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Beer bottles to store sterile starter wort?

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z-bob

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I had this idea. Don't know if it's a good idea or a stupid one. :) (those look the same from this side) Mix up a gallon of 1.040 wort using DME or LME (or mash some pale malt) and pour into longneck beer bottles. Put them in a pressure canner -- no caps yet -- and process for a good long time to sterilize the wort. Let the canner cool down naturally without releasing the pressure. When it's cool, wipe cap the bottles using crown caps that were soaked in Starsan or iodophor or whatever your favorite disinfectant is.

Bottle caps are cheaper than mason jar lids, and I think the canner will hold a lot more bottles than it does pint jars. And I have too many longneck bottles anyway. Wha'd'ya think?

ETA: it would be better to cap the bottles before autoclaving (pressure cooking) them, but I don't know if the plastic liners in the caps can take the heat.
 
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z-bob

z-bob

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I mashed 2 pounds of pale ale malt (cheap stuff but reasonably fresh) in about 6.5 quarts of water, and strained it into assorted 12oz and 500ml bottles. Capped them, and processed in a pressure canner at 12 psi for a half an hour. It took a long time to cool down. When I pulled them out of the canner (still a little bit hot), they all had exactly the same headspace, and it was more space than when they went in (oops) I forgot that the liquid would expand -- at least I think that's what happened. I wiped the bottles down with a hot wet rag, and I crimped the caps again. I can turn the caps with my fingers, but it's not easy. So they are not sealed against pressure but they might be sealed good enough to keep bacteria out. Guess I'll find out. I will use one of them next week, and before I open it I'll turn it upside down to see if it leaks.

If I do this again someday, I will fill the bottles to the *bottom* of the necks, and either sit the caps on top without crimping, or I'll cover the tops with aluminum foil. (maybe do some of each)
 

BrewZer

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Caps loose enough to twirl doesn't sound good to me at all. If you can spin them, they're probably not sealed tight enough to keep out nasties. I'd store those bottles COLD until ready to use them and maybe wrap the tops with foil to limit air exchange.
 

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Hmmmm , putting your old bottle collection to good use . Seems pretty cool to me . Just curious as to why the caps aren't crimping down all the way with the capper.
 

BrewZer

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Hmmmm , putting your old bottle collection to good use . Seems pretty cool to me . Just curious as to why the caps aren't crimping down all the way with the capper.
I was wondering the same -- since he capped them before the run through the canner, maybe the internal pressure blew out the cap seal?
 

Jag75

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I thought a canner was for sealing cans . Why would a canner be used for bottling? I must be missing something here.
 

Vale71

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Hmmmm , putting your old bottle collection to good use . Seems pretty cool to me . Just curious as to why the caps aren't crimping down all the way with the capper.
Liquid expansion. He left no headspace and so the wort pushed against the caps as it expanded and started to unloosen them which as others have said is quite bad.
 

Jag75

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Liquid expansion. He left no headspace and so the wort pushed against the caps as it expanded and started to unloosen them which as others have said is quite bad.
Ohhh ! So , were talking about a different canner then. This one heats stuff up . When you say quite bad your talking about blowing up I take it .....yeah that would be bad for sure.
 

Vale71

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No I'm talking about food spoilage as they are no longer properly sealed containers. If the bottles did blow up in the canner they would have just made a mess but nobody would have been hurt as long as you're careful with the cleanup.
 
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I left about 1.5 inches of headspace, and I needed 2.5 inches. I didn't expect that, but they are longneck bottles so there's not much volume at the top.

They are not properly sealed, but how are the bacteria going to get in? I think it was Pasteur who an experiment with a container of sterile broth that was open to the air but the only path in was thru basically a P trap with no water in it. It didn't spoil. Ever.

Refrigeration is not a bad idea. Thanks.
 

Vale71

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They are not properly sealed, but how are the bacteria going to get in? I think it was Pasteur who an experiment with a container of sterile broth that was open to the air but the only path in was thru basically a P trap with no water in it. It didn't spoil. Ever.
Air exchange caused by temperature oscillations.

The thing with Pasteur and the flasks became a bit exaggerated in popular lore. Firstly he did not just boil the broth by Tyndallized it. Secondly the flasks that remain sterile today are actually still sealed. The open flasks weren't kept indefinitely and they were quite elaborate in the design to prevent air being drawn in due to temperature fluctuations whereas your bottles are basically open to the environment. You've also autoclaved them at too low a temperature for the wort to be guaranteed sterile.
 

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Interesting idea z-bob. Seems like if you were to do it again a better way to go would be to cap while the bottles were still hot. Only downside I can think of is bottles at pasteurization temps may fracture more easily while crimping.

I agree with Vale. At this point your best bet is to refrigerate to minimize the chance of infection.
 
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z-bob

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Air exchange caused by temperature oscillations.

The thing with Pasteur and the flasks became a bit exaggerated in popular lore. Firstly he did not just boil the broth by Tyndallized it. Secondly the flasks that remain sterile today are actually still sealed. The open flasks weren't kept indefinitely and they were quite elaborate in the design to prevent air being drawn in due to temperature fluctuations whereas your bottles are basically open to the environment. You've also autoclaved them at too low a temperature for the wort to be guaranteed sterile.
I used the USDA recommended temperature for canning soup and low-acid vegetables, etc, which is 240°F, and I was a bit generous with that because I'm at 1000' elevation. I could take it up to 250 next time. I thought 240 would be better for the lids, but that was not the case.

I should do some test runs with just water in the bottles. :) (I should have done a test run yesterday before doing the mash)
 
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Interesting idea z-bob. Seems like if you were to do it again a better way to go would be to cap while the bottles were still hot. Only downside I can think of is bottles at pasteurization temps may fracture more easily while crimping.

I agree with Vale. At this point your best bet is to refrigerate to minimize the chance of infection.
One thing I want to try is capping the bottle but not crimping them at all until after they have cooled down to room temperature in the sealed canner. Take them out of the canner and immediately crimp them, then wipe them down and store them in my basement.
 
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NGD

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One thing I want to try is capping the bottle but not crimping them at all until after they have cooled down to room temperature in the sealed canner. Take them out of the canner and immediately crimp them, then wipe them down and store them in my basement.
I originally thought that might be the way to go but I have a feeling the plastic liner on the caps isnt designed for that much heat. I’d be curious to hear your results if you give it a try.
 

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Back when I bottled, used to bottle up unfermented wort from each batch for later priming when bottling all the time. Just bottled & capped like a normal beer, never had any issues.
 
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I do something similar. I collect starter gravity wort and put it in 1/2 liter or larger plastic soda bottles and freeze them. The wort does need to be boiled before making a starter but storage is easy. Just be sure to leave plenty of head room in the bottles for expansion while the wort freezes. I collect free wort by soaking spent BIAB grains in hot water during the boil.
 

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I started making priming sugar and almost sterile water for rinsing in advance. It is great, time saver and convenient on brew days

Priming sugar I use beer bottles with 8 oz filtered water, 3/4 cup table sugar, 1/4 tea lime or lemon juice and fill bottles, cap, shake to blend in the sugar. Leave lots of head space, at least the full neck on a 12 oz bottle. Boil for 30 minutes plus. Put a lid on your pot, as mentioned above, lots of thermal expansion of the water. Look at your caps, if they are bowed out, leave more head space. First time I did this I broke (12) 22 oz bottles! They need even more head space. The acid inverts the sugar to Glucose and Fructose, leaving a good priming sugar. I normally let the water cool before draining and removing the priming sugar.

When brewing beers, sometimes the OG is high, I will blend down the beer after ferment in the keg. Use water that has been filtered and boiled as above. The usual technique is to note the amount to blend in on brew day, add it to the keg, add priming sugar and rack the beer on top if it. The almost sterile water is a great rinse tool. My lagering fermenters are set in place, not removable to clean, so after sanitizing, if I see a spec I use the sterile water to rinse
 

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While it is "Almost sterile" as stated, sugar water does not grow any bacterial, close enough to sterile. As soon as I see an issue with my controls growing bacteria, I will get the pressure cooker out, till then why work harder?
 

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Sure, precautions are best taken after an accident and not before... :rolleyes:
 
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I just looked at the bottles of wort and a couple of them already have mold growing in them. I wouldn't have thought that possible. I will dump them all tomorrow while my wife is out running errands (in case they smell) In another thread there was discussion about freezing wort for using later; just a few pints or quarts and replace one each time you brew. I like that idea and I have lots of freezer containers.
 

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Bummer. Sorry to hear about the mold growth, but thanks for reporting the outcome. Its an interesting experiment. Freezing sounds like the way to go.
 

bracconiere

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i was going to say, when i'm growing mushrooms, and sterilizing agar-agar, i cover the flask with aluminum foil...when you wiped them down out of the cooker you let all kinds of stuff in. i'd just cover each bottle with firmly crimpped aluminum foil, then cap over it with out removing the foil? my best guess at keeping them sterile.

and i'd say do it while there still hot, use baking gloves...
 

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I just looked at the bottles of wort and a couple of them already have mold growing in them. I wouldn't have thought that possible. I will dump them all tomorrow while my wife is out running errands (in case they smell) In another thread there was discussion about freezing wort for using later; just a few pints or quarts and replace one each time you brew. I like that idea and I have lots of freezer containers.
I'm not surprised, as if there is oxygen ingress, there will be mold.
What you can do if you want to can wort, is to use canning jars and lids. I have tons of those, since I've been homecanning for more than 35 years.
You can freeze wort of course, but then you'd have to thaw and boil and that negates the time savings in my mind, plus takes up storage in the freezer. I've done that in the past, though, especially when I had misjudged my volumes and ended up with too much preboil wort. Then I boiled it and froze it for later use.
 
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z-bob

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I have canned wort before in pint Mason jars; that's what I should have done this time. But I have a lot more bottle caps than I do canning lids (jars and bottles, I have way too many of each ;)) and the crown caps are cheaper, so I wanted to see if this would work. Now I know. It wasn't all that expensive a lesson.
 

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There's been a lot of lively discussion about canning wort lately. What you are canning, the jar it is in, the pressure, and the temperature are all important.

There are no actual tested canning procedures to be sure that home canned wort is safe. (If I'm wrong about this please link me to the study!)

Official canning recipes were lab tested to ensure sterilization of low acid foods. These are the ones that you see from extension agencies, Ball, etc.

When I can wort, I use the procedure for meat broth, because the consistency is similar:


It is NOT broth though, so I build in a safety factor to assure myself that it is safe. I am at sea level. For a quart jar with a weighted gauge pressure canner, they recommend 25 minutes of process time at 10 pounds of pressure. I do 15 pounds of pressure and let it go for over 30 minutes. You have to decide what you are comfortable with, because again, wort has not been tested for home canning.

When canning things like this you should not use non-standard jars, because they might not distribute heat throughout the material the way you expect. (Half gallon jars shouldn't be used for canning anything other than highly acidic foods in a boiling water bath).
If it doesn't seal after canning, refrigerate until use or re-process.
If you have a dial gauge canner, get the gauge calibrated regularly (I've seen yearly as the recommended interval).

The risk of botulism from canning wort appears to be pretty low, but it's not something I want to be cavalier about because the price of being wrong is steep.
 

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There are no actual tested canning procedures to be sure that home canned wort is safe. (If I'm wrong about this please link me to the study!)
I'm sure there are as I don't think that the company that makes Propper starter would risk criminal prosecution if something bad were to happen. I don't have a link to the studies, sorry.
 

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I'm sure there are as I don't think that the company that makes Propper starter would risk criminal prosecution if something bad were to happen. I don't have a link to the studies, sorry.
But isn't that an industrial process with specialized equipment, not a home canning process? If Propper starters are being made in some dude's kitchen with a pressure cooker, I'm going to be creeped out. :D
 

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I don't think that doing something at home or in an industrial plant makes any difference. If you can replicate the same parameters in a home environment then you're good to go. If you can't than you're taking a risk, regardless of whether you're doing this at home or in an industrial plant.
 
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I haven't dumped them yet because my wife hasn't gone anywhere; we're in the middle of a blizzard so we both stayed home. But I noticed that the 12 oz bottles all still look okay, the ones that were moldy were the 500mls, so I think I might use one or two of the 12-ozers so this isn't a total loss. I want to culture the yeast from a can or two of Lagunitas Hazy Wonder to use to brew a porter. I will boil it first.
 
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