Of all the processes involved in making beer at home, the one that most often gets in people’s way of enjoying the hobby is bottling process. Why is this?
Maybe it’s the sheer number of beer bottles that have to be cleaned and sanitized. Maybe it’s all the labels that have to come off the beer bottles. Whatever the reason, chances are someone has come up with a way to make it less of a chore. Here are some tips that will help make bottling beer easier.
Tips for Bottling Beer
- Start with clean beer bottles without labels – This might not make financial sense for some people, but I believe that a lot of the frustration of bottling beer comes from having to remove labels from the beer bottles you recycle. If you dread the idea of peeling labels from 50+ beer bottles, just go ahead and buy a couple boxes of new beer bottles and save yourself the headache.
- Rinse beer bottles as soon as they’re empty – You’ll thank yourself later. This will prevent funk from growing inside the beer bottle, making it much easier to prep the beer bottles for filling. Soak them once in cleanser, soak again in sanitizer such as Basic A, and you’re ready to go. This is my favorite tip for bottling beer. It can save a lot of time!
- Use a bottle washer – For the bottles you forgot to rinse out, take advantage of the strong blast of water from a carboy and bottle washer. One of these will let you rapidly clean a batch of beer bottles in no time flat. Also works great for cleaning out your siphon tubing!
- Sanitize bottles in the dishwasher – This is my second favorite tip for bottling beer. Sanitizing your glass beer bottles in the dishwasher can save you a lot of work. Just load them in and set the dishwasher to the “sanitize” or “high heat” cycle. You’ll need to start them well in advance of when you plan to bottle, but at least you can do other tasks in the meantime. This works best if the labels are already removed.
- Clear your space ahead of time – This is a good tip for any stage of the homebrewing process, not just bottling beer. Keeping your workspace from getting cluttered will go a long way towards preventing mishaps and making things run smoothly. Take a few extra minutes before bottling to put everything in its place.
- Sit down while bottling your beer – I like to hook up my bottle filler to the bottling bucket with a 2-inch section of transfer tubing. Then I can have a seat while filling the beer bottles. It definitely helps to save the back! Also make it easier to grab a swig or two from previously bottled beer.
- Enlist a friend – Get a friend or significant other to help and cut your bottling time commitment in half. One person fills the beer bottles, the other caps the beer bottles. Just be sure to repay them with some homebrew!
- Switch to kegging! – OK, this tip for bottling beer is a bit of a cop-out, but if bottling really gets on your nerves, why not get yourself a homebrew draft system? Not only do you avoid bottling beer altogether, you get to drink your beer in three or four days instead of 14!
What tips to you have for bottling beer?
David Ackley is a beer writer, homebrewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.
The solution to the dripping bottling wand is to go to the hardware store and buy a stiffer spring.
I invested in flip-top (Grolsch-type) bottles, both 1-liter and 0.5 liter sizes, which avoids the capping chore. To bottle, I siphon from the fermenter into another fermenter with a tap on the bottom, into which I previously put the priming sugar liquid. Then I just draw from the tap right into a bottle, going down the side to avoid air bubbles. I have been warned that air bubbles can give the beer a “cardboard” taste, but I don’t seem to have that problem.
No mention of a vinator? Those can save a ton of time and wasted sanitizer. No need to soak a clean bottle in sanitizer when a few sprays will do. Alternatively, a normal spray bottle will do. It also helps to have a bottling tree especially if using StarSan.
My husband and I use the buddy system. I sit on a shop stool and use a 12 inch long tube and a cookie sheet on the floor to catch the drips. I hand off to my husband for capping.
i like to know if a bottle filler exists that doesn’t leak? mine all leak even when they are new.
Jack, they pretty much all will drip some. One thing I have done and have seen others do, is to bottle their wine or beer on the door of a dish washer. Any spillage can be resolved with a shut of the door.
If you want to recycle bottles find a brand that doesn’t use glue that makes it a pain to remove labels. I found that Bell’s labels come off easily by soaking in hot water. Also, if you want to label your home brew just print out you labels on regular copier/printer paper, cut them to size and brush them with milk. The labels stick great and come off by soaking the bottles in water. Warning: If you put them in and ice chest you will loose some labels.