The brew day seems like forever ago and fermentation is finally complete. After all the waiting, your thirst has hit an all-time high. Unfortunately, you’ve got to properly package your product first. When bottling, there are a number of options to consider, you just have to think about what’s right for you and your beer.
There are two main sizes of bottles to choose from when storing your homebrew. You know both of them well, the 12 oz. longneck and 22 oz. bomber. Both are equally great options and it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.
While 12 oz. bottles are great for personal servings, bombers are really handy when sharing with friends. You can even go with a combination of both to bottle your batch. You’ll also want to pay attention to the bottle’s collar which is just below the lip. American breweries typically use a bottle that has a flat collar that works well with cappers but watch out for imported bottles which may have a recessed or rounded collar which can cause the capper to slip.
Twist-off Style Bottles:
Whatever you do, do not use twist-off style bottles. These are the bottles commonly used by the massive breweries that we all know, and feature a threaded lip to allow the bottle cap to screw on. While it may be easy to find these in large quantities in your neighbor’s recycling bin these are not designed for reuse.
Putting a standard cap on a twist-off bottle will undoubtedly result in leakage and potentially an infected beer. Stick to bottles that have a rounded, non-threaded lip. Also be sure to stick to amber colored bottles. As you know, light can be an enemy of beer and the darker brown tint helps block out UV rays to protect the beer. It’s advisable to stay away from the green and clear bottles that you see out there simply because they cannot block out light nearly as effectively.
Standard caps are just that—the widely used standard that can be easily applied to a pry-off bottle lip. They’re good for properly sealing the beer in and keeping outside air out. They can be used with any bottle capper and can come in a variety of colors and styles to add a personal touch and complete the beer package.
There’s another type of cap known as the oxygen-absorbing cap. This cap is equipped with a special liner that is designed to absorb and retain oxygen that exists in the headspace between the liquid and the cap. The purpose of this is to reduce the potential for oxidation, which could cause off flavors in your beer. For this reason, oxygen-absorbing caps can also be a great choice beers that you may plan on aging or just storing for a period of time longer than 3 months.
There are two main ways to get your bottle caps onto the bottles and each gets the job done just fine, picking which one you choose is also a matter of personal preference.
First, we’ll look at the wing-style triple-hinged capper. This capper is the most common perhaps due to its low cast and the fact that they are often included in homebrewing kits. They are a great choice for those that are new to homebrewing and bottling, or those that just don’t want to spend a lot of money on a bottle capper. They feature a magnetic tray that holds the cap in place and three hinges and two handles that allow you to apply the proper amount of leverage to crimp the cap onto the bottle. The integrated spring-loaded system also makes the process a lot easier as it automatically raises the handles and cap tray when you release pressure. This capper can take a little getting used to at first, but once you get it down it can prove to be a very helpful tool.
Another option is the bench capper. This is more expensive than the wing-style capper but can make a lot quicker work of bottling your brew making it a great choice for those that brew larger batches. It features a wide base where you place your bottle and a spring-loaded arm and capper assembly that move up and down a tower. This can be a lot easier to use because you can hold the bottle steady with one hand while applying pressure onto the cap with the other. You never have to worry about the bottle accidentally tipping over and breaking when you apply pressure, which can be an issue with wing cappers. Because of this, you can also more quickly and confidently get the cap seated onto the top of the bottle. You can also attach the entire capper to a workbench or countertop to make it even more stable. Bench cappers are also adjustable to allow you to use bottles of varying heights.
How to Bottle Your Beer:
Now that we’ve discussed the bottling equipment you need, let’s watch a quick video about how to properly bottle your beer.
Recommended Bottling Kit
For fans of Belgian beers or those that like to really kick the presentation up a notch, corks and hooded cages are a great alternative to traditional bottle caps. The Belgians are well known for sealing their beers this way but these days breweries all over the globe can be found doing it.
Whether you’re doing this for every batch or simply doing it for a special one that you plan on bottle-conditioning, you’ll need a 750 mL Belgian style bottle, Belgian bottle corks, wire hooded bottle cages and an Italian floor corker.
Belgian bottles feature a wider lip and a neck that does not taper near the top. The straight neck allows the cork to stay in place but it’s important to note that the wider lip will not allow you to use caps on Belgian bottles. In order to properly insert the cork into the bottle you will need an Italian floor corker. This type of corker features an extra long handle to allow you to get the necessary leverage to properly insert the cork. While these can be a little pricey, they can also cork wine bottles should you or someone you know get into winemaking. Once the cork is inserted it’s important to secure a wire hooded cage on top to prevent the cork from accidentally coming out due to pressure. Simply place the hooded cage on top of the bottle and twist the excess wire until the cage is securely fastened to the bottle.
More Homebrew Articles:
- How to Use an Immersion Wort Chiller
- Comparing Types of Water for Homebrewing
- The Auto-Siphon: A Must-Have for Every Homebrewer
- 6 Mistakes Beginner Homebrewers Make (and how to avoid them)