If you want to be a homebrewer, you need the patience of a saint. To make sure that the wait is worth it, you don’t want to ruin your beer by storing it incorrectly after all the effort of brewing and bottling it.
I’m always trying to improve the quality of my beer, and usually the focus is on the actual brewing process. But This got me to thinking, was I storing my homebrew all wrong?
To ensure the perfect bottle-conditioning of your homebrew beer, you should store it somewhere temperature-controlled & dark. Ideally, the storage area shouldn’t have much fluctuation in its temperature & the bottles shouldn’t be moved during the process. Bottle conditioning will take several weeks.
As ever, there is more to this question that just that. So, I did a little bit more research which I’d like to share with you here.
What actually happens during bottle conditioning?
I think it’s just interesting to go into this topic a little because it really helps with the understanding of why we need to store beer in the way we should.
The aim of bottle conditioning isn’t just to add carbonation to your beer but, according to John Palmer, it can also give your beer a distinct character not found in its kegged counterpart.
Basically what you are doing is restarting the fermentation process within the bottle but on a much smaller scale and under very different circumstances.
By adding priming sugar, you are giving the yeast still suspended in your beer more nutrients. As the oxygen levels are different due to the limited supply in the head of the beer, you’ll get subtle difference in the taste and aroma from the by-products of attentuation.
This is why some beers are always bottle conditioned to get that distinctive taste. I’ve never, for example, drunk an Orval on draught simple because the monks wouldn’t be able to produce the same exact beer by kegging.
How long should you bottle condition?
The length of bottle conditioning really depends on the type of beer you are brewing, but drinking it any time within two weeks of bottling probably won’t do the beer full justice.
Below are just a few examples to express the differences between beer varieties
4 -12 weeks
How to store your beer when it’s hot?
The normal issue is keeping the bottles cool enough so that the yeast can complete its final mini fermentation in the bottle. So, below are some ideas you can try in order to keep the bottle cool enough. Some ideas are more low-tech than others.
Solution #1 – Beer cooler
It’s not really that complex actually, but if you are struggling with very hot weather then you can definitely keep your yeast happy with a couple of beer coolers and some ice packs to keep the internal temperature lower than the ambient room temperature. This can also work for fermentation in general.
Solution #2 – Swamp cooler
Another low-tech method you can use just for the couple of weeks needed to bottle condition is putting your bottle in a large container of water and adding enough ice to keep the temperature down.
This technique uses the process of evaporation to keep the liquid cooler than the outside air. It will also have a heating effect at night because water, as a liquid, will heat up and cool down slower than solids or gases.
Solution #3 – The son of fermentation chiller
This is an energy efficient fermentation chamber which was famously developed by Ken Schwartz’s ( and you can find the plans here). In theory you could make a much larger scale version to house enough beers from your average 5 gallon batch.
Solution #4 – Using a keezer or kegerator
I suppose that this doesn’t make sense in some ways. If you have one of these cool pieces of kit, why would you be bottling anyway? Well, sometimes it’s just easier to share your beer in a bottle, sometimes you can’t produce the same signature beet when you force carbonate it.
Whatever the reason, you can get yourself a pre-built Keezer/ Kegerator (sold on Amazon) or build one yourself and easily fit in 60 bottles while they bottle condition.
Solution #5 – Max out your air conditioning
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve done this in the past even though it does our planet no good. Just by running your air conditioning you can keep your storage room cool enough to bottle condition your beer.
If your house’s insulation is up to standard, you probably don’t need to run the air conditioner constantly. Still, it’s not the most energy-efficient way on this list. In my defence, I do work from home and have a dog who suffers in the heat, so it wasn’t just for the beer!
Solution #6 – Use your refrigerator
You can actually use your standard fridge to help cool your beers with one small addition. Now, this may not work if you have to keep your beer next to tempremental food, but it’s another possibility.
You’ll need a temperature control device, something like the Inkbird ITC-308 (see Amazon), which will monitor the temperature of the inside of the fridge and turn it on and off to keep it in the right range.
Make sure you do this when bottle conditioning
Let’s just go over some things that you definitely should be doing when bottle conditioning your beer.
Make sure fermentation is over
Although you want some yeast to be suspended in your beer when you rack it into your bottling bucket and then bottle, you don’t want it outnumbered.
What I mean by this is that you don’t want less yeast to suddenly have to finish the job of the initial fermentation, in the bottle, and then work its way through all the additional nutrients from the priming sugar. This will more than likely lead to undesirable off-flavors in your beer.
So, make sure that you have taken an accurate reading of the specific gravity of your beer with a hydrometer ensuring that it’s within the range of your target final gravity (FG) and remains so for a day or so.
Use the right amount of priming sugar
Priming sugar is pretty much essential to this process, and using the correct amount will ensure the best results.
If you are adding powdered sugar directly into your beer, make sure that you give the beer a gentle but thorough stir. That was a tip I learned the hard way.
It’s important not to use too much priming sugar as it can lead to your bottles filling with too much CO2 and literally exploding. If this is something you are dealing with right now, then check out my article on how to fix exploding beer bottles.
Use the right bottles
It may seem obvious, but many a new homebrewer has skipped this important step.
The best method is to match the bottle to the beer you are brewing, especially if you are going for a higher ABV beer or one with a lot of carbonation required. Bottles are designed to withstand the pressure of the beers they hold, so just keep this in mind.
It’s ok to use recycled beer bottles, either the classic longnecks or swing-top /EZ top bottles (see my articles for details) or even to use PET bottles. However, whenever possible opt for brown glass bottles as they will help protect against UV light.
Monitor the temperature
This is the thing which I think most homebrewers misunderstand, and I was certainly one of them for my first couple of batches.
There is a big difference between the temperature you should serve a beer at and the temperature it needs to be bottle conditioned at. In general, all beers except perhaps some Belgian ales which are being aged, need to be bottled conditioned at the SAME temperature as it was fermented.
Generally this is going to be around 70°F (21°C) and not much higher. So if you are brewing in seasons with warmer or colder temperatures than that, you need to consider bottle conditioning your beer in a fermentation chamber (see my article for more details)
The reason this is necessary is that the yeast needs to be in the optimum temperature range to carry out the secondary ‘mini’ fermentation process. This is in order to carbonate your beer and add that special little something that only comes from bottle conditioning.
Keep it dark
Just as you should be doing when fermenting your beer in your fermenter, keep your bottles out of direct sunlight. This is mainly because UV light can have a negative effect on the flavor of your beer, especially if you are using clear glass bottles. In fact, light is very harmful to the molecular structure of the yeast cells, so a nice dark room is a must.
Make a note
I don’t know about you, but life is hectic at the best of times. When I was brewing beer for a big family gathering, I had 4 different beers bottle conditioning after brewing over a couple of weeks. Stupidly, I didn’t write down which day I’d bottled them and forgot which beers I’d brewed first.
The simple lesson I learned was always to note down the exact day I bottled the beer and the expected time they’d be ready for drinking. Just save yourself the headache and be clerical about it!
It’s hard to wait for the first tasting of a beer, especially if it’s your first every experience of homebrewing.
Wait for at least the minimum amount of time suggested in your beer recipe, and even a little bit longer. I’ve found that almost without exception of the average 60 bottles you’ll get for each batch bottle #1 is always less refined that bottle #60 purely because of the additional bottle conditioning.
Move your beer around during
This isn’t really because it’ll affect the actual process of bottle conditioning, but rather from the bitter experience of smashing several bottles when moving a box from one side of the room to another.
Make sure that when you lay your bottle down, you don’t need to relocate them to get at something tomorrow. It’s just another practical tip I’ve picked up from doing this for a while now.
Use the wrong size caps
Sometimes, especially when recycling beer bottles, you’ll find that the caps don’t seem to securely fix around the bottle. This can happen even if the caps seem to remain on the top of the bottle.
The issue is that if the caps aren’t firmly attached they could allow air to seem into the beer overtime leading to off-flavors or even shoot off if too much CO2 build up in the bottle. Both highly undesirable!
How can you tell when the beer is fully carbonated?
A great tip which I’m calling ‘The Plastic Canary’ is to use a PET soda bottle to indicate when your beer is at the right carbonation level.
All you do is fill up one soda bottle along side your other glass bottles, if that’s how you like to do it, and store it with the others. After week 2 for most beer style, just give that plastic bottle a squeeze. If it feels firm, just like it would with soda in it, then you know that the beer is pretty well carbonated.
So why do I call it ‘The Plastic Canary’? Well, if the plastic bottle really swells up and is looking bent out of shape, that’s a clear indication that it’s over-carbonated and that the rest of your batch is too. Exploding bottles may be in your future if you don’t act fast. Read my article here for more details.
How long to refrigerate homebrew before drinking?
Remember that you shouldn’t store your beer below about 55°F (13°C), unless you are lagering it of course. Bottle conditioning should occur at the same temperature range as normal fermentation for that yeast strain.
Once your beer has finished bottle conditioning, it’s safe to refrigerate it and bring it down to serving temperature.
It’s best to refrigerate it for at least 24 hours before you drink it, especially if it’s recently finished bottle conditioning. I think it just tastes better this way, but maybe that’s my own opinion.
How long will your homebrew last?
Again, the answer to this question really depends on the type of beer you are brewing. As a general rule of thumb, lower ABV beers will have a shelf life of six to nine months after brewing to ensure their best quality. Higher ABV or aged beers can last for years.
For more information on this, please check out my more in-depth article here.
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