Bottling and Kegging - The Best of Both Worlds

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Most of us homebrewers started out bottling our beers, some of us then decided to move on to kegging. Those who bottle claim that bottling is better for portability (bringing to parties, sharing with friends, entering competitions.)
Those who keg claim that the time saved cleaning and filling bottles is one of the best things they’ve done to save time, and that you can always Counter Pressure Bottle (CPBF) fill some bottles for competition or for giving away. But a CPB filler is one more piece of equipment to buy and there’s a bit of a learning curve when using one. I know you can also just fill a growler but many times the carbonation on a growler is lacking.

The Process


If you keg and wish that you could just bottle up a 6-pack or two, or if you’re bottling now and don’t want to take the leap to kegging because you really like the portability of bottled beer, this article is for you! You’ll get to enjoy the best of both worlds! I will usually bottle three to four 6-packs of beer from a keg. This leaves plenty of beer in the keg but does make for a quicker turnover of beers on tap.
syrup1.jpg
Syrup is expensive, but it's measurable and consistent sugar solution for priming individual bottles.
The key is good cleanliness and sanitation. Oh, and pure maple syrup, the lighter the grade, the better. I’ve told many a homebrewer about this technique, and it works just fine, giving good enough results to win numerous ribbons in homebrew competitions. It’s best to bottle from the keg before you’ve carbonated the beer, so right after you’ve transferred to the keg is the best time. You can bottle cold and carbonated beer, but beware as the addition of maple syrup will cause gushing before you get a chance to cap the bottle.
So you have your cleaned and sanitized bottles and caps. You have your keg of warm, flat beer with CO2 set low (say 5 PSI) or just give the keg small bursts of CO2 when the flow of beer gets too slow. Heat the maple syrup (1/4 to ½ cup should be plenty for a couple of 6-packs or up to a case) in a small pan with a lid to just shy of a full boil. Keep an eye on it as it heats, it will boil over as soon as you turn your back and that experience alone may cause you to swear off wonderful technique! Let the syrup cool in the pan with the lid on.
Also, don’t try and cheat and use that awful fake maple syrup. Use the real thing, it won’t break the bank. You’ll regret it if you use the fake stuff. If you have fake maple syrup, save it for your pancakes, don’t ruin beer with it, please. I have ball lock kegs, and have used different set ups to fill the bottles from the kegs. What works best for me is to use a faucet quick disconnect assembly which is a QD faucet adapter, standard draft faucet with knob, and a ball lock beverage out quick disconnect. In addition, you’ll need a stainless steel growler filler and about a foot of 3/8” ID silicone tubing. Either a 10cc syringe or a plastic graduated transfer pipette will work for measuring the maple syrup. Make sure everything is clean and sanitized. Approximate prices for the above:

You'll Need the Following


equipment.jpg

  • Faucet quick disconnect assembly - $36.00
  • Stainless steel growler filler - $ 4.50
  • One foot 3/8” ID tubing - $2.30 for silicone, less than $1.00 for PVC
  • 10cc syringe - $1.95 OR graduated transfer pipette, plastic 3cc - $5.00/pk of 100
  • Maple syrup - priceless!! (actually a half gallon is about $37)
Attach the faucet assembly to the keg (making sure the faucet is in the off position), attach the silicone tubing to the growler filler, and attach that to the faucet. Now you’re ready to fill your bottles. Don’t forget your bottle capper.
kegging-bottling3-f.jpg

Have everything lined up so that it’s easy to fill a bottle, and then place it on the counter. I like to fill all the bottles, and place a sanitized cap on top of each filled bottle before I add the maple syrup and cap the bottles, but do what works best for you. Leave an inch or so of headspace in the bottle. Once the bottles are all filled then get your pan of cooled syrup and syringe (or pipette) and slowly squirt 2cc maple syrup into each 12 ounce bottle. If you get any maple syrup on the rim of the bottle or it foams over, just wipe off the rim with a paper towel dipped in sanitizer, make sure the cap is clean and cap it.
kegging-bottling4-F.jpg
Be sure to gently invert the bottle a few times so that the syrup mixes with the beer. You may find you want to adjust the amount of syrup up or down slightly for your particular style of beer. I’ve only found it necessary to increase the amount of syrup for highly carbonated beers such as Saison, but I’ll only do that if it’s in a champagne style bottle, as the glass is thicker.
So here’s what’s worked for me (cc is the same thing as ml):
  • 12oz – 2cc
  • 16oz – 2.5cc
  • 22oz – 3.5cc
Champagne type bottle – 4cc (or 5cc for Saison/highly carbonated beers)
Many think that the taste of the maple syrup will come through in the finished beer, but it doesn’t, at least if you’re using the lighter grades of maple syrup. I’ve never used the darker grades for bottling. Be sure to use high quality light colored maple syrup – if it tastes good then use it. You can’t buy maple syrup where you live? Sounds like you need to make a road trip to Vermont and get some maple syrup, it’s not just for breakfast anymore!
Keg vs. Bottle Conditioned – Can you taste the difference?
If you try this technique, a month out from bottling, try comparing the keg beer to the bottled beer. A great triangle test!
kegging-bottling3-f.jpg
 

Hopper5000

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If the maple syrup is food grade do you really need to sanitize it by heating? I know it's a best practice just curious... This is really interesting and cool by the way! I was wondering if any of the maple flavor bleeds over into the beer?
 

drksky

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Why maple syrup? Why not just make up a batch of priming solution with dextrose, especially since you have to heat the syrup anyway.
Lately, I've been just adding enough priming solution to carbonate the whole 5 gallons to the keg before transferring. Transfer the beer to the keg, then fill however many bottles I want and toss the keg in the keezer and force carbonate the keg. At keezer temps, whatever priming solution is in the keg won't really affect the carbonation since the yeast are inactive, and whatever bottles I filled condition normally at room temperature.
I guess what I'm saying is, there's more than one way to skin a cat.
 

msinger

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Have you tried this technique with beer that is not carbonated but is still cold from cold crashing? I would like to try it but I have already cold crashed my beer in a keg. I would think that if I bottle by this technique and then leave at room temperature it would work.....but not sure.
 

brewstergalVT

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I use maple syrup because I have it so it's easy for me as well as consistent and easy to measure.
I'm aware that there are many different ways to do what I've written about in the article. For example some folks use a sugar cube to carbonate a 12 ounce bottle of beer. I've not tried that but it works for many folks.
I'm glad your system works for you and thanks for sharing how you bottle & keg. Do you notice any sweetness from the priming sugar in the kegged beer? In my experience priming sugar can be tasted in bottled beer that hasn't yet carbonated which I don't find to be a pleasant taste. I guess that's what would deter me from doing things as you suggest. But again, I'm glad it works for you. That's the fun of homebrewing: sharing and finding what works for each of us in our quest to make tasty beer!
 

drksky

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I'm only putting 2 cups of priming solution (1 pint), with anywhere from 3-5 ounces of corn sugar into 5 gallons of beer. If someone can taste that much of a dilution, I'd be impressed.
 

drksky

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Or just let the keg sit a week at room temp to carb naturally then put it in the keezer and crash. Draw the first pint and toss it. Drink the rest. I do it this way, especially if I want to enter competitions or give some away. I'll agree with your point that it is much easier to bottle at kegging time rather than after it's carbed in the keg. Much lower chance of oxidation and under carbonated beer. This is especially true for highly carbed beers like Hefs or Saisons.
 

divrack

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you can make a bottle filler for pennies (mine cost about £3 assuming you have usual keg stuff.
Stuck some tube onto a corny keg attachment off of a filter. stuck that tube into a standard siphon tube with a pinch type valve for closing the tube. bought a bung type rubber stopper that fits bottles and cut a hole in that the racking cane fits through and threaded it on to the bottle. Done.
The operation involves closing the pinch valve clip, attaching the construction onto the keg. put the cane into the bottle and adjust the stopper so it is snug into the bottle mouth. open the valve. the beer rushes into the bottle attaining pressure balance quickly. then you squeeze / carefully loosen the bung making sure not to fully release or release too suddenly, and the bottle will continue filling. close the valve just before the bottle is filled and carefully release the remaining pressure by squeezing the bung again. As a side note the small amount of foaming that happens is benificial as this purges any o2.
Disclaimer. the first time you do this you may spray beer all over your face/ everywhere. however i consider this a bonus, and thereafter you quickly figure out your technique. as another bonus you can drink out the bottle unlike with bottle carbed stuff, and its easier to transport/store.
however i still bottle carb for things that i feel benefit from the fuller body this seems to impart.
i can post a picture of the construction if anyone is interested.
 

Schlenkerla

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I keg all my beer. Then bottle using a party tap, racking and a airlock-bung for a carboy. Attach the party tap. Stick the racking inside the party tap (into the nozzle). The carboy bung goes on the racking cane. Then fill the bottles using the cane and bung. Set the cane near the bottom to not splash your beer with the bung pressed down on the bottle top to trap air. Then burp the air out as it fills, if you don't the pressures will equalize. I use 8 psi on my keezer normally and fill at the same pressure. This is a simple filler under pressure. You have virtually no foam. I learned this many years from somebody here on HBT. Think it was #Flyguy.
To the OP. #BREWSTERGALVT - Thanks for sharing!!!
 

brewstergalVT

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Yes I have bottled cold uncarbonated beer this way and it woks fine. You are correct, just leave the bottled beer at room temp and make sure the maple gets mixed well once the bottles warm to room temp, say a day out from bottling.
 

brewstergalVT

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Really a good idea to heat it in a closed pot and allow it to cool. Mold will sometimes grow on commercial syrup once the container has been opened. In my mind just because it looks fine doesn't mean there aren't some nasties and worth it to me to just heat it and be sure.
The maple flavor goes away after about a week in the bottle at least when using the lighter grades of syrup.
 

MT2sum

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Interesting, Maple Syrup! I can get that at Costco pretty reasonable. I've got the kegs, got the CO2 bottle, just need to get new gauges for the CO2. I've never kegged before, but it would really save some time when brewing. Then I could bottle at will!
 

dyqik

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Simple syrup would be a cheap alternative to Maple syrup, and you'll be boiling it to make it, so it'll sterilized. You should be able to calculate the ml/cc required from the amount of sugar you put in and the final volume of the simple syrup.
It's also good to have around for cocktails...
 

broadbill

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If OP is really bottling off 3-4 6 packs from a batch, I would think dosing individual bottles with syrup would be way more work than calculating the amount of priming sugar needed for 2.5 gallons and bucket bottling half the batch the conventional way.
I see the merit of this method for a few bottles; but I usually bottle carbonated beer in the keg with the cut racking cane/stopper technique (Another el-cheapo HBT method).
They also make "carbonator caps" that fit on 1,2L soda bottles that let you carbonate directly in those vessels.
Many ways to do it.
 

CBelli

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Am I missing something?....
this but it sounds exactly like adding priming sugar but in liquid form?
Why not just use Kayro Syrup ... it is liquid corn sugar.
 

skraeling

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Going to try this as well on my next batch. Whole foods has 237ml bottles of grade a golden syrup for about 7.50
 

Craghunter

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How about using honey. I Think that even if some of the honey taste came through might be good.
 
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Beer can be put under pressure in a keg, usually higher than pressure required to dispense beer from the keg, and held there for a day or two.
 

SeeMont

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I appreciate your process, it is well thought out. Myself, I moved from bottles to kegs, With kegs, sometimes I will prime in the keg but more often I force carbonate. When I do want to bottle, I have my chilled keg in my keezer, take out my Blichmann Beer Gun and go to work. Fast and easy. I take my washed and rinsed bottles and soak them in a 5 gallon bucket of ice cold StarSan. I also use 1 and 2 liter Soda plastic bottles a lot, I can take these on the rivers and to tail gates parties without fear of breakage.
 

suitbrewing

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Thank you for sharing your method, which is both simple and intuitive.
I will try something similar but through my sanke keg setup. Does that mean that I will need to sanitise my coupler/beer line/and tap??
Also i from the comments above I understand that there is no problem with cold crushing the beer prior to transfer to the keg (i.e. there will still be enough viable yeast to condition the bottles as long as these are kept at room temp for a couple of weeks).
 

BigPicture

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Great article. But you're working too hard. There are alternatives to the maple syrup, honey, priming solution, sugar, etc. I've found that all those change the taste of the beer ever so slightly. I don't want to ever do that. HBT and YouTube have detailed better solutions.
 

Honda88

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couldnt you just seal the keg up and let the beer naturally carb in the keg what you are doing is essentially backsweetening your beer.
 

jwalk4

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I can see this process working well if I want to bottle 4 or so beers for competition. My SS BrewBucket has a mini ball valve on the bottom.
I'll try it next comp! Thanks for the write up.
 
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