Monday, May 27, 2013

Bottling Day: Brew Crew for the Save

Happy Memorial Day!

Today I'm going to give Brendan with our Brew Crew the limelight. This got crazy at work (again) and I wound up coming down hard with the Flu. It was an exciting way to spend my long weekend... So I'm taking the easy way out and using Brendan's post to fill up my time slot.

Things got busy and it’s been a while since my last post.  When I last left it, I was worried that a couple of my rookie brewing mistakes were going to cost me.  I’m happy to report that while I’m still a rookie, no major issues occurred.   The morning after my first brew session I was relieved to see the airlock bubbling away.  I had placed the carboy in the bathtub of the spare bathroom to provide a cool dark place with relatively stable temperature.  After two weeks, primary fermentation was over and I was ready to bottle.

Reading the online talk about bottling and going through all the steps sounded as difficult as the initial brew day, if not more so.  Besides all the homebrewers complaining about how crappy bottling is, and how much awesomer kegging is, bottle began to sound tedious.  Add that to the fact that it seems like there is so much more room for error in the sanitation department – checking the gravity for the last time, sanitizing the bucket, bottles, bottle caps, transferring from carboy to bucket, adding sugar, capping, I was a little hesitant to start.  All the potential sanitation breaches were building in my mind: are the counters clean? The tubing? The area I will be bottling?  My biggest worry was if my bottles were clean enough.  Did they have some organic matter or dirt in there that the sanitizer would not penetrate, allowing microbes to remain and ruin the beer?  I held each bottle up to the light and looked through the opening.  The purchased ones were a little dusty but looked new other than that.  The ones I saved (I found Lefthand’s milk stout to have some of the easiest labels to remove) also looked good.  The ones from my friend’s garage…lets just say I didn’t use the ones the family of silverfish moved into.

I filled up the bucket with sanitizer and began to dunk all the materials for the day.

In my day job I’m an environmental scientist, so to help keep things sanitized I stole a page from that playbook.  When taking soils samples, aluminum foil can be used as a sterile material to cover clean equipment to prevent cross contamination.  This is also used it labs too to cover jars and beakers.  So aluminum foil became my new friend as I used it to create sterile counter top space, temporarily cap buckets, and cover materials.

While it took over two hours start to finish, overall it wasn’t too bad.  I did have a few lapses of touching the dispenser against a non-sterile object.  My worst offense was with 4 bottles left, I brushed my leg with the nozzle.  I marked those caps with an X so I could track if they did indeed become contaminated.  So I had a little experiment on my hands. 

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