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MrWhy

Bottle Sanitation - Best Practices

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HELLO FELLOW BEER BREWERS!

 

I am somewhat back!

 

As I get ready for my summer brewing, I'm looking to improve on two key areas - fermentation temp control and sanitation, namely bottling day sanitation.

 

Here is my process for bottling sanitation -

 

It starts with cleaning bottles post drinking. Hot, hot, hot water (for glass, hot water for plastic), odor free soap. I first rinse with the hot water several times, I add soap. Let it soak for a while. Then a lot more hot water, shaking, and rinsing. Once the bottles are clean (what I believe to be clean) I let them air dry and then store them until bottling day.

 

On Bottling Day I bring out the bottles I am going to be using and give them a solid rinse with hot water. (As hot as can be for glass, just hot for plastic.)

 

I take apart the bottling wand (which was also cleaned from the previous bottling day.) I rinse parts in hot water and them soak in whiskey. I also pour whiskey through the wand tubing.

 

I use the MrB sanitizer. I dissolve half a packet in 1 gallon water jug. Warm water. I shake it. I pour some of it into a steel pot (which I rinsed and wiped down with whiskey.) The bottling caps, go into it as well as anything else I use. Scissors, sugar scoops, etc.

 

Up until now I think I am good. Here is where I am not positive I am following the best procedure.

 

I fill one of the bottles about half way with sanitizer. I take a cap and holding the cap on top of the bottle I shake the snot out of it. I then pour it into the next bottle. The cap stays with the old bottle, a new cap, shaking again. 

 

As I lose liquid from the pouring, I top off to keep it half filled. I do that for all the bottles.

 

At this point I take out my bottling wand from the whiskey, assemble it, and then give it a nice rinse in sanitizer, pouring some of the remaining sanitizer through the tube to fill it then expelling it into the sanitizing pot.

 

During this whole time I am either rinsing my hands in warm water and drying them or putting a bit of sanitizer on them.

 

I pull out the LBK and get it is set to my bottling place. I thoroughly wipe down the spigot with whiskey. I put on the bottling tube.

 

I then go to the first batch of bottles (usually six if it is 12 oz, 3 if bombers), pour out the sanitizer that has accumulated at the bottom. I add priming agent and then bottle and cap that batch.

 

Every time I am done with the batch I go to the next, pour, add priming sugar, and then wipe down the wand again with some whiskey.

 

Is there any glaring flaw here? Am I missing anything?

 

One thing that has happened I mentioned in another thread is I am experiencing quality difference from bottle to bottle and am wondering if it is a sanitation issue, so I want to nail down my process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As mentioned prior, the "whiskey" steps are not only not needed, you are simply wasting whiskey and accomplishing nothing.  Your process if fine except for that.  

 

I found with the sanitizer it took about ten minutes, with repeated shaking/stirring, to get it to dissolve.  

 

Bottles should have sanitizer in them for 10 minutes.  Bottling wand PARTS can be sanitized before assembly, then sanitize entire assembly.

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1 hour ago, RickBeer said:

As mentioned prior, the "whiskey" steps are not only not needed, you are simply wasting whiskey and accomplishing nothing.  Your process if fine except for that.  

 

I found with the sanitizer it took about ten minutes, with repeated shaking/stirring, to get it to dissolve.  

 

Bottles should have sanitizer in them for 10 minutes.  Bottling wand PARTS can be sanitized before assembly, then sanitize entire assembly.

 

When you say bottles should have sanitizer in them for ten minutes -

 

Does this mean filled with sanitizer? Or does the shaking then pouring into the next bottle work as long as it is at least ten minutes before the bottle is used?

 

I am going to eliminate the whiskey step.

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What I do on bottling day is to fill an empty LBK with warm (read that as hot, but not too hot) water and a full packet of sanitizer. I put my wand on the spigot, put some sanitizer in a bowl with my caps  and begin to fill my case of glass 12oz. bottles. By the time I have all the bottles full I set a 10 minute timer and place the lid on the "now sanitized" LBK. I bring out the LBK (with the beer for bottling) and sanitize the spigot using a full shotglass of vodka (grey goose, ketel one) keeping the spigot end immersed in the vodka for 1 minute. Place the "sanitized" bottling wand on the LBK and by this point my timer will usually be going off. Empty 6 bottles, put in priming sugar, fill and cap. Do the same for the rest of the bottles, six at a time. Put those bottles away for conditioning and start a new batch using the previously "sanitized" LBK. When all is said and done, I have bottled and brewed 2 batches in about 3 hours. Lastly, celebrate with the shot of vodka poured earlier. That's why I specified good vodka!

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I don't think that you're going to find a uniform method for sanitizing bottles.  Everyone has a system that works best for them.  For me its...

1. Give a quick rinse with warm water.

2. Put already diluted Mr. Beer sanitizer in all bottles.

3. Give all bottles a good shaking...  I like to imagine that I'm gripping my mother-in-law's neck! 

4. Let 'em sit for 10mins.

5. Dump 2 bottles at a time into the container that I mixed the sanitizer in.  I usually dump one bottle over the spout of the other.

--Whammo... Done!-- 

 

No problems with infection as of yet, so I'll continue to do this. 

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3 hours ago, RickBeer said:

As mentioned prior, the "whiskey" steps are not only not needed, you are simply wasting whiskey and accomplishing nothing.  Your process if fine except for that.  

 

I found with the sanitizer it took about ten minutes, with repeated shaking/stirring, to get it to dissolve. 

Agreed

 

That sucks, star san I shake for 5 seconds

 

2 hours ago, MrWhy said:

 

When you say bottles should have sanitizer in them for ten minutes -

 

Does this mean filled with sanitizer?

The surface of what your sanitizing must remain "wet" for x minutes depending on your sanitizer.  So fill them up all the way.

 

MRB One step is 20 minutes I think, Star San is 1 Minute, just depends

 

1 hour ago, scouterbill said:

 Lastly, celebrate with the shot of vodka poured earlier. That's why I specified good vodka!

And now the liquor makes sense!!! Use liquor!!! Smart

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3 hours ago, MrWhy said:

I take apart the bottling wand (which was also cleaned from the previous bottling day.) I rinse parts in hot water and them soak in whiskey. I also pour whiskey through the wand tubing.

 

Just use sanitizer for this. If you do use alcohol for anything use cheap vodka. You can get liter of 100 proof for around 10 bucks. I like to keep a little squirt bottle full of vodka and that's what I use to flush and sanitize the spigots. I force it up through the bottom until it runs out the vent hole. I've been doing that every time I pull a sample or run beer through for anything during fermentation, etc.

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3 hours ago, MrWhy said:

 

When you say bottles should have sanitizer in them for ten minutes -

 

Does this mean filled with sanitizer? Or does the shaking then pouring into the next bottle work as long as it is at least ten minutes before the bottle is used?

 

I am going to eliminate the whiskey step.

 

From the Mr. Beer instructions:

 

1. When your beer is ready to bottle, fill a 1-gallon container with warm water, then add the remaining ½ pack of the No-Rinse Cleanser and stir until dissolved. Once dissolved, it is ready to use.
2. Distribute the sanitizing solution equally among the bottles. Screw on caps and shake bottles vigorously. Allow to sit 10 minutes, then shake the bottles again. Remove caps and empty all sanitizing solution into a large bowl. Use this solution to sanitize any other equipment you may be using for bottling. Do not rinse.

 

When I used One-Step I filled them half way, shook, let sit ten mins, shook, and emptied.  I use StarSan now and it is much quicker.

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4 hours ago, AnthonyC said:

Mr Why!  I was just asking about you.  Good to hear from ya! :)

 

Work travels...some personal travel, family travel, etc. The weekends and weeks have been filled! But it is starting to slow down and I am getting back and ready to brew again.

 

Next week two of my earlier batches, the Kenneth Blonde and the Dortmunder Remixed are ready to put in the fridge and sample. I can't wait!

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I do it exactly as it says in the Mr. Beer instructions, exactly as Rick posted. I use a 1 gallon pitcher as my container, makes it easy to pour into the bottles using a funnel. It takes almost no time.

 

Besides soaking the caps, I use them on the bottles when shaking and leave them there until I shake again at which point they go back into the bowl with sanitizer in it. I pour the bottles back into the pitcher and use it to sanitize the wand and anything else. 

 

After bottling and washing out the LBK, I use the leftover sanitizer as a final rinse for the LBK before putting it away. I know it's not necessary and won't make a bit of difference come time to brew again, but may as well use it.

 

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Okay - thank you everyone. It is amazing what you can miss. At least what I can miss. 

 

Right off the bat I can see a few mistakes I am making, the first one being not leaving the sanitizer in the bottle long enough. I am going to change up my process a bit to fix that.

 

 

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I have a very basic but I believe through method to sanatizeing bottles that, so far, hasn't let me down. 

 

1) Once I pour a bottle of beer I rinse the bottle with warm water three or four times then let air dry. 

 

2) I store my bottles upside down in beer cases until I'm ready to bother beer. 

 

3) Prior to bottling day (night before or day of) I clean bottles with clear, fragrance free soap and hot water then air dry.

 

4) Since I'm mainly brewing five gallon batches I sanatize my bottling bucket with five gallons StarSan and let sit for five or so minutes with bottling wand and tubing dialing in it. 

 

5) Rack StarSan to clean bottles, filling to the brim then let sit for five minutes. I also put about 55 bottle caps into a  bowl and pour enough StarSan to cover the caps. I also have a spray bottle of StarSan that I use to sanatize my bench bottle capper. 

 

6) Empty bottles (six or seven at a time) into empty carboy or LBK's to sanatize equipment for next batch. Bottle beer, cap and continue process until beer is all bottled then clean used equipment. 

 

I've been using this process for the past seven or eight months and have not ruined a batch yet. 

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8 hours ago, AnthonyC said:

I don't think that you're going to find a uniform method for sanitizing bottles.  Everyone has a system that works best for them.  For me its...

1. Give a quick rinse with warm water.

2. Put already diluted Mr. Beer sanitizer in all bottles.

3. Give all bottles a good shaking...  I like to imagine that I'm gripping my mother-in-law's neck! 

4. Let 'em sit for 10mins.

5. Dump 2 bottles at a time into the container that I mixed the sanitizer in.  I usually dump one bottle over the spout of the other.

--Whammo... Done!-- 

 

No problems with infection as of yet, so I'll continue to do this. 

That's pretty much the same process I use. Good to know someone else does it the same way and has had no problems.

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I'm just soaking them in real hot water with oxicleen free for about ten minutes and rinsing thoroughly.  On bottling day, I rinse them again with hot water, squirt them again a few times with the wine bottle rinse pump filled with starsan and set them in the bottle tree until I'm ready to fill.

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That process if great if using StarSan.  One note - if you are using the PET bottles, then "real hot water" is a risk - baking in the flavor as well as causing bottle malformations.  For glass bottles that is fine.

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Looking at the Star-San instructions, it says safe for all surfaces, but also says to limit contact with plastic. Is anyone using this to sanitize plastic? I'm using pop bottles for cider. Just about everything from Mr. Beer is plastic as well. No issues?

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Outside of infection - does inconsistent sanitation lead to off flavors? That cidery taste? Infection is a vinegar like taste isn't it? (I've either read that or am making it up.)

 

One of the main goals for this upcoming series of brews is to try and get consistency from bottle to bottle. I've been a little surprised at how different bottles from the same batch can taste, and not from longer conditioning. A bit back I had another bottle of my Mad American Ale, and was surprised at how it was not nearly as great as a bottle I'd had a week or two before. I mean, longer conditioning times wouldn't/shouldn't make it worse, unless they could.

 

The two main areas to get cleaned up this round, as mentioned, are fermentation temps and bottle sanitation, for which you all have been a great help and much appreciated!

 

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Poor sanitation can lead to an infection, yes.  Or not.  If it doesn't, then it should not impact taste - unless of course you did such a poor job cleaning that you left residue of something in the bottle - soap (poor rinsing), prior contents (root beer plastic bottles should not be used), etc.  

 

An infection does NOT yield cidery tastes (except in rare bacterial infections).  That is acetaldehyde, and it is most often caused by beer not being conditioned long enough, hence the term "green beer", or insufficient  yeast quantity being used (stressed yeast).   You can read about different off-flavors here:

 

http://howtobrew.com/book/section-4/is-my-beer-ruined/common-off-flavors

 

https://www.morebeer.com/content/homebrew-off-flavors

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Thanks for the info @RickBeer

 

I am certain none of this is from infection then and I am pretty confident that there was no residue in the bottles. If there is anything I do well it is rinse bottles.

 

The varying conditioning/flavor from bottle to bottle is still a mystery to be solved.

 

Regardless, I figure continuing to improve brewing processes and practice cannot help but lead to better beer.

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1 hour ago, MrWhy said:

Outside of infection - does inconsistent sanitation lead to off flavors? That cidery taste? Infection is a vinegar like taste isn't it? (I've either read that or am making it up.)

 

I've had a few examples of what's likely an off, sour flavor in some bottles from the same batch. I've attributed it to a little leftover gunk in some bottles that just didn't quite sanitize out. Yesterday I soaked 3 cases of bottles in PBW to give them a thorough cleaning prior to bottling. I've put a lot of them through several bottling cycles now and I'm pretty sure that at least periodically they should be subjected to really powerful cleaning solution. I did the same with all my fermenters and spigots. I know that some have been a little iffy and one batch definitely soured as a result.  

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my process from the pour:

 

1. fill each bottle half way with hot water, cover top w/thumb and shake... pour out leftover precipitate from bottle.  Rinse again.. store in garage.

 

2. evening of bottling - gather 24 bottles - fill 3/4 full with PBW cleaner and hot water; shake with thumb over top and let sit for 10 mins

3. concurrently i've filled my 2G slimline with One Step (half packet) and hot water.  The remaining packet goes in a large bowl to sanitize other equipment.

 3.a  fil small bowl with One Step, soak bottle caps.

4. dump out PBW from bottles, rinse well

5. fill bottles (3/4 to full) with One Step from slimline, shake with thumb over top, let sit at least 10 mins or until just before filling

6. dump One Step, fill with beer.  Cap

 

Since I store bottles in the garage, I like to use the PBW just to make sure stuff is clean prior to sanitizing.  Before using the slimline, I was only filling bottles up about half way with One Step.  I do not have a confirmed infected bottle in more than 30 batches... 

 

Also, the One Step tends to leave a white residue on the outside I generally wipe down with a towel before storing.  Am I using too much One Step or not letting it dissolve enough?  I will potentially change to star san, but right now I've like 25 packets of One Step to use up... 

 

Lastly, the PBW really, really dries out my hands. :)  

 

 

 

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