If you’re a home brewer, you know that one of the most important things is to make sure your bottles are sterilized before each use. But what about reusing bottles? Can you simply wash out your old beer bottles and reuse them?
The answer is yes… but with a few caveats. First of all, it’s essential only to reuse bottles that have been thoroughly cleaned. Any residual beer or bacteria in the bottle could contaminate your new batch of brew.
Best types of bottles for homebrewing
Secondly, it’s best to avoid using bottles that have been exposed to light for extended periods of time. Sunlight can cause the beer to spoil, so it’s best to stick with dark-colored bottles that haven’t been stored in direct sunlight.
There are many types of bottles you can use for homebrewing, but some are better than others. Brown glass bottles are the best option, as they protect the beer from light exposure. Glass swing-top bottles are also a good choice, as they can be sealed tightly to prevent oxygenation. Plastic bottles should be avoided if possible, as they can leach chemicals into the beer.
PET bottles Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are the most common packaging for carbonated beverages in the world. PET is considered a chemically inert material, which correlates with its food safety. It is strong enough to withstand carbon dioxide pressure and is recyclable. One of the most important advantages of PET bottles, besides their low cost, is often overlooked.
Most home brewers use bottle-conditioning to carbonate their beer directly into bottles (“bottle-conditioning”). Before bottling, a new batch of sugar is added to the beer, which is immediately absorbed by the remaining yeast, releasing carbon dioxide. Many brewers use PET bottles as a kind of indicator of the carbonation level: the bottles are quite flexible and inflate under excessive pressure and their walls harden. It’s also worth mentioning the variety of such containers, especially in terms of volume, from 0.3 to 2 liters and more.
The main disadvantage of PET bottles is their relatively low barrier properties: they let oxygen and ultraviolet light inside, and carbon dioxide outside, which affects the quality and shelf life of drinks. The rate at which this happens is high enough to preclude long-term storage of beer, but for short-term storage (up to a few weeks), given the advantages, plastic containers are sometimes appropriate.
PET bottles also lose out on aesthetics: they are more associated with cheap mass-market Euro-lagers than with the noble hobby of rugged men.
Glass containers have become a kind of benchmark for storing all kinds of home drinks, and for good reason.
The main advantages of glass bottles are:
- Commonality and availability.
- Possibility of reuse. Glass bottles are easy to wash and disinfect, they are almost eternal. And you can reuse your own container, as well as bottles from purchased beer.
- Durability. Glass bottles can withstand quite high pressure and are well suited for storing carbonated beverages.
- Tightness. Glass bottles with a standard crown cork or a swing-top let oxygen and carbon dioxide in minimal amounts (usually no more than 7 parts per billion per day). It is true that over time, the rubber seal of such plugs will wear out and the sealing is partially compromised, but this usually happens after years of storage. Bottles with cork stoppers are free of such problems.
- Aesthetics. Glass bottles come in many shapes, colors, and sizes and are attractive in their own right. All that remains is to print and stick a beautiful label on them so that in the hands of tasters home beer looks like a prized craft of a famous brewery.
Of course, glass bottles compared to PET are much better for long-term storage of beer, but they are not without disadvantages. First of all, they are heavy and often weigh more than the beer itself. Even dark glass allows ultraviolet light to pass through, which can lead to the most unpleasant tastes and odors associated with the formation of ethylmercaptan. Also, glass is fragile and if the bottle is heavily carbonated, it can tear (or tear the cap off, which happens more often).
There are several types of glass containers. The standard is regular beer bottles with crown corks, which require a special capper. Bottles with reusable (until the rubber seal wears out) bugle corks are very convenient, but they are much more expensive and take up a little more space. Champagne” type bottles are even less popular among home brewers because they require an expensive device to close.
The bottle-conditioned, bottle-aged method has one very unpleasant thing: yeast residue always collects on the bottom, which affects both the taste of the beer and the clarity of the beverage. For most brewers, this is not critical, but many cares about the inevitable loss of product in the “right” pouring. There are different ways to deal with this, but additional measures to minimize yeast sludge often lead to certain difficulties. For example, if such measures do not referment at all, the shelf life of the beer will be drastically reduced because the carbon dioxide suppresses the contaminants. If the beer has to be carbonated additionally (e.g. if a high carbonation level is necessary for style), it is very difficult to pour it in the usual way – a foamless filling device is needed.
Pros & Cons of Reusing Beer Bottles For Home Brewing
- Reusing beer bottles for homebrewing has a few advantages. First of all, it’s much cheaper than buying new bottles. Secondly, it’s more environmentally friendly to recycle bottles than to throw them away. And finally, some people believe that reusing bottles gives the beer a “slightly” better flavor.
- There are a few disadvantages to reusing beer bottles as well. First of all, it’s important to make sure the bottles are thoroughly cleaned before each use. Any residual beer or bacteria in the bottle could contaminate your new batch of brew. Secondly, reused bottles may not seal as tightly as new ones, which could lead to oxidation and flavor loss.
How To Reuse Beer Bottles For Home Brewing Correctly?
Check each bottle before use by holding it up to a window or artificial light source and looking inside. The neck and bottom of the bottle are often cracked and chipped. Also, mold and debris sometimes collect at the bottom of the bottle. Throw away bad bottles – they are potential time bombs; they can easily explode if you store beer in them. If possible, select quality and heavier bottles. Never use bottles with twist-off caps.
- Remove labels with ammonia – Soak reused bottles in a solution of water and ammonia overnight. Once soaked, you will be able to gently scrub most labels by hand. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area – ammonia fumes can be harmful to health.
- Use the Jet Bottle Washer and bottle brush – mold often settles at the bottom of used bottles and is very difficult to clean. “The Jet Bottle Washer is a device that screws onto the water faucet. It has a valve that you can actuate by pushing a bottle on it. With this attachment, you can wash most bottles very quickly. To remove stubborn sediment you will need a small scrubber. Bottles should be rinsed with a quality disinfectant solution before bottling beer.
- Do not pour beer from the fermenter directly into the bottles – first siphon the beer from the fermenter into a temporary bucket or bottle where the carbonation will take place, then pour the beer into the bottles. Try not to shake the beer, as oxygen can cause oxidation of the finished drink. Add carbonating sugar to the beer while it is in the intermediate bucket or bottle. This manipulation will help reduce the amount of sediment in the bottle, as well as ensure that the sugar has completely dissolved into the beer.
- Use a fining agent (clarifier) well before bottling – fining agents make the beer clearer and reduce the amount of sediment in the bottle, but they should be added well before the beer is bottled. Agents such as gelatin are added after the end of the active fermentation process and 5-7 days before bottling to give them time to “glue” and sediment as much of the “excess” yeast and protein in the beer as possible.
- Weigh the carbonation sugar – forget the habit of just adding ¾ cup of corn sugar to your beer. Sugars vary greatly in density, so one cup of corn sugar may not be the same as another. Calculate the weight of carbonating sugar required to achieve a given level of carbonation using a tool like BeerSmith or an online calculator, and then weigh the sugar or dry malt extract before adding it to the beer.
- Buy a quality bottle capper – If you’ve ever used a cheap bottle capper, then you’ll know how important this advice is. There are many varieties of bottle cappers, and they can all work quite well, but it’s still better to spend a few extra dollars on a quality device. Ask your local brewery supply store for advice. Trust me, a quality capper will keep you sane on bottling day.
- Oxygen-absorbing closures are extremely popular these days, but are they really that necessary? Unless you intend to store beer for a significant period of time (a year or more), you probably don’t need one. The oxygen in the free space above the beer, which gets there during bottling, is partially absorbed during the fermentation of the carbonating sugars. In addition, carbon dioxide is released during the fermentation of the primer, which protects the beer from oxidation. Thus, if the lids are tight and properly screwed on, the risk of oxidation will be minimal.
- Pour the beer to the brim – there must be enough space (containing air) over the beer during the pouring process for proper carbonation and proper pressure. If you are using a core filler, you can fill the bottle almost to the brim. This method of filling will leave a space (1″ to 1-1/2″) under the cap, and the oxygen it contains will be enough to carbonize the beer.
- Store bottles of beer properly – Once the bottles are corked, store them at fermentation temperature for at least two weeks to complete the carbonation sugar fermentation processes. After that, the beer should be stored in a cool place out of reach of sunlight. If you want the beer to become clear faster, apply Lagerization, i.e. store the beer in the refrigerator. After use, rinse the bottles and store them upside down so you can prepare them more easily for the next use.
How often can a glass bottle be reused?
A glass bottle can be reused many times, but it’s important to make sure it’s cleaned and sanitized properly each time. It’s also best to avoid using bottles that have been exposed to light for extended periods of time. Sunlight can cause the beer to spoil, so it’s best to stick with dark-colored bottles that haven’t been stored in direct sunlight.
Plastic bottles should be avoided if possible, as they can leach chemicals into the beer.
Reusing beer bottles for homebrewing is a great way to save money and reduce waste. However, it’s important to make sure the bottles are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before each use. Also, avoid using bottles that have been exposed to light, as this can cause the beer to spoil. Glass bottles are the best option for reuse, but plastic bottles should be avoided if possible.
A glass bottle can be reused many times, but it’s important to make sure it’s cleaned and sanitized properly each time.
Bottling your beer gives you the ability to store it for long periods of time without worrying about it going bad. Kegging your beer is a good option if you plan on drinking it within a few weeks.
The best way to avoid getting sediment in your bottles is to use a bottling wand when filling them. A bottling wand is a small plastic tube that attaches to the end of your siphon hose. It has a valve on the end that allows you to control the flow of beer, which prevents sediment from being stirred up.
Yes, you can reuse twist-off bottles for homebrewing. However, it’s important to make sure the bottles are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before each use.
Yes, you can reuse growlers for homebrewing. However, it’s important to make sure the growler is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before each use. Also, avoid using growlers that have been exposed to light, as this can cause the beer to spoil.
Yes, you can bottle your beer without a bottling wand. However, it’s more likely that you’ll end up with sediment in your bottles if you don’t use one.