Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Get rid of those old labels! - An easy way to recycle and clean bottles

I think my homebrews are as good as Sierra Nevada.  Do I want people to mistake them for Sierra Nevada?  "This is a good Sierra Nevada!"  "Hey, wait, I brewed that!"

It may be fun trick to play on a friend by bottling a home-brewed porter into an old Hoptimum bottle.  But how much better is it to pour your homebrews from a clean blank brown bottle than from an old obviously reused commercial beer bottle.

And why would we put our new beer into an old bottle?  The big reason...economics.  New brown bottles can be expensive, and for any beer drinker empty bottles can stack up quickly...there is no shortage of bottles.  Why would we leave the old label on the reused bottle?  Laziness.  (Which is quite fine by the way.  I'm not judging anyone...including myself on this.)

After a soak, the labels fall off
With a little bit of work (emphasis on little), those labels will almost fall off any bottle.  A clean bottle presents better.  It also allows you to add your own label, should you desire.  What this really says to friends and others graced by the opportunity to partake is something like, "this is homebrew and just as good, important, and nice in presentation as one of those commercial products."

So here is the how to.

An oxygen base cleaner will do the trick.  B-Brite is a brand often sold in Homebrew shops.  PBW is another similar product which  many use.  The active ingredient in Oxy-Clean is the same thing as B-Brite.  So, next time at the grocery store, pick up a bucket of the stuff.  It is in granular form and a tablespoon per gallon of water will give the proper solution.  For the overly technical, I found a post which will give all you ever wanted to know about some of these cleansing agents.  Check it out here on Cryptobrewology's site.

1. Add a few gallons to a large bucket (the bottling bucket will work well).

2. Submerse the empty rinsed out bottles, and let set for a day.

3. Remove the bottles and watch the magic, as some labels will slide right off.  Others may require a little rubbing with a wet cloth to remove any left over sticker parts.

4. Rinse well with water, let dry and store until ready to bottle.

5.  These will be clean and clear of stickers at this time.  Notice I said clean.  You will still need to sanitize before bottling.
Remaining labels in the bottom of the tub

Cleaned and ready


When I first started to reuse bottles I left them set for about 15 minutes in the cleaner and then scrubbed off the stickers.  Time is your friend (haven't we learned anything in brewing?)  Let it set overnight and the final rinse will be much easier.  Some stickers are better than others at coming off too.

There is no need to present the beer you worked so hard to create in an old labelled bottle.  Especially when so easy to make the bottle like new.