottle with Star San and emptying it. But i realized that it’s not so easy for the beer to turn bad. They contain alcohol afterall. If you don’t need to be ultra careful, you could speed up a little when doing priming and bottling. Update: i don’t even bother to sanitize the bottles with Star San anymore, and have not encountered any bottle of beer gone bad at all. I just wash them with dish soap and rinse.
It still takes me a minimum of 4 hours to wash the bottles, sanitize them and to do priming and bottling. It is hard work! But it’s worth it.
Tip #4 Wait 3 weeks before bottling
If you do bottling directly after primary fermentation like I do, without secondary fermentation, then wait for 3 weeks before bottling, if you can help it.
I discovered that when I did bottling after only 2 weeks, there were a lot of bubbles in the beer and this disrupted the vacuum in the siphon. I had to restart the siphon many times and this was a real pain.