Bottling beer is indeed a tedious job, especially if you haven’t invested in a keg yet. In fact, most craft brewers dread bottling day! Worry not, here in this week’s post; we give you some of the best practices to make bottling day less tedious!
Let’s get started.
1. A Rinse in Time Saves Nine
If you follow the practice of collecting bottles from your customers and reusing them (if you don’t follow this, you should start doing it soon – good for your pocket as well as the environment), then make sure to pour out leftover beer as soon as you receive the bottle. Give it a quick rinse with water before storing it.
This simple habit will save you from scrubbing hard to reach nooks of the bottle on bottling day. Also, by pre-rinsing bottles, you prevent fungus or bacteria from growing inside. If you still aren’t convinced, we urge you to take a bottle that hasn’t been rinsed and show it in front of a light.
Place your eye close to the mouth of the bottle, and peer inside like you use a telescope. Do you see tiny hairy things stuck on the insides of the bottle? These are fungi and bacteria. Yikes!
After pre-rinse, store bottles upside down to drain the water and make it easy for bottling day.
2. De label – The Easy Way
Here are a few easy tricks to remove labels from beer bottles:
Simply soak bottles in warm to hot water for around 30 to 60 minutes. Use a clean plastic bin for this, or you can even use a kitchen sink, with the plug fixed. Make sure that you don’t leave the bottles in the bin for several days together. This leads to fungal growth.
While some labels fall off easily, others don’t come off even after soaking. Use a glass scraper (this resembles a razor blade with a handle) and use it to peel off the labels easily.
Once the labels are off, use a regular kitchen utensils scrubber (Scotchbrite) to remove the remaining glue stuck to the bottle.
For tough glue stains, spread vegetable oil on a kitchen towel, and vigorously press it to the sides of the bottle. Now, use the scrubber to remove the glue. Wipe off excess vegetable oil, with a clean kitchen towel.
3. The Bottle Brush is your Ally
If you have pre-rinsed your bottles, then this step is quite easy. Wash the insides of the bottles with a bottle brush. The brush helps to release sediments and simplifies the cleaning process. You can also use a “jet washer.” Think of the powerful hoses you use to clean your car.
There are jet bottle washers made exclusively for bottle cleaning. This helps to flush out all the dirt, debris and sediments from the inside of the bottle.
4. Sanitize, Sanitize and Sanitize Some More
Make sure to dip your bottles in a high-quality sanitizing solution before you proceed to bottle. Even if the bottle appears clean to the naked eye, it isn’t. Only when you sanitize it, you remove all micro-organisms (fungi, bacteria) and other dirt from the bottle.
5. Don’t Bottle Directly from the Fermenter
Make sure to siphon your brew from the fermenter into a carboy (temporary priming bucket) before bottling. Minimize splashing the beer, by using a filter. Mix the priming sugar into the brew while it’s still in the priming bucket.
This has two benefits – one, the priming sugar gets evenly mixed into the beer. Two – it reduces sedimentation in the bottle.
6. Fining Agents Go Before Bottling
Fining agents help to reduce sediments in the bottle as well as to clarify the brew. However, if you’re using fining agents, make sure to add them before bottling.
If you’re using polyclad or gelatin, ensure that you add them to your brew five to seven days before bottling begins. This gives time for the excess yeast and proteins to settle.
7. Invest in a High-Quality Bottle Capper
If you have the bad experience of using a cheap bottle capper, then we’re sure that you would know the reason for this trip. Poorly made bottle cappers not only make the entire process time-consuming and frustrating but even could damage the taste of your brew. Improperly sealed bottles oxidize and spoil the flavor of your brew.
So, spend a bit extra and splurge on a high-quality bottle capper. Remember, a bottle capper is not expenditure but an investment.
8. Fill Bottles to the Brim
Bottles need the right amount of headspace (the air column above the liquid) for proper carbonation and to generate the right amount of pressure. The general rule of thumb is to leave around 1 to 1 1/2 “headspace for proper carbonation.
9. Store bottles the Right Way
After you have capped the bottles, make sure to store them at the right fermentation temperature for at least two weeks. The right temperature plays a crucial role in proper fermentation. Once fermentation occurs, you can move your bottles to a cool dark place, away from direct sunlight.
To quicken the process of clearing the liquid, you can opt for laagering. Here, you store the brew in the refrigerator to accelerate the clearing process.
10. The Procrastination Technique
Very often brewers do bottle cleaning and sanitization on one day and the actual bottling (filling the pre-cleaned bottles with the brew) on another day. This makes the job easy to manage.
But, how do you ensure that your bottles stay clean till bottling day? Simple, place all your sanitized and dried bottles in a cardboard box and cover the mouth of each bottle with plastic cling wrap. Close the cardboard box and store it in a safe place.
This way, your bottles stay clean and are ready for use on bottling day.
Do you have any other helpful bottling hacks? We’d love to hear them and our other bottlers would too! Feel free to pipe in your comments below.
Cheers and Enjoy Bottling!