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How To Avoid Oxidation When Bottling Homebrew Beer

So, you’ve spent countless hours brewing your own beer and now it’s time to bottle it up and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But before you do that, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind – oxidation.

It’s a common problem when bottling homebrewed beer (especially NEIPA’s and other heavily hopped styles), and can affect the taste and quality of your beer if not dealt with properly.

Firstly, the best way to avoid Oxidation of your beer – is to ferment in a pressure fermenter (or keg) and make use of oxygen-free transfers. You can then bottle directly from your kegs using a counterflow chiller and almost remove oxygen from the equation completely.

But, I know that is not an option for a lot of people – don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll walk you through some tips and techniques to help you avoid oxidation when bottling your beer. From avoiding splashing and air bubbles, to using oxygen-absorbing bottle caps, to storing your beer at the right temperature, we’ll cover all the bases.

So grab a beer (or two) and let’s get started!

Avoiding Splashing and Air Bubbles

bottling beer

When it comes to bottling your homebrewed beer, avoiding splashing and air bubbles is key to preventing oxidation. Here are some tips to help you avoid these common pitfalls:

Use a Bottling Bucket and Racking Cane

If you are bulk priming with dextrose or some other sugar, then transferring to a bottling bucket with a priming solution in it first and then using a racking cane is an excellent method. The design of the bottling bucket lets you fill your bottles gently without disturbing the beer or adding any unnecessary air.

When transferring the beer from your fermenter to your bottling bucket, avoid using an auto-siphon as these are well known to introduce lots of unwanted oxygen into your beer. Instead you should use the tap on your fermenter and ideally, purge the bucket with CO2 before transferring.

To use a bottling bucket correctly, attach a properly fitted racking cane to the spigot at the bottom of the bucket. This will ensure that the beer flows smoothly and evenly from the bucket into your bottles.

During the bottling process, it’s important to handle your beer with care and avoid sudden movements that could agitate it and cause splashing. Splashing can introduce air bubbles into your beer, which can result in oxidation.

To prevent splashing, hold your bottle at an angle and let the beer flow gently down its side. This will minimize agitation, reducing the risk of introducing air bubbles into your brew.

Bulk Prime Correctly and Carefully

Bulk priming isn’t hard, but if you do it the wrong way then it’s a great way to introduce unwanted oxygen into your beer.

When you are boiling your sugar/water solution, make sure it boils for only a few seconds. As letting it go for longer will introduce more oxygen into the solution.

If you are adding your solution straight to the fermenter, then tip it in very gently without causing unnecessary splashing and bubbles. Also stir VERY gently and stay away from the yeastcake.

If you are using a bottling bucket, then add the priming solution in first then rack the beer ontop of it (very gently).

Fill Bottles with Care

When bottling your homebrewed beer, it’s important to fill your bottles with care to prevent oxidation. One way to do this is by filling your bottles to within 2cm of the top. This reduces the amount of air that stays in the bottle when you cap it, helping to prevent oxidation.

Another way is to purge your bottles with C02 prior to filling. You can do this with a gas line connected to your regulator and C02 bottle. Simply put the hose to the bottom of the bottle and it a quick squirt with C02 before filling.

If you’re using PET bottles, you can squeeze the air out of the bottle as you screw on the cap to help reduce the amount of air in the bottle.

Additionally, try to cap each bottle right away. This will help additional oxygen entering the bottle while it waits for capping.

Add Carbonation Drops Before Filling

If you are using carbonation drops instead of bulk priming, then be sure to add the carbonation drops to the bottle prior to filling.

This will ensure they arent creating a splash or air bubbles when dropped into the bottle full of beer.

Pressure Ferment and Use a Counterflow Bottle Filler

pressure fermenter full of beer

Pressure fermentation involves fermenting your beer under pressure, in a specially designed fermenter, although it can also be done in a keg.

This helps to reduce the amount of oxygen that comes into contact with your beer during the fermentation process.

In addition to preventing oxidation, pressure fermentation can also speed up the fermentation process and result in clearer, cleaner-tasting beer. Yet another advantage is the fact that the beer becomes partly carbonated during the fermentation process.

If you plan it correctly, there may be no need to do any further carbonation of the beer at all.

A pressure fermenter also allows you to use a counterflow bottle filler. This seals each bottle, then purges it with CO2 – leaving no oxygen. The pressure from the fermenter then pushes the beer into the bottle in a (theoretically) completely oxygen-free environment. You can then cap on the foam and this will ensure that your homebrew beer will last some months even at warmer temperatures.

You can also use this method to bottle directly from your kegs.

While these methods may require more equipment and setup than other bottling methods, they’re worth considering if you’re serious about brewing high-quality, oxidation-free beer. By preventing oxidation, you can ensure that your homebrewed beer tastes fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

Other Techniques to Avoid Oxidation

In addition to the techniques mentioned earlier, there are a few other methods you can use to prevent oxidation when bottling your homebrewed beer.

Purge Bottles with CO2

I touched on this earlier in the article, but purging your bottles with CO2 can help to remove any remaining oxygen that may be present in the bottle. To do this, attach a small hose to your CO2 tank, and briefly blast the headspace of each bottle with CO2 before filling.

Store Your Carbonated Beer in a Cool, Dry Place

Storing your beer in a cool, dry place can help to slow down the oxidation process.

The rate of oxidation reduces by roughly half for every 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) decrease in temperature, so storing your beer at a lower temperature can significantly extend its shelf life.

Avoid Stirring Up Yeast Sediment

When transferring your beer to bottles, try to avoid stirring up any yeast sediment that may be present. This sediment canhave oxygen bubbles stored in it and can introduce oxygen into the beer and increase the risk of oxidation.

Consider Using Oxygen Absorbing Bottle Caps

While I have never used this method myself, Oxygen absorbing bottle caps are available. Oxygen-absorbing bottle caps are designed to remove any oxygen that may be present in the headspace of the bottle. While they may not completely eliminate the risk of oxidation, they can help to reduce it.

By using these techniques in addition to the ones mentioned earlier, you can help to prevent oxidation and ensure that your homebrewed beer stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

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