Many homebrewers like to save money. Who doesn’t? One of the first opportunities for saving a few bucks while homebrewing is to reuse beer bottles you buy from the store. Sure, it saves some cash, but it does take a little extra effort. (But at least you get bonus points for being eco-friendly!)
Here’s what you need to do to reuse beer bottles for homebrewing.
- Don’t save twist-offs. This type of beer bottle doesn’t work well for re-capping. Only save the pry-off style beer bottles for recycling.
- Brown is better. It’s ok to reuse green and clear glass bottles, but brown ones offer the best protection against UV light. (Light can make your beer taste “lightstruck” or “skunky”.)
- Love the larger beer bottles. The larger format 22-oz. and 25-oz. bottles are great – fewer bottles to clean and fill. Plus they make great gifts for the holidays!
- Covet the flip-top. Euro-style bottles with the flip-top are just cool! Reusing these type of beer bottles for homebrewing are well worth the effort.
- Rinse them out first. Residual beer left at the bottom of a beer bottle is an ideal place for mold and other funky creatures to take hold. Save yourself the trouble of scrubbing out the beer bottles by rinsing them out as soon as you’re done with them. Three quick rinses usually gets the job done, but check inside for residual yeast at the bottom just to be sure.
- Remove the labels. Plan for this task to take some time. (It’s probably the least favorite part of bottling homebrew, so some homebrewers just leave the labels on.) The best way to remove commercial labels is to soak the bottles in a tub filled with hot water and One Step. In 15-20 minutes, most of the labels – the ones that use a glue adhesive – should slide right off. Others may be more difficult. Make note of the brands whose labels come off easily and those who don’t. Next time you’re looking for a 12-pack, choose accordingly.
With a decent amount of time and elbow-grease, you can soon have a healthy armada of beer bottles!
If you want to avoid some of the work involved in reusing beer bottles for your homebrewing, we carry new beer bottles by the case!
- 12 oz. Amber Bottles
- 22 oz. Amber Bottles
- 16 oz. Flip-top Amber Bottles
- 1L Flip-top Amber Bottles
- 16 oz. Flip-top Bottles – Cobalt Blue
You can also use plastic beer bottles for bottling homebrew. Don’t forget the caps!
Are you reusing beer bottles for your homebrewing operation? How did you get the bottles?
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.
can you bottle the beer in 1/2 gallon growlers?
Dave, actually most growlers are not made to withstand bottle conditioning and can result in exploding bottles. The article link posted below will discuss this in more detail.
Bottling Beer In Growlers
Use a mancan or mini keg with a pressure relief valve. They also work great for root beer!
Add-ons can include a pressure gauge and a tap.
I found a local brewery’s beer variety I really like (Nashville’s Blackstone Brewery “Chaser Pale”) that comes in re-useable bottles. They also use a label for all their varieties that comes off easily after a short warm water soak in the sink. Any residual glue comes off easily with a quick once-over with a Scotch Brite pad.
I use the Chaser Pale as a fall-back supply when (horrors!) I run out of home brew. While good beer isn’t cheap, the $7.99 price per six pack is pretty much cut in half by recycling the bottles I didn’t have to buy outright and empty.
Moral of the story: *Always* buy store-bought beer in a re-useable bottle! It saves a lot of money in the long run.
I found a bunch of recycled beer bottles but for some reason my capper will not seal the cap on them. I believe they are Budweiser bottles. What do I use?
St. Paulie Girl labels peel right off while you are drinking it with little to no residue. They are green bottles but still good bottles..
I like to use red stripe bottles the 11.2 and the 24 oz.wcott
Was looking at your flip-top bottles, the brown and the blue. Are the tops made of plastic or ceramic? Thanks.
Lori, the flip top caps are made of plastic.
Why can’t bottles with twist caps be used?
John, we do not recommend the twist off bottles because trying to cap a twist off bottle may not seal properly. To attach a twist of caps requires expensive commercial equipment that is not practical for home beermakers.
I have a euro-style flip top growler. It is definitely more heavy duty than other growlers with screws caps. Can this be used for home brew bottling? I do not plan on aging this batch of beer longer than a couple of weeks after bottling.
Kgreenwolter, yes you can use growlers with flip tops to bottle your beer. We even sell a growler with a flip top lid.
I started buying imported beer in 500ml bottles mainly for the bottles and not for the beer. Most other countries use these pint sized bottles but the US has been sold on 12 oz, 375ml bottles for some reason. A pint is just the right size. No more, no less. With dinner or by itself.
Can I use a flip top bottle for my berry wine?