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Old 07-10-2009, 08:09 PM   #1
buckheadhobo
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Default When is beer ready to bottle?

Hey guys, I recently brewed 5 gallons of witbeer, almost 3 weeks ago.
The airlock hasn't been bubbling for about 2 weeks, and I'm wondering if I can bottle it today or wait the 2 days until it turns 3 weeks old.
Is it basically okay to bottle whenever the bubbling stops? Cause if that's the case, I'm fine. (there's still pressure in the bucket, tho, and pushing down on the top causes bubbles to rise in the airlock)
BTW: I'm using a 6 gallon plastic (HDPE) bucket as a primary fermentor. (and I just got 5 more in the mail yesterday: time to go crazy brewing)
The plastic bucket has a tap on the bottom, which I plan to use to bottle it.
Should I tap the beer directly from the fermentor into the bottles? That's what I did with my Mr Beer beers. Must one use a bottling bucket?
And do I need to remove the lid of the bucket when bottling/transferring with the tap?

Thanks!

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Old 07-10-2009, 08:15 PM   #2
SevenFields
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A non-bubbling airlock is not a good sign of stopped fermentation. The best way to tell that fermentation has stopped is to take a hydrometer 3 days in a row. If the reading is the same than it is safe to bottle. If you bottle too soon, you will have exploding bottles.
You should transfer your beer from your Primary bucket to a bottling bucket with a spigot.

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Old 07-10-2009, 08:19 PM   #3
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After 3 weeks you're probably safe BUT you should use a hydrometer to make sure things have stabilized. (where is revvy with the hot chick with fireams series?) Hydrometers are cheap, using them is cheap insurance that the beer you've now spent weeks and dollars on is ready to go into the bottles.

You don't HAVE to use a bottling bucket, but it sure is easier.

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Old 07-10-2009, 09:05 PM   #4
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Measure with the hydrometer. If you get the same reading 3 days in a row (you can skip measuring the 2nd day, just measure on day 1 and 3), you're ready to go. Most beers want some cleanup time after fermentation is complete, but wheat beers are generally fine fresh.

After 2+ weeks, you're likely done but if there is a stuck/slow fermentation you _really_ don't want to bottle and risk exploding glass bottles, gushers, and the like.

The airlock is useless as a measure of fermentation--a slightly loose lid or small temperature change can affect the bubbling as much as actual fermentation. As Revvy says, the airlock is a piece of plastic. The hydrometer is a scientific instrument. Use the hydrometer if you're trying to measure things.

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Old 07-15-2009, 08:26 PM   #5
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Definitely take some serial hydrometer readings and if still in doubt, just prime on the low side to account for any extra fermentation activity. You're probably ok though given the amount of time it has been so far.

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Old 07-15-2009, 09:48 PM   #6
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What is your proposed method for priming the beer, if you aren't going to use a separate bottling bucket?

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Old 07-15-2009, 10:17 PM   #7
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With a Wit the yeast is supposed to be in suspension so you could stir the priming sugar, but I would advise against this. It is really best to rack the beer off of the dormant yeast and other crud in the bottom of your fermenter.

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Old 07-21-2009, 08:27 AM   #8
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If one has a hydrometer but failed to take an OG reading and make a beer bottle satellite, what would be a good way to take a sample? Is a sanitized turkey baster a solid option for this?

Also, for the third day test, what would be a good procedure for preserving the sample you took 2 days earlier. Dump it from hydrometer casing to a beer bottle?

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Old 07-21-2009, 08:59 AM   #9
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Another vote for hydrometer reading. Also, for the OP, bubbles in the airlock when you push down on the bucket lid are not indicative of fermentation or excess pressure, it is simply because you are changing the volume of the bucket, and therefore air has to escape to remain at atmospheric pressure.


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Originally Posted by SamW View Post
If one has a hydrometer but failed to take an OG reading and make a beer bottle satellite, what would be a good way to take a sample? Is a sanitized turkey baster a solid option for this?

Also, for the third day test, what would be a good procedure for preserving the sample you took 2 days earlier. Dump it from hydrometer casing to a beer bottle?


Your OG is not relevant in terms of figuring out if fermentation is complete, as the samples' values are only relevant to each other (to see if there is a change in gravity, and therefore active fermentation).

A sanitized turkey baster will work fine as long as it has no scrapes on it. I'd suggest going and getting a new one (they are like $3 at Safeway).

Once you have read the sample, you no longer need it. You can drink it or toss it (but don't put it back in the fermenter). Just simply write down the gravity reading so you remember what it is. The three tests are going to remove a trivial amount of beer from your 5 gallon batch, so don't be concerned about "wasting" it, it's all part of the process.

SG (specific gravity) readings are altered by temperature, so take the temp of the sample as well. Here is a conversion website that you just have to plug the values in to: Brewheads.com - Hydrometer Correction Calculator
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