Here is my process for bottling, I find it very easy and relaxing and a bit enjoyable with the music going and a tasty beverage in hand.
The first rule of bottle club is to keep your bottles clean. I make sure I rinse my bottle after I pour my beer into a mug. I pour some water in and swirl it around then dump it. I repeat. I hold the bottle up to a light and peer in (without managing to drink with my eyeball ala Greg) to see I got all the sediment out. If there is stuff stuck in it, I will put a few grains of Oxiclean into the bottle and fill with hot water to sit on the counter for a few days. I repeat the process and use a bottle brush to get the rest out. If the bottle is clean after I rinse it, I put it upside down in the dish strainer to dry for a few days. My bottles then go into a half rack box which is closed and stored in my basement brewery area. I still get mold or gunk sometimes but a lot less than I used to.
Just some numbers to start:
5 gallons of beer is 128 oz/gallon * 5 gallons =
640 0z or 18,927.0589 ml
12 oz bottles = ~54 bottles
15.2 oz Flip tops = ~43 bottles
22 oz Bombers = ~29 bottles
750 ml Belgians = ~26 bottles
2 L Growlers = ~10 bottles
I usually do 12 ozers so 2 cases and a 6 pack usually does most batches. But with some math you can figure out how many you need ahead of time. My secret cleaning weapon is my dishwasher. I check the inside and clean to trap, then one by one, I peer up into the bottle holding it towards a light to look for any signs of crud. If clean, I put it upside down on a tine in the dishwasher rack until I get all my bottles in. I put 1 tablespoon of Oxiclean in and set it for heat dry, hot water, pots and pans scrub. (note, you should remove your loose labels as you drink your beer, the condensation makes it easier and they won’t get clogged in the dishwasher trap or fall onto the heaters in the dishwasher and burn). This cycle takes a few hours so I can set a delay the night before or have my wife turn it on mid afternoon for a night bottle session.
I like to do at least one clear bottle each time. I put this bottle on a shelf in the kitchen so I can watch the sediment build up and the beer clear.
T minus 1 day
A day before I bottle (at least) I bring my carboy of beer upstairs and place it on a free counter space.
I use Iodophor for my sanitizing at a rate of 1 tsp per 1.5 gallons so I usually do 3 gallons of sanitize mixture in a rubbermaid bin. While mixing this I have 1 pint of water heating up on the stove. I use about 5 oz of priming sugar for a 5 gallon batch but will change up or down to suit the beer. Once the water is boiling, I stir in the priming sugar and let it boil for 10-15 minutes. While waiting for the boil time my bottle bucket, spigot and bottle filler are soaking in the sanitizer. After a couple minutes I put the spigot and bottle filler on the bucket and set it on the counter. I pour some sanitizer in and open the valve and release the filler spring so the sanitizer flows through the setup back into the rubbermaid bin. I empty the remaining sanitizer and set the bucket upside down and begin sanitizing my autosiphon and vinator. I sponge the tines of my bottle tree with sanitizer.
By the time this is done, the priming solution is ready. I pour it into the bucket and cover it with a clean towel and move on to the bottles.
Time to suck
My carboy with beer has been sitting on the counter since the night before. I place a folded up towel under the front end to slightly elevate one side.
I set my vinator onto the tree and grab a bottle in my left hand and depress the vinator for 2-3 squirts into the bottle. As I do this, my right hand grabs another bottle and I peek into the bottle holding it up to a light to check for crud yet again. Left hand places the sanitized bottle onto the bottle tree and grabs the bottle from the right hand and I repeat 54 times. My tree does not hold all the bottles so I put the remaining ones in the dishwasher lower shelf. Now I am ready to bottle.
It takes many hands
Well, only two but multitasking helps speed things up. I put 54 bottle caps in a fresh well of sanitizer in my vinator. I set the bottle bucket up directly over the door to my dishwasher so drips are caught in it. I grab a bottle off the bottle tree and put it under the bottle filler with my right hand and open the valve. I use bright lighting so I can see inside the deep brown bottles for the fill level. Once the beer is at the top of the bottle, I drop the bottle down to stop the beer flow and remove the bottle. In the meantime, my left hand has the next bottle ready. As soon as the full bottle comes off the filler, the next empty one goes under and I begin filling. I set the full bottle far off to my left and pull a bottle cap out of the vinator and set it over the bottle. I repeat 54 times. The last 4 bottles or so require grabbing the bucket and tilting it towards the filler so you don’t suck up a bunch of air. 54 bottles sit before me with caps sitting on top. I grab my capper and start capping, placing the capped bottle into a half rack or case box. Just about done.
I try to leave the kitchen in better shape than I found it. I fill up the dishwasher, wipe down the counters, wipe down the floors and the fronts of cabinets, even if I didn’t spill a drop. To clean my bottle bucket, I use the sink sprayer to spray hot water on all surfaces and if there is crud (very rare) I use a sponge dedicated to my beer equipment. Every time my wife needs a new sponge for the sink, she takes my beer sponge and I get a new one. I set a towel on the counter and place the bucket upside down over it. I remove the filler and spigot and run hot water through both and sponge as needed; onto the drying towel as well. I fill a glass with hot water and pump the autosiphon in it to run the water through it. I remove the hose and run water through it. I hang it over the sink to dry. I set the autosiphon parts onto the drying towel. I clean and rinse the airlock. I rinse the vinator. All onto the drying towel. I empty the rubbermaid bin and rinse it with hot water and again sponge it off and then onto the drying towel. I spray some hot water into the fermenter, swirl it around enough to break up the flocculants and dump it all into my compost bin outside. I rinse it out with a little more water. I begin filling it up with hot water and add 1 tablespoon of Oxiclean. I fill it all the way up and leave it for a day.
I place my bottled beer in a corner of the dining room for the next 2-3 weeks to carb up.
The next day, I invert the carboy over the sink to drain it out. I spray inside it a hot water rinse and inspect it. On a rare occasion I find some crud the Oxiclean didn’t handle. I stuff a facecloth in, add some more water and swirl it around until it scrubs off. Then I remove the facecloth and rinse again. I leave the carboy inverted in the sink to dry off.
Th-th-th-that’s all folks!
And there you have my easy peasey bottle day. I left out the tunes and beverages, I figure you can figure that out yourself.
Let me know if I missed anything and anything that you do different.