Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sanitation on a Budget

Today I am going to bottle some of my ginger ale (or is ginger wine a better description?) and have the big bucket out and 'am soaking bottles. I have no "official" sanitizing products, only bleach and boiled water.

In the years I've been homebrewing, I have tried some different products, but always ran out of them and used bleach as a stand-by. Now bleach is my main sanitizer.

I hear the pros and cons of different products and some people swear by bleach and have never had a bad batch, while others cringe at the thought of chlorine. Maybe it's because it smells like a swimming pool or reminds people of doing laundry. As long as you rinse your bottles, gear etc. with boiled water you will be fine.

Here is my secret recipe. Use only unscented bleach and use about one teaspoon per litre or water. The water from the tap here is not much good for brewing, but it's ok for cleaning.

What kind of bottles?
I like PET bottles and have some 750ml brown ones. They are nice and light, won't break, are resealable and being brown they block the light from your beer. I have never experienced any "plastic" flavors with these bottles. I have had a few "leakers" and the caps need to be cranked on tight sometimes.

Whatever you can arrange for bottles is usually ok. Beer and light do not agree, so if you use clear bottles, keep them out of the light. In a closed cardboard box, in the back of the cupboard or wherever.

If you are using glass bottles please be very careful and know when your beer is fully attenuated (aka the yeast is done!) before priming and bottling.

For bottling day, sometimes a big bucket, several buckets or better yet a plastic garbage can will do for the soak. I have a garbage can that holds about 45l of water. I think it's 10 US gallons and does nicely for soaking everything for bottling a 23l (5US gallons) batch of brew. Depending on your bottles, you may be soaking and rinsing 70 small bottles or about 30 - 750ml or 24 - 1 litre bottles so it's what you have to work with. Here is a quick look at what you'll need to bottle a standard 23l batch or beer.

23 litres of beer needs:
70 - 330ml bottles or
30 - 750ml bottles or

Clean Bottles Only
It's a good idea to have a couple of extra bottles soaking just in case of accidental contamination. The bottles are of course CLEAN already as I am obsessed with rinsing bottles after pouring a glass of beer. If you have alien lifeforms growing in your bottles or their status is "unknown" then a bottle brush, dish soap, warm water and sterilized rinse is a very good idea prior to soaking.

After the bottles have soaked for an hour or two, then can be rinsed with boiled water. The best way to boil water is with a big pot and the gas stove. In a typical bottling day I may use several large pots of boiled water for rinsing. I boil for about 10 minutes to kill any nasties.

If you are using PET (plastic) bottles, DO NOT POUR BOILING WATER ON THEM! They will shrivel and deform from the heat. Let the rinse water cool first. This takes a little time, so get your water boiling early.

I have to go prime the bottles now. Teka lang ha?

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