Bottle Cleaning/sanitizing methods

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jp1316

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Since cleaning and sanitizing my bottles seems to be the most annoying part of making my own beer - I was wondering how some of you guys go about doing it?
Do any of you use a bottle tree, vinator, bottle washers(that attach to sink or hose - do you still need to use a cleaner if you spray the bottle out with one of these?) or anything else? What chemicals do you use for cleaning and for sanitizing? The more ideas the better!
 

SavageSteve

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Well, since you asked, I'll lay down my 2 cents. I'm lazy and I don't like complicated procedures, so I use minimal equipment and procedures to prepare bottles. A simple system makes bottling much less of a chore.

I think the most important idea is to keep your bottles clean. When you open a beer and pour it into a glass, rinse the bottle out so it is completely clean-- that way, when you are ready to sanitize it, you do not have to clean it. Having a stock of clean bottles ready for a bottling session saves a lot of time and makes bottling that much easier-- I generally never have to use a bottle brush. Your bottles should also be free of any labels.

For sanitizing, I just submerge the bottles in a bucket of StarSan solution for a few minutes. I can fit about 18 bottles in the bucket at one time. I pull them out one by one, drain them into the bucket, then rinse them with the hottest water I get from my sink. This part will likely elicit many emotional responses, as StarSan is a no-rinse sanitizer, but I like to rinse, so I do. I've never had a problem rinsing with my water-- ymmv.

I place the bottles upside down on clean paper towels on the counter to let the water drain from them. They will balance on their own-- just be careful not to upset them.

When I'm bottling, I take each bottle as I need it, fill it, then cap it.

Done.

-Steve
 

Nurmey

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Do any of you use a bottle tree, vinator, bottle washers(that attach to sink or hose - do you still need to use a cleaner if you spray the bottle out with one of these?) or anything else? What chemicals do you use for cleaning and for sanitizing? The more ideas the better!
I use a bottle tree, vinator, bottle washers for sink, and Star San.

First, rinse bottle right after you empty it to remove sediment while it's still wet.

On bottling day, give it a quick spray with the bottle washer if it's been sitting around getting dusty. A couple of pumps on the vinator filled with Star San, and on to the bottle tree. The proper tools make the job very easy and effective.
 

Yooper

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I use a bottle tree, vinator, bottle washers for sink, and Star San.

First, rinse bottle right after you empty it to remove sediment while it's still wet.

On bottling day, give it a quick spray with the bottle washer if it's been sitting around getting dusty. A couple of pumps on the vinator filled with Star San, and on to the bottle tree. The proper tools make the job very easy and effective.
That's exactly what I've done, too. I can rinse (the bottles are already clean), squirt, and put them on the bottle tree in about 10 minutes total. Anything dirty needs cleaning, of course, so like the others, I just make sure the bottles are clean when I empty them. The first few times you bottle, you probably have to clean and delabel, since they are usually used ones you collect from friends. But if you always rinse the bottle after you pour a beer, you'll never have to really scrub or clean them. Unless they are obviously dirty, a quick rinse works fine before sanitizing. And since star-san is a no-rinse sanitizer, I squirt it in and put it on the bottling tree without rinsing or drying.
 

ajf

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But if you always rinse the bottle after you pour a beer, you'll never have to really scrub or clean them.
I've never had a beer where that statement hasn't been true, but SWMBO likes English cider which I make with White Labs English Cider Yeast.
That stuff is truly evil. It takes an extended soak in oxiclean to clean her cider bottles.
Can anybody suggest a diplomatic way of convincing SWMBO that she should clean the cider bottles?

-a.
 

Revvy

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I used to do what Savage steve did...and it works great. The only difference was that I would line my cases with wax paper and stick them in there after they drained.

I just "stimulated the economy" by using some of the revenewer's money to by me a vinator...I've bottles a couple of batches since I got it, and it is easy, I use about 4 pumps and bob's your uncle..I don't have space for a bottle tree, so I still do the upside down in beer case method...

It sure as heck saves time...

I will admit to being a teeny bit leery using the vinator; With Steve's (and my old) method you are sanitizing both the inside and the outside of the bottle...with the vinator you are only hitting the inside...I usually at least sink the lip of the bottle into sanitizer...I don't know if it really matters if you sanitize the outside...but I'm a wee bit of a sanitizing purist..

Steve's method is great, especially if you can get a rubbermade tub that can hold a case of beer, and sanitize them all at once...my old soysauce bucket only held 12, so it took longer....

And the vinator see,s great as well!
 

billtzk

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I rinse bottles after pouring, as others have mentioned. I drain them well, then store them in six-pack cartons and cardboard cases until I need to use them again. They stay pretty clean, might accumulate a bit of dust eventually.

When I'm ready to bottle again, I submerse them in a bucket of iodophore for a few minutes, then drain out the iodophore and put them in my clean dishwasher upside down to drip until I'm ready to fill.
 

Revvy

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A jet bottle washer is also a great investment...that, oxyclean and whatever your chose sanitizer (iodophor or starsan) is the complete cleaning/sanitizing arsenal!
 

SavageSteve

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I just "stimulated the economy" by using some of the revenewer's money to by me a vinator...I've bottles a couple of batches since I got it, and it is easy, I use about 4 pumps and bob's your uncle..I don't have space for a bottle tree, so I still do the upside down in beer case method...

It sure as heck saves time...
I posted my response at work, and during the ride home, I started thinking about my procedure, and I realized that while it is simple, it's not fast.

I started thinking about using a vinator, and now after reading what you posted, Revvy, I think I might get one. If it saves as much time as it sounds like it will, then I think I could get into it.

-Steve
 

billtzk

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A jet bottle washer is also a great investment...that, oxyclean and whatever your chose sanitizer (iodophor or starsan) is the complete cleaning/sanitizing arsenal!
That's true. But I use an oxyclean soak and the jet bottle washer for the initial label-removal bottle wash only. There's no need to go to that much trouble for subsequent uses if you've rinsed the bottle well, drained it, and stored it after pouring a beer.
 

Revvy

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I posted my response at work, and during the ride home, I started thinking about my procedure, and I realized that while it is simple, it's not fast.

I started thinking about using a vinator, and now after reading what you posted, Revvy, I think I might get one. If it saves as much time as it sounds like it will, then I think I could get into it.

-Steve
It's surprising how short my bottling session has become, since using the vinator, and having the wand mounted on my bucket, and having a dip tube, I can do a batch of beer, from starting to boil my priming solution to capping the last bottle done in an hour...

I usually have a bottle in each hand....squirt one and put it away & grab another while squirting the second one, yadda yadda yadda....Imagine if we were Octopi...we'd be bottled in 5 minutes! :D
 

billtzk

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Maybe a vinator would be a good idea. It does seem like it would speed things up a bit.

I guess a vinator wouldn't work with iodophore. iodophore needs a longer contact time than star san. I've never used star san due to the cost and the foam. I fear the foam, more or less.
 

fratermus

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I use a bottle tree, vinator, bottle washers for sink, and Star San.

First, rinse bottle right after you empty it to remove sediment while it's still wet.

On bottling day, give it a quick spray with the bottle washer if it's been sitting around getting dusty. A couple of pumps on the vinator filled with Star San, and on to the bottle tree. The proper tools make the job very easy and effective.
I do the same, only with iodophor. Nice and fast, assuming the "rinse after use" dictum is followed.
 

Laurel

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I'd be interested in a critique of my new plan for bottling. I'm going to get a squirt bottle to mist my clean dishwasher rack with starsan, then dip each bottle in a bucket of starsan, drain, then put upside-down in the dishwasher until I'm ready to use it. Seems to be a fairly safe way to avoid infection, but I'd be curious if I'm overlooking anything.
 

Revvy

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I'd be interested in a critique of my new plan for bottling. I'm going to get a squirt bottle to mist my clean dishwasher rack with starsan, then dip each bottle in a bucket of starsan, drain, then put upside-down in the dishwasher until I'm ready to use it. Seems to be a fairly safe way to avoid infection, but I'd be curious if I'm overlooking anything.
The only adjustment I think would be to have run a cycle through the dishwasher first...I know a lot of people store dirty dishes and glasses in there, and sometimes even pull them out to hand wash them, if they realize they don't have a full load...I just would make sure that the tines of the rack are squeeky clean, even though you are using the starsan to sanitize it...But other than that I think that is a great idea...
 

Laurel

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I don't store dirty dishes in the dishwasher ever. Providing the dishwasher has recently been run, then emptied, does it seem like a reasonable plan?
 

SavageSteve

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Dangit, now I'm questioning my entire bottle sanitization technique after reading this thread.

I'll have to think about this over a few/many brews tonight...
 

Revvy

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Dangit, now I'm questioning my entire bottle sanitization technique after reading this thread.

I'll have to think about this over a few/many brews tonight...
Steve, the only issue I ever had with my old method (which is your current method) is the time it took to soak the bottles...Which if I had a larger bin that could hold more than 12 bottles at a time, it would be have been fine. I never really had any problems with doing it that way, and at least a full dunk guarantees that all the bottles were sanitized...like I said I still don't quite trust the vinator....Although it is a big time saver.
 
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For those of you who do Giant Starsan Soaks. AFter you're done soaking what do you do with the remaining 5 gallons of star san? Is it safe to transfer to some 1/2G Growlers for safe keeping for future use? This is what I've been doing but I'm wary as one of my last batches has turned bad in the bottles.
 
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