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senorfartman

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Well I went to bottle my chocolate porter today and I've come to realize I can't stand the bottling method that 99% of us use. I use the standard ale pale with the tube spigot. It takes forever, it's messy and there's no way to consistently get the same amount of brew per bottle. After the spigot slid off for the 4th time and dumped beer all over myself and the floor, I realized I needed to do something.

Now I realize kegging is a very viable option but I just prefer beer in bottles. With all the innovation with homebrewers using off the shelf parts to brew beers, the area of bottling seems neglected.

So that got me to thinking, has anyone done any work toward DIY bottling and capping devices on the homebrew scale? Like a mini assembly line?

Solving the issue of volume consistency should be easy enough. Devise some sort of hopper with individual channels (think a couple funnels in a line) which would hold the beer above the bottles and have a valve under each channel. Open them all at once and the same volume should be distributed to each.

Devise some sort of system to automatically place caps on each brew.

Roll the beers after they are filled down the line to the capper. This is where I think we could have 100+ viable ideas. Anything from linear actuators pushing down the 2 levers of a standard capper to any multitude of others.

I'm off tomorrow so I'm sure this will be burning in my mind the whole days. I'm curious to see what you guys come up with.
 

bigjohnmilford

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Not to rain on your parade. I think it's a great idea. After bottling 8 cases today. But, how much money do you think such equipment is going to cost and how much space is it going to take up? I can contain all of our bottling equipment within the space of a bottling bucket. I just don't think everyone has enough space for a whole large scale brewery in their brew space.
 
OP
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senorfartman

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I think that's where the forum can really help by pitching ideas from a wealth of backgrounds. Hell we have MLTs that cost under $30 from Home Depot.

My situation is a bit different as I own my house and am single so I'm free to do as I please in the basement. Working with off the shelf parts should be able to produce something. Also where I work we have a machine shop, CNC, electrical engineers galore and gear heads which I'll talk to and get ideas from.
 

Funkenjaeger

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If you're having THAT much trouble bottling, you're doing something wrong. Don't get me wrong, I hate bottling too (I keg now), but it's really not that hard - the majority of the work is in cleaning and sanitizing bottles and equipment, the actual bottling process should be reasonably quick and easy. A short piece of siphon tubing to attach a proper bottling wand to the spigot and you're all set. I have NEVER had it fall off and spill (or, for that matter, spill more than a tiny amount of beer in the process for any reason), nor do I have any trouble filling bottles quite consistently - you just fill until the beer nearly reaches the opening, and when you pull the wand out the beer level will fall to just the right point.
 

Jumbo82

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Funkenjaeger said:
If you're having THAT much trouble bottling, you're doing something wrong. Don't get me wrong, I hate bottling too (I keg now), but it's really not that hard - the majority of the work is in cleaning and sanitizing bottles and equipment, the actual bottling process should be reasonably quick and easy. A short piece of siphon tubing to attach a proper bottling wand to the spigot and you're all set. I have NEVER had it fall off and spill (or, for that matter, spill more than a tiny amount of beer in the process for any reason), nor do I have any trouble filling bottles quite consistently - you just fill until the beer nearly reaches the opening, and when you pull the wand out the beer level will fall to just the right point.
I agree, bottling is pretty simple and easy if you have a good system. On a small homebrew scale I don't see any reason to have an elaborate automated bottling system, unless you are really into gadgets and like to tinker. If you're only bottling a 5 gallon batch every week, I highly doubt there will be any time savings since the maintenance alone will likely take longer than the actual bottling.

My bottling system works great. I open up my dishwasher which has all the freshly cleaned bottles sitting on the prongs, and pull up a chair. On the counter above the dishwasher I have my bottling bucket with the tubing and bottling wand attached. I pick up a bottle, fill it to the rim, pull out the wand, and set the bottle down on the end of the open dishwasher door. If SWMBO is around, she loves to use the capper. If not, I cap them when I have a bunch and then go back to filling. With SWMBO its less than 30 minutes, alone maybe 45. Best part is, any beer dripping/spilling during the process ends up on the dishwasher door. No cleanup. I recommend this system (including a helpful SWMBO if you can find one). Good luck.
 

brewt00l

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If you guys that say you don't have that much trouble bottling compare your process with Seniorfartman's you'll note a key inconsistency...

bottling wand
 

jeff967

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Me and my SWMBO, can knock out a 5.5gl batch in 30 minutes flat.
"edit without a bottling wand"
 

Jumbo82

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jeff967 said:
Me and my SWMBO, can knock out a 5.5gl batch in 30 minutes flat.
"edit without a bottling wand"
If you don't mind me asking, why don't you use a wand?
 

Bobby_M

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Yup, a $4 bottling wand will cure many of your ills. I bottled without one for most of the time prior to kegging. It was my last bottled batch for which I employed a bottling wand and it makes life so much easier. I probably spilled 12oz less and shaved 20 minutes off the total time.
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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If you already have a bottling bucket I have a good setup for you that is a cheap upgrade.

Purchase 1 bottling wand and about 4 inches of the heavy weight high temp tubing (or any other very thick and/or stiff tubing). Assembly the bottling wand to the spigot on your bottling bucket by forcing the tubing over the spigot neck, and forcing the remaining tube onto the bottling wand. This should provide a stiff joint between the wand and the spigot with very little or no tube exposed to the beer. I use this setup so I can fill bottles one handed, I just setup my bucket on a counter top, sit in a chair and fill bottles by pressing the bottle upward into the wand.

I hope that makes sense, I wish I could take a photo of the setup.
 

jeff967

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If you don't mind me asking, why don't you use a wand?
My local home brew store [email protected]#ks they have nothing usefull. I am a DIY guy, maid my bottle buckit my self out of the hardwhare store, a 1/2in. npt to 3/8in. tube ball valve "quest fitting I think", 10in. of 3/8 tubeing in the valve, bottle in one hand, valve in the other, SWMBO moves the full ones. works out jest fine.
 

icebrk34

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Just a note....This thread is in the DIY section....we all love gagets and things that make our brewing easier...I would love to see some postes on ideas for making something like the applied brewing device from cheep home depot parts. I don't think we need to hear any more about how easy the regular method is. If you are happy with the traditionl methods and dont think there is a need for more innovation.....please refrain from posting and adding clutter to this thread.
 

ohiobrewtus

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ttownbrew said:
Did anybody pay attention to the Used Equipment link at Applied Bottling and see the 25bbl Production Brewery for sale...$130,000

http://www.applied-bottling.com/used_equipment/DR_Brewery.html

nice...
In the Dominican Republic? Probably better off buying it, closing it and shipping the equipment here.

That bottler is uber cool, but some MAJOR overkill.

I also think that homebrew tastes a bit better in bottles, but it's not enough of a difference for me to put up with bottling, storing bottles, cleaning bottles, rinsing bottles every time I empty one, etc., etc.

I'm so glad I started kegging.
 

bigben

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If you get a bottling wand, make sure you get the SPRING TIP one. I got the one without the spring in it and the damn things gets stuck open sometimes and spills beer all over the place.
 

gerrg

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Jumbo82 said:
I agree, bottling is pretty simple and easy if you have a good system. On a small homebrew scale I don't see any reason to have an elaborate automated bottling system, unless you are really into gadgets and like to tinker. If you're only bottling a 5 gallon batch every week, I highly doubt there will be any time savings since the maintenance alone will likely take longer than the actual bottling.

My bottling system works great. I open up my dishwasher which has all the freshly cleaned bottles sitting on the prongs, and pull up a chair. On the counter above the dishwasher I have my bottling bucket with the tubing and bottling wand attached. I pick up a bottle, fill it to the rim, pull out the wand, and set the bottle down on the end of the open dishwasher door. If SWMBO is around, she loves to use the capper. If not, I cap them when I have a bunch and then go back to filling. With SWMBO its less than 30 minutes, alone maybe 45. Best part is, any beer dripping/spilling during the process ends up on the dishwasher door. No cleanup. I recommend this system (including a helpful SWMBO if you can find one). Good luck.

I don't have a dishwasher, so I wash all of my bottles by hand, but once that part is done, the rest is easy. I line all my bottles up in rows of 5 so they form a 5X10 rectangle if you will, then i get a couple tool boxes and set my bottling bucket on top (so it higher than the bottles). once everythings set up I fill all my bottles, which is easy since they're all lined up and all I have to do is put the wand in, take out, and move to the next one. for caping I simply move the bottle, place cap, use the capper, and move the bottle further. Not too big a deal, thought an automatic system would be neat to mess around with. :rockin:


peace
-gw
 

ClutchDude

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If I did a lot of bottling, I'd setup a PVC system. Have a 1/2 or so pipe that is connected to the bottling bucket spigot. Then have 4-5 small vinyl or pvc tubes go into the beer bottles, open the valve, fill a few bottles at once, then move on. That'd work great if you especially had a box you could put the beers in. Then you could build the rig to that.

Alternatively, since you'll risk overflow until you get the timing right, is to set up a couple of those wands, attach them to a 2x4 over your bottle row. lightly press the board down into the bottles and lift it back up.
 

shafferpilot

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icebrk34 said:
Just a note....This thread is in the DIY section....we all love gagets and things that make our brewing easier...I would love to see some postes on ideas for making something like the applied brewing device from cheep home depot parts. I don't think we need to hear any more about how easy the regular method is. If you are happy with the traditionl methods and dont think there is a need for more innovation.....please refrain from posting and adding clutter to this thread.
seriously, the OP is looking for ideas on how to implement an automatic bottle filler. It's not an outrageous idea. Is anyone actually going to offer some ideas? Or are we all a bunch of EAC's incapable of thinking outside the box?
 

imasickboy

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Jumbo82 said:
If not, I cap them when I have a bunch and then go back to filling.
My experience:

If things are set up just right, your bottling wand will sit in your bottle, filling it, while you let go of both, freeing your hands to cap the last bottle filled. Since discovering this, bottling takes me only as long as it takes to fill all the bottles, since I am capping as I go, with no stopping.
 

Jumbo82

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shafferpilot said:
seriously, the OP is looking for ideas on how to implement an automatic bottle filler. It's not an outrageous idea. Is anyone actually going to offer some ideas? Or are we all a bunch of EAC's incapable of thinking outside the box?
No, its not an outrageous idea. And if you had read all the posts, you would have seen some suggestions. The reason there were several posts about bottling technique was due to this statement in the orginal post;
"It takes forever, it's messy and there's no way to consistently get the same amount of brew per bottle. After the spigot slid off for the 4th time and dumped beer all over myself and the floor, I realized I needed to do something."
It appeared the OP was going to undertake this project when a simpler solution might be present. Several of us were posting some ideas so he could make an informed decision about whether an automated bottle filler was really necessary for his needs. Nothing wrong with having all the facts beforehand.
 

Bobby_M

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icebrk34 said:
Just a note....This thread is in the DIY section....we all love gagets and things that make our brewing easier...I would love to see some postes on ideas for making something like the applied brewing device from cheep home depot parts. I don't think we need to hear any more about how easy the regular method is. If you are happy with the traditionl methods and dont think there is a need for more innovation.....please refrain from posting and adding clutter to this thread.

Is this really your first post on the forum? Seriously? You registered to tell us how to be better contributors. This isn't a answer-O-matic machine. We're humans that can rationalize that the OP might be trying to solve a problem that has already been solved. I'm going off topic here but this struck me as weird and it's not even the OP complaining.

We're anticipating that the OP is not utilizing all the tools that makes bottling not only cheap but somewhat tolerable. Unless you're bottling 10 gallon batches every week, there's no better way to do it on a homebrewer's scale.

One thing that has not been mentioned is to get a benchtop capper. Hold the bottle with one hand, slam the capper lever with the other. I also agree with the post about mounting the bottling wand rigidly to the bucket spout to keep it a one handed operation.
 

5 Is Not Enough

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I really like that idea of the multibottle filler.
As far as capping, what about a multi-bottle bench type capper?

As far as an automated assembly line, that really would be awesome. I think the hardest part would be trying to sync everything. :confused:
An actual conveyor belt and guides would be easy enough to build, but getting the bottle to be under the filler & capper at just the right time would be tough.
You may be able to use a microswitch connected to a relay to the (power capper / solenoid valve) - so as the side of the bottle grazes the switch, it would close the circuit.
I don't know how you would be able to get it to fill from the bottom of the bottle to avoid oxidation. It may be easier to set up a co2 purge.
I don't really know how you could either get the bottle to pause at the fill until full, or get the fill tube to follow the bottle. If you set it up to follow, you could just lengthen the 'flap'(whats that thing called?) of the microswitch so it would continue to push it until full. Man you'd really have to mess with that to get it right...
Maybe another conveyor system could control the fill to follow. It could be hooked to the extended microswitch and attached to a motor. You could use a relay to normally reverse the motor until it gets to the beginning - (like a garage door opener stop switch), then reverse polarity to run forward.
You would have to have complete control over the flow. I think you'd be forced to use a pump. A demand pump would be ideal. Or maybe you could turn the pump on and off instead of a valve?
As far as picking up a cap and them smashing it onto the bottle without breaking it, i don't know and to tell you the truth, my brain hurts. I need a homebrew! :drunk:
 

Jesse17

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I too thought it strange that Icebrk34 used his first post to tell everyone eles how to post, but hey, I'm not going to tell him what to post if he doesn't tell me what to post...(oh wait, he just did)... Anyway, I will say welcome to the forum Icebrk34!

Also, I agree about filling/capping being a breeze. I also have my wand attached directly to the bottling bucket's spigot, with a 4" piece of tubing. (I actually cut the tubing off my auto siphon to do this)

What I would like to speed up is the cleaning/sanitation of bottles. I don't have a problem with rinsing bottles when I empty them, but have learned that I need to get a bottle tree next to the sink, so they can drip dry and not grow mold.

That being said I've been thinking about building a rack out of 1/4" copper tubing that would hold 24 bottles. Placing this in a large rubber made tray with a couple inches of Star San in the bottom, and using a recirculating pump (pond pump) to push the star san though the copper tube/rack, hence spraying the inside of the bottles with star san.

This way, you could throw 24 clean bottles on the rack, and turn on the pump for 30 sec. to sanitize them, then swap out the next 24 bottles, rather than my current method of 'sinking' 12 bottles in a bucket of star san, waiting 30 sec, pouring each bottle out, then repeating 3 more times.
 

shafferpilot

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for the above post:

You'll get wildly different pressures at different hieghts. As in the bottles low on the rack will get full pressure and flow, blowing them off the rack. And the bottles at the top would be lucky to get a trickle. You'll have to restrict the lowest branches a lot, the next branches up some, so on and so on. Then the pump will ahve to be tuned to match the system. I used to make copper bird bath fountains, and tuning a system with one pump, but sprayers at different hieghts was always a HUGE pain.
 

shafferpilot

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As for the auto bottle filler:

A gravity system could be better than a conveyor belt. This way the bottles slide into the filler station and stop against a gate. The filler arm goes into the bottle and dispenses the beer. Then the gate opens and the bottle slides on to the next station and stops against its gate. etc etc etc. That way the machine only has to make one motion at a time. I'm kindof a hillbilly engineer so I'd spend years planning out the clockworks to regulate it, but sensors, switches, relays, and actuators run by a digital controller would probably be "easier".
 

Bobby_M

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I'm in the camp thinking that for the time and energy you'd spend building a system that would take 20% of the hassle away, you could bottle 10-20 batches the good old fashion way. No, I take that back. By the time you get around to making a cheap automated bottling system, you will have tapped your 10th keg.
 

Sir Humpsalot

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The number 1 thing you need to do to decrease your bottling time is ensure that each bottle you possess is already free of debris!!!

Nothing kills a bottling session like realizing that you need to scrape 20 labels and a third of your bottles have "gunk" in them.

Cleaning bottles is even less fun than bottling, but if you set aside a few hours to do it before bottling day, you'll have a much higher opinion of bottling.

Then, to take it even one step further... even better than cleaning bottles on one particular day... if you just thoroughly rinse the hell out of the bottles as you drink the beer in them, it will vastly improve your bottling days.
 

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5 Is Not Enough said:
I really like that idea of the multibottle filler.
As far as capping, what about a multi-bottle bench type capper?

As far as an automated assembly line, that really would be awesome. I think the hardest part would be trying to sync everything. :confused:
An actual conveyor belt and guides would be easy enough to build, but getting the bottle to be under the filler & capper at just the right time would be tough.
You may be able to use a microswitch connected to a relay to the (power capper / solenoid valve) - so as the side of the bottle grazes the switch, it would close the circuit.
I don't know how you would be able to get it to fill from the bottom of the bottle to avoid oxidation. It may be easier to set up a co2 purge.
I don't really know how you could either get the bottle to pause at the fill until full, or get the fill tube to follow the bottle. If you set it up to follow, you could just lengthen the 'flap'(whats that thing called?) of the microswitch so it would continue to push it until full. Man you'd really have to mess with that to get it right...
Maybe another conveyor system could control the fill to follow. It could be hooked to the extended microswitch and attached to a motor. You could use a relay to normally reverse the motor until it gets to the beginning - (like a garage door opener stop switch), then reverse polarity to run forward.
You would have to have complete control over the flow. I think you'd be forced to use a pump. A demand pump would be ideal. Or maybe you could turn the pump on and off instead of a valve?
As far as picking up a cap and them smashing it onto the bottle without breaking it, i don't know and to tell you the truth, my brain hurts. I need a homebrew! :drunk:
I was thinking how would you get beer from fermenter to bottles. Keg it, force carb it then at 6psi, 10psi, whatever psi, run it to the unit FROM a keg. Hook up some kind of switch that at whatever part of the program or when you simply push a button, it opens for X amount of time. If the beer is under a set pressure all you would have to do is screw with the time that switch is open. Play with it, dial it in and you will have the same amount every time. I'm thinking a SS racking cane with a spring loaded tip would work wonders. Just mount it to a piston/whatever... that would clear the top of the bottles when up but depress the spring loaded tip when in the down position. Maybe the convayer belt could be on the whole time with some low tech built in. Maybe the capper would be a manual loaded benchtop capper. Hear me out. Get one that's magnetized or has a magnet built in so all you have to do is simply place the bottle cap in the capper. Maybe hook up a switch that when you pull the bottle capper down the piston comes down and activates the filler. Maybe have another switch when you push the bottle capper up it activates 2 more pistons that retract some low tech metal stops that let one bottle by. The bottle that was just filled takes the capper's position and the bottle that just got capped goes down the line where a new bottle takes position to receive beer? This dosn't seem to be too high tech. The trick would be getting some switch that turns the beer on/off that you could calibrate that has all the controls on the unit it'self so you don't have to learn java or some other language just to make beer, hehehe. Does this idea sound too far fetched?

:edit: you wouldn't have to force carb it at all either. You could add priming sugar, then dump beer in keg, then hook it up to this device. Now i'm going to be thinking of this bottling line for the next couple weeks, hehehe, thanks alot!! HAHA!! Ohh, maybe only 2 pistons would be needed, the one piston to move up and down for the bottle filler, and one for the back and forth for the bottle gates. I like to do 10 gallon batches. With a setup like this I could go from one keg right to the next.... mmmmmmmmm.....
 

5 Is Not Enough

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Grimsawyer said:
Does this idea sound too far fetched?
Only to those that don't think one should build an overly complex machine for a simple task. Where's the fun in that?
I remember one member said one time in a post "1/2 of the fun of brewing is building stuff".
Build on! :rockin:
 

BuffaloSabresBrewer

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A Bottling Assembly Line
Step One: You gotta be smooth.
Step Two: Use smoothness obtained by Step One to secure a hot girlfriend/wife/etc.
Step Three: Use said female assistant to fill bottles. Instruct her how to lift the bottling wand out right before it spills out. She passes filled bottles down the assembly line.
Step Four: You cap the bottles.
Notes: The jobs are interchangeable here but it is assumed in most cases that you will be stronger than your assistant.
 

Jesse17

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shafferpilot said:
for the above post:

You'll get wildly different pressures at different hieghts. As in the bottles low on the rack will get full pressure and flow, blowing them off the rack. And the bottles at the top would be lucky to get a trickle. You'll have to restrict the lowest branches a lot, the next branches up some, so on and so on. Then the pump will ahve to be tuned to match the system. I used to make copper bird bath fountains, and tuning a system with one pump, but sprayers at different hieghts was always a HUGE pain.
I was actually thinking about a single tier system. I've got some Rubber Made trays (the kind butchers use to throw meat/burger in) that are about 18" x 24" I assume that you would still have pressure issues with the bottles closer/farther from the pump, but you might be able to minimize this by having the output of the pump connect to the manifold in several places.

Also, you could hinge a cover from one end, that would hold down the bottles, so none of them go flying. You would still have to 'tune' the pump a little (maybe with a ball valve or two) so it will have enough flow to spray the inside of the bottles, but let it drain with out backing up in the bottle. If it backs up, then when the bottles drain they go "gulp, gulp, gulp..." and leaves too much foam in the bottles.
 

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Jesse17 said:
What I would like to speed up is the cleaning/sanitation of bottles. I don't have a problem with rinsing bottles when I empty them, but have learned that I need to get a bottle tree next to the sink, so they can drip dry and not grow mold.
I hope I don't get yelled at for answering the problem with an existing product, but I have to say that this thing has saved me about 25 minutes in my bottling process...

Also, on the clean bottle tip, I rinse them out good, hang them on my tree, and then store them in a milk crate upside down so they don't get dusty. As long as you fill the milk crate while it's on it's side, it's pleasant and wonderful and everything is good in the world. (No Dusty Bottles :)
 

Bobby_M

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Good suggestion. A lot of brewers do like building stuff, myself included, but I do make a point to have the projects be cost effective and practical. All the talk about complex parts and Rube Goldberg-esque machines is silly to me (sorry).

If you go through the whole thread you'll see individual solutions to the problems we encounter with bottling. I'll summarize what I think a very clean bottling process is and if the OP is missing any one part of it, I think buying these off the shelf parts is the answer.

1. Oxyclean Free - Soak newly aquired bottles overnight, most labels float off, clean up with a green 3M pad and rinse.

2. Sanitize bottles using starsan or similar and I really like the suggestion for the Vinator pump. You only have to mix up like 1/2 gallon of sanitizer.

3. If you have a dishwasher, it doubles as a decent bottling rack. If not, a bottling tree is a nice answer.

4. Autosiphon for racking the beer.

5. Use a bottling bucket with a spigot and rigidly attach a bottling wand for one handed operation.

6. Pull a bottle off the tree, put it under the wand, dispense until full to the top, lower bottle and lay a sanitized cap on.

7. Repeat for 10 bottles, then start capping. Get a bench capper.

Honestly, this is about as good as it gets.

If I were to add up the hardware required, it would probably be around $60 with the highest cost being the bench capper. You couldn't build a machine that would do this better in an automated fashion but if you could, it would cost you thousands. Sorry for not thinking outside the box but I think it's realistic.
 

FlyGuy

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Bobby_M said:
If you go through the whole thread you'll see individual solutions to the problems we encounter with bottling. I'll summarize what I think a very clean bottling process is and if the OP is missing any one part of it, I think buying these off the shelf parts is the answer.

1. Oxyclean Free - Soak newly aquired bottles overnight, most labels float off, clean up with a green 3M pad and rinse.

2. Sanitize bottles using starsan or similar and I really like the suggestion for the Vinator pump. You only have to mix up like 1/2 gallon of sanitizer.

3. If you have a dishwasher, it doubles as a decent bottling rack. If not, a bottling tree is a nice answer.

4. Autosiphon for racking the beer.

5. Use a bottling bucket with a spigot and rigidly attach a bottling wand for one handed operation.

6. Pull a bottle off the tree, put it under the wand, dispense until full to the top, lower bottle and lay a sanitized cap on.

7. Repeat for 10 bottles, then start capping. Get a bench capper.

Honestly, this is about as good as it gets.

If I were to add up the hardware required, it would probably be around $60 with the highest cost being the bench capper. You couldn't build a machine that would do this better in an automated fashion but if you could, it would cost you thousands. Sorry for not thinking outside the box but I think it's realistic.
This is EXACTLY my system for bottling [with the vinator (step 2.) sitting on top of the bottling tree (step 3.)]. It works SO much better than trying to rack beer using a cane, hose and bottling wand.

Honestly, automation won't cut down much on this process above. The only places it could shave time would be the time it takes to pick up and put down your bottles, and time spent capping. Both of these are negligible compared to the other steps in the task (i.e. washing bottles, sanitizing all the gear, racking to the bottling bucket, lining up the bottles, packing all the filled bottles, washing all the gear, etc.).

I think the fancy gadgetry is fun to think about. And if the DIY spirit takes hold -- go to it. But the merits are in the fun of building something, not in making bottling easier IMHO.
 
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