Bottle Preping

I love homebrewing. I really enjoy almost every aspect of the hobby. From designing recipes, to buying and building new equipment, to the actual brewing process, to watching others enjoy my beers and enjoying them myself. But I really do despise the whole bottling process.

Bottling 1

I have bottled enough batches that I should have a pretty good system down by now, and I think I do, but it still takes way too long and it is retardedly monotonous. One thing I have started to do as of maybe two years ago to break up the monotony of it is to complete the whole process over two different days. In this way I accomplish a few things; -1- I don’t get so frustrated/bored that I am not interested in bottling -2- I can now do this over two weekday nights and not feel like that is the only thing I did that evening and -3- I really don’t feel quite as burnt out afterward. Unfortunately, besides being repeatedly boring, the task also takes longer than I feel it should. I think I normally take 3-4 hours to complete the complete task, so two sessions half of that is much more manageable.

My basic system is I’m sure very similar to most homebrewers. I try to start with “clean” bottles. By this, I typically know the bottles history (I drank the beer inside or got them from a reliable friend), and there is no visible funk inside the bottle: mold, dirt, cigarette butts – those sort of things. Next I soak the bottles in a warm/hot solution of PBW (Powdered Brewers Wash) which is very similar to OxyClean. I typically allow the bottles to soak 24 hours, to really help dissolve/loosen any funk on the insides I could not see and to help eat away at the glue on the bottles labels. From the PBW soak the bottles are each individually emptied, inspected, de-labelled, and scrubbed clean. After the cleaning is complete the bottles need to be individually rinsed. I use hot tap water and a bottle washer, which is a pretty neat little gadget with a one-way valve that sprays the inside of the bottles. After the rinsing I prepare a sanitation solution to sanitize the bottles. The container I use can hold a case of beer at a time so this process only needs to be repeated twice. From the sanitation solution they bottles go to a pre-sanitized bottle tree to let drain and air dry upside-down some. From the bottle tree the bottles are up righted and the opening is covered in aluminium foil to keep the interior sanitary until I am ready to add the fresh beer. All of what I just went over I would consider Step 1, about two hours worth of boring yet careful work.

Bottling 2

Well, regardless of all of that, the reason I wanted to post was in reference to the above pictures. First, it looks like I have a large enough and sturdy enough container now that I can soak two cases of beer at one time, nice. Previously I would use two separate containers, same amount of time, twice the amount of clean up. Also, I wanted to see what the heat retention was like on the container. When all the bottles were added the water temp was 122F, and over 24 hours it dropped about 30 degrees to 93F. Even though it was probably not this simple, about a degree an hour – I can live with that. Anyway, hopefully having a container that retains heat well will help with the whole de-labelling process, which is really the bear of the whole thing.

If you read this whole post and were bored off your pants not really realizing how you were going to make it through the whole ordeal, well not you have a small taste of what it feels like to prepare bottles for bottling homebrew.

Just for fun, if you’re still reading this, this is what I listened to on shuffle on my iPod while cleaning bottles:

01 – Phish – Stash (live)
02 – Don McCloskey – King of Discount Ho’s (G’s Up Hoe-Down Remix)
03 – Insatiable – GPC’s
04 – Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade – Riddles Are Abound Tonight
05 – Weezer – No One Else
06 – Ice-T – New Jack Hustler
07 – Phish – Horn
08 – Alice In Chains – Man In the Box
09 – Beck – Beercan
10 – Keller Williams – Vabeeotchay
11 – The Beastie Boys – Johnny Ryall
12 – De La Soul – Me, Myself & I
13 – Sublime – Ebin
14 – NWA – Express Yourself
15 – The Beastie Boys – So What’cha Want
16 – Primus – To Defy
17 – Ween – It’s Gonna Be (Alright)
18 – Soul Coughing – 4 Out of 5
19 – Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade – David Makalaster
20 – Nirvana – Stay Away
21 – Keller Williams – Mental Intra

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