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.

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