Little did I know what an involved process this is. Bottling is beer takes up a lot of space and requires a lot of equipment, which makes it look interesting so people around you will at first want to help but will then wander off when they realize that its kinda repetitive and messy. But you end up with 55 bottles of cider!
|That's right. More cider than we can drink. Deal with it.|
Anyway, when we dragged the Ale Pail up from the basement where we had sentenced it to ferment, we took off the lid and a wonderful aroma of apples and alcohol saluted our senses. The cider was a bright yellow color, and still pretty murky (we hope that it will clear up in the bottles).
The first thing we had to do was to sanitize the siphon hose, which we did by filling a bucket with a bleach / water solution (of the same concentration as we used to sanitize our equipment for brewing the cider a week ago, around 2 ounces of bleach per 5 gallons of water). Then we ran boiling water through the tubing and over it to rinse any remaining bleach off. Now it's time to start the siphon.
Apparently to people my parent's age, the first memory of siphoning is when they used it to steal gas out of someone else's car, and apparently you would "use your mouth and suck on it" (attributed to a member of that generation). I've heard stories about this, but nobody my I know who is my age has ever done it. The last time I used a siphon was for emptying fish tanks, which had all sorts of stuff in the water so I sure didn't use my mouth to start the siphon.
Anyway, to start the siphon, we filled the tubing with sterilized water (from boiling) and then dipped one end of the hose in the cider and that's that. Siphon started. But it wasn't that simple, there were air bubbles that crept in so we had to restart it a few times. But we eventually did it.
|We think that the stuff floating on top is normal.|
|A step above stone soup, but not by much.|
Alright, so now we have sterilized our bottle caps and our siphon hose. Now we need to sanitize our funnel and start the sugar to prime the bottles with.
What's priming you ask? Priming is a method where we add sugar, in this case dissolved in water, to each bottle so the yeast still active in the cider can ferment a little bit more and carbonate the bottles. Is it necessary? Yes, unless you want to drink flat beer or cider, which isn't so bad in the case of cider. My brother and I poured ourselves a glass of this delicious nectar.
|Roughly measure out 3/4 cup of sugar|
The next part of the process we did in a sort of an assembly line process.
1. Clean with bleach. Exactly as it sounds. We need to fill the bottles with the bleach solution and then pour it out.
|Glug, glug, glug|
|Thanks to Jason Crain for his photography.|
|I think he did a really good job with this picture. Good job Jason. Mad props|
3. Prime. Priming is pretty simple, just seat your funnel on the bottle and pour a little bit of the sugar solution to each bottle. We can't give an exact measure since we eyeballed it, but just know that too much will result in a broken bottle and too little will result in a flat beverage. So ... error on the "too little" side.
|Mmm, sugar water.|
|Why am I smiling?|
|Filling them bottles with sweet, sweet nectar.|
5. Capping the bottles. This step was pretty fun, and also a little bit of a let down. I thought that the bottle caps would be simply flat pieces of metal that the capper would then contort to get the crumpled edges. But nope, the caps were pre-crumpled so the capper just bent them a little bit. But it was still fun. Take the capper, a cap and a bottle and seat the cap on the bottle. Then, place the capper on top of the cap and move the handles downward. Simple and fun!
|Jason's happy dance.|
|First capped bottle. Awwww yeeaaa!|
|Strong like Thor!|
|Help! I'm trapped writing these stupid captions!|
So just repeat this process 55 times. Yay. As I said, it took a lot longer than I thought, but it was worth it, I hope, who knows how the cider is going to taste in a week to two weeks (the amount of time it is supposed to sit in the bottle getting all carbonated and stuff).