The one thing people always dread with homebrew is a bottle or bucket exploding everywhere ruining your house but more importantly your beer. It is actually pretty rare that this will happen to you, even if you are pretty inexperienced but it is one of the main reasons people give up homebrewing. These tips will help you avoid such a mistake.
One of the most important ways to avoid it is using a proper container. While recycling bottles and old demijohns is good, you must make sure that they are of high quality and have not becoming weak or brittle with age. Plastics also degrade over time so this isn’t just a problem with glass. If you use a plastic bucket like ours however you’d be more likely to see the lid or airlock pop off under extreme pressure rather than a crack. This makes them a bit safer. If you are using high quality material a real mistake has to occur for things to go wrong.
But what is actually causing the explosion? That would be the build-up of carbon dioxide, carbonation is an important part of the brewing process but we do need to control it. Let’s examine what happens in the first and second fermentation.
The first fermentation happens in your fermentation bucket, this is where most of the alcohol is being produced. The CO2 isn’t needed here so an airlock helps it escape. However sometimes this can get clogged, be it an especially active fermentation causing goop to fill it or a problem with the equipment. It is important then to always keep an eye on your homebrew at every stage. If something does go wrong you can quickly sort it out before a real problem occurs. You just have to check it can glug away like normal. You may also want to check for infection, wild yeast can cause an overreaction which may be the cause. Or it could just be the amount of ingredients you are using for the size of homebrew.
The second fermentation takes place in the bottles, this is where we are trying to carbonate our homebrew so it has enough fizz but not too much so that it explodes. This is done by adding a little priming sugar. However, it is important not to over prime your homebrew with too much sugar. For our kits you only need one sugar drop. Another way your homebrew can end up over carbonated is removing it from your fermentation bucket too early. You need to make sure the reaction has happened in full before draining it into your bottles, otherwise the reaction will keep happening on top of the priming sugar you add. You can test this by using a hydrometer, it not only helps your figure out alcoholic content but can also tell you when the reaction is done. At around 1.012 the fermentation should be done. This can be somewhat controlled by storing your ales in a cool place, this will mostly stop the reaction happening but not completely.
So bottle bombs usually come from very simple little mistakes, if it happens to you it usually isn’t because of any big issue that you messed up but an easy to fix problem.