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Old 10-21-2013, 10:30 AM   #1
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Default bottle sanitization: is it REALLY necessary?

I used to be a complete prude when it came to sterilizing my bottles when it came time to bottle my brews. However, there have been numerous times in the recent past that I had simply run out of sterilized bottles during a hardcore bottling session, and substituted un-sanitized glass bottles (and PET bottles) in place. While I expected blackish-green globs of mold and bacteria to permeate the bottles, bringing the worst tastes and flavors imaginable, it has yet to happen.

Keep in mind that these bottles, while not at all sterilized/sanitized, had been rinsed completely clean of residues MULTIPLE times, and were allowed to dry for days to weeks. They simply had not undergone proper chemical/temperature cleansing.

Despite the lack of active sanitization, these bottles somehow managed to carbonate and age exactly like the sterilized bottles did. After trying to smell and taste the difference between my unsanitized bottles vs the sterilized ones, I came to the conclusion that I could not tell the difference, and I was wasting my time by baking 50 bottles at 250ºF for 12 hours.

Since then, I decided to try bottling an imperial IPA, a scotch wee heavy, and an imperial stout into unsanitized bottles, and all batches have ended in great success.

Ergo, I ask you non-professional-but-awesome brewmasters out there: is sanitizing/sterilizing bottles REALLY necessary? That is, if you're a prude when it comes to rinsing them out after each use?

Other pertinent disclosures:
1) All beers were > 9% ABV. Ethanol kills baddies.
2) All beers were consumed within 3 months of maturation.
3) Beers were bottled in re-used amber glass AND clear screw-top PET bottles (for simple carbonation monitoring).
4) I always sanitize my primary/secondary/bottling/siphoning equipment with iodophor.
5) Love the iodophor. Brown stains are just proof that it works. No aroma/flavor imparted. StarSan can go to hell with its bubbles and acidity.

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Old 10-21-2013, 10:40 AM   #2
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first, there's a difference between SANITIZED and STERILIZED

it's just good practice to keep everything sanitized, including bottles. sterilized is overkill

I rinse bottles after drinking. keep them in the box until use. 1 spritz with the starsan into each bottle at bottling time and I've had no infected bottles.

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Old 10-21-2013, 10:45 AM   #3
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I've only made wine at this point, but a good rinse and a few squirts of StarSan is all I've ever done to bottles.

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Old 10-21-2013, 11:03 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrogNerd View Post
first, there's a difference between SANITIZED and STERILIZED

it's just good practice to keep everything sanitized, including bottles. sterilized is overkill

I rinse bottles after drinking. keep them in the box until use. 1 spritz with the starsan into each bottle at bottling time and I've had no infected bottles.
I'm going beyond that by simply rinsing my used bottles with warm water a few times and letting them drip-dry. There is no chemical or sterilization for these bottles before they store their next brew. I seem to have had good luck with my process, but I'm wondering how feasible this process really is. Am I just lucky, or are we stupid to be so hard-core when it comes to sanitization?
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:07 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SKYY View Post
I'm going beyond that by simply rinsing my used bottles with warm water a few times and letting them drip-dry. There is no chemical or sterilization for these bottles before they store their next brew. I seem to have had good luck with my process, but I'm wondering how feasible this process really is. Am I just lucky, or are we stupid to be so hard-core when it comes to sanitization?
what's this "we" crap?

I'm definitely stupid. I don't know you; can't form an opinion just yet
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:46 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by SKYY View Post
imperial IPA, a scotch wee heavy, and an imperial stout into unsanitized bottles, and all batches have ended in great success.

Other pertinent disclosures:
1) All beers were > 9% ABV. Ethanol kills baddies.
2) All beers were consumed within 3 months of maturation.
Holy crap! Are you sure you're in the proper state of mind to be making any decisions about sanitation?! Those are some serious back to back brews, and some serious drinking to make them go away!

My thought on sanitation is this - You may very well get away with not sanitizing any piece along the way, or maybe even not sanitizing anything for that matter. The key word in that however is "may". Brewing is fun for sure, but it's also work and takes quite a bit of time to accomplish (with or without sanitation). Why take the risk? BTW if you decide to go back to sanitizing bottles at some point - 12hrs in the oven is way overkill. If it's not dead in an hour, it ain't go'na die! If you insist on 12hrs however, put in a roast along side your bottles. That way you'll have a good meal after you get done bottling.........
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:51 AM   #7
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i've had the occasional bottle infection. they have never been a big deal, just a little overcarbed and the taste was off. so i dump it. but when i give away beer for friends or competition, this would be totally unacceptable. for that reason, i try to be pretty careful.

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Old 10-21-2013, 12:06 PM   #8
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SKYY, I have to chuckle a bit, only because you're contemplation going from hardcore sterilization (I mean, 12 hours, really?) to not even sanitizing. If you feel so strongly about iodophor, why not just keep some on hand on bottling day and do a quick sanitize on any extra bottles you need. I don't know the contact time required, or the concentration needed for no-rinse, but maybe someone here does.

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Old 10-21-2013, 01:09 PM   #9
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SKYY -- Nice to see another Iodophor fan. I swear it works better on wild yeast than starsan. I do keep starsan around though. What I like about starsan is that it is stable for a long time in RO/distilled water. So that is what I keep in my spray bottle. But starsan for sanitizing bottles? No way

The no rinse concentration of iodophor is on the bottle. I think it is 6mL/gallon with 1 min contact time or 3mL/gallon with 2 min contact time.

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Old 10-21-2013, 01:17 PM   #10
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Well. I guess I will just always waste my time sanitizing bottles because it was embedded in my brain from day one. I never gave iodophor any thought and I blame these forums. Star San seems to be favored or mentioned more often than iodophor. Either way, so far so good with Star San.

I think the extra time it takes to sanitize is worth it after I spend a minimum of 4 hours prepping, brewing, and cleaning up for one 5-gallon batch.

Is it necessary? Well, you had three big beers and things went ok. I would say do what works for you and if there is an infection one day, perhaps reintroduce proper sanitation into your brew / bottle session.

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