February 9, 2012


Generally when people get really into home-brewing they start kegging and forgo the tedious process of bottling. I must be a glutton for punishment because I keg then bottle. I always keep some beer on tap in the brewery but I like to have a larger stash of bottles to give away and to drink away from the basement brewery.
I could buy new bottles but at about $1 apiece that could get pricey really fast. Usually the promise of some free beer is enough to get many of my friends to save their used bottles for me, also if I need to I have found my local beverage center will sell me their bottles for 10 cents each.

There is some labor involved in cleaning the bottles (usually people are not great about rinsing out the beer) and getting the labels off but I feel like I have a good method)

I make a strong PBW solution (strong= dump a bunch into the rubbermaid container) and soak the bottles for at least a day. This makes most of the labels fall right off (some need a little bit of scrubbing to get all the glue off) also it loosens up some of the nasty growth that develops in the bottom of some bottles.

Also, I reuse bottles several times so this is the first check for cracks or chips, Capping puts a good amount of stress on the neck of the bottle and it weakens them over time.

Next the bottles get a good rinse inside and out and are again, checked for cracks and stubborn bits of mold. Then its off to the bottle tree to be sanitized with some bursts of star san.

Once the bottles are cleaned rinsed and sanitized they get packaged. To keep the insides of the bottle sanitized I line the bottom of a 12 or 24 pack box with foil that i spray with star san and put the bottles in the box upside down (this keeps anything that may be in the air out). 

The boxes sit in the fridge until they are ready to be used so they are roughly the same temperature as the beer.

To fill the bottles I use a blichmann beer gun. Its really a great product, a quick blast of C02 purges the air from the bottle and the beer gun then fills it right up. I let a little bit of foam run out of the top of the bottle to ensure a consistent level for all of by bottles, I do loose a little beer by doing this but its not much. All of the filling operations take place on a mimi bottling line I built, It has the bench capper attached to the table and racks for the filled bottles. Once the bottles are on the rack they get a quick water rinse and then are dried and labeled.

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