Review, Part II: Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Homebrewing Kit

Drying my empties in my somehow perfectly designed dish drying rack.

Drying my empties in my somehow perfectly designed dish drying rack.

It finally happened. I finally bottled my homebrew.  To be quite honest, I was really anxious about the bottling process. I didn’t know if I had enough maple syrup left (adding sugar to the beer after fermentation carbonates it) and when bottling day came around I didn’t have the requisite ten non-twist-off bottles I needed.

I ended up getting the last six bottles I needed from the Brooklyn Brewery staff at that beer history discussion I went to a couple of weeks ago but as it turned out my sister, LeAnn, was my greatest help. So without further ado, here’s a review of the the second stage of my homebrew.

The bottling process is deceptively simple. You need to:

  • Wash and sanitize your beer bottles.
  • Let them dry.
  • Sanitize your tubing (last used as a blowoff tube in the fermenting stage) as well as your tubing clamp (to control the flow of the beer), racking cane (an L-shaped tube that you put in the beer) and the cap for the racking cane.
  • Siphon your beer from the fermentation jug into a pot that contains a mixture of sugar and water.
  • Siphon your beer from the pot into your beer bottles.
  • Sanitize the lips of your beer bottles and use a capping device and new caps to close them.
  • Put the bottles in a dark place for two weeks.

The first steps were very easy. I washed and sanitized my beer bottles and I’m lucky to own a dish drying rack that can hold ten beer bottles perfectly. The sanitization of the tubing was easy as well (the kit comes with enough sanitizing powder for two gallons of sanitizing fluid). But the siphoning…what a trip.

Siphoning the beer from the primary fermenter into the pot of maple syrup and water.

Siphoning the beer from the primary fermenter into a pot of sugar (in this case, maple syrup) and water.

It’s hard to explain the siphoning stage but imagine this: remember when you were a kid and you would put your straw in a drink then capped the straw with your finger creating a vacuum that kept the drink in the straw? It was kind of like that.

Here’s a video from the website that might make this more clear:

The instructions for this kit say you should almost completely fill your tubing with sanitizer and then attach it to your racking cane and make sure the sanitizer does not go into the racking cane (and thus into your beer). Then you let the sanitizer flow out of your tubing  into the sink and that outflow should create enough suction to suck up your beer and create a continuous flow.

The instructions aren’t quite clear about whether you should refill the tube with sanitizer every time you mess up a siphon attempt, which I did a handful of times. Eventually I just started using tap water because during that little transition from sanitizer to beer I was losing small amounts of beer due a lack of control over the flow. When I was bottling, I let the sanitizer flow into another pot but when that little bit of beer came through it became mixed with the outflow sanitizer and I couldn’t use it.

Does this all make sense?

Siphoning beer from the pot into bottles. My sister is holding the pot on top of the fridge while I fill bottles on the stove.

Siphoning beer from the pot into bottles. My sister is holding the pot on top of the fridge while I fill bottles on the stove.

Like the instruction manual said, I practiced siphoning a couple of times but the real secret to a proper siphoning was having the container you’re siphoning from well above the container you’re siphoning into. When I moved the beer from the jug to the pot, I kept the jug on my stove and the pot in my kitchen sink. When I moved the beer from the pot to the bottles I had my sister stand on a chair with the pot on the refrigerator and the bottles on the stove. I couldn’t see into the pot from that distance and I was lucky she was there to help me out.

I honestly don’t believe I could have done the whole bottling operation without her. When I created that distance between my pot and my bottles I had a consistent and heavy stream and only had to re-siphon once compared to the three times I had to re-siphon for the jug to pot transfer.

Capping bottles. Once I got the flow going this was easy.

Capping bottles after filling them. Once I got the flow going this was easy.

The capping was easy and now I have beer sitting in my closet but I’m worried that a little sanitizer may have made its way into my beer though I was extremely careful. Brooklyn Brew Shop sells a mini auto siphon, which I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND. I’m not messing around with this manual siphon again.

All-in-all, this step of the homebrewing process would be simple if (1) they included the mini auto-siphon (I would pay 10 extra dollars for that) and (2) they made it clear about what you should do if your siphoning doesn’t work well the first time. Do you keep refilling the tubing with sanitizer? Can you just use water to start the siphoning after the first time you use sanitizer?

I managed to squeeze 9 full bottles out of my fermenter.

I managed to squeeze 9 full bottles out of my fermenter.

At the end of the day, I give the second part of the Brooklyn Brew Shop homebrewing kit an B. Keep an eye out for the third, final and best part: tasting the beer!!!

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About Nikita Richardson

My name is Nikita Richardson. I'm a recent graduate of NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute where I earned a Master's degree in Magazine Writing. I got my start as a music blogger (musicforthemusicallychallenged.com) and as part of a semester-long assignment, I've became a beer blogger. These days I'm working as an editorial fellow at The L Magazine and Brooklyn Magazine where I continue to write about music and beer among other things. You can check out my portfolio at my professional blog: nikitalrichardson.com
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