How to strip aluminum bottles for re-use...a guide

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Grond

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So, after doing a lot of digging through the forums I wasn't able to find any information on how to turn these:

bottle1.jpg


into these:
bottle2.jpg


Maybe I'm just particular, but I don't really want my home brew to be free advertisement for some vanilla brand of beer...but I LOVE the aluminum bottles! I've looked high and low for a source for the bottles that isn't outrageously expensive or has a minimum order of 30,000 pieces to no avail. So, after much consideration, I put an ad on Facebook to see if anyone had any of these types of bottles that they would be willing to sell. I was able to buy 100 of the 2 different style of bottles for $.20/each (here in Michigan, there is a $.10 deposit on these bottles). So...I got them cheap and in a manageable quantity, and the seller doubled their deposit return. It was a win/win...until I tried to remove the labels. :mad: I quickly discovered that the manufacturers did a GREAT job of sublimating their bottles...to the point that not even aircraft stripper would work very well on removing the labels. So...back to the drawing board. This time to try and figure out how to remove the sublimation and keep the shiny aluminum intact (I could sand off the sublimation, but I wanted to keep the shiny finish...like I said, I'm picky).

So after extensive Google-machining the issue and talking to a bunch of my friends that do auto painting, I hit upon an idea...using an autoclave!! That will CERTAINLY soften up the sublimation and I should be able to just wipe off the finish! Riiiiight. Well, first challenge was having access to an autoclave. For those of you that don't know what an autoclave is...this is what they look like:

autoclave.jpg

They are mainly used as a means to sterilize various medical equipment...but also to help remove powder-coating and other "permanent" coatings by applying heat and steam at an elevated atmospheric pressure.
They also run about $3000! So...back to the drawing board, or so I thought. After spending more time Google-machining autoclaves, I ran across this image of a "portable autoclave":
autoclave2.jpg

INSTANTLY I thought of something that looked VERY similar to the portable autoclave that I just happened to own...
cook.jpg

A PRESSURE COOKER! (I actually have 2 of them...one is an electric Instapot).

So...I removed the caps from all of the bottles and, 13 at a time (9 in the pressure cooker and 4 in the Instapot) I went about adding steam and heat under 15psi for about 20 minutes. I let the pressure dissipate then removed the bottles from the pressure cookers and let them cool.

After a little experimenting, I discovered that the sublimation still wouldn't come off just by wiping them...it is a baked-on ink, after all. So, trial and error led me to the discovery of using a "Magic Eraser" with a few shots of brake cleaner applied to it...and VIOLA!! Shiny, clean, reusable aluminum bottles!

One thing that I would like to point out is that these bottles CAN be resealed, and they keep their seal pretty well for about 3-5 uses...then they start to bleed oxygen. I am convinced that this is a function of the seal inside the cap getting deformed or just plain worn out. I am currently looking for a source for just the caps. I have reused these types of bottles upwards of 8 times and have not had any of the inner coating come off...at least to my knowledge. I'm not saying that it CAN'T happen...I'm just saying that I haven't SEEN it happen.

Sorry for the length of the write up! If anyone has any questions, please let me know!
 

Upstate12866

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Thanks very much, this is legitimately interesting. I saw the guys at basic brewing (youtube) reused some aluminum bottles for camping trips. It's sealed from light as well. I would have never thought to try to remove the labels, it's kind of impressive you were able to do it at all. :)

I have really liked using a few plastic 20oz bottles to help me know how carbonation is coming along. Or if I ever wanted to push carbonation to the max I would feel comfortable with options like that. More options, all the better in my book.
 
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Grond

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Thanks very much, this is legitimately interesting. I saw the guys at basic brewing (youtube) reused some aluminum bottles for camping trips. It's sealed from light as well. I would have never thought to try to remove the labels, it's kind of impressive you were able to do it at all. :)

I have really liked using a few plastic 20oz bottles to help me know how carbonation is coming along. Or if I ever wanted to push carbonation to the max I would feel comfortable with options like that. More options, all the better in my book.
Thanks! It’s kind of a pain in the rear, but I LOVE the look of the aluminum bottles AND they get REALLY cold REALLY fast. I’m kind playing around with the used caps right now to see just how well I can get them to stay sealed. I tried to use the pressure cooker method to take the labels off of them...but the extreme heat/pressure ruined the seals. I’m going to just sand the labels off of them and then put them in water just shy of boiling to soften up the “gaskets” and see how well they seal up and how long they last.
 

Upstate12866

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I wonder if there's a market for fresh caps of that type. If you've ever tried to smuggle booze, you may be aware of plastic bottle caps with unbroken seals, wine caps with shrink wrap, etc. They have new seals and are cheap. Like 50 for 5 bucks cheap, if my memory serves. They would give you back that fresh feeling, if they exist.
 

DuncB

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I'd look on aliexpress for some NBR washers or NBR disks to fit into the lid. The magic eraser is that white sponge ? and brake cleaner with Carbon Tetrachloride in? Do only use that in a well ventilated space also very useful for dry cleaning grease spots out of clothes.
 

day_trippr

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fwiw, don't wanna be morbid but that kinda triggered me, because a couple of friends of mine died from huffing carbon tet'.
They were all of 15 and as stupid as random 15 year olds, but they didn't deserve to have their one life end so early out of just being stupid.
So just be careful out there...
 

bracconiere

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i read the first post and...i use plastic soda bottles? how the hell is this easier then glass bottles?

is it a concern for light?

here's a aluminum bottle, pricey but would problably last a life time, and the caps are only 10 cents.....


 

Garfield43

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This reminds me I keep watching my local farm supply store to see if they ever put their store brand brake parts cleaner on sale again.
Is is carbon tet and co2.
That stuff makes a great gun cleaner and when you find it on sale the store brand stuff is WAY cheaper than any cleaner with the word "gun" in it.
I suspect it will be banned before too long and would like to stock up before then.
Yes I let it evaporate completely and go over it with another cleaner before using it.
Yes I am aware the stuff turns in to phosgene when heated and phosgene is somthing you don't want to mess with.
As you can see here, it is bad stuff
Clip about a worker exposed to phosgene
I don't understand why the worker wasn't wearing at least a respirator. He should have had a full pressurized "nuke suit". Particularly since they were having feed problems with that cylinder and the lines had been left pressurized on both tanks, contrary to the written procedure. I have heard from people who claimed to have worked at this plant that the affected worker realized he was dead as soon as it hit him, even though he had no immediate symptoms.

Anyhow, you can use it on brakes and brakes get hot so I don't see why you can't use it on guns.

Back to the bottles, you pressure cook them, then scrub with brake cleaner on a "magic eraser"?
Good to know.
I wonder if you could reprint the bottles?
I don't know what is involved in the process but I keep seeing custom tumblers on Facebook market place and at local flea markets.
They look nice.
I like the ones that look like old oil filters and or spray cans.
You can get them that look like Brakleen cans even, tying it all back to where we started.
 

Dr_Jeff

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Golddiggie

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Why not avoid all this pressure cooker and solvent business and just buy some printed adhesive labels? Cover up the BMC printing and make it your own custom Al bottle. Win-win.
Or just get label material and print them yourself. ;)
I purchased some full sheet label blanks to use. Will be running them through my laser printer so that they won't run (like inkjet will). Next set I get will probably be more water proof than these are (think they're at least slightly resistant). Depending on how the current set goes, plus IF I actually see a need for that aspect.
 

Golddiggie

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i was thinking the caps are only 10 cents, and the bottles should last a life time......
Curious (slightly at least) what the total cost would be to use those for the equal of five 5 gallon batches (same as a case of cans). As in having all of them full at the same time (all five batches worth).
Probably less than getting setup for canning (machine cost included). I'm just liking how canning works these days.
 
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Grond

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Why not avoid all this pressure cooker and solvent business and just buy some printed adhesive labels? Cover up the BMC printing and make it your own custom Al bottle. Win-win.
Well, I thought about that...and honestly it came down to time. I currently work from home, so getting up for a few minutes every half hour or so to change out the bottles in the pressure cooker was no big deal. I was able to do every bottle that I own during one work day.
As far as the cleaning goes, I can do about 2 per minute...so I just sit out in my deck at night, drink a few beers and clean up the aluminum bottles.
I thought about doing labels...but I like the shiny bottles and I can write on them with sharpie and then clean it right off. It makes labeling them pretty easy. Plus, peeling labels sucks. 🤓
 

Upstate12866

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I am very lazy, even cleaning sharpie off of flip top bottles is too much effort for me after a few batches. When i do label, I use a peice of masking tape on the cap these days. :)
 
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Grond

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No beer bottle is worth screwing around with Carbon Tet'.
Yikes...
Yeah...no...
No Carbon tet in the cleaner I use. Mainly methanol...and of course I would be doing it outside. Can’t get more “ventilation” than that.
 

Golddiggie

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5 gal = 40 of those bottles. 160 bucks plus shipping.
Ran the numbers for FIVE 5 gallon batches...$800 for the bottles, plus caps. Same volume in cans (single use items) is $120 for 16oz cans. Leaves plenty extra for the sealing machine. Since I highly doubt you'll get the aluminum cans back reliably enough to not need to buy more. After all, how many friends, or others you've given brew to, don't return them even when asked?? Bonus of not needing to worry about getting the caps on completely (removing human factor).

Hell, even getting the semi-auto sealing machine, you're a little under the cost of those bottles (to fill the same amount). Not counting splash guard or power supply.

If you like using bottles, and want to go with aluminum ones, go ahead. I just don't see the attraction. Especially since you cannot stack those one on top of the other (like you can with cans ;)).
 

bracconiere

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Ran the numbers for FIVE 5 gallon batches...$800 for the bottles, plus caps. Same volume in cans (single use items) is $120 for 16oz cans. Leaves plenty extra for the sealing machine. Since I highly doubt you'll get the aluminum cans back reliably enough to not need to buy more. After all, how many friends, or others you've given brew to, don't return them even when asked?? Bonus of not needing to worry about getting the caps on completely (removing human factor).

Hell, even getting the semi-auto sealing machine, you're a little under the cost of those bottles (to fill the same amount). Not counting splash guard or power supply.

If you like using bottles, and want to go with aluminum ones, go ahead. I just don't see the attraction. Especially since you cannot stack those one on top of the other (like you can with cans ;)).


but, but...5 new 5 gallon kegs would be $500+, and the co2 tank would be a little over $200....not to mention, the odds and ends...not that's relevant to this thread....
 

Golddiggie

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but, but...5 new 5 gallon kegs would be $500+, and the co2 tank would be a little over $200....not to mention, the odds and ends...not that's relevant to this thread....
Never bought any new 5 gallon kegs. Did get two 6 gallon kegs. ;)

But those are STAINLESS, not aluminum...

I'm sure that IF someone could figure out a way to refill used aluminum cans, some skinflint WOULD do it. No matter what kind of idea it was. ;)
 
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Grond

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i read the first post and...i use plastic soda bottles? how the hell is this easier then glass bottles?

is it a concern for light?

here's a aluminum bottle, pricey but would problably last a life time, and the caps are only 10 cents.....


I never said it was any easier...not even once.

You can't take glass bottles everywhere.
Glass bottles break.
Glass bottles bang around my boat.
Glass bottles aren't as shiny. :p
Glass bottles don't get cold NEARLY as fast.

Finally...you can't screw the top back on a glass bottle and put it back in the cooler so you can land a fish.
 

bracconiere

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bracconiere

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Finally...you can't screw the top back on a glass bottle and put it back in the cooler so you can land a fish.

that's why i eventually started using 1 liter soda bottles....just fill 3-4 of them up for a night out somewhere.


sorry if my wording was off puting....
 

Golddiggie

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I never said it was any easier...not even once.

You can't take glass bottles everywhere.
Glass bottles break.
Glass bottles bang around my boat.
Glass bottles aren't as shiny. :p
Glass bottles don't get cold NEARLY as fast.

Finally...you can't screw the top back on a glass bottle and put it back in the cooler so you can land a fish.
Obviously you're not drinking fast enough. Easy fix right there. ;)
 

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