Equipment: The Triumph and the Defeat

Last week, Jules and I decided that the time had come to bottle our beer.  This decision was based on the properties of the grains we were working with, and the flavors we were hoping to manifest in our finished product.  I lie-the decision was based on when we accrued enough bottles and had a couple hours free, and a sparkling kitchen to bottle in. For us, this was the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving after picking up pizza across the street for dinner.

Our ‘baby gate’ system for keeping our brewery/kitchen pet free!

Our newest acquisition is our auto siphon, and if I had the talent to do so, I would sing hymns in its honor.  Before, using our gravity siphon and our racking cane involved setting up an elaborate system consisting of our dining room chairs and a yoga block.  Getting it started caused agonies brought on by the specters of watered down beer and unsanitized thumbs. The auto siphon eliminated the need for all of this!

Our delightful siphon delivered in all of its usual glory in transferring the beer from our carboy to the bottling bucket, and we laughed about the psychological trauma we had suffered with our prior siphon as we set the bottling bucket on the counter and retrieved a sanitized bottle from the dishwasher.  Which was when things started to go downhill.

When we bought the autosiphon, we also bought new tubing to complete the setup.  The diameter of the tubing was slightly larger than our original tubing, but the staff at the homebrew store assured us all would be well, and sure enough, the new tubing was totally compatible with all of our equipment for the first two stages of the process.  When bottling, however, the tubing is too large to fit snugly around the spigot of the bottling bucket, or to create a seal on the bottle filler, which basically renders it useless.  Since we had transferred the beer before we checked our equipment (at 9pm. On a holiday weekend.), we didn’t really have any choice but to continue on as best we could.

While we were eventually successful, dear readers, learn from our mistakes! I was stuck sitting on the floor trying to create a seal with my hands on both ends of the tubing as I filled the bottles.  Since I don’t have a third hand, I had to leave the spigot open for the duration, which resulted in quite a bit of spilled beer. Our kitchen and my person were soaked. And since I was stuck on the ground, Julie had to retrieve sanitized bottles, leap over to me to exchange an empty bottle for a full one, cap the full bottle, and repeat- all in the time it took to fill a bottle, or else we had overflow due to my third arm problem.

It was a mess! I think a couple of the kitchen drawers are still stuck together. In the end though, we managed to capture 31 bottles and 4 bombers- which is pretty good considering.  The spiced beer smells great and I can’t wait to try it in another week!

Cheers to learning from experience- and always checking your equipment!!