Guillaume Boulanger, director of production at La Barberie Brewery in Quebec City, has been homebrewing for a decade. He’s also a beer bottle lover, which explains why he created an awesome bottle filling system he calls the Automatic Boulanger Bottling System. What makes his system so special? It fills multiple bottles at a time and stops filling at a desired level so you don’t spill any precious homebrew, which allows you to do other things with your time, like enjoy homebrew (or clean up and sanitize bottles).
For one reason or another, I prefer bottling my beer. I have a 100 liter HERMS brewing setup, so as you can imagine it takes time to bottle all my beer. Over the past several years, I’ve been trying to find an easy way to bottle big batches as fast as possible, and after a lot of trial and error I came up with the Automatic Beer Bottling System (ABBS). It’s not very expensive to build and very reliable. Our average bottling time is 100 liters in four hours. So the concept is simple, it’s an automatic bottle filling system that allows you to bottle condition big batches of beer in a fraction of the time.
The ABBS is a gravity-fed, multi-bottle line that automatically fills your beer bottles to the desired level. The key to the system is a float valve (I use the Blichmann AutoSparge™) that levels the uncarbonated beer in a second vessel before filling your bottle. How does this work? The bottling vessel and the beer end up at the same level by communicating with the bottle filler. It’s called the concept of communicating vessels. If the containers contain a homogeneous fluid, when the liquid settles, it balances out to the same level in all of the containers regardless of the shape and volume of the containers. If additional liquid is added to one vessel, the liquid will again find a new equal level in all the connected vessels. In other words, your bottles will fill up to the level of liquid in your secondary bottling vessel.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to build an automatic bottle filling system:
- A bottling bucket (same size as your fermentor)
- A stainless steel kettle valve kit with barb
- An oval stainless roaster
- A Blichmann AutoSparge™
- (1) female stainless 1/2″ NPT x 1/2″ barb
- 2′ of 1/2″ tubing (I use silicone high temp tubing)
- (4) spring tip bottle fillers
- 5′ of 3/8″ ID siphon hose
- (4) 1/2″ auto siphon clamps
- (1) 2″x4″x8′ wood studs
- Power drill
- Table saw
- Teflon tape
First, drill a 13/16″ hole (with a step drill bit or knock out punch) on the side of the bottle vessel (oval stainless roaster) 4″ from the bottom. This is the hole for the AutoSparge™. Drill another 13/16″ hole in the bottom of your bottling bucket if it doesn’t have one already.
Next, drill four oval-shaped holes in the lid. These will be for the bottle fillers. On my setup, the holes are 3.5″ apart.
You’ll need to build the frame for the bottling system. Use the 2″x4″x8′ stud with a couple screws to construct the frame. Cut down two 25″ pieces for the bottom, two 15″ pieces for the roaster pot holder, two 12″ pieces for the vertical part of the frame, and screw them all together as shown in the picture. The clamp holder will hold the siphon clamps. The piece of wood needed for this portion of the frame is 1″x1″x18″ and needs an angle of around 25° on one side. If you can get your hands on a table saw to do this cut, it’s highly recommended. Pre-drill the frame and then screw in the piece of wood.
After you’ve built your frame, you need to modify the siphon clamps to fit the clamp holders. Cut down the curved part of the clamps, drill one hole and chamfer them. Pre-drill the clamp holder and screw it onto the frame.
Last step is to modify the four spring tip bottle fillers. Cut these so they are 9″ long. Make sure to clean and chamfer the cut ends. Cut three 15″ 3/8″ siphon hose tubes and one 26″ 3/8″ siphon hose tube. Plug these into the spring tip bottle fillers. The longer tube will be used to empty the bottling vessel at the end of the bottling session because of the lower level of beer in the bottling veesel. Lower the longer bottler filler to finish filling the unfilled bottle.
Apply some Teflon tape to your stainless steel kettle valve kit with barb on the bottling bucket and the AutoSparge™ with the female stainless 1/2″ NPT x 1/2″ barb on the bottling vessel. This will help prevent leaks and make sure your equipment is tightly secured. Mount your bottle fillers on the clamp holders and then through the oval holes of the lid.
As a precaution, do a test run with your new system by putting some water in the bottling vessel and then start the siphon. You’ll need to adjust the AutoSparge™ for your water level to be just as high as the top of your bottles. Make sure to mark where you leave the AutoSparge™ for next time.
Finally, empty everything out, clean and sanitize, transfer your beer and prime, and enjoy the easiest bottling day ever!