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How to know when to start to bottle?

Hello all,

I am currently brewing my first batch with the small batch starter kit (Plinian Legacy IPA). Started it on Sunday and today (Wed) it has a nice bit of foam at the top with a bubble about once a second coming out of the airlock.

Question is - how do I know when to bottle the beer? I have read that you can tell the fermentation is done when the foam at the top goes away and everything “falls” to the bottom of the fermentation jug. However, how much longer after that do I wait until I bottle the beer? I have searched the forums and seen everything from 2-4 days past to as much as 1-2 weeks. Is there something to go by from just looking at the beer? I have recently learned about needing a hydrometer (from this forum) but currently do not have one.

Thanks for any help!

Give it three weeks and bottle. There is no dry hop with that kit is there?

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I don’t think so. Didn’t see anything about a dry hop.

You will see the floating YEAST start to fall out and the beer will start to clear up. And not like crystal clear, but the beer won’t look like boiling puke! You shouldn’t have many air bubbles coming through the airlock, if any at all. 5 or 6 per minute is the rule. But like others have said and sounding like you know, the true test is with a hydrometer. Check it one day and then check it two or three days later. If it’s the same gravity, your good.

The working yeast produces CO2. The CO2 will hold yeast and other sediment in suspension. After the supply of sugars for the yeast to work on diminish the CO2 production also diminishes. This is when the excess yeast and sediment begin dropping to the bottom of the fermentor. When almost all of the CO2 has come out of solution you will see the height of the trub layer grow. The trub layer will then begin to diminish in height as the weight of the beer compacts the yeast/trub layer. The beer will look much clearer. With enough time in the primary you will have clear beer to rack to the bottling bucket. More time in the primary means less yeast and sediment in your bottle. i will usually leave my beer in the primary for three weeks, sometimes four weeks if I dry hop.

I’ll check the SG for the first time around day 10 to 14. I’m in no rush to get it in the bottle. Waiting is easier when you already have 10 to 15 gallons of beer ready to drink or in the process of conditioning.


The Northern Brewer kits generally have the recipe online. There is a link to the instructions (including the Plinian Legacy Small Batch Recipe kit) on the “Additional Information” tab - click on the link in the “Recipe and Instructions” row.

It looks like you are brewing a one gallon kit
( with a one gallon carboy.

The online recipe does a hop stand - adding the hops after flameout and letting it sit for five minutes. Makes sense - as its not easy to dry hop 42 grams (1.5 oz) of hops into a one gallon carboy.

You’ll get a reasonable 1st batch by following the timing in the instructions. You’ll be likely be rewarded with a better beer by following @flars timings - wait three weeks (rather than two) before bottling. The same would hold with bottle conditioning - the insructions suggest two weeks, but if you can wait another week, the 1st bottle will likely be better.

Hydrometer readings require 4 oz of beer. If you choose to get a hydrometer, you may want to hold off on your first (of hopefully just two) reading until the end of the 2nd week (around day15). (Refractometers are also an option and have been covered well in other threads in the forum).

links to the kit

Thanks everyone!

I broke my airlock so have been using some of the tubing put into a glass of water and got a bubble once a second at the most which was on Tuesday. It has already started slowing down. Should I not have seen that much activity?

I will give it 3 weeks as suggested.

You really need a hydrometer. It will be one of the best brew gear investments you have.

With the 1 gallon kit yielding about 10 beers I wouldn’t worry to much. Ferment for 3 weeks the bottle condition for 10 days then put them in the fridge and drink them. Once you Start bigger batches or ageing outside the fridge definitely need to chek gravity

You can’t go by airlock activity to determine if a beer is finished. Yeast start working well before airlock activity and work well after activity stops. The yeast is needed to cleanup after the party (by-products of fermentation). Taking the beer off the yeast will diminish their capacity to clean these off-flavors.

I agree that a hydrometer is needed. I also see the problem with taking these readings and wasting 2 beers, ending up with 7-8. Doesn’t sound worth my time. So I agree with @brew_cat that you keep the beer in the fermenter for 3 weeks. But, I would wait 3 weeks after bottling to ensure they are carbonated before refrigerating it.

What I have started doing is just dropping the sanitized hydrometer into the fermenter just out of laziness. This works particularly well with 1 gallon batches. I’m not afraid

You can also use a refractometer. I got one of these last year and have used it ever since. Very easy to use and you don’t need as much beer.

True but realize you must adjust a refractometer in the presence of alcohol.

The article “Using and Understanding Refractometers” in BYO Magazine, Dec 2016,pp 98 - 105 may be of interest to those who brew smaller (less than 5 gallon) batches. At the moment (mid-Dec 2016), it’s not available on-line, but BYO does have back issues for sale.

Out of curiosity does the gravity continue to change even after bottling?

The specific gravity should not change after bottling unless fermentable sugars, not including the priming sugar, are still available to the yeast when bottling.

See my topic about attenuation problems with WY 1332.

Ok, I just wanted to find out if there was going to be any additional ABV change. So basically it will stay whatever it was at the end of fermentation.

You’ll get a slight bump from the priming sugar.

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