Bottle Beer and Harvest Yeast

Introduction: How to Bottle Beer and Harvest Yeast

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “to kill two birds with one stone,” and when you are bottling your homebrew you can do just that. In this case, you can bottle your beer and harvest yeast at the same time. In this two minute tutorial, I’m going to show you how to bottle beer and harvest yeast.

Supplies Needed
  • bottles
  • caps
  • bottle capper
  • auto-siphon
  • bottling wand (optional)
  • bottling bucket
  • bottle brush
  • dextrose (sugar)
  • mason jars or similar
  • unscented OxiClean
  • Star San
  • Spray bottle
Step 1: Cleaning

It’s always important to take extra precaution when allowing objects to come in contact with your beer, whether you’re bottling beer or otherwise. This first step, therefore, is to thoroughly clean your bottles, caps, bottle capper, auto-siphon, bottling wand, and mason jars. The way I do this is to fill the bottling bucket with hot tap water, and add a scoop of oxi-clean. I then put all the things that I need to clean inside to soak. Generally, I like to soak for about 15 minutes or so, but if the bottles are heavily soiled I may do this for longer.

Washing Beer Bottles
If your bottles float to the top, just press them down to fill them up with cleaning solution
Step 2: Prepare Priming Dextrose (Sugar)

Whilst your bottles and everything else are soaking, weigh out the amount of dextrose that you will need to add to the beer to get the level of carbonation that you want. Check out Brewer’s Friend for an easy calculator to determine how much dextrose you need by clicking here. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. You only need enough water to dissolve the sugar. Once at the boil, add the dextrose and stir to dissolve. Leave this to boil for about 10 – 15 minutes. Boiling removes any unwanted bacteria, and removes oxygen. You don’t want any unnecessary bacteria to infect your beer, and you don’t want to add any oxygen either or you’re beer will become oxidised and stale quicker. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside to chill. It’s best to keep the lid on your saucepan so that nothing floats in!

Adding dextrose to the boiling water
Adding dextrose to the boiling water
Step 3: Rinse and Sanitise

After the dextrose has boiled, the bottles have soaked long enough in the OxiClean. Take your bottle brush, and give each item in the bottling bucket a good scrub inside and out. Take the clean bottles (and whatever else you are cleaning) out of the bucket, and drain them in your sink. Rinse each bottle thoroughly in your sink and shake out any excess water. Set bottles aside.

Dump out all the OxiClean water, and give the bottling bucket a rinse. Add about 10 litre of water, and mix in the Star San. Check the Star San bottles to tell you how much you need to add.

Put your Auto-Siphon, bottling wand and bottle caps into the bottling bucket to soak in the sanitizer solution and move on to step 4.

Step 4: Prepare Work Surface for Yeast Harvesting

I cannot stress enough that cleanliness is EXTRA important when harvesting yeast. Remember, that this yeast will be used to prepare a starter for your next batch, and if the starter is infected, then it will almost certainly infect whatever beer you add it to. Therefore, I take a large piece of tin foil and dunk it in the bottling bucket (which you filled with sanitizer solution, see step 3). Take the tin foil out, and shake off excess sanitizer. Place the tin foil on your countertop. Fill each mason jar with some sanitizer, and place the jars (still filled with sanitizer) on top of the tin foil. Dunk the tops for the mason jars, and the bottle caps into the bottling bucket, and place on the tin foil by your jars.

Dunk each bottle, and give a good swish with the Star San solution. Shake out any excess in the sink and line your bottles up on the floor.

Jars, tops and caps placed on top of sterilised tin foil
Jars, tops and caps placed on top of sterilised tin foil
Step 5: Rack Beer to the Bottling Bucket

Give the auto-siphon a good wipe down in the sanitizer solution, and then pump some sanitizer through the siphon. If you don’t have a spray bottle already full of Star San solution, now is a good time to fill it up in the bottling bucket. Dump the bottling bucket into the sink, or into another vessel if you want to use the Star San for something else. Try not to dump out the auto-siphon and bottling wand. You should now have a bottling bucket, an auto-siphon and a bottling wand sanitised and ready.

Move your fermenter to the counter top. Place the bottling bucket on the floor. The fermenter needs to be place higher up than the top of your bottling bucket to ensure that the siphon works properly. Carefully take the top (or bung) off of your fermenter, and, making sure not to touch anything un-sanitised, take the auto-siphon and place it into the fermenter.

Take your now cooled dextrose solution that you made in step 2, and pour it into the bottom of your bottling bucket. Try not to do this violently, as you don’t want to add any unnecessary oxygen. Then, start to siphon the beer from your fermenter into the bottling bucket. By siphoning the beer on top of the dextrose water it will automatically mix together. try not to suck up too much trub at the bottom of your fermenter, as we will use this later.

put the top (or bung) back into the fermenter.

Siphoning beer into bottling bucket
Siphoning beer into bottling bucket
Step 6: Transfer the Beer from the Bottling Bucket into Bottles

Move  the fermenter off the counter top, and set aside. Place the bottling bucket which has now been filled with beer onto the counter. Make sure that the bottles that you placed on the floor (see step 4) are within distance to the bottling bucket, so that your auto-siphon tube can reach. Now, siphon the beer from the bottling bucket into each bottle.

Filling the bottles using a bottling wand
Filling the bottles using a bottling wand

I recommend using a bottling wand, like the one from the Malt Miller. A bottling wand has a valve on the end of it, which is pressure sensitive. When the bottling wand is inserted and pressed against the bottom of a bottle the valve will be open. When you take the pressure off the wand, it will close the valve. This makes it easy to siphon beer to one bottle, stop the flow of beer, and then move to the next bottle. If you don’t use one, you will have to quickly move the tube from one bottle to another whilst the siphon is flowing – trust me, it gets messy!

Step 6: Cap the Bottles

This step is pretty self explanatory. Take a cap off the tin foil and, one by one, place them on top of the bottles. Use a bottle capper to seal the caps on your bottles. Bottling, done! Time to take a breath, and get ready to harvest yeast.

Bottle capper
Capping the beer bottle
Step 7: Transfer Yeast Slurry into Jars

It’s quite possible that you have seen tutorials on yeast washing, or cleaning, etc. The best one I have seen was done by Don Osborne on YouTube and can be seen here. I have used this process and it worked great if you have lots of trub or hop particles in your fermenter. If you don’t, most of whats left at the bottom of your fermenter will be yeast (some dead, some alive). If the stuff left at the bottom of your fermenter is a light, creamy colour, your probably good to go. You should only use the method below if the stuff at the bottom of your fermenter is mostly yeast and not a ton of hop particles and whatnot. If you do, follow Don Osborne‘s tutorial.

yeast slurry
After rousing the yeast at the bottom, it should look like this.

Take the fermenter that you set aside in step 6, and give it a good swirl around. The idea is that you rouse the yeast from the bottom into solution. If you brewed a light coloured beer, everything should become good and cloudy. This will be a mixture of beer, and yeast.

Take the top off the fermenter, and spray the top of the fermenter with Star San. let set for a minute.

Now, carefully pour the cloudy solution into each jar. Take the tops to the jars, and screw on to the jars. Place in refrigerator.

Jarred yeast for use in a starter
Jarred yeast

Done! After a while in the fridge, the yeast should drop to the bottom of the jars, and the liquid on top will be beer. When you want to use the yeast, you can make up a starter and dump the jars into the starter. You can decant the beer off the top first if you like, but I usually just dump it on in and wait for it to do its magic.


P.S. This is supposed to be a two minute tutorial, but ended up being a little longer than usual. More Two Minute Tutorials, which will actually take two minutes to read, will be coming soon!

Do you have any tips or tricks for bottling and harvest yeast? I’d love to hear from you, so please comment by filling out the form below!
Home brew beer fanatic and lover of all things Kölsch. Follow me on Twitter!

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