Ben Stange on April 8, 2016 2 Comments Bottle like a Pro & Take it to Go! Every time I brew a batch of beer, I find myself asking whether I would prefer to bottle or keg it. The lazy part of me would rather keg it and get on with my life, but there is always a voice in the back of my head that is recommending bottling as the ideal packaging for sharing with others. Of course, on the upside, kegging saves you a lot of time and work, and allows me to use my kegerator at will. Bottling is very time consuming and labor-intensive, after all. The other side of the coin, however, is that it is not convenient to take a keg along to dinner at a friend’s house, and “cellaring” beer in a keg takes up valuable keg space, while cellaring in a bottle just takes up more bottles, which are far easier to come by. Click Here to View All Counter Pressure Bottle Fillers Why Not Just Pour A Growler? While using a growler may solve the portability problem of kegging, it is imperfect packaging and you may lose significant carbonation when filling the growler. If done properly, you can minimize the amount of carbonation lost, but when filling a growler directly from the tap, there will always be a little bit of carbonation lost during the filling process. In addition, this imperfect packaging does not truly solve the cellaring problem. While you may have some luck cellaring in growlers, you are also introducing oxygen to the beer when you fill from a tap, which will quickly change the flavor of the beer, and usually not for the better. The best solution for this quandary is either to keg half and bottle half (I make 10 gallon batches, but this can be done on any size batch), or keg it all and use my counter pressure filler to bottle straight out of the keg. For me, I find it’s easier and less time consuming to only bottle what I need straight out of the keg. I can bottle six or 12 bottles of beer in a very short amount of time and I don’t have to wait for them to bottle condition. What is a Counter Pressure Bottle Filler? In the homebrew world, a counter pressure bottle filler is a tool modeled after a professional bottling line that allows for high quality filling of individual bottles. Professional lines may have several counter pressure fillers on a single bottling line to quickly fill high volumes of beer, but homebrewers can buy a single bottle counter pressure filler for use with their home kegging/bottling setup. The single counter pressure filler looks a lot like a gun. It has two inlets, one for gas and one for beer. There is a valve to switch between these two, and there is a long post with a stopper on it. The long post with a stopper is the output, and it is the part you will be sticking into your beer. A counter pressure filler looks a lot like a beer gun, but the inlet intended for use with gas is the major difference. Preparing to Bottle In order to bottle using a counter pressure filler, you need to have your standard homebrew kegging setup with a few modifications. The counter pressure filler need to have clean gas supplied to it, so you’ll either need a separate gas connection from your regulator or a T fitting to allow you to split your existing connection. It’s very important that the connection to the counter pressure filler and the connection to the keg are on the same pressure “circuit”, so the counter pressure filler should be connected to the same regulator as your keg’s gas in connector. Once the T-fitting is in place, you’ll connect the keg’s beer out line to the counter pressure filler instead of a tap. I know you know this, but make sure to disconnect it from the keg first or, better yet, have a separate gas out posts dedicated to your counter pressure filler. Make sure all of the bottles you are filling are sanitized and have your caps sanitized and ready before you begin, especially if you plan to do a lot of bottles. If you will have a long pause between when you fill a bottle and when you cap it, it is a very good idea to chill your bottles to the same temperature as your beer to help reduce foaming, as well. One more thing to mention in relation to preparation: make sure that you fill where you can make a mess. Counter pressure fillers may spurt when the bottle is overfilled, and the beer can foam over pretty quickly when the bottle is filled and you break the stopper’s seal. How Does a Counter Pressure Bottle Filler Work? A counter pressure filler works by attempting to create the optimum bottling conditions through the following steps: Sanitation Sanitize all bottles, nozzles, hoses, and caps needed. Basically, anything that will come in contact with your beer or your counter-pressure filler needs to be sanitized. Flush the Bottle With Carbon Dioxide This reduces your beer’s exposure to oxygen during bottling and will help keep it fresh. Pressurize the Bottle This is done with more CO2. Having the bottle pressurized before filling prevents foam-overs and helps maintain the optimal pressure for your bottles. Fill the Bottle With Beer By turning a valve on the counter-pressure filler, you will go from injecting CO2 to injecting beer. It won’t foam because the bottle is already pressurized, so CO2 is not released from suspension. Cap the Bottle It’s best to do this immediately, so having a bottling partner is helpful if you’re doing a large batch. If you are bottling alone, you may find it best to fill and cap in smaller batches to prevent the bottles from releasing all of the precious CO2 you have worked so hard to maintain. You’ll have to be pretty fast on the capping portion The beer will want to foam out when you break the seal, but that is OK. Capping on foam just means there is even less oxygen in the bottle, but you still will need to be fast at it. Once again, it really helps to do this as a two person team. You’ve now manages to minimize oxidation and CO2 loss during bottling, and ensured your beer ages well. As a matter of fact, once you’ve capped your beer, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve packaged it like the pros.