Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How to re-use beer bottles for beginners

Many beer bottles can be re-used for home brewed beer, sodas and even wine. This is a great way to save on the bottom line when making your own beers, soda's and wine. As an alternative, you can purchase new beer bottles at any homebrewing supply store, but adds to the base cost of your beer. I estimate that homebrewing beer costs around $0.40 to $0.60 per 16 oz serving (except Hoppy IPA's and High ABV beers). However, include a bottle at $0.50 each and your cost is now the same as purchasing a beer at the store.

How to choose beer bottles for re-use

The type of bottle that you can re-use is important. First, the typical beer bottles have two types of caps; screw top and clamp on (not sure of the term for "clamp on," so hopefully your still following). You can't re-use the screw top bottles. That's because there are no caps available for them, or at least that I know of as of the date of this publication.

The second issue is glass vs. plastic bottles. If you insist on using plastic bottles, it is my opinion that short
term use is fine. However, plastic has a degree of oxygen absorption, which can oxidize the beer and make it dull and cardboard-ish tasting. But, for those of us that use our bottles every 30 days, it is my opinion that oxygen absorption is not going to be an issue. In fact, I've seen some very famous home brewers use plastic Litre bottles for storage.

Bottles also come in clear and different colors. This is very critical when brewing beer, but not so critical for sodas. Beer is sensitive to light. That is because light can change the chemical properties of the beer (simple terms without going into detail). Some molecules within beer change when struck by light and morph into a new chemical compound that is similar to a skunks glands. That is why you will find some beers smell "skunky." That is meant literally, the beer has a slight smell of a skunk. Therefore, you need beer bottles that block light to avoid "skunking" your beer.

With that said; the best beer bottles are brown. You should avoid clear and green bottles if possible. If you choose the clear, green or plastic bottles (typically clear or green) and will require extra care to avoid skunking your beer. This is accomplished by keeping your bottles in the dark.

How to Remove the Label

Fill a bucket, sink or container full of hot water. Place the bottle in the hot water and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes. I like to use the back side of a knife to scrape off the label, but anything with a straight or slightly curved edge will work. After the label is off, place the Bottle back in the water to soak the remaining paper and glue. I typically use a scrub pad within a few minutes of soaking to wipe off the last remaining paper from the bottle.

How To Clean Beer Bottles for Re-Use

The following are basic steps for cleaning a beer bottle to re-use for your beer, soda or wine.
  1. If you re-use your store bought beer bottles, be sure to rinse thoroughly immediately after consuming the beer. This will help avoid mold and bacteria growth.
  2. To begin cleaning a beer bottle; physically inspect the interior of the bottle. Use a strong light and place the bottle in front of the light and inspect the interior for dark formations. If found, these spots are typically mold. If you find dark spots, put the bottle to the side along with any other bottles that show mold spots. These bottles will require extra scrubbing and an additional inspection after cleaning.
  3. Fill the bottle a quarter way up with water, add a small amount of soap in the bottle and scrub the interior with a bottle scrubber. The bottle scrubber can be found at a homebrewing supply store. 
    1. When you scrub a bottle that shows mold formations during the interior inspection, be sure to scrub, rinse, check again and repeat the scrubbing until there are no signs of mold and/or bacteria growth.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the bottle with clean water and make sure there is no soap remaining in the bottle, which could be construed as a beer defect.
  5. Rinse the bottle with a sterilizing solution that is often found at your homebrew supply store.
  6. Immediately fill the bottle with new beer.
  7. Cap the beer with a new cap (make sure you sterilize the cap first) using a caper, both found at a homebrew supply store.
The process is fairly simple. However, some of the steps require a bit of extra attention.

How to use old beer bottles for home brewed beer
How to clean beer bottles
How to use used beer bottles
How to use old beer bottles for soda. 
Can I re-use old beer bottles for homebrewed beer
Can I clean old beer bottles for homebrewed beer 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How to Pasteurize Your Beer and Why?

How to Pasteurize Your Beer and Why

Pasteurization was discovered by Louis Pasteur (1822-95), a French chemist and bacteriologist, who invented the process of heating food, milk, wine, etc., to kill most of the micro-organisms in it; distinguished from sterilization, which involves killing all of them. 

The process is to elevate the temperature of food, wine or beer for a period of time that is sufficient to destroy certain microorganisms, as those that can produce disease or cause spoilage or undesirable fermentation of food, without radically altering taste or quality. The general rule is to hold at 163°F to kill most organisms.

Why pasteurize and how does this apply to home brewing? If there is any microorganism present in the beer, along with the unfermented sugars remaining in the beer, it will spoil. The result is a beer that may gush when opened due to the over fermenting of sugars that beer yeast can't process. In addition, harsh off flavors will be produced that will ruin the beer.

There is always a risk that microorganisms live in your home or garage that can infect your beer. However, due to the process of cleaning and sterilization, along with the antiseptic qualities of hops, most beers will be fine. 

The application of pasteurization is important for those that send their beers to competitions. Yes it is true that many beers are fine to send to competition without pasteurization. However, if you're like me, and want to win. Why not take the extra step and pasteurize your beer before sending it? The reason I believe the extra step is worth the effort is that I've seen a lot of beers that went sour at our clubs beer competition.

With that said, here is the process of pasteurizing your beer:

1. Place your bottles in your boiler kettle and fill with water about 3/4 way up the bottles side.
2. Open one of the bottles and place a thermometer in the bottle to track the temperature.
3. Start the fire on high and track the temperature. Your goal is to reach 165°F.
4. Turn off the flame at about 163°F and allow the temp to rise to 165° F.
5. Remove the bottles from the boiling kettle and allow to cool.
6. Recap the open bottle. BTW: It will foam during the heating, but don't worry it will be fine.

How to brew beer
How to brew home made beer
How to make homebrewed beer
How to enter beer competitions