Homebrewers are one of the most innovative groups I have ever seen. Maybe it is because there are so many geek homebrewers. Maybe it is because they will spend a lot of work to tweak their process or make their own equipment to save a buck. Necessity may be the mother of invention but coolness and pride are certainly factors. And I saw once cool and inexpensive project that I had to share – because I built one and it took me 5 minutes and now I can bottle up beer from my kegerator in no time at all.
The project was a simple counter pressure bottle filler. If you have ever seen the old school style, it takes three hands to operate – one to turn on and off the beer, one to work the gas and one to work the valve that lets the pressure out of the bottle, all while trying to hold the contraption in the bottle. I have used one but was so let down by the device I never bought or built one.
Instead, I bought a Blichmann Beer-Gun. A nice alternative as it purges the bottle with CO2 but it is a lot of work to set up and tear down. It takes me about 10 minutes to get ready to bottle with the thing and if bottling for comps, it can be a pain. It takes me another 10 minutes to clean up afterwards and something has to hold the gun between bottles. It’s heavy and cumbersome so I use a bomber bottle in a stand I built. It’ so much of a pain that I use a bottling wand shoved into a picnic tap as an alternative, though I have split my picnic taps doing this before. This method means switching out the connections on my kegs. I hate bottling enough already without the extra work.
All it takes to build the low-tech bottle filler is a stopper, bottling wand, about 3 feet of 3/8 inch tube, a faucet connector and an air needle (like for filling up a football). I bought the faucet connector for Perlick faucets (the kind you use for growler fills) from Williams Brewing for $5 and had everything else sitting around. It took me five minutes to assemble and worked great the first time.
To assemble, you need to get the air needle into the cork. I did this with a needle tool, but the rubber cork will flex a lot so put the bottling wand in first. Drilling a hole will be overkill, so use an upholstery needle or long, thin nail if you don’t have a needle tool. Once you have the hole, put the air needle in it. I used sanitizer to help it slip through the rubber. The hard part is over. Take the valve part off of the bottling wand and put it with your other miscellaneous parts you will probably never use but always hang on to. Then put one end of the tube on the faucet connector and one end on wand. Put the cork on the cane. It should look like this:
To use it, just sanitize it and then put the growler filler part into the faucet and the other end into a sanitized bottle. Hold the cork in the bottle, adjusting the wand if need be so that it almost touches the bottom of the bottle. Then with one hand, hold the cork in the bottle and keep your finger over the top of the needle. Open the tap and let the beer flow into the bottle. It will stop when the pressure is equal. Then “burp” the air out by releasing your finger off of the needle a little bit at a time. If this explanation isn’t clear, check out the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuG9NvFkQI4 and start watching just after 11 minutes into the video.
I hope this encourages you to bottle some of the beer you have on tap at home. If your like me, that’s the best beer I have and once it is on tap, it never makes it out of the house. So now you can bottle some up and bring it to a meeting or enter it in a contest.