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MalFet's bottle washer for lazy homebrewers

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MalFet

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I like bottling. I tend to keep several dozen different kinds of beer on hand, and a kegerator of any size would need to pay rent if it wanted to live in my very small New York City apartment.

The only part of bottling that I find at all time consuming or tedious is washing the bottles. No longer!

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It's a very simple concept, but it can wash, rinse, and sanitize 30 bottles with virtually no effort. I built a frame out of 1/2" cpvc fit to a standard rectangular milk crate, used 1/4" copper refrigerator coil for the vertical bottle spouts, and push water through it with a 1/4 HP submersible pump. The pump sits in my sink filled with whatever I want to wash with (pbw->rinse water->star san), and the milk crate rests right on top of it.

I made three of them since I always bottle two ~4.5 gallon batches at a time, and washing those 90 bottles is now trivial. I fill the sink with PBW, let it run on each crate for 5-10 minutes, drain the sink, fill the sink with star-san, and then run it again for a minute or two. My active time for 90 bottles is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 minutes. It's so painfully easy that I kind of hate myself for only doing this now after all these years.

I get plenty of power from this pump, and without the bottles to block it the stream of water coming out extends 3-4 feet above the spouts. I ran through a batch of very grimy, dried out bottles and they came out completely clean after 15min of PBW. If I built it again, I might actually use copper for the frame and sweat it all together. The JB Weld holds reasonably well, but in knocking the washer around a bit a few have come loose. They still work perfectly fine even when loose, but welded metal would obviously be more durable over the long run.

One major caveat: I have only tested this on 12oz longneck bottles (Sam Adams type). I don't have any of the shorter, fatter bottles (Sierra Nevada type) to try with. I suspect they might not fit, but I'll post back if/when I'm able to test them.

It's a pretty self-explanatory build. Parts and steps are as follows:

Parts
pump and connector
[email protected]$47.99 - 1/4 hp submersible pump (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000X05G1A/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20. I strongly recommend this pump or its 1/3 hp cousin. If you get something else, I can't promise that it will work. At the very least, make sure you get a pump capable of at least 25 feet of head pressure.)
[email protected]$3.19 - barbed to female garden hose adapter (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006PKMU7U/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20)
[email protected]$2/ft - 1/2" silicone hose
[email protected]$0.20 - 1/2" worm clamps
[email protected]$1 - 1/2" threaded to male garden hose adapter
[email protected]$1 - 1/2" cpvc straight female to threaded male adapter
[email protected]$0.20 - 3" of 1/2" cpvc pipe
__________
TOTAL: about $59

washer
[email protected]$6.50 - rectangular milk crate (http://www.milkcratesdirect.com)
[email protected]$22.49 - 1/4" refrigerator copper tubing (for example: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002FYAI42/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20. There appears to be significant variation in wall thickness among different types of copper tubing, and to get a good spray height you need a relatively small inner-diameter. If you get the relatively larger stuff, you should be able to pinch the ends of the tubes to get better results.)
[email protected]$0.40 - 1/2" cpvc elbow (straight)
[email protected]$0.40 - 1/2" cpvc tee (stright)
[email protected]$0.80 - 1/2" cpvc cross (stright)
[email protected]$3 - 10' length of 1/2" cpvc pipe
__________
TOTAL: about $36

tools
* hand drill with 1/4" bit
* JB Weld
* something to cut cpvc pipe and refrigerator coil (a simple cheap-o $20 rotary pipe cutter does the job handily)
* something to drill a 3/4" hole in the side of the milk crate (I used a cheap step-bit)

Instructions
1) Cut five 14" lengths from the CPVC pipe. These are your traversals.
2) Cut eight 1" lengths from the CPVC pipe. These will attach your elbows, tees, and cross together. They should be just long enough to join your joints without space between them.
3) Assemble the two ends of the frame like in the picture below. One edge is composed (elbow-tee-tee-tee-elbow), and the other (elbow-tee-cross-tee-elbow).
4) Join the two ends together with your five 14" traversals. Make sure this assembled frame fits into the milk crate.
5) On each traversal, drill six evenly spaced 1/4" holes, pointing straight up. The first and the last should be right up against the joint caps. Test the first hole with a small piece of copper coil to make sure it fits. It should be a snug fit, but if not you can pinch the end a bit with a pair of pliers.
6) Cut thirty 7" lengths of refrigerator coil.
7) Slip the lengths of copper into the drilled holes, and use the JB Weld to seal the joint between the CPVC and the copper. Let bond set overnight.
9) Drill a 3/4" hole into the lower side of the milk crate right where the cross open end of the cross joint is. This cross joint should be the only open part of the frame.
10) Assemble the connector (3" cpvc pipe -> 1/2" cpvc straight female to threaded male adapter -> 1/2" threaded to male garden hose adapter)
11) The connector should be able to pass through the hole in the side of the milk crate to attach to the frame inside, and the silicone hose with the garden hose adapters should connect this up to the pump.
12) Plug it all together and let 'er rip!
(Apologies if these instructions are confusing. If there's anything I can clarify, let me know. If I build another one at some point, I'll take pictures of the actually assembly process.)

mfbw0.jpg


mfbw1.jpg


mfbw2.jpg


mfbw3.jpg
 
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Concho

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That, my friend, is awesome. I've seen the ones done for fermenters, carboys and kegs, but never thought to use the same concept for bottles. Subbed do I can steal that, great idea.
 

shelly_belly

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Great job. I've been wanting to build one of these for a while now and this has motivated me. Also, I was not aware of the rectangular milk crates and have only collected the square ones. Thanks for the link.

PROST and thumbs up!
 

Larso

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Malfet, thats ingenious!!! I love it. Is there any potential problem with JBweld and sanitizers etc breaking down or is it foodsafe? Not sure if it matters??
 
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MalFet

MalFet

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Malfet, thats ingenious!!! I love it. Is there any potential problem with JBweld and sanitizers etc breaking down or is it foodsafe? Not sure if it matters??
That's a good question.

The PVC is exactly the stuff that gets used for drinking water pipes, so that on its own is fine. I looked into the JB Weld a fair bit, and the consensus seems to be that it's very inert and thus safe. My understanding is that neither StarSan nor PBW degrade plastics. In any case, I'd certainly encourage anyone who is concerned to do their own research, too. Ultimately, very little wash water should end up in the final product, and there's relatively little contact time between the water and the plastic for things to leech out. That makes me personally feel very comfortable with this thing.

All that said, a copper framed washer would of make the entire issue moot. Plus, copper looks pretty. :mug:
 

adslman

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Brilliant!!!!! Only idea I have is add a quick connect to the pressure pipe to make changing to another attachment possible. (IE Carboy washer)
 

adslman

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You say you don't have enough room for a kegerator... Check out the frigidaire kegerator conversion here on HBT. I did one and I can fit 2 5gal kegs and a 2 1/2 gal keg in it and it only is a 4.3 cu ft fridge.
 
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MalFet

MalFet

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adslman said:
Brilliant!!!!! Only idea I have is add a quick connect to the pressure pipe to make changing to another attachment possible. (IE Carboy washer)
Good point, I forgot to mention that. The connector isn't actually fused to the cross joint in any way, so it just pulls in and out. I only built one connector tail for three washers, so to switch from one to the next I just pull the whole three inch assembly out of one milk crate and stick it into another. Takes about ten seconds to disconnect one set of 30 bottles and hook up different set. That actually makes it easier to store since there's nothing sticking out the side.
 

iijakii

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That's amazing. I never had a problem with bottle washing, I always just dropped a couple oxiclean crystals in, filled up, soaked and rinsed then stored them away until sanitizing time. But this is even easier.
 

BrewerinBR

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I also bottle everything and find hand washing bottles with a brush the most time consuming and back breaking task. I get most of my bottles from other beer drinkers and most are craft beers and not rinsed and left to dry sometimes for months. So I am wondering if the 1/4 horse pump would work on those bottles as well? Would 1/2 horse be better or to much?
 

LoloMT7

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I like it too. Great Idea and good work! You can wash all my dirty bottles anytime you like lol :D

I'm thinking that all the bottles you must have have to pile up to the same height as a kegerator would be just sayin

Good work. :mug:
 
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Very cool. Where to I place my order?
This ^^^^

The lazy homebrewer will just want to buy, not build one of these. :D

Nice design, Malfet. :mug:

I like the concept of cleaning 30 bottles in about the same time you can with other single bottle cleaners out there (vinaters, faucet attachments, etc.).
 
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MalFet

MalFet

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I also bottle everything and find hand washing bottles with a brush the most time consuming and back breaking task. I get most of my bottles from other beer drinkers and most are craft beers and not rinsed and left to dry sometimes for months. So I am wondering if the 1/4 horse pump would work on those bottles as well? Would 1/2 horse be better or to much?
That's a good question. The design doesn't clean the bottles so much with high water pressure as with high volume. I experimented with a few different things, including high-pressure "blaster" type outputs that would scrape the gunk off, but they didn't work as well in the end.

As it stands, I'm not sure how much benefit would be had by using a larger pump. But, perhaps a 1/2 hp setup would allow you to use 3/8" refrigerator coil, which would move a lot more water.

I like it too. Great Idea and good work! You can wash all my dirty bottles anytime you like lol :D

I'm thinking that all the bottles you must have have to pile up to the same height as a kegerator would be just sayin
Not a kegerator that can hold kegs for all 23 different beers I currently have "cellared" under my bed. I also give probably half of what I brew away. If I wanted a kegerator, I wouldn't hesitate to buy one. Thing is, I don't. ;)

The lazy homebrewer will just want to buy, not build one of these. :D
I'm surprised there's not something on the market already, to be honest! Even a mediocre metal fabricator could slap together something a lot more sturdy than this janky thing.
 

BrewerinBR

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MalFet may I "borrow" your idea and build one with 1/2 inch copper main lines and 3/8 inch tubes for the bottles. Going to be fun project and washing bottles is real PITA. I have nearly 500 filled bottles and more the 250 empty and I acquire more every day. Never have enough bottles. Some I get are from barns and storage garages, the old long necks, thicker heavier bottles. Just last summer I picked up 5 cases of the old "Huber" long neck bottles for $5.00 for the lot. They cleaned up nice after a long soak and a scrubbing with brushes and a scratchy.

Thanks for posting this wonderful idea....
 

Bigcorona

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Great idea, thanks for sharing. I see another homebrew build in the near future.

Thanks!
 

Fly_Rodder

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I'm surprised there's not something on the market already, to be honest! Even a mediocre metal fabricator could slap together something a lot more sturdy than this janky thing.
If it were something I'd buy, I'd want one that can handle anything from a 12 oz bottles to 750ml wine bottles or a mix. That would be a design challenge, I think. Have to think on it.
 

Zuljin

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I like it. Better build of a bottle tree and in a box.

The manifold could be drilled out to accept soft rubber grommets for the stems to fit into. The stems would be snug enough not to leak, they wouldn't snap off and could be removed to lay in the box so it could be used for storage.
 
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I'm actually building one right now that's made entirely of copper. One stroke of genious I had during my build was I added a male threaded copper adapter on one part so I could put a ball lock corny post on it. That way I can hook up my beer gun and run cleaner/sanitizer through it as well.
 

WileECoyote

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MalFet you sir are a genius, I made a 1 keg at a time washer out of 3/4" PVC that is similar to your bottle washer.

Cheers :mug:
 
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MalFet

MalFet

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what about getting the gunk on the rest of the bottle.seems like your system shoots water at the bottom only...maybe drill 1/16" or 3/32" hole towards the bottom so you can put pressured water in the neck area
The mechanism for cleaning isn't really using pressure to dislodge chunks of gunk. Instead, the washer passes large volumes of water over all surfaces of the bottle to dissolve solids and carry them away. A couple of holes near the neck might blast that single spot, but I'm not sure that would actually be worth the loss of water flow across the rest of the surface. Anyway, if neck gunk is a big problem for your bottles, it could be worth exploring. :mug:
 

twalte

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I really like this idea. I may try it using funny pipe that is used for drip irrigation and using zip ties to attach to the bottom of the crate. Inserting small vertical tubes would be easy using a hole punch.
 

beaksnbeer

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I know pvc has some temperature/chemical leaching. Hot water should use cpvc to prevent it, not sure about the chemical leaching form the cleaners. I think a copper pipe set up would be safer, neat idea.
 
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MalFet

MalFet

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I know pvc has some temperature/chemical leaching. Hot water should use cpvc to prevent it, not sure about the chemical leaching form the cleaners. I think a copper pipe set up would be safer, neat idea.
Good point! The ones I built actually are CPVC, but I didn't indicate that in the description. Changing it now...
 

Jbear

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Awesome creation MalFet. Thanks for sharing! I mainly keg due to the hassle of cleaning bottles, but really do want to bottle more and this could certainly make it easier.

I've actually recently been looking at keg/carboy washer designs but now I think I'm inspired to build something that integrates a bottle washer such as well as a keg washer in 1 unit.
 

msexton

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This is awesome! Need to build one now. Flip it upside down after sanitization and now you have a 30 bottle filler! (only 3/4 joking)
 
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MalFet

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I've had a few people PM me to ask about the connector assembly. I think I made it sound more complicated than it really is, since all it really does is join a bit of straight CPVC to a garden hose attachment. This whole piece then goes into and out of the hole in the side of the milk crate, making it very easy to switch between a multiple washers.

Anyway, a couple of pictures should explain better than I can:

image-2594734058.jpg


image-3679485155.jpg
 
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MalFet

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Awesome creation MalFet. Thanks for sharing! I mainly keg due to the hassle of cleaning bottles, but really do want to bottle more and this could certainly make it easier.

I've actually recently been looking at keg/carboy washer designs but now I think I'm inspired to build something that integrates a bottle washer such as well as a keg washer in 1 unit.
I ordered a CIP spray ball from brewershardware a few days ago with the intention of making a keg/carboy washer that hooks up to the same pump. I'll post pictures if I get it working.

This is awesome! Need to build one now. Flip it upside down after sanitization and now you have a 30 bottle filler! (only 3/4 joking)
Tried it; doesn't work. ;)

The first bottles fill up too fast and the last bottles fill up not at all.
 

wyowolf

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Ok, I built this, used a Harbor Freight Submersible pump and get barely any flow??? the pump is good for 600GPH which should be more then enough...

not sure what is wrong, i see no way to regulate the pump itself.

anyone use of these??
 
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MalFet

MalFet

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Ok, I built this, used a Harbor Freight Submersible pump and get barely any flow??? the pump is good for 600GPH which should be more then enough...

not sure what is wrong, i see no way to regulate the pump itself.

anyone use of these??
Hmm...two things:

First, 600GPH is not nearly enough. The pump I've got listed here in the build specs pushes three times that. GPH ratings assume no head pressure at all, and this build relies on generating quite a bit of head pressure to work.

Second, is your pump this one: (http://www.harborfreight.com/620-gph-submersible-fountain-pump-68393.html)? If so, most fountain pumps use magnetic impellers, which don't deal well with resistance on the line. You really want to stick with the kind of mechanical impeller found in most utility pumps.

Hope this helps! As the video shows, this thing does indeed work. :mug:
 

wyowolf

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Yes that is the pump. Your right, not enough flow or pressure ;-(

Will return it and get the correct one ;-).

Sorry not Implying the design is bad.
Just an FYI to all who may be looking... Use the correct pump!!
 
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