Bottling Made Easier By: Kay Witkiewicz
Bottling remains the scourge of the homebrewer, beginner or not. I still bottle simply because I don’t have the space, equipment, or capital to keg, so taking a few hours out of my day to safely deliver my homebrew into a proper serving vessel is well worth the effort. However, since I have to bottle all by myself now (a partner doesn’t only make homebrewing that much easier), I’ve had to figure out some ways to streamline my procedure. Here’s what I’ve learned and done to make bottling less of a hassle:
It all starts with a Vinator Bottle Washer. It’s the best bottling investment I’ve made because it reduces my time spent bottling as well as my water consumption. Previously, I would fill a tub with water and bleach, dip my bottles in it until they were filled, then dump the contents and wash the bottles out three times with tap water. This regimen used up an incredible amount of water and time. My other alternative was dipping my bottles in a tub of StarSan, which I thought left way too much sanitizer in my bottles beyond the point of homebrewing comfort. However, this bottle washer allows me to thoroughly clean my bottles, rinse them out a couple of times, and then immediately pump two or three squirts of sanitizer, depending on bottle size, into them, thus saving time, money, and effort. Bottling is an assembly-line process that will only get better the more you streamline it, and this piece of equipment will help you do just that.
Partner or not, a bottle tree is your new best friend when it comes to bottling homebrew. Even when I still had someone to help me out, my bottle tree helped me minimize clutter and allowed me to easily organize my bottles by size—for example, I’d first fill 12 oz., then 16 oz., then 22 oz. bottles. In addition to saving you space, a bottle tree will also act as another helping hand on bottling day. I thoroughly clean all parts of the bottle tree before I assemble it, and once I start hanging my bottles, I spray the whole contraption with sanitizer because in between bottle fills, the tree will act as my personal butler, holding on to my bottle filler as I drape it over one of the exposed tree branches while I cap my homebrew. The key is to securely suspend the filler without it sliding off, and I’ve found that connecting your filler to your bottling hose with a screw clamp provides just enough buffer to keep the filler in place on the branch. Squirt your bottle filler with sanitizer every so often and your solo bottling day won’t be so bad after all.
Bottling your homebrew will always take longer than kegging it, but at least you can find ways to shave off an hour so with the right equipment. A bottle washer and a bottle tree are crucial accessories, especially if you’re bottling by yourself. A reliable bottle capper is the final piece of equipment that will make bottling alone a cinch. I prefer a bench capper because it’s sturdy, it caps every bottle perfectly, and it’s easier to operate than a butterfly capper. Properly packaging your homebrew can be mind-numbing, but it is also essential, and with the right tools it’ll actually be easy.