Decided to bottle after two days of little to no sign of fermentation. Very curious to see how this beer will taste, especially given how bitter and largely un-sweet the wort initially tasted. (To be honest, I was more than a little worried that this beer would turn out too bitter and too dry.) The beer has darkened considerably, and cleared slightly.
Just a few quick notes on the fermentation process: Since first brewing, I decided to keep the fermentor upstairs given how cold our basement has gotten since mid-November. I wanted to be sure that the temperature stayed above 65 'F at the very least. During the winter, it may not be possible for me to store fermenting beer in the basement. Instead, I kept it covered and in our back room -- the warmest room in the house (~68 'F). This was also the first time I decided to make use of a blow-off hose (instead of just attaching the fermentation lock at the outset). I fit one end of the hose into the carboy's opening and the other in a small jar of water. This basically created a large lock. After a day or two I attached the official lock. Don't think this will have much of an impact, but it was nice to not worry about an overflow clogging the lock.
To say that I was impatient with getting this batch of beer brewed and bottled would be an understatement. I don't know why, but I felt a general sense of urgency. I guess I'm just eager to brew! I'm a perfectionist by nature, but I do like to dive in head first and figure things out as I go. In any case, I think it's better to brew with love and patience. Jenny, my partner in crime, was feeling a bit under-the-weather and wanted to wait another day to bottle. But (again, being impatient) I decided to forge ahead, and bottle alone. MISTAKE! Bottling is definitely a two person job. Ever try getting the auto siphon going with one hand (the other holding a half-full bottle of beer, hose, and bottling stem)? Don't. It blows. I had a hell of a time getting it going and keeping it going. Jenny, who was a very good sport about the whole ordeal, had to help. She wasn't pleased. (Sorry, Babe!)
I sanitized my secondary fermentor, bottles, caps, auto siphon, hose, funnel, etc in One-Step Sanitizer. (1 T per 1 gal of water). This is a drawn-out process with 48+ bottles to sanitize plus equipment. Is there a quicker way? Perhaps I should just clean all bottles BEFORE beginning bottling. Maybe next time.
I got the priming sugar ready (1 ¼ c Briess Dried Malt Extract boiled in 16 oz water for 5 min) and added it to about 1 gal of beer siphoned from my primary fermentor to my secondary fermentor before siphoning the rest. I do this to cushion the glass from the boiling hot liquid, while getting a decent mix of the priming sugar with beer for bottling.
From there it was just a matter of filling each bottle while Jenny capped. Siphoning took FOREVER. It only took 2.5 hours; which is about 1.5 hours longer than it should have taken. I'm not sure why it was so difficult. Density of liquid? Not only that, but because we had to keep pumping the siphon, it created a fair amount of air bubbles throughout the process. I'm hoping this doesn't mess with the carbonation of the beers. It made me want to go out and get a bucket with nozzle to just twist on and off to fill each bottle. Xmas gift?
I was able to actually try the beer before bottling. I'm happy to report that I'm expecting a delightful American Pale Ale. At least it tastes like an APA! First impressions:
- Color: Looks like apple cider, auburn gold, slightly cloudy.
- Smell: Hops, apple, citrus
- Taste: Full, nice hop bitterness, faintly sweet, ruddy complexion, apple, lemon, fairly refreshing.
Specific gravity = 1.018
[Note on measuring specific gravity: I'm not getting proper readings. The initial gravity (before pitching) and final gravity nearly identical. Tasting the beer; however, the alcohol content is definitely there. Will have to do some additional research to see what I'm doing wrong.]
Overall, a seemingly successful (if somewhat stressful) brew. Can't wait to try it! Just 10 more days.