Originally Posted by jctski
I'm new here and would love some advice... My wife and I are doing research right now on how to start up a specialty seltzer beverage company and we're looking for information on equipment needed for production, and bottling for small distribution at first... We are currently trying to perfect our recipes on a small/ home scale but the challenges of bottling that product, and maintaining a high level of carbonation escape us right now... Any helpful hints would be greatly appreciated...
Have you considered contracting initial production runs with a small local soda bottler?
You should be able to test recipes at home with the "counter pressure filler" referred to above, but I don't think wholesale production at any scale would be economically feasible using home equipment.
Using the CP filler, there will be a small drop in carb level from the starting values. A PETE bottle with a pressure gauge in the lid may be helpful to determine final carb levels.
You haven't listed what methods or equipment you have already tried, but here a few others:
If speed is important, since it can take a few days to carb a keg to soda levels, there are the soda fountain setups that use 'carbonation pumps', stones, and agitation chambers to rapidly carbonate water. You can mimic this by using a similar sintered carbonation stone in a keg. While forcing CO2 through the stone, continuously vent out the top at a slightly lower pressure. This will rapidly carb a seltzer, but it is very wasteful of CO2. You can do this on a small scale in 2 Liter bottles (or any size vessel), but you need to be handy with building contraptions. The apparatus and technique is very similar to the counter pressure filler, just with gas for all the connections and the fluid already in the bottle.
From personal experience, I have had problems dispensing seltzer at proper carb volumes through standard beer equipment, so filling bottles out of a faucet is probably a no go, even using the "hose stuck in the faucet trick". I tried 30 feet of ~5/32" line at 34F, and still had a lot of off gassing at the faucet. I think it is the nature of the beast. The small diameter line causing increased velocity may have been part of the problem, but the alternative is an even longer larger diameter line.
There are all kinds of other tricks like swizzle sticks, pressure compensating faucets made for beer that function similar to soda faucets, etc.; but those would just get you a better pour, and not any closer to a bottling solution. If you have any foaming agents in the seltzer recipe, it can compound the issue. Even dry cider has enough to cause me additional problems.