Once fermentation is complete, and you have reached your target final gravity it's time to package the beer. Most homebrewers will either put their beer in bottles or kegs.
Bottling your beer
Though fermentation is complete, there will always still be some yeast left in suspension in the beer. You will use this to your advantage in the bottling process by adding a small amount of "priming sugar" (simple corn sugar, or "dextrose") to your beer. The residual yeast will ferment the newly added priming sugar inside your bottles, therefore creating natural carbonation from the release of CO².
To do this, use a sanitised syphoning tube to transfer your beer out of the fermenter and into a sanitised "bottling bucket". A bottling bucket is a simple bucket that has a valve on the bottom to allow the liquid to flow out.
Plan to add 10 - 11g of priming sugar for every litre of beer (about 1 oz per US Gal). To ensure that you don't introduce any infectious pathogens to the beer, always boil the priming sugar in a small amount of water for at least 10 minutes before pouring it into the beer. Stir the priming sugar in the beer to ensure that it mixes in evenly.
Once that the priming sugar is mixed in with the beer, open the valve at the bottom of the bucket and let the beer flow into your sanitised bottles through a sanitised food-grade plastic tube.
Cap your bottles of beer using sanitized bottle caps and a bottle capper. Allow the bottles to sit undisturbed at room temperature for 10 - 14 days to allow the yeast to fully carbonate the beer. Then you can chill the beer to serving temperature, and enjoy!
Kegging your beer
Many homebrewers will skip the bottling step entirely, electing to use a keg(s). The benefits of using a keg are numerous; less hassle than bottling, no need to add priming sugar, and it takes less time. After all, sanitising one keg is much easier than sanitising dozens of bottles. However, you'll need some additional equipment, including (but not limited to):
- A keg, and keg disconnects - most homebrewers use a 'corny', or soda keg
- CO² Tank
- CO² Regulator
- Additional tubing
First, make sure your keg is thoroughly sanitized. It helps to purge the keg with CO² to prevent oxidation of the beer after you fully sanitise it, as well. Then syphon your beer into the keg and close the keg. Chill your keg to serving temperature (between 3°C - 12°C or 38°F - 55°F, depending on the style) in a refrigerator or kegerator, and attach the CO².
The amount of carbonation will vary depending on the style of beer, but for many ales such as IPAs, you'll want to carbonate to 1.5 - 2.3 volumes of CO².