So, my wife's family knew that I've become increasingly interested in beer and potentially brewing my own recently, so for Christmas, they got me a kit and all the utensils to start homebrewing (for a beginner).  On New Year's Day, I cooked my first batch.  After 2 or 3 days, I took out the tubing and replaced with the airlock as seen above.  I'm set to begin bottling, but I figured I'd ask you guys some questions.

Wednesday is 2 weeks since I made this batch, but I didn't put the airlock in place until Friday or Saturday of that week.  Should I plan on bottling Wednesday, or should I wait until the weekend?

Also, as you can see, I have a pretty decent sized yeast cake at the bottom.  Someone told me to put this in the fridge to solidify the yeast cake and make bottling easier.  Should I do this? When?

I know these are some beginner questions, but this is my first try.  I know lots of you are homebrewers - what do you have to show off?

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I have done some homebrew wine/shine and bottling is a pain in the pass. I would wait until this weekend. You don't want the yeast nasty at the bottom to get into the bottle. If you put it in the fridge you will kill fermentation. I would recommend that you just siphon the good beer into another vat leaving the rest of the nasty at the bottom. 

Yeah, that's the instructions I have - siphon it from jug to another vat, and then siphon from the vat to the bottles to minimize the "crap" that gets into the bottles, but I had heard about putting it in the fridge which I guess hardens the yeast cake and makes it easier to siphon.  I'll probably just skip that.

Are you killing the yeast before bottling or letting it bottle ferment?

I think the latter, but I'm not sure.  The directions I had say to let it sit as it is now for 2 weeks, siphon to a vat, and then siphon to a bottle, and then let it sit for another 2-3 weeks.

If you are bottling, you are probably bottle conditioning, natural carbonation.  If your instructions tell you to add more sugar right before bottling (priming sugar) or directly to the bottle, then this is the case.  And if this is the case, you DON'T want to cool your beer off to fridge-cold before hand, because, as Logan pointed out, you may kill the yeast needed for the bottle conditioning/carbonation.  Usually for a batch this size, they have you siphon to a priming bucket, mix in the appropriate amount of priming sugar, and then bottle.  You leave most/all of the yeast cake behind, and most of the rest is live yeast that will eat that priming sugar to carbonate your bottles. That yeast will settle to the bottom of your bottles, and you just have to be careful when you pour (or not, some people like it) to leave the last ~1/4 inch.  You can get some practice with this from a good bottle conditioned beer off the shelf, like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

HOWEVER, from your instructions, it looks like it's having you wait through a secondary fermentation (the second 2-3 weeks) before bottling. Not everone does this, including me, so I'd read up on it.  Essentially, you're letting it finish it's fermentation NOT sitting on the trub (crap at the bottom) to avoid possible off flavors.  That's all I know, but others know more.  This is the best free online place to look, IMO.  http://www.howtobrew.com/

John Palmer essentially took an older version of his bestselling homebrew book and put the whole thing online. I've used this for years.  Hope this helps!

Hmm.  My instructions say to take a bit of honey to the bottle for carbonation and then siphon the beer into the bottles and then sit for 2-3 more weeks before enjoying.

Biggest problem with working with honey is that there is varying levels of fermentable sugar in it depending on where it comes from, how it's processed, etc.

I recommend 2 possible choices: Follow the instructions you have to the letter.  If it's good, yay!  The other would be to modify the instructions slightly using priming sugar (usually dextrose/corn sugar) or even easier, Cooper's Carbonation Drops, which you can get on Amazon 

http://www.amazon.com/Coopers-Brew-Products-Carbonation-Drops/dp/B0... 

One tablet per 12 oz bottle right when you bottle. $5 carbonates 60 bottles. 

A couple other good places for supplies and info:

www.rebelbrewer.com   www.northernbrewer.com  http://www.brewersbestkits.com/ (Brewers best is the company my brother uses, he loves their recipe kits)

Thanks for the info.  I think I'm going to remain very basic and just go with the honey.  The idea behind this was just to get a feel for homebrew and see if I enjoy it. 
I think in subsequent batches, I'm going to upgrade to better materials.

Best way to do it!  You'll mess up some batches along the way anyway (it's pretty much guaranteed), so "playing around with it" is actually the best way to go.  My favorite screw up was an attempt to make my first pumpkin beer, and "estimating" how much hops I needed, and WAY WAY overhopping (1/2 oz of Galena hops in a 2 gal small batch).  My friends liked it, so, meh.  I will say, if you want some high-end advice about stuff, on the howtobrew.com they have John Palmer's email, and he will answer emailed questions, usually really quick.

Bottled my first batch of homebrew tonight.  9 bottles from a 1 gallon jug.  One small problem, worried about carbonation because I ran short of honey (I was following my instructions exactly). Now, I wait. Going to open at least one at the Super Bowl to see how they're doing.

Good carbonation should be up in a week or two, typically.

I never commented on this, but I drank 2 at the Super Bowl and thought they were very hoppy and citrusy - surprisingly good.  More surprisingly, I had one the other night and I thought it was a bit bitter - in a bad way.  Still have 5 or 6 left - going to see how it develops over time.  Also surprising was that the carbonation is absurd - I undercut the honey that the recipe called for, and the head on these things is absurd!

Question for you guys, though - I want to brew a new batch soon (I've got all the ingredients to make the same recipe), but I want to tweak it a bit to get something slightly different.  What can I add - fruit, cocoa, etc - to slightly change the recipe?

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