Saturday, July 31, 2010

Homebrewing With Mr. Mork: Part 2 - Bottling.

So here we are at the second stage of the homebrewing process: bottling. Yesterday afternoon, I drove over to assist and learn as Mr. Mork transferred the progressing fermentation from carboy to bottle. It does not seem like more than a month, indeed most of the summer, has passed since I witnessed the birth of this Tounge Splitter Ale.

About a week after I was there, Mr. Mork transferred the original ferment to a new carboy stoppered with an airlock, a one-way valve that allows pressure from within the carboy out without letting air in. The second fermentation was then underway.

The bottles were already washed and sterilized when I arrived. You can reuse any beer bottle that does not use a screw off cap. Some of his bottles are as old as his first batch of beer! As I am kind of a glass jar/bottle fanatic, I loved the look of many mismatched bottles. Mr. Mork used to painstakingly remove the labels, but now doesn't bother... the bottles are all labeled with marker on their caps when the bottling is complete.


About a week ago, he added additional hops to the carboy. This is called dry-hopping, and adds an additional dimension to the hoppiness that already exists.

The only thing left to do before transferring this liquid to the bottles is to add the priming sugar. Priming sugar is made from corn and activates the yeast in the beer, stimulating them to create carbonation in the bottle. We tasted the priming sugar, which I thought was exactly like a Pixi Stix, sans artificial colorants and crazy artificial flavor. The flat beer was actually tasty, too. All of the metallic hop flavors that I witnessed last month were surprisingly mellowed, the barley flavors toned down. I know that in a couple of weeks, this is going to really be an excellent beverage.

The priming sugar needs to be dissolved in boiling water, and meanwhile, the bottle caps are sanitized by boiling as well.

This process of siphoning the beer from the carboy into the bottling bucket was easy, but for some reason, I could not figure out how it was going to work until I saw it. (It reminded me of when I learned to knit in the round, and used a place marker. I couldn't visualize how the marker wouldn't be stuck on the needle as I knit... That is ridiculous to me now! Sometimes the simplest things are the things that throw me the most.) In Wild Fermentation, Sandor uses a more archaic process of just sucking on the end of plain tubing, but this more sophisticated aid called a racking cane is filled with water, and the water provides the suction. A more sanitary solution to the mouth siphoning process, I'd imagine...

The bottling bucket is equipped on the bottom with a spigot that is inserted in the bottle, and fills when pressure is applied. Mr. Mork filled the bottles, and R1 demonstrates the capping process:

Easy, and addicting! I'm considering getting a bottle capper for my kombucha bottling... but I'm a little worried about the insane carbonation issues I've been having... I took over from R1, and capped the rest of the bottles, about 46 in all. They are now labeled and resting in boxes at the edge of the Mork dining room, where it is a bit warmer than the basement. After two weeks, the bottle fermentation will be mostly complete (give or take a few days), and phase 3 can begin: Drinking.

It is amazing that so little effort can produce spectacular results. I guess that is how I feel about most kitchen experiments - that if you just have a bit of time and can reasonably follow instructions, you can make almost anything! The longer you do something, the easier it becomes, it's just the learning curve that can seem to throw me.

Beer is something that humans have brewed for an extremely long time, and yet, the process is unknown to so many people. I guess it is like anything, and you can demand better beer just as you can demand better fruits and vegetables and better meats and poultry - or better yet, you can grow or brew them yourself.

Another aspect of the whole home fermentation process that I really like, is the waiting. Our society is so full of instant gratification and "bigger, better and more". Waiting 6 -8 weeks to drink something so full of quality is really a pleasure. My own small ferments like the ginger beer, rhubarb liqueur, and kombucha take far less than a month (except for the aging of the liqueur), but still require a week or two of timing, and drinking something off my counter that I've been patient enough to wait awhile for is infinitely more rewarding than getting in my car and driving to a shop and buying something to drink this instant. I hope you will agree, and be able to learn a process like beer brewing from someone who also enjoys the waiting, like Mr. Mork!


  1. Brings new meaning to the idea of patience as a virtue!

    Love that you've been able to take this journey with Mr. Mork :) We've always toyed with the idea of brewing beer -- and he makes it look so easy!

    Now, do you suppose there's an alternative to using the highly processed priming sugar? Must be, as ancient brewing techniques wouldn't have made use of such newfangled products.

  2. I actually wondered the same thing, Lo... and read a thread of info about priming sugars here. It appears that the corn sugar is easier for the yeasts to break down, which makes sense. I'll have to ask Mr. Mork if he's ever tried any other type of sugar...

  3. I've used dry malt extract (DME) in the past and it's worked really well....not sure why I stopped using it. I guess Corn Sugar is more convenient and comes in pre-measured packages. You're basically creating a small amount of food for the available yeast to use which creates a nice head of foam on your brew.

  4. Oh, my husband would be so jealous!!Looks like fun.


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...