© 2004
Harris Filters

Home Beermaking
Bottles or Barrels

The big question most beer makers ask is what is best, barrels or bottles? This is all down to choice, each having advantages and disadvantages.


Storing beer in bottles means that it can easily be transported and can be chilled by placing it in a refrigerator.

Only use bottles that can withstand the pressure that builds up during the secondary fermentation. Therefore only use lemonade/fizzy drinks bottles or returnable beer bottles. DO NOT USE MILK BOTTLES OR NON -PRESSURE BOTTLES.

Siphon the beer into bottles when there are no bubble seen rising in the bucket (preferably us a hydrometer and obtain a reading of 1.004) and leave a 5cm (2”) space at the top of each bottle. Add teaspoon of sugar per 500ml (pint) to prime - do not exceed this then TIGHTLY secure the tops, gently shake to mix the sugar, and leave in a warm place for 5 days before moving in a cool place to clear.

Unlike commercial beers, home made beer usually has a sediment in the bottom of the bottle. If you try to pour the contents into a glass the head that is formed will prevent it being poured in one go, and when the bottle is turned upright, the sediment will mix with the contents, ruining what’s left in the bottle.

Home made beer is poured in two stages:

  1. Carefully pour the beer from the bottle into a large jug (bigger than the contents of the bottle) making sure that no sediment goes into the jug.  The beer in this jug should now be clear with a good head.
  2. Pour the beer from the jug into your glass.

We strongly advise on using Beer Brite finings as they will clear the beer quicker and compact the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.



Storing beer in barrels gives it a pub-like character that can only be obtained with draught beer.

Barrelling your beer is much less messy and time-consuming than using bottles. It is also more convenient to serve draught beer  than bottled beer, as the sediment will stay in the bottom of the barrel below the tap, and you will be serving clear beer direct to a glass.

To dispense the beer from the barrel, there must be pressure present. The natural pressure will build up during the secondary fermentation, caused by the addition of priming sugar and barrelling the beer before the yeast has died. As the gas is given off, it cannot escape the barrel and a pressure is built up. Pressure will force the beer out of an open tap, giving the beer a nice head. Over time, as the beer is drawn off, the pressure will slowly decrease until it has been exhausted and no beer will come through the tap. As this stage you will need to add artificial pressure by means of either gas bulbs or a gas cylinder.  These inject carbon dioxide into the barrel, topping up the lost pressure so that the beer can be dispensed again.

With barrels it is advisable to add beer finings to speed up the clearing process.

Almost all the barrels for home beermaking today are made of plastic. They are easier to clean and look after and a considerably cheaper.